We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.
It’s finally gotten good and hot here in Southern Alberta, and as the temperatures go up, layers of clothing come off. As I am someone with a long history of disordered eating and distorted body image, and as a human being who grew up on Earth, surrounded by commercials, fashion magazines and media in general this of course brings up a ton of food for thought. My perspective is pretty unusual, as I am also someone who has studied and understood both the Beauty Myth and the patriarchal pyramid and I am fully awake to and aware of how distorted my (and most other people’s) ideas about bodies and health really are, or at least can be.
A love for physical activity has not come easily to me. I’ve always been a “big girl” and as a kid I was teased for this, as well as having parents who encouraged me to diet, but seldom encouraged me to be physically active. The shame I felt about my “flawed” body was pretty over the top for many years. I wouldn’t participate in gym class as early as age six for fear that people would comment on my “fat” jiggling, or my sweating, breathing hard or appearing “too out of shape”. This sort of shame of course, did nothing to encourage me to work on improving my physical strength or my overall health.
Of course, with all of this inner emotional torture going on I never had a chance to find out that sweating, jiggling, breathing hard and getting my heart pounding due to physical exertion feels really, really good! I learned this on my own over the course of the past two years, as I have rediscovered my love of bicycling! I adore working hard to make it up a big hill, or pushing my bike against strong wind. All of those physical sensations which I used to see as “signs that I’m too fat” are now pleasurable reminders that my body is growing stronger and healthier.
I frequently find myself needing to correct my thinking when I’m out cycling as I catch my thoughts running toward how I look to other people. If I allow my mind to wander off in that direction things get uncomfortable instead of joyful. I’m getting better and better each day at just not allowing my mind to stray into negative self-talk and anxiety. It’s sometimes really hard, and I need to remind myself over and over again to enjoy the view, enjoy the air, enjoy the sun, enjoy the pumping of my heart, the working of my lungs and the motion of my hips and to forget about my “muffin top”. Basically, if I practice staying in and enjoying the “now”. I’m in a good place and am moving forward.
This sort of personal experience is why so many of us are against “fat shaming” and focusing on physical appearance instead of wholistic wellness. I would never have made it to the point I have in regards to healing my relationship with my body if I had stayed in the place I used to dwell due to bullying, poor self-image, and media programming. I’m still not in “excellent” shape, but my body is perfectly designed by nature and when I celebrate that instead of obsessing over how I look when I bend this way or that, I’m moving forward into my perfection.
Feeling ashamed of our bodies really is quite a ridiculous concept when one considers that we are perfectly designed by the Universe to live beautiful, abundant and healthful lives, we just need BE it. Each and every one of us was designed to function as a perfect piece of the whole of the Universe.
I am working on ignoring my weight and am instead focusing on how my body feels, and how far I can push it on a daily basis. I’m more interested in gaining agility, strength, endurance and joy than I am in worrying that I don’t look appropriately super-model-like. I’m eating as much healthy food as my body desires, and am not shaming myself for eating ANYTHING these days. Food is delicious fuel to drive us toward our perfected state. We have a natural human drive to pursue maximum calories with minimal effort and to burn those calories off through living life exuberantly! These are really important steps/concepts in my personal journey.
I am a whole person, I am a vital person, and my life is here for the living.