Is Hating My Body A Sin?

I love seeing the search terms that bring people to this website. Some of them are strange, some are creepy, some are funny, some are sad. Sometimes, the search terms inspire posts, like this one, which landed someone here last week:

“Is Hating My Body a Sin?”

And so I’d like to attempt to answer that question.

To begin, we might ask “What’s sin?” I’m aware that there are about a thousand disputed ways to answer that question–and so no one ‘perfect’ way–but I like this one:

Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.

And I’d add that the people who make it easy for all of us to hate our bodies (through relentless idealization of unreal bodies, through profit-motivated manufactured discontent) are more ‘guilty’ than the teenager who thinks there’s something wrong with her thighs.

Then we might ask “what’s meant by ‘hating my body’?” There’s no answer in a catechism, of course, but we could try something like this:

Hating one’s body is the disrespecting of the body God has given us, which in itself is worthy of respect and honor, being made in God’s image, the fulfilling of desires in ways God not intend, to believe lies about human bodies in general and ours in particular, and to covet for ourselves a body not our own.

So I would say that, yes, hating one’s body usually involves sin: a distortion of the relationship God desires to have with us, and the relationships God desires for us to have with others and with creation.

And, like any sin, hating our body means a loss of freedom and liberty that God desires for us.

Hating our bodies is a great handle for marketers to grab onto–which is why I see body hatred as a corporate ‘sin’ as much as an individual one. Untold billions are made off of people’s hatred of their bodies.

Body hatred might be regarded as a form of ingratitude for the life and body God has given us. It may lead us to fulfill certain desires in ways God doesn’t intend (for example, self-starvation or gluttony.) It may lead us to covet what we don’t have–as when we look at someone else’s body and wish we looked “like that.”

As always, the ultimate remedy is the grace of God shown to us in Jesus. I think of the communion table as a place of grace and healing in particular for this ill.  Supplementary remedies include:

  • Love & Gratitude

Give thanks for your body and for your life! If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re breathing. Start with giving thanks for that breath. And the next one. And so on.

  • Be Extra-Kind to your body–enjoy your body!

Loving your neighbor “as yourself” presupposes that you love yourself. Eat well. Sleep enough. Move some. Put lotion on your dry skin. Dress so that you are comfortable and confident. Doesn’t mean endless primping. I’m talking about making the time to treat your body as well as you would treat the body of someone you really love.

  • Starve the Beast!

Interrupt the cultural messages that encourage you to think there’s something wrong with YOU, instead of with the airbrushed images of anorexic people they present as ideal.

Answer the inner voice back if it’s telling you that you’re ugly, too thin, too fat, too jiggly, whatever.

Remind yourself that you are God’s handiwork.

For me, starving the beast means I don’t look at certain catalogs or magazines or shows. Do you need to cancel certain subscriptions? Stop watching certain movies?

  • Prayer and Meditation

Ask God for mercy and help to see yourself and others as God sees them.

  • Find Support

If you suspect that you may need professional help for an eating disorder or for a body image disorder, please get help. You can even contact me if you need help looking for a professional in your area.

But even if your problem does not warrant the care of a mental health professional, it is a good idea to find support in a friend or confessor who has a healthy body image and can encourage you to embrace yourself as God made you.

What has helped you accept your body? What has stood in the way?

{repost from the archives}

4 thoughts on “Is Hating My Body A Sin?

  1. This is advice is excellent — very solid, I applaud you!

    I think I started to accept my body when it occurred to me that, because I’m a real woman, I have the power to put people at ease — more so than if I was an object of envy.

    Also, I think having children helps one’s self-esteem. My kids think I’m beautiful; it would be unkind for me to burst their bubble!

    Thank you again for this stellar post. You are an uplifting writer. I’m grateful to Tim Fall for introducing me to you.

  2. Another image-issue I’ve been noticing more and more is the skin care commercials. I don’t know why, but these have really been noticeable to me lately. If you look at who they choose for spokespersons, they are typically beautiful of course. But they also have flawless skin (as in not a single flaw!) and I can’t help but think of the significant airbrushing and other photography tricks going on. Remember when Julia Roberts’s Lancome ads were pulled in England for airbrushing?

    This really came home to me yesterday when we were in an ULTA store getting some shampoo for our daughter. A salesperson was helping another young woman look for some face product, and explained that she’d see results in about six weeks. They were in the same aisle as we were, and I looked over, thinking this must be an acne thing. It wasn’t. The young woman wanted a bleaching agent to reduce some coloration on her skin. From what I could tell, this was nto a temporary condition like acne but just the way her face was, i.e., the skin tone was not completely uniform.

    I didn’t see a problem in her looks; she looked just like any other cute kid my daughter’s age. It got me wondering, though, what it is about culture that makes some people feel so inferior just because their skin doesn’t look like it belongs on a Lancome model. Shoot, not even Lancome models have skin that looks like it belongs on a Lancome model.

    Tim

  3. thank you for writing this! may i also ask your permission to use the content when I talk to teenaged girls at church?

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