This is a day I want to embrace. It's NOW's Love Your Body Day. (I found out about it through Kate Harding's Shapely Prose , good reading on size acceptance and feminism. Be sure and catch The ABCs and Ds of Commercial Images of Women at the NOW website.) I don't know a single woman who doesn't have some body issues, but my family and I tend to specialize in them. You could even say that we have elevated this particular dysfunction to an art form.
My very loving mother showed her love through food. A wonderful cook, she always filled our home with goodies. She was also a naturally petite beauty who weighed less than 100 pounds until her seventies when she had to take prednisone and changed multiple sizes in less than two months. My sister and I were both tall and fat. Well, in family lore, my sister who was athletically inclined was "big." I was just fat. My well intentioned but still harmful mother also showed her love with constant criticism of my size and food choices. She showed her love by preparing wonderful food, having it constantly available, and then withholding it because it was what we needed. She even did this to her own tiny beautiful body and to my daughter when she went through her childhood chubby phase. Sigh. I was so old before I recognized that she did this to herself as well.
From my first diet at the age of 5, I've fought the struggle to believe in myself despite living in a culture that says a fat body makes you a second rate person. I've lost and gained literally over a ton of weight. I quit dieting for years and when I started dieting again a few years ago, I swore I'd do it differently. I would live and eat healthily. I would love, encourage and never deprive my body. I wouldn't withhold from it food for sustenance or food for pleasure. I would learn to eat with balance and without fear, regret or obsession. I would give my body the exercise and movement it needs and wants, without punishing myself by activities that hurt or I could not enjoy. This is still in progress, and (please excuse my bragging and my repetition) by doing it this way, my body is stronger, healthier, and I am more comfortable in it.
After a lifetime of loathing my body, of separating it from my mind and my spirit, it hasn't been easy to give up the habits of putting myself down. I know I taught these bad behaviors to my daughter. She's now blessedly healthy, but I'll never forget how many times the kid came close to dying through self-inflicted starvation and purging or how hard she's worked to conquer this disease. Today the womanchild asked me if I thought she was gaining weight. She lifted her shirt and grabbed a bit of belly. I gave her an honest no, but she said she thought she was putting on a few pounds. All I could see was how beautiful she looks. Despite the recently wounded heart and college freshman fears, she's moving with self-confidence and is becoming such a powerful young woman. When I told her, it was Love Your Body Day, she went Pffft and said, "Screw that." Well, we both still have a long way to go, but damn it, we're still moving forward.
Like so many other ex-AOL bloggers, I've been backing up my old journal and today, I found this affirmation I wrote years ago. It seemed especially appropriate to share it today. So from way back in the archives of the original Sorting The Pieces, here's an entry on loving my body.
I love my hair. It's thick, shiny and a lot of different shades of dark brown, and I love having it long again.
I love my eyes because they communicate to the world, and it is a source of amusement when I see people trying not to notice when my wandering eye pops off to one side and back again.
I love my smile because it can draw people into my world.
I love that my shoulders are broad and strong enough to carry my burdens.
I love my breasts because they fed my daughter and are a source of comfort. My daughter, my husband and even my pets all tend to rest on them when they are tired or discouraged.
I love the curve of my belly and hips because they show so clearly that I am a woman.
I love that my back, legs and feet are strong enough to get me where I want to go.
I love my wrinkles because they show that I've grown and matured.
I love my scars because they remind me that I can endure.
I love my freckles just because they're cute.
I love the sensuality of my body, the pleasure of feeling, tasting, hearing, smelling, seeing, how it can interpret and understand the world in a non-intellectual way, how it grounds me solidly.
I love the sheer transcendent power of my body's sexual response. I love the interconnectedness of my body's systems, and how naturally they show me what true balance is. I love how emotions become real physical feelings. That's such a miracle to me.
Oh, God, life is such a miracle, and I am so grateful.
I am grateful for my body -- this body that will never grace a magazine cover or have the perfection I've been told it should. I am indeed grateful for a life, a body, a spirit, a mind, for being a woman, a daughter, a wife, a mother, a lover and for the drive all of these things have given me to live with joy, pain, flaws, achievements and dreams.
Love Your Body Day, body image, eating disorders, feminism, affirmation