I’ll be sharing essays; love notes to our bodies; wise women to follow; media to watch, listen to, or read; and invitations to join me in learning how to accept, respect, and love our bodies.
I’m so glad you’re here with me. <3
I’ll be sharing essays; love notes to our bodies; wise women to follow; media to watch, listen to, or read; and invitations to join me in learning how to accept, respect, and love our bodies.
I’m so glad you’re here with me. <3
I’ve been asked many times what pivotal event ignited my passion to help women make peace with their bodies. For me, it was a series of moments, over years, that built like steps on a high-dive ladder. With each event, I climbed a little higher until I made it to the diving platform. Then I inched my way past the safety rails until I was standing on the edge of the board.
I’d love to say that once I was gripping that board with my toes, I wholeheartedly leapt off the diving platform full of the awareness I needed to execute a fancy double flip, triple twist, water entry as smooth as velvet dive. The reality was a heart-palpitating, gut-churning false bravado that would have probably resulted in me crawling back to the ladder, except a bout of dizzying vertigo took charge and pushed me off the board in a sideways sprawl that knocked the breath out of my shocked body when I hit the water. Only after I clawed my bruised body to the pool’s edge and laid myself out on the hard but precious concrete did I realize the initiation I’d just passed through.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to wrangle my memories about the most vivid events that sparked my awakening. Because I tend to write the stories that are the loudest when I sit at my desk, this retelling will not be in chronological order.
I had a dream experience that still takes my breath when I recount it: I was in labor and gave birth to a baby girl. She looked like a sleeping angel, swaddled in the white hospital blanket with blue-and-pink stripes. She wore a jaunty little hospital cap that the nurses had added a bow to. She was perfection.
But she didn’t cry. She was alive but also not a part of this world. There was no spark inside her. I was frantic that she wasn’t crying, but no one in the delivery room was bothered. I looked at my husband and asked, “Why isn’t she crying?” He just shrugged and looked away. The nurses who had washed and swaddled her were not at all concerned. I screamed, “Help her. Somebody, help her.” But everyone ignored me, unfazed by my desperation.
I felt invisible and helpless and terrified.
Then rage slid like hot lava down to my bones. This baby should be crying and no one but me cared. How could I be the only one who cared?
If no one would help me, then I would heal her myself.
I dropped to my knees, lifted my arms, and unleashed a primal, guttural cry. The baby wailed so loud that I woke up.
As soon as my eyes popped open, I knew that baby was me. I was going to have to heal myself, to find my voice, to ignite my authentic spark. No one could do it for me. But I was ready, ready to love myself, ready for a bolder life.
And everything I needed was inside me.
Gratitude played a major role in my efforts to make peace with my body. Finding something about my body to be grateful for helped me offer my body kindness and respect even when I wanted to change it, even when I hated it. Gratitude slowly shifted my perspective.
Today I am grateful for Eyes that spy this little green lizard hiding in the blooming banana leaf.
What part of your body are you grateful for today?
Gratitude helped me remember that I found a few parts of my body sparkly and wonderful, even when there were many parts I wanted to hide.
Today I’m grateful for the white fairy hair that has magically begun to weave its way between my darker strands. I love the natural glitter and shine, and they make a lovely complement to the rainbow colors I add in. I am also proud of the hard-earned wisdom they represent.
What is a body part that gives you some sparkly wonder?
Gratitude creating stepping stones for me to reframe beliefs about my body.
Today I am grateful for my mind. I spent so many years living from the neck up, and my mind worked so hard for me. I found a lot of my worth in my academic intelligence when I struggled to feel worthy anywhere else.
I am so happy that my mind now has such an able and supportive partner in my body. It doesn’t have to carry the burden of making all my decisions alone because my body holds so much wisdom too.
What’s the connection like between your mind and body?
Gratitude was not the first tool I used to make peace with my body. Before I could be grateful, I had to get honest about how I felt about my body and her parts. Once I faced some of the emotions that are hard to hold, I was able to be curious. I realized through that exploration that I could be grateful for my body even when I didn’t like it. And like magic, I began to make peace with my body.
Today I am grateful for my breath. This life-giving force exists naturally, and I can lean on it anytime I need to find calm. It’s always with me. It softens me. And it feels like love.
What is your relationship to your breath?
Gratitude shifts my perspective, my mood, my beliefs. It helped me think about my body in ways I’d never considered.
Today I am grateful for my feet. When I’m barely conscious, when I’ve yet to open my eyes, my feet help me come back to my body after a long (or short) sleep. During these liminal moments, my feet are super sensitive. They rub the sheets, and my nerve endings delight in how soft the sheets feel. The sensation only lasts a few minutes, and then the sheets just feel regular again. I love this part of waking up slowly.
