Have you ever injured your pinky finger and then realized how much you actually use that finger? This recently happened to me when my pinky finger became a little too intimate with the stove. Immediately after the injury, I thought to myself “Oh, it’s just my pinky finger. No big deal!” As I healed over the next few days, it became glaringly obvious just how much I rely on that small part of my body. It’s like whenever I’m injured, I am always reminded that every part of me serves a purpose and that I frequently take my body for granted.
This was never more apparent than when my father was hospitalized with pneumonia. It wrecked his body and basic activities were challenging at best. To a lesser degree, I see this when I teach gentle yoga at a local athletic club. Simple movements like sitting up straight or smoothly transitioning from a standing position to a seated position is out of reach for some of the people attending my class. As I modify the poses, I cannot help but feel appreciative of how mobile I am.
Despite that realization, the diet culture often sucks me back in and the way I look inches its way back to center stage. Like most people, I get so wrapped up in my physical appearance that I don’t take the time to appreciate all that my body does for me on a regular basis. I decided to make a conscious effort to go beyond only acknowledging the external.
I would love to say how I simply stopped thinking about my appearance, but that wasn’t the case.1 Because I was deeply rooted in the diet mentality, I did start by focusing on my physical features because outward appearance was where my mind was. I learned to make peace with the mirror and took steps to retrain my brain to think more positively about the way I look. Some of my new-found thoughts were so powerful that I wrote them down on Post-its and displayed them so I could have a visual reminder of my qualities. That worked a good chunk of the time, but there were times when the Post-its seemed to just take up space and did very little in boosting my body image.
During those instances, I needed to dig a little deeper and find ways to take my mind away from appearance. This was when I started to think about all of the amazing things my body does for me. My muscles and bones help me move. My eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin provide me with sensory information. My kidneys clean my blood and my digestive system breaks down food so my body can get the nutrients it needs to survive.2
Instead of moaning about how my belly isn’t as flat as it used to be, I now remind myself that I have a strong core. It assists my body when I workout and it supports me in my daily activities. I am able to bend over, reach for things, etc. because of the strength of my abdominal and back muscles. Also, the extra softness around my mid-section protects my organs.3
When I catch myself belittling my body, I gently tell myself to stop and immediately think about how I can rephrase. For example, if my focus is on my thighs, I may ask myself, “What can I say to replace ‘my thighs look huge when I sit down’?” I try to take my mind away from the superficial by reminding myself that my body needs fat to function and the extra cushion makes sitting down more pleasant. This doesn’t make me feel better 100% of the time, but I do find that I am more accepting when I change my perspective about my body.
I now realize that my body really is a marvelous machine that needs regular maintenance and care. When I think about what my body does for me, I feel more compassion towards it and immensely grateful for doing all I ask of it. I would like to openly thank my body for allowing me to perform actions that I often take for granted and for being forgiving despite the punishment I inflicted upon it when I restricted food in an attempt to have the “ideal” body. My body’s sole job is to keep me alive. I’m still here, so thanks!
In what ways do you appreciate your body? Please share in the comment section below.
2I could go on, but you get the point.
Thank you so much for reading my blog! I am honored that you chose to read about my experience.
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