Debra Chew: Healthy Body Image By Reflection - What's In Your Mirror?

Thursday, August 28, 2014 - by Debra Chew

Mirror, mirror on the wall….a well-recognized fairy tale goes.  It tells the tale of a wicked stepmother who always looks at her reflection in the mirror and expects to be told that she is the most beautiful in the kingdom.  Eventually, she looks in the mirror only to see the image of her step-daughter who has replaced the step-mother as the most beautiful and fairest one.  A fairy tale indeed….but it does make me think about reflection.   

Unlike the fairy tale, no matter how many times I look in the mirror, I will always see a reflection of myself looking back.  I can close my eyes really hard and imagine another figure, better hair and fewer wrinkles, perhaps, but when I open my eyes, it will always be my self-image or self-reflection looking back at me.  Or will it? 

Psychology Today defines body image as the mental representation we create of what we think we look like; it may or may not bear a close relation to how others actually see us.  And, it is a fact that since World War II, the media has increasingly held up a thinner and thinner body image as the ideal for women.  This often creates an unrealistic ‘mental representation’ for young women.  And, these days, it’s not just females who are consumed by an unattainable body image.  Harvard research reveals there has been a striking change in male body image attitudes in the last 30 years.  Males and females are taking unhealthy measures to refine their bodies in an attempt to measure up to the pictures they see in the media.  Such measures include excessive exercise, steroids or laxatives, eating and binging or not eating enough – all of which produce health breakdowns. 

Researchers are increasingly finding that a spiritual view of life and of yourself – including a less “me” focused approach – can help you improve your body image.  For example, a study in Ohio, Does Spirituality Correlate with Body Dissatisfaction, was conducted by mail on undergraduate students.  Significant findings revealed that the higher the level of spirituality, the lower the body dissatisfaction score. 

Is there a way to focus less on the material image you see and replace those seeming unsatisfactory physical traits with spiritual ones?  I think so.  In Genesis, we read, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  That means when you look in the mirror, shouldn’t you be witnessing God’s likeness?  Would that include seeing God as unhealthy, balding, overweight, or even scarred?  I doubt it.  

Just what is it about spirituality – about understanding that likeness of God in which man was made – that produces a healthier body image?  A 19th century health writer often describes God as qualities in her writing; qualities such as beauty, harmony, and strength.  

Instead of obsessing over human physical traits, ask yourself: What is God seeing about me?  Am I reflecting those qualities that I know belong to the Divine – beauty, harmony and strength? 

This approach to taking in a more spiritual view was the key to my own healing of an eating disorder some years ago.     

When I looked in the mirror during my teenage years, I saw a huge person.  Actually, though, I was extremely underweight.  It was like a stranger was staring back at me.  No matter how many people remarked how thin I was, I saw “fat” when I looked in the mirror.  No matter how many times I weighed myself, I did not believe the scales.  No matter how many people said I was pretty, I did not believe them.  Like the fairy tale, it seemed I was always using images in the media or what I saw in the mall as the mirror in which to view myself.   

At a point when my family was very worried about me, I decided I should pray about this problem. This was natural to me as I grew up in a Christian faith that encouraged me to turn to God for all kinds of troubles.    

I tried to picture what God saw when he looked at me.  I replaced all those feelings that suggested I lacked physical beauty with what I felt God knew about me.  I became more grateful and started helping others in my youth group who were struggling with their own issues.   These specific spiritual practices – prayer, gratitude, and helping others – helped me see a truer reflection of myself in the mirror.  The end result was that I was able to turn away from the purely human body image and obsession to a more God-like view of myself.  My eating and my weight went back to normal for a teenage girl.     

A popular Christina Aguilera’s song, “Reflection” says: “Who is that girl I see, staring straight back at me?  Why is my reflection someone I don’t know?”  The song ends with “When will my reflection show who I am inside?”  

So, when you look in the mirror, if it says back to you, “you don’t know who you are” don’t fall for it.  Look back and say “mirror, mirror, on the wall, God made me the fairest of them all.”  And mean it. 


Debra Chew is a self-syndicated columnist and writes about the connection between thought, spirituality and health.  She has been published in the chattanoogan.com, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Jackson Sun Health Magazine, and in the UK.  She is a Christian Science Practitioner and also the media and legislative liaison for Christian Science for TN.  You can contact her at tennessee@compub.org.

Cherokee Health Systems' Chief Clinical Officer To Participate Best Practices Study

Parinda Khatri, PhD, Cherokee Health Systems’ chief clinical officer, has been selected by the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health to join an advisory group of health care professionals that will travel to Spain next month to conduct in-depth research on best practices in health care delivery.   Dr. Khatri will join professionals from ... (click for more)

CHI Memorial Mobile Health Coach To Visit Meigs County

CHI Memorial’s mobile health coach will provide mammography screenings at Piggly Wiggly, in partnership with the Meigs County Health Department, on Friday from 9 a.m.–3 p.m.  The Piggly Wiggly is at 17619 State Hwy. 58 N. in Decatur.   All women should have one screening mammogram between the ages of 35-40. After age 40, a screening mammogram is recommended every year. ... (click for more)

Alexander: Corps Allocates $37 Million For Chickamauga Lock, Construction For 3rd Consecutive Year

Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) said the Army Corps of Engineers Work Plan for Fiscal Year 2017 "includes good news for all of East Tennessee – and everyone who benefits from river traffic passing through the Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga." In addition to funding slated for the first three priority projects of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund, the Corps of Engineers’ Work ... (click for more)

Chris Thomas Serving As Interim Executive Director At Finley Stadium; Stadium And Pavilion Constantly In Use

The operation of Finley Stadium is in transition since the departure of former Executive Director Paul Smith and his staff. At the meeting of the Stadium Corporation’s board of directors Tuesday, Chairman Gordon Davenport announced that Chris Thomas, principal manager of the Chattanooga Market has stepped in to serve as interim executive director. Mr. Davenport told the board that ... (click for more)

Tennessee Business Expansions On Rise Across State

In 2016, Tennessee was named State of the Year for Economic Development by Southern Business & Development Magazine based on project totals and the variety of industries that invested in the state and created jobs. To a great extent, Bradley and Polk Counties have benefited from that investment.   From February 2015 to February 2016, Cleveland/Bradley County led the ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: The Public Defender And The Mental Health Court

I am holding in my hand a list of the names of 50 very real people who cost the taxpayers of Hamilton County a combined $3,037.090 in incarceration charges before July 2015. These people live in our county and I dare say it is not completely their fault that they were put in the county jail. Each has a professionally-diagnosed mental illness and today, most regretfully, the County ... (click for more)