Do any of your senses become extra sensitive when you’re waking up?
Gratitude can serve as a crutch, a strong tool to lean on in, as you begin to journey along the self-acceptance path. Crutches are often viewed in a negative light, but it’s a sign of strength to know when you need help to move forward.
Today I am grateful for my scars. I spent a lot of years feeling ashamed of them. I thought they showed one of my weaknesses. But these scars mean just the opposite. I had to confront pain, live through it, accept help, use tools like crutches and wheelchairs and therapy, and show up for myself every day to heal.
Is there a body part you’ve felt ashamed of that you’re ready to write a different story about?
Gratitude is a magic elixir.
Today I am grateful for the blood 🩸 that flows like a river in my body, a reminder that I can surrender to life’s rhythms.
What reminders does your body offer you?
Gratitude for My Body, Day 8
Gratitude fills the spaces where many of my negative thoughts about my body used to live.
Today I am grateful for my sweat. I think it’s amazing that my body has its own cooling system, which it manages without my input.
What’s something about your body that amazes you?
Gratitude is a core value for me.
Today I am grateful for the electric goosebumps that rise all over my body when I experience a soul truth.
How does your body let you know something is meant for you?
Today I am grateful for my crow’s-feet. Those crinkly little lines by my eyes help broadcast my smile, especially when I’m wearing a mask. I love that each smile I’ve ever beamed have contributed to their creation. They’re like treasure box of happiness.
Gratitude can connect us.
Today my heart is grateful for all the veterans in our armed forces.
Gratitude can amplify the joy you feel in the special moments.
Today I am grateful for the dreams my soul places in my heart and then gives me the courage to pursue. Tomorrow one of those dreams becomes reality.
What dreams live in your heart?
Gratitude creates more gratitude.
Today I am grateful for every part of my body, which stood on the #TEDXCrawfordRoad stage yesterday. This glorious moment was possible because my body is the vessel that allows me to live. And she showed up strong yesterday. I am so proud!
I am also overflowing with gratitude for the event producers, my fellow speakers, the audience, and the precious people in my life who showed up, sent me encouraging messages, prayed for me, coached me, and showered me with love. ❤️🥰❤️
Gratitude reminds me to be playful.
Today I am grateful for the holes in my ears, which allow me to wear dangly earrings to showcase a little bit of my personality to the world.
How do you like to share your individuality?
Gratitude reminds me not to take the things I can’t see for granted.
Today I am grateful for my lungs. They pull in the tree’s breath so that I, too, can breathe. How lucky am I to be connected to nature this way!
Is there something unseen in your body that you’re grateful for?
Gratitude helps me soften when things are hard to accept.
Today I am grateful I get to practice what I teach while my face experiences this rosacea flare-up. It feels icky—my face tight with burny-itchy sensations, redness, bumps, and scaly patches on my eyelid. Rosacea sucks. But I can accept my face, as it is in this moment, and offer myself, compassion, kindness, and care. Making peace with my body means that I know I have the capacity to hold both feelings (the suck and the acceptance). And that I am worthy of the care and compassion.
Are you holding hard, opposing feelings about your body?
Gratitude just plain feels good sometimes.
Today I am grateful for my synovial (what a fun word to say!) joints. Rolling them, bending them, moving them in slow motion feels delicious. I love the way they serenade me with their snap, crackle, pops.
Do you have a body part that you love to move?
Gratitude can be playful.
Today I am grateful for the blank canvas of my fingernails. What colors will I choose to paint them? The time spent on my manicure will be a much-needed respite with myself.
How does your body help you express creativity?
I think your nickname should be Dimples. Thoughts?
I don’t see you often, but I feel your textured divots when I smooth lotion on the backs of Thighs and Booty. I’m most aware of you when I put a swimsuit on and turn around to get the view from the backside.
I used to believe that you only existed on people who were lax about their weight (yes, this meant I was berating Body for weighing too much). But that’s just one more made-up belief I’ve learned to release.
Now I know that you’re created because of the way that Fat Storage Cells and Connective Tissue are arranged vertically in one of Skin’s layers. This is why I’ve seen cellulite on thin bodies and on young bodies and on all sorts of bodies. Men’s fat storage cells and connective tissue are more of a crisscross pattern, which is why we don’t see cellulite as often on men.
I’ll never forget enjoying a couple’s massage on a cruise with Terry. After the massage was over, the massage therapists offered me cream for you. Wow, that felt crummy in a moment that I wanted to feel sexy.
