Love the Body You Have

The body is a sacred garment

—Martha Graham, Blood Memory (1991)

When I was a bodywork therapist, I talked with a client prior to our session. She looked down at her body and said, “I can’t accept my body the way it is. Look at me.” Her eyes met mine. “I’m over-weight and I need to change. If I accept myself, then it’s like giving up. I need to reject my body if I’m ever going to lose this weight.”

My client voiced what so many women feel: We should hate our bodies. If we accept our bodies, the idea goes, we’ll sty the way we are. Rejecting our bodies will motivate us to change our bodies. thereby making ourselves acceptable.

This is a lie. So why do women believe it? Perhaps a better question is: Why wouldn’t we believe it? Look around us.

We are told many times a day that our bodies are not good enough. Through print and TV ads, we’re informed that our bodes emit various offensive odors. Supermodels let us know that our hair isn’t shiny enough, our legs aren’t thin enough, our breasts aren’t large enough, and our hands aren’t smooth enough. The answer, of course, is to buy products that will remedy our bodies’ deficiencies. The information we’re given about our bodies is not intended to give us accurate information about who we are as women, rather it is intended to create a sense of unrest, dissatisfaction, and shame so we’ll purchase the advertised wares.

Without realizing it, we have accepted the unspoken message of advertising: If you don’t like yourself, you will make better choices. If you don’t like your body order, you’ll buy brand X deodorant. If you’re embarrassed by your size, you’ll buy a new exercise machine or sign up for the newest diet program. If you’re dissatisfied with the appearance of your skin, you’ll get an expensive jar of night cream. The list can go on and on. If you want a better life, if you want to be attractive, and ultimately if you want to be loved, start by disliking your body.

This message is especially damaging to us when we are ill, have been in accidents or are aging. We’re yoked with the impossible task for staying forever young, seeing any physical limitation as a betrayal by our bodies. Our bodies are our enemies, and pain is the weapon used against us. In the misguided attempt to be healthy, we battle against ourselves, growing angrier, wishing to cut ourselves off from our bodies altogether.

Hostility toward your body is helpful to companies selling products, but not to you. I’ve never known any woman who made better choices about her body motivated by self-loathing. I’ve watched women who are ashamed of their bodies lose weight only to gain it all back again. Some of my clients retard healing from illness or car accidents by blaming their bodies for the pain. My personal favorite is overtaxing my body to accomplish professional goals and then blaming my body when I get sick.

We make better choices about our bodies the more we value our bodies. As a writer, I buy paper by the case. If a blank piece of paper is torn, I don’t care since I’ve got more. I toss it in the recycling bin. However, the pages upon which I’ve printed a manuscript are valuable to me, so I set them in a safe place. I value those pages, so I treat them well and protect them.

Similarly, the more we love our bodies, the more likely we are to cultivate positive health habits: eat more nutritious meals, exercise regularly, treat ourselves kindly through an illness, listen to our bodies’ wisdom in the healing process. Accepting your body, right now, with all your real and socially fabricated limitations, is the foundation for making better choices for yourself. Come home to your body. Your body is on your side and always has been.

Quoted from Coming Home to Your Body: 365 Simple Ways to Nourish Yourself Inside and Out, by Carmen Renee Berry

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