So I’ve been feeling sluggish and achey today, craving some of that juicy sweaty endorphin-y exercise goodness. Preferably involving some kind of dance, but I’m not terribly picky as long as it’s not running or marathon crunches. And so I’m sitting at work, bored and fantasizing about moving my body to a thumping rock beat, and I notice an ad for a workout place – right by my work! Oh, how exciting! Click click click!
. . . Oooh. Hang on. The picture’s kind of a red flag:
Creepily similar, perfectly coiffed women looking fierce-yet-feminine and *definitely not sweating* in their matching outfits? Not really my vibe, but I’ve heard it’s a good workout, so I’ll keep reading . . .
“This workout will target problem areas like the back of the arms, thighs, seat and abs.”
Seriously? Seriously. Seriously??
My body is not a problem to be solved.
My body is a soft animal that loves sunlight, touch, and melted cheese. My body is my wisest teacher. My body works day and night to support me in whatever I decide to do. My body is me, and I am my body.
I am not a problem to be solved.
I spent the vast majority of my life viciously ashamed of my body. All of the “problem areas” that ad listed: my arms, my thighs, my “seat,” my “midsection” (because “butt” and “belly” are such bad word, I guess?) – I hated them all. And god, how I hated my belly. From kindergarten onwards, I tried to hide it and squish it flat and suck it in. I used to pinch folds of skin and fat until I left deep red marks, berating myself for not being smaller. For taking up so much space. For existing.
My belly now takes up no less space than it did in my adolescence. It is, if anything, more abundant. But the fullness of my belly is not an embarrassment to be whittled away, camouflaged or suppressed. It’s soft, yeah. It curves and dips and jiggles. It’s pale and strong and marked by kind-of-enormous scars that speak to the hardest years of my life. But that doesn’t make it a problem. To me, that makes it a gift.
My “problem area” has in fact been my greatest teacher in self-love. In forgiving its flaws, over and over and over, I have learned to forgive the actual flaws in myself and in the world. In learning to see its value and appreciate what it does for me, I have learned to see the value in myself even when I feel like there is none to be found.
My belly is vulnerable. It’s where I get nutrition from my food, where I may one day gestate a new human, where my ‘gut instinct’ lives. My belly, in all its soft fullness, is where I pillow the heads of my friends and lovers when we are sheltering each other from the world. In softness and strength, in scars and in smoothness, my belly – along with the rest of my body – serves me the best it can, every single day. What could be more precious than that?
The idea of “problem areas” is rooted in shame. And Shame. Is. Bullshit.
Seriously! Fuck shame!
Shame is one of the most corrosive and debilitating human emotions. Why the hell are we steeping ourselves in it every time we talk about our bodies?
From now on, I refuse to engage with any fitness or nutrition companies that breathe even a hint of shame about anyone’s body. Bring me a fitness company whose core value is joy.
Because being in my body – feeling the sweat and the heat and the stretch and the exhaustion of a really awesome workout – is one of the most joyful feelings I know.
So bring it on, fitness companies. Show me that you know my body is not a problem to be solved. Show me that you know my body – every body – is a freaking miracle to be celebrated through movement.
Then, we’ll talk.