The Story of A Body (Additional Comments in honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week)

My beautiful roommate and I, a year ago.
Happy, healthy, and in ENGLAND.

There is a quote floating on my Pinterest quote board (which is, I must say, terribly inspiring in general) that says “You do not have a soul, you are a soul. You have a body,” which is attributed to C.S. Lewis although the internet seems to have some controversy on that matter. But regardless of who said it, I think it is an important statement (and I’m going to just leave religion and the exact connotations of the word “soul” out of the matter). The point is, you are NOT your body. You are YOU, you are the thoughts and the feelings that you experience, day in and day out. You are your actions, your beliefs, your words, your accomplishments. You are so much more than your body.

Which is, of course, an easy thing to say and a much, much harder thing to breathe into being, especially in this day and age where we’re being assaulted with various images from every direction pretty much nonstop. Like it or not, although you are NOT your body, you ARE kind of stuck with it. We live our entire lives in these bodies of ours, so I think it’s important that we not only tolerate their existence, but celebrate it. I’m not talking about celebrating your body only at a certain size, a certain imagined goal weight or body build or measurement. I’m talking about celebrating your body right here and right now. Take a minute, seriously. Revel in the glory that is YOUR BODY, exactly as it is in this present moment.

 Because guess what? It is AMAZING. You are alive, you are functioning, your body is doing all these amazing little things to keep you that way and able to do all the little things you do in your daily life and that, my friends, is wonderful.

Of course, like most woman (and I assume many men as well) I have a love/hate relationship with this body of mine. I can count it off by numbers without pausing to think–it is 5’9”, it is (presently) a size 8, 141 pound lump of fat and muscle and organs and tissues. And yes, some days I look in the mirror and I bemoan this or that part of me that is not ideal, that is not exactly how I would want it. I’m only human, after all.

Kaitie and I (several years ago) enjoying the glory that is cupcakes.

But a wonderful, magical thing has started to happen in the past year or so. After watching one of my friends struggle with an eating disorder and talking candidly with another about her recovery, I realized something very important–I wasn’t happy with my body. And then I realized something else–I had the power to fix that. I’m not talking about “I too will just stop eating until I’m thin” mentality here. I’m not talking “If I hit this number or fit THOSE jeans, I’ll be happy.” I’m talking about a change in attitude. I’m talking about still eating, but being a bit more health conscious. I’m talking about eating in a way that gives my body the strength and power to go and do amazing things, but not giving up or depriving myself on those days when, damn it, all I really want is a piece of cake. Or chocolate. Or what have you. I wanted to get to a point where I was strong, and healthy, and FELT good. And that is what I started doing.

I have been a yoga practitioner on and off for several years, but this year I promised myself I’d really and truly stick with it. In addition, I promised myself I would run more and I would work on getting stronger–STRONGER, not thinner. I didn’t want to love my body because there was nothing left to it, I wanted to love my body because of what it can DO. There’s a general attitude in yoga to be thankful for what you are capable of right now, in that moment. At first, it sounded a bit hoaky to me, but over time I came to really understand what that meant. The first time I executed a side plank without falling flat on my face, I rejoiced. The first time I got through an entire 40 minute series without having to pause from being winded, I was elated. And then it came to be that in every pose, in every moment, I would take a moment and think to myself “This is amazing! Look at what I’m doing! Check me OUT!”

Just some of the many beautiful woman in my life.

Consequently, I see something different all together when I look in the mirror now. I do not (always, immediately) see “size 8 with wide hips and huge man arms”. Instead, flexing, I think “Yeah, there’s a little extra fat there, BUT LOOK AT THAT MUSCLE!” I remember the feeling of holding myself aloft in plank, or side plank, or downward dog, about the strength of my arms (one of my “problem areas”) underneath me, capable of supporting all of me without even shaking.

I do not think I am perfect. I still struggle to love my arms, to love my hips, to love my flat butt and my skin with its myriad web of stretch marks that I am fairly certain I will never not feel a little self conscious about. But every time I start to think that way, I remember what I feel on that mat, and I am reminded that I am beautiful, I am powerful, and most importantly, I am not my body. I am me. But my body is pretty amazing, too.

And you know what? So is yours.

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