Friday, April 2, 2021

"More Than A Body": The Book I'd Like Every Body To Read

Back in 2019 I published "No Pictures, Please: The Thing About My Face," and started a long overdue conversation here about self-hate. It was... eye-opening. No, it was more than that. It was a revelation. It turns out I wasn't alone, or even in the minority; it turns out most of us don't like the way we look, and our struggles range from nagging to life-destroying.

Since then I've been plugging away at my "Self-Hate Battle Plan", a 7-pronged approach I came up with to combat self-hate. My progress has ebbed and flowed, but slowly and surely, I'm both recognizing and knocking the teeth out of the lies I used to live by.

One of the best parts of my plan was following Beauty Redefined on Instagram, a non-profit run by two PhD-holders advocating "body image resilience." Unlike Body Positivity, which wants everyone to know their bodies are beautiful, Body Image Resilience wants everyone to know they are more than their bodies. It's a seemingly subtle shift that makes an enormous difference, and I've found this approach so much more meaningful than #BoPo alone.



Beauty Redefined is run by twin sisters Lindsay & Lexie Kite, and they recently published a book. This book:

More Than A Body: Your Body Is An Instrument, Not An Ornament

I've just finished reading it, and I have 5 pages of notes and THINGS TO SAY. :D

First, this book is not a page-turner. It won't make you laugh. It's not even very comforting at first. In fact if this is your first introduction to a Body Image Resilience approach then I'm willing to bet this book will make you mad, or at least want to argue. I know I did, back when I first started following Lindsay & Lexie on IG. They have controversial stances on everything from the "wellness" industry to dress codes to sharing before-and-after weight loss pics.


So why should you read a book that's probably going to tick you off?

Because this book offers hope. Not the short-term, quick-fix kind of hope promised by the latest miracle fad, but a lasting hope that shows us how to get off the merry-go-round of shame and self-hate.

Body Image Resilience breaks with just about everything we've ever learned about beauty and self-image, so I'm not about to cram it all into one blog post. That would be too much too fast. I've had two years to sit with my discomfort, to research, to wrestle and ruminate over what I believe and what I want to believe - and I'd like you to have the same option of a slower pace. So instead of cramming everything in, let me just share 2 of my favorite snippets:
 

First, one of the most powerful things I've learned is how we objectify ourselves: how the world's beauty standards have split us in two, becoming both the observed and the observer. Every time we think about our appearance, we step outside ourselves. We leave behind how we feel IN our bodies to examine how our bodies look from the outside.




You and I both know this constant self-monitoring is exhausting. "Is my muffin top showing? Did my mascara smear? What's this wind doing to my hair?" It keeps us from getting caught up in the moments and joy of simply living: of letting out that belly laugh, or jumping out on the dance floor. We can't let loose and focus on our inner experiences out of concern over how we look to outsiders. By constantly imagining what other people see when they look at us, we become the outsider.


Another section that hit me hard is the one on "health and beauty," and how those words have become inseparable, despite having almost nothing to do with each other. Lexie and Lindsay take a much needed deep dive into how we - and often even our health care system -  tend to judge health solely by appearance, and how incredibly dangerous that is.

I certainly identify with the "If I can't get visible results, then why would I exercise?" mentality, as well as the feelings of shame that prevent me from being more active, both because of the clothes I think I'd have to wear (like workout gear) and because I won't like how I look in the process of moving around.



 
I love that More Than A Body doesn't just explain the problem, but offers tangible suggestions we can put into practice right now. Things like curating our social media feeds to cut down on harmful messages, and how to re-phrase compliments to focus more on a person's worth and talent instead of how they look. For fitness they recommend goals that have nothing to do with weight or appearance: things like better lab tests and increased abilities. There's also a great section on choosing clothes that won't cause us to self-objectify while we're being active (and even when we're not.)

Those are just two areas the book covers. There's much, much more.

If I had one wish for 2021, it would be for everyone  - and especially every woman - to read More Than A Body. Read it, wrestle with it, talk about it with your friends. However, if you don't have the funds to buy a book right now, there is another way - a free way - and that's to follow the Beauty Redefined Instagram account. Most of what's covered in the book is in the account, conveniently packaged in bite-sized chunks. (The book is a dense read, not gonna lie.) So if the book seems too much right now, at least hit that follow button on Instagram. Take that small step to overcoming self-hate, both for yourself and for the people you love.
 
