I am a list-maker. I love lists.
My weekly to-do list gets crammed into the margins of my calendar, taking over the entire double page spread and spilling into future weeks. My grocery list is typed up on the computer and then each item I need gets checked off before I head to the store. The Four Agreements, the eight limbs of yoga, the ten things you should never say to your mother-in-law… make something into a list and I will read it, memorize it, and do it (or not do it, as the case may be).
When I was anorexic I would make lists of food I could eat and foods I couldn’t eat.
Apples, lettuce, and boiled eggs made it on to the okay list. Pretty much everything else was on the “I will not eat this” list. I made lists of all the exercises I would force my body to do for the day or the week: 300 leg lifts, 100 crunches, 50 push-ups, forty minutes on the mini-tramp, 100 laps in the pool, play tennis. I might as well have been making lists of ways to torture myself:
1. Hair shirt
2. Hung by toenails
3. Iron Maiden
5. Forced to listen without interruption to Boy George sing “Karma Chameleon” until ears bleed
I enjoyed my prescribed exercise to the same degree I would enjoy any of the above tortures, that is… very little. But my inner sadist (or is it masochist?) marched me through every exhausting regime I invented for myself, telling me I was getting exactly the treatment I deserved. The result was quite predictable: I hated myself and I hated my life.
Those hard-nosed lists made by a skinny 15 year old---I’m happy to say---remain in the dustbin of my personal history along with the crumpled ticket stubs from the roller rink and my middle-school year book. Nowadays my lists are more likely to look like this:
How I’ll Love My Body Today:
1. Eat what helps it feel energized and satisfied.
2. Listen to my belly when it says it’s full.
3. Enjoy my yoga practice as I stretch, strengthen, and relax
4. Rest when my body says to rest
5. Play, laugh, sing
6. Breathe deep
7. Appreciate my aliveness
The main difference between this to-do list and my old ones is simple. It's love.
It’s a list of things I want to do for myself, not against myself. It’s a celebration of my body as it is right now, not a strategy for turning my body into something it’s not now and never could be.
What do your lists look like… more like the “Here are the ways I plan to torture myself today” or this last one? Try making a list titled “How I’ll love my body today.” Probably there are things you’re planning to do anyway that could go on it: a dance class, a walk through the forest, a massage, a warm bath. Are there things you’d like to do that are more likely to happen if you connect them to the importance of being a good friend to your body? How different would it feel to check off items on your to-do list if each one were an outpouring of love towards yourself?
There’s only one way to find out.
Love Your Body Blog: Part 55