“Sometimes the body is a weight pulling you all the way down.~Kate Bowler
And it’s hard to love the stone that drowns you.”
I just love this quote from Kate Bowler because – as always – she speaks the truth. No matter how hard we work to love our bodies, they are notoriously and infuriatingly disappointing.
A few weeks ago, one of my favourite fitness mentors, Mariah, posted a thoughtful video encouraging fellow fitness instructors to reframe the feelings we have when our bodies “betray us” through injury, limitations, etc. Since then, I’ve been thinking about the times when I felt frustrated by and even disliked my body. It’s a difficult thing to admit because being grateful for and loving your body is something I encourage others to do all the time in fitness classes.Read more: Times when it’s just hard to love your body…
It isn’t that I don’t believe in the importance of loving ourselves, but the reality is there are difficult seasons when our bodies refuse to cooperate despite our best efforts. I hope that by sharing my own experiences, you can give yourself some grace when it comes to your own feelings about your body. There are times when positive affirmations feel hollow and simply don’t make you feel any better about yourself.
The first time I felt super frustrated with my body was during the difficult time of trying to have a baby. It’s a sensitive topic and hard for me to write about even a decade later.
At the time, I was convinced that I needed to ease up on my fitness routine which, at that time, included teaching lots of high-impact aerobics. So I stopped teaching fitness, cut out intense aerobics and turned to yoga for ‘calm’. It would be lovely to say that this change did the trick but there were so many other things going on that it’s impossible to say for sure (in comparison, my littlest was a surprise during a busy time when I was teaching TONS of fitness classes, including BodyStep)
Giving up intense exercise DID make me upset and more stressed. I began to loathe yoga because it felt boring and I didn’t enjoy spending time in silence, overthinking everything. Doing yoga while pregnant was equally unsatisfying because, again, it was time spent ruminating and worrying about the baby. The only time I truly enjoyed my body was when I swam laps at lunch – the one form of cardio exercise (other than walking) I permitted myself to do.
When I had each of my lovely babies, it was another period of discomfort and frustration as I couldn’t go straight back to the gym or get back quickly to where I wished to be. The lack of sleep, time, and energy made it difficult to feel good about my body, despite the amazing things it had done to create the sweet little ones I loved so dearly.
The postpartum period is a difficult time for many women as they relate to a body that has changed so much over 10 months. Many friends I’ve talked to share that it feels like you hardly know your own body any longer.
Eventually, I was able to feel better about my body and better able to accept the amazing things that it did. As time passes, maybe it’s easier to move past the difficulties your body gives you…I’ve certainly forgotten a lot of the stress and have even fallen in love with yoga again!
There was one other time that I felt betrayed by my body and that was when I developed sacroiliac joint pain during COVID. I had never had back problems before and it was horrible. Trying to do a forward fold was impossible, sleeping was so difficult and I could barely exercise, let alone teach a class. I visited a chiropractor, massage therapist and looked up lots of foam rolling videos to help (shout out again to Mariah, who sent me some very helpful suggestions!).
The pain finally resolved after a few weeks but I remember the feeling of anger at my body, feeling like it was rebelling against my desire to move and stay healthy. There are times when I feel that same twinge and right away start working on flexibility and posture to avoid that same pain again.
One silver lining? I now understand the struggle of back pain! It’s one of the most common issues that I hear about from friends and exercise participants and now I can relate to what they experience. I’m better at providing modifications during class and aware of how back pain can affect how we move.
So please know it’s not great but it is completely normal to have feelings of anger and frustration towards your body. I think we all have things we wish we could change about our selves and we have all probably felt weighed down by our bodies as Kate Bowler writes.
My hope for you is that those feelings pass and are balanced by a sense of appreciation for the things that your body can do and has done to make your life more beautiful. Close your eyes and think of the thrill from your first kiss or the pride of finishing a 5k run. Remember that our bodies can surprise us in amazing ways too. 💗