Body Image: Men, Women, and Mutual Responsibility

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” ~Ephesians 2:3-4

I recently saw a post on Instagram where the user was upset about the phrase “Modest is Hottest” because they felt that the phrase teaches girls that they are responsible for other people’s thoughts. While I don’t really have strong feelings either way concerning the specific phrase, it did get me thinking….

First of all, this same user really likes to go after the media for their unrealistic standards of beauty and body image. I have no problem with this, but couldn’t the media just respond to the user by making the exact same point?? Like, “Hey, when it comes to our pictures we are not responsible for your thoughts or how you take them.”
Second, children will learn from us whether we want them to or not, but do any of us just throw our hands up and say, “Hey, I can’t be held responsible for what they think”?? No.
Third, why are we so against the idea of helping each other out when it comes to this topic of modesty??

The fact is that we have some pretty serious issues when it comes to how we perceive health and beauty and body image in our culture and I think we all – men & women alike – share in the blame for this. Just like all the images we’re bombarded with by the media, we’re exposed to our own and other peoples thoughts and words even more so and they do affect u.

body image


I think we have every right to ask for better from the media and from each other. Because, while ultimately we may not be responsible for anyone else’s thoughts, we are all kind of stuck in this together.

Call it common curtesy or compassion or kindness or whatever you want, but why wouldn’t we want to try to help each other out if we can?

We may not be able to change the media, but I do think there are a few ways we can start making a change now to help each other out:

1) Talk kindly to and about yourself

“As a child, I never heard one woman say to me: ‘I love my body.’ Not my mother, my elder sister, my best friend. Not one woman has ever said: ‘I am so proud of my body.’….. I never heard positive reinforcement about body image from any female in my life. I only heard negatives. That’s very damaging because then you’re programmed as a young woman to immediately scrutinize yourself and how you look.”
~ Kate Winslet

real beauty

I still remember the first time my littlest sister said something really negative about herself. She was only 8 years old maybe and I thought, where did she even get that?!? Well, she grew up hearing her sisters talk negatively about their bodies and her mom and probably every other woman as well.

When I read this quote by Kate Winslet, I realized I’ve never heard a woman say it either. In fact, it makes me a little uncomfortable thinking about saying it about myself. WHY?? Because like it or not, we get taught how to think about certain things.  No matter how detrimental and wrong that is, it’s hard to undo years of a certain way of thinking. It’s going to take us getting serious about how we talk to and about ourselves. It’s gotta start with us.

2) Compliment each other on things other than outer appearance

I love this practice because it forces us to look past the outer layer and go deeper. It also helps the other person by pointing out a great thing about them that has nothing to do with their appearance. I’m not suggesting that we can’t mention when a person looks nice, of course, but getting a compliment on how patient or encouraging or funny you are tends to mean more, doesn’t it? 🙂

body image

**Side note on compliments: I’m not trying to get overly critical; this is just a word of caution. I was trying on dresses with some friends a few months ago, and one of the girls made a comment about how nice it would be if we all had a body like another one of the girls in the group. I know it was meant as a compliment to that specific girl, but it’s kind of a deflating thing for everybody else. It clearly shows that one girl is already comparing herself and can easily lead to everyone doing so. Since becoming more aware of it, I’ve noticed a lot of common compliments are comparative or play into our narrow definition of beauty or put someone down in order to lift another up. It’s just something to think about.

3) Can we all just stop the ogling please?!

I know we are visual creatures. But come on ladies, if you don’t want men to treat you like a piece of meat, then don’t turn around and do it to them. What are we, in second grade?? Ha ha! But seriously….. 😛

Obviously, you can’t help it if you find the guy on the screen attractive. But you know what you can help? Drooling and ogling and commenting on his body in front of your man. Even if your guy acts like it doesn’t bother him, just remember how those comments have affected you. Plus, what benefit is there for anyone involved?

male body image

This goes both ways of course, but in the last 10 years, the media has really begun to target men and define what the “perfect” man looks like…..hairless, six-pack abs, ripped, V-shape, defined jaw. It’s no different than what they’ve been doing to women for years and yet, instead of fighting it, we’re jumping on the bandwagon, saying, “Hey they do it to us!”

