Treating Our Bodies With Gratitude
We're so excited to introduce you to one of our newest contributing authors, Lesa Burgess, who will be writing for our Faith and Wellness column. Welcome Lesa!
How often do you find yourself saying negative things about your body? All too often we slew a barrage of insults—at ourselves!—all because we don’t think we fit the world’s standard of beauty. Wouldn’t you love to be able to crush that never-ending mountain of perfection we all feel the need to climb? The good news is, you can.
I work with many women in the gym and in their homes training them in exercise, nutrition, and teaching proper ways to be healthy and happy. One major struggle many women face is the idea of the perfect body. Comparing ourselves to images online or to other women who we see as “perfect” has the potential to destroy us. How many times have you labeled yourself as ugly, chubby, or not good enough, when you should be labeling yourself as a daughter of God?
My physical body has always played an important role in my life. I played soccer in college and my freshman year I was sidelined by a serious injury. This caused a lot of mental anxiety for me and I started worrying about my physical appearance. The more obsessed I became, the less I ate. I started getting weak and losing a lot of weight and muscle. I felt jealous of my teammates, scared that I would gain weight, and depressed and overwhelmed at the pressure I put on myself to be perfect. I was mad at my body for not meeting my expectations. I was viewing it as an object. An object that was not good enough.
I couldn’t see it then, but Satan had slowly but surely convinced me to disregard the beautiful gift that was given to me by Heavenly Father. Joseph Smith taught: “We came to this earth that we might have a body.... The great principle of happiness consists in having a body. The Devil has no body, and herein is his punishment.” (The Words of Joseph Smith, ed. Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook , 60)
Satan “tries to do everything he can to get us to abuse or misuse this precious gift. He seduces some to despise their bodies; others he tempts to worship their bodies. In either case, he entices the world to regard the body merely as an object. In the face of so many satanic falsehoods about the body, I want to raise my voice today in support of the sanctity of the body. I testify that the body is a gift to be treated with gratitude and respect.” ("The Sanctity of the Body", Susan W. Tanner 2005)
I was disrespecting my body, as well as my Heavenly Father by ignoring my eternal nature as a child of God. I was caught in a trial of both body and spirit. I thought if I could just control my weight and the way I looked, then I would feel better about myself. I quickly learned that no matter how much weight I lost or how “skinny” I became, I didn’t feel truly happy. My obsession had blinded me from knowing that the only true source of happiness comes through Jesus Christ.
Below are 4 things that have helped me, and the many women I work with show more love and gratitude for our bodies. I hope they can do the same for you.
1 | STOP NEGATIVE SELF-TALK
When we talk to ourselves negatively, self-doubt takes over every aspect of our lives. When we compare ourselves to an unrealistic ideal we can feel like we are drowning. As daughters of God, we know we can rely on our Savior to help us at every turn. He knows exactly how we feel, even if we think nobody else could. Matthew 14:30-31 says,
When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him.
There are days that the pressures of the world may bring us down, but remember—we have the power to call upon God! He will save us from our doubts, our fears, and even our negative self-talk. All we have to do is call on Him. As we have faith that he will help us become like him, we will no longer feel like we are drowning.
2 | NOURISH BOTH BODY & SPIRIT
The gospel teaches that the body, mind, and spirit are truly linked. The body is just one half of a whole. Both need nourished to be healthy and complete. Just as taking care of and showing love for our bodies is important, so is taking care of our minds and spirits through daily prayer and scripture study. As I worked to recover, I did some deep breathing, lots of praying, and even though I was never awesome at scripture study, I did my best to read at least a little bit every day.
Even though I wasn’t perfect, doing these things reminded me of my worthiness as a daughter of God. Accepting Christ’s grace helped me escape the pressures of the world and forget the need to be perfect. Moroni 10:32 taught me that focusing on loving God helped me love myself—imperfections and all.
3 | BE ACTIVE
Being physically active is a great way to show gratitude for our bodies. There are also countless physical benefits. Our bodies were made to move, to toil, to strain, to grow, and to be strong. Being physically active does not mean trying to fit a mold or lose those last 5 pounds. It means moving, playing, lifting and working so we can be happier and healthier in our quality of life.
I can’t say it enough, longing to weigh a certain number or fit a specific size can, and usually will defeat the happiness that being active and healthy brings. Instead of dragging yourself to the gym every day so you can work off that brownie you ate last night, commit to an activity you love! Whether it be running, swimming, playing sports, yoga, walking, biking, or dancing, find something that brings joy!
4 | SHOW LOVE & GRATITUDE
Commit to being active and to enjoying this amazing gift. Focus on fueling your body with the things that will help it feel and work at it’s best. Don’t forget to allow some of your favorite treats from time to time (mine is ice cream).
Recognize your own unique form of beauty. Stop comparing and minimizing yourself. When you start to put your body down; Stop! Think Love & Gratitude. Thank your Heavenly Father for the beautiful gift he has given you. Obsessing about my physical appearance made the pressures of the world heavier on my shoulders. Even though I denied it at first, I was able to get the help I needed through therapy and also through the help of my Savior. I started to recover mentally and spiritually, and was blessed with physical recovery as well. Expressing gratitude daily to my Father in Heaven was integral in my healing process.
It is something I still have to check myself on almost every day, but I promise if you are willing to do this, you will be able to love your body for the precious gift it is. You will have so much joy and be able to radiate true beauty as a daughter of God.
Lesa can either be found running up the miles on her minivan with a top bun and no make-up, or inside a gym watching a sporting event. Her husband is a former professional basketball player turned coach and together they have lived in 9 countries and have had 5 little ones who all seemed to inherit their dad's tall genes and have already started passing Lesa up. She played collegiate soccer and graduated in Exercise and Sport Science. Since then she has earned her CrossFit level 1, CrossFit Endurance, and CSCS (certified strength and conditioning specialist). In her spare time (LOL) she loves helping others actually find joy in being active and maybe even finding a piece of themselves they never knew existed. With all of this, she strives mostly to keep a happy, spirit filled home among all the crazy, chaotic noise.