Despite my childhood leanings toward nudism, I didn’t have any point of reference that showed me that preferring nakedness was something in which many people worldwide partook. So, some of the other traditions – religion and schooling, for two – that inculcated body shame certainly were easier to fall prey to. Added to that, my body image suffered at the hands of the media presenting increasingly skinny people as the ideal and the norm when I was in my early twenties. Ultimately, it was the many times daily weighings, the meager meals, and the general misery about being within my skin that drove me back to my nudist roots, my truest self.
While nearly two decades have passed since the worst of the issues, I still, to this day, have the occasional struggles with body image. Especially as the busyness of jobs and parenting coupled with aging into the forties has made it a little more difficult to take off weight. (As life priorities took over, I put aside exercise, which yes, is one of the best things to do for yourself and your loved ones when life priorities take over…) So, I’m not immune to having negative feelings about my weight, despite nudism helping my overall body image.
Which made something from two years ago quite remarkable. My photo was taken late in the recreational season at the Ledges. In it (at the top), I look to myself to be quite roly-poly. And when I looked at the photo that night, I noticed that I didn’t have any negative feelings about it. It was what it was. But I also saw a body that had helped create children, that took me to and from the toils that support the household, that survived surgeries, and that brought me to that point in time. Sure, it’s not skinny, but aiming for skinny had always wallowed me into misery. Perhaps this was good enough. Just fine.
A couple years earlier, I spent the evening of my birthday in my birthday suit. I was actually twenty or so pounds lighter, but also had a belly. It seemed I was always going to have it, perhaps because that’s my body type. Lauren Chamberlain helped change my perspective in 2018. The softball star posed for ESPN’s Body Issue and said, “I am not going to necessarily look like the ideal athlete. I will always be thick. I will always be a bigger girl. When I get muscle, it’s not cut. I have dimples and cellulite on my legs. But I’ve come to an understanding about that, instead of being picky about myself in the mirror.”
I have been the most active this past year than I have in the previous decade. But even when I used to run 60 miles a week half a lifetime ago, what Chamberlain says rings true. My abilities aren’t always reflected in my body, especially in a stereotypically athletic way. It wasn’t when I could run ten miles in my sleep and I don’t know what it will become as I’m back to running five miles at a time. But instead of being hung up on what isn’t there, I realized it would be better to appreciate what my body can do for me. I’m lucky to have the capacity to get out there and back in reasonable time. That’s more important that looking like a model.
At least, that’s the story I’m sticking to about 85% of the time. I still judge myself at times, still hear the whispers of the culture telling me it will never be good enough, but then I think of all the trials this body’s been through and I remember that just getting me to this moment is a victory to celebrate.
I wasn’t appreciative of my body back then and I was very mean to it. Nudism, in myriad ways, saved me from myself. Also, when I used to judge myself, it fueled judgment of others. Now, the ethos of “every body is beautiful” that we celebrate in the nudist community is helping me to be kinder to myself, to see the good in my body. I believe I’m now exercising for the right reasons – to maintain health, energy, and strength to allow those life priorities to take less of a toll.