Five years ago, my body image was terrible. I was in the midst of completing my undergraduate degree, living in Canada and eating out or ordering in a LOT. I wasn’t doing any self-care; I didn’t even know what self-care was back then.
My life was so full of drama and I was going through a pretty significant depression. I lacked the energy to cook, so I ate out three to four times a week. School ended, seasons changed and I was doing a little better emotionally, and by summer of 2011, I launched into full diet mode. I was obsessively counting points and calories.
But no matter how much weight came off, I never found a happy place. It was never enough. At one point, I wondered to myself: What am I willing to do for the body I want? Will I ever be small enough? If I hit that magical number on the scale, will I be happy? Can I maintain this? And what if I still hate my body when I do hit that magical number? I was severely restricting at that point, often at a constant deficit when you factored in how much I was working out.
Eventually, with the help of an amazing friend, I realized what was going on. I had an eating disorder. I read some books, I asked for help. I started seeing a dietitian and a therapist, and now I also see a psychiatrist. I stopped my behaviors. Do I love my body? No. Not yet. I’ve had to readjust to my higher weight. At one point, I was certain I would never stop gaining weight (I did). But I don’t need to be over the moon about my body to accept it and to be thankful for it. This is my body, the only one I get in this lifetime. Instead of living in misery, hating that I don’t have a body that conforms to the current beauty standard, why don’t I use my body to live? No more whining and complaining; it’s time to start living!
I can hike to waterfalls in my body.
I can bend my body into a bunch of yoga poses.
My body lets me enjoy paddle boarding.
I can float in the water, as the sun shines down and the clouds pass by, in my body.
I can enjoy the wind in my hair and the sun on my face in my body.
Feeling the surge of adrenaline as an ocean wave picks me up and catapults me to shore makes me feel so alive in my body.
Kayaking is possible because of my body.
Without my body, I’d never smell beautiful scents or see beautiful things.
In my body, I can swim with dolphins and SCUBA dive with sea lions.
I can go snorkeling in my body, watching the beautiful fish swim beneath me as I kick my legs and breathe air into my lungs.
Want to know something else I can do in my body? Acro-Yoga! I can flip upside down when I want to face my fears.
This body allows me to fly through the air on a zip line or see the world from horse back.
My body allows me to do so many amazing and beautiful things; all it requires in return is nourishment. We all spend so much time starving our bodies to get thinner, obsessing over acne and stretch marks and fat, that we are unable to see how amazing our bodies are! We are too busy feeling cranky or guilty or ashamed over our bodies to appreciate their incredible designs. We need to nourish ourselves; we need to nourish our souls.
When you take a step back and end the war against your body, you can see, for the first time, its true beauty. We must stop staring into the mirror, nitpicking our naked bodies to death over their flaws. It’s easy to live in that dark place, and it’s easy to point out all of your tiny imperfections to yourself. But why? What is the value in that? It’s time to come out of the darkness and into the light.
To my body I say:
- Thank you for my thick mane of hair, soft and beautifully glossy.
- Thank you for my bright green almond-shaped eyes that give me perfect vision.
- Thank you for my cupid bow lips that allow me to speak, kiss and nourish myself.
- Thank you for my high cheekbones that accentuate my smile.
- Thank you for my nose, which brings life-giving air into my lungs.
- Thank you for my ears, which allow me to hear music so well.
- Thank you for my shoulders, which allow me to carry heavy things like books and packages.
- Thank you for my breasts—they are pretty awesome.
- Thank you for my stomach, which breaks down the food I eat to nourish my body.
- Thank you for my back, which holds my body upright and allows me to do so many things. Thank you for arms that allow me to pick myself up when I’ve fallen down.
- Thank you for my hands—life would be incredibly difficult without them.
- Thank you for my butt—it looks damn good in leggings!
- Thank you for my thighs, strong and powerful.
- Thank you for my knees, legs and feet, for they allow me to walk.
- Thank you for my monkey toes—I can pick up almost anything with them and it would be impossible to balance without them.
- Thank you for my muscular system, for its strength provides my body support and stability. Thank you for my central nervous system, which allows my body to be capable of so many amazing things.
- And finally, thank you for my brain, such a powerful organ that allows for everything else.
Mary Lambert’s amazing Body Love poem says “My body is home.” And it is. I wish the people of the world could stop focusing so hard on their appearances and, instead, look at all the possibilities we have, thanks to our bodies. We are all different shapes and sizes, and we all need to embrace every bit of flab and muscle with love and compassion.
There is so much negativity in this world and not enough kindness. Perhaps it’s time for everyone to start by showing themselves a little kindness. You only get one body. Use it to live!
Jennifer is a San Diego native and has been in recovery from her eating disorder since January of 2014. She holds a master of social work degree from the University of Southern California and plans to obtain her clinical license in the near future.