Over the past 2 years Lindsay and Lexie's posts - and now their book- have steadily shifted my thinking to a healthier, more grounded place. I'm more focused on my inner value, on the things I do that last. It often still stings when I see myself, not gonna lie, and I still grieve the loss of that "future me" I used to chase -  the one who's a size 6 and pore-less with giant Bambi eyes and a razor sharp jawline - but I can see now how that "future me" is a mirage I've been using to torment myself. Not only that, she's a mirage others have been using to torment me in the name of profit - and that cannot stand.

I still have a long way to go, but I want this same freedom and perspective shift for each and every one of you. I want you to know you are so much more than what you see in the mirror. That your true value is in who you are and how you love others. That you aren't here to decorate the world, you're here to change it. 
 
I want that for all of us. And I can't wait to see what we'll do once we have it.

::Squeezy Bear Hugs For All Who Need It::


*****



P.S. Congratulations to Kim T, Siobhan H., & Sarah G., our Squeegineer winners for the month of March! Please check your inboxes for a message from John, you three, so you can choose your prizes.

40 comments:

  1. Thanks for that. It is something I needed to hear. <3 Off to buy a book.

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    1. me too - just added it to my amazon list for next time I order my free shipping min

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  2. On a related note, I will share my favorite compliment of all time, given to me by the shoeshine guy on the street corner on a glorious spring day: "The sunshine looks good on you!"

    I don't know why that one touches me so much, but it wasn't about how I looked, or what I was wearing (well, it could have been, but you can't tell) - it was about how happy I was to be out walking in that wonderful weather.

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    1. I love that! Have to remember that one.

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    2. Deb, that's so sweet! I totally get why it stuck with you.

      My favourite compliment I received by a man passing by in Paris. I had this foolish grin on my face because I was back in Paris for the first time after a very long time and was quite possibly glowing because of the exitement. His "Madame, you have a beautiful smile" (in French, of course, which made it sound even better) sent my happiness levels through the roof that day.

      I think when you radiate positive energy (like you, when you were happy about being out in that wonderful weather) it resonates spontaneously with others - and results in honest compliments from strangers.

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    3. My mom once told me that I had "Lion-colored hair." My favorite.

      I also want to show you this WorldCat link. In honor of Epbot I plugged in Orlando, FL but you can use any address.

      If money is tight your local public library in the u.S. (and other parts of the world, but definitely the U.S.) can get the book for you.The sample link (below) shows 6 of the 209 libraries that have a copy.

      AND you can request your library buy it (link to this post when you do!) AND/OR request the your library gets one of the libraries having a copy send it by mail to your library.

      And yes, my library will be ordering a copy!

      https://www.worldcat.org/title/more-than-a-body-your-body-is-an-instrument-not-an-ornament/oclc/1228177933?referer=br&ht=edition

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  3. I used to be into function over form (and against form over function, in general) - yes, if a building can be both beautiful and functional, great; but if the artist's vision results in zero bathrooms (or sinks that aren't usable, etc.) then nope. Give me clothes with pockets, and makeup on rare occasions only (because I didn't like to have to have one track of my mind trying to not smudge it), and go out and live! And stay in and live, and create, and work, and connect people, and eat delicious food, and plant things that will flower in the future, and...

    And then I got sick, and my body *also* wasn't functioning properly (fairly drastically, including brain fog). Does the book address anything about identity and function when it meets with substantial disability - what happens when your instrument is out of tune and there isn't a known way to tune it? I know that just dealing with body image things is more than enough for one book to tackle! But just in case, I wanted to inquire...

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    1. I just scrolled through the Instagram and found this, which touches on this issue: https://www.instagram.com/p/CHHB9Hop1LI/?igshid=1nkxdrdopf7kt

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    2. The authors do mention ability level several times, mostly in an "I see you" kind of way, acknowledging how much harder certain folks have it. (This includes gender identity and other marginalized groups.) They don't go much further than that from what I recall, but I think the general advice helping us opt out of appearance-driven value is pretty solid for everyone. And you're right, it's a lot to tackle! So hopefully they'll offer more targeted tips in the future.

      Also hugs to you - I know that's an even harder battle.

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    3. Thank you for sharing that link, Unknown - I *thought* they had a relevant post but couldn't find it! Here's the clickable versionfor the rest of you, it's a good one.

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    4. Thank you so much! That's very helpful to know!

      I just had a function downgrade recently and it is fruuuuustrating when you're already very limited in what you can do to then have even more limitations. That said, it may end and I may get back to being able to do more things again, and there are still things I can do. Just fewer of them. And with more waiting time. And with more ambient pain. But maybe it will end.

