Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Body Awareness: Resentment and Reconnection

As an extension to my post on reconnecting to my body last week, I’d like to talk about resentment. I’ve seen a few posts on other blogs about how we’re used to treating our bodies as liabilities instead of assets. When I used to (and occasionally still do) go clothes shopping and find nothing cute that fits me, I resented my large body for not fitting into those clothes that only went up to a size 22. Because “obviously” it was somehow my body’s fault, rather than the clothing line designers’. As I consciously work to reconnect with my body I’ve noticed other, less obvious signs that I fail to fully appreciate it. For instance I push myself too hard on too little sleep, then get frustrated and angry (even guilty) when I literally make myself sick with exhaustion and have to “waste” an evening in sleep. When I have a project, or are on a walk/ride/hike, I often don’t notice my body’s signals that it’s tired until it forces me to acknowledge it through pain (and then have to limp back over all that distance I covered!). Boy do I grouch at my thighs/back/feet/whatever the next day when they’re too sore to go full blast again!

I resent my body then. I feel like it’s let me down, and I get frustrated when the grand plans in my head cannot be realized because of my all too human limitations.

Part of this is wrapped up in the morality of thinness, which I’m still shaking off. After all we’re familiar enough with the concept of “feel the burn!” and the need to, when you’ve reached your physical limit and your body is screaming, to do “just three more!”. Exercise, we’re told, is supposed to push your body’s limits, punish it for fatness or inability, burn away bits and pieces until it becomes invisible in a crowd. The diet mentality sets up the body as an enemy to be conquered, brought under submission to the mind and its’ desires. But with the body and mind as enemies, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Sometimes literally if the legs or back are sore enough from yesterday’s workout.

I think that one of the next steps for me in body acceptance might be finding a new level of respect for my body as part of or partner in my life. My mind is just going to have to pace itself, because it’s not like it can go anywhere on it’s own. Maybe I’m curious to see what’s around the next bend on the trail, but if my body is already tired and it means I’ll have to run to get back to work on time, then I need to respect that my mind may be going places my body can’t follow. Maybe I love the clothes I can’t fit into, but my body is not to blame if clothing designers decide to ignore half their market. I need to appropriately channel my frustration into making them aware of their oversight. Maybe I like a clean house, or a perfect yard, but if my body really needs extra sleep or unwinding or time with JD, then going to bed early really is more responsible then getting the laundry done or the garden weeded.

It reminds me of when I first started Intuitive Eating. The first reaction, of course, was to eat all the things I was forbidden while dieting, and in great quantities. This temporary over-adjustment was to teach my brain and body that I really could have anything I felt like eating, anytime, and in any amount. Once the novelty wore off I found myself eating a pretty varied and balanced diet, still based on my body’s signals of what and how much. A happy medium was found, at least when it came to food.

In a similar way, one of my first giant leaps in FA was finding out that my body could do all kinds of physical things I assumed it couldn’t. Suddenly I want to run, build houses, canoe rivers, swim lakes, climb mountains, and make up for all the time I spent convinced that fat people couldn’t. Of course I’m not saying I’m not still occasionally going to ask my body for that extra mile, but instead of punishing it with resentment when it hurts the next day, I can reward it with the R&R it’s asking for through aching muscles. I’ve explored a lot of options, and while there’s still a feeling that I have to somehow make up for lost time, I think it’s finally time to find that happy balance between mind and body that I was looking for in the first place.

1 comment:

April D said...

Great reflections! I too often ponder why we always feel the need to push harder, strive for more, beyond the limit of endurance: as if that proves we're worthy of respect..no scratch that, worthy even of just taking up space at all. As if by merits of doing over-much all the time and properly feeling disgust when we can't do MORE, that we'll somehow be rewarded? I've never known WHAT would be doing the rewarding though...it certainly was never my body that I kept punishing!

Sorry for the ramble. I love the idea of the body as a partner in life. Hand and Mind, we Go Forth Together... Has a nice ring! :)