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10.2009 010

An Assignment for Those Who Struggle with Body Image Issues

10.2009 010

Our daughter when she was 3 years old


If you tend to tell yourself negative things about your body and your appearance – I would love for you to do something with me:

Please write a letter to your daughter, your niece, my daughter – or any young girl that is precious to you – about what you would want her to know about her worth, how to love her body, what she should tell herself about her body, and how to be confident in her skin as she becomes a young woman.

You are most welcome to share your letter in the comments if you would like to. You may decide to give your letter to a young girl to encourage and bless her.

Stay tuned – because there will be a part 2 to this assignment next week. 🙂


Much love!



28 thoughts on “An Assignment for Those Who Struggle with Body Image Issues

  1. What a GREAT idea, April! May the Lord guide all the words of each letter. My oldest niece is in Junior high now, what a perfect time to write a letter like this to her. She doesn’t have a lot of Christian influence in her life, so I plan to write her a letter based on this challenge. What a precious photo of your daughter. 🙂

  2. I came to a point where after having babies and putting on weight and getting older I felt I could finally accept what I look like. I didnt necessarily like my body, and would put in effort to change but I didnt hate myself and was willing to accept however I looked. This was my way of coming to terms with the post baby post thirty changes that occur. I have been overweight my whole life, and after my first pregnancy put on 90 pounds. My doctor also put me on depo-prevarra shots after baby #1, which I begged ro get off of after a year because I was literally unable to lose any weight. This has been a huge struggle for me for the last 15 years. I work out off and on, but when few results come, I eventually give up.

    At some point, I finally came to terms with it. I wasnt giving up on improving myself, just accepting what I had, and willing not to hate it. I looked in the mirror and asked God to help me see myself the way he sees me. Not with hatred or disgust, but with grace and kindness. He did. I saw myself with Grace and saw that even though I has weight that I needed to shed, I was still beautiful.

    But satan had to jump in. He couldn’t let me love myself. That was when my husband completely stopped having sex with me. He wanted to divorce me, told me my weight, among other things, were the reason he didnt love me. How could I accept myself when my own husband didn’t? Not to mention, it was news to me. I had asked him over the years if my weifht was a problem. He said no, he just wanted me to be healthy. So I believed him. I would exercise, but not obsess. I would eat healthy, but not diet. After my second pregnancy 10 years later, I didnt put on weight (I only weifht an extra five pounds after baby was born) but muscles didnt heal thebway they did when I was twenty, and skin didnt shrink like it did beforex so I had the thirty something post baby belly and it never went away. And he still wont have sex with me. Its been a year and a half, and instill have to try to accept myself, even though he doesnt. It is very hard. But if God thinks im beautiful, who am I to argue, right?

    1. hisdaughterhischild,

      Such a frustrating situation when you can’t seem to lose weight. 🙁 I assume you have spoken with your dr about this a number of times? I have some resources I could share with you privately, if you are interested. 🙂

      How long ago did all of this happen with your husband saying he wanted to divorce you? Are you still living together? How are your interactions going?

      Much love and the biggest hug to you!

  3. But how do you handle if you think your daughter is making poor choices.. My daughter has been eating late, getting cokes at youth group, not eating as well as she should and is putting on weight… She doesn’t exercise either. I’ve hesitated to say anything since she is 13 and I know that is sensitive and I don’t want to do anything wrong. She SHOULD see herself as God sees her, but at the same time how do you handle poor responsibiity?

    1. Elizabeth,

      We have a similar situation at our house with our daughter making poor choices and having access to lots of junk food and candy at church, at school, at other people’s houses, etc…

      I am not an expert in this issue – as we are just beginning to face it. But my goal is to reaffirm her worth in Christ and that she is a beautiful girl. And then I talk about making healthy choices and I ask her not to eat certain things when she is away from home. I did find an exercise she liked – a dance video game. And then, the next week after we found that, the game console broke. 🙁 Bummer! But if there are things she likes to do, you can certainly encourage her to do that. I love to go for walks as a family, or bike rides. My daughter isn’t as excited about that. But a lot of times, i make her come along anyway. I don’t talk about her weight. I talk about making healthy eating and exercising choices.

