We’re conditioned from an early age to think of our body as some sort of a combination of accessories. Hair isn’t meant to protect our head from the elements but rather to provide an “attractive frame for our face.” Our breasts weren’t meant to suckle our young but rather as objects that need to conform to a certain size and perkiness to make us attractive to the opposite sex. The purpose of thighs isn’t to support our bodies and move them from place to place, they’re for making us look good in jeans. So what happens if any of these body parts don’t meet our standards? We might hate them. And we might continue for looking for more body parts to hate and pretty soon we just hate our body.
And that hate is a good thing, right? It’s what makes us work to improve ourselves!
Let’s see if it’s true that self-hate leads to self-improvement.
Let me share a story about my first car. It was a 1967 Camaro. I was 17, my brother gave it to me. He received it as a gift from my parents five years earlier when it was brand-new. !967 was the first year Camaros were made and they were an instant classic. All I knew was I was given a gross, used car. It was old. My brother got to drive it when it was new and now it was mine and it was old. I’m not saying I didn’t appreciate getting a car for free because I did. I just didn’t think the car I had was anything special. Once it became mine it became less special.
My car was nothing special so it got no special treatment. I let it become filthy inside and out. A Coast Guard cadet’s girlfriend backed into it and dented the rear left fender. Her insurance paid me cash to get the dent repaired. I used the money for other things and drove with the dent. Eventually the dent began to rust. I didn’t care; it was an old car anyway. The speedometer broke. I didn’t get it fixed. The gas gauge broke too. I ran out of gas a few times before I figured out that I should fill up often to avoid getting stranded but I didn’t bother getting it fixed. The head gasket leaked. It burned a lot of oil. It smelled awful. After a few years of my indifferent care the Camaro my brother gave me was a full-blown hoopty. I bought a new ride – a 1975 Toyota Corolla! The Camaro sat in my driveway getting rustier. I think mushrooms started to grow in the carpet in the back seat.
One day an auto student at SMVTI (Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute) stopped to ask if the Camaro was for sale. He’d seen it sitting there neglected and clearly not being driven for months. He could see a beautiful, classic car that was the Camaro was despite the rust, dents, dirt outside and the trash inside. He made an offer that I accepted and the tired, crappy, old Camaro disappeared behind a tow truck.
One day I heard a horn honk and I looked out the window to see the kid who bought my crappy car parked outside. He was sitting in a sharp-looking shiny green car. It was beautiful! The lines of the ’67 Camaro looked a lot better than the clunky lines of my new Corolla.
The new owner’s pride and care for that Camaro was evident. He had a car that turned heads, but when that car was mine it looked like a rolling junk pile. I didn’t realize what I had until I saw what my Camaro could look like when it was owned by somebody who took care of it. Simply put, the Camaro was beautiful when it was owned and cared for by somebody who appreciated its beauty. It was an ugly mess when it was owned by somebody who hated it and treated it with loathing and disregard.
Each of us was born with a beautiful body. Our body reflects the good care we give it, that is if we love our bodies enough to treat them well. Successful weight loss is a labor of love. Punishing your body for “getting fat” by severe calorie restriction and deprivation and painful workouts is counter-productive. If you can stick to such torture it’s not a sustainable way to maintain weight loss. Give your body loving care by feeding it good food that nourishes and tastes good. Use balance and moderation to avoid deprivation, there’s no need to make any food or food groups “off limits.” Move your body to make it stronger and make the movements joyful ones. Find ways to be active that provide fun and entertainment. Exercise shouldn’t be a punishment. It should be recreation.