I just got out of bed and it wasn’t easy. My whole lower body is screaming at me. Clearly, we are having a fight. It’s a result of an hour in the gym yesterday getting beaten into oblivion by my trainer. 4x6 squats maxing out at 175 pounds and then lunging the length of the gym building. Twice.
It’s the kind of morning pain where I check myself in the mirror in my bedroom. For as sore as my glutes are right now, I deserve to have woken up with the most magically perfect butt I’ve ever seen. That didn’t happen so I head to the kitchen to make coffee.
Last week, I listened to a podcast that featured Sonia Renee Taylor discussing her new book The Body is Not An Apology. Her take on self-love and body positivity goes beyond just acceptance of our bodies. Acceptance isn’t enough. Love is what needs to happen. She notes that it’s not just love either. It’s a radical self-love. I like this idea.
Right now, I’m carrying an extra ten pounds. This is an arbitrary number determined by me and only my memory of what pants felt like ten pounds ago. Five pounds of it is from the gym being shut down for months and it being 187 degrees outside all summer. Five of it was there before the pandemic.
At this point, I’m nit-picking my body. I know this. The five pounds of new weight really doesn’t make that much of a difference. I didn’t notice the weight creeping up. I have spent most of the last six months in a pandemic mode which has involved a whole lot of not wearing pants.
Two weeks ago, I was made aware of the presence of the extra weight when I had to be an adult, put on pants, and go back to an office.
I’d like the ten pounds to go away. At the same time, it seems contradictory to the concept of radical self-love. If I radically love myself, shouldn’t I not care about the ten pounds? I don’t like how that feels. It feels like stagnation. It feels like giving up on self-improvement. I feel stuck.
If I radically love myself, shouldn’t I not care about the ten pounds?
In grappling with this, I’ve established a couple of truths of my own. Part of it involved understanding my own concept of love.
For me, love is not a fixed moment. It's fluid. If we love another person completely, that love will expand and contract. I don’t know anyone that loves their partner the exact amount that they did now as the first time they ever told them they loved them. It may be more, it may be less.
I trust my ability to love myself enough to still want to improve my body while loving it. This is knowing that none of the improvements I want to make in my body come from loathing. This is a game-changing realization for me.
In the past, I have pinched and poked and sucked my breath in to zip something up and loathed my body while I did it. I have stood at a concert next to a much younger, thinner, and perkier version of myself and had contempt for both of us.
I have no shame in my body as it is right now and I do, in fact, love it. The extra ten pounds have curved out my hips in a way I’ve grown to love. It makes me feel feminine and sexy.
Those ten pounds are covering 125 pounds of lean body mass, though. It’s not loathing for the ten pounds. It’s the loving of the muscle underneath that I’ve worked hard to build.
The more of the ten pounds I lose, the more of the muscle I see. Why would I not want to show off my own hard work and dedication?
I think of it, weirdly, like redoing floors in an old house. If you know there are beautiful wood floors underneath that carpet, why would you keep the carpet down? The carpet doesn’t make you love your house any less but the floors may make you love it more.
Maybe radical self-love is knowing that our bodies will continue to change over time whether we want them to or not. That point of love can move as our bodies change. If I love my body more after the ten pounds is gone, it doesn’t mean I didn’t love it before. Likewise, if I don’t lose the ten pounds, it doesn’t mean I’m falling short by not loving my body with everything I have right now.
There’s a heavy emotional component to radically loving our bodies. Getting to this point with ourselves means that we need to shirk off the social expectations that have created self-doubt and self-loathing associated with our bodies.
With that, I have to set a boundary with how much I let any construct tell me I’m not good enough. The last thing anyone should feel in our pursuit to achieve radical self-love is judgment, internal or external, that we’re doing it wrong. That seems counterproductive.
After serious consideration, my radical self-love looks like this: I love my body where it is right now. I believe in keeping her healthy and challenged and commit to treating her right. I will feed her good food and push her physically. What happens as a result of that is a result of my self-love.
I want to have my cake and eat it too. But, I won’t feel bad about going hiking afterward.
*Coming to love my body involve emotional and physical strength:
Everything That Happened When I Fed My Body
This was my year of Eat, Pray, Love only without the prayers and love.