I remember being in grade five or so, sitting on the floor of our school's gymnasium during an assembly. I sat there, looking at my feet with such distain, disgust and shame. I hated my feet. I thought they were huge. If I hadn't known they were my own feet, I would have thought they belonged to a Sasquatch. I didn't care that they enabled me to walk, run and skate around. I didn't care that they supported my body, allowing me to stand and balance. I didn't care that they had this amazing quality of being able to spread its toes like nothing you've ever seen, freaking people out. All I cared about was their size. Too big, not lady-like, etc.
Skip ahead to my fourth year of University. I found myself sitting in the library of a University reading a textbook on the human development and growth across the lifespan. To my amazement, I read how feet grow prior to an onset of growth in height as the feet support/balance the body. The size of my feet in grade 5 were simply a natural and normal part of my development. It was healthy, not bad or wrong. My body was just doing what it was created to do. I had the same feeling when I learnt about set-point theory (your body has a genetically predetermined weight range it will hover around when you are eating and exercising normally). I'm not saying acceptance of my set point was instantaneously, but it definitely helped to know my body knew what it was doing regarding my weight.
I wish I could tell my younger self on that gymnasium floor why my feet were the size that they were. I wish I could tell her about set-point instead of B.M.I.. I wish I could tell her to be thankful for what her body was doing and to also accept its limitations. Perhaps, she wouldn't have had the need to desperately manipulate it into something it was never meant to be. Moving forward, in the unknown amount of years ahead of me, I want to carry a healthier and more positive perspective towards my body.... both in the things I understand and the things I don't.
I had a conversation with the illustrator of wiTHIN (Emily McGratten) earlier this week. She told me about an interview she heard on the CBC about bodies and how we have a hard time accepting what it does, how it changes over time and how we get upset or feel shame about the things it does to keep us healthy. For example, farting is an important part of our bodies functioning that is some what uncontrollable. In our society, it can be shameful or disrespectful to be caught passing gas.
The main point of this post is not to focus on farting or feet. The larger point I want to make is the importance of learning about our bodies, how it functions (and to know the signs of when it is not functioning correctly) and to encourage us to be thankful for what our bodies do, as opposed to how it looks, smells or changes over time. I want to encourage other to not take their bodies for granted, yet to embrace EVERY part of it... both inwardly and outwardly.