“Boy am I out of shape!”
That’s what I thought when I looked at this photograph after it was taken. And it’s true, I haven’t been diligent in recent years at getting exercise. As the rigors of life have taken over my schedule, I’ve found myself with less time to tend my own garden, and so I’ve let some things go.
At the same time, I’m not that out of shape. In fact, I’ve been running 3-5 miles per run for several months now. This could very well be the body of an athlete, albeit one who has gained a few pounds since starting to run again.
I run because I love it and this body completes the routes I set for it. I’m slower than I was half a lifetime ago, but I enjoy every minute of it. I no longer run out of hatred for my body, out of a desire to reduce my weight drastically because I have disordered thinking about my body. In fact, I run because I love my body and all the trials it has helped me to survive up until now.
And yet, when I saw that photo, my first thought was to take it down, to hide it, and to not bring out another photo until I had worked myself back into the shape seen in older photos I have.
I didn’t. And I guess that’s saying something.
A nudist friend and I were conversing about body image and we came to some conclusions: We agree that all bodies are beautiful and have value. We accept all bodies as they are. We believe that no person should have to change to fit a standard.
And we find it extremely hard to apply this standard to ourselves.
For ourselves, it is judgment galore. It is less for me than it was when I was weighing myself up to 20 times a day, when I was 30 pounds lighter but felt hopelessly “fat,” when I ran 90 miles a week chasing an impossible physique. But still, when I see what I view as an imperfection in myself, I recoil a bit.
Re-embracing nudism has saved me from the darker impulses of poor body image. It has even brought me toward greater body acceptance in myself and others. I could judge others as ruthlessly as I did myself, because I was looped into the images projected on screens, on billboards, and in magazines. I was a victim of that messaging and made others the victim of my thoughts. As I forgave myself, I was able to see the beauty in others. For myself, sometimes I see the beauty through tinted glasses.
When I look at old photos of myself, I am never as hideous as I thought I was when the photo was taken. And I try to remind myself of that now. That I’m fine just the way I am. That if I want to get in “better shape,” I had best due it out of love of self, not hatred for how I think I look. And that in ten years, I’m probably going to wonder why I was so harsh on myself.
I’m tired of living for tomorrow when I look at the present, rather than viewing the present through a lens honest appraisal. I guess the photo is not so bad, even though I want to be in better shape for better health.
I didn’t take the photo down. And that counts for something.
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