Lifestyle

On Body Image, Part 1

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When was the last time you met a woman who said she was perfectly happy with her body?  It’s a bit like looking for a unicorn.  If you’re that woman, congratulations.  If you have a good body image, you’re certainly in rare air.  Even Bo Derek,who starred as Dudley Moore’s idea of the perfect woman in the 70s hit movie “10” rated herself somewhere around a 7 or 8.  Seriously!  If she feels that way, where does that leave us?

When I was younger, looks were so important.  Sadly, how women look is how they – we – are judged, on so many levels.  For example, when was the last time you saw a physically unattractive female news anchor?  I’ll bet you can point to a few unattractive men in that role.  Where is the “Mr. America” contest?  No wonder women pursue the ever-elusive goal of physical perfection.  On so many levels it’s almost required.

As my body gets older, I’ve thought about this a lot.  My perspective has changed over time and therefore so has my outlook.  In some ways I feel like a hypocrite writing this, because beauty is still important to me.  I like beautiful things (don’t most of us?) and physically I’m not ready to let age have its way with me.  To some, this may be vanity.  I don’t feel that way.  I think it’s more about self-respect.  Over the years I’m learning to value myself.  It’s still a process.  I’m embarrassed to admit I still draw comparisons with other women, in areas of both looks and achievements, but I’m working on that.  And I’m not delving into self-loathing because I feel that way.  Instead, I continue to work toward placing more value on things that last.

For example, I exercise to stay in shape because I look better that way.  More importantly I exercise to keep my body in good working order.  This is the only body I get on this earth, and it’s got to get me through however many years God gives me.  I’d rather spend those years in good health; diet and exercise are key to that goal.  Years ago when I worked in the medical field, I made rounds with one of our physical therapists as he visited our patients in the ICU.  Most were there because they were recovering from a heart attack or a stroke. They were smokers, heavy drinkers, non-exercisers, poor eaters.  Seeing that was enough to make anyone sit up and fly right.  Lifestyle is huge.  We don’t need to be Spartan, but continually overindulging because “life’s too short” may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I didn’t intend to blog today about health, but as ideas flow I see how much health contributes to body image.  If we feel good it shows and we’re more apt to give attention to our appearance. Good health is our foundation. From there we can increase our fitness levels and physical improvement just happens.  Imagine that!  If actions we’re taking now help us continually feel better, chances are we’ll continue, and possibly even increase, those actions.  As my brother says, nothing succeeds like success.

There are certain beliefs I hold when it comes to health.  First, although genetics play a role, our lifestyle choices are key.  There’s our foundation.  Mom always told us to eat right.  Over the years scientific research has changed the definition of what that means, but eating more natural foods and less “manufactured” versions makes sense. Second, physical activity is important.  You don’t have to train like a professional athlete, but get out there and move.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator, or stop the elevator a floor early and hike that last flight.  Park a few spaces away from the main entrance. Do some knee lifts and abdominal tucks while you sit at your desk.   Dance around the house.  Just move!

Back to eating right.  How do I do that?  I’ll start by saying I’m not a strict “clean” eater.  Tonight’s dinner was roasted chicken followed by wine and chocolate covered strawberries. I have little treats, I just don’t go crazy.  At the grocery store most of my shopping is concentrated around the perimeter.  That’s where I find fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, eggs.  The stuff in the aisles are often made with ingredients I can’t pronounce (“manufactured”).  I’m not sure that’s a good thing.  I’m not suggesting we shun them completely, but most of the food we buy for daily consumption shouldn’t have a long shelf life.  Our bodies are designed to digest natural foods that occur normally in nature.  Coco-Puffs do not occur normally in nature.  Bummer.  Thankfully, wine occurs through relatively natural processes so I’m all over that!  🙂

There is so much I want to say on the topic of body image, I can’t fit it all today.  I’m going to break it into several posts.  I’d love your feedback: your victories, your struggles, your questions.  Body image is something we all deal with, some more successfully than others, but we can all learn from each other.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

Helen

For instance, working to look your best can be perceived as vanity.  I see it differently.   It’s placing a value on yourself, not just physically, but emotionally as well.  It’s about loving yourself enough to take care of yourself, inside and out.

In today’s society where looks continue to be a driving force to success, striving for that ever-elusive ideal becomes a consuming obsession.

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