Making Friends With Our Body

Jon Stewart hit the nail on the head this week when he welcomed Caitlyn Jenner into being a woman in America after being objectified by the media. It’s no wonder so many of us often feel disconnected from our body.

How do you react when you have an exercise related injury, discover our BMI is less than ideal, or are dealt a serious life threatening illness? Many women with fertility challenges, miscarriages or pregnancy related illness we feel as if their body has failed them. We may hate our body or feel as if our body has betrayed us. How is it that we can befriend our body rather than try to make it perfect?

Recently, I had a patient with a pregnancy related illness called preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a condition of high blood pressures, excess protein in the body and can lead to eclampsia, which involves seizures. She knew all about the condition because she had it with her first delivery. She also had experienced a late miscarriage with another pregnancy. She shared that she was frustrated with the diagnosis but so grateful for her body. I found this rare conversation refreshing in a world in which we obsess over self-improvement to match the images portrayed in the media. There is a unique pressure for women in childbirth and they often fixate on having the perfect birth experience and feel like a failure when their expectations don’t match reality. So often we can’t control the circumstances that life throws at our bodies.

Photo by Jade Beall

Photo by Jade Beall

My patient was able to see her body with the good and the bad, the body that had a loss and the body that nurtured her now three living children. With this new perspective she was able to adapt to having a cesarean without feeling her body had failed her.

When I teach The 8 Week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (next program will be offered in the Fall), I incorporate mindfulness of the body. Participants discover that they spend so much time in their head and are able to establish new awareness of the body. During the course we learn how to be with our body. Here’s a 4-minute clip from my teacher, Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.