My body used to hate me. I would starve it for days at a time, then fill it with junk only to force my body to expel it. I'd run it ragged and not refill it with the nutrients and calories it needed. I'd sleep deprive it, shame it, belittle it, abuse it, neglect it, then expect it to be the answer to my every problem. Because we all know that if your body looks amazing, then of course you are amazing. All of your problems would go away. You didn't know that? That's what a trusted source called "the media" keeps telling me. Don't tell me you haven't heard.
For one thing, you'd have more money. And for sure you'd have more friends. Have you ever seen a beautiful woman — tall, thin (of course), perfectly white teeth and shiny hair, dressed to the nines —sitting alone and depressed with no money? Didn't think so.
Let's see, you'd definitely be smarter. Men would flock to you and treat you like royalty. Your children would be beautiful and perfectly behaved. Your breath would smell great. You would smell great. You would drive a gorgeous car that is always clean and never has any problems. You'd cook fancy meals served on trendy dishes, presented to your chipper family members who are waiting patiently at the dinner table to partake of your offerings. And by dinner table, of course I am talking about Ethan Allen furniture at the very least.
But the greatest thing would be that if only you were more beautiful and thin, your house would always be clean. You'd have a white kitchen with sunlight gently cascading through the windows and plenty of bleach and paper towels readily available to clean up the slow motion spaghetti and grape juice spills headed for your solid wood, polished floors and new Stainmaster top-of-the-line carpet.
Oh, body! Why do you continue to let me down and deprive me of these things? They are mine for the taking if only you'd stop craving cookies and being so short and so ... you.
So like I said, my body was asking for it, all that abuse. It was the only way I could think of to will it into submission. I will have that money and those perfect teeth and furniture at any cost.
But my body got brave. It started standing up for itself. "No, I will not shrink and harden and mold into media perfection just because you starve me. I'll do what I want. And I want to preserve myself. I want to be prepared for another onslaught of starvation and binging and purging. I'll react how I want to react. I want food. I want good food. And you can't make me change!" It bulged and swelled. It got sore and tired. It started a rebellion. And I wasn't happy about it. I was losing control over it.
I gave up. I surrendered. I was losing the battle. Eventually I started to listen to my body. I could hear its cries for help. Its pleading. All this time I thought it was telling me, "I want to be perfect. I want to be abnormally thin. I don't want any pores or wrinkles." But I think I was tuning into the wrong station. Because I started to hear the faint whisperings of things like, "Give me more water. I'm fine just the way I am. Less sugar please. More vegetables. Ah, thank you." There was no static this time. It became louder and clearer the more I listened.
And then one day my body gave me something whose beauty and value was far beyond toned muscles, 4 percent body fat and long legs. It gave me a human being. And I sat back and marveled at my body. I stared at it in the mirror, dripping sweat, blood, tears and milk, and I apologized to it. I freed it from its chains and gave it my blessing to be whatever it wanted to be. No more media chains. No more chains of comparisons. This body is amazing! It just made another human being. This body of mine is a miracle. My babies' bodies are miracles. I will listen to this body of mine and treat it with respect and honor just as I do my child's body.
Body, will you forgive me?
Don't get me wrong, our relationship hasn't been perfect, but it has improved immensely. We've become trusted friends. I take it for runs and hikes. I take it swimming and biking. I give it what it asks for, within reason. I try to let it get as much rest as I can.
But my very favorite thing to do with it is squeeze the Dickens out of my children and husband and cover them with kisses. How divine it feels to use my body to suckle my baby, give my son the first push on his pedal bike, turn the pages of a book as I read to my daughter, hold the hand of my husband and wipe away playground tears. These are among the highest forms of motion a body can perform. I can feel my body thanking me now and again for how I treat it. It thanks me when I take it out in nature. It thanks me when it clearly connects with my mind. It thanks me each night as I put it to bed. It thanks me when I clean it and move it and use it to do good.
And I thank it every second of every day for giving me three beautiful children. My body has done far more for me than I can ever do for it. And maybe someday we'll all sit down together — me, my body, my children and their bodies, at a deliciously healthy meal, in a perfectly clean house, with white cabinets in the background and sunlight pouring onto our faces, while we eat from trendy dishes on an Ethan Allen table. And we will bless it.
Molly Bice Jackson is the author of the blog www.hopesmilingbrightly.com and the founder of www.agoodgrief.com an online support community for hope after loss. She resides in Park City, Utah, with her husband and two living children. She is an avid runner, singer, dancer, actress and public speaker.