On Body Image

sneakersI want to talk about my body. I want to use exasperated words and say things about self-control and poor choices. I want to gripe about the places my clothes bite into my flesh and sigh heavily about the repair work to be done. I want to treat my body like an object of malicious gossip.

Then I look at her, all blue eyes and flashing grins. She reaches for the bar above her head and grasps it hard. She draws her little knees up to her chest so her feet leave the ground and she swings, her arms so strong and sure. Her face radiates pure joy.

“Look what she can do!” others exclaim.

Or I watch him in a swimming pool, his hair sleek as a seal as he slips beneath the water and swims away, emerging in a shattering spray of drops. He takes a quick breath through his smile and submerges again, speeding along, imitating the sharks and dolphins he loves so much.

“He’s gotten so good at swimming!” others remark.

I watch their bodies through a haze of pride at their strength, their sureness, their glowing pride of accomplishment. They are small machines, miracles of balance and movement, moving ever faster for the joy of movement. Their bodies do wondrous things.

Do. They do.

I put on my sneakers and go out for a run. I pick a route I’ve done before but not since I switched from running outdoors to a treadmill at the gym. Oh-so-slow and oh-so-steady I set my pace. The music bumps in my ears and propels my feet along. One minute turns into two then five then twenty then forty, and while I slow my pace, I don’t break into a walk like I would have had to when I started running in August. The hill rises before me, my old enemy, and I keep running, Up, up, up, my breath controlled, my muscles burning but still willing. I didn’t know I could do that.


I want to talk about my body again. I want to tell you that I started something and it’s changed how my body works. I’m stronger for a longer time than I used to be. Everyday life is easier with this extra strength. I’m looser, faster, I sleep better. I feel exhilarated after exercise instead of discouraged and exhausted; an adult facsimile of the joy a child feels in doing.

Doing. Bodies are for doing. My children taught me that.

Photo credit: sxc.hu

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1 comment for “On Body Image

  1. January 6, 2014 at 5:59 pm

    I love this post, you really captured the joy in feeling strong, healthy, and able. It is the times I haven’t felt that way that have really made me appreciate that feeling. Like when I was 8 or 9 months pregnant, achy all over, tired. Or weak from the flu. Being able to do what we want to do with our bodies is so empowering, and such a gift.

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