Body Positive

I’m not a sports-person.  I blame the education system.  At school we had to do gym in green pants, (yes pants in the British sense, ie; underwear not trousers) on a dusty floor that smelt of wee. I still wake sweating, to the sound of pinging elastic. But that’s another post. (Or maybe – note to self – a Christian version of Fifty Shades. Possibly with a vampire twist).

Where was I? Ah yes.  Exercise.  It’s actually not so bad – as long as other people are doing it. In fact I’m enjoying the Olympic coverage.  Not the sport you understand, (that would be ridiculous) – but the feature pieces on the athletes. It’s fascinating to read about how they prepare for such a massive event, their struggles, their triumphs, what they think of other competitors, where they hang out etc, etc. But what’s best is reading about athletes who are strong and healthy and in tune with their bodies. ‘Able’-bodied and not – all different shapes and sizes, but radiating energy and life.  Sure, they’re not perfect. They’ve got body hang-ups too. But it’s a breath of fresh air to see people in magazines who don’t look starving or plastic. Beside them, the models just look wasted and ill.

Behind the headlines,  even the best athletes break. Success is brief and far from guaranteed.  Sportsmen suffer injuries, tiredness and discouragement too. But when I see these men and women, I see a picture of health that’s bigger than just fitting into a bikini. I see something I want for myself and for my friends: a positive, joy-filled  bodily life.

Sometimes I look at models and feel depressed – perhaps because they often look depressed too. But these pictures of sports people fill me with hope.  Why? Athletes are, arguably, just a different kind of perfection – but I don’t compare myself to them in the same way. I see in them the beauty, not of  rippling muscles or  ripped bodies, but of each part working together, doing what it should, to its very best. The sheer joy of physicality and the wonder and complexity of the human form.

It’s something that’s helped me challenge anorexia too. For a long time, I tried to motivate myself to ‘put on weight’.  It’s a goal,but it’s subtly negative.What’s much more positive – and motivating – is aiming to be healthy, full and strong.

3 thoughts on “Body Positive

  1. I get what you’re driving at (The book of Hebrews had something similar in mind, I suspect), but I also think modeling at least appears to be an achievable first step for many in reference to some perception of personal value and confidence, and that can be a big plus and a real step on a road to recovery. It’s all about a genuine context (as opposed to some of the vox pop nonsense) of personal re-evaluation and vital ‘health’ which has a more objective aspect and framework.

  2. I have not been following the sports stories so perhaps I’m totally missing something important, but here goes: I remember as a teenage girl a lot of my friends’ eating disorders and obsessions about their bodies actually started BECAUSE of sports training and pressure from trainers. Sort of just active modeling. The ones where nearly the whole body was made public (gymnastics, figure skating, swimming, ballet) were the worst, but other sports as well, to some degree. At 14, I went to a fine arts camp that lasted all summer and half the beautifully sculpted dancers (ballet) were regularly starving and purging their meals into the toilets. It actually fed my resolve that it was the only way to “measure up”. My ballet instructor said to me once in passing, “I can see you’ve slimmed down since you’ve been in my class”. That day he became more important to me than Jesus Christ. My own break through did not come until I saw the constant comparison with others for what it was. Today, for my own kids, I REALLY try to teach them to let the Lord be their personal trainer (not only for sports) and let Him set the goals. It is hard because everything is so image oriented, and focused on that fleeting beauty of youth. Even models themselves are often disappointed that they don’t actually look like their own pictures. It is easy to forget that what we look like or how we preform physically is not the whole story. I seem to remember Jezabel being noted as a famous local beauty and Goliath as being really “built”.

  3. Performance can, indeed, become the only bench-mark, in any or every field of life, and especially when it comes to what is seen as what counts. The real story certainly has to be more than skin deep – it has to entail an engagement with others which desires something more than merely ‘measuring up’ to a particular standard (often contrived, imposed or imagined). Engaging with such manipulation especially at such a young age is ugly indeed.

    Granting someone a means to genuinely express themselves, through whatever medium is employed, can be a very different forum of inter-action and creativity, where beauty becomes something truly part of identifying what we are and what life is meant to encompass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *