My body is unique to me and like most people, I used to overly critical of certain aspects of it. I am learning that loving and appreciating myself is not narcissistic, but rather a form of gratitude for everything that God crafted me to be. I still have my moments, but in general, I strive to celebrate my body's uniqueness and the general awesomeness it is capable of on a daily basis.
I have no doubt that my engagement in endurance sports has played an enormous role in deepening my understanding and appreciation of my body. There is simply something about pushing your body to the max through training and racing that provides you with an overwhelming appreciation for the miracle it is. Another major lesson of my 20's is that adequately fueling and nourishing my body to keep up with the demands of sport requires me to be comfortable in my own skin. I simply cannot perform my best while being at war with my body and depriving it of essential nutrients. Running and triathlon have helped me to learn the importance of listening to my body's needs and tending to self-care on a consistent basis. I am forever thankful for that lesson.
Below is a letter that I have written to my body as an exercise of gratitude. I am sharing it with hope that others will follow suit and write their own letter of appreciation. I really had no idea how to write this at first, but then decided there is no right or wrong way of doing so. In doing this, I am in NO way saying that I am perfect at taking care of my body or that I never have bad body image days - no, no, no - I am human after all! I am, however, committing to continuing to learn about my body and its unique needs and respecting it for how it is today, tomorrow and in the future.
Thank you for being uniquely you! Through the years we've had our share of good times and bad, but you have stuck loyally by my side through it all. You are resilient, strong, and capable of so much more than I have EVER imagined. Since I know I don't do it often enough, I want to take a few minutes to share some words of appreciation for giving me 30 years of a full life, for the miracle that is growing and maturing into an adult, and for allowing me to be everything that I am today.
Thank you body for allowing me to laugh, cry, sing, dance, skip and all of the other ways that I convey emotion. Thank you especially for the beautiful ability to SMILE - it still amazes me how the simple act of smiling can uplift my mood (and that of others!) almost instantaneously. You allow me to see and smell beautiful flowers in the spring, to breathe in fresh air and soak up sunshine (my favorite). Every summer you bless me with a beautiful golden glow that reminds me of my Italian roots, and some days a sunburn to keep me humble. Even though my nose is almost always red, that's ok, because that's part of what makes me unique (and Isn't that also what made Rudolph the coolest reindeer of them all?) Thank you for a thick head of hair that loves to shed everywhere and blow in the wind. Some days its straight and orderly, other days a curly frizzy mess and most days pulled back in pigtails, but always it is mine.
Thank you body for a strong body that allows me to engage in a sport that I love so dearly! You endure physical stress so readily and yet so often I take your resilience for granted. I am thankful for these muscular legs that remind me daily I am my father's daughter. Sure these legs of mine will never fit into skinny jeans or knee-high boots, but that's perfectly fine cuz I'd much rather wear athletic gear anyway #truth. Just think of all the wonderful adventures we've had together!! Up and down mountains, through canyons and forests, tours of beautiful rolling countryside, wading through creeks and streams. Some days we feel as if we're floating on air and other days as if we're carrying a ton of bricks. Some days I graciously bless you for granting me with a wonderful workout performance, and other days I curse you for all the aches and pains I am dealing with. Either way, thank you legs for the ability to explore nature, to exercise for the sake of enjoyment, performance and mental health, and for the general ability express myself in the form of movement.
Thank you body for strong arms, shoulders and a back that allow me to be a fish one minute and be independent in lifting heavy objects (like overstuffed grocery bags :) the next. You allow me to play fetch with my puppies, to hold them in my arms, and to hang on for dear life when they drag me through evening walks. You allow me to work the soil in my garden, to cook up delicious food in my kitchen and to build awesome things. Sure we are currently outgrowing all of our favorite dresses (boo), but perhaps that's just your way of telling me it's time for an updated wardrobe? Often you carry the weight of my stress and worries, and somedays communicate to me the need to sit and stand straighter. I will try to do a better job of listening (no promises though because we both know I'm stubborn about that).
^ For what it's worth, I get that I have 'nice arms'... but I'd much rather receive a compliment on my smile any day of the week.
Thank you body for hands that allow me to touch, feel, hold, work and convey emotion. You allow me to engage in arts and crafts, to clean my bike, to point out interesting objects or sights, give high fives and to hold the hand of my hubby darling dearest :) Some days you serve as a canvas to jot down reminders, and other days a source of creative expression through coloring, doodling, talking or kneading bagels. I know I can be rough on you between all the cuts, burns, exposure to chlorine, bike grease and whatnot, and I know you could use some more consistent TLC. Thank you for the abuse you have put up with over the years.
Thank you body for the mental capacity to think, learn, LOVE and live life to the fullest. Lord knows there are times when I get frustrated because of being forgetful and absent-minded, and somedays I am are overly focused on perceived flaws, full of anxiety and just generally hard on myself. While those moments are never fun, I am learning to show us a bit more grace, patience and self-love. I know the road ahead will continue to have it's share of challenges. Let's simply remember that, today and for always, we are a team and of the many amazing things we are able to accomplish when we work together!!
Thank you body for being you - and for allowing me to be uniquely me.
Tomorrow I'm competing in the Kinetic Half (70.3 distance triathlon), a race I've been looking forward to returning to for quite a while (if you want a good laugh, feel free to read my "race report" from 2010). This race was an easy addition to my 2017 schedule as I simply could not imagine a more appropriate way to celebrate my birthday. My time goal for this race - 5:12:30 (because I'm turning 30 on 5/12... get it?) - really is irrelevant in regards to performance expectations. Rather, it is more so meant to represent my desire to celebrate this special time by indulging in a sport that brings me great joy. The REAL goal is to celebrate my health and the fact that I am fit, injury-free, and have this wonderful ability to play in the form of swimming, biking and running. I am going into this race with a happy heart, peaceful mind and filled with gratitude. Independent of time and placement outcome, I relish the opportunity to push my body to discover new boundaries ... and hopefully SMILE a ton along the way... because I'm 30, yo!
I have no doubt it will be challenging day, but isn't that also what makes it fun??!
In honor of today, I'm giving away a shoebox full of some of my favorites self-care items, including:
Lara bars, Run Gum, Mg12 Magne Sport Balm, select tea samples, trail mix and granola, Encha latte grade matcha green tea, Justin's dark chocolate peanut butter cups (ammmmazzing!), some essential oils and whatever else I can manage to fit in there.
To enter, via Facebook or Instagram:
1. Like my page on Facebook or follow me on Instagram (@realfoodforfuel)
2. Comment on today's post sharing 3 things you love and appreciate about your body!
*US shipping only. I will announce the lucky winner next week!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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