I have always been tall and thin. I’m 5’10″ and I hover around the same weight and size since college. (I don’t own a scale, but it’s around 125–128 lbs).
Body Issue Don’t Discriminate
Something most people don’t think applies to me is body confidence issues. People generally look at me and consider me “lucky.” Of course, it’s not luck. I exercise daily, often more than once a day, and I maintain a very active lifestyle. I strive to eat healthy foods.
But I’m not immune to body confidence issues.
The truth is that I’ve struggled with body confidence issues my whole life. As far back as I can remember, people felt they had the right to comment on my body in a way that would never be acceptable if I were a fat girl.
Bony macaroni. String bean. Flag pole.
Even back then, when I was “skin and bones,” I had “pulkies”, as my mom used to call them. That’s a Yiddish word for thighs with a little meat on them. I felt self-conscious in shorts to the point where I stopped wearing them.
When I was 10, some girls in my class called me anorexic. I didn’t even know what it meant. When I was 12, the boys teased me relentlessly for being flat-chested.
I was always the tallest of my friends and for a long time the tallest in my class, but never the fastest or strongest or best athlete. I longed for well-defined muscles and the ability to touch my toes.
For a long time, I was awkward. I never knew where to put my long limbs, how to navigate and control them.
At War With My Body
In mindfulness training we learn about “coming home to the body.” For a long time, my body and I were at war. The war didn’t manifest in an eating disorder; it was more of a mental warfare. It wasn’t safe to come home to my body.
Some days, I could be so mad at my body. I want it to be stronger and more flexible. More muscular, but not too muscular. I want the right muscle tone in the right places.
So. Many. Fucking. Requests.
The Turning Point in My Body Relationship
Almost five years ago I began my Fitness First Ritual. The original purpose of that ritual was more about getting out of my apartment before getting sucked into email. But the reasons we start something and the reasons we continue something are often different.
As my body supported me day after day after day in a morning workout, we developed a new relationship. With each week and month of workouts, I began to appreciate my body more. I nourished it better. I stopped drinking so much. I showed it love.
And it, in turn, showed love back to me.
How My Body Supports Me
My body is a force.
Flying trapeze. Trampoline. Swimming. Lifting. The strain I put on my hands and shoulders. Not just in my physical activities, but in all the writing I do.
Sitting. Standing. Typing.
Running for a train. Miles of subway stairs. Miles of pavement.
Last year I walked over 5 million steps.
At the age of 42 I asked it to defy gravity and do front flips on a trampoline without safety lines. And it did.
Over the past year, I’ve been under the stress of grief, or selling my home, of facing various personal challenges, and it still supports me. Unfailingly.
There have been days when I wish my body would jump higher, reach farther, stretch more. Each time, I remember all that my body does for me.
Learning Not to Push
Over the past five years, since starting my fitness first ritual, I’ve learned how to listen better to my body. We have conversations that don’t involve the mind.
There are days when I feel not as strong, when my body doesn’t want to be pushed in the gym. I accept it where it is, trusting that it will tell me when it’s ready.
Aside from workouts, the other tool I’ve used to shift my relationship with my body is a body gratitude meditation. In my meditation, I scan my body, pausing to thank each body part for what it does for me.
Coming Home to My Body
Through these processes, I’ve grown to love my body where it is and how it is in any moment.
I’m sure you may look at me and say “it’s easy for you, because of how you look.” And my point in sharing this is to make clear that it’s not any easier for me or for any thin person.
We all have body issues.
We get only one body. We must learn to love it, to care for it, to nourish it. And it, in turn, will support us.
As I’ve nourished my appreciation for my body, it has allowed me in. The war has ended. I’ve learned to love my body.
And my body has welcomed me back home.