Watching the Olympics, Body Image, & True Beauty [Podcast Transcript]

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Title: Watching the Olympics, Body Image, & True Beauty

Podcast Date: July 23, 2021

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Description

Watching or planning to watch the Olympics this summer? Ever notice that the bodies of the elite athletes may not look like the bodies on the magazine covers? What does watching the Olympics teach us about our body image struggles? We say we desire health...but these women are some of the healthiest in the world--and yet not all of their bodies are "enviable" according to magazine model standards. Whether or not you are a sports fan, this episode can encourage your heart as we talk about the real struggle behind our body image issues and how to defeat the body image idol.

Read the Olympics post referenced in this episode here: https://comparedtowho.me/olympics-help-struggle-with-body-image/

Outline

00:00 My Love For and Experience With The Olympics

02:47 Olympic Swimmers Revealed My Body Image Idol

05:56 Wrestling with Ideal Beauty

08:43 A Surprising Lesson From Jonah

13:26 Our Invitation to Rest in Jesus

My Love For and Experience With The Olympics

[00:00:06]:

Welcome to Compare To Who, the podcast to help you stop comparing and start living. I'm your host, Heather Creekmore. I hate to admit this, but I used to secretly obsess over my appearance. I thought it was part of my job as a woman to always look better, but never felt like I could be good enough. Maybe you can relate. God, in his grace, showed me a way out, and I wanna give you all the tools you need to break free too. If you've ever spent too much time stressing over your looks, I get it. I hope you'll keep listening and find the same freedom I have.

 

[00:00:35]:

Here are 3 other things you should know about me. I'm a minivan driving mom of 4. I'm author of the book Compared to Who and The Burden of Better. I'm a blogger at compared to who dot me, and you just may have seen my epic bake fail on Netflix. If you've ever struggled with comparison or body image issues, Compare To Who is the show for you. I hope you enjoy today's episode, and, hey, tell a friend about it.

 

[00:01:10]:

I love the Olympics. Okay? You guys, you just have to know that about me. I am an Olympics fan. I had the opportunity to go to the Summer Olympics way back in 1996. Some of you aren't old enough to remember that, but there was a bomber there, and I was 30 minutes away from being downtown at Olympic Park where that bomb was gonna go off. So praise God I was running late that day. That and then in 2000, I think it was 2000. Or it was 2002.

 

[00:01:39]:

I might need to look that up. But I got the opportunity to go to the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. I got to watch some figure skating and some curling, which was awesome. I just love the Olympics. I love just the whole, really, I like the patriotic nature of it. Right? Rooting for team USA because I'm an American. I know I've got listeners from all over the world, so maybe you love rooting for your country in the Olympics too.

 

[00:02:09]:

But I love the Olympics. I think it's just a fantastic celebration of sport. Okay. But here's something that I'm embarrassed to talk about, but I'm going to because probably about a year ago, I was having coffee with a friend, and she said these words to me… She said, “Heather, I knew I had body image issues when I was comparing my body to the bodies of Olympic swimmers, and I decided that their bodies still weren't good enough.” I was like, woah. That's so crazy because I had written this blog post several years ago.

Olympic Swimmers Revealed My Body Image Idol

[00:02:47]:

I think it was back in 2016 when the Summer Olympics were going, and I'm gonna repost it (https://www.improvebodyimage.com/blog/can-the-olympics-help-struggles-with-body-image). So if you wanna go to the blog and read it with this post, you can. But in that post, I talked about that very thing, how watching Olympic swimming made me notice that Olympic swimmers do not have the same body as models have. Like, when they shake their arms and they're ready to, like, jump in the pool, their skin shakes. And you know what? They don't have a thigh gap. Olympic swimmers are somewhat thick, but you know what? They are fit. These women are elite athletes, the fastest swimmers in the world. You know what else I notice about Olympic swimmers? They have a little bit of bra bulge.

