I don’t know why it’s so intensely hard for so many of us to love our bodies. I, myself, included.
You see, I spoke about shame yesterday, that overwhelming, twisted pain that somehow the person you are is wrong, and that you’re to blame for all the foul happenings in your life. Let me take this one step further for another truth:
Shame is at the core of every single diet program in the world.
The promise of freedom from pain is the most powerful sales tool in the history of man. We will do anything to alleviate and avoid pain in this life. Dieting, excessive eating – it’s all the same escape plan from pain; you’re just taking opposite routes. We run from pain, and we will pay any amount we can afford to get away from it. Yes, if you have health issues, it’s about health, but the marketing plan is all the same: you don’t have to feel shame around your body anymore if you give us your money.
So, we sign up, enlist in the Weight Loss Army. The battle plans may differ, but the goals of war are all the same: the body will yield.
We fuse friendships and romantic relationships around this battle. We forge foxhole prayer partnerships that see us through our darkest hours, but we never talk about why we enlisted, the shame that drives us onto the battlefield. In a show of solidarity, we own each other’s’ lifelong battle with acceptance from society at large over what we look like. We join merry bands of body marauding women who also hate their bodies, and workout until we cry and then reward ourselves with small salads and sugar-free teas. We enable each other in moments of hedonism over desserts, pressure each other with battle cries of “Let’s be bad!” when fining out, and gather like packs of roving tigers over the kill; usually something battered or deep-fried or baked and topped with a pound of sugar and oh my god it feels like sex…which is something none of us really talk about either because that’s a whole new level of shame and NOBODY WANTS TO GO THERE.
In my exploration of shame, I started meditating. I walked away from my fellow body battle soldiers, got quiet and still, and sat inside my body: battered, breaking, but still ticking. I sat still inside the battle-worn shell of myself, took a deep dive to the bottom, and saw the vestiges of war: the joint pain, the body hair that grows in places it shouldn’t, the layer of fat over my belly button that seems to have grown roots to my soul. My limbs are weary, my joints are screaming, my back hurts, my feet are killing me from running, but my weight is going up. Viewing the carnage inside and out, I simply asked my body where it hurt.
“Everywhere,” it whispered wearily.
“What can I do?”
“Stop hurting me,” came the reply.
I couldn’t argue. You don’t show love this way. Cycles of force feeding and starving and pressure and yelling and pain are just not love. I know that. I know it from my core. I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood trying to escape people who treat me that way. And yet, I’ve devoted a lifetime to doing this to myself.
And so, the war is over. Slowly, but surely, this means putting down the weapons. No more diets. No more starving. No more binge eating. No more being bad or being good or being anything. I get to just be me, and my body just gets to repair itself. We get to find a new relationship, my body and me. I have promised not to cause myself pain. The war with my body is over.
There are no winners; only survivors who have decided to live in peace with each other. My body and I will go to the gym because we love it there, but we’ll stop before things get excessive. We’ll delight in eating the foods that make us feel good because we want nourishment, not revenge. We’ll get to know each other better, and we’ll just be what we’ll be, whatever size that is. We will love, we will have great sex, and we will no longer be bound by shame.
My body and I are free.