This is the time of year when I, like many others, think about what I’ll do in the coming months to get in shape. I don’t make resolutions per se, but I set goals. The last couple of years, I’ve wanted to lose 5-10 pounds, to eat more vegetables, and to exercise more consistently.
Like so many others, my motivation wavered. I went back and forth between feeling super dedicated to super slothy. I expended a lot of energy beating myself up for failing to accomplish my goals. I spent the last few summers overcome by shame and self deprecation whenever I had to put on a bathing suit.
I’m not overweight but I’ve always struggled with body image. I started exercising at age 9. At a time when I should’ve been riding my bike and running around with friends, I was inside, alone, following along with the Twenty Minute Workout on public television. The eighties were a disgustingly misogynistic and shallow decade. I fell prey to a barrage of influences that insisted that tall, skinny, sexy, and blond was best. I desperately wanted to be loved and valued and I thought striving for that ideal was the way to make that happen. I knew I could never be all of those things, but I was determined to get as close as possible.
I battled an eating disorder, suicidal ideation, co-dependency, and deep self loathing. By the time I reached my twenties I was eating normally but never without guilt. I no longer fantasized about killing myself but I still worked out religiously and sought external validation. I used substances and sex to escape. I routinely abused and devalued my body.
Now that I’m in my forties I treat my body with more respect. I no longer sacrifice it to escape. I nourish myself well and indulge with significantly less guilt. I exercise for energy and wellness, not only to try to look good. BUT, I still have trouble accepting myself as I am. I still think about losing weight and toning up. I bemoan my wrinkles and gray hair. Deep down I still connect my worth to my physical appearance.
I’m not alone. This story is hardly unique. Our culture is still misogynistic and shallow. We’re still bombarded by messages that tell us we’re inadequate or unattractive.
I don’t need an ass like Kim Kardashian’s. I don’t need toned abs, smooth skin, or plump lips. I don’t need men to give me attention. I don’t need women to accept me. I don’t need to be loved by anyone who doesn’t recognize my inherent worth.
What I need is to love and value myself; to appreciate my body and all of the amazing functions it performs all the time; to know that what I look like is not who I am.
This is my goal for the coming year—to fall deeply in love with ME. I intend to rock my bathing suit by connecting with my inner beauty; by appreciating this gorgeous, aging vessel that has weathered so much for me; by loving on my imperfections. For the first time in my life, I will be kind to my body by nourishing it with compliments and words of praise.
Who’s with me?
With Love & Compassion,
Adina Arden Cooper
I'm a lover, a guide, a supportive companion. A storyteller, an artist, an ally and an advocate. I help individuals thrive and communities come together through counseling, coaching, and community building. I believe that shared humanity is a powerful strength and that our stories connect us in beautiful and sacred ways. As I stumble, skip, or soar my way through this life, I invite you to join me on the journey. Likewise, I'm honored to travel with you. In witnessing one another, we find meaning.