Monday, March 25, 2013

My Body, My Self

Anyone who knows me well is aware that I have a complicated relationship with my body.  Since my first puberty, my body has been a source of discomfort far more often than a source of pride.  From a brief stint of bulemia and suicidal thoughts in middle school, to self-destructive numbing behaviors in high school, and to the mixture of joy and shame my body brings now, my body seems to be the perfect example of the classic feminist slogan, "The personal is political".

I tend to think of my body as a means to an end, rather than an end in and of itself.  By that I mean, I enjoy the things my body can do, the things I can accomplish by using it, and the way it correctly reflects my gender to society, but I wouldn't say I like my body in and of itself.  Like most women, if you asked me to describe things I dislike about my body I can rattle off a mile-long list without hesitation.  But when I think about the parts I do like, those are harder to find and even those aspects come with qualifications.  "I like my hair, but I can't do anything with it."  "I love my boobs, but I just wish they were a little closer together."  "I have killer leg muscles, but I can never find boots that fit over my calves." 

Why do so many of us do this?  Is this some form of self-effacing tactic we learn at an early age to validate other women's discomfort with their bodies?  Why do I and so many others have such a hard time saying, "I have nice X" and leave it at that?  Why is it so much easier to put our bodies down than to build them up?  There's a tactic I learned that I try to apply in life, "If a friend treated you the way you treat yourself, would you still consider them a friend?"  And the truth is I have pretty great esteem in a lot of areas in my life.  I believe I'm intelligent, a good writer, an accomplished activist and public speakers, a great student, and will be an awesome therapist, wife, and mother in the not-too-distant future.  There are certainly areas for improvement.  I wish I was better about making time for friends and family more often, for example, but I don't beat myself up over those shortcomings.  And yet, if I asked the question, "If a friend treated you the way you treat your body..?" I would kick that worthless "friend" to the curb.

My biggest problems with my body are not the disphoric issues you might think.  Yes, being pre-op does make me uncomfortable at least once a day, but it's easy to shrug off as a temporary situation.  My weight, however, is an issue that is always close to the surface of my mind.  Even at my fittest I was a size 14 and 180 lbs.  No amount of exercise or dietary changes is going to change my skeletal structure or body type and, intellectually, I'm okay with that.  But now that I'm older and it has become even more difficult to lose weight it is a source of immense frustration.  Lately I've tried to embrace the "fatshion" movement more and to make peace with my body size.  While I may have issues with my body, I know that many people find me attractive so I have tried my best to believe them.

In the last couple weeks I've started a new zombie-related exercise routine and have been keeping a food journal to track the calories I eat/burn every day.  I have to be mindful not to go overboard, but I think these two things have been healthy and helpful.  My food journal chooses the calorie goal for me based on my weight and loss-goal (1.5 lbs a week) rather than letting me choose something that is unhealthy, and my exercise routine tells me how often and for how long to work out without hurting myself.  I've tried to make the focus less about weight and measurements (though I do track these just so I can see progress), and more about focusing on goals.  My current goals are to be able to jog 5k (maybe even run a 5k someday) and to get in good enough shape to participate in Run for Your Lives 5k next year.  I have been having a ball with the Zombies, Run! game and choosing the best songs to run with and they make something I never thought I would enjoy, running, a lot of fun.

While I suspect I will always have a complicated relationship with my body, I hope that by enjoying it more and learning to love it I can move away from the unhealthy attitude I and so many other women have surrounding our bodies.  Most importantly, I'd like to get to a positive place with my body so that when I have a girl of my own I can have a head-start on knowing how to fight the body politics that weigh so heavily on women in America.

Never forget it.

1 comment:

  1. You're welcome for telling you about Zombies, Run! You should look into SuperBetter as well.