My body, on its own, without any accessories, in its natural form, has never been good enough for me. I preach loving myself and I’d like to think thatI have feminist values. But, I probably think once a day about something I want to change about my body. It’s usually about my weight.
I ate too much yesterday.
I see a double chin.
Tomorrow I won’t have sugar.
It pains me to think a huge chunk of the population, tons of holy souls put into the world for a reason, are dissecting the flaws of their bodies on a regular basis. People even put their lives at risk just to look a certain way society expects.
Think about how much brain space and energy is taken up by people hiding their problem areas, looking at nutrition facts, trying spinning classes.
How much energy am I using up obsessing over this? Does it make any difference if I only do it privately and don’t talk about it with others? Does it make me a hypocrite? How does it affect the rest of my daily activities and how I interact with people? And oh my gosh, will it be this way for the rest of my life? I really really hope not.
It’s no wonder these thoughts rush into my mind upon standing in front of a mirror. My newsfeed is filled with new detox flat-tummy teas, #fitsperation, and Instagram models. My friends and those around me are constantly talking about wanting to exercise more, not eating that second cookie, “cheating” on their diet, and seeing if this outfit makes their stomach stick out. On the other hand, I also see tons of feminist body positive memes and op-eds. I feel like I have the opportunity to publicly tout body positivity while privately scrutinizing every inch of my body. My friend, Jane, summed it up perfectly. She said, “There’s this big disparity between what I’d like my answer to be [to the question of “What do you think about when I say ‘body positivity?’”] and what my answer actually is. I’d love to say ‘everybody is beautiful! Doesn’t matter: big, small, fat, thin; you’re all beautiful!’ I believe that for other people but I don’t believe that for myself.”
Another friend, Yael, shared a similar sentiment. “Body positivity means healthy at every size.” But when I pressed her to be more personal, she said “body image for me is really difficult, and something I’m struggling with a lot.” She opened up about years of eating disorders and trying to come to terms with how her body looks. She has a metabolic disease, and put her life in danger by trying to lose weight to undo the symptoms of her illness. She masked her weight loss as trying to be strong. Now, though, she’s putting her energy into understanding herself better, and accepting her body’s processes.
When I asked my good friend Adele about the topic she got quiet, paused, and answered solemnly, “I think about anorexia, I think about counting calories, I think of the Dove soap campaign. No matter how empowered I’ll be, I’ll never get over it.”
It makes me unbelievably sad.
And I think about Jane’s point, and one of my original questions, what does it mean to do the opposite of what I preach? Am I helping or hurting my friends? Because I preach positive, feminist messages, I obviously know how reality could be, and how I should see and interact with the vessel G-d gave me. But I don’t do it for myself.
So what’s the block? How can I bridge the gap between what I feel and what I want to feel? How can I access that knowledge and weave it into my reality?
I think the next step I need to take is to accept the current reality, and be gentle with myself. I know that G’d put my soul into a vessel for a reason. I have a body so I could do something with it. Pick fruit, give charity, learn Torah, hold babies, cook yummy foods. Hillel teaches us that caring for the body is caring for one of the most magnificent creations of Hashem. I am fed up with scrutinizing and pinching and sucking in, and then putting on a mask of positivity when I walk out the door. I feel in me a will to change and heal.
I hope, by the time it is time for me to immerse in the mikveh (with nothing on me but my skin) I will be at a place where I am ready to accept and love my body for what it is.