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Above: Mom and me

A few weeks before she died, my mom poked an accusing finger into her belly and said with disgust, “I’ve gained so much weight.”

I always winced when she took aim at her body that way. To me – to everyone – she was beautiful. But she had a Latin buxomness that she never made peace with. She wanted to be thin.

Thinness is one of the most tenacious imperatives that women grapple with. I know few women who don’t. My clients do, no matter their shape. I do.

But to see this struggle persist even when Mom knew she was dying pushed me to see it with new eyes.

I saw a body that was working valiantly to keep her alive; a body that, before she got sick, had been fit, active, and vital. In that body she had danced, traveled, loved, ate, cooked, cleaned, sang, hugged, kissed, and generally spread joy. The casual contempt of that poke dismissed all that goodness. It reduced her body’s worth to how it conformed to an arbitrary cultural standard of form and pronounced it bad.

It had been painful to see her do that to herself in the past, but now it looked insane.

That moment of insight was profound. . . but it did not cure me of my own desire to be thin, too! Surely, I could be sane and thin?

Well, maybe. I decided to focus on the “sane” part. I enrolled in a class called “Eating Peace,” in which we do Inquiry on all our painful thoughts about the body, food, and eating. On the first day of class, our facilitator encouraged us to meditate on the concept of wrongness.

“It sounds like this,” she said: “’There’s something wrong with me. I need to fix myself or my thinking.’”

Even though I am a veteran Inquirer, my head exploded at questioning the simple concept, “There’s something wrong with me.”

Is that true? Really? Can I be certain? No! If it was not true for Mom, how could it be true for me?

How do you react? What’s the impact of that belief on your life? How does it feel in the body? What action does it inspire? Well, when I forget about it, I live. When I believe it, I freeze, stop breathing, suspend animation. This is not living.

Who would you be without it? Me, unbound. What would you see? My mother’s beauty in me. My own aliveness. What would you do? I would dance! Sing. Eat. Love. Coach. Run. Jump. Explore. Live!

Turn it around.

There’s nothing wrong with me. This feels so good – light, elevated – in my body! It just feels true.

I have repeated this turnaround as a mantra dozens of times since class last week. It is healing and takes on new resonances with every iteration, shifting how I see myself in all my roles and aspirations.

I hope you’ll try this for yourself.

Wherever in your life you are dissatisfied or a regular disappointment to yourself, question it. Is there really something wrong with you? My sweet mom believed that, if she ever let up on herself, she would go to pot. But is that really true? I notice that when I drop the fight and embrace the turnaround, I feel more present and alive and care less about arbitrary cultural standards of body shape – i.e., thinness.

I call that sane.

Getting where you want to be has everything to do with awareness and nothing to do with willpower.
– Sherry Huber, There Is Nothing Wrong with You.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Joan Allen says:

    Thank you Allison! I too grapple with self image and always having the perfect look! However since I have had back surgery I’ve had to not work out so feel squishy! But we all are needing to cut ourselves some slack! I am learning what’s important for sure during this pandemic! Miss you!

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