My last appointment was my first appointment with my new psychiatrist. As is customary with meeting new health professionals the appointment follows the usual questions, and a recital of my life story, and my perception on that. We covered that I have quite a substantial history with eating disorders. She turns around to me and she says,
“So the all important question is, how is your body image now?”
“It…is…a complicated relationship to summarise.”
But I go on.
My fitness journey so far, in addition to my studies in anatomy and physiology have caused a complete dimensional shift, and ultimately, entirely different view for me, on what body image is.
No I am no longer a “Skinny Minnie”. My stomach has an extra padding of fat as opposed to the almost concave structure of previous years, and my thighs touch for the first time in my life. I have boobs, which are great although still slight, and it is easier to catch myself at an angle wherein which I have a double chin on show. I can shake my arms, and they wibble a little, and I have speckled cellulite over my thighs and bum when I tense. Speaking of which, I still have absolutely no bum. I need a larger size of clothes than I ever have previously yet still, no bum, and you know what? I am the most comfortable I have ever been with my body.
Because yes, it looks a certain way in pictures and mirrors – but really, my body is not a picture. My body was not made solely to look a certain way. My body was made to function, to breathe, contract, relax, move, jump, run and skip for joy. My body lets me enjoy the senses, but those same senses can also repulse me. My body brings me enjoyment in food, and digests it pretty well as energy in order to continue functioning as the amazing, complex piece of biological machinery that I am. Not only do I function, but my body allows for me to have a mind and a conscience. My body allows for emotions, and it fights diseases so I can still keep on enjoying experiences and living healthily. My body is not a picture. My body is so much more than that.
So I said to my psychiatrist, “I value my body more for what it can do, where it can take me, and the experiences it can give me. I’m no longer hung up or concerned with looking a particular way, but more in doing particular things.”
I want to climb walls, and climb them better. I want to gain strength and resilience, and run all these races that I’ve signed up for. I want to dance, and move, and shake and enjoy what my body makes achievable for me every single day. I want to celebrate my strengths, and work on enjoying my body in more ways than I can possibly imagine. I can eat wonderful foods thanks to my body. I can conquer feats I never before thought would be possible for me. I can have sex and enjoy all the sensations that brings. I can get myself around every day, and my legs do a fucking fantastic job of getting me around London on my bike. My arms do a great job at allowing me to do all the things I enjoy: art, writing, reading, playing with my cat, climbing, eating, drinking, and in a haghazardeous way they contribute to my atrocious list of dance moves that I like to bust out when the party’s right. My eyes, they let me see all these beautiful sights that make me thankful to see everything I can: nature, skylines, sunrises and tropical storms. I can smell the warmth of the rain, and the freshness of cut grass and baking bread, and none of this can be captured in a photo or a mirror.
My awkward smile may hint at the joys I have been experiencing, and my overexcited crazy photos may capture a moment, but how my body looks, fuck that. It’s not important. I am healthy. I am capable, and I am taking advantage of those biological wonders that nature has blessed me with. So it no longer matters that I don’t fit into my skinny jeans, and it no longer matters that my arms aren’t spindly spaghetti features. My face is no longer structured by emaciation and malnourishment, and my waist is no longer so tiny it’s to die for, quite literally. My body is giving me life, and it is up to me to capture and cherish that fact.
So for as far as my body image goes, it’s not about image. It’s about sensations, feelings, experiences and love. So instead I will say that my body image is largely irrelevant but my body love is engaging with a pattern of exponential growth.
So there it is. I fucking love my body – and I bet yours is pretty darn fabulous too.