I hate that people use you to humiliate women when textured skin is a really normal part of being human.
Most treatment methods claim to reduce or improve the appearance of cellulite, but the results are short-term. Makes sense because none of the treatments, including liposuction, can do anything to change the shape of our fat storage cells. Needless to say, most treatments are ineffective.
You’re harmless. And I don’t need to do anything about you. We can coexist just fine.
Writing love notes to my body was my entry onto the body-acceptance path. I knew I wanted a different relationship with my body, but I had no idea how to get started.
I considered how people fall in love. The whole courtship and wooing thing. Writing love notes has always been a direct way to my heart. Something about seeing love declared on the page makes me melt. One of my favorite memories with my husband was the year we took turns making lunch for each other. We’d leave little love notes in the other’s lunchbox. Extra points for when they were punny.
“I’m bananas for you” written on the banana peel. “You make me melt like butter” on baked potato day. “I doughnut know what I’d do without you” on a sweet-treat day.
With that memory in mind, I decided I would attempt to love my body by writing her love notes.
Except writing to my body felt overwhelming. I had already written a “history” of my body and was still reeling from the experience. It was angry and wounded and raw and way too much to wade through.
I wanted to tiptoe my way into this healing process, so I made the decision to write to my body’s parts instead of my whole entire body.
Over the years, I’ve read so many benefits to journaling. It’s always been an intuitive action for me, one I’d take whenever I had something to process.
Well, not always. There was over a decade that I didn’t write anything more than academic papers, and a couple of decades that I didn’t journal. But that’s a story for another time, one you could read in the “Dear Voice” essay of Love Letters to My Body.
Writing, journaling specifically, is a path to healing.
There are studies to support the therapeutic benefits, such as reduced stress and better sleep. Also, some studies have shown support for journaling to heal from trauma.
They were no longer swimming in my head. I could reread them and get curious about them. I could examine my beliefs about my body and determine if those beliefs were mine, or something I’d picked up from another source.
No longer were my thoughts about my body nebulous negativity. I was very clear about what parts I liked, what parts I hated, what parts I was grateful for, and what parts I wanted to change.
Journaling turned into a written conversation I was having with my body. It shifted my feelings so that my body became “her,” rather than “it.” I realized that there was no escaping my body, no matter how much time I’d spent disassociated from her, making all my decisions via my mind. Instead, I learned that my body had things to say too. Wisdom to share.
Yes, love notes. Sort of. Sometimes, I wrote hate notes instead.
While I wanted to write loving notes, I wanted to write honest notes more. Deep, authentic relationships are built on honest foundations. I didn’t want to bypass the pain I carried in my body and pretend that I loved her when I didn’t.
Plus, I figured that she already knew how I felt about her. It wasn’t some big secret. I’d been clamoring nastiness at her for most of my life. She was strong enough to handle some heartfelt, soul-searching notes about the places in her that hurt.
I often kept it simple. One or two sentences would suffice. Somedays I had loads to say and those notes transformed into letters. I didn’t set any rules around the love-note writing other than to show up as truthfully as I could.
As I began to write, I realized that even when I hated a particular body part, or held a lot of anger or grief around it, I could often find something to be grateful for too. I had the capacity to hold both feelings.
I could be curious about what I was feeling and why. Then I could process the anger or grief or resentment. And I could soften toward that part. Which paved the way for a more accepting relationship with my body. Which has led to a more loving relationship with my body.
I mentioned how overwhelmed I felt when I thought about writing to my body as a whole. There was too much to process, and I shut down.
But writing to my body’s parts individually allowed me to use a trauma-informed approach to my healing.
This process is called titration. It asks you to move slowly through your healing process; to dip into the experience and then dip out, in small increments; to pause and notice what’s going on in your body during the experience.
I didn’t know about titration when I began this process, but intuitively, I knew this was the best approach for me. It helped me maintain a consistent journaling practice, and it alerted me to the wounds that were too much for me to work through alone so that I could seek help as needed.
You just need a notebook and something to write with. Set aside time to journal each day. I found it easiest to write for a few minutes most mornings, but you may prefer a different schedule. Or no schedule at all.
If you need ideas to get started, check out my guided journal, Writing Your Way to Self-Love.
You can also connect with me on Instagram and read lots of body love note examples there.
Making peace with your body is a journey. There’s no set number of notes to journal. There’s no “right” way to do this. There’s no finish line to cross.
Remember that you can offer yourself love even if you don’t love your body. Offering love and actually loving are two different experiences.
