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Body Image & How to Appreciate a REAL Body

Body Image in My 30’s and 40’s

I wrote this a few years ago. I was still in my thirties, and after re-reading this now in my forties, I see how relevant it still is. My thoughts about my body have changed over the years but not as much as I would have liked.

I share this with you because I still think it’s important and I also believe, if we discuss this stuff enough, we will be able to get our body thoughts in a healthier place sooner rather than later.

Plus – I thought it would be interesting to see what has changed in my thoughts in less than ten years.

Confession 1

Thirties: I want to look good in a bikini.

People spend so much time thinking about weight, weight loss, health, and fitness and most people say they want to be “fit” or “healthy” when what they really want is to be skinny. 

I thought about it, and realized that it’s true for me as well, I want to look good in a bikini mostly. 

Forties: I still want to look good in a bikini and I want to have great cholesterol levels and be able to stay active in my old age. 

Confession 2

Thirties: I am a calorie counter.

I am a calorie counter and know how this practice is being labeled “bad” and “obsession-like”. Now don’t get me wrong, counting calories is a nuisance and I wish I could maintain my weight without this record keeping. However, I find it’s too easy to overeat without even realizing it if I don’t keep track.

Forties: I WAS a calorie counter.

I no longer count calories. I regularly eat a healthy diet and pay more attention to how I’m feeling, how my clothes are fitting instead, and I do weigh myself often.

I do want to point out that without the calorie counting I would not have learned how calorie dense some foods are over others.

I would not have kept a journal of my foods to see how much I was eating. We tend to forget about this snack or that bite.

I feel like learning to read food labels and understanding the difference in calories in dairy vs vegetables was necessary for me to develop healthy eating patterns.

This knowledge has led me to where I am now, I know what foods are good for me and those that are not.

Confession 3

Thirties: I want to appreciate my body no matter the size, shape, or color – but I don’t.

With calorie counting and regular workouts I am at a decent weight, not under, not over. I could pretend I don’t care about my appearance and stop counting and just let it be… but I don’t really deep-down in my core, believe that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. I know from experience that beauty and thinness do affect the way people treat you in society, in the workforce, and even my own self perception.

It’s easy to say I want to be healthy. I know I should want to be healthy but secretly it’s just something I say, I don’t always feel it or truly believe it. I don’t want to be so vain. I want to stay fit and trim for better reasons. So…how do I learn to want to be truly healthy? How do I learn to love my body and all it’s spots, colors, lumps, and bumps? I want to truly look at myself and others and see the beauty in every bit, not just flaws. I want to see the GRACE of a living creature.

Forties: I want to appreciate my body no matter the size, shape, or color and sometimes I do…

I’m in my forties and have developed good eating and activity habits. I’m probably “healthier” than I’ve ever been. 

However…

I think I appreciate my healthy body more now because I’m beginning to feel some aches and pains. I feel the tightness in my muscles and tendons. I feel a little sciatica from years of bad posture. I see my cholesterol creep up a little.

Next thing I know, the scales tip in balance toward appreciating health more over vanity. I think this is simply the wisdom of aging, caring less about how others perceive me, and improved self-confidence.

But the vanity is still there. I’m sure it’s in our human nature. We want to fit in, be accepted, be part of the tribe…

8 Ways to Begin to Appreciating My Body

I decided to try to come up with ways to appreciate my health and my body. Here are some ideas I think could help.

1. Ask myself Why?

Why do I want to look a certain way?

  • When you get an answer, ask again, why?
  • Do this until you realize how superficial and silly it is.. 

2. Remember that uniqueness is beautiful and we are pretty much all unique.

Think about:

  • Cindy Crawford’s mole
  • Madonna’s tooth gap
  • The distinct shade of your eyes

3. Visit a nursing home, hospital, or other places where people are usually not healthy.

4. Travel to a 3rd world country and get away from the beach for a day.

When you see that some people are thin because they might not have food you start to realize that striving for thin, makes no sense

5. Think about what my body actually does for me.

  • Talk, or better yet, walk with someone who has C.O.P.D. or Emphysema

6. Stop looking at advertising and other touched up photos without awareness.

  • Remember that almost ALL photos in advertising are touched up dramatically
  • I once heard a model talk about how she can’t even compete with photos of herself…

7. Consider the rampant use of filters in every social media photo.

8. Get out of your head and be inside your body.

  • Stop thinking about what others are thinking about you.
  • Be mindful and feel your body from the inside.
  • Practice meditation.

Get a realistic view of what REAL life actually looks like. How do we appreciate our muffin top and healthy legs when we compare ourselves to touched up magazine photos instead of the real picture of human life in all its shapes, sizes, colors, and ages?

I challenge you to put down your glossy magazines and culled to perfection Instagram feeds. See if you can begin to truly appreciate your own unique beauty, health, and fitness with less emphasis on vanity.

I know for me aging has been the added perspective I needed to really appreciate my health, but how freeing it would be to feel good about your body when you’re twenty or thirty and then on into your middle years.

Afterall, someone will always be younger, prettier, thinner, fitter, and ____er than you. Train yourself to see past the exteriors and feel more connections to the entire species we share and realise that we are so blessed even to exist, let alone to have our health.

Bikini? Who really cares as long as I can soak my healthy body in the sunshine.

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