I, along with the rest of my fearless Chicago brethren, have just braved the Worst Midwest Winter Ever. Nearly six months full of root veggies, warm soups, lots of beer and whiskey, and that sweet, ubiquitous layer of winter chub. Then one day, I was plopped–bikini-clad, pale and Winter-Bodied–into the tropics.
Usually we get Spring as a buffer to shed the winter weight and gradually adjust to the sun. Not me, not this trip. I got the first sunburn I’ve had in years because I’ve been living in an arctic tundra and the sunshine blinded my poor mole-rat flesh. Suddenly surrounded by taut surfers and raw foodists on the southern Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, I could feel every delicious porter, every night spent hibernating, every nibble of hearty winter food on shameless display in my swimsuit.
When we take care of our bodies, honor their physical and mental cravings–food, moving, self-care–they do a miraculous thing: come into equilibrium.
Your skin begins to glow. Your hair and nails get strong and lustrous. Your energy skyrockets without guzzling half a pot of coffee (guilty, here). You even stink less (toxins reek up your breath and sweat). And your body settles at it’s Happy Size: the size you operate optimally at with a bit of leeway in either direction. Seasons affect that size, and in the winter, we tend to store more fat just to keep ourselves warm. In the summer, we shed it. Beautiful, perfect, cyclical. But having a Winter Body in a land of eternal sunshine is jarring and a little uncomfortable.
I deal with this in one way: taking a look around. Why am I going to freak out about my body when I’m in a tropical paradise? I’m surrounded by the magical jungle, stretched out with a fantastic book about herbs, and enjoying the sweet breeze off the Caribbean sea. Nobody is looking at my body. And I feel amazing. I’m eating fantastically, practicing yoga, tooling around town on a bike, and sleeping well (thank you, Jungle Lullaby).
I am not the svelte yoga teacher. I will never be described as “willowy.” I have a little waist and big thighs and a big ass–they’re pretty great. Broad shoulders, strong arms. Stretch marks and cellulite. I wouldn’t change this at all.* If this is what my body wants to settle at when I take care of her, who am I to say otherwise? Our bodies are infinitely more wise than our minds.
Furthermore, I love working with women with body issues, because I am one. If someone can look at me and see me gracefully heave my ass and thighs over my head in forearm stand and suddenly the pose looks more accessible to them, then my mission is accomplished. If a chick who is afraid to take off her t-shirt at the beach sees me frolicking in the waves in my ‘kini, jiggly belly and all, and suddenly ditches her coverup, that’s awesome.
“I can do this,” I want my body to exude. “You can too.”
Mostly though, I choose to put down the huge weight of worrying about my body. Because it’s pointless, and I have better things to do. Like play in the sea.
*Most days. I am only human.