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It’s that time of year again, the season of eating treats.  On January 1 we will resolve to get fit, eat more healthy and get it together.  Yet, since Thanksgiving stuffing ourselves began and we are spending our time neck dep in sprinkles, candy, cookies, and cocoa.  The food has been and continues to be delectable, inviting and hard to turn away.  All during this time I will hear teens ask me if they look a little thicker around the middle, and if they should indulge in one more piece of whatever is yummy.   

A few years back during this same seasonLet I witnessed this exchange on social media between a 12 year old girl and her 13 year old bestie: 

“I wish I was skinny like you.”

Around the same time I overheard a 14 year old girl say tto her 15 year old friend:

“You’re so lucky, you can see you’re ribs. I wish that I could.”

Let’s face it, each of us want to eat it all, while at the same time manage the scale.  Yet, the problem is that my students and I have had something sinister in common far before the first pumpkin goody ever hit the shelves this year.

We want to be seen as beautiful, enchanting and let’s face it skinny.  Yet, even those who look like models think there is something on their bodies that should change. My 16 year old daughter who is short wants to be taller while my 13 year old girl who is talll wants to have a smaller shoe size.  Let’s face it when we don’t feel adequate our physique is one item we feel like we can control. I have said it before and I will say it again with the right clothes, make up and exercise routine at least I can walk in the room and take your breath away.   You can’t see my soul when I come through the door and you’ll probably judget the book by the cover anyway.  Will you even get to know the girl if she you can see her plumped up from enjoying herself a little too much on just one more piece of fudge?  That’s what every teen (and adult) girl fears.

 So this holiday season as we pick up another sugar cookie I think women need to step up and help the young women in our midst. Here are a couple of starting points:

 Talk About Your Own Struggles:

Admit to your girls you when you struggle with body image as well. Tell them about the time you look at the scale or think through what it would take to change your appearance a little too often. Be aware and honest. Groupon just this morning offered me laser hair removal, botox and lyposuction for Christmas. We are bombarded with how we should fix ourselves while we struggle with how god the red velvet cake looks. We know we are the Creator’s created, but taking that to heart takes work. Help them know know the ways you fall short and what you do to refocus on the Lord in these moments.

Dig Into Identity: 

 Start talking about the truth of our identity on a regular basis. EVERY TIME you meet with girls tell them at least one thing Christ loves about them. Lead studies on how Jesus really sees each of us. Talk about how you were made a girl on purpose with the body you have on purpose. Let them be truthful about how they feel and why they struggle. Keep filling them with the WORD and what it means to them personally.  Remember this about changing the way we see ourselves, it isn’t just about another program.

Have a “Tear it down, Build it up,” party:

Have a night with young women when you they write down all the lies they believe about their body image. Every single one. Write them on tissues with washable markers (or dissolvable paper). Then have them put them in a bowl of water, watching while the water washes the lies away. Talk about how the “Living Water” takes it all, absorbing it into Christ himself. Then spend the night pampering the girls. Be creative. Find ways for them to celebrate who they are and tell each other truths about who they really are. Tear down the false identity and build into the new one.

Teach Girls How To Be Healthy.

One of the activities I have run over the years is a cooking class. Teaching students about how to use what is in their cupboards to create healthy meals and snacks.  They can start by adding small items to their parents’ grocery lists or switching out chips for something more healthy they might enjoy. Help them find ways to be active. If they are not in sports, what do they like to do that gets them moving? Feeling like we are taking care of the body that God gives us, helps in that first step to having a healthier view of ourselves. It’s easier to believe statements like. “You don’t have to be perfect.”  and “Stop stressing your dress size,”  when we can believe that God did not make one size fits all.  The only way to embrace this is to look at your lifestyle and be able to say, “I am healthy.”

Throw out the scale and make them do it too.

Universal clothing sizes were actually created by the military to enable mass production of uniforms. A size 2 in one store can easily be a size 6 in another. We have to buy clothes we feel good in ( and that are modest, but that is another post.). Try taking girls shopping to find clothes they feel confident in. I am never going to wear a pair of skinny jeans. I simply don’t feel attractive in them. Cut the tags out of your clothes. We don’t need to stress the size, if looks great on us.

Ultimately, I want to help girls see who God loves them to be. We were meant for more than deciding that a number on our waistline is the right one. There is too much to do for the Lord. Living defeated and wrongly focused is the enemies goal. When we embrace who we are in Christ, well then that love makes us totally about his business. 

Did I mention that this conversation- the studies- this is an ongoing conversation?  All the time, way beyond Christmas. This is a struggle that we just become acutely aware of as we stuff our facing with frosting, or politely decline the marshmallow reindeers.  We have to fight. Fight with our girls. Fight for our girls. Fight for ourselves as women. We don’t have to wait until January 1, to get on track with this.  You can have that ooey gooey treat, just assess if eating the whole box is the best option.

How are you helping young women during the season of eating?