It’s no big secret that as women, our relationship with our bodies can get a little complicated. In fact, when asked, around 95% of women report that they are dissatisfied with their bodies in some way.
As a long-time exerciser and former fitness instructor, I’ve spent more time than I care to admit pedaling, squeezing and stair-stepping my body into a certain form, and I certainly won’t try to deny that I’ve still been in that 95% most of my life, regardless of any particular jeans size or number on the scale.
So imagine my chagrin when I found myself on the elliptical a couple of months ago, my sights firmly fixed on my goal of 45 monotonous minutes, my iPod and the previous night’s pizza the only thing keeping me from bolting for the door. And as I scrolled through my playlists, what did I stumble upon but a seminar on body image from my Food Psychology training. As I listened for the umpteenth time, I was once again asked to ponder the question, “Is the movement or exercise you do based on body love or body judgement, or even hatred?” It was exactly at this moment that I looked up and noticed in front of me the Zumba class in progress, packed wall to wall with people of all shapes and sizes shaking their hips to salsa tunes with varying degrees of amusement and delight on their sweaty faces.
I finally got the message. Delivered with a side order of thumping Latin beats.
I’ve known in my mind for a long time that healing a troubled body image requires two things:
- Recognizing that you don’t really hate your body, you hate yourthoughts about your body, and;
- Recognizing the cool things your body can do.
But it wasn’t until my epiphany on the elliptical, when I came face to face with my own choices, that I really felt the truth of that in my body. And that’s exactly what healing body image is all about – it’s about embodiment, in other words coming back into your body.
So I decided to take on an experiment.
Fast forward a few days, and I myself was in said Zumba class, somewhat spastically shimmying my shoulders and gyrating my hips. And you know what? It was FUN. And ever since then I’ve been exploring a new relationship with movement.
I’ve returned to Yoga, and I’m hiking and walking outdoors. My kickboxing gloves and my squeezing, grinding, “feel the burn” DVD’s are gathering dust on the shelf. And by doing things that celebrate the ways my body can move, that honor feminine shape and fluidity, that show me the strength and flexibility I can achieve (yeah, I freakin’ nailed crow pose), and that connect me with nature, I’m discovering that I feel better and I love my body more.
So what’s motivating your exercise or movement? Is it the desire to explore your body, to celebrate and experience it? Or is it to force it into a certain shape or to pay for the crime of eating? If it’s the latter, I invite you to try something new.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do? If you already HAD the perfect body, what would you want to do? What’s something you could see yourself doing and enjoying long term – not just until you lose that 20 pounds?
Make a commitment to yourself to try some movement just for the fun of it. Even if it’s just dancing around the living room while you vaccuum, make it a point to relish - even if just for a few moments – the experience of being in a body on this earth.
Don’t get me wrong, I still love a good sweaty run – it’s my moving meditation. But I’m beginning to see there’s a lot more to life than the elliptical.