I’m not trying to make mountains out of molehills. But, if we want things to change, I just don’t see how giving our men and boys their own body image issues is going to help anything. We have to rise above it and be the change instead.

Practicing these things is mutually beneficial for everyone. If we focused a little less on the outside, I think it could only lead to more satisfied, healthier, and confident people. A satisfaction in things that are not so fleeting and superficial. Health that goes beyond some unrealistic ideal look. A confidence that is not built on what is wasting away, but on our worth as men and women who have been made in the image of God. Whether we are doing it for ourselves, our children, or for others, everybody wins. Someone who radiates love and joy, that is the kind of beauty that draws in, builds up, and sustains us.

So what do you say? Let’s step up and take responsibility. Let’s demand better from ourselves and each other as we work to build each other up. Let’s be the change.

“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” ~ Ephesians 4:29

Our most powerful motivator

This was actually my email newsletter for the week, but I got such a good response from it that I decided to share it with everyone! 🙂
So last week in my early morning class, I was talking to the girls about how their progress was going. We were talking about some new habits to work on and one of the girls wasn’t looking too excited about it all. So I asked her about it and she said, “I just don’t like reality.”

Later on I was still thinking about that answer, but I wondered if reality was really the problem or if it’s our perception of reality. It’s no secret that most of us perceive health & fitness in a pretty negative way, or in the very least, not as positively as it’s unhealthy counterparts.

My mentor Jill Coleman just wrote an excellent little fb post the other day on this:

“Perception is everything. Two people, both eat one cookie each. Person #1 feels guilty and remorseful. Person #2 is grateful they stopped at one. Same actual outcome!

Aaand … I would wager that person #2 is setting themselves up for long-term success because contrary to popular belief, self-compassion doesn’t condone behavior, it promotes adherence.

How you view the process and how you see yourself are the most powerful motivators on earth.”

Look, I totally get the negative perception around health and fitness. We’ve all got busy lives and the fact is that there are plenty of things that are a lot more fun and interesting to focus on than our health. Especially with the media putting it into such a small, all-or-nothing, perfection-attaining, looks and deprivation-based box…..let’s just say, we didn’t exactly start with a clean slate.

But the reality is that our health is something that demands attention. How we view it and treat it willaffect our lives. Like it or not, your health is something that must addressed. And it all starts with your mindset.

beth burns fitness
***Our perception of this journey is our most powerful motivator.***

So that’s where we start…..

Perception #1. A healthy lifestyle is too challenging.

Truth: No matter what kind of lifestyle you choose, there will always be challenges. Being overweight isn’t easy! Working out isn’t easy! Not being able to stop eating isn’t easy! Discipline isn’t easy! Challenge is unavoidable in this life, but at least we can know that God gives it to us for our good. (Hebrews 12:6 &10-11) Challenges are what sanctify us, keep our eyes on Jesus, and make us stronger.

**We will never avoid challenge in this life. Instead of praying for an easier life, pray to make yourself stronger.*

Perception #2. The only reason to get healthy is to look better.

Truth: There are so many great things about being healthy! You get to keep up with your kids. Be a good role model to your kids. You feel better, have more energy, and get better sleep. You get the benefit of improved cognitive abilities like memory, creativity, problem solving, etc. You have the ability to do and experience more things. It prevents many diseases. Improved mood/anti-depressant. The list goes on, but most of us just get hung up on our physique.

***When you look at all these things, doesn’t physique change seem kinda small? I’m not trying to poo-poo it, just offering some perspective (especially because for most people, when it comes down to it, it’s not actually a very powerful motivator in the end.) Even if you’re body never changes, wouldn’t the above benefits still be worth it??

Perception #3. If I can’t do it perfectly, I may as well not even try.

Truth: I know I talk about this a lot but perfection is a perception killer. If we think we have to be perfect, it will quickly lead to guilt and self-hate because we’ll never be able to achieve it. 30 days of being “perfect” is nothing compared to being consistent in even a few smaller things for a year! Be kind to yourself. Be patient with yourself.  Allow good to be good enough, friends.

