Excerpt from "A Letter to My Body" by Camille Schwartz, our Communications Intern
For many women, the scale measures not only the weight of their bodies, but the years of feeling insecure and ashamed about their body’s shape and size, and the progress of their latest diet. Tissues were passed around the room as participants reflected on their past struggles with their body image and the toll it has taken on their sense of self-worth. To confront this body bashing self-talk, Michelle May asked us to write a letter from our body to ourselves to express our body’s feelings, thoughts, and needs. (You'll find this and other activities in this free e-book: FreeTreat- A Week of Mindfulness and Self-Care.)
We had to shift from the paradigm that we are separate from our bodies and accept that, like us, our bodies need to be respected, nourished, and loved at every size and shape. Michelle reminded all of us that “When you body-bash, your body hears you. On the other hand, we care for the things we care about.”
Afterward, in what would be one of the most powerful moments of the retreat, a couple of the participants shared their letters with the rest of the room. Brenda, an upbeat and deeply compassionate "older" woman tearfully read her body's letter to us:
You know, when all is said and done, I've done a pretty good job for you. I've been healthy, generally strong, and I've supported you through all of your many "weights." I've put up with your hundreds of crazy diets and still kept going and managed, somehow, not to be the worse for it.
And yes, I'm now a bit wrinkly, more than a bit jiggly, and I know I'm not always pretty to look at in places, but I'm still you, I'm still working for you, and really, taking pretty darn good care of you when you think about it --- so give me a break! Appreciate what I do for you and do some nice things for me!
You didn't appreciate me when you were young. You were so busy trying to be thinner that you forgot to notice how pretty I actually was then - how strong and firm my skin was – you were just critical! What a shame - what a waste! So now, you need to appreciate me and take care of me as we grow old together.
Brenda’s letter was a reminder to every person sitting in the room that time spent criticizing our body is time wasted. Her words reminded us that we must seize each moment and share gratitude for the incredible beauty and functionality of our bodies regardless of shape, size, or weight. She reminded us that our bodies have always been there for us and we owe them the same level of respect. And most of all, Brenda wanted the rest of us to learn from her experience and make this shift now so we wouldn’t waste another moment.
After reading Brenda’s letter and reflecting on the exercise, Michelle explained to us that “a more deserving use of energy is learning to eat fearlessly and mindfully in order to fuel the vibrant lives we crave and deserve.” And it is my hope that with time, practice, and love I can begin to truly internalize the wisdom of these words.
When you listen to your body, what does it want you to know?