As I type this I’m still in sunny Palm Springs. I’m outside under the palm trees soaking up my last few hours here with a bit of writing time. This week’s Writing Prompt asked: What do you think of your body? What does being healthy mean to you?
I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while (it
was one my 30 Before 30 list), because my body image impacts me all the time. My thoughts and feelings and struggles with my body often get pushed deep down in the knot of my stomach so that I don’t have to face them. So as scary
as this is to write about . . . here. I. Go.
Body image is a tricky beast for women and men alike, and
we’re all in different places with our own struggles to find balance. So please
know that these thoughts represent exactly where I am right now, and they’re not meant to generalize the experience of
everyone (or anyone else) or to be comparative to the struggles of others.
There are so many competing messages out there related to a
woman’s body, and I have a hard time finding the right spot
where health, appearance, and confidence align. I’m searching for a way to hold
each of these areas at the same time without letting them overpower one
> Here’s what I know that I want:
I want to exercise regularly, because I know it’s the single
best thing you can do to stay healthy. I want to feel strong and focused. I
want to be able to dance and run and jump and not feel exhausted. I want to be
able to eat heartily without fear. I don’t want to worry about clogged arteries
when I start a family.
> Here’s where it get’s tricky:
Last week I came across this video of a college woman at a poetry
slam has been actively shared on facebook over the past few days. In the video she’s sharing a poem that describes growing up in a house
from generations of women in her family who shrunk away from life by
maintaining control and limited their calories. I grew up in the opposite end of the spectrum. I wasn’t taught to count calories or to shrink at anything. My mother
is and always has been larger than life.
I feel like many women are trapped in either of these two extremes. We are either proud and comfortable in your
our skin and not worried about calorie intake or fitting into a certain dress
size or we’re focused on staying
thin, counting calories maintaining control of life through your body and the
food you eat. This is not to say that everyone is like this. I know some exmplary ladies who seem to be able to walk that fine line of being healthy but not obsessive, but I think that’s pretty rare.
> so the question is: How do you get to that well-balance place in the in-between?!
That place where you can just
be healthy but not obsessive? Where you can focus on having an active lifestyle
without letting that lifestyle define you and your sense of self?
I’ve used my pride and my inner battle against the beauty
ideal as an excuse that has kept me from creating sustainable, healthy
patterns. And the truth is, by ignoring my health doesn’t make me less anxious
about my body or more secure.
Sometimes I use my pride as an excuse. My pride over my curvy shape and not wanting to be thin for the sake of being thin becomes an easy moral justification for not making time to exercise. At the end of the day I can
always tell myself but you love your body
(which is always only half truth), so
you don’t need to exercise! You don’t need to be anything more (or less) than
who you are!
But inevitably, I always end up in the same stream of thoughts:
I feel guilty that I
haven’t exercised lately, but I love my body as it is. I don’t want to feel
pressured to be thin or less than I am. I love my curves and my shape and my
own version of woman, but sometimes I use that love as an excuse to not
exercise or to pursue a healthier lifestyle.
I have to find the center place. I need to find that healthy
sweet spot where I can be be active so that I feel strong and energized instead
of sweating it to mold myself in the shape of some beauty ideal.
> The key for me here is focusing on the right motivation:
Why do I want to exercise?
I need the answer to be: so that
I will be healthy, live longer, feel stronger. and not, so that I’ll be thin and prettier.
> and here’s why it’s bigger than just me:
Just like the woman in the video underscored, we pass on our extremism to our daughters (whether we want to or not). Some day I hope I have a daughter, and I don’t want her to feel trapped by her body. I want her to be proud and healthy. I want her to be strong and fierce and joyful in her body,
so I need to find that peace for myself first.
Maybe this is at least a start. . .
I can be proud and healthy.
Thanks for reading.
Check back this evening for this week’s new prompt.