The latest teen body obsession, pictured repeatedly on blogs, Pinterest, and Tumbr pages, focuses in on the shape of a woman's legs, and more specifically, the space between her thighs. Their headlines champion the thigh gap as sought-after and aspirational ("Three ways to get a thigh gap," "Models share secrets of how to achieve the thigh gap," "Thigh gap workouts").

It's the latest shape for online thinspiration. For years, thinspo messages have abounded on the Internet, using motivational phrases, photos, extreme dieting, and sometimes drastic measures to urge girls to achieve thin enough legs to leave a space between their thighs.

In some ways, it's the same as always. Through the ages, girls and women have felt the pressure to fit certain body types. But now, as the thigh gap shows us, that pressure gets illustrated and spelled out for them in an onslaught of images on social media. The subliminal message becomes explicit as young women look at pictures and headlines that prompt, encourage, and demand they look a certain way.

While the media does not cause eating disorders, our thin-obsessed culture injects various diet tricks into young minds. And when used as an emotional coping skill by young girls, dieting can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors and eating disorders.

Eating disorders are not a fad, phase, or lifestyle choice. Even the "trendy" thigh gap isn't new. I stood in an arena cheering on my college basketball team years ago when I noticed it. Noticed the friction. My thighs were touching. How was this happening, how was I growing so big and so fat? By this time, I had already been flirting with dieting and over-exercising, after someone pointed out my "freshman 15."

I was determined to lose it. I would do whatever it took to achieve that perfect look, which I imagined included a space between my two thighs. I couldn't foresee the devastating behaviors this thinking led to, a habit of dieting and exercising instead of dealing with my emotions. I constantly surrendered to my negative body image and verbal assaults.

And all the while I was a Christian. I went to church, prayed to God, and even asked God to remove what turned into a life threatening eating disorder. I remember not being able to focus on the sermon because my mind was consumed with counting calories and maintaining my thigh gap. I wanted to be good enough for God through my outside behavior and good enough for the world through my outside body, but I was ignoring the real person inside.

Our culture has long been obsessed with the body, our media is obsessed with image, and the church—in many ways—has hesitated to engage deeply with eating disorders. Instead, well-meaning Christians roll out the platitudes: "Your body is your temple. You need to honor it." "Let go and let God!" "If you would just have more faith!"

That's what people told me, and it didn't help. Instead, it made me feel ashamed that I couldn't.

They would tell me to pray more, to pray harder. I did all of these things and they didn't work, so I gave up on God. What I needed was someone at that time, someone in the church, to validate and understand. I needed a pastor who understood eating disorders, who understood depression, or could at least lead me to resources that would offer me the help I needed.

After 17 years of recovery for my own eating disorder, I recognize how we as Christians can do a better job at helping the Christians in our midst—teens and adults, women and men—who struggle with disordered eating and body image. While the church can't replace the medical and psychological care many will need, it can become more equipped to talk about this issue out in the open, to provide resources, to lead people to Christian counselors and treatment centers, and to walk alongside those struggling.

Let's not shame those who struggle with eating disorders, depression, or addiction because these diseases do not discriminate. There is room for this in the church. Our congregations can have support groups, offer resources, and walk alongside those struggling with an eating disorder or depression. Let's allow people to struggle in the church and lead them to an obsession instead with the image of God holding them, loving them, and bringing them to freedom.

Yes, God is the ultimate healer. And our bodies are our temples, but telling someone who is in the pit of depression or struggling with any type of eating disorder will only cause more shame. Instead, offer to listen to validate their experience, and share resources. Church leaders can be educated on this topic so when someone comes to them, they aren't afraid and can address it.

Let's remove the idea that we can't deal with the physical body in church. Because the physical body houses our spiritual body and don't we all want that place to be healthy and well?

Lee Wolfe Blum's first book Table in the Darkness - A Healing Journey Through an Eating Disorder will be released in January 2014 by InterVarsity Press' new line, Crescendo. She is a health educator at the Melrose Center for Eating Disorders in Minnesota. For more information about Lee and her speaking events visit