 

[00:03:38]:

Okay. They're not actually wearing a bra. They're wearing a bathing suit, but a lot of times, they've got a little bit of extra flesh that kinda overlaps the back of that suit. It's embarrassing to say that that made me feel good, but it kind of did. And then I take a big step back, and I'm like, hey. What is going on here? These women are elite athletes. They are some of the fittest, healthiest, strongest women in the world.

 

[00:04:05]:

These are real women, and yet they do not match that picture of beauty and health that we are sold in the media. Not at all. These swimmers have beautiful bodies, strong bodies, bodies that train so hard. They're fed properly. They're worked out every single day, and yet they don't look anything like that ideal of beauty that I've been shown since I was a little girl. And so what does this bring me back to? This just shows me in a real in my face kind of way that I wrestle a body image idol. This is a problem in my heart. You know, see, the truth is I struggle.

 

[00:04:45]:

If there were a bunch of bikini models on the starting blocks at the Aquatic Stadium, I would turn the channel. I would not want my husband to see those hot bodies as they race across the pool. I wouldn't want my kids to watch it. But instead, I have no problem with the whole family watching Olympic swimming. I mean, the suits are modest. And back to what I said, most of these women do not match that cultural definition of what it looks like to be hot. And friends, I'll just be honest with you. I hate that I still wrestle not to mentally rank women's bodies in that way.

 

[00:05:23]:

I hate that my brain defaults to sizing women up. I hate the fact that there's only 1 body type that I admire or want my body to be like. That's idolatry, friends. I have to admit, I am an idolater in this area. My body image struggle is not a struggle against flesh and blood. See, friends, it's not me versus Heidi Klum. It's not me versus Beyonce. It's not me versus J. Lo or whatever woman is rocking a hot body or a hot bikini.

Wrestling with Ideal Beauty

[00:05:56]:

It's me against my own ideals. You see, ideals often become idols and I write ideals often become idols and I write all about this in the Burden of Better chapter 5. If you haven't read it yet, I think you'll love that chapter. But I idolize the type of beauty that my culture has told me is best. Deep in my heart, I believe that the blonde bombshell who is almost 6 foot tall, about 3 inches around, or the exotic looking woman on the magazine cover, I believe that these women will win the imaginary beauty contest. I believe these women all rank better than I do in this silly contest that I've created in my brain. And as much as I'd like to tell you that I desire to be thinner for health reasons, watching the Olympics reveals to me that the standard of beauty I wrestle to achieve has nothing to do with health. And friends, I'm just gonna be honest about that because I hear lots of women say, “I just wanna be healthy.”

 

[00:06:51]:

And they go on an extreme diet and they take pictures of themselves before and after. And, you know, after 6 weeks of eating 1100 calories a day, yes, they are thinner, but they are not healthier. And so we have to stop using health as this guise that we hide behind as we pursue this ideal body that culture has told us will help us be valuable or help us be more worthy or help us be more desirable. You see, my desire to be thinner for health reasons is just a cover. Right? And when I watch the Olympics, it shows me that the standard of beauty I wrestle has nothing to do with my health. My flesh craves 1 type of beauty. And if I'm honest with you, it's not God's style of beauty.

 

[00:07:45]:

It's the world's. So, yeah, we're gonna go there. We're gonna go to true beauty. And, you know, I've always hated conversations about true beauty. Okay? When the Christian body image speaker goes to, “now we're going to talk about true beauty," I used to yawn. Like, are you serious? Okay. I know.

 

[00:08:03]:

It's not what's on the outside that counts. It's what's on the inside that counts. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am God's masterpiece, yada yada yada. I knew all the things. I should also mention that, you know, God made all women beautiful and, you know, how many times have we heard someone stand on stage and make it sound like that's physical beauty. And this is the part where I always wanna raise my hand and be like, but what about Leah? Of course, then we also talk about how our body is God's temple. We are created in his image and all of these statements somehow are supposed to work together to cure our body image.

