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Made in God's Image
By Susan Hines-Brigger


Caring for God's Gift
Get Moving
For Teens: Accentuate the Positive
For Kids: Take Charge

One day recently I was bemoaning my less-than-fit body to my husband when my eight-year-old daughter, Maddie, walked in the room. She immediately asked me why I thought I was fat. I was startled because I had never used the word fat, but had simply been commenting that since giving birth to my youngest daughter I had not taken good care of my body.

It was a reality check because Maddie—as well as most kids her age—is becoming more aware of her body image. It occurred to me that, even at her young age, she associated being fit with being thin. I shouldn’t be surprised. Society certainly supports the notion that being thin is what’s important.

I wanted Maddie to see that, when it comes to being fit, there’s a much bigger picture. I sat down with her and explained that I simply wanted to be fit and healthy—regardless of my size. That meant eating right and exercising more, both things I had let go by the wayside.


Caring for God's Gift

I went on to explain to her how taking care of my body is also a way of praising God. My physical being is created in the image of God. To let it fall into disrepair would show a lack of gratitude and respect for such a great gift.

And as someone who faces the uncertainty of multiple sclerosis every day, I know that caring for my body is also a way of expressing my thanks for the things my body can still do. I thank God every day for all the blessings my body gives me.

But most importantly, I told her, I want to take care of my body so that I can live a long and healthy life and share that time with her and her brother and sister. Suddenly, she seemed to understand that fit meant more than just numbers on a scale.

Get Moving

With everything families have going on in their lives, taking care of our bodies often gets put on the back burner. Here are some suggestions to help you get and stay healthy:

Check your diet. I know firsthand that some days it’s far too easy to say, “Let’s just order a pizza or pick something up to eat.” But study after study has shown that it’s just not healthy.

So gather the kids and bring them into the kitchen to help you create meals. Use it as a teaching moment about healthy foods, food preparation, etc. Preparing meals and eating them at home together around the dinner table also provide a wonderful example to your kids of the importance of good meals and family time together.

An added bonus is that the money you save by not eating out could be used for an outing or on your next family vacation.

Be a role model. Once my husband, Mark, and I made a commitment to exercise more regularly, we noticed that our two older kids started asking to join us. We modified some of the exercises we were doing to suit them, and we also started doing some of the exercises the kids had learned at school. It has turned out to be nice family time.

Park it. I mean this both literally and figuratively. With the rising gas prices, try walking to some places where you would normally drive. Start taking small trips with a reward at the end. For instance, take a walk to the library for some books or to the video store to rent a movie your family wants to see.

Or better yet, walk to the park for some fun and playtime. After a recent trip to the park, I was surprised to discover how sore my muscles were from doing such activities as climbing on the monkey bars and swinging.

Keep it exciting. Sometimes people have a hard time sticking with a regimen of exercise and healthy eating because it can get monotonous. To keep it fresh, have everyone in your family list some ways to be healthier, be it a new healthy recipe or a new type of exercise, and write each one on a piece of paper. Place all the papers in a jar and pull one out regularly. Whenever you find a new suggestion, place it in the jar so you don’t run out of ideas.

Kick them out. If the weather’s nice, send your kids outside to play. According to the 2005 dietary guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services, all children two years and older should get 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on most days of the week. Better yet, join them yourself. You’ll be spending quality time with your kids and getting some exercise in the process.

Be a follower. At my kids’ school, there is a program where students can earn what are called “toe tokens.” The students earn these small trinkets in the shape of plastic feet by walking a certain number of miles either on the playground or at home (parents are required to verify distances walked outside of school). They can then proudly display the tokens on their shoes for all to see their achievements.

In her attempt to collect every color of toe token available, Maddie enlisted the whole family to walk with her. She has also taught us some of the games that she and her friends play at recess, many of which I can remember from my own school days. It’s a lot of fun—and a good workout, too.

In the end, no matter how you and your family decide to get fit, what’s important is that you are sending a positive message that taking care of yourself is important. It’s a great way to show your gratitude for God’s great gift.


For Teens: Accentuate the Positive

Body image is very important to most teens. I know when I was a teenager I spent way too much time focusing on areas of my body with which I was less than happy. But what I should have been doing was focusing on the positive aspects of myself—both inside and outside—and realizing that who I am is much more than just my outward appearance. Now I know that’s easier said than done, but it really is true.

Write down all the things you like about yourself. For instance, do you love the color of your eyes? Are you great at making people laugh? Rather than dwell on the negative, accentuate the positive—both for yourself and for others.

For those areas you’re less than happy with and can realistically change, set goals to work on. You can do this through eating healthy foods or exercising. Before you know it, you’ll be able to transfer those things you saw as negatives to your list of positives.

For Kids: Take Charge

Ask most parents what they miss most about being a kid and they’ll probably tell you all the time they had to play. Kids are great at playing and know many more games than most adults. Because of that, it only makes sense that you should take charge of teaching your family how to play and have some fun. You can also ask your parents or an adult to help you go online and find some Web sites that have some fun games to play. Here’s one to get you started: Now go out and have some fun!


Do you have ideas or suggestions for topics you'd like to see addressed in this column? If so, send them to me at “Faith-filled Family,” 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202-6498, or e-mail them to

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