Three years ago, I hit a serious fitness craze. I was working out daily, eating healthy, and focusing on my fitness goals. I was more confident than I had ever been. I loved my body and people knew it. Now, I wouldn’t say I was cocky or overly self confident. I was proud of the work that I put into my body and how that work showed. When I got sick, I lost all control over what my body looked like. If you’ve ever been on steroids long term you know what it means to have prednisone puff. I was the same weight but it looked like I gained twenty pounds overnight. It was devastating. I worked tirelessly to perfect the look I had and in a second it was gone.
Now this may seem dramatic, but being chronically ill often means not having control over your looks. If you can’t put on makeup because you’re too tired or you need sweatpants because jeans are way too much work. I have always tried to look my best no matter where I’m going. It makes me feel ready to conquer the day when I look the way I feel. I felt defeated. Like my body had failed me. One day, I realized that my body isn’t failing me, I was failing it. I was setting expectations that were impossible. Expecting it to function the way it always had. It was doing it’s best to serve me and meet all my needs and I was doing nothing to help or protect it.
Once I had this realization, everything changed. I went into mama bear mode and decided this body needed love and I would provide every ounce. It’s easy to get caught up in what your body isn’t doing right. At least, for me, that’s what I was focusing on. Now, I switched my mindset to what is my body doing right. I can walk, I can talk, I can breathe, I can feed myself, and dress myself. My body is doing a lot right. Whenever I have asked it to jump, it says how high. Now, it may not be able to perform the way it had but it will still always make the effort to try. That’s all I can ask of it. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Melissa, you sound crazy. You’re talking about your body as if it’s not you.” Yes, I do sound crazy but this is the way I think of my body. It has been gifted to me by the universe. It is my responsibility to take care of it and return it in the best shape possible. So, how do I do that? I need to love my body, through everything. That means being compassionate, even when it’s seriously pissing me off. Here’s how I started to love my body.
- Being Conscious of My Self Talk
How we talk to our body is integral to how we take care of ourselves. I used to say “My heart is acting stupid.” Now, I say “My heart needs a bit more help today.” Simple change, I can still express that it’s not quite doing what I’d hoped. Instead of using derogatory terms, I give it love. This takes effort but once you start it’s an easy habit to create.
- Apologizing To My Body
Acknowledging that you’re body needs help, is acknowledging that it wants to function better than it can. Our bodies were not created to run differently. It knows what it wants to do and yet it can’t get there. This overruns my body a lot of the time. It goes into hyperdrive, my heart rate spikes or my face flushes. It knows what it’s supposed to do, but it can’t get there so it does the next best thing. This is difficult for your body. Take a second to say, “I’m sorry, I know this is hard. You are doing the best you can. Hang in there.” Again, it sounds a little weird, maybe a lot of weird, but it helps.
- Praise Your Body
This is relevant to everybody. Take a moment to say thank you to your body. Tell yourself that you look good, because you do. You walked a hill, pat yourself on the back, that’s a job well done. Not everything is easy for your body and yet it still does it.
- Give Your Body a Break
Like your mind, your body needs a break. I build meditation into my day as a break for my mind and body. I try to add stretches if it’s applicable to the situation but I’m still working on this. I can’t ask my body to climb two flights of stairs, that’s too much but I can ask it to try one and then rest. Know your limits. That’s not to say you shouldn’t challenge yourself but don’t defy your bodies needs for your own selfish agenda.
The moral of the story is to be aware. Be aware of how you are treating your body. If your mind and body were in a relationship is one abusive to the other or is there a blend of give and take. When I started to lose control over how my body looked, I stop taking photos. This is by far one of the things I wish I could undo. There are so many moments I didn’t capture because I was scared my face looked puffy. Now, I could care less about what my face looked like seven months ago, I just want that memory recorded. Give yourself grace. You will make mistakes. You will struggle but you will also succeed. At the end of the day, focus on the moments that went well. Don’t dwell on what you don’t have control over. All you can do is to love yourself and take care of your body in the best way you know how.