What is the most desirable body – a hard body, an hourglass figure, the waif look? What about the newly touted “dad bod”? The prevalence of fad diets, exercise regimes, Botox and plastic surgery in our culture speak to a deep dissatisfaction with our bodies.
From the time I became an adolescent, my insecurity about my figure caused me a lot of angst. I tried extreme diets and fasting. I was at war with food yet at the same time craved it, especially sweets. I made lame attempts to exercise but lapsed into inactivity. By the time I graduated from high school, I weighed the most I have ever weighed outside of during pregnancy.
But I realize that we have been looking at our bodies all wrong. Lately I have been thinking about how amazing the human body is. Our muscles and bones carry our weight around. Our joints give us the ability to walk, run, hold a child, open a jar, cook a meal, type a blog post.
We take every life’s breath without having to think about it, our hearts pump our life’s blood to every part of our body. And that magnificent organ, the brain, controls it all. How often do we go out to walk the dog or take out the trash and realize how lucky we are to be able to perform such mundane tasks?
Even people with serious physical disabilities are able to do phenomenal things with their bodies. For instance, para-Olympic athlete Tatyana McFadden, who was born with spina bifida and without the ability to walk, has used her upper body strength with great determination to win numerous gold medals and other accolades. My friend Beth, who lost her eyesight at age 26, navigates the city of Chicago with the help of her service dog and uses her other senses to read, write, and conduct memoir-writing workshops around the city.
Of course, we need to care for our bodies. Healthy eating, exercise, and good medical care are all essential to make the most of our bodies’ amazing abilities. Interestingly, it wasn’t until I started exercising for my health and not my looks that the pounds started to fall away. But dieting obsessively or constantly checking the mirror are not healthy.
Children are not self-conscious about their bodies. From the first smile to the first step to the first climb on a jungle gym, kids are jubilant about what they can do with their bodies. “Look at me, Mom!” they shout as they perform a cartwheel or doggy paddle in the pool.
It’s time to take our cue from our kids and start appreciating our bodies in whatever size or shape they happen to be in.