I am from the “weight loss generation” in the US. Bombarded by advertisements for quick-solution weight loss, glossy pages in print magazines of impossibly thin women and the idea that appearances supersede inner harmony with the mind and the body, the pursuit of perfection became big business as children of the 80s and 90s grew up.
Undoing all that damage to our relationships with our bodies proves almost impossible 20 or 30 years later.
Personally, I’ve never been overweight, but I’ve never been happy with my body, either. And I know I’m in good company. Lots of people, especially women, average women, but even women who meet most Western beauty standards, feel as I do.
Without missing a beat, I look in the mirror daily, swiftly ticking off everything I hate about what I see.
Thin hair, scarred skin, weird bone structure, crooked teeth, wide hips, little breasts. The list goes on and on.
Pregnancy made this ritual especially excruciating. I counted every new stretch mark, every pound, every dimple of cellulite. I looked at images “pretty pregnant” women—the ones with perfect, round little bumps, smooth skin all the way to delivery, most of them ten or more years younger than me (“Why did I wait so long to do this? I’ll never bounce back at my age!”)
But crossing over from Maid to Mother gives me a new perspective on my body. To see it as sacred, the ultimate temple to be maintained with devotion instead of daily assault and emotional self-abuse suddenly seems much kinder and justly grateful for what blessings it bestows on me.
The time arrives now for me to aid my body in postpartum healing—which is not the same thing as restoring it to its pre-pregnancy status, but to embrace all its new features, nurturing it as it is now.
I believe that all meaningful journeys in life begin in the spirit.
This seems especially true when on sets out to alter the body through discipline and conscious effort.
My plan is not to count calories, track minutes of exercise, or otherwise live a regimented life style, but to see things differently, change my attitudes and bring my child up with a healthy understanding of the mind/body connection.
Everyone’s ideal journey differs, but the following ideas are thoughts I’d like to adopt to replace old attitudes ingrained by mass marketing and pop culture.
1. I’m going for a daily walk with the baby because it’s as good for my mind and soul as it is for my body. Making exercise a chore is the fastest way to give up on it. The freedom to walk, ride a bike or run in a natural setting is a profound gift. Even if you live in the city, walking among people and appreciating the sights, sounds and smells of your surroundings brings tremendous mental clarity. I intend to look forward to my time outside.
2. Food is either poison, or it is medicinal. There really isn’t any gray area. When I look at nutrition this way, it becomes much easier to make good choices. We like to make diets complicated—or rather, the for-profit weight loss industry does. I’m not going to get into a big debate about the morality of food with respect to meat and animal products, but setting that aside, I am of the personal opinion that natural is best. The more natural, the better. That’s what I’m going for.
3. Yoga just feels good. There really isn’t anything to dread about exercise if you enjoy it. For me, yoga is a perfect integration of the mind, body & spirit, all of which it emphasizes beautifully. The goal of harmonizing one’s body with one’s mind and spirit inspires me.
4. Belly dance is a celebration of womanhood. Long ago, I chose belly dance as a way to express myself and condition my body to align with my soul. Focusing on developing it further seems especially appropriate during and after childbirth, when the power and beauty of womanhood expresses itself so profoundly.
5. Water is life-giving. There is nothing “boring” about drinking water. Water is an element, it sustains life all over the planet, and it is the only fluid necessary to sustain my life. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with juice or coffee or tea, but just as food either nurtures or poisons you, fluids either flush you of toxins, or cleanse you of them.
So that’s it. That’s my plan. I’ll let you know how it’s going a few months from now. Wish me luck!