      Not sure if that is helpful. Praying for wisdom for all of the mamas!

    2. Hello Elizabeth and my other sisters,

      Dealing with the issue of weight and eating choices with one’s daughter can be SO complex! When my two daughters were children and pre-teens, their weight was perfect. Then, around the time their periods started (at the age of ten!) they started gaining weight. My youngest daughter also developed uneven skin pigmentation, was depressed most of the time, and had thinning hair. This was especially difficult for all of us, since I was an attractive younger mother then of ideal weight. If anything, it was supposed to be the other way around! My heart grieved for my daughters, yet I was afraid to say anything; not only did I not want them to think I loved them any less, but I also knew that I had cooked very healthy meals all their lives and that they didn’t overeat. I even baked all our family’s own completely whole grain bread for fourteen years, and we never bought junk food. I was completely heartsick, and completely dumbfounded–except for one thing. Their father, their grandmother, and that whole side of the family were very obese people. Their father had yo-yo dieted for awhile before completely giving up. I decided it was a hereditary issue, but couldn’t figure it out beyond that.

      When my youngest daughter was eighteen, her periods became so troubled that she had a flow constantly. I took her to another doctor who gave her a blood test (in 2002) for a recently diagnosed disease called PECOS, which stands for “polycystic ovarian syndrome.” She was positive! PECOS is a metabolic and hormonal disorder related to diabetes which causes the symptoms my daughters had, as well as cysts on one’s ovaries, infertility, etc. And often, even if a woman is able to conceive, hormonal problems cause her to miscarry, usually around two months along. At the time we found our my youngest had PECOS, my older daughter was six weeks pregnant with her first child. We immediately called her and told her to rush to her doctor and request a test for PECOS, and she did. The test was positive, and her doctor gave her progesterone suppositories to take to regulate her hormones–that saved my granddaughter’s life! My oldest daughter now takes a medication that helps regulate her metabolism, and stays away from high carbohydrate foods that aggravate her insulin resistance, which is a huge symptom of the disease. My youngest daughter decided not to take medication and still has many problems.

      Sigh. . . the issue of weight is indeed complex, and so many factors could be at work. My advice to mothers of young daughters who are gaining weight near the onset of adolescence would be, if poor eating habits and lack of exercise can be ruled out as the cause, to request a blood test for PECOS. If I had known this years earlier, I would have served far fewer high-carb dishes (albeit healthy ones) and known how to help them so much better! Much love and very best wishes to all my sisters and their daughters.

  4. Muna,

    Thank you so much for sharing. It breaks my heart that so many women hate their own bodies. Thank you for sharing your insights on this – I know they will bless so many other sisters. 🙂

  5. This might be a little off subject, but I have come to realize lately that I do not hate my body per say, and I don’t have an eating disorder. I am so disappointed in my marriage, and am deeply hurting most the time. Diet, exercise, and focusing on my physical appearance is my escape. It is my safe place. It is the area I can control. Most the time I am exercising, I am calling out to the Lord for healing, encouragement, and comfort, and He restores me enough to get through that day.

    As far as my 16-yr daughter. I just keep telling her that her body is the temple that houses the Holy Spirit, and it belongs to Him. That He gave us our bodies to be good stewards and out of gratitude we should eat right and exercise for the mental, and spiritual benefits. I try to find the delicate balance between helping her love and accept her body, but also know that He didn’t make these bodies to carry about excessive weight either, and gluttony is a sin (no worse than the others of course) and we have the fruit of self control living inside us!

  6. Being overweight myself, due to medical conditions, I find that I love myself but what is bothersome is comments from other people. I have had two medical conditions, even with medicine, clean eating and exercise I have not lost weight. This has been.for around ten years. I am not one to get easily offended, but it is hard when you don’t talk about your weight and someone gingerly brings it up, and then suggest diet tips.

