Growing up I absolutely detested hiking. It felt like a really nice way for me to feel foolish and gave ample opportunity to compare myself to my friends and family that accompanied me on the hike. Was I going too slow? Are they not going to want to hang out with me anymore because I’m not very “good” at hiking? Could they hear me breathing hard? Was my face getting red? Could they see the sweat through my shirt? Did they think I was “out of shape”? As you can probably tell, these thoughts are riddled with insecurities and laced with diet culture and body shaming ideology.
Now, looking back on this time in my life I have so much compassion for the younger version of me. I feel sad about all of the beautiful embodied experiences in nature that were tainted by my self-criticism and the ever-present influence of diet-culture. How many times did I miss out on spending time with those I loved surrounded by beauty because I was scared of judgement? I don’t feel angry at the younger version of me that was full of insecurity, I just feel sad and compassionate. Of course I was thinking about my body, societal beauty and “health” standards, etc. because these messages were all around me! My self-criticism was a feeble attempt to keep me safe by “motivating” me to fit the messages I’d been given.
As an adult, I am much better able to understand and debunk diet-culture and body shaming messages. My body and I have come a long way in our relationship. I actually really enjoy spending time with my body in nature, watching her push herself and take breaks, breathe heavy and breathe easy taking in the view, etc.
Recently, I have been going on a short hike every week. It’s been exciting for me to have a frequent embodied experience in nature. I look forward to moving my body and feeling connected to it. I break when I need to, free of shame, and trust my body to keep fueling my experience, regulating my heart rate, pumping my blood, giving me necessary oxygen, etc. It’s a time to connect and appreciate what my body does for me rather than be angry at the way it fails to meet certain expectations.
I think the message of my blog is this: our relationships to our bodies can change. Although my body has stayed about the same for several years, my relationship with my body has changed dramatically. My body wasn’t ever the problem. The way I related to it was the problem. I’m happy to say that I feel connected to my body in all situations now, whether we are still and contemplative or active and highly engaged. If you are on the road to eating disorder/disordered eating/negative body image recovery, there is hope! Tell diet culture and body shaming and cultural expectations to “take a hike” and keep moving forward.