This is my body. When I look at it, there are things I don't like. I have rolls on my belly when I sit down. That annoying flabby skin under my arms. My hair is unruly and thin. I definitely do not have the prized "thigh gap." Shall I go on? Most women hate their bodies. It's a pretty widely known fact (news flash: a lot of men do too). We eye people as they walk past wondering why we can't have her arms or why he can't just lose some weight. We quietly (or not so quietly) judge ourselves and those around us. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when the Playboy bunny body-shamed a woman the gym? And then in the same week SNL and Ghostbusters actor Leslie Jones faced an intensely offensive Twitter campaign against her? Or how about this week when an Olympian from Mexico was degraded for not having a typical gymnast's body? These things make me angry.
Sure. We all have our bad days when we feel like we eat too much, or we don't exercise, or we feel gross or too lanky or too muscular or just plain weird. But then there are the good days when we feel strong and beautiful and healthy and we look in the mirror and think hell yeah, I got this. Those are the days we should be looking for. Those days, frankly, are the only days that we should be having. We all know that this skewed idea of perfection has been engrained into us through billboards, commercials, magazine ads, you name it. I've been a victim of this, wondering why I can't look like "that" more times than I can count. But the truth, the reason my body will never look like hers, is because her body is not my body. My body is my body.
My body is, first a foremost, a tool. It is a tool for moving and thinking and reasoning and feeling. 25 years ago it began to walk, then it ran, then it got stronger. It has taken me through basketball games, lacrosse tournaments, surfing wipeouts, rowing championships, and, most recently, triathlons. It has also learned how to process emotions, how to speak, and how to read. Eventually it learned how to write -- honing this skill into an actual professional career as a writer. Notice that none of these things -- all things I am incredibly proud of -- have anything to do with my appearance. I've tried to look past the surface, past all those nit picky little things I don't like about my body, and attempt to feel what's happening inside.
Maybe all the things we do to look a certain way, can actually be done to feel a certain way -- to sharpen the tool of our own body. When I work out, I want to think about my muscles getting stronger, about my blood flowing, about my flexibility and my breath. I want to remember than exercise improves sleep, lowers anxiety, and is a source of new brain cells responsible for learning and memory. When I eat healthy food I do so because I know that heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death in America. Because I want to live a long time and because when I eat healthy food I feel alert and energized. And you know, if I lose a couple pounds or notice some new muscle definition that's awesome too.
We spend a lot of time calling out the media and entertainment industries for conditioning us to have certain appearance expectations. There's a lot of talk these days about cutting photoshopping out of advertising. Brands like American Eagle's line Aerie generates profits by showing all shapes and sizes in their campaigns. These brands, designers, and companies all have their work cut out for them to bring a healthy body image back to the masses. But we, in our private lives, have work to do also. The conversation we have with each other about our bodies needs to change. We need to look past the external and focus on the internal. The internal is what we truly have control over. We all are genetically predisposed to look the way we look. Our bones are built the way they're built. Our metabolisms function the way they will. But our health? Our health is in our hands. So when we sit around with friends or family can we move the focus towards "healthy" or "strong" or "smart"? Can we realize that those words -- much more than "skinny" or "pretty" or "hot" -- equal 'beautiful'? When we appreciate all of the shapes and sizes around us, we come closer to appreciating our own shape and size.
My body is my tool. It is the only body I will ever have so I will treat it well and I will love it no matter what it looks like. I will commit to nourishing the inside, knowing that will eventually lead to finding confidence on the outside. My body is my vehicle for competing, for sweating, for thinking, for writing, for loving. My body has supported me through physical pain and through mental struggles. It has celebrated national championships and job offers. And one day, hopefully, it will give birth to another body. And my body will teach that new, small, delicate body that when you feel good, you are good.
* In my own effort to embrace a little self-love, I have an Instagram account dedicated to fitness, confidence, and all the things that keep me sane and healthy. If you're into that sort of thing, check it out -- @AMGfitlife