Disordered eating and poor body image cause many people great suffering in today’s culture. These easily-disguisable issues can have crippling effects in the lives of Christians and non-Christians, alike. Suffering in this way is not an easy cross to bear.
The number of men and women living with eating disorders in America is in the millions. Our culture teaches women to be thin first, and strong and healthy second. Physical perfectionism spreads quickly and easily on college campuses, in friend groups, even in church communities. Appearance matters, a lot.
It seems that our definition of beauty has narrowed to value only what is physical. We look at the size of our legs, arms, and waists and less at our souls when considering our beauty and the beauty of our neighbors. Viewing beauty in this way may come easy to us and fit within our culture’s norms, but it leads us away from God.
I recently stumbled upon the work of Kate Wicker online. She is a Catholic woman, a wife and a mother, a writer, and a survivor of an eating disorder and distorted body image. Kate shares her experiences with, and healing from, eating and body image issues on her blog katewicker.com, and in her book, Weightless. Kate’s book offers spiritual support and clarity to women living in a weight obsessed culture. The book approaches problems related to food and body image by using sources like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Holy Scripture, and even the lives of the saints.
Through her writing, Kate seeks to realign our ideas of beauty with the views of The Catholic Church. This begins with accepting that we are loved exactly as we are today. Forehead wrinkles and extra weight on our hips cannot separate us from the love of Christ and the dignity given to us by our creator. This may seem obvious, but too many women I know feel unloved because of how they look. Kate’s refreshing narrative offers women a worldview that prizes beauty in the context of the dignity of the human person.
We have to ask ourselves if the energy we spend on improving our physical beauty outweighs the energy we put forth in prayer, growing in virtue, or loving the people around us. Whether we love or hate the way we look, we often focus too much on ourselves. Kate writes, “No one is ever so empty as when she is full of herself. Look beyond the physical world and start examining your heart and what God–not exercise or food or the right lipstick–can do for you.” Kate doesn’t dismiss the need to be physically healthy, but she encourages a balance between focus on physical and spiritual health.
The book contains more insights and valuable content than what is shared here and I encourage you to pick up this book. Read it with your daughters, read it with your friends, read it for yourself. Whether you’ve experienced the darkness of an eating disorder, you often feel uncomfortable in your own skin, or you’re just interested in our culture’s definition of physical beauty, Weightless can serve as a great resource. Check out Kate’s site to order the book at katewicker.com. And remember, you are beautiful exactly as you are today, created in the image and likeness of a loving God.