Imago Feminae: Image of Woman


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Grace's Voice

I grew up in the Methodist Church. I went to Sunday School pretty regularly. I was confirmed at about age 12 which was the tradition at the time. I also spent alot of time in the church of my grandfather since I stayed with him in the summer - he was Southern Baptist. My best friend in my neighborhood went to the Church of Christ and I would go to church with her. She was very serious about religion and believed as she was taught that no one other that members of her religion were going to heaven. When I was in Jr. High my father became disillusioned about the Methodist Church. His brother had recently joined the Episcopal Church and urged us to visit. We did and Mother and my brother and sisters and I ended up joining but not my father who remained disillusioned the rest of his life. In my twenties, I married a Catholic and joined that church. Being divorced was uncomfortable in that church and when I remarried I joined the Presbyterian Church.When we moved to Belgium we attended the American Protestant Church which was mostly run by the Methodists and I have come full circle back to the Methodist Church. I cannot think of one way that religion has influenced my body image. If it ever occurred to me that I was built in God's image, I'm sure I would have questioned that since God was clearly male. (I'm not so sure anymore). How I view my body comes with a history that dates back to about age 8. Right now I am satisfied with my body image, although I always think I could (and should ) look better. It is a sacrifice versus benefits type head game. Realistically, does anyone really expect a grandmother to look like Elle? I don't think so. I'm pretty satisfied looking like a grandmother. (Aside: Josh climbed up in my lap and pointed at my "roll" and asked,"Grammy, what's this?" I said, "Oh, Josh, that's my spare tire." He looked down at his own stomach anfd said, "I guess I must have a flat tire!") I have rarely thought about being made in God's image. My idea of God is not in a body but more in long loose robes. I do think of Him as having hands and feet, a head, and arms and legs, and although I usually think of him as male, it doesn't translate to a "male"body with the exception of strength. Actually if God is female and has a beautiful body, I would probably be so threatened that I would give up my belief thinking I could never look that good! Yes, I have an eating disorder - self diagnosed. In a nutshell, it exhibits itself in gaining and losing large amounts of weight over years, using food as a drug to sedate, energize, or comfort, and being generally "unbalanced" in eating habits (either eating too much or dieting) as well as mental outlook (either depressed from being overweight or feeling grandiose and judgmental of others because of success at dieting). A distorted body image is also part of this disease - generally because denial of having a problem is so strong. I would avoid a mirror except from the neck up. I have found that most doctors have little if any understanding of the problems until the patient is at death's door. Most often fat patients are told to lose weight and thin ones told to eat more. Recovery is on three levels - physical, emotional, and spiritual - and just losing weight often adds to the problem. It is a disease that is never cured - only controlled. I am not searching for the perfect body either by exercise or diet. I am looking (and finding) balance in my life by practicing the 12 steps - a recovery program known as Overeaters Anonymous. I am accountable to a Higher Power who enables me to face life with gut-level honesty. I have learned through this program that how I look is so much less important than being a happy, loving and productive person.

Grace, 56 years old