Body Positivity and Health

This article feels urgent to me, not because of where I am in my journey, but because of where you, that one reader who needs to reads this, are in your life. You know I don’t like to give advice. I really try not to get preachy. I only have my experience to speak from. But this feels like a moral imperative.

Listen to me very very carefully: You need to start loving your body. Immediately. You need to undertake to fall in love with what you see in the mirror. You need to undertake to trust your body, to know how it works and to love it, no matter what you think it looks like. You need to stop comparing what you see in the mirror with what you see on social media.

Here is why: Your body is going to be with you until your final breath. (Thank you, Captain Obvious) There are seasons of your life where your body will be your only ally, your only hint that something isn’t right. Your insomnia, your heart palpitations….those are not simple inconveniences. They are your body, signaling to you that something is going on deep under the surface. You need to trust that your body knows things that you don’t.

Your body is going to change as you grow older. Even if you never have children, there will be changes. After the upheaval that is children, there is the upheaval that is middle age. Then there is the upheaval that is menopause. If you don’t love and trust your body now, then these changes are going to compound the misery.

Please do not hear things that I am not saying. I am not saying “you need to exercise”, or “you need a makeover.” What I am saying is that you need to love your body. You need to be able to look in the mirror and have lucid, affectionate thoughts about yourself. You need to invest time and thought in loving your physical self.

This is urgent not because of what anyone else: spouse or stranger alike, might think of you. This is for you.

Learn now or learn the hard way

Have you ever watched someone you love learn a lesson the hard way? It’s painful. You can say what you want, you cannot prevent it. None of your well-worded, benevolent warnings hit home until that person hits bottom, by which point those points are moot.

I learned to love my body the hard way. Even though it was an awful, uncomfortable, often painful and psychologically tortuous process, I have learned to view my body as my ally. Maybe I needed to learn the hard way…I am stubborn enough that this is a real possibility. But in retrospect, there were a number of turning points that could have pre-empted the trouble.

Learning to reframe our thoughts and challenge our negative self-talk is so important. Don’t wait. Do. Not. Wait.

Pay attention

Our bodies have things to tell us. Our bodies don’t generally lie to us. When we are tired, we feel it. When we have been wearing shoes that don’t fit, we feel it.

When we are hungry, we feel it. Thirsty, we feel it. If we helped someone move or played in the garden, our bodies let us know that we overdid it with aches in muscles we didn’t even know we had.

When our hormones are shifting, we may not feel it like a muscle ache or thirst or a blister on our heel, but there are consequences on our mood. We need to pay attention to those things, too.

Paying attention is the simplest way to start showing our body love. Taking seriously the little changes that we notice by, at the very least, writing them down when we noticed them. Having a little journal just for our body is a solid investment in loving ourselves. Learning to see the relationship between being thirsty and feeling tired, or eating like crap and feeling like crap is huge and can help us make little changes to love our body more.

I’m not an advice-giver, you know that. But this is important: become friends with your body. Start by paying attention to it.

In my Ideal Life I am a person who:

  • trusts my body
  • loves my body, no matter what size it is
  • takes care of my body by feeding it what it needs, not what it thinks it wants
  • never stops moving
  • listens to my aches and pains and respects them
  • is at peace with every. single. part. of my body
  • knows how my body works and never stops learning new things about human biology

The Exercise

What is working? Answers to this often have to do with how I am feeling about my body and the habits I have in place to take care of it. Have I been drinking enough water? Have I been sleeping well enough? Have I been putting on sunblock like I know I should? Have I been eating fruits and veggies with every meal?

These seem like tiny little details, but they are the building blocks of me taking care of my body. When they aren’t in place, then my body positivity tanks.

What isn’t working? Answers to this lately have been, “ugh, I am so bloated!” or “where are all these bruises coming from?” Also, (TMI warning!) “my stupid periods are so irregular!” and “I had chips and chocolate for lunch again and I feel like crap.”

Things to consider: The little things that aren’t working are often signs that something is going on inside my body that I need to pay attention to. For example, my bloating is always at night, just like when I was pregnant…so this is definitely hormonal bloat. I will survive this. The bruises, though? I might want to do a little more research about that.

Things to do: Here I might give myself just a few tiny tiny little tasks–go buy some fruit, or drink two liters of water today. Something, anything, that helps me feel like I am getting myself back on the right track is a good start.

Conclusion

Our bodies are going to see us through to the end, so we would do well to befriend our bodies, treating them with respect and dignity by paying attention to what they have to tell us.

This is well worth five minutes every three weeks to take a step back and examine how things are going in our health and our relationship to our body.

In my Ideal life, I am at peace with my body.

Published by Lily Fields

I am passionate about contentment. This is a challenge, because I am equally passionate about progress. I get up at 4:00AM to chip away at a solution to this monolithic problem: how to make progress on my contentment. Born and raised in the USA, I married a French philosophy teacher in 1999. We have lived in France since 2007. We stayed young and carefree until life threw us two curveballs in the form of little humans one after another in 2015 and 2017 respectively. Now I am a slightly older, slightly more exhausted version of myself, but with mystery stains on my walls and a never-ending pile of laundry.

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