Body Talk

Nothing gives one body autonomy quite like going to college and becoming the only one responsible for taking care of yourself.
In the past year or so of trying to figure out what exactly I’m supposed to be doing with my body, I’ve done a lot of research. Google searches, health apps, and conversations with friends have all given me new pieces of information. Among the deluge of information, some pieces stuck out to me. Things like only eating when you’re hungry, tracking progress by how you feel instead of how much you weigh. These things made a lot of sense to me, but I couldn’t help wondering: why did it take me nineteen years to learn this information?
I started noticing how little trust we put in our bodies. From an early age, we’re taught to use external signals to guide us. You’re only healthy if you weigh this much. A serving of chicken is a deck of cards. Healthy people look like this. Not like you.
Why aren’t we taught to listen to ourselves? To learn how it feels internally to be healthy, and how it feels to be unhealthy, and guide ourselves off of those signals? All of the rules we learn instead are played off as a one-size-fits all system, but they’re not. Everybody’s body is different, so why are we told to treat them all the same and expect them to end up looking the same? We end up having to unlearn years of blanket statements, or grow up hating our bodies.
I’m not saying it’s time to ditch doctors and trust our bodies to fight off pneumonia without medication. Some things are objectively true, like kale has vitamins in it and cookies have a lot of sugar. But if the thought of eating kale makes your stomach churn and eating a cookie after dinner cheers you up, then you should be able to bend those rules. Or if you weigh more than someone else your age but you can lift ten pounds more than last month or keep up with your little sister when you play outside or dance outside with your friends, maybe you don’t need to lose weight; maybe you’re already healthy. I’m saying that if we started off teaching our children that every body is different, and health looks and weighs different on everybody, then maybe we would save ourselves a lot of grief growing up.
I’m happy that I’m learning to love and listen to my body now, and I can’t help thinking how great it would be if I had started doing it nineteen years ago.

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