This is a photo of my body that I purposely took myself, and took without employing any photo-posing tricks to make it look different/better. This is a photo of my body after I’ve just eaten a cheeseburger the size of a basketball. And a mess of fries. This is a photo of my body that has not been altered in any way. (OK, I tried to clone out the fire extinguisher, but it was too damn hard.) This is a photo of my body in an outfit that does NOT emphasize my best physical features.
See how incredibly average-shaped I am? I’m a normal woman, in every way. And yet I spend inordinate amounts of energy hating this perfectly normal body. My own and only body.
As I mentioned, I have been mulling over the Letter to My Body project launched by blogher.com. Although the assignment encourages conceptualization of your body as a separate entity from your mind and spirit, many of us – myself included – do that instinctively anyway. And I feel like the time has come for me to enter a different type of dialog with my body. Perhaps this is the ideal way to begin that conversation.
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I owe you an apology. Several, actually.
You have kept me safe from major illness and injury my whole life. Despite coming from a family that boasts both poor genetics and poor lifestyle choices, you have managed to preserve me from any sort of dire health situation. And despite spectacular clumsiness, you’ve bounced back from every tumble and scrape. In fact, you seem to possess an almost superhuman ability to adapt – to the point that I need to stock and rotate 3 types of deodorant lest you become immune within a matter of weeks and make me stink to high heaven. You also go to great lengths to heal. You are so determined to keep me safe that you actually produce an overabundance of scar tissue. You have kept me healthy and strong for 31 years.
And I have repaid you with indifference.
You have provided me with several natural assets that I recognize as enviable. Your hair is thick and strong and abundant; curly but not kinky, and wavy but not lank. Your facial features and complexion are such that I have never had to learn to apply makeup beyond a little lip gloss and eyebrow pencil. Your nails are healthy to the point of appearing to have a constant French manicure. Your fingers and toes are delicate and perfectly proportioned, and your nose is a shape that people pay surgeons to emulate.
And I have repaid you with dissatisfaction.
You have reacted with resilience to every diet and exercise regimen that has been inflicted upon you. From junk food and laziness, to South Beach and perfunctory gym visits, to Lean Cuisines and frenzied biking, you have adapted and shifted and transformed. You have slimmed down, gained muscle mass, reverted to squish, and everything in between.
And I have repaid you with revulsion.
I often wish for “more” or “better.” Wish my spare tire could vanish, arms could hold muscle tone, hips would slenderize, boobs would enlarge, skin would clear up. My wishlist is long, but it contains items that I feel are quite normal. However, when I wish, I wish for different things than what you can naturally provide for me, and my wishes are insulting to the abundance of goodness you offer me.
So I am learning to work with you instead of against you. I am learning now, after three decades, that I should climb stairs and bike and walk to utilize your incredibly strong leg muscles. I am learning that you need far less fuel than I typically give you, and far more water. I am learning that you WANT to be a certain shape and weight – and that smaller or larger just isn’t sustainable. I am learning that, even though I resisted all activity and exercise as a young girl, I really do enjoy pushing your muscles to soreness.
I was so afraid of you, Body. But I’m slowly overcoming my fear. I’m pleased and excited to be meeting you all over again – or maybe even for the first time. I am truly sorry for taking you for granted, for remaining indifferent to your natural beauty, and for hating everything you offered me. I see now how GRATEFUL I should be to you.
I hope to remain in conversation with you, and I hope to keep learning. And in learning, I hope to accept. And in acceptance, I hope to eventually hack out a path toward love.
And if, somehow, we manage to make all that junk happen together, maybe we can teach some other women what we have learned.