You have permission (in case you need it) to show up on the page however you need to.
I’d love to support you in this process, so please reach out and share how your journaling experience is going.
My feelings about weight loss are simple and complex.
Simple: It’s your body. You make the decisions for your body. Your decision to lose weight (or not) is none of my business. The end.
Complex: Diet culture sucks and 95 percent of diets fail.
I want to dig deeper into the complex.
First, diet culture sucks. I grew up surrounded by women who were either on a diet, who just got done with a diet, or who were about to start a diet. Only to restart the losing-weight cycle eleventy billion more times.
Diet culture thrives because we’ve been soaked in lies about the size of our bodies since we were tiny.
Lies diet culture sells:
Bodies come in so many shapes and sizes. And everyone’s body is “right” for them. There isn’t one body that is inherently better than another.
Some thin people are healthy, but thinness does not automatically equal health. There are many people in larger bodies who are healthy. It all depends on what metrics you’re using to determine health. If weight is the only way someone is measuring health, that is a ginormous red flag that “health” isn’t what they’re actually concerned about.
And desirability is a personal preference. There are so many flavors of desirability. It’s true that some people won’t openly share their desire for someone in a larger body because fatphobia also sucks, but that doesn’t mean the desire doesn’t exist.
Finally, diet culture pushes hard to make us believe that we can belong, at least on the fringes, if we’re always striving for thinness. And the expectation is that we must make whatever sacrifices are necessary for an invitation to the cool club. Sacrifices include, but are not limited to, food restriction, exercise with the purpose of losing weight, diet pills, shots, fasting, cleanses, surgeries, eating disorders, and more. If you’re not naturally thin, then you better meekly acknowledge you had the audacity to be born in a body that doesn’t fit into a narrow weight-range of acceptability and then work your ass off (literally) to try to be thin.
Second, diets fail. By fail, I mean that 95 percent of the people who lose weight on a diet will regain the weight lost, and possibly more, within two to three years. There are researchers who’ve invested a lot of time and expertise in this field, and if you want receipts, I can point you to some resources. I was first exposed to these numbers in Dr. Lindo Bacon’s book, Health at Every Size. This fact has become so indisputable that weight-loss companies are now using this language to convince people that their lifestyle program is somehow different. (Looking at you, Noom.) Spoiler alert: it is not.
Diets do not work long-term for most of us. Again, for something like 95 percent of us. But what about that 5 percent? I imagine you want to know what they’re doing that the rest of us aren’t.
For the tiny bit of the population who maintain their weight loss for more than three years, odds are high that they either hit the weight their body is most comfortable living at; they are naturally predisposed to have a thinner body; or they continue to restrict their eating over the course of years/a lifetime.
When the diet “fails” and we regain the weight, we are the failure. Not the diet. Us. So we try again. Maybe we switch up the weight-loss plan, but the mechanics are always the same: Restrict food. Exercise to lose weight or earn food. Maybe throw in a supplement or a pill or a shot. Repeat.
As much as I grieve the way women (and men) throw their bodies against the unyielding wall of diet culture over and over, I understand some of the complicated emotions that feed a desire to lose weight.
I’ve had plenty of my own experiences with roller coaster weight loss. In eighth grade, my body began to add curves at the same time that I was using food to comfort myself. I gained weight quickly and the discomfort in my own skin compelled me to act out in brutal ways. I mean-girled other girls so I could stay in the popular group. If I could push someone farther down than me, I’d keep my spot. I also experimented with promiscuity. If boys were willing to make out with me, I must be desirable, right?
Then a couple of years later, when my home life stabilized, the weight I’d gained magically disappeared as if my own fairy godmother had blessed me with the “Bippity Bobbity Boo.” It wasn’t magic so much as biology. I stopped using food as a coping mechanism, and my body returned to its more comfortable weight, also known as set-point weight.
Side note: I say all the time that our bodies are miraculous. They know what their optimal weight is. And when we don’t get in their way, they will manage our weight just fine. But that requires so much self-trust and often some helping hands along the way. If this notion speaks to you, start researching intuitive eating. I can point you toward resources if you want.
In grad school, I dabbled with over-the-counter diet pills. They kept my body small. And my nerves jangly.
The last major diet I committed to was after my first daughter was born. I promised myself I wouldn’t be one of those women who “let themselves go” after I had a baby. So I immediately signed up for Weight Watchers, now known as WW. And lose the weight I did, like the overachiever I’ve always been. Never mind that I was struggling with nursing because I couldn’t make enough milk to feed my baby. Not once did I consciously acknowledge that starving my body meant I couldn’t nurse. Because everyone I asked about it told me as long as I used the extra “food points” I got for nursing, there would be no problem.
