The truth about body obsession, self- loathing, and longing…
As someone who has worked in the health and fitness arena for over thirty years, I’ve seen and experienced my fair share of body obsession and all its incarnations. By body obsession, I mean our endless pursuit of a better body, weight loss, and perfection, based on the misconception that once we lose that last 10 lbs we will somehow be “better” “more acceptable” “more powerful” or “more loveable.”
You might think this is ironic since as a trainer and fitness guru, I’ve spent my entire life talking about self-improvement via weight loss, exercise, and nutrition.
We say want to “be healthy” to “feel better,” but really, what does that mean? I’ve seen clients lose and then gain hundreds of pounds, not because they were weak, lacked motivation or were unprepared. Their heads were totally in the game- the part that was missing were their hearts. It’s impossible to take good care of yourself when you’re at war with yourself. Fear, self-judgement, procrastination, apathy, sarcasm- these are just a few of the ways we sabotage, prolong, or deny ourselves true health, joy and happiness.
One of the most common expressions of this war is a pre-occupation and dissatisfaction with our bodies. We don’t like our thighs, our bottoms are too big or too small, the skin on our belly and arms is beginning to sag.
Tom, a friend of mine, refers to his body as a “Meat sack.” A deeply spiritual person, Tom encourages others to simply appreciate the miracle of our body and cherish it as our physical home on Earth. Our bodies and consciousness are deeply connected and yet, we act as if they weren’t.
When we lack respect for the body’s tireless service to us (despite our abuse and misuse), no amount of “application” (ie. dieting, exercising, and wardrobing) will change how peacefully or joyfully we live in them. Accepting and valuing our bodies, imperfections and all, is the first necessary step toward healing that hole in our heart; that pit we feed with our fear, shame and feelings of unworthiness.
In her book, The Answer is Simple- Love Yourself, Live Your Spirit, Sonia Choquette writes about the body, “To love yourself, you must love your body as well- it comes as a package deal. No matter what kind of body you ended up with, it’s the only one you have, so you must live with it whether you want to or not. Realize how important your physical self to your life’s journey- not for the approval it wins from others, but for the service it provides for your Spirit. It’s your vessel, your carrier, your means of experiencing life. Like a car that gets from point A to point B, it’s your mode of transportation on Earth and will work much better for you if you treat it with a little respect and care.”
The Struggle is real…
As someone who has struggled for years with my weight, body image and self-acceptance, I was constantly looking for love in wrong places. This has included desperation dieting, over-exercising, obsession with perfection and punishing myself for my repeated “failures.” My only real failure was to deny the fact that I was already loveable, whole and okay. Once I set about doing the inside work, the impetus to care for my body fell right into place. That’s because mindset and motivation, like our body and spirit, are inseparable.. we can’t have one without the other.
Letting go to have more…
As I’ve gotten older I am learning more about my body and appreciating it more for the amazing home it is. It’s no longer about losing 5 lbs, or fitting into the size 2 or feeling “acceptable”; it’s about being able to cherish the moments of my life, doing the things that I want to do, with the people I love, in a healthy, strong, 59-year-old body.
It’s respect for the little moments which add up to the big moments which define the quality of this life I have. I don’t want to miss another moment because I’m feeling “fat” or “depressed” or simply “less than.”
That’s a decision- that’s an agreement that I no longer entertain nor accept. Life is short and amazing. I don’t have time to waste making choices that don’t support me, my dreams, my relationships or feeling freaking fantastic.
Come to think of it, none of us do. So why not choose to celebrate? It’s so much more fun.