And, unfortunately, the video does have to be edited. My dad had two cameras, a GoPro (with no view finder, so it was set up blindly, with fingers crossed), and another one he fumbled with and held up the whole challenge, until I finally said, "just start! Forget the tripod!" For some reason, he decided to zoom in and out instead of just holding it on me, so there are a few points at which you can see the people in the background. Faces. A great big no-no. And a particularly hard thing to edit out. So, it's taking me longer to get something pulled together, and in doing that editing, I'm staring at myself over and over and over.
It's not a pretty thing. Much more of this, and nobody will ever see the video.
Which is why today's a perfect day to have come across this piece by Anna Guest-Jelley from Curvy Yoga, about the process of body acceptance: 3 Questions to Answer to Become Your Best You. Now, I don't know this woman. But I sign up for a lot of blog newsletters, and email alerts, from anyone to everyone in bodybuilding, nutrition, health, wellness, fitness, and even size acceptance. In all of the email lists I've put myself on, hers was the only automated response which invited me to tell her why I joined. So, I did. And I got a personal response back from HER. And ... it's all kind of awesome, and impressive, and makes me believe her message all the more.
At this point in time, accepting my body doesn't mean that I'm not trying to change it. I am. But it does mean that when these kinds of thoughts creep in to my head, the ones that override any sense of accomplishment, the ones which diminish the strength and happiness I felt, just because you can see my arm flab shaking and the gut hanging down, I at least catch myself doing it. There are not a lot of great tools out there to help you accept something which you've been conditioned from an early age to hate, which you are supported in loathing. Anna lays out some pretty practical and do-able steps in the right direction.
How many of us grew up knowing what it means to love our bodies? Or even care for them in the most nominal of ways? I know I didn’t. In fact, I didn’t care about my health at all when I was growing up.
All I cared about was my weight.
Everything I accomplished had a shadow over it because I wasn’t doing it while also being thin. Any time someone praised or complimented me, I thought it was out of pity. I’d think to myself, “They have to say that because they know I don’t have anything else going for me because I need to lose weight so badly.”
Loving my body has rarely been tied up with a bow. It didn’t make me lose weight. It hasn’t made me effortlessly present and embodied at all times. And it didn’t magically solve all my problems. But it’s done something more important than that: saved my life. Not only because it prevented me from falling into an emotional hole I might not have been able to get out of, but also because it’s helped me reclaim the beauty and joy in my life, of which there is much.
If you’re considering making your own You-List, don’t worry about doing it “right” or getting green smoothies on there (unless that truly serves you). Instead, consider what brings you back to yourself. What will keep you going. What reminds you you’re alive.
Here are some questions to consider:
1. What do I need on a daily basis to stay connected to my body and grounded in the world? Keep this simple, including 2-4 things you know you can do no matter what. Examples include: start the day with a glass of water, pause for 3 deep breaths, turn off all devices 30 minutes before bed or do 5 minutes of yoga.
2. What do I need on a weekly basis to remind myself that I am deserving of my own love and attention? Choose 1-2 slightly more in-depth things here. Again, it’s critical that you can actually do these most every week, given your current schedule, relationships, etc. Examples might include calling a friend for 30 minutes, writing a poem or attending an exercise class you love.
3. What do I need on a monthly basis to remind myself that my body is whole, trustworthy and enough, just as it is? Finally, choose 1-2 even more in-depth items, like a hike in the woods, a long lunch with your BFF, spending a full day with your email off, etc.
Maybe that's all body acceptance really is. Being able to acknowledge happiness with your self, just as you are, in that moment. I'm not quite there yet. I still cringe when I watch the video. At the same time, I hear the cheering, the encouragement, and I see the proof that I started out strong, and I kept going to the end.
At some point I'm going to have to make a choice. Focus on the weight loss, but at what costs? Or focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, even if it means staying where I am, still enjoying some indulgences. I have been reminded how much I need creative outlets, like writing (or making cheesy videos). I am reminded about how much I need challenges. When I include them, I'm a better version of myself. If I can hang on to those things, can I ever let go of the loathing I feel when I look in the mirror at my gut?