My body and I have gone through thirty years together. Over the course of those three decades, the relationship has fluctuated and evolved.
When I was really young, I was hardly aware of my body. It was mostly a vehicle for playing, jumping, climbing, and simply enjoying the world around me. Life was simple.
During adolescence, the relationship became more complicated and tumultuous. I started noticing my body, seeing its peculiarities and quirks. Everyone else around me looked better, which made me feel even more self-conscious. All I wanted to do was rid myself of my awkward body, and transport myself into a different one with more height, thinner legs, no acne, and straighter hair. I belittled my body, calling it fat and ugly, and I hid it behind baggy clothes and a snarky attitude.
In my college years, I began to accept my body for what it was. I also assumed that my body would stay the same forever. I was in my twenties, with my whole life ahead of me! The freshman 15 was added to my hips and stomach, mostly through lack of sleep and late-night trips with roommates for Mexican take-out. In my junior year I found myself in an emotionally dependent dating relationship, which led to depression and over-eating. Thankfully, the relationship eventually ended, but I was stuck with bad habits with food and a body that I mistreated.
I finally wised up when I turned 25, and realized my days were numbered, and my body wasn’t invincible. I began to understand that I had the power and responsibility to treat my body with care. My body would not last forever, but until then, I could embrace it and nurture it. I started exercising, which I hadn’t done since my high school days of playing soccer. I became more thoughtful about the quality and quantity of food I ate. I lost over 35 pounds. More importantly, the relationship between my body and me was one of mutual love and interdependence.
At age 28, I was pregnant with our first child. Suddenly my body was evolving in new ways. It was a home for our unborn child. With all the pregnancy aches and stretching, it was amazing to me that without any conscious doing of my own, my body knew just how to nurture and produce a little human being. My stomach ballooned and I couldn’t find a comfortable sleeping position for the entire last trimester, but I loved the physical experience of pregnancy. Later, when I met our newborn son for the first time, I was astounded at the power of the human body.
Now, my body and I have come to a pleasant understanding with each other. I treat it as well as I know how. I eat things that I enjoy, eat when I am hungry, and eat healthy food. I exercise regularly, doing activities that are fun and challenging and strengthening. Though I am healthy and fit, my body also shows signs of aging. Lower back pain is an ongoing annoyance, and I find myself needing more sleep and rest than I did in my early twenties. This body is maturing right along with the rest of me, and that is okay.
I accept my body and all of its unique qualities, including the post-baby stretch marks and mole on my left cheek (they make me me, after all!). When I look in the mirror, I see a body that allows me to think, play, create, digest, move, work, love and live. And for that, I embrace this body with joy and gratitude.