Years of healing work with myself and other women have taught me that God loves all of creation, including the parts I’d rather exclude from love–like the increasingly droopy skin encasing my upper arms. If I can’t love my body exactly as it is today, whatever my weight or state of health or disease, then I settle for far less than the fullness of life that lives in my by the Spirit of God. And I cut myself off from the transformational power of God’s love.

Having spent the first 30 years of my life in varying degrees of distance from my body, ashamed because my body didn’t match those of the models and movie stars of my day, I know about resistance to accepting and loving your body just as you are.

my nieces Sophia and Caity inspire my work - loving ourselves just as we are today

Acceptance and love for your body doesn’t mean you’ll “feel” good about yourself. Emotions come and go. I’ve worked with countless women with eating disorders and body image problems whose external appearance matched the cultural ideal perfectly, but still loathed their thighs, breasts, belly, nose or some other part of their body. As my all-time favorite Saturday Night Live character Rosanna Rosanna Danna, played by the amazing Gilda Radner (God rest her soul), used to say, “It’s always something…” Either your nose is too big, your breasts are too small or just when you finally came to a place of peace with your body, some other change comes along to upset your equilibrium–like pregnancy, menopause, an illness.

Loving your body as God loves you is about attending to the real needs of your body for nourishing foods, plenty of fresh water, and adequate sleep—at a minimum. Many of us run on sleep deprivation and then drink caffeine or eat sugar to compensate for our lack of energy and focus during the afternoon. Statistics indicate over 30% of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Most of us need 7-8 to function at optimal levels. Countless numbers of us exist at varying levels of dehydration—75% being the statistic most often sited.

Regardless of other possible ways you might respond more lovingly to your physical needs, how might getting seven hours of sleep a night and drinking more fresh water improve your life? It’s likely you’d even begin to “feel” more loving toward yourself as both of these deprivations are associated with increased emotional distress—particularly anxiety and depression.

You can’t have fullness of life if you aren’t fully inhabiting your body. It’s that simple. Your body is where God’s transformative power dwells. The Spirit is an energetic presence that lives in our bodies. I imagine the Spirit operating within our bodies along the central nervous system, but that’s a blog for another day. So the wisdom, vitality, radiance, power, joy, peace, hope—and all the other transformative energies of our new life in Christ—live in and are accessed through your body.

What loving action will you take today on behalf of your body’s real needs? Drink more water? Plan to go to bed earlier?

Pick one small change and work on that for a month. Build the muscle of choosing to love yourself as you are by treating your body in loving ways, even if you don’t feel loving or accepting. Even if you feel shameful, disappointed, regretful for all the years you’ve spent living at a distance from your body. Shame and fear are huge obstacles for many of us. I’ll write more about that in an upcoming blog.

But for today, what might treating your body with more lovingkindness look like, just for today?