 **Temper your expectations. “You won’t ever be able to keep up with unrealistic.” ~Lysa Terkeurst

Perception #4. I want to be healthy, but I honestly just hate working out and “healthy food”

Truth: Earlier I talked about the tiny box that most of us put fitness and nutrition in. I used to think in terms of that tiny box myself. It had to be this much time in the gym and I had to only eat these things and I had to get rid of all the fat on my body before I looked “good”….even though, I loved all the benefits I was getting, it still felt like a burden. This is the kind of thinking that will run your motivation right into the ground.


Getting healthy should enhance your life, not burden it!! If it’s not doing that, then something needs to change. Health is actually a great big world with many outlets and options that can fit into your life with only a few small changes. It’s not about weight lifting and chicken and broccoli. If you like that stuff, that’s great. But it should be more about moving and feeding and treating your body in a way that allows it to function at it’s best…. however that looks for you! (Side note: 30 day cleanses and running yourself into the ground in the gym DO NOT accomplish this.)

**Don’t settle for food and exercise that you hate!! For example, here are 25 Ways to Exercise Without “Working Out”. 🙂

You’ve only got this one life, so you might as well have some fun and enjoy it. Mindset is everything. Get that right and the rest will follow!

“Never give up on a dream because of the time it will take to accomplish it.
The time will pass either way.”
~Earl Nightingale

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25 Ways to Exercise Without “Working Out”

I want to get in shape, but I hate all exercise!

To be honest, the first time I heard this it baffled me….until I realized that you didn’t actually mean it. Oh, I know you think you mean it, buuuut you don’t. For now, just trust me and keep reading….

I really believe this all has to do with a misunderstanding of what exercise is and what it’s for. So let’s talk about that.

What exercise is: You might think you hate exercise, but I think you actually just dislike the current idea of what exercise is and I can’t say that I blame you.

In Western culture we think of exercise as a necessary evil to achieve a certain look or as punishment for allowing ourselves to get out of shape. We think of it in strict and structured terms, with things like gyms, time frames, expensive equipment, intensity, sweating, pain, and soreness. If you don’t like this form of exercise, that’s perfectly OK. That’s just one form of exercise. The simple fact is that any kind of movement IS exercise.

Now if you don’t like to move then we have a problem because movement is life. Without it, you’re just sitting on your couch….all day…doing nothing…and that’s not living.

Movement is life. Movement is exercise. Your body was made to move.

What exercise is for: Most think of exercise as a necessary evil for getting to the size or weight that we desire, so we run ourselves into the ground only to find that we feel worse than we did before. The brutal truth is that exercise alone will not get you the physique you desire. I could sight all sorts of studies or just talk about my professional experience, but most of you already know this because you’ve tried it and it hasn’t worked.

Some of you may be reading this and thinking, well if exercise doesn’t make me lose weight, then why would I exercise at all?!

How about because it feels good. Because it’ll keep you strong and able to do the things you love to do. Because it boosts the immune system and decreases the risk of many common diseases. Because it reduces stress and anxiety and improves cognitive abilities like attention span, memory, problem solving, and creativity (to name a few). Because it makes you happy. Because it’s fun.

While exercise alone might not be the best for weight loss, it will enhance your overall health and wellbeing and I would hope that that is enough reason to get up and move a bit more.

So in order to help you think outside of the box (gym), here are 25 fun ways to exercise without even noticing that you’re doing so…..

Picnic – Instead of meeting for coffee or a at restaurant, meet up with friends at a park. Bring something fun to do after the meal, like frisbee or bocce ball.

Take a Trip to the Zoo – Walking is the most underrated exercise of the last few decades. There are so many benefits we get from walking. Our bodies were made to walk. It absolutely counts as exercise. This is just a fun way to get lots of walking in.

Parkour/Free Running – The tricks are cool, but even more than that is the idea of making the world your playground and teaching your body to move with fluidity and grace in any circumstance. This is next on my list of new things to try.

