February is Eating Disorder Awareness month. Many of us have or know someone who has struggled with an eating disorder.
Sadly, we are inundated with imagery and messages about what we should look like.
Last week I took my nearly fifteen year old daughter to the mall in search of new jeans. I always say, there is nothing worse for a girl’s self esteem than shopping for jeans. One of the stores we looked at was American Eagle. My daughter and I were dismayed by what we saw. The mannequins were modeling size 00 jeans! My daughter said “They are promoting anorexia here”, and I couldn’t agree more. Suffice it to say, we took our business elsewhere.
Today I am so excited to share my recent interview with Whatever Girls contributor Tracy Steel. Tracy brought to my attention that February was eating disorder awareness month and I felt it was prudent we cover this topic.
EB: Tracy, what is the heart of your ministry?
TS: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV (emphasis mine)
My passion is to help God’s daughters experience and know Jesus Christ. I love to encourage them as they grow in increasing glory, one degree at a time! (Talk about a rad makeover!) There is nothing more beautiful than helping someone find freedom in Jesus Christ, and hope throughout the pages of Scripture.
EB: Was there a defining moment when you knew you wanted to pursue this ministry, or was it a gradual process?
TS: It was definitely a process. In 2001, my best friend urged me to serve with her in the youth ministry at our church. I thought God would never use me to work with teen girls since I graduated with a BS in Interior Design. I only saw carpet and paint samples in my future… until I started living life with a precious group of teen girls. In 2003, God opened doors for me to pursue a different kind of “interior design.” My adventure into seminary and youth ministry officially began. From purity conferences to paintball wars, I watched God move in the lives of His daughters. Over the past couple of years, God has also allowed me to create One Degree Ministries, where I love speaking and writing to calmer and “more seasoned” women too.
EB: If you could travel back in time to your teenage self, what are three things you would tell yourself?
TS: 1) Let go of trying to be “it” and flee the drama. As you mature, you’ll realize that life is always changing. The majority of people that you try to impress or date are going to attend a different college or move away from home. So this issue that has your heart in knots will only be a distant memory one day. Unless someone writes about it on Facebook– which is why you need to flee the drama! (And that bright purple prom dress you stressed about and dieted to fit into is going to fade into a hideous lighter shade of purple one day. The arms pits will turn a shade of fuchsia due to deodorant and sweat stains. So do not sweat over Prom, literally. Ahem… we didn’t have dry cleaning back then?)
2) Beauty is more than skin deep; it is soul deep. Chin hairs, cellulite, and mommy muffin tops are rites of passage. Thankfully, they do not define your beauty, God does. He has a lot to say about you in His Word. So look to Him alone for beauty advice!
3) Laugh and then laugh some more. Life gives you plenty of opportunity to experience heartache. Remember how you giggled and did silly girl things during sleepovers and birthday parties? Yeah that. Make time to laugh and be silly with your girlfriends.
EB: What message do teen girls and young women need most at this age?
TS: That your beauty, self-worth, and purpose stems from whose you are, not from how you look, what others think, or from what you do.
EB: Do you have some advice for me on how to be intentional about the topic of beauty/self-image when I speak with teen girls/young women and their moms?
TS: I think that one way you can be intentional is to use the following question that my husband asks me often: Whose opinion counts? For example, when discussing your daughter’s appearance, or when you discuss a potential decision of hers- talk through whose opinion really counts. (We moms need to challenge ourselves with this question too!)
Our gut response to this question indicates our heart condition and what we allow to define or direct us. The soul goal of pleasing others often leads to discouragement. The soul goal of pleasing God always leads to blessing.
EB: The media plays a major role in how we feel about ourselves. What tips would you share with a parent or mentor for dispelling the hype the media creates about how much we should weigh, and how we should look and dress?
TS: 1) Model what you teach. YOU have more influence than a magazine ad, so though your words may differ from what they are hearing or reading, do your actions differ? Teens can sense hypocrisy and will naturally notice how you feel about yourself. Are you obsessed with your own weight, over-exercising, or constantly dieting? How do you respond when complimented for your appearance? Our daughters are watching and listening! (Even though they pretend to act otherwise!)
2) Engage in their interests. Listen along and watch with them. Ask questions about the lyrics or talk to them about a certain movie scene. Engaging creates teachable moments and opportunities to share God’s Word. Sharing your opinion with grace and listening to her opinions with patience reinforces that you are approachable and interested in your daughter. The more that she knows you care, the more she will want to know what you think.
Thank you, Tracy for spending time with us today and for being such a great resource on this very serious topic. Join us again tomorrow for a look at Tracy’s book, “Images of His Beauty” and for some advice eating disorders.