Already Prettypoll: Capable Bodies

Women’s bodies are often portrayed as objects and discussed in terms of appearance. But, as we all know, bodies are so much more than how they look. Bodies DO things. We are trained to focus on the looks which often prevents us from considering the capabilities. So let’s pause and do that, eh?

I am continually amazed at my body’s ability to power through illness and crisis unscathed … and then break down completely into exhaustion as if crying, “Mercy!” I actually find this to be incredibly endearing, as it’s the powering-through that really matters to me. A little well-deserved rest or sick break afterwards is always welcome.

I am ridiculously flexible and always have been. And although my finicky back has decreased my Gumby-like contortions somewhat, I am constantly grateful to be a limber gal.

This will sound odd, but my body is a really good pinch-hitter. NOT in baseball, but in anything else physical. Meaning tasks that I don’t regularly do and don’t really expect to have to do, but am sometimes called upon to … well, do. I don’t enjoy carrying heavy objects or walking for miles in the heat or being forced to stand very, very still … but my body will do these things without a single complaint for as long as the situation warrants.

When are you most aware of what your body does well? What are some things that it does for you on a regular basis that deserve acknowledgment?

  • Stephanie

    On a related note I think this is part of why in many ways I feel more comfortable with my body in gym clothes then in regular ones. Something about the outfit being for a specific purpose rather then to look a specific way.

  • Helen

    My body is graceful and strong and on top of the general blessing of good health I am so grateful for a body that has:
    Hand / eye coordination that enables me to draw, paint, and sculpt and make beautiful things
    The ability to learn to downhill ski at the age of 45 (who knew??)
    The ability to let me know when something is wrong or upsetting that I need to address
    The ability to dance, dance, dance!!

  • Tragic Sandwich

    I can carry over 30 pounds for a very long way. Three years ago I could not do this, because I didn’t have a small child. Every so often, I think, “She’s growing, and I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do this.” And then I keep going, and I get stronger. That won’t last forever–eventually she really will get too big for me to carry–but I’m so glad it’s worked so far.

    I try to focus more on what my body can do, and less on what it looks like. That doesn’t work entirely, but it does help me catch myself.

  • Mary Collins

    This has been a ground breaking summer for me. The last few years have been spent needlessly fussing about how I looked in a bathing suit (fussing and dieting and fussing some more). This summer has been amazing. My husband and I are building a deck in our back yard and my body is allowing me to do the most amazing things – break up concrete, dig deep holes with power tools, carry gigantic boards. These things have my husband mainlining ibuprofen, but my lovely body and it’s daily yoga practice are taking it all in stride. At 42, that’s pretty freaking amazing!

  • Sonia

    I do not work-out, so I don’t know where my upper-body strength comes from. I am able to rearrange furniture without any help, which is nice, because I LOVE to change a room around!

    One time, my husband came home to a completely different t.v. room and asked if I’d done it all by myself.
    “Even the couch?!”
    “I’m a little scared of you now.”


  • A.B.

    I’m not quite how to respond to this one because as someone with an illness that causes my body to not do what I want it to do I am fully aware of the limitations of my body rather than the things it does well.

    • Katharine

      I’m in a very similar place. I have a much better relationship with my body as an aesthetically pleasing thing than as a functional useful thing. Every year my body gets less useful. It is also very hard for me because if I do everything that my body is actually capable of, I will accelerate the rate at which it falls apart. Therefore, I have to do less than I am able to constantly in order to preserve the ability to function as long as possible.

      • Erika

        Same here, due to CFS. I used to be able to do so much!!! However, I am grateful for what I can do, for the amount I’ve been able to recover. And (paean to my body) – I love that it appreciates good food and how it won’t tolerate poor quality. I love that it’s made it through 47 demanding years. I love that I have reasonable mobility and a brain that works pretty well. I love that I’m still learning how to look after my body and how tightly integrated physical/mental/emotional/spiritual health is.

        Bottom line – I’m grateful to be here.

        • Copy Czarina

          I have a systemic form of arthritis that’s slowly getting worse, and earlier this year I had an infection that was probably caused by an immunosuppressive drug I’m taking. That makes it hard for me to feel kindly toward my body. But I’m doing Pilates now and have been amazed, after a lifetime of hating exercise, how good it makes me feel and how well I do it.

  • Cynthia

    I’ve got rhythm, baby.

  • Patti @ NotDeadYet Style

    Great post. I can relate completely to the concept of “I never thought I could do that but I did it.” Like when we were moving house – I was a dynamo of packing and unpacking. The body did cry “mercy” after a few days of that, however : >

  • Kate R

    Yes! I love this. Even though I haven’t lost that much weight even after a year of working out 4-5 times a week, I know that I am stronger and much healthier and that’s good for my mental image of myself.

