Positive Body Image in the Gym

May 27, 2022

Written by Heather Salvia, Associate Director of Fitness and Programming

The gym is supposed to be a place where people can go to improve their physical fitness, develop friendships and community with others, and have access to a variety of equipment to meet their needs that they wouldn’t otherwise have at home. But there is one fact about coming to the gym that reigns true over time — going to the gym makes us more aware of how we look, for better or for worse.

In an ideal world, everyone would humbly see their unique beauty; there would be no false standard to hold themselves to. Physical fitness would not be dependent on aesthetics but rather strength, mobility, and metabolic function. We would see our inherent value, apart from appearance, and God’s intentionality in discussing the status of our hearts, not our glutes or biceps.

In our real, fallen world, this may not always be how we feel. In the 12 years I have been working within a gym setting, I can understand the highs and lows of this reality and have been there myself. This is why I want to drop some encouragement to anyone coming into the gym who needs a reminder of how they should see themselves today. Read these. Let them sink in. Repeat as needed.

What God Says

I won’t apologize nor believe it is cliché to include scripture here, because what God says about us is the single most important thing, not what man says. Let’s break it down:

Psalm 139:14 says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

  • Make no mistake — you are a masterpiece of the greatest artist of all time and space. And don’t just glaze over that — think about it. God Himself wove you together into who you are. Considering how much needs to align in the human body for a baby to grow and be born, it is a clear miracle you are here.

Proverbs 31:30 says, Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

  • This is profound because our society idolizes charm and beauty — maintain at all costs. When we place our value on these things and what pleases the world, we feel empty, insatiable, and lose sight of our inherent value. Focusing instead on what pleases our Abba leads us to confidence, assurance, and inward peace. Unshakable value.

1 Samuel 16:7 says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

  • People instinctively look at outward appearance; it’s natural to do so. Please don’t beat yourself up for noticing your appearance. But pay closer attention to your heart and the hearts of others. The real goal in life is not to get massive arms, a six pack, or a smaller waist. It’s to grow to live and act more like Jesus. If the Creator of beauty Himself looks more inward than outward, that should be our cue to check out our hearts instead.

What You Can Say

Your intention matters. What you think and say to yourself affects every aspect of your health. What you think and say about others affects your relationships. Below are some affirmations that you can choose to say to yourself and others as image bearers:

  • I am strong and capable.
  • I am beautiful and uniquely made.
  • I am thankful for my body and all it does to keep me going.
  • I am loved and valued for who I am.
  • Being vulnerable is a strength.
  • I am confident and self-assured.
  • I choose not to fear; God is with me. His rod and His staff, they comfort me.
  • I choose peace given by Jehovah Shalom.

Use this list or create your own list of affirmations. Equip yourself with truth when the temptation to feel insecure and down on yourself comes up. Whether you are at the gym or anywhere else, you are stronger than the deceit and the lies because you have the power and authority given by Christ Jesus over the enemy. Step into that and feel the freedom and assurance that follows!