A professor offered a class about weight loss and body image. Then he wrote down what he learned.
Feeling unhappy with your body feels like practically a prerequisite of adulthood in today’s world. Some 33% of men and 50-70% of women report some level of body dissatisfaction. But there exists a path to healing, alongside the Church and the saints, with help from a new book called Improving Your Body Image through Catholic Teaching by John Acquaviva, PhD, is a professor of exercise science at Wingate University.
When Acquaviva created a college course called “Weight Loss, Weight Gain, and Body Image” at his previous employer, Roanoke College, the class “filled to capacity quicker than any other course,” and in teaching it, he gained deep insight into the pervasive and tragic problem of body image insecurity—and into ways to heal.
The book’s focus is on healing body image issues with the help of the Church, and to that end, Acquaviva recommends the following ways that our faith can help heal the suffering of poor body image:
NOTE: If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, body dysmorphia, or any other mental health issues, seek a qualified mental health practitioner for help.
Prayer helps us to know God’s plan for us, and through prayer, God shares with us His peace. One suggestion is to pray the following prayer daily, as part of healing:
Lord, you know that I don’t always like my body. And sometimes, I dislike it because it’s not perfect. All of this worrying and complaining I do about my body is affecting the way I see and treat others, and it’s keeping me from loving You the way I should. Lord, help me to accept the way you made me, and to turn my focus to serving others, as you intended me to do. I love you for giving me a body that allows me to do so many things that are good, like hugging my friends and family members, playing my favorite sport, participating in the hobby I love, and reading a good book. I ask you God, to send your Holy Spirit upon me so I can fully appreciate this wonderful gift you have given me: my body. Amen.
Focusing on Confession as a sacrament of healing and conversion, Acquaviva writes, “healing is what we need, and in particular, healing is essential when we struggle with body distortion.” This sacrament powerfully restores us and converts our hearts to love.
“What better way to cure our poor body image than with the Body of Christ!” Acquaviva writes. Reception of the Eucharist makes us more like Christ, bringing us His presence and peace.
At the Mass we worship God with our five senses, celebrating the goodness of our bodies that make it possible for us to know, love, and serve God. The liturgy is a haven of peace and hope for us.
5This book, “Improving Your Body Image through Catholic Teaching”
This book is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to improve in self-confidence and heal their relationship with their bodies. The second half in particular, with its manual for conversation and healing in a group setting, is unlike any other book on the subject. Any Catholic who struggles with positive body image will treasure this book and reread it again and again.
In a world where the popular message is a constant refrain of “you’re not good enough,” this book tips the balance in the other direction, with its wonderful message that each body is God’s good and beloved creation. One can only hope that this message becomes more prevalent and widespread. In the meantime, it’s a resource sure to be a gift to so many of us.
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