Body Image | A Road Less Traveled
Today, I have the honor to introduce a very special lady. Melly Testa, approached me last year about becoming her online trainer to help guide her to achieving her fitness goals. While I have honored her request, she does not realise the impact she has had on me. I am sure, as you read her guest blog, that you will understand why
Over the last two years I have thought about and invested in, ideas related to a healthy sense of self and body image. I do my best to moderate and assess information before it settles into my ‘working knowledge base’. I do not want to plant ideas of disordered eating, I do not want to push my body to exhaustion or knock my body or body/mind connection off kilter. Although I am interested in reading fitness magazines, I choose not to, instead I seek the experience of a fit body, -my fit body-, and I do not want to compare my body to any other. I seek a simple approach to loving, admiring and embracing the body I have.
You see, on January 10, 2011, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
When faced with a breast cancer diagnosis, the first thing your doctors start talking about is reconstruction. It is almost an assumption that you will choose to recontruct your body. I opted out of reconstructing my breasts. I did so for many, many reasons. I didn’t want multiple surgeries, I do not want implants, I don’t have enough body fat, there is no sensation in reconstructed breasts, this is a partial list.
Because of this, I find I walk a road less traveled.
Being told I had breast cancer was like receiving a sucker punch, I had always felt as though I were doing everything ‘right’. I now realize sometimes, things just happen and this doesn’t mean that I have done anything wrong.
Prior to being diagnosed, I had no real commitment to exercise or physical activity. I have never had an eating disorder, I eat mostly vegetarian, I might have weighed 10 pounds more than my target weight at my heaviest, and at the time, I was OK with this.
Prior to my surgery, I did some deep soul searching, I asked myself, what is necessary to have the greatest sense of confidence, commitment, intention and pride in yourself and your body? The answer for me: physical exercise. I imagined that exercise would help build confidence by connecting commitment to self with strength gains. I imagined that by changing the composition of my body, I might also change my thought process; the mind and the body are just one being after all.
And, I was right. I now walk the streets of my hometown with an awareness of my body that I have never experienced before. I –feel- my glutes working, I catch glimpses of myself in storefront windows and I see muscle striations in my shoulders, I know that I have the commitment and integrity to get all of my workouts in, and I love experiencing my strength gains. Both my body –and- my mind are stronger now.
Cancer has taught me this: My body is beautiful, no matter what.
I own my choice. I made a conscious decision to simply accept my body, as it is, without replacement of loss. I have proven to myself that I am a strong woman, much stronger than I knew. I choose to listen to my inner voice and to direct that compass to whatever strengthens my commitment to loving who and what I am. And what I am, is a beautiful woman.
As I ever was.
Cancer made me realize and remember that the only person I need to please is myself.
I know that many of us judge our weight, take stock of cellulite, perhaps we feel our breasts are too big or small, our nose too wide. I suggest we all suspend judgment and learn to love the body we have. If it feels like exercise might help you, do it. But not because you want to loose weight, do it because it improves your awesomeness (thanks Nia Shanks). Do it because it cleans the cobwebs in your mind. Exercise because you love it or you want to love it.
The human body is wondrous, be open to yourself and your body, be willing to see it through and feed it well. Experience what your body tells you about the food you eat, introduce new foods, walk, lift weights, do good things. Be the beautiful, well rounded person that you are. And, please, suspend judgment, accept your body, just the way it is. This can be very liberating.
Don’t take any wooden nickels, either. Not from yourself (by judging your perceived flaws), or by our society and culture, which dictates a standard of beauty that many of us cannot attain. Love your body, show it your gratitude, help it to remain as healthy as possible for as long as possible. Do this because it is a privilege to have a body and an honor to be able to use it.
That is what cancer teaches me. I hope this helps you too.
Your body is beautiful, no matter what.
And last, but certainly not least, I would like to thank Marianne for giving me the opportunity to write a guest blog post on whatever topic I chose. Marianne has been creating my workout programs, guiding me in learning about proper form, consistent practice, and better options pertaining to the foods I eat. I appreciate the work she puts into myomytv, the professional connections she makes, and the multitude of training offerings she provides. Marianne is an awesomely passionate woman and I am quite thankful to call her my online trainer.