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The desire for beauty is built into both men and women by our Creator who also loves beauty. Enjoying sunsets and sunrises, observing the emergence of flowers in the spring and bird-watching, convinces us of God’s love for beauty. There are many references to beauty and the adornment of beautiful brides in Scripture. So we know that the pursuit and cultivation of beauty is not in itself an evil thing. But we’ve all experienced the pain of allowing a good thing to become a wrong priority in our lives, so that it becomes deadly destructive. Trying to be “beautiful enough” becomes a powerful, insatiable “beast” that takes control of life.

Every culture across the world has its own expression of beauty. In a world that has increasingly demanded perfection, it’s surprising to find that in Japan, women are paying to have their perfect teeth disarranged. It is said to be more attractive to Japanese men who see it as “endearing.” Since the girl is not perfect, she appears more approachable. This new trend is known as “tooth-crowding” in the U.S.

The ideal waistline is another differing view of beauty. Although the majority of the world apparently considers slimness to be most attractive and healthy, in places like Africa and Brazil, a voluptuous figure is more appealing. In Mauritania, Africa, “big is beautiful;” reflecting wealth and health in a generally poor population. In this culture, parents send their young daughters to camps to gain weight in preparation for marriage. Girls as young as 10 are force-fed thousands of calories a day—far beyond a healthy, normal diet—for the purpose of attaining those voluptuous curves.

The “lip-plate” is considered a sign of beauty in the Mursi tribe of Ethiopia Africa. It is worn daily by women looking for acceptance and desirability. When the women are marriageable age, they begin the lip-plate process by puncturing the lower lip with a wood stick which is expanded a little each day. When the hole is big enough, a plate is inserted that is gradually replaced by larger plates until it has reached its full size. This extremely painful process lasts for months, and teeth sometimes have to be broken to insert the plate. However, with the plate in place, they are seen as the epitome of beauty! The bigger the plate, the more beautiful the woman. These women are also shaved, like the men, because they hate hairiness.

In westernized cultures, an ultra-slender body is viewed as sexy. But because this beauty ideal has been over-exaggerated by the media, pressure has increased for women to have that fragile, “beanpole” look cultivated by fashion models. An epidemic of eating disorders has resulted. To cope with social pressures and overwhelming emotions, many tweens, teens and young adults turn to what they believe they can control—what they do or don’t eat, and how long it remains in their bodies.

Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia are growing concerns in families, schools and work places around the country. According to the National Eating Disorder Association, as many as 10 million women and one million men are fighting this life and death battle. Another 25 million people suffer from binge eating disorder. Many others exhibit some symptoms like poor attitudes about body weight and food, even while not meeting full criteria for an eating disorder diagnosis. These are rooted in fear of rejection and failure.

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