My Body Is Not My Enemy

My body is not my enemy. My body is not my enemy. Keep repeating it. It needs to be said.

This is a mindset I have not successfully acted upon in the past, but I am trying it again.

I have a hard time being kind to my body. I expect it to perform and behave at the mercy of my whims and yet I don’t nourish it well, don’t strengthen it. I am resigned to it not being a friend to me, but rather something I am burdened with having around at all times.

I do not feel as though it is a part of me, an extension of me. It is a thing separate from myself that causes me no end of aggravation and pain. There is no connection between me and it.

I do not revel in the things my body can do; I constantly feel frustration about all the things it cannot.

For this, I punish it. I try to work out and it turns into flagellation. Instead of being patient and loving towards my body, I get angry at the work it cannot do and try to push it to get it done anyway, forcing it to do what it does not wish to do, whipping it until it complies.

The result is I often wind up hurting myself and/or burning myself out whenever I try to start an exercise regimen.

It’s something I’ve only become aware of recently and is something I am trying to change. I do not want to be an enemy of my body any longer. I don’t want to be the jerk of a boss who doesn’t respect her employees. I want to be the kind employer who is gentle and loving towards her underlings.

So, for a couple weeks now, I’ve been working out more frequently and more gently. I’ve been making an intense effort to stay aware of my body and listen to it. I’ve been moving far slower than I know is possible and probably burning far fewer calories. I’ve been struggling to be okay with this and to think of these workouts as successes instead of failures.

My goal is not weight loss. My goal is not a hot rockin’ bod. My goal is self-love and nurturing self-care. My goal is to feel as though I can stand up straight and strong. My goal is to not have back and hip pain. My goal is to ease symptoms of anxiety and depression.

It’s hard to resist punishing my body for being fat and out of shape. It’s hard to ignore the people in the DVDs I use for my workouts who tell me exactly how each exercise will change my body for the better, as though the way my body is now is something I should feel disgusted by. It’s hard to not work more intensely like they tell me to. It’s hard to not “feel the burn” or get excited about the tight tummy or upper arms they promise I’m going to get if I keep going.

I’ve done that in the past, so I know where it leads. I get sucked into doing just a little more, to pushing past the pain and exhaustion just a little bit longer, to working just a little bit harder. In the moment it often feels quite good. But later, I’m a wreck. I’m tired and woozy. My body hurts in a way that goes beyond sore muscles. I’ll aggravate old injuries and will be unable to function as usual for days on end.

So, no more. Now, I don’t listen to the people on the screen, I listen to myself. I go as fast or as slowly as my body needs me to that day. I stop any exercise that makes me feel a twinge that doesn’t seem quite right. I think loving thoughts towards my body, towards each muscle group, as I progress through that day’s activity.

It’s been hit or miss. Old habits are hard to change, and there have been times when I’ve forgotten my new goals. But even when I’m in pain, I’ve been trying to feel kindness and sympathy and compassion towards my body rather than my usual frustration.

It’s just another challenge within my current journey.

For more about the mind-body connection:

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