    “Have you tried no carbs?……..low carbs?…….Paleo? Weight Watchers? …….cutting out soda?”

    I do not have to explain to people what medical issues I have, what I have tried, but people like to press and dig for information.

    Several years ago back Doctor told me that even though I am very overweight, my heart is healthy and I need to keep eating clean and exercising. She told me that I may never lose the weight.

    I can only do my best. I know obesity is sometimes due to poor choices and excessive calories etc…….but not everyone who is overweight sits around eating junk food and drinking soda.

    Several years into battling the medical stuff and not losing weight, I had a Godly mentor encourage name to do a Bible study on our identity in Christ. This helped me gain self esteem again and love myself again.

    I think many people mean well, but weight is a sensitive topic with many women and sometimes women just say too much to one another. I would like to encourage everyone reading this to please read consider your words a and comments to those who are overweight. There are extreme metabolic disorders, thyroid issues, PCOS and many other conditions that make weight loss sometimes near impossible.

    Many times I have felt judged by others. My Husband tells me often I am beautiful to Him, and that helps. I can only do my best. I hope and pray that one day I am much thinner, because I am scared of diseases that obesity can bring on.

    To everyone who reads this, please don’t assume everyone is overweight from a lack of self control and poor choices. It is very hard to try and try and often hear people tell you what diet you should try.

    1. Oh, I better clarify about the lady who is down to 113 lbs. She is quite short – about 5 ft tall. She is not anorexic, but is a healthy weight now, and she is very strong. She exercises, too.

  7. From Joanna

    Hi April,

    Tried to post at the article’s page but WP doesn’t like me?

    This caught my eye and speaks to my heart. I am pear-shaped and always will be. My thighs are as close as Venus and Serena Williams 😉 , so wearing dresses can be a day of discomfort, but it is what it is and one makes the necessary adjustments (or wears slacks, jeans, capris, etc).

    In terms of tight vs. jiggly skin and cellulite, I sometimes believe God mixed up the molds, lol. I also have a tiny frame: bone-skinny wrists and ankles but blessed with more padding than I’ll ever need from my shoulders to my elbows and hips to knees.

    My mom had me on a Weight Watchers diet by the time I was 10. At 13, she started pushing girdles. I used one often, until sometime in my late 20’s I decided that’s enough of that. (I don’t really do body shapers either–that’s just today’s word for “girdle.”

    When I look back on photos of me in my early and late 20’s, I realize I was very thin, although proportions will always been an issue. Until 7 years ago, I never kept weight off longer than 18 months.I lost about 25 lb, am at least 30 lbs heavier than my 20’s, but much fitter via exercise, walking and tennis on a regular basis. (I can get into some of the clothes I wore then, but struggle with feeling bloated daily. It’s the menopause deal–bleh. Even my arms have a little definition and an occasional, rare compliment on them comes my way–yay!)

    To this day, my mom refers to a cousin or a friend or someone else when we shop and see clothes on mannequins–never “That would look good on you.”

    What keeps me grounded and grateful is this: a friend of mine who struggled (struggles?) with her weight was paralyzed from the neck down about 25 years ago. I am blessed. These chunky legs have been taking me wherever I want for all that time, and cover a tennis court with decent speed too! Who am I to complain about my weight?

    As per what I’ll tell any young girl: concentrate on being fit and taking care of what God gave you. Be thankful for your mobility. The rest, you can play with, to find what makes you feel good about you and highlight that. And without inner goodness, outer beauty doesn’t do a danged thing in the long run. Just sayin’. 😉

    Here is a link to a blog about this topic. (It’s linked to other blogs I wrote about this.)

    Thank you, April. Looking forward to Part 2!

    1. Joanna,

      I’m so sorry that you couldn’t post to the article. I posted this comment there for you. 🙂

      I am pear shaped, too. But it is interesting, I have been going to a holistic dr for the last few months. I have some medical issues with my belly and intestines being very bloated since middle school, some back problems, and a sun allergy. He had me dramatically change my diet and start some new exercises, and I have been shocked that for the first time ever, my belly is now flat. I used to look 4-5 months pregnant a lot of times. So frustrating!

