In one of my psychotherapy sessions, I found myself saying, “I’m your body’s advocate!” to a woman who was struggling to balance her need for food with the other urgent to-do tasks of the day. I wondered, aloud, how we’d all become so far removed from such basic elements of self-care, when feeding our bodies (and spending a few moments to think about the optimal choices) seemed an inconvenience, one we were eager to rush through and get done with, rather than a valued action.
But I get it, really I do. Even though I spend much of my professional life counseling others on how to “come home” to their bodies, and how to reconnect and respond with compassionate care. Because I’m also a cautionary tale, a “workaholic-in-recovery,” who spent 5+ years of doctoral training saying things like, “When I graduate, I’ll….” (take care of myself). “After I get licensed, I’ll….” “After I become a mother, I’ll…” Fast forward ten years, and my body tells me, daily, that I have a lot of self-care catch up to do. To my credit, and thanks to all of the training I’ve done through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and similar programs, I now do a much better job of tending to my body. But I have to form – and renew – the intention, nearly every day, or the business (or busy-ness) of life can sweep me away.
Here’s another reason. Recently, I wrote an essay, “Missing in Action,” after I observed my daughter’s public education kindergarten class this past May. We’d already had growing concerns that our spirited 5-year-old, who is wigglier than most, might need an academic environment that allows her body to move more, both for her own health and self-esteem, and also to facilitate learning. I’ll be honest, I was deeply disturbed when I discovered how little movement or exercise (a 22-minute recess!) these 5-6 year olds got during the course of their 6 hour day, even though both physical playtime and ample exercise is absolutely essential for children at this age. But our choice became even more clear as I watched my daughter fight with her body’s growing need for movement, become shamed and frustrated, and then shut down, over the course of her day. We debated about whether to place her on a special ed track so she could get pulled from class for an extra recess with an assistant (a band-aid, at best), or transfer her to another setting where her body is a CORE (not peripheral) component of her learning experience.
What’s the point of all of this? It is that many of us have been trained, from a very young age, to discount and dismiss our bodies. Is it any wonder that this can lead to medical conditions such as obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease, or psychological conditions such as depression? Since childhood, many of us have been shamed for what our bodies needed or did, or how we looked, and we’ve been taught little about how to celebrate and really thrive in our bodies, instead.
So yes, I’m your body’s advocate – I’m an advocate for all bodies, because someone has to be. Our bodies deserve better. And if that’s a value that speaks to you, join me in forming an intention and taking action, each and every day.