A Surprising Lesson From Jonah

[00:08:43]:

But I've been in this world long enough to know that my friends struggling with body image issues, they know these verses. They know they're fearfully and wonderfully made. Their body image struggles have nothing to do with the failure to memorize Psalm 139:14 or the verse in 1st Samuel about God looking at the heart. Many of these women can tell me from their brains that God uniquely forms them. They know they are his jars of clay, yet that doesn't solve their dissatisfaction. 

 

Their hearts still want more than God's assurance that he made them special. So to cure our body image issues, instead of learning all of those verses about true beauty and kind of turning those verses into self esteem verses to remind ourselves that we're good enough and we're smart enough and we're awesome enough and all of those things. You know, I think the real verse we need to memorize is Jonah 28.

 

[00:09:27]:

It goes like this, “those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.” What? I bet you're wondering “how did she come up with that verse?”, but follow me here. Vain idols, some translations say worthless idols. Friends, these are those images that have been thrown in front of us since we were little kids. These idols, these images are these things that we chase in vain. Have you ever wanted to look more like a Kardashian? Maybe you wanted to have Jennifer Aniston's hair. I know I went through that phase in the nineties or J. Lo's butt.

 

[00:10:06]:

Or, I don't know, it used to be Angelina's, like, legs or something. I don't know. These are all worthless idols, friends. These are goals that serve ourselves only. They don't serve God's kingdom. It's vanity. It's fleeting vanity. And this person, Jonah, tells us exactly what these vain idols get us.

 

[00:10:26]:

They get us nothing. Sure, those girls at the office may drool over how great your legs look after 6 months of spin class. And your husband may tell you that he can tell you've been working out and he likes it. But in Galatians 1:10, we were reminded not to seek man's approval. Paul asks, for am I now seeking the approval of man or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Wow. Not be a servant of Christ. That seems a bit severe, doesn't it? Isn't it okay to wanna please God and to wanna get compliments on how great you look all day long? That's kinda what I was hoping for.

 

[00:11:09]:

But that's not the way it works, friends. I think we're all seeking a steadfast love, and Jonah 28 tells us that our pursuit of these main idols distracts us from that. So let's go back to the Olympics. What does every Olympian ultimately desire? They desire a medal, preferably a gold medal. What do all humans ultimately desire? We desire love, steadfast love, unconditional love, acceptance, peace.

 

[00:12:25]:

Though this verse in Jonah may seem like the oddest verse you've ever heard of used in a body image episode, Let me show you how it clearly spells out the issue. You see, when we pursue a better body for the sake of affirmation and accolades, we surrender our hope for the kind of satisfying relationship that God desires to give us, or as the verse says, we forsake our hope of steadfast love. We trade the real thing, the love and acceptance of the almighty God, our creator, our deliverer, our salvation for a pursuit of something temporary, something that will ultimately not satisfy us. 

 

Chasing a body image idol will never end in peace. It only ends in frustration. You can reach that goal weight, or you can get Olympic volleyball player abs. You can augment your breasts, boost your butt, tighten your core, but you'll never get to rest. As any athlete knows, you don't just arrive at a place in your physical conditioning where you feel like you've made it.

Our Invitation to Rest in Jesus

[00:13:26]:

Rather, you have to keep working every day to maintain it. If we seek to substitute the steadfast love of our heavenly father with the temporary approval of our bodies by man or by woman, we remain on that never ending treadmill of working to earn love, and it's exhausting. God invites us to something different, friends, something much better. He invites us to rest. His sacrifice for us through Jesus on the cross gives us a hope that is far better than thigh gap or flat abs or the perfectly round butt that we see on magazine covers. Guess what? It's better than gold too. So as you're watching the Olympics this week, I hope you remember that body image can just be an idol, and Jesus offers us something far better that even the best body can give us. That's all for today's episode.

 

[00:14:26]:

I hope something in today's show has helped you stop comparing and start living. Bye bye.

 

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