      But also, ideally, my identity is not in my function/productivity, but in being a human being made in the image of God and loved? I mean, come on, it's Good Friday after all? But it is difficult to un-train decades of "you need to put in more than you take out" sorts of 'lessons' in how to 'earn' your space in the world. Nope. No additional earning is required; it has been earned. But intellectual knowing and full knowing are a long distance apart, and also I am tired.

      Thank you so much for your thinking of this, and also thank you for the hugs! Will (nearly) always take virtual hugs. :-)

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    5. Anonymous, I am so sorry things have been so rough for you! I can hardly imagine. I loved your last reply, because for me that is what it all boils down to. It is good to feel beautiful, better to appreciate what you can do, and best to remember you are a child of God! Happy Easter, and may your health do all the improving possible!

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  4. Yes to all of this! I've been following Beauty Redefined for years, and while there were things I instantly agreed with, there have been other ideas they've presented that are so polar opposite to what I believed (or thought was true) that took some time before I could find my mindset starting to shift. It's interesting which topics they post that have lots of pushback comments (the before and after photos is always a hot topic when they post about it). I would just encourage everyone to do like Jen did, and just take your time with it. It is truly life-changing in so many ways.

    One huge shift I've definitely seen in myself is not judging other women. They haven't posted about it a lot recently, but there were some posts that were a huge wake up call about how you 100% cannot know who a person is inside by what they look like, what they choose to wear, etc. I feel I have a lot more grace for others (and myself) since really internalizing their message.

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  5. It's funny to me that you keep contrasting this message with Body Positivity. This *is* the original message of Body Positivity: being positive about the body you're in instead of chasing some ideal dream body that you'll never have. Then a bunch of thin women started redefining it to mean "saying vaguely positive things about how great it is to be skinny" and the whole message got corrupted by diet culture. I'm glad you found your way here!

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    1. I think this is actually different from "whatever body you're in is a beautiful body"? It's "the beauty of the body you're in is not the main point" - at least as far as I understand it?

      So, if you make soup: the point of soup is to taste good and be nourishing. It's fine for it to look good. I can say that I think brown gloop looks good, even without garnishes, because to me it *does* because I have tasted so many delicious brown gloops. Saying that all soups - brown gloop, chicken noodle, potato soup, whatever - look good just as they are would be what I understand body positivity to be saying (vs. the traditional "garnish it, make sure brothy soups show some of their contents rather than having it all sunken, and *somehow* make the brown gloop *not* be brown gloop" food styling rules), whereas saying that it doesn't matter if the soup looks good or not if it tastes good and is nourishing would be more this message. Both are good messages, but I do think this is different?

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    2. Yep, Anonymous up there covered it: they *are* a bit different, though both good!

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  6. After that post you mention, I started working on taking selfies as a kind of exposure therapy. It was so hard at first. I wanted to delete every photo. But here I am 2 years later and I finally find that I don’t cringe every time I see myself. It has been such a weight off of me

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    1. That is amazing, Cindy! I'm so proud of you for sticking with it! I admit I haven't been as diligent about taking selfies, I want to remember to do that even if I don't post them publicly, just for my own progress.

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  7. I lost 75 lbs. last year due to illness, and the number of people who told me HOW GOOD I LOOKED made me want to tear out my hair (or punch something). I was comfortable with myself at the heavier weight, my BP and EKG were great, it wasn't a problem! And I didn't TRY to lose the (expletive) weight.

    Even when I asked people not to comment on my body, some of them persisted, "But you DO look so good!"

    Erg.

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    1. Ug, I'm so sorry you went through that - but thank you for commenting this. Stories like yours over on the Beauty Redefined account helped me learn WHY we should never comment on another's weight, or really their appearance at all. I never want to cause harm if I can help it, and I think now I'm far more likely to check in and ask if someone is OK if I notice a drastic physical change.

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  8. This is so awesome! And I really love the shift away from the message that everyone's goal should be to feel **beautiful**, which is weird in so many ways. Many years ago I read the speech "Moving Toward the Ugly" by Mia Mingus, which contains the rallying refrain "Where is the ugly in you? What is it trying to teach you?" I LOVE THE POWER OF IT.
    The full text is here: https://leavingevidence.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/moving-toward-the-ugly-a-politic-beyond-desirability/
    And here is a much shorter little illustrated tribute I made for it a long time ago:
    https://drawmedy.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/buona-ma-brutti-1.jpeg

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    1. I agree about the messaging around beauty... I appreciate the intent behind the "everybody/every body is beautiful" messaging but in my opinion it still gives too much power to the concept of beauty. To me it's much more freeing to say "I don't HAVE to be/feel beautiful, I just have to exist and that's enough".