Two years later, after my second daughter was born, the thought of counting food points again felt like despair. Instead of dieting this time, I decided I’d start running. I had never wanted to run, and in fact, I carried some childhood trauma around running, specifically how I looked while doing it. (That is another day’s essay.) Despite all that, I appreciated that I could walk out of my house and start my workout for free. So I ran. It often hurt, and not even once did I feel like a gazelle, but I kept at it. Until my knee became so unstable I couldn’t keep going.
Once again, I had sacrificed my body on the altar of thinness.
I know some of you are nodding along, agreeing that diet culture sucks, but your brain is screaming: What about being healthy? We can’t just let ourselves go. If we stop controlling our bodies with food and exercise, we will die. Figuratively and literally.
Those thoughts are direct courtesy of diet culture.
Being “healthy” has become code for dieting. So has “lifestyle change.” The truth is that weight should never be the sole measure of anyone’s health. There are so many other factors to include. And there are healthy people living in so many different body sizes. Just as there are unhealthy people living in so many different body sizes.
And I am all about “letting myself go” if that means I tune back into my body’s wisdom and offer her what she needs, when she needs it.
In no way am I saying that you shouldn’t eat nutritious foods or move your body. Our bodies need a variety of foods, the more nutritious the better. And our bodies need to move to stay healthy physically and mentally.
What I am saying is that you can be healthy without dieting. Without attempting to shrink your body.
It would be wrong not to bring anti-fatness into this complicated conversation. In the same way our world is made for whiteness, it is also made for thinness. It is easier for someone to break up with diet culture (i.e., stop using food restriction and exercise to shrink their body size) when they live in a smaller body, even if their body is larger than the current beauty standard’s ideal. People in larger bodies are often discriminated against in the medical field, in the workplace, in the travel industry, in clothing stores, and more. Diet culture literally endangers the lives of people with larger bodies.
But other people are more willing to offer grace to a person in a larger body as long as they are “trying,” i.e. using prescribed methods to lose weight that are almost guaranteed to fail.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to lose weight. You may have very solid reasons for wanting to do so that have nothing to do with diet culture.
I’m not here to judge you if you want to lose weight. If you decide that’s the best move for you, then I will support you in that choice.
I’m not here to judge you if you don’t want to lose weight. If you decide that’s the best move for you, then I will support you in that choice.
I just encourage you to realize that you do have a choice if you’ve always based your decisions about your weight from diet culture’s narrow point of view.
You get to decide what’s best for you and your body.
I’ve been excited to read this book since a friend popped into my DMs to tell me it existed. A book that takes a deep dive into how society perceives women’s faces as they age? And explores the effects of those perceptions on women? This is exactly the kind of conversation I want to have.
Justine Bateman (yep, Mallory from Family Ties) wrote a collection of fictional vignettes about the ingrained (and also fictional) beliefs we carry that teach us aging faces are ugly, undesirable, and unworthy. What bullshit. Yet we shame, demean, and ignore women as they age as if the wisdom they’ve collected is worthless. And this happens simultaneously as many women finally break free of the bonds that have kept them small and quiet. Fuck you, patriarchy.
I’m so glad this book exists because of the conversations that the title alone can spark. That said, I didn’t love this book. It was an okay reading experience. Many of the vignettes felt repetitive. I think this is purposeful. Our wrinkles and sagging skin and age spots are bludgeoned with the same marching-band beat throughout our lives, so to see so many women of different ages and life experiences hit with the same fat cudgel of shame makes sense. But it got tiresome to read, especially because there were very few moments of redemption. So many of the women in these short stories attempt to stave off the perceived threat and shame of aging with miracle creams and needles and surgeries.
I wanted these women to find ways to rise up like tsunamis and swamp the haters with their brilliance. And they didn’t. Many of their stories open with them feeling fly and end with them being crushed by the awareness that others are critiquing them like the meanest judge on reality TV. And the worst part—many of the people doing the smack-talking were other women. True to life and also gross.
Just last week, a social media acquaintance shared an old Geritol ad that shamed women in their forties for looking so old. Her post invited women to show how great they look today by comparison. And whew, did people say some rude, rude stuff about the women in that long-ago ad. It was unsettling and icky. We cannot lift ourselves up by putting other women down.
Even though I didn’t love the book, I think it’s a worthwhile read. Pick it up and randomly read stories rather than trying to read it straight through. Let it inspire conversations with yourself and with others about aging and the ways our faces reflect our lived experiences and what you want that to actually mean.