My body and I haven’t always been the best of friends. As soon as puberty hit, I started to loathe it. It was growing the wrong way. My boobs started to develop late, and when they did, it seemed they’d never stop. It made me feel so self-conscious!
My hips were growing too much too, unlike my height. I was always the shortest in my class. Any class. And was that cellulite? At 15?
I felt like a monster. This wasn’t what my body was supposed to look like. Women were meant to be tall and lean, athletic but with curves. Everyone could achieve that ideal and, if someone couldn’t, well, it was her fault. That’s what teen mags never failed to remind me.
And so, I started to punish my body I’d alternate strict diets to emotional eating sessions during which I’d stuff my body with all kinds of deliciously nasty junk food. Then, I’d exercise too much for days in a row, pushing it to the limit, until it couldn’t take anymore. And, then, disappointed with my weakness, I’d give up, spending months on the couch watching TV.
I thought this nasty vicious circle would last forever. But, as I approached my 30th birthday, something, slowly, started to change. Maybe it was because I started reading more about feminism and media literacy, or because I finally began to follow a more balanced diet and exercise regularly, or maybe because I was just growing up, but I finally started to see my body in a different light.
Rather than focusing on its appearance, I learned to appreciate what a wonderful machine it is, and all the amazing things it does for me. Now, when I think back about the cruel way I treated it, and all the years wasted hating such a huge and amazing part of me, I cringe.
I can’t go back, but I can share what I’ve learned along the way about my body with you. I hope it’ll inspire you to appreciate your bodies more too.
1. It’s possible to learn to love your body, even those perceived “flaws” the media and society taught us to hate. Like wrinkles. Or cellulite. They’re normal.
2. You don’t have to be perfect to lead a happy, successful, fulfilling life. I used to think that I needed to be thinner, taller, and tanned to pursue my dreams. Well, I’m still none of those things, but I’m pursuing them anyway. And guess what? Little by little, one tiny step at a time, they’re coming true.
3. My body is an instrumenet, not an ornament. It’s what allows me to walk, run, kiss, hug, jump, move, and live. It does so much for me every day, it deserves to be appreciated.
4. My body is stronger than it looks. I never thought I could run more than 5 minutes without feeling out of breathe or carry heavy loads. But when I nourish it and put it to the test, it’s amazing what it can achieve.
5. Having said that, just because my body can put up with a heavy workout, skipping a meal, or a few hours of sleep at night, doesn’t mean it should. Pain and fatigue are signs that something’s wrong. Listen to it and get some rest, some food, or whatever else it needs.
6. My body has its own shape. I’ll always be short with a wide waist. No amount of dieting or exercise can change that. And that’s ok. We all have different body types. And they’re all beautiful.
7. My body is ever-changing. Yes, my bone structure and height won’t change, but time, disease, and lifestyle choices will leave their marks on it. It’s natural. And there’s nothing wrong with it.
8. What’s natural for someone else’s body type isn’t natural for me. Some people can eat a lot and stay slim, others eat little and put weight on so easily, for example. Know what your body can do, and don’t try to turn it into something it can’t be. You’re bound to fail, and harm your health badly in the process.
9. My body will never be perfect. Nothing human can ever be. Chasing perfection only sets you up for disappointment and self-hatred. Don’t go there.
10. What you call imperfections might be what others love about you. I always thought my nose was too big for my face, but my best friend loves it, and says it actually suits my face.
11. I look good both with and without makeup. If I put blush and lipstick on, it’s because it makes me feel good, not to conform to a certain ideal of beauty.
12. It’s clothes that should fit my body, not the other way around. If a dress is too tight, there’s something wrong with it, not with my body.
13. A smile is the best makeup any girl can wear. Nothing makes you look prettier.
14. Aging is a privilege sadly denied to too many. Make the most of it and live life to the full. Visit the places you’ve always wanted to see, follow your dreams, take up new hobbies, find the man (or woman) of your dreams, spend time with your friends, watch your children grow up, tick every item off your bucket list and then write another one. A few wrinkles are such a small price to pay for a long, full, fulfilled life.
15. Always trust your gut. Your mind and heart can play tricks on you, but your gut is always right. Whenever I’ve followed it, I’ve never been disappointed.
What lessons have you learned about your body?