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    2. Totally agree with both of you!!!

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  9. For workouts, may I recommend something? It's called Momma Strong. You absolutely do not need to be a mother to use it, despite the name. It's all about being more connected to your body; no mentions of weight loss or how good your butt will look after an exercise. She often shows up in jeans and an oversize sweatshirt. She feels very REAL. I learned about it on FoE back in January and have been doing it ever since. It's the first work out program I've stuck with for more than a month.

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  10. I'm old, like old enough to be most of the readers' mom, so allow me to say aging is a most wonderful gift. Aging has taught me to pick and choose the what positive specifics other people think about me *and be more concerned about what *I* think* ->I decided to weigh my value in terms of what I am doing for myself, my happiness, my love, my health, my generosity and grace towards others, my charitable contributions, my activism, and my relationship with my God ->while allowing other humans the right to do their own thing without it being my business.

    1,000 years ago when I was in my late 20s, up to my neck in self loathing, and too busy with life to truly concern myself with myself, I heard Bette Midler sing one of her typical songs, "I'm Beautiful (dammit!)" but it hit me hard and changed my thinking, particularly the chorus:
    "Ain't this *my* sun? Ain't this *my* moon?
    Ain't this *my* world to be who *I* choose?
    Ain't this *my* song? Ain't this *my* movie?
    Ain't this *my* world? *I know I can do it*." https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bettemidler/imbeautiful.html -go read all the lyrics and you tube the song if you want a good laugh and boost!

    It *is* my world too. I have as much right to be here, to be HAPPY as anyone. You do too. We all do. It doesn't matter what I look like, my size, colour, location, my preferences, or abilities -> we're all relatives, brothers and sisters -why would we demean each other?

    Thank you Jen for bringing this attitude to your readers! You beautiful creative hopeful women are wonderful! Your bodies are freaking miracles! You have a computer in your brain that still supersedes the best computers on earth, your eyes, your skin, your heart, even your crap is a miracle of information in the right situation! Your body literally reboots, resets, processes out good and bad, regenerates, and more WHILE YOU SLEEP! You are a living breathing miracle! Your body was designed to have soft spots specifically so that you could comfort another life, it's ok if you have soft spots. You already have a fabulous body and someone out there would give anything to have *your* body.

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    1. I love this, thank you! Now I'm off to look up that Bette Midler song. :)

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  11. Thank you so much for being so brave and sharing with us. I so badly needed to hear this. I already have the book on order. Thank you so much for all that you do in order to uplift others. You truly do make a difference! Thank you!

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  12. I have to echo someone above who said that age makes a big difference - in a good way! I found I got to a point of not caring how others thought I looked in my late 40s, and it has been so freeing! I love not only not being a sex object like young women are, but also I see that I'm not objectifying myself. One thing that helped get me here was moving to England, where there are SO MANY RULES, all unsaid, that govern everyone's life and keep everyone in their place, especially women, and often enforced by women. Seriously, it's not just Regency England, it's alive and well. It must be even worse for women of color, and women in in higher social classes, but even in the mundane classes I found myself at the brunt of comments like, "Oh, how interesting that you chose to wear a cocktail dress to a conference dinner"! Yes, an academic conference, so even highly educated women do this, and by the way what the h*ll is a cocktail dress and why isn't it appropriate for a conference dinner, what WOULD be appropriate and how the h*ll are you supposed to find out??? And yet everyone who grew up here claims this isn't true, these rules don't exist, they don't know them either...though all other migrant women know what I'm talking about. Anyway, rant aside - this helped me see how pointless it all is, especially when you realise that you can't win and you don't even want to be playing this stupid game anyway.

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  13. Thanks for sharing this--I took a quick look through their instagram page and many of the ideas resonate with me.

    I feel like modern society has embraced what I would call (if I was being dramatic) a sort of "cult of toxic positivity" where there is this concept that we all "should" feel happy, beautiful, confident, and strong all of the time. I would argue that, while it isn't healthy to feel negative all of the time, it also isn't necessarily healthy to feel positive ALL of the time. We all experience ups and downs--that's just part of life. It's important to face and address negative feelings when they occur instead of trying to convince ourselves that those negative feelings don't (or shouldn't) exist. I'm not saying that there's no place for positive/encouraging messaging online, it's just nice to see a balance between those sorts of posts and ones like this where the author opens up about their insecurities or struggles. Just reading the comments section on a post like this can help us see that we are not alone.

