Do you ever feel like your body is your enemy, rather than your friend? I’ve been thinking for a while that many women feel exactly that way, and several things I read this week helped clarify the idea in my mind. In particular, three posts by J at Hot, Holy and Humorous about how difficult it is for wives to enjoy being naked with their husbands made me realize how much women are struggling to overcome problems with and perceptions of their bodies. In a sense, their bodies have become their enemies.
Here’s what I think happens. Beginning with pregnancy, many of us begin to feel as if we’ve lost control of our bodies. And certainly, when we’re pregnant, we have lost control – another human being has taken over and is doing very strange things to our formerly normal bodies! Then there’s breastfeeding, which also requires ceding a certain amount of control over our bodies. Then come the toddler and preschool years, in which little people are constantly touching us and climbing all over us! And in the midst of all that, another pregnancy frequently starts the cycle all over again. And then we’re exhausted and want people to stop touching us, but our husbands still want to have sex with us. And so sex becomes something for him, rather than something for both of us, and we feel even more control slipping away. And then we start running the kids from one activity to another, and there doesn’t seem to be any time to take care of ourselves, and we start to feel exhausted or fat or frumpy. And then we realize we’re not getting any younger and it’s harder to lose weight and we don’t bounce back the way we once did. And are those crow’s feet I see?
At this point, I think many women simply feel as if they’ve lost control. Their body isn’t their own – it’s taken on an unwelcome life of it’s own. It’s become an enemy, rather than a friend. It’s doing what it wants to do, and they feel helpless to stop it.
The good news is, we can stop this cycle. We can take back control of our bodies and change the way we think and feel about them. We can turn them from enemies into friends. And these four steps can help us get started:
- Understand that cultural images of women are just that – images. Almost no woman looks like the women we see in magazines and on television. For reasons I don’t completely understand, our culture seems intent on making women feel as if they don’t measure up. It also focuses on physical appearance to the exclusion of other aspects of a woman’s beauty. And it keeps us from understanding that we don’t have to look like supermodels in order to be beautiful or that, in most cases, our husbands find us very attractive, despite what we perceive as our flaws.
- Take control of your body through exercise. This isn’t my usual tirade about the health benefits of exercise. This is about using exercise as a tool for taking back control of your body and turning it from your enemy into your friend. Many of the things that make us feel as if we’ve lost control of our bodies, particularly weight gain, loss of muscle tone (feeling “flabby”), low energy, and that overall frumpy feeling, can be alleviated through regular exercise. Committing to a program of regular exercise and sticking with it sends important messages to yourself and others, including – I’m in charge of my body. I’m taking care of my body. I’m building a strong and healthy body. I’m worth the time and effort it takes to become fit, strong and healthy.
- Take control of your body through eating well. Again, this isn’t about the health benefits of eating well per se. It’s about taking control of your body by eating real foods that promote health, strength and beauty, rather than processed foods that promote fatigue, weight gain and illness. When your diet consists primarily of fast food, junk food, and foods high in sugar and chemicals, you’re exchanging convenience for control. The control comes from feeding your body well – taking the time and effort needed to prepare and eat foods that build a strong and healthy body.
- Create some space in your life. Taking control of your body requires time and space. You can’t be running full-steam-ahead 18 hours a day and expect to have energy to devote to your body, mind or spirit. Something (or, more likely, some things) will have to change. If your body feels like an enemy, and you want it to become a friend, you’ll have to make time for things like exercise, eating well, and generally maintaining your sanity. Running all day, every day, until you drop into bed from exhaustion is part of the problem. Creating time and space in your life is part of the solution.
Clearly, we can’t control everything that happens to our bodies. Sometimes we get sick, sometimes we get injured, sometimes bad stuff happens. And as we get older, our bodies change in ways we probably won’t like. But I think we give up too easily, and let go of things we really can control. And sometimes we let our bodies become our enemies, when we have the power to make them our friends. What do you think? I would love to hear from you. Gaye
Helpful articles on this and related subjects:
- Tips for Confidently Baring It All – Hot, Holy and Humorous
- Am I Beautiful Enough? – The Forgiven Wife
- Why am I Sick All the Time? – Juggling Real Food and Real Life
- She’s Watching Me – The Deliberate Mom – What do our daughters see in us?
- When I Stopped Hating My Husband for Loving Me – Beth Woolsey
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