Today I can say that I love to be in my body.
This has been a long road inward, to reconnect to the joy of moving my body, and has taken every minute up until now.
In my late teens, I started working in the health and fitness industry, teaching aerobics. Like most young women, I was unhappy with my body. And I was not very athletic.
I felt a lot of shame about what I believed my body looked like, or couldn’t do well, things like throwing a ball or doing a cartwheel. Growing up, I arranged my life so as to avoid group sports and games that I may have enjoyed but feared might reveal my lack of skill.
But I always loved to dance. Teaching aerobics reconnected me to that love. To be honest, though, what really appealed to me about working in fitness was to have a job where I could spend hours a day dedicated to fixing my body.
My approach to fitness came from a place of discontent
My approach to fitness came from a place of discontent that I used to motivate myself and to drive my students. Teaching 20 – 25 classes a week, I pushed myself hard. And I pushed my students hard. My classes were filled with students along side me on this body-hating path. It was not uncommon for me to have a line of students, each gripping a handful of flesh, all waiting to ask the same question, “How can I get rid of this?” And to them I would give my best “eat less and exercise more” advice. The same advice I gave myself, to push more, try harder, no matter how much time or energy. Extreme measures were applauded.
I was never satisfied. No matter how much I exercised, I couldn’t seem to have a good enough, thin enough, “right” enough body. So I was always looking for the next diet plan, the right combination of exercises. It was consuming.
Until something shifted in me and I was able to see things differently… an epiphany of sorts. I started questioning my deeply held belief that there was something so wrong with my body.
Even though my body didn’t look the way I wanted it to, I could see that I was strong and healthy. I recognized that my obsession with exercise was not really about health at all.
My obsession with exercise was not about health at all
In fact, how could hating my body be compatible with health? On top of this, I was spending an inordinate amount of precious time on this very superficial pursuit.
The transition from exercising out of body hatred — to moving as a way of reconnecting to my body and expressing myself — turned my world, and my work, upside down. Now, instead of an enemy, my body is my ally, my teacher. And from this place I can support others in a way that can produce real health. I can’t say that I live in a place of body love. But at this point in my life I can say that there are parts that I like. Sometimes. More often I can feel a sense of gratitude, appreciation for what I can do.
How can you recommit to taking care of your body and standing up for a healthy body image?