      (If anyone is interested – I would be glad to share what I have learned about diet and what a massive impact that can make on belly fat and metabolism.)

      I’m so sorry to hear the hurtful comments – that can be so difficult!

      But I love what you shared about your mobility. EXACTLY! Who knows how many days we will have when we can walk and exercise and do the things we want to do. What a gift these bodies are! Thank you for what you would share with a young girl.

      Such a blessing! And thanks for the link to your post!

      Much love!

  8. I know this is quite a bit off topic for my blog – but… just in case it may be helpful for anyone

    I see so many people struggling with this frustrating issue. I have learned some new things in the past few months myself that may be helpful to others that have really surprised me. Y’all are welcome to take this or leave it – or research it some more yourself. 🙂 Or – you may want to talk with your medical doctor, a nutritionist, or a trusted holistic doctor:

    Sugar is very addictive. Also, artificial sweeteners are, too. They program us to crave sugary things and diet soft drinks are very much associated with obesity because of this. Our western diet is truly awful for us. All of the refined flour, tannins (in coffee and tea), unhealthy fats, red meat, pork, soy, fried foods, and many of the things we eat contribute to adding extra fat around our belly. We don’t eat healthy foods like whole grains, non genetically modified foods, lots of raw fresh veggies, raw fresh fruit, nuts, and healthy fats like avocado, coconut, and olives. These things I just listed (that we barely eat in our culture) promote health and promote less inflammation all over the body. The diet we do eat lots of sugar, junk, processed foods, way too much meat, too much pasteurized dairy, preservatives, bad fats, artificial sweeteners, etc… promote inflammation in the body.

    But more than that, they also promote a different kind of bacteria to grow in our intestines that affect how we absorb and what we absorb dramatically. In fact, there are new studies that show that the kind of bacteria in the gut of obese people is different from the kind that is in the gut of non-obese people. We can help to remedy this by taking probiotics and by eating fermented foods that naturally have good bacteria – like plain yogurt, kefir, raw sauerkraut, kimchi, etc…

    Another issue is that we use so many antibiotics, and the antibiotics kill the friendly bacteria in our intestines and that can create obesity, too. When the wrong bacteria are in our intestines to help us digest food, they direct us to absorb fat and lay it down over our bellies. Then that fat messes up our insulin and increases our risk of diabetes and messes up our estrogen production as women. It creates “metabolic syndrome” which is a precursor to diabetes.

    You can research “anti-inflammatory diet” or “inflammatory foods” for more info. But basically, avoiding the things that cause inflammation and mess up the good bacteria creates health. And also, when we cut sugar and artificial sweeteners out of our diet, after a few days to a week or so – we don’t crave sugar so much anymore.

    Usually honey, pure maple syrup, or coconut sugar are fine – unless someone is a diabetic. But the key would be moderation in these things.

    I eat things now like:

    oatmeal with coconut flakes, nuts, and raisins for breakfast
    brown rice or quinoa for a starch at lunch or supper
    lots of spinach salad with vinegar and olive oil (often at lunch and supper)
    lots of fresh veggies
    some fresh fruit, especially grapefruit and berries (grapefruit can interact with some rx meds, so be careful.)
    baked chicken or fish (but I only have meat once a day or every few days now)
    plain yogurt, with a bit of honey and/or berries
    mixed nuts
    water and herbal teas are the only things I drink now (you could also do almond milk)

    And I don’t even crave sweets anymore. Interestingly, after a few weeks on this diet, food started tasting much better. Grapefruit doesn’t taste bitter anymore, it tastes sweet.

    I have been really shocked how much this approach has helped the tummy problems I have had since I was in middle school, and the bloating issues (I often looked up to 4-5 months pregnant), and it regulated my estrogen and insulin levels so I am not having acne anymore, my ovarian cysts cleared up, I am not hot all the time, and my belly is actually flat – which has NEVER happened in my life. (I am 42 now.) I wasn’t intending to lose weight, but I have lost the fat I had around my belly just since I started this diet in May.

