Thursday, September 15, 2011

What's Love Got To Do With It?

We feel honored to have connected with Anna Guest-Jelley whose inspiration shared on Curvy Yoga is full of seeing beautiful. With her permission, we've cross-listed a stunning blog post, in hopes of sharing inspiration on a grander scale:

Love Your Body
Image from Curvy Yoga

"In the September issue of Glamour, Jess Weiner, a well-known body image advocate and Dove Campaign for Real Beauty spokesperson, shared a personal essay about her journey with weight, eating disorders, body image and loving her body.  This piece is entitled “Jess Weiner: “Loving My Body Almost Killed Me.”
As I’m sure you can imagine from the provocative title alone, there were a flurry of responses within the body image blogosphere.  Including a couple follow-up conversations with her for clarification.

In her esssay, Jess shares about making a shift from an eating disorder to loving her body, which for her included not focusing on her health or going to a doctor (although I certainly know, as she points out, that many curvy folks do the same because they often face bias in the doctor’s office).  Once she decided to go, her doctor told her she needed to make some changes for her health.  Thus scared, she set about a journey to change her behaviors — along the way, she wonders: “Was her body acceptance making her sick?”

As much as the set-up of this question irks me, I have to say that this it’s pretty easy to understand (although, in her case, I’d venture to guess that not going to the doctor for 16 years is more of a culprit than body acceptance).  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.  I didn’t care about my health at all back in the day — I was solely focused on my weight.  In my world, the only way I could have even considered the idea of loving my body would have been through the lens of dieting: “If I really loved myself, I’d force myself to lose this weight come hell or high water.”

In other words, I equated loving my body with hating it into submission.

Of course, I didn’t see it that way at the time.  But in retrospect, I see it plain as day.  And I can also see where Jess could have gotten that idea, too.  Do the Health at Every Size (HAES) or body image movements share that message?  Nope.  But it takes (at least for me) an incredible amount of work to parse out the subtlety of both loving your body and taking care of it after a lifetime of dieting and disordered eating.  It’s not something you can just read about once and instantly apply to your life in an organic and comprehensive way.
Loving your body is highly individualized because we bring to it the same things we bring to everything in our lives — our full selves, including all of our beliefs, opinions and baggage.  I think it took me about ten years to really get that loving my body meant addressing and embracing my health, not just my weight (and it’s something I’m still actively working on now).  Pretty much everything else we encounter tells us the opposite — that loving your body = (said in my best menacing movie announcer voice) letting yourself go (whatever that means.  That’s a blog for another day), mayhem & destruction.

As I chatted with some friends about this last week, we agreed that we’re glad to see this story in the news.  It is a wonderful opportunity to pause, reflect and vocalize on what Health at Every Size and loving your body  means in a full and lived way.  It’s also a chance for me to share what it means to me personally because loving my body is what has truly brought me in touch with my health.  So here we go:
Loving my own Anna body means…
  • Practicing yoga that requires me to balance effort and ease on a regular basis.
  • Sitting down for 10 minutes of meditation, morning & night.  Every dang day.
  • Eating a wide variety of fresh veggies (which I used to eat only begrudgingly from a can) because they are delish and have many health benefits.
  • Creating opportunities for pauses so I can notice what’s going on in my life.  This includes journaling, baths, walks, and chats with friends.
  • Keeping my water bottle with me so I can stay hydrated because I feel irritable when I’m dehydrated.
  • Reminding myself that self-care can’t get thrown out the window when things get stressful.  More stress = more self-care is my new mantra.
  • Eating something every few hours to keep my blood sugar stable so I don’t get a migraine.  (Yes, even curvy gals like me have hypoglycemia!)
  • Avoiding my migraine trigger food, garlic, at all costs.
  • Getting my heart pumping several times per week because it keeps me sane, and I consider it my me-time – to listen to awesome audiobooks, watch some trashy TV or just connect with my breath.
  • Going to therapy.
  • Getting acupuncture treatments on a regular basis.  Acupuncture radically changed my migraines for the better, so I keep up with it.  Here in Nashville, we have a lovely community acupuncture place where I go that offers affordable, sliding scale pricing (plus, you get to nap in recliners!)
  • Not eating gluten because it makes me feel like I’m getting the flu, which is a feeling I prefer to avoid.
  • Maintaining my friendships, even when life gets busy, because community is so important to my well-being.
  • Living with intention and attention, as my yoga teacher, Cora Wen, says.
  • Designing my life.  Thanks to my life coach in the Handel Method, I’m recognizing that I have the ability to get creative and do this.  My days are full of choices, and I get to decide how to respond rather than being a passive recipient of what happens to me.
  • Snuggling with my hubby and puppies.
  • Feeling my feelings.  After spending a lifetime not doing this, it’s a heck of a lot harder than it sounds, and 99.99% of the time, I’ll do anything not to.  But it always comes back to bite me in the a** when I don’t.
  • Sleeping 7-8 hours/night.  I resisted the idea that I needed to do this for years, but I always feel at least 1000x better when I do.
  • Reading books I find empowering and delightful – both because I love to read and because I always enjoy learning and reflecting.
  • Take the best & leave the rest.  With my polycystic ovarian syndrome, migraines and gluten intolerance, there’s a landslide of information out there about what I could or should do for optimal health.  It’s pretty easy to switch this into the dieting voice (which always sounds like a drill sergeant in my head) about deprivation and shoulds.  As I’m able, I do my best to take what I find relevant & leave the rest.  As I said, I’m designing what works best for me, so I choose from this & that and don’t feel obligated to follow one particular plan.
So, this is my list.  A dieting mentality response to this might say, “Oh, I should do everything on Anna’s list!  What’s wrong with me that I don’t do x, y or z?!”  A HAES and body-loving response, though, might say “Hmm…how interesting.  This is what she does and why.  I wonder what’s on my list?”  I share this list not to be prescriptive but rather to illustrate all the ways I’ve gotten curious about my health and body and life since beginning to let go of dieting.  What I’ve developed is uniquely specific to my body and health; no one could pick this up completely and just lay it on their own life.  And who would want to?  There’s no point, for instance, in avoiding garlic if you’re not allergic to it!

I can count the number of things I did on this list while I was dieting on, well, 2 fingers — I avoided garlic and practiced yoga (although I can barely even count yoga because even my practice was a dieting tool for many years). To me, this attitude of inquiry and attention to my health is my greatest success and what I love about the body love movement.  I’m far more aware and in charge of my health than I ever used to be, and I now see that the changes I’ve made could only come from a place of deep and rooted love.

From this grounded, loving place, I’m also able to get further clarity on where I’d like to see my health path go.  I make promises to myself about the things above and keep them, not because some imaginary diet fairy is forcing me to, but because loving my body and health is my highest priority.  Might my weight change in the future?  Sure.  In my experience, that’s the nature of life — and weight — but the number on the scale is not the point to me anymore.  And that is why I’m going to keep loving my body the best I’m able to, moment-to-moment, even as what loving my body means to me will (hopefully) continue to evolve.

I’d love to hear y’all’s thoughts on this!  What does loving your body mean to you?"

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1 comment:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts & helping others see beautiful too!