    I am right there with Stephanie. For some reason I can wear close-fitting workout clothes and walk down the street in my Manhattan neighborhood going to or from the YMCA and not care a whit about what I look like. When I wear street clothes it’s totally different. Not sure why, maybe because I know I’m working hard to be healthy and strong and I’m prouder of that fact than I am self-conscious about my weight…

  • Nique

    My body resists viruses like nobody’s business. I’m exposed to sick people all day long, and I NEVER get sick. I am always amazed and grateful for this.
    Also, despited being almost 40 years old and being someone who reads a lot, I do not need glasses yet. Really cool.

    I LOVE this post. I love thinking about our bodies, and the things the can do as opposed to what they look like.

  • Jen

    I tend to think of myself as fairly weak and asthmatic but I have decent stamina when hiking and a couple of weeks ago I managed to go for a 20 minute run without having an asthma attack.

  • WA_side

    My 42yo body, which is limited to walking the dogs each day for exercise, surprised me by crawling through underground tunnels and all over an obstacle course with my daughters’ Cub Scout troup. While I could certainly feel my muscles in the following days, only 1 activity station beat me (monkey bars that I couldn’t swing onto to climb over, since I knew I was unable to swing along).

    And the week before that, my body carried me along the boundary of my Mothers’ 100 acre undulating block, while we fixed and renewed fencing to contain some rescued sheep. Not at all a normal activity, and the first visit in months – but my body was a champ and did what needed to be done (and saved the complaints for later).

    I am grateful that my body says “Yes”, it helps to make up for a mind that too frequently does not.

  • malevolent andrea

    My first real awareness of appreciating my body for what it did rather than what it looked like was when I grew another human being in it 27 years ago, then produced copious amounts of breastmilk. I was all, “Oh, yeah, I completely nourish another person with just what’s coming out of my body, what’s YOUR superpower?” 😉 :-)

    More recently I have appreciated the fact that it took me till the age of 49 to need any kind of major surgery and then I bounced back from that surgery pretty easily. Way to go, body! And I am amazed that, despite my congenital klutziness, I have made it half a century without ever actually breaking anything. Way to go, strong bones!

  • Sarah

    Besides the truly miraculous and awesome task of growing 5 humans inside it (not all at once!)(although 2 of them were at the same time!), my body fends off disease amazingly well and grows a great head of hair at record speed. I’ve been going to a boot camp for the last 2 years, and have been continually amazed at what my body can do, how strong it’s become, and how it can cope with pretty much anything I throw at it now!!

  • Coleen

    My body is a different shape than I am used to, and heavier than this time last year. Yet it’s very good at suddenly doing something grueling and endurance-based without training. Last Sunday, I climbed a 14,264 ft. mountain!

    I wasn’t even that sore the next day! My body is cool.

  • Annabeth

    Thanks to taking up weightlifting early next year, I can now say that I can bench-press 100 pounds! I am truly a strong person, and am hugely happy about that.

  • E B Snare

    Every day my body gets up, walks around, survives and repairs itself. I’m pretty grateful just for that, to start with.

    Otherwise I love that it can now touch its toes (thanks to yoga), breathe deeply in its stomach, shimmy (thanks to bellydance) and run around whenever I want. I still have aches and pains and a really bad shoulder, but for now its limitations are boundless.

    Really enjoyed reading everyone’s stories of what their bodies can do :)


  • sarah

    Even though I haven’t been as physically active over the last seven years while I’ve been getting my Ph.D., I’m always amazed that my body can get up and go for a really long walk – say, 10-15 miles, including uphills in the Cascade Mountains – at a ripping good pace.

    Also, after spending my formative years on the ice, I love that I can still strap on my old skates (it’s been more than 15 years since those days) and transform into a swan. Bless my old coach for his exacting standards and many years of support and motivation, and bless this silly body of mine which is so clumsy on dry land and so graceful on a sheet of ice.

  • sarah

    PS: Happy Friday, Sally! Conversations like these always fill me with a rush of the warm fuzzies. Thank you for maintaining this space and inviting us to join you in these body-positive reflective moments. I think they do everyone here a lot of good!!

  • Brigitte

    I has a baby 7 weeks ago and I can’t believe I made a person, from scratch, in my body. I find this body amazing! It’s now making milk to help this little girl grow strong. My arms can carry her up and down the many many stairs of our down town home. This body makes love to my husband, dances with friends, bikes for hours. It’s got soft skin and shiny hair, and fingers to play music. It can sing and laugh and speak loudly over a crowd to be heard on the other side.

    I love this body!!

  • Hope

    Love reading these comments! Yesterday I bought myself a sweet print bikini for my 48th birthday. I haven’t worn one in 30 years — because I didn’t think I had the right body for one. Now I am training for my first marathon and even though I am heavier than I have ever been, I feel strong and healthy. In the fitting room trying on swimwear — where positive body images go to die — I refused to judge myself according to today’s visual standards. I almost can’t believe it worked, but I can’t wait to wear it this weekend!