Just moments ago, when at the gym in my condo complex, I watched a little girl enter. By little I mean no more than twelve years old, clad in bright workout shorts, fluorescent shoes, and plugged in with customary white earbuds. She climbed onto the elliptical machine – this child. She may have been dressed the part, but her uniform didn’t disguise her youth.Deftly hitting buttons and programming the parameters of her workout, she gazed at her cellphone all the while, as entranced as everyone else. Her tiny hands reached up and grasped the handles of the machine, her short legs struggling to keep up with the pace she had set for herself. She moved in intervals of extreme speed mixed with backpedaling to get every muscle toned.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing occurred in one of the moments I chanced to sneak a glance in her direction. While wrestling with the machine that was much too large for her small frame, she lifted up her tshirt and inspected her stomach, gazing for a few seconds before picking up pace and increasing the ferocity with which she raced. Whether checking to see if her time at the gym had yielded any results, I cannot say. But it was obvious that this little girl had begun to believe lies, and that her body image was suffering greatly because of it.

What are we doing to our youth? I silently said a prayer as I stretched and ended my own time at the gym, wondering if at that age I was conscious of the flatness of my stomach and shape of my hips. Junior high was a nightmare for me, filled with mean girls, cocky boys, and the question of who I was and what I wanted to try to prove myself to be. I can say that I never went to a gym until I was an upperclassman in high school, but then again, I didn’t have to compete with the cast of Gossip Girl, either.

I am sick at the moment – sick with longing to speak truth, to see change, and to be a light where none seems to be. Lord, help me flicker a little brighter to those who need illumination.

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10 thoughts on “Little Girl Lost

  1. This is a simple over analyzing the entire spectacle. Yes the young female may have been concerned with her physical image, but how do you know if her obsession was based around performance in a sport, or dance, even a theatrical role. There are multiple scenarios that can be exercised here; however I do not think you are exercising any of the appropriate ones. Also praying is a great method of communication with Jesus when it is used right however I do not believe god or Jesus intended for you to place ignorant conviction on someone who may not have even needed to be prayed for to begin with.

    1. Thanks for commenting – I understand your feelings that some people over analyze things. And I can see why you might feel that I did in this situation. For me, a very young girl inspecting her stomach while on an elliptical machine was cause for prayer. Kids should be kids – they should be playing, not working out. And any sport that demands something like this from young children, whether that be soccer, dance, etc is not healthy. It’s all about moderation. I do not know if this particular girl is obsessed, so what I prayed for was truth. That God would speak truth into her life and that she would not listen to the schemes of the enemy. That is such a helpful prayer for absolutely anyone, but especially girls in middle school. I identified with this girl, and wanted to be proactive in my prayer life regarding her, because I firmly believe that everyone can benefit from a little bit of prayer over their lives. I’m not sure what you mean about my not being appropriate, but I would love your feedback!

  2. I can see why you were concerned for this young girl, and it seemed completely appropriate to me. I, like you beleive that our children (especially girls) are faced with body image issues at a very young age. Look who their role models are on tv, these girls grow up believing that in order to be thought of as pretty they have to look a certain way. I think prayer from a sincere heart is never a bad thing to have sent your way, I hope there are many out there saying them for me on a daily basis.

  3. Wow was about all I could say, knowing as I do, that this is the age when most eating disorders begin. When I was young I would ride a bike, roller skate and jump on a trampoline for hrs because I loved it and for no other reason than that. Some may say working out is just a way of staying healthy for kids. For me, I’ve never seen gym time as a fun thing in spite of the endorphins flowing and the joy of a challenge mastered. I guess all we can do is hope that this very young girl knows how great she is, and that she doesn’t see herself through the eyes of impossible standards that seem to be everywhere

  4. I teared up reading this post. And i am trying not to let it turn into a full out cry.
    I am so sad for that little girl. It is so sad the kind of role models she has. I hope her mom knows that her daughter is learning lies. It is so sad that women think their bodies are not good enough, when they are made to do the most beautiful thing we can possibly do- have children. I finally learned to love my body when I was pregnant (of all times). I wrote a post about it. I truly believe that our bodies are temples, especially women’s bodies.

    http://chrisani.blogspot.com/2011/03/thoughts-on-my-body-before-and-after.html

    1. You are absolutely right! My mind has changed on this subject a lot in the past year, as well. And while I do not have children, I cannot help but wonder how I will teach my own children to love themselves and their bodies just the way they are. It’s a challenge – but I hope to master it!

  5. i loved this post….its good to remember the perspectives and thoughts that the enemy puts out there for us, for our children. and to pray, to pray for HIS perspective for for them (and us) to know HIS view of us and our bodies!! love to you today friend….

  6. @ Rupert – Even if she was on a sports team or dance, I don’t think a 12 year old should be working out at a gym. I think it is too young. Not too young to be active, mind you, just too young to be in a gym environment with that kind of equipment. And although Amanda may have jumped to conclusions about this particular girl (for all we know she really was 18 and looked like 12) I think seeing this girl in the gym made her reflect on body image in general and how young girls can become obsessed. I thought it was a good post!

  7. This is potentially very sad. I feel like in our culture we go to either extreme: we have a lot of overweight children, so in response to that, a lot of people go to the other extreme of putting very small children on strict diets, or teaching them that “If you’re not thin, you’re in sin.” I agree with you, children need to be children: not just sitting inside playing video games and pigging out, but certainly not counting calories and spending an afternoon at the gym either!

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