“Mine are widest,” she declared from the slip-covered sofa.
“Not a chance. Look at these!” The taller one emphasized her point by grabbing the flesh of her leg like a pizza chef kneading dough.
They were both wrong. My thighs ranked biggest. I’d finish this debate. Right now.
“Let’s settle this. Follow me!”
More of a prosecuting attorney than a peacemaker, I led them down the hall to the only mirror large enough to offer a full-length view. We stood, single file, in the bathroom doorway, backing up until we could see down to our knees.
Whose were widest? The reflective glass would reveal the winner.
Or, loser . . .
* * *
My roommates and I didn’t act like this everyday. Comparisons were usually more subtle. A weight comment mumbled here. Regret over clothing size mentioned there. One confessed guilt over finishing a roommate’s Oreos. Another declared pride at making it through a day without carbs.
Each went unanswered.
Most of the truly negative body feelings were never spoken out loud. Friends don’t often talk about body shame. Or, when they do, it tends to resemble the meaningless debate from my college apartment rather than a conversation offering hope or healing.
Researchers have actually studied these types of interactions. Apparently, the “Great Thigh Incident” conducted in apartment 3b is indicative of the norm. It’s labeled “Fat Talk” and, generically, it looks like this:
Friend one says: “Mine is bad.”
Friend two says: “No, mine is worse.”
Scholars say we respond this way to appear humble. Modest. To say anything else seems arrogant.
Maturity of years doesn’t necessarily mean an end to the struggle. Researchers observed that women over fifty veil their admissions of body insecurity in a similar pattern. Comparisons over gray hairs and wrinkles replace debates over cellulite. They call this “Old Talk.”
Recently God’s stirred my heart to help Christian women disrupt these patterns of speech. Our vapid debates over whose is “ugliest” offer no encouragement to those who long to know they are enough.
As daughters of Christ and representatives of His love and grace (2 Corinthians 5:20), don’t we owe more to our friends than a trite, “Mine is fatter?”
If we truly believe that our value comes from Christ’s sacrifice (Ephesians 2:4-7) . . .
If we truly believe that God looks only at our hearts (1 Samuel 16:7) . . .
If we truly understand that we are loved more than we can imagine (Romans 5:8) . . .
Then why do we neglect to offer this restorative truth to friends struggling with their body?
Shouldn’t we, among all women, break free from the prison of defining ourselves by the size of our body parts — all of which we’ll someday bury?
* * *
I sit on the instructor’s bike in the gym’s tiny spin room. Two friends enter the class, one larger than the other. And so it begins.
“I hate my big butt.” The smaller woman stares into the mirror behind her as she settles into the uncomfortable bike seat.
On cue, her friend turns for the same view.
“Your butt? I’d love to be that small.”
Friend one ignores the sentiment and waves my direction.
“Hey there, instructor . . . Will this class change our butts?”
Her question startles me. I should just answer with a peppy, “Sure will!”
That’s my job.
Yet, my heart knows there’s a better answer. I write the words without hesitation every week on my blog. But getting my lips to form them here, at the gym, proves more difficult.
Courage, please, Lord.
“Spinning will change your body. But . . .”
“Not your body image. I didn’t stop stressing over my size until I realized my worth comes from God alone, not how my body looks.”
* * *
I wish I could report a beautiful ending — the woman weeping in appreciation, mustering, “Wow. Thank you for sharing truth!” through her tears.
Instead, she muttered, “Whatever.”
It’s not easy to change the conversation. Deeply ingrained patterns of relating won’t transform after one encounter. Truth is: Thigh-size match-ups feel more natural than speaking biblical truth to body image issues.
But, someone has to start.Leave a Comment