When I was younger, I didn’t like my body. Every time I compared myself to others, I came up short. My hips were too wide, my torso too short, my thighs rubbed together, my hair was too curly and frizzy, my teeth too crooked. I had body image issues without realizing I had body image issues. The only time I appreciated my body was when I was pregnant and having babies and breastfeeding them. I believed my body was doing exactly what it was meant to do. But I gained weight, and with each pregnancy I started at a higher weight and gained even more. I dieted more times than I can count and lost hundreds of pounds, only to regain the weight and then some. I regarded myself with contempt, and my body image issues persisted.
A few years ago, I decided it was time to re-examine my distorted beliefs about body and self. It came after a health challenge when I realized that by focusing on my shortcomings and on weight as a measure of my self-worth, I was taking for granted the incredible things my body did every day. To help myself heal, I made a conscious effort to appreciate all the things I had neglected in my quest for body “perfection”. Each day I found ways to confirm my body’s amazing capabilities. I used my hands to knit and make art. I resumed playing piano. I found my voice through singing. I looked with a new eye at the beauty surrounding me, in nature, in my family, in my home and in my life, and I began to photograph the ordinary things we often overlook. I chose physical activities which energized and exhilarated me and nutrient-dense, nourishing food which I savored without worrying about calories eaten and calories burned.
I imagine my 80-year-old self will look back to this time in my life and be glad for all the things I do each day to live the fullest life possible. My 80-year-old self will think my 60-year-old body was awesome, as I think my 30-year-old birthing, nursing body was awesome. My future self will not be a slave to the scale. She will not give a hoot what other people think about how she looks, because she will be comfortable in the knowledge that no matter what her physical constraints, she is strong and graceful and wise. My future self will have no regrets and will love her body, because she will know it is the container for her soul, and as long as she has a body, she is alive.
Take a minute to imagine your future self looking back at the body you have now, the one you appraise critically and wish were different. Imagine how you will regard today’s body in the future. And instead of waiting for the future to be grateful for all the incredible things your body does every day, think about ways you can start loving and appreciating your body now. Let me know how it goes!