“Does this dress make me look fat?”
Most of the time it is asked by women who already feel they might be too big for the tight jeans or dress they just huffed and puffed their way into. Men lie through gritted teeth, “No baby, you look great!” If they actually admitted the truth, there would be tears, silent treatment, a screaming fit, or bulimia summed straight on the spot. So what is the real answer to this question and many others we’ve heard: “Do I look prettier than her?” “Am I beautiful?” “Would you love me if I got fat?”
Weight has always been an issue for women. It’s a hard topic to discuss because it’s been swept under the rug. According to the Center of Disease Control, that pile of dust has caused a pretty big lump under our United States rug. Over 35% of women in the U.S. are obese. Some women eat unhealthy food, sit idly all day, and then, in a moment of reality, can no longer fit in their clothes. They need to justify their laziness by putting pressure on the guy to answer that awful question. When a guy says, “Uh, no, of course you don’t look fat!” it validates the woman to continue the pattern: fatty foods, idle movement, and shopping in the wrong sizes. This lifestyle also fosters insecurity, health problems, and a genetic disposition for their children. Not only is it damaging to these women, it is harming their husbands and kids, which balloon just as quickly under such habits.
I’ve seen many women ‘let themselves go’ after they married. After the vows, “For better or for worse,” some feel safe that they finally made it to ‘wife’ status and refuse to practice fitness. If anything, the opposite mindset should be the aim: now that I have a husband, I am going to take extra good care of my body-for him, as well as myself. We must remember two become one. Our bodies are no longer just our own after marriage. When we are joined to the life of another person, our choices will include and affect them. The shopping list, the meal choices, and thus, the loved ones living under the same roof are all affected. Even parenting is affected, “Eat all your Twinkies so you can grow up to be big and sturdy.” Oh wait! That’s not how the saying goes. As a kid, I was told to eat all my vegetables. I disliked some of them, but cultivated healthy habits under the guidance of my parents. Once, they jokingly told my older brother that if he didn’t eat all his veggies he would blow away with the wind. He took their words literally. In Alaska, the wind could get a bit feisty. Next time he went outside, he stuffed his little blue overalls full of teddy bears and his pockets with rocks. When the wind blew harder, he held on to the stair railing for dear life. Children are influenced by their parents’ words and habits. Good habits are so important for our own health, as well as the precious little people we bring into the world. It is no surprise that those same healthy habits will build our confidence and outlook on life, whether married, dating, or single.
The aim is not to change our genetics. Society does it’s best to replicate a “perfect image” for everyone through cosmetics and plastic surgery. We shouldn’t be about self-absorption and duplication. We must learn to accept the way God created us: unique—not a fingerprint is identical. But we must also learn discipline and healthy lifestyles. It’s about our health and our daily choices. It does take effort to maintain healthy habits, but they are well worth every sacrifice and heart-pounding, sweat-streaming exercise.
While I’m single, I work out for myself: to build my confidence, keep fit, feel safe, and be comfortable in my own skin. I do not rely on any man to make me feel beautiful or to build my confidence. That pressure is completely unrealistic. Sure, we can use the line: women are just insecure and that is why they need reassurance. But let’s dig into the ugly truth of insecurity: it’s a sin. It’s a blatant disregard for the Creator and His beautiful creation. He made each of us incomparable. For us to dislike ourselves or wish we looked like another is a slap in His face. Coveting and jealousy also tear down the beauty God designed in us. Of course I’m not perfect and I have definitely wondered what it would be like to be someone else. But at the end of the day, there is only one me on this earth. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” -Oscar Wilde. There is a God-stamped authenticity in each person on the face of the earth. The more we discover it and live out of that knowledge, the more beautiful we become. It is so much better to be ourselves than scramble exhaustively toward unrealistic, shallow pursuits to look like another person.
“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else” -Judy Garland.
It is not up to our guys to reassure us or make us feel confident. We need to know who we are and how to take care of our bodies. When we work out, we get fit. When we get fit, we get confident. When we are confident, we don’t need to ask the question, “Am I beautiful?” Because we already know the answer: “I am beautiful.”
Women are absolutely beautiful just as they are, no matter the size. When I see bigger girls jogging down the road, lifting in the gym, or even jiving to Zumba, it makes me proud. If a girl is genetically big-boned, has a true thyroid condition, or tragically suffers from health conditions, there’s no fault in that. Those women can still do their best. The goal is not to become skinny, modelisque material. I have an average build. I take care of that shape by strengthening the estimated 640 muscles within it. We must do something beneficial for our physical and emotional health. Fitness is not just about physical beauty. For health reasons alone, it is crucial to exercise at least 20 minutes a day. What does that look like? It varies between people. Basically it is any activity that increases the heart rate, draws a little sweat out of the pores, and activates the muscles.
For some, it is hard to learn discipline. Exercise can be considered a drudgery. It is important to understand anything that makes us sweaty and sore is not eagerly anticipated at the beginning. The key is to find activities that suit individual interests. Many of my friends are avid surfers, snowboarders, and hikers. Fitness doesn’t need to be the conventional trip to the gym. There are some incredible hobbies, sports, and extreme adrenaline rushes that can activate muscles and spike the heart rate. “I don’t want to get all buff and macho.” I hear this all the time from my dainty female friends. This is an excuse to resist fitness. Some girls think that if they are skinny they don’t need to work out. They may be genetically blessed with a high metabolism so weight is never an issue. But health goes so much deeper than the surface and size of a woman. Some of the skinniest girls in the world die from malnutrition. Everyone needs exercise: energetic children, wobbly geriatrics, paralyzed patients, and average individuals with hectic lifestyles and poor food choices. There are some hard choices that must be made daily. “I don’t want to do this, but I need to do it.”
Obsessing over fitness is not a healthy mindset. Anorexia is more than depriving one’s body of food. It is also about a paralyzing fear of weight gain, and an obsession with exercise. There is a balance to everything. Everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 10:23). Likewise, an excessive amount of exercise can be harmful. It is important, but like all other things, it should come second to God Almighty. “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” -1 John 5:21
Start small with a walk around the block to enjoy fresh air and conversation with the Creator. And then, increase the intensity. Make conscious efforts to park a little further from the store, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and set goals to accomplish each week.
“Hey honey! I look gooooood in this new dress, don’t I?!” Confidence makes a woman feel beautiful.