    Interestingly, I have seen a number of people who just cut out soft drinks (regular and artificially sweetened) and saw dramatic weight loss.

    We now know that sugar and inflammation in the body contribute to arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and many diseases- and that keeping the inflammation down will promote over all health and immune function. So – could be worth looking into. 🙂

    It is helpful to me to think about food as something I am giving my body to take good care of my health and be a godly steward – giving my body what is best for it – rather than thinking of food as a reward or comfort.

    And when you aren’t having cravings for sweets and your insulin is regulated – it is much easier not to look at food as comfort because the addiction to sugar and unhealthy fats is gone.

    Now the really hard part – to try to gradually move my children more toward this diet, as well.

    But – if you are going to change your diet – please check with your doctor, especially if you have a lot of medical issues!

    Much love to you!

    1. The hard thing for me is that I already eat the way you suggest! So no easy cutting out of foods. The thing for me is not eating all day, because the children keep me busy and then being ravenous in the evening. That, combined with large portions is the cause of my weight gain. I have stopped eating in the evenings and have lost 5 lbs already after about 2 weeks.

      1. Grace,

        Ideally – this diet would be about 1200 calories per day for most women. I haven’t tried to measure my calories – but managing portion sizes is really key, too. I’m so proud of you! Great job these last two weeks! 🙂 Congrats!

    2. I am really interested in this anti inflammatory diet. I really think my family as a whole could benefit from healthier eating. I would love to hear more!

      1. Cara,
        There are different varieties of this diet. You can search anti-inflammatory or alkalinizing diet. 🙂

        The main chart I go by is at this site. My primary goal is to avoid the foods in the column that are “most acidifying.” And to try to focus on eating as many things in the “alkalinizing” side as possible. 🙂

  9. What a sweet post and a great idea! Women are wonderfully and fearfully made, daughters of a most High God, so I hate to see us so critical and ashamed of how we look. Even if we are striving to get healthier or to improve our outsides, it is important and far more effective to do it from a place of love.

    Like most women I used to have some body image issues, but Christ has really stepped in there and made it clear I better be grateful for what I have. When I was in my 20s I spent 6 weeks in the hospital and lost 50 pounds. Losing those pounds that had always plagued me, did not leave me looking like a supermodel, but instead weak, gaunt, and unattractive.

    Not long ago I had a patient, a woman that really had no bottom. She couldn’t gain weight and she’d had some muscles removed. Our bottoms are incredible important, they protect our hips, they help us to sit and to walk, and losing yours is a major disability. After meeting her I really felt bad for all the times I’ve complained about my own behind. Gratitude for what you do have can be a great healer.

  10. My 13yo daughter and I are very similar looking and have that same things about our bodies that we struggle with. It’s been quite good because we can have open conversations about it without her feeling like I’m putting her down. I can give her advice on how to deal with the scaly skin on her legs, how to dress beautifully for her body shape etc. she was worried about her skin as her dad had had bad acne and I told her I’d take her to a dermatologist if it gets too bad and she was happy with that. I think her knowing that I am there for her and that I won’t ignore her body concerns, but help her feel good about herself within reason reassured her. Next month she’s getting braces. Really crooked teeth was another concern for her. I noticed that she gets moody and emotional when she eats too much sugar or junk food and I explaied that she needs to eat well to feel well. When she felt the difference in her mood she started to make better choices. My mother always sweeped my concerns under the carpet telling me I was silly for thinking them. She also never told me I was beautiful for fear I would get a big head. I hope the way I have parented my daughter blesses her. She seems happy with her body.

  11. I have ALWAYS struggled with my body and weight.

    I am on the big side (we all are in our family). Here when you are 14/15 and done with junior high, they send you to boarding school to finish your high school education. And in our boarding schools, most of your time is spent weeding, scrubbing, cleaning and so on in addition to studying so you are always stressed and because of that, I lost a ton of weight! Not because I was eating healthy but because I hardly had any time to eat at all. So when I was done with boarding school and I came home-you stay at home for about 6 months waiting for your results so you can go to college-all I did was eat and sleep and OF COURSE I gained back all the weight I lost (I think it was around 50lbs,not too sure)and then some.