Martial Arts – Who doesn’t want to learn exactly where to karate chop a guy to render him immediately unconscious….or just let off some steam by kicking and punching stuff.

Join a Rec League – For those who miss the competition and camaraderie that comes from sports, it doesn’t have to end after college!

Hiking – What’s not to love? Fresh air, sunshine, great views, quality time with friends, and your dogs love it too! Plus, it’s been shown that being in natural environments decreases stress and increases mood.

House Work – OK, fun might not be the best describing word for this, but it’s at least a 2-for-1 deal. And I know there are more people out than we would care to admit that have a little bit of Monica in them!


If you don’t know what’s happening here, then I can’t help you

While the process might not be all that enjoyable, I think most of us would agree that the end product is. Crank up your favorite tunes and check off exercise and house work from the to-do list. 😀

Yard Work/Gardening – See the above reasons, plus you get some vitamin D. Pull weeds, mow the lawn, plant some pretty flowers, or grow your own herbs or veggies!

Biking – Ride to work or to the red box or to get ice cream! Anything counts!

Get a dog – Not only do they provide tons of laughs and companionship, they are a great way to hold you accountable to getting out for a walk a few times a week….or at least, getting up to the let them out every once in a while. 😉

Rock climbing – Whether it’s natural rock or a climbing gym, rock climbing is an amazing upper body workout and there’s nothing quite like the feeling of reaching the top.

Play with your kids – “Auntie Beth, chase me!” My nephew LOVES chasing and being chased right now. I know I know, kids always want to play, but even just a 15 minute break in the afternoon to chase, wrestle, roll around in the grass, walk to a playground, help them build a fort….this is time well spent.

Play kids games – Anyone remember capture the flag? How about dodgeball, pickle, foursquare, or tetherball?! Get a couple of crazy friends together and try not to have too much fun. 😉

Go Ice Blocking – Summer time sledding at it’s best. Buy some big ice blocks from a gas station, find a hill, ride the ice block like a sled. Walk back up the hill and repeat.

Trampoline Park – An hour is more than enough time to get your hear rate up and your sweat on! I also noticed that they actually offer fitness classes as well. Although, most of you probably know someone that would let you jump on their trampoline for free. 😉

fun exercise jumping

Yes, I did take my sister here for her bachelorette party and I think it’s safe to say we had a blast 🙂

Knockout – You don’t even need to be a great shot to enjoy this game (although it helps ;)), but this one is fun for all skill levels and ages.

Spikeball – Super fun for those looking for a new game or challenge.

Alone time with your spouse – Enough said. 😉

Wash Your Car – Not my favorite, but another twofer that I know really gets some people jazzed!

Swimming/Water Sports – Whether it’s good old fashioned swimming or the endless possibilities involving boards or boats or breathing apparatuses of some kind, if you’re in the water you’re sure to be getting a workout and having fun at the same time.  

Create Your Own Obstacle Course – You don’t need to go all Ninja Warrior to do this. Just find some things to jump over, crawl under, climb up, and/or spin around and you’ve got yourself a course.

Get a ping-pong table – Or a basketball hoop or pool table or corn hole! It’s just nice to have some fun alternatives to watching TV.

Foam roll or stretch while watching TV – I’m not one who’s going to tell you to stop watching TV, but sitting is hard on your body so any time you can get a little extra movement in, it will benefit your body. I like to throw some yoga moves in there too.

Get a Wii or Kinect – Play games without ever having to leave the house.

Dancing – Music has a such profound effect on us. It has the ability to spur your body into movement and to completely change your mood. Jam out at home or take a class. Hip hop, salsa, swing, breakdancing, ballroom, tap…the possibilities are endless.

You probably noticed that a lot of these things involved playing. As the responsibilities start to pile up, it’s easy to put something like play or learning new skills on the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are so many mental and physical benefits to continuing to play and explore as an adult!

You don’t have to go on vacation to be adventurous and you don’t have to be a certain age to play! What’s that one thing that you’ve always wanted to try?? Be brave. Take a friend with you if need be. But go out and try it! Your body will thank you later!