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16 May 2011


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LeeAnn Balbirona

[b]I don't think it's inherently bad to want to look good. I agree that it's fraught with not a little spiritual danger.

As my fingers hover over the keys, I'm not entirely sure I want to say, "It's far more important to try to be healthy than to try to be beautiful!"[/b]

Agreed, because if you look at the teachings of the Church and writings of the saints, you see that health as a goal in and of itself is not high on the priority list. Rather, I think, the message has been, do what is necessary for your health in accordance to your position, occupation and station in life...so long as that does not impede pursuing a life of holiness. The Baltimore Catechism has a question "Of which must we take more care, the body or the soul?" and of course the answer is the soul, because it is eternal, whereas the body (while a good thing) is temporary. It's a tricky equation, trying to balance out reasonable care of the body with pursuit of excellence in the spiritual life.


There is a flip side to this. I am healthy. Just had lots of tests due to a pregnancy at 45, to make certain I am healthy. I am. I am also fat, and I would love to not be fat. Certainly, my health would benefit from me not being fat, but mostly, I want to look better. I am not certain it is vain, either. It doesn't consume me, but it is there. I enjoy looking pregnant now, because once it is over, I'll look fat again, and I know from experience that it'll be a while until I can seriously do much about it. Maybe that is vain, but I think it is just being realistic.


Loving your insight in these posts!


Good food for thought. I have been pursuing a healthy back (ie hot bod) due to a severe back crisis this past summer. My doctor told me that I had to "work on my core strength" in order to prevent this from happening again. So I started working out and I found that it was challenging and as I got stronger and stronger I developed a new appreciation for all those people who lift weights, do planks and push ups on a daily basis. It's hard. I think it can be an act of spiritual pride to look down upon those who have physical fitness, (athletic?) stamina and strength. It's hard to have a hot body. It takes discipline and hard work. When people compliment me on my new shape, I say thank you with gratitude because I know how hard I worked to get this way. It didn't come easy. And this discipline has affected the rest of my life - I organize my time around getting to Mass, getting to the gym, doing household chores, picking up the children at school, walking the dogs, etc. etc. Am I pursuing the hot body or is it a result of the hard work I put into it so I won't throw out my back every 6 months or so? Who knows, all I know is that I can't afford being immobile for two weeks at a pop anymore.

Kate Wicker

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I've been meaning to chime in here because I really appreciate this ongoing discussion. 

One point I want to bring up in case people do not read my original post and aren't familiar with my history is that there are women who choose thinness (and what they believe is beautiful and more importantly) worthy) over health. I suffered from a clinical eating disorder. It was an all or nothing choice for me at my worst: Either choose to stop abusing my body (and be healthy) or choose to be in control and to be thin. It's taken me a long time to embrace your wisdom that being healthy and being beautiful often overlap. But health is not the same as being a hottie for a lot of women. Pursuing a body that is "hot" (or what society has told her is hot), in fact, may force a woman to sacrifice health.  

Furthermore, being beautiful is not the same as being a hottie either (not that you are suggesting this). Yet, Western society does seem to often push a "hot" ideal as being what is beautiful. 

When I explore this topic, I realize I might come off as being overly sensitive about pursuing any form of physical attractiveness given my eating disordered past and own struggles with vanity. However, as I recenty wrote about in a follow-up post I would never suggest that we don’t try to be as beautiful as God intended us to be in the physical and spiritual sense. But for many women that healthy kind of beauty may not live up to what a lot of people consider the makings of a hot bod. 

I agree 100% that there's nothing wrong with expressing our mixed motives for losing weight and/or exercising or eating right. Actually, there's a lot of "right" with it. 

 When  Christians bring spirituality into discussions about weight and physical attractiveness, there often exists a temptation to relegate the temporal to second-place status or to even completely dismiss things of the earth. I don’t agree with this extreme at all.  We have to break free from the mentality that things like physical beauty are completely superficial and irrelevant when we focus on virtue and holiness.

And, thankfully, I'm learning slowly but surely that pursuing a realistic image of beauty for myself and health don't have to be either/or kind of thing. When I thought thinness was what made me hotter (or more lovable and more powerful), I abused my health and ironically, the real beauty I was hungry for was elusive. 


LeeAnn Balbirona

Erin, Fr. Longenecker has a post today about the Trinity being a model of the balance between body, mind and spirit that might be relevant to this discussion:

Happy Sunday!

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