What if we didn’t perceive whatever we don’t like about our bodies to be flaws or weaknesses but, rather embraced ourselves as we are – as though there was absolutely nothing wrong with us, nothing that needed to be fixed?!  Imagine the ways in which we would feel nourished as a result.  Imagine how self-acceptance and appreciation for our bodies  would feel.

As Cathy Thorne writes, “Only loving your body when you are perfectly fit is like only loving your children  when they are perfectly behaved.”

We need to see you, naked.

Guest Author Tiffani Beckman McNeil

As I gazed down at my chubby knees and brushed my do-I-like-this-hair-color bangs out of my eyes, I reflected on the movie What the Bleep and the water crystals of Masaru Emoto. I wondered why in the world I was still so hard on myself, after 38 1/2 years of living in this body. I mean, we’ve done everything together! My body has gotten me through learning to walk and riding a bike, to playing volleyball and winning a scholarship for Poise and Composure, to re-learning how to be in shape and eat right. I know I am more than just my body, but I am pretty attached to it, you could say.

Body image, particularly for women, has been talked about in numerous articles and books. And even though we probably all intellectually know we should appreciate our bodies, in all their imperfections, it’s really hard. I mean, who looks in the mirror every day and grins at what they see? Anyone over 8 years old?

Well, I want to stop focusing on my imperfections and look for the wonderful things. And even though my body isn’t a stand-in for any super model, it’s still here and working hard for me. Have you seen the experiment Dove did on women’s body images? Check it out here – it’s very powerful. Gets you thinking.

As my friend Freda says, your body is for you! Not for your mate, your beautiful size 4 kid sister, or the 19 year old skinny chicks down the street. It’s your body and it’s time to reclaim it, my friends.

This is where being naked comes in.

We could all compare ourselves to the women we see naked (or at least semi-naked) every day…you know, those 6 foot tall amazon beauties with air-brushed skin and not a trace of cellulite. We could stop comparing ourselves all together…..or maybe there’s a third choice we have overlooked.

What about seeing women – every day women, women you respect, women you barely know, and women you have known since 4th grade – naked? What would it be like to compare your body to your mom’s? To your neighbor Joan’s? To Maya Angelou’s, or Oprah’s or someone else you think highly of? Would it change the way you criticize your own body to see the stretch marks you left on your mom’s hips? Or to see that your best friend also has arm fat they would like to tone up? After all, no one is perfect. But yet we hold ourselves to the perfection every day when we see ads, TV shows, and movies.

Now, I’m all for getting rid of the media you don’t want – for me that’s no newspapers, no magazines (other than Sunset magazine) and no TV. Netflix does me just fine when I want to watch Grey’s Anatomy or a movie. But for most people, being bombarded by ads with fake bodies is a daily occurrence. And really, it isn’t the media’s fault. After all, no one made you look. Did you know they airbrush everything? They suck away fat, they gloss up the hair, even lengthen the neck. What?! Who is the real person under all of that fakeness?

What do you look like naked? What parts do you like? What parts are you glad that clothing hides? Would you be glad to know that you are probably the only one who even notices those flaws? After all, think of your mate or your best friend or someone else you love. What do you think of when you picture their faces? Is it all their flaws? No – its more likely you picture the parts you find irresistible, sweet, or cute. And everyone has those traits, even if we think our flaws outshine them.

My friend Sandrine says it is reassuring to her to see that she looks similar to the women she sees in the Jewish Community Center shower room. No one there is “perfect”. Everyone has “flaws” … but what if we stopped even considering them flaws? What if we were proud of our bodies, no matter the stretch marks, the saggy necks, the cellulite? Who says there is anything wrong with that? After all, they are a natural expression of living. And there isn’t anything wrong with that at all.

The primal part of seeing the same sex in all the stages of life is so missing in today’s world. I don’t know what 50 year old women look like. I don’t know what postpartum women look like. I don’t know what 80 year old women look like. And I think that’s sad – we could all revel in the stages where we are instead of trying to look like something we aren’t. I’d rather be proud of my almost 40 year old body in its strengths. There are always “weaknesses”, even in those supermodels.

And then there’s the children.

I love how we expect our kids to be better than us in so many ways … and they can be, but we have to give them the tools. If all the pictures we give them are TV and magazines, of course, they are going to think they don’t measure up. I mean, if their mom looks in the mirror and frowns after reading Vogue, isn’t that what all girls are supposed to do? I remember stealing a glance in my mom’s notebook she kept when I was a kid … I was expecting really cool things but I was disappointed to read “vacuum on Tuesday” and “call Mary” and “lose 10 pounds immediately”. Monkey see, monkey do.

Can we give our kids a better sense of imperfect bodies being perfectly normal? Can we start to lower our defenses about our bodies? If you have kids – have them describe your face and body. See if their words aren’t the words in your heart you adore, but in your head you can’t quite believe. How many of you allow your picture to be taken when you aren’t “perfect”?

So – invite the girls over for a clothing optional sunning session (non-toxic sunscreens only, please). Take a spa day at one of the clothing optional places in your area. Go to the steam room at the gym and look those wonderful women in the eye. Better yet, start a conversation with them. Remember Charlotte’s steam room experience in Sex and the City? She thought a woman was staring at her fat thighs (what fat?!), but the woman was really admiring her.

Go easy on yourself. It’s the only body you’ve got. It deserves a little praise now and then.

About our guest author

Tiffani received her Bachelor of Science degree from Kansas State University. Her passion in life – Nutrition – was carried over from her academic life into creating homemade food for her dogs and cats for the past 20 years. After seeing how vibrantly healthy they were, she began to question her own diet. The low fat or low carb mantra of the day just didn’t seem to give her that same health. Years spent studying biology, chemistry, physiology, and much more, gave her great foundations for understanding how food can interact with the body. And that scientists of the day may think they know how a vitamin or mineral works, but new information is discovered all the time! She then heard about a dentist by the name of Dr. Weston A. Price – and finally she found a diet for humans that made sense in the same way that her homemade diet for her pets did! She now focuses on eating nutrient-dense foods. Counting calories is now a thing of the past!

Tiffani and her husband, Michael McNeil, own Backyard CSA – a Farm-to-Table Delivery Service that delivers nutrient-dense and truly healthy foods to people all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Tiffani is also owned by a dog Q, an Australian Shepherd mix, and a cat named Diamond. She enjoys gardening, knitting, reading, hiking, camping, working out, and of course – food!

Do you find it challenging to accept your body as is?