Body image: a controversial but crucial topic
Body image. One of the hardest things I’ve had to do on this journey to fitness is to learn to love my body. As it is. In all its flabby glory.
Contrary to what some critics say, learning to love your body is not an excuse to give up health and fitness goals. It just means you have a healthy body image.
I didn’t even realize that body image was something I struggled with. I knew I was overweight, and that I felt awkward and uncomfortable sometimes. But I didn’t understand that a lot of my weight problems were actually rooted in the way I viewed my body.
I want to share some of my story with you today, but please know that it is deeply personal. 14 years ago, I had a miscarriage. I struggled with sadness and depression and just not understanding why this had happened to me. And it was not something I ever really talked about. I mean, when I had the miscarriage I already had two beautiful children. And I became pregnant with my daughter shortly after the miscarriage. So what did I have to complain about, really? I knew lots of women that struggled to have children at all, so I felt like there was something wrong with me–or ungrateful of me–to complain about losing one when I already had so much.
And so I remained silent. But I struggled with sadness. And solitary tears. And I developed a hatred for my own body. Specifically, I began to loathe it–and I almost wished I could punish my body for failing me.
I wrote an article about my first yoga class, and I wanted to share a piece of it with you today, because it is a powerful example of how body image can affect the way you treat your own body.
Stretching and pushing my muscles through their full range of motion was liberating. As I was bending and twisting, breathing in light and hope, while pushing out stress and negativity, I had a revelation. For years, I had hated my body. Hated it for betraying me, and for bulking up with extra pounds. Hated it for telling the world my secrets. Most of all, I blamed it for failing to nurture the baby that was wanted, but never had a chance to draw a breath. And when it hurt, when it was sick, or when it screamed in pain, I believed that my body deserved it. The pain was a just reward for my body’s betrayal.
While I was stretching and contorting my muscles, I realized that my body was actually amazing. Despite all its imperfections, it had endured. Despite the fact that I had filled it with toxic foods and deprived it of life-giving water for more than a decade, my body had survived. Even though I had not stretched or strengthened my muscles in years, my body had continued to take me from one place to another. It had joined hands with the most wonderful man in the world, and promised to love and cherish him. This body had given life to each of my children, and sheltered three of them until they were ready to breathe for the very first time. And although it had failed to bring one of my babies into this world, it had managed to nurse three of them, and to protect them from harm.
My body was meant to be loved rather than hated.
Body image: Love your body as it is NOW
And so I urge you to love your body. Even with all its imperfections. Love it, and cherish it. Nurture it with healthy foods and vitamins. Cleanse it with life-giving water. Shape your muscles with much-needed training. Encourage your heart to beat at its full capacity. Stretch your muscles and increase the fluidity of your movements.
Picture a desert rose, deeply rooted in the harsh, dry ground. It only takes one rainstorm for that rose to bloom a deep, glorious pink that brightens up everything around it. I implore you to shower your body with love. Cherish your body, so that it can bloom in whatever environment it has been planted, just like that desert rose.