How to Find Wonder in Your Body

How to Find Wonder in Your Body

Last summer, I had the opportunity to visit Banff National Park. The scenery was breathtaking. I marveled at the turquoise lakes, which get their gorgeous emerald hue from glacial rocks. As glaciers grind against the rocks, it creates fine particles of “glacier flour,” which are then deposited in the lake. When sunlight bounces off the water, the rays reflect a stunning sparkling color. This process does not happen overnight, rather after many years and seasons of change – thawing and grinding and melting and evolving. At first glance, the annoying rock in our shoes can seem meaningless and outright irritating. How would we view that rock differently knowing it contributed to some of the most vibrant lakes in the world?

I marvel at the diversity of our earth. The mountains, beaches, and even deserts offer examples of the beauty that exists because of stretching, shrinking, and growing. For instance, the sand on the shore of the beach reveals stretch marks from the tide coming in and out. We see this design as a manifestation of movement and change over time. Similarly, the stretch marks, scars, and wrinkles on our own bodies are proof that we have lived in them, evolving through life’s ups and downs.

What if we could apply the same marvel and wonder to the forces of nature we call our bodies? What if we allowed our bodies to change just as we allow nature to adapt? We see nature and accept its changes as beautiful, miraculous even. The body is no different. This vessel houses between 206 and 213 bones, over 600 muscles, and trillions of cells (Cleveland Clinic, 2024). Our bodies have 11 different organ systems, ranging from the digestive system to the nervous system to the cardiovascular system. Each is extremely complex, working with the other systems to help us thrive.

What freedom can you gain from viewing your body in this new way? How will you appreciate your body as it evolves through various seasons? There is a certain freedom, peace, and acceptance that comes with appreciating nature. My wish is that we apply that same appreciation and wonder to the bodies that are carrying us through life.

Joyful Movement

Joyful Movement

In our culture, the words “exercise” or “workout” often imply punishment, burning off calories to meet metrics on our smart watches. I prefer the word movement. Christy Harrison, journalist, registered dietitian, and certified intuitive eating counselor, describes movement as “intuitive, flexible, and unrelated to diet culture.” Those in eating disorder recovery often wonder how movement can be a part of their lives again when it has historically been used as numbing, compensation, or punishment. If you are currently struggling with an eating disorder, your body needs time to rest, heal, and recover. Taking a break from movement is often necessary. As you learn to better nourish and fuel your body, you can reclaim a new role for movement in your life. 

My relationship with movement has shifted significantly over the past five years. Growing up playing competitive soccer influenced the way I viewed movement and its purpose in my life. In my younger years, I was not thinking about what my body looked like as I ran, tackled, passed, and shot. Competing in matches and practicing with my best friends was invigorating. On the field, I felt truly embodied, defined by Dr. Hillary McBride in her book The Wisdom of Your Body: Finding Healing, Wholeness, and Connection Through Embodied Living as “to be present to yourself and your experiences from the inside out.” 

As I matured, strength and conditioning training was for the sole purpose of enhancing performance; we were always taught we could push beyond the limitations of our bodies to achieve various metrics required to compete against potential opponents. In some ways, this focus on performance helped me cultivate an appreciation for my body and all she did for me. However, in the process, I became disconnected from my body, always dissatisfied with my progress and perceived weaknesses when I did not measure up.

When I stopped playing soccer after a devastating ACL injury, I wondered what purpose movement now played in my life if I was no longer training to compete at the collegiate level. With diet culture on the forefront of my mind, it was difficult to think of movement as anything other than modifying or shrinking my body. Over the years, a beautiful journey began in which I discovered my passions for hiking, yoga, rock climbing, and group classes. I reclaimed movement as joyful and connecting, energy-producing and stress-reducing!

As you reclaim the role of movement in your life, consider the following:

-How does movement promote connection with yourself and others?

-What types of movement do you find enjoyable? 

-What kinds of movement help you feel more present or embodied? What types of movement are depleting?

-How/when do you notice your body craving movement or rest?

-How can you re-invite your body to join you in movement?

Finding Purpose Outside Your Appearance

Finding Purpose Outside Your Appearance

I recently saw the movie Mean Girls in theaters. As a body image and eating disorder therapist, I could not help but notice how the myriad of messages about appearance and unrealistic beauty standards influence the characters in the film. At one point in the movie, Cady Heron, the new girl, is desperately trying to fit in with the popular clique. She is gathered with the three coolest girls in school as they begin to pick apart their bodies, commenting on everything from their hips to their weight to their complexion. 

Cady grew up in Africa without the internet, living in the middle of the safari with just her mother. Homeschooled and spending most of her time in nature or studying, Cady was not socialized to hate her body. She is visibly shocked by this communal dislike that somehow feigns bonding. Cady wonders why these girls are being pitted against their bodies, their ultimate strength. As the girls stare at her, she awkwardly mutters, “I’m not sure what we’re doing but… me too. I’m ugly too.” 

Sometimes I fantasize about all we could accomplish if our focus was not consumed with food and our bodies. How much more energy would we have to connect with loved ones? What if we invested all that brain power in a hobby or passion? Even though you are confronted daily with messages about how your body should look, you are meant for so much more. You have people to connect with, memories to make, and new experiences to savor.

This month, Dr. Anna Packard and I invited our Embodied Body Acceptance group members to create a “mission statement” related to their life’s purpose and meaning. I invite you to reflect on your own mission statement. Consider the following questions: 

What is your unique purpose and how much does that pertain to what you look like? 

Where do you find passion and meaning in your life? 

What draws people to you that has nothing to do with your appearance? 

What do you want to be remembered for? 

What do you want others to know you believed in and stood for? 

One of my favorite writers, Rupi Kaur, shares her thoughts related to her body’s true purpose in Home Body: “I want to leave this place knowing I did something with my body other than trying to make it look perfect.” Consider your connections, your passions, and your purpose—outside of the shape and size of your body.