My body is…

My body is fat, with a BMI that makes my doctor tilt his head like a quizzical dog and sigh. My body is also strong and healthy. Maybe that’s what has my doctor so quizzical. My body is defying all the conventional wisdom about the perils of obesity.

My body has 46 inches of scars (from one surgery!), a tattoo, four missing teeth thanks to orthodontics, and extra bones in my feet that hurt. All. The. Time.

I used to hate my body. It didn’t conform to the flawless and waif-thin images that our society cleaves to. I, on the other hand, did conform to all that conventional thinking about what was beautiful, and that made me hate my body.

Because I hated it, I mindlessly treated my body terribly, eating the wrong things and too much, not exercising enough, sleeping poorly and doing things that did me no good.

As I grow older, I’ve realized that my body – my healthy, perfectly functional body – is one of the most cherished and valuable things I have. It’s my most important tool. It gives me joy. It lets me experience life. It’s powerful, ever-changing, self-calibrating and amazing.

My body. In every sense it’s a really big deal.

If you don’t like it, don’t look.

I only ever met my paternal grandmother once when I was four-years old. I remember her as dour and commanding – a woman who had lived in Berlin during both World Wars and had experienced starvation, economic depression and war crimes.

She was also a diehard (pun intended) smoker. I was a pint-sized but vocal anti-smoking campaigner.

She would light up a cigarette and I would tell her that it was killing her, that it was killing me to see her smoking, that it was a bad thing to do and on and on and on.

Not a woman to be dictated to by anyone, least of all a preachy child, her response was a stern and nonnegotiable “If you don’t like it, don’t look.” Please keep in mind that in 1969, no one knew about the dangers of second hand smoke.

“If you don’t like it, don’t look.” It’s not an invitation to avoid seeing what’s unpleasant in the world. Those things need to be seen and known about.

No, what my grandmother was saying was “I’ll do what is right for me without regard to the opinions or criticisms of others. If it bothers them, then they can go away.”

I know so many people who want to try things but won’t because they may look silly or won’t be “good enough.”

fatladyWho hasn’t heard a woman say “I’d never go to the beach looking like this. I’m too fat/pale/lumpy.”?

Thanks to my grandmother, when I hear something of that ilk, I reply “Gee, if I’m ever too ugly to look at, everyone else can put a bag over their heads.”

And I mean it. Go out and do whatever you want and remember, if “they” don’t like it, “they” don’t have to look.