today is the first day of national eating disorder awareness week. for the three years i was an RA in undergrad, this was insanity week for me. not even close to recovered (year 1), on the cusp of beginning my final “for real” recovery (year 2), or having busted my ass for nearly a year to emerge nearly whole and healthy (year 3), i worked for months with my RD and staff to put together an entire week of events – panel discussions, mindful eating programs, body image talks, film viewings, purple t-shirt tie-dye parties. (shameless plug – my “Eating Disorders 101” bulletin board is still a top hit on residentassistant.com! the direct link is being a turd, but if you scroll down a bit you’ll see it. laid out on my floor because i hadn’t actually put it UP on the board yet lol.)
but i digress. although the slogan/buzz word for NEDA Week changes every year – this year’s is “everybody knows somebody” – i’m going to throw another one out there that has been stated so many times that it’s very nearly cliche to the point of having little meaning: “love your body!”
and here’s a thought i had while i was out running yesterday. i love my dad, and i always will. but sometimes – and very infrequently, because basically he’s the best, but sometimes – i don’t particularly like him.
and that’s okay.
liking something versus not liking it…that’s transient. i can like the weather on a day that it’s 85 degrees and sunny, but then when i try and run a 10-miler in it i will probably hate it. the weather hasn’t changed; just my perception of it, given my varying situations.
which leads us to the point of my thoughts today, elucidated over weak coffee and two rambunctious kittens: when you’re pulling yourself out of the dredges of years, sometimes decades, of self-loathing that has manifested itself into a direct attack on your body…having everybody encourage you to “love your body!” unconditionally is about two inches shy of impossible, and two and a half shy of wishing them all mute.
everybody tells you to “love your body!” nobody tells you it’s okay to not like it.
this isn’t me looking for an out or for a way to manipulate the system. i think anybody who knows me can attest that i’m far beyond that point, mostly because i’m lazy and that kind of game-playing requires an extreme amount of energy. but what i’m saying is: it’s okay to NOT like your body some days. just like i don’t like my dad sometimes, even though i love him unconditionally. just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean you need to wage war with it or treat it badly; it just means that, right now in this moment, you’re not its biggest fan.
and that’s okay.
love is a baseline, unwavering foundation. so YES, we should all strive to love our bodies. because it’s the only one you’re ever going to get, and nothing can be built on a foundation of hatred or disgust. but. it is also completely okay to have those moments/days/even strings of days where you don’t like your body.
…but just because you don’t like your body right now doesn’t mean you should destroy it. or treat it badly. or fill your head with thoughts on how “wrong” your body is and what you need to do to fix it.
because liking and not liking something is flippant. it will pass. and once it does pass, once the clouds clear out, if you have built that foundation of love underneath, that is what will shine through. for a lot of us, the biggest challenge in recovery is re-building that foundation. but i promise you, once it’s there, it is practically infallible.
so at the risk of sounding like some uber-recovery beacon of hope: i love my body. for the most part, it’s pretty freaking awesome. i’m not even a year out of major knee surgery and i’m kicking ass and running a 10-mile race in thirteen days. my body carries me through 18-hour days full of activity (and i only had to nap in my car once last semester). but trust me – when my blood sugar crashes with no good reason or when my knee is being inexplicably tweaky or my ovaries are barking…i do not like my body, by any stretch. but that’s okay.
so the next time you feel pressure to “love your body!” think of it this way: yes, love your body. love it for its resilience and strength and unique qualities. but please don’t panic that “lov(ing) your body!” backs you into a corner where everything must be sunshine and rose petals all of the time. you’re allowed to love something and not like it, all at the same time. so go on ahead and love your body. but give yourself permission to falter. give yourself permission to not like it sometimes. because that will happen. and that’s okay.