Love Your Body Day

Today is “Love Your Body Day,” and this post is part of the 2011 Love Your Body Day Blog Carnival. Starting today, the blogs of those of us participating in the carnival will start to appear on this link:  http://www.now.org/news/blogs/index.php/sayit/2011/10/19/lybd-blog-…

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On our last trip, when I worked my way through airport security, a TSA employee asked to check a zippered pocket in the leg of my quick-dry capris. She asked me a curious question: do you have any pain in the leg?

“No, of course not,” I said with a certain defensiveness. I have no idea what caused her to ask the question, but in the moment I said to myself, “She thinks I look old.”

Recently, in Seattle, we bought an ice cream with friends and crossed the street to a park to eat it. A young girl started to harass me. I sensed that she had some sort of mental problem — her speech and demeanor indicated such — and I just tried to get out of her way. Another girl with her came to my rescue, telling the problem child, “You show respect for your elders.” I wanted to say, “Who are you talking about?”

When I look in the mirror, I seldom see my age. Certainly I don’t feel it as we scoot up mountains with our trekking poles, sometimes hiking for hours at a time. And yet the feedback I’m getting indicates that others see something different. I know that my face looks lived in, from some old acne scars of teen-aged years, to the lines along the sides of my mouth, to some puffiness under the eyelids. In an odd nod to vanity, I have kept my forehead covered with bangs for years, since I have had fairly deep lines there for some time.

My hair, which I stopped coloring two years ago, shows a lot of silver peeking through, with the rest of my hair returning to the blonde of my childhood as it heads toward white. My body carries some extra weight in the belly as it fights to hold on to estrogen.

And yet I feel more beautiful than I ever did when I was young.

Why would I want to look twenty again? When I look back on those years, I see a woman in pain, who didn’t like how she looked or who she was. I was unformed as a woman. These days I feel like I’m just starting to get interesting. My joys, my sorrows, the richness of my experience are all showing up on my face. Sure, I could get Botox or a little “work done,” but why would I? I’ve seen some former Hollywood beauties who went under the knife a bit too often, and they look artificial. There’s a reason they call it “plastic” surgery.

I am a firm believer in watching what I eat, and I’m not going to go on some fad diet so I can fit into a slinky dress. Too often, we women do some crazy diet for a special occasion, something that may help us look good on the outside but do damage on the inside. I’ve seen women sacrifice their health just so they can fit into a certain size, and I won’t do that. Yes, I am trying to lose a few pounds, but I’m doing it in a healthy, thoughtful way that provides solid nourishment.

I work on fitness because I want to be strong, with healthy bones and happy joints so I can hike for many years to come. Yes, I like having good muscle tone, but more than that, I love the feeling of reaching a trail’s peak after a long and challenging climb.

I think when we work on ourselves from the inside out, beauty is a natural by-product. There’s nothing lovelier than a woman in her 70s and beyond who has bright eyes, radiant though lined skin, and a contented smile.

On this Love Your Body Day, I invite every woman to see herself as a treasure. Wherever you are, see the beauty of survival, the miracle that we are here at all. Notice how your body moves and functions, often without your direction. What can you do today to love your body even more?

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