Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sorry I Couldn't Help But Overhear...

"You know I've never liked my belly, even my daughter said something about it the other day." said the first lady.
"It's my thighs for me. Look at these!" Replied her friend.
"And, my arms, I shouldn't wear sleeveless tops anymore they're so bad." Continued the first voice.
"I know what you mean. I've definitely got some bingo wings happening here." Her friend agreed.
"Then there's...." The first lady nodded and started again.

This is the point where I stick my earphones back in and turn up my iPod to drown out the conversation occurring on the treadmills next to mine.
Yet even though I can't hear them, their words stick with me as I run, and I long to say something, actually several somethings. Knowing that turning to two complete strangers at 5:30 in the morning and starting a conversation about their negative body chat would probably not be welcomed I will instead turn to all of you.

Let's have a little chat about body talk.

I must precede this by stating that I am in no way perfect in my own body talk. However, I think that in this case that allows me to comment as I walk the same path as every other mirror owning person who wakes up some days and sees something in their reflection that isn't quite what they had hoped for. I must also say that I am working hard at recognizing when I am being negative, and trying to turn these thoughts around.

There are times when I look in the mirror (or any reflective surface that is handy) and scrutinize what I see before me, usually some sort of conversation then starts in my head, directed at my body. Depending on how the day has gone the talk might sound something like this:
'Gee, need to work harder on that upper body strength. Better wear a cardigan to work today, those arms are not fit for public consumption.'
'Pencil skirt not an option today, that belly is way too bloated.'
And so on...
Of course there are good days as well.
'Damn chickpea! That run on the weekend made your legs look good! Definitely wear that shorter skirt today.'

One of the first times I really paid attention to how I spoke about my body around others took place when I was driving a friend to the airport and had my 12 year old cousin in the back seat. My friend started to complain about the size of her thighs or behind, and I then made a comment about being larger than my sister.
Then out of the mouth of the babe in the backseat came the comment.
'But you are probably a lot stronger than Jess then, aren't you?'
This one little comment made me stop, close my mouth and really think.

I realized that I didn't want my cousin to grow up in a world where women thought it was okay to have negative body talk as a common topic of conversation.
I wanted her to celebrate her body. Whatever shape she grew up to be, I wanted her to be happy with the way the universe made her and to realize the gift of having a body capable of moving and running and dancing and adventuring.
In fact, I wanted that for me too.
From that point on whenever I looked at a body part in despair I tried to turn around the message that the evil little voice in my head was trying to broadcast.

I am thankful for having a body with all its pieces in working order. Sure, it might not be the most coordinated order, but it works for me.
I am grateful to have two arms that even though they will never resemble Michelle Obama's in anyway whatsoever, allow me to beat cream for a batch of scones on a Sunday afternoon, or cream butter and sugar for cupcakes, to hug the ones I love so tightly that they know how my heart beats for them, to lift tonnes of books when I go to the library and can't just pick one.
I am grateful for a (definitely not Gwen Stefani) tummy, that has never known true hunger, that celebrates every meal (and meal between meal) with little gurgles of delight, that feels deliciously warm when I lie on the beach in a bikini, that hurts in a good way after a really big laugh, or becomes a favourite place for a dog to rest their head when I lie on the floor.
I am grateful for my never-gonna-be-a-Moulin-Rouge-dancer thighs because they get me through half marathons, can do a decent version of 'The Twist' with my Mum and sister in the lounge room, help me climb mountains or grip on the back of a motorbike, and form a lap for a cat to find warmth on a winter's night.

This body is my page to write the story of my life upon. Every bump and scratch, wrinkle and scar, tells part of the tale of the person that I am today.
Scars on my hands say I have cooked good meals and made people smile with food we have shared.
Wrinkles on my face have been formed by laughing and late nights studying.
Bumps and bruises on my legs tell me that I have been running and dancing and that I'm not ready to slow down anytime soon.
Every story, every moment that I have had the pleasure of living has been witnessed by this body.
I have been carried through the bad times by this body.
I have danced, laughing and twirling, through the good times in this body.
Why shouldn't I show it the love and respect that it deserves after over twenty (pretty awesome) years?
There is no reason.

I am grateful. I am learning to tell my body how grateful I am that it works so wonderfully and how much I love it everyday.

So tonight, or tomorrow morning, or whenever you pass by a mirror next and start to tear your body down with bad words; please stop.
Stop and turn that thought around.
Tell your belly how thankful you are that it bore children.
Tell your thighs how thankful you are that they walked the dog this morning in the stillness of the dawning day.
Tell your arms how thankful you are that you can hug your beloved.
Give your body back some of the love that it shows you everyday.


  1. It always depresses me when I hear women talking about their bodies so negatively...and it is SO common!!!! I wish there was a non-obtrusive way to say "stop it!"

  2. I think it's a way for women to "bond"- which I know doesn't excuse it, but we are the worst for self deprecation. I find that even when someone gives a compliment, a lot of women will change the subject to something they don't like. "Thanks! But you should see my cottage cheese legs" or something like that! Thanks for the post. Kids always put things in perspective, don't they?
    p.s. you are my hero for going to the gym at 5:30am.

  3. this is beautiful how u end the post!!! and it is so horrible at how young little girls are hating themselves! it drives me nuts when i hear moms and women going on about diets and all that in front of little 7 or 8 year olds.

    but i also agree with katy, i think lots of women just have the 'i hate this or that' parties and try to bond..sort of like a common subject we all should have to relate to. but it's just not right, and it only perpetuates the cycle.