I was once told by an ex-lover that they had never seen someone so comfortable naked. It would have been hard to imagine at any point in my past that I would be that person. That I could actually love my body. My response was “I’ve EARNED my confidence in my body.” Sometimes it seems like it’s more socially acceptable for women to shame and loathe our bodies than to celebrate them. Which is why I must have seemed so unusual.
I didn’t always love my body
I spent years doing everything I could to manipulate and control the shape of my body. I wanted to turn it into something that it just naturally wasn’t. Although I am tall and thin and have never been overweight, my body isn’t perfect. My arms will always be skinny and I just barely fill an A cup bra size. When I’ve gained weight in the past, it all goes into my stomach and my thighs. When I was in the depth of starvation, my obsession was in how flat I wanted my stomach to be. I kept telling myself that if only my abs would be more defined, I’d be happy.
Unfortunately, this obsession turned my entire life upside down and took a huge toll on my health.
Here I am today, 12 years recovered and I still wish my stomach were flatter. Sometimes I wish I were a little curvier or that I had more defined muscles. I still wake up most mornings hoping to feel skinnier than I usually do. The difference now is that I care more about the life I’ve fought so hard for than I do about having the perfect body. Some days are easier than others, of course, but when the body shame hits, I have a handful of tools that I use to help me through it.
Tools that Help Me Love My Body
I ask my higher power to please let me accept my body for its shape and ability. I do this before, during and after meals, as needed. (Some days I don’t need to at all, what a miracle!)
2. I weigh the pros and cons
I could potentially spend another 12 years or more fighting a relapse that began by skipping just one meal. Because that’s how addiction works.
Or I could just feel slightly uncomfortable in my body, for today, and keep the life that I’ve fought so hard for in my recovery.
When I think about how high the stakes are, it makes my choices much clearer.
I go to a class almost every day. Nothing gets me more in my body than that. It feels amazing to move through the shapes and try to make them as graceful and as beautiful as possible. My anxiety is released and I feel more grounded afterward.
4. “Safe clothes”
When all else fails, I put on a black tank top. Some days I don’t feel as beautiful as others and I don’t always want to take a fashion risk. Resorting back to what I feel most comfortable in works every time. Everyone should have a “safe” outfit. It’s no wonder I’m almost always wearing a black tank top: I know I look good in them!
After all I’ve put my body through, it hasn’t failed me. I appreciate it for doing what it is supposed to.
My body doesn’t exist to feed my ego or to be manipulated into an unrealistic aesthetic ideal.
I tried that and it revolted. It stopped functioning properly so much so that I had to decide if I wanted to live or die. I chose life and my body showed me how resilient and miraculous it can be.
I think about how hard I’ve worked to love myself and to be comfortable in my own skin. My recovery is strong but it still requires daily work. The hiccups exist to remind me that my disease is still a part of me and that my relationship with my body requires work and progress every day. For today, I am grateful to be alive and in my body so hell yeah I’m comfortable naked!
Image Source: Flickr
As a yoga instructor and long time devotee as well as someone in recovery every day, I find the need to make yoga about achieving “beautiful” poses and shapes is a very superficial approach to the practice and one that focuses too much on the aesthetic of yoga and any movement rather than how it feels.
I’d be encouraging anyone who comes to my class or any class not to consider so much how their poses look, but how they meet the intention – to open the chest, or to find balance or to channel the fierce warrior. Striving to look beautiful in a pose isn’t trying to love your body – it’s placing yourself outside of it. Neither does this align with loving your own body OR with yoga.