How much time did you spend today thinking about your body?
No really, how much? How many times did you think about how many calories you were eating, and what kind? How many times did you check a device to see how many calories you had burned, and how many rationalizations did you make for your intake? Within what hours did you allow yourself to eat? How much tissue did you press and pinch and frown at? How many pairs of clothes brought up emotion for you? How many wrinkle lines did you smooth and hide? What did you deprive yourself of and how did you reward yourself for that? What did you indulge in, and how did you shame yourself for it? How many times did you compare your body and habits to someone else’s? How many unkind things did you say about your body today?
Can you even put a number on it? I can’t, and I am actively paying attention to those thoughts now.
Listen, stop it. Me. You. All of us. Stop it.
You don’t need a diet. You don’t need a new you. You don’t need to find your best self.
You’re already the best. You’re already whole. You’re already complete. Your body is good. Food is good. Movement is good. Growth is good.
You don’t need to give another cent, thought, or high five to the diet industry and the wellness factory. Have you read this? Read it. Read it again. One more time maybe.
Haven’t you ever wondered why we are so obsessed with thinness, why we have centered our exercise industry around pain, and why we celebrate deprivation by calling it discipline? Have you spent any time unpacking cultural appropriation and exercise and dieting? Check this out, also this, and definitely this.
That’s the long and short of it.
Whiteness runs our economy, and whiteness can only stay at the top of the pyramid if the pyramid remains intact. Simple analogy, complicated solutions. In addition to reading more about these solutions from any of the thousands of quality resources available and choosing a place to start participating in them, there’s something you and I can do right now to disrupt –
Give your body a compliment.
Right now. Give it some love. Praise it. Hug it. Honor it. Value it.
How did that feel? Weird maybe? It feels unnatural because we’ve been trained not to do it. Hurting ourselves, not loving ourselves, is what we know best.
What could happen if we stopped doing that? Taking this to the most basic of basic levels, extremely oversimplified for the purpose of illustration- what could happen if we all had a little more self love, and what would that look like?
Power dynamics thrive among disparity yet struggle to exist in abundance. Equity, then, is the antivenom to the hierarchy of whiteness. Again, simple analogy, complicated solutions.
I’m here talking about just one part of one solution, though. One impactful thing, and that’s your body. What you do with it, what you feed it, how you think about it, what you put on it, and how you love it.
I refuse to keep hurting myself on purpose. I refuse to keep taking away from my body, punishing it with painful exercise, and believing that softness is bad. I refuse to keep adding bricks to the shrine of whiteness by hating my own body.
This will not be easy. 40 years of indoctrination will not just wash away while I sleep tonight. It’s going to take daily practice and a willingness to stay with myself. I’m starting with a few key things- addition, listening, and redirection.
Instead of restriction- “don’t do this- I’m focusing on addition- “do more of this.” By adding in more things that I love, that bring me joy and that make me feel emotionally and physically well I know that naturally the things that do not will have less space available to inhabit. I’m running again. Reading more books, drinking more tea, hiking more, taking more naps, baking and eating more. Guess what? Doing more things I love is making me a happier person, as it is – obviously – supposed to do.
And I’m listening. Really, really listening. Instead of running five miles and limping through the last three I’m running about half that, and slowing down or stopping when it hurts. I am asking myself “does this feel good in my body right now?” and if it doesn’t, I’m not doing it. Period.
I’m paying attention to how different foods make me feel. One glass of wine a few times a week while I make or eat dinner? Fine. Two glasses, or a nightly ritual? Completely messes up my sleep and my hormones. A cinnamon roll from Spinners on a Sunday morning? Absolute heaven for my entire being. Two cinnamon rolls? My body gets shaky from all the sugar and my stomach starts to hurt. Waiting too long to eat breakfast? Dizzy, angry and disoriented. No carbs with a meal? Irritable and hungry. No fat in my meal? Why fucking bother eating? Instead of letting someone else’s rules guide my movement and my eating, I’m letting my own body be in charge. It feels good.
Redirection is proving to be more challenging for me right now as I’m working to reroute each negative thought that pops into my mind about my body. I’ve been carefully updating my social media feeds and the images I see, but my internal dialogue still has a different record on repeat. For example, when I get out of the shower there’s a mirror right there in front of me. My default habit is to immediately stare at the stretch marks from my last pregnancy, or the width and texture of my legs and to quickly avert my own eyes from my own body. To redirect, I’m intentionally returning my gaze, gently placing my hands on my body and saying something kind about it. It is not comfortable for me, but it’s starting to get easier. Last night my three year old asked why he had a belly button and after explaining to him that it was how he was fed while in my belly I said “my body grew, fed, and birthed three ENTIRE human beings inside. Isn’t my body AMAZING?” It’s taken me fifteen years to get comfortable with my postpartum body like that, and dammit if I won’t keep loving it that way.
Loving it. Not hating it. Not harming it. Loving it. And loving yours too.
Imagine what we could create if we stopped believing that change is only possible if we hurt ourselves and each other. What is available in that space for you? For your community? For our world?
How can you love you more, right now?
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