When I practiced in Atlanta a local charity group focused on raising eating disorder awareness sponsored Love Your Body Month every February. I got used to thinking of February as a time to not just honor relationships that we value but to also work on valuing our relationship with our own bodies. As a female in our society, and more often as a male as well, it can be hard to love the body you’ve been given. We receive messages from the media about how our bodies are toned enough, aren’t wrinkle free enough, aren’t young enough, aren’t beautiful enough, aren’t sexy enough, and on, and on, and on. As busy professional women, wives, mothers, daughters, and friends (and in some cases all of or a combination of those) our own self-care can get lost in the shuffle. Time alone, time to exercise, time to prepare delicious food, and time to relax all take a back seat to work projects, house projects, kids projects, and friend projects. All of those identities scramble for attention and we forget to take care of the vessel that carries us from place to place and interacts in a physical way with the world.
In Baroque art the female body was beautiful. And the more curves you could see the more beautiful the body. As women moved from being only a prop for art and into a more active role in society, the image of a beautiful woman’s body also began to change. We have hit extremes in these areas – Twiggy in the 60s and Kate Moss in the 90s – but it seems that at least some areas of society are finally starting to recognize the damage we have done to women and girls by placing unrealistic expectations on their bodies. We are starting to see that deadly eating disorders are wreaking havoc on the lives of girls as young as 8 and 9 years old. We are starting to see that women’s hatred of their bodies leads them to over exercise, restrict their foods, and stop enjoying life. We are starting to notice the woman who has been punishing herself on the elliptical for over an hour. And it’s about time. I work with so many women and girls who’s desire to be thin has outweighed their desire to be alive. Women who see themselves only as a number on the scale or on the tag in the back of some clothes. Women who measure their worth by the width of their waist.
It’s time we moved past those incomplete measurements. It’s time we started measuring a woman by her intelligence, her kindness, and her wisdom, and not by her waistline, her weight, and her BMI. My wish for every girl is that she is able to say with confidence that she loves her body. My wish for every woman is that she is able to say with confidence that she is learning to love a body that has been abused by our society for too long. It’s time we all loved our bodies, our round, curvy, thin, lean, overweight, pregnant, infertile, scarred, and unscarred bodies. They are beautiful as they are. They are perfectly imperfect, just as they are. This February, I hope you focus on building a healthy relationship with your own body and learn to truly love the body you have.