My body is a separate entity to me. This may seem like a strange thing to say but that is how I see it and it has enabled me to make friends with my body.
My mental / spiritual self is me, Liz, and my body is the physical vessel I fill. Like a car that will last a lifetime if you look after it or break down if you don’t, our bodies need our love and attention.
Very few of us like our bodies. We may have made friends with ourselves in other ways: forgiven our shortcomings, accepted our character flaws, learned to give ourselves time out, learned to recognise unhealthy thinking. But our bodies? Can we just change the subject, please? This is a bit awks … Most people are not comfortable with even discussing it.
It’s seen as totally normal to hate parts of or all of your body
‘I hate my legs ….. I wish I had a flatter tummy,… longer legs,… thinner arms,… smoother skin. I’m so inflexible. My arse is so fat….My face is so round…I look so old.’
Surely, only yoga bunnies and models actually love their bodies and they probably secretly hate theirs too. Cellulite, fat, wrinkles, bumps and wobbles. What’s to like?
When I was 19 (eons ago) I was admitted to hospital with an eating disorder, which lingered well into my 20s. It’s long since passed but it’s fair to say that I have had a very complicated relationship with my body. So trust me when I say that making friends with it has been an awakening.
How I made friends with my body
A few years ago I was driving through the Alps on my way back from a gorgeous weekend skiing with my lovely friend Jo. It had been invigorating, life affirming and relatively healthy (by which I mean, no hangovers). Filled with the joy of life I bought a Wayne Dyer audiobook to listen to on my 3 hour drive back to Lyon airport.
Wayne Dyer was a great man. He expounded the importance of self love and connection with our spiritual selves in a way that I could easily access. As I cruised round snow edged, hairpin bends in my hired Corsa, feeling like I was in a car advert, Wayne preached and I listened. He was telling me that I couldn’t love myself fully if I didn’t also love my physical self, my body. Every saggy wrinkle, every dimpled bulge, if I couldn’t love it, I couldn’t move forward.
And I so wanted to move forward. At that time in my life I felt very stuck and I was struggling to see the way ahead. I wanted to bottle the freedom, clarity and joy I had gained from skiing all weekend and take it with me back to England.
I pulled into a lay-by, the only car for miles around, amid a backdrop of Alpine splendour and I contemplated my relationship with this thing that carried my head around.
Instead of holding my stomach in as I normally do, I allowed the muscles to completely relax, letting my breath fully fill my abdomen. I thought of the 2 babies that had grown there, the less than gorgeous stretch marks they had left behind and how I would gladly take a thousand more for the sake of my kids. What a small price to pay.
I then looked in the mirror at my smile lines and instead of looking away in dismay, as I normally would, I thought of the joy that had put them there: the laughter with my husband; the fun with friends; the stifled giggles any time I had to be quiet in church (weddings and funerals).
To the crows feet around my eyes I connected all the summer days I had spent squinting in the sun, the frowns as the boys let me down with bad behaviour and late nights, the troubled journey through early motherhood but how I wouldn’t change it for anything. I scanned my hole body and acknowledged every inch of it in a non-judgmental, fully accepting and loving way.
I was having an out of body experience, with my body.
As I sat there feeling as alone as I had ever been and yet as comfortable with myself as I could imagine feeling, it was as if I had gone through a worm hole, beyond my familiar reality. Away from the standard ‘oh look at my disgusting thighs’ to a place where I was completely accepting of my body.
This felt easy as I sat so separate from reality. Easy love in the absence of media pressure to be young, conventionally beautiful and slim. Conventionally perfect. It’s so much more challenging to maintain this sense of self acceptance back in the grey reality of everyday life.
Picture it: Monday morning and the kids are shouting at each other, dog’s thrown up and Mike can’t find the car keys… but I sit serenely on the sofa thanking my tummy for bearing my children.
No. It’s a struggle. Especially when my back is hurting and the dark circles under my eyes seem to grow daily. But my body is doing its best, all the time, it is working to improve my life experience. I just need to support is as best I can.
Your body is not perfect (assuming you’re not Elle Macpherson). If it was perfect it woudn’t reflect the journey you have been on. Like battle scars that remind you where you have been, your flaws give you confidence in your strength and resilience to handle whatever challenges are in store.
Do I love every inch of my body? Not necessarily. Not in a get my kit off, parade around half naked, ‘look at my fabulous body’ type of way. But in the sense that I am so grateful to it for getting me this far, yes I do.
For bearing my children, enduring much partying, the many bumps, bruises and knocks, for putting up with smoking, drinking, sugar, take out food, late nights, early mornings, stress and way too much caffeine.
Maybe your body is letting you down. You might be suffering with an illness or disease in which case love your body even more. I have an auto-immune condition that causes a rash on my body. I can’t get rid of it and there is no cure but alcohol makes it worse so that’s something I can do for my body.
Some people have very broken bodies and live in a lot of pain. It would be easy to feel very angry towards a body that doesn’t move or feel the way it should. However, gratitude and love feed the soul. And when the mind is strong the body is better supported.
The rewards of making friends with your body
Making friends with your body is a journey in itself and takes time but the rewards are wonderful. The positive relationship I now have with my body just keeps on giving. Yes I lost weight without really trying and everyone comments on my complexion since I have gone without alcohol. But these were byproducts, not goals. Lose weight or not, eat well or don’t, love your body no matter what shape and size it is. Unconditionally love It.
When you tune into your body it becomes clearer what it needs. Better food, less alcohol, more exercise, sleep, self care. I love chocolate, coffee and cake so I consume all of those things unapologetically. They might not be what my body needs but variety and balance are vital to my sense of wellbeing. A little of what you fancy and all that.
You only have one body
You really do only have one body. Thank it for being so awesome, so reliable, so beautiful. Say sorry for mistreating it, for saying unkind things about it, for ignoring it’s pleas for better treatment.
So what are you waiting for? Grab a hold of as much belly, arm or thigh fat as you can get your hands on. Look in the mirror at your wrinkles, flat chest and varicose veins and say,
‘Thank you for being so amazing. I love you and I promise to do my best to look after you. Now, tell me what you need.’