    I'll end with an example--overall I'd say I have a healthy relationship with my body but there are absolutely still things I would change. I don't love my hips, but I don't hate them either and I think that is key. Rather than attaching a strong emotional reaction to my appearance (either love or hate) my goal is to just...let myself exist and be OK with it.

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    1. Yes! Sounds like you're already on the same page (pun intended) as Lexie & Lindsay. I agree that the whole "love yourself because you ARE beautiful" mandate can feel both oppressive and hypocritical, so I'm much more attracted to Body Neutrality and acceptance as a philosophy than typical BoPo alone. (Though of course Body Positivity has a valuable place in the discussion.)

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  14. Just a thought - you can see if you can coordinate with Jenny Lawson and maybe she can sell the book through her bookstore (online only right now).

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  15. I have been saying this for years. I hate the idea that someone's self-worth should be tied to their appearance in the first place. Being told I was "beautiful" always just made me sad, since it told me that whoever it was hadn't cared enough to get to know me on a personal level and compliment something that actually mattered.

    Also, I never got the impression that most body positive people actually *believe* that everyone is beautiful. They *say* it a lot, but then they still talk about hating their own looks, which proves that they do in fact think there are exceptions. And anyone who looks similar to them and sees that is just going to end up feeling even worse.

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  16. Judging people on how they look can be so much more than harmful, it can nearly kill you!! 19 years ago my mom was hit by a distracted driver. She was 2 weeks shy of her 60th birthday. She was also blessed with AMAZING southern genes and so she LOOKED GOOD!!! (like looked 40 good!) She had all her pelvic organs torn loose, 6 rib fractures, 5 pelvic fractures, a Cervical spinal fracture(missed) and a closed head injury (missed). In the first year after her accident she had 375 doctor appointments (Thanks insurance that was trying not to pay!) and the first thing EVERY Doctor Said was "WOW, You Look AMAZING! Now Why are you here?" Then they looked at her chart and Blanched!! That was such a wake up call for me. Just because someone looks good on the Outside doesn't mean they aren't dying on the inside. We fought for years (And still are) to get her the care and treatment she deserved. Through all this I however have ignored my own body. I have abused if with food that does not nourish it. I have blamed myself for not being here to take care of her, so much so that I agreed to give up the life I LOVED in SoCal to move closer to take care of her even though it meant giving up everything that made me happy and that I saw my identity in. I Still had my husband and kids but no friends, no outlet, no purpose, so I took all that out on my body.
    WOW!!!! That was hard to write!!! I have never admitted before that I really don't like myself very much! I thought I had over come all that years ago but clearly I still have work to do. I may not want to die but I'm still trying but this time it's with food and a lazy lifestyle!! I'm going to go and sit with this for a bit......

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    1. Oh wow, sending virtual hugs. It's amazing what we find within ourselves when we start letting it out. Please do not be hard on yourself! You are not alone. Any progress toward healing, no matter when in life, is amazing! And I'm so sorry what your mother went through - so horrendous on all accounts!

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  17. That aspirational future self is a killer. I am 51 now and I think about how, for my entire life since I was a teenager, I have been "too fat". Combine that with the inevitable effects of aging and it feels like my "value" continues to just go down and down over time. It's so disheartening to have truly objectified ourselves to the extent we have. My value is defined by my looks, to myself and others. It's a lot of work to get out from under this mindset. I got the book and hope I can work my way out soon.

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  18. I went and placed an order before I even finished reading your post. I know I could definitely benefit from this "retraining," but even more so, I have been wrestling with how to teach healthy body image and language to my two young daughters and this is EXACTLY the kind of resource I've been wishing for. Thank you thank you thank you for your bravery and vulnerability that has repeatedly shown me that I'm not alone and continues to give me some of the best tools to pass on to my own little girls.

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  19. Thank you for sharing. I needed this.

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  20. One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis, "We don't have a soul. We are a soul. We happen to have a body."
    It helps me remember that who i am will always be more important than what i look like.

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  21. for me, martial arts have been a huge help. I'm still the oldest, fattest, and slowest in the room, but gosh darn it I can do things now that I looked on in awe just a few years (months) ago. just knowing I am slowly getting stronger is huge for me. hopefully I can get back to it in another month or two.

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