    And I totally ‘didn’t notice it because I was at home the entire time! All I know is that I woke up one morning and nothing fit LOL. And the people here, trust me, they know NOTHING about political correctness! They have no qualms telling you things like “Oh dear! You gained all the weight back! You’re so fat now! You looked so much better when you were skinny! Don’t come out until you’ve lost all the weight.” And the funny thing is that they mean no harm or malice, in their minds they’re just being conversational.

    I was so depressed I locked myself up and wouldn’t go out because I was terrified that I would meet someone I knew when I was skinny and they would say “what happened to you!” But now, I’m at a place where I can actually find something I like about my body. I may have thick arms and thighs but my middle is very small compared to the rest of my body and my stomach is quite flat. And I am trying-though I don’t succeed all the time and I take responsibility for that-to cut back on some of my unhealthy eating habits. I am not an emotional eater but I tend to eat out of boredom. I am trying to control that.

    I am not where I’d like to be but I am better than before. It’s just that there are days when I cry and I really find myself ugly but I’m trying to make sure those days are less. I haven’t lost the weight yet and admittedly I should work harder but more and more I find myself wanting to focus on becoming healthy instead of losing weight. There are days that I like my curves! I can totally relate to having body image issues (I had them even in pre-school) because I’ve been the “fat” kid for as long as I can remember (even when I was at my skinniest and a size 8, people still called me “big”). I’m hoping that I will learn to love myself and also learn to discipline myself and exercise self control with regards to my eating habits.

    1. Mia,

      Goodness, some of those comments from others about your weight were rough!

      If you are interested in talking about this with me…

      Where do you believe your value, dignity, and worth comes from as a woman?

      What is the purpose of eating?

      So you feel pretty sure that you don’t turn to food for comfort emotionally? That is awesome. Why do you believe you eat when you are bored? Is it possible to turn your attention to other things? What else interests you?

      How is your time with God going?

      What do you believe about being a godly steward of the gifts God has given to you?

      Much love to you! 🙂

  12. Hi April!
    I think my value and dignity and worth come from God, from the way I conduct myself amongst people and the way I treat people.
    To me, we eat to be full. LOL! Is that a very good answer? Its all I can come up with. It isn’t something I’ve really taught of.
    I don’t think I do. I’ve never really been one to be like “Oh God, I’m so sad! I need a burger or I need to eat something.” More of “Hmm. What’s in the fridge? (walks idly to the fridge) Oh, there’s some of that bread they got today. I better eat some before it gets stale.” More along those lines. You get the picture, don’t you?
    I find that when I’m busy or I have early morning classes/appointments or I’m reading or writing something I enjoy (I like to read online and write), then I don’t remember to go and look at whats in the fridge so I don’t eat as much LOL. Admittedly, my time with God could be better. Like I said, I’ve fallen way off the wagon.
    I realize that we need to care for what God gives us. I think that God has given us our bodies and that we need to take good care of them to glorify him. That’s what I think about being a godly steward.
    LOL at the comments. Yeah they were rough. But you know, sometimes you just need to ignore them because they don’t think they are harming you at all. They just think they’re being honest.

    1. Mia,

      I’m so glad to hear that you know your dignity, value, and worth come from God, not from your size or weight. WOOHOO! That is a good thing!

      My view is, for whatever it is worth, that we eat in order to have the fuel we need to do what God calls us to do and to be obedient and faithful to Him. My goal is to put healthy foods and healthy amounts of food in my body so I can be about His business. 🙂

      What do you think you could do this week to work on your time with God?

      I love your idea about being a godly steward. Sounds like you have a lot of healthy thinking. I am glad about that!

  13. Hi Sis,
    I want to start by attending our morning devotions. My family does morning devotions at 5am but by the time I am awake, it’s over. So I want to put a bit more effort into that, as a start.

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