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Love your body this week

| Thursday, February 20, 2014

What does it mean to love your body?

We asked this question of each other Wednesday because this week is Love Your Body Week at Notre Dame, and because Saint Mary’s will celebrate it next week. We wondered whether loving your body means actively pursuing fitness and a balanced diet or whether it’s about accepting yourself, flaws and all.

We realized it means both.

Love Your Body Week matters to us because, as often-stressed and exhausted college students, loving our bodies is far from easy. It’s difficult to schedule time to exercise and sleep when we have dozens of upcoming deadlines at any given time. It’s tempting to distract ourselves from anxiety with greasy food and sugar. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of criticizing ourselves, over and over, for not being perfect.

Loving our bodies, though, doesn’t mean trying to be perfect. It’s about seeking to be healthy, whatever that might look like. And the truth is, ‘healthy’ looks different for everyone because no two bodies are the same. Taking care of our bodies is a learning process that necessitates experimentation and an open mind. We need to try new ways of eating and exercising to figure out what makes us feel healthy, instead of adhering to cookie-cutter regimens. Simply put, we should seek out good habits that make us happy.

Luckily for us, Notre Dame purports to educate the mind, body and spirit. The “body” part of that triad can get lost, in all of our University’s emphasis on academics, research, extracurricular engagement, service, travel and other opportunities. But, we also have club and interhall athletic teams, RecSports classes and two workout facilities at our disposal, so it’s not hard to find activities we love that also show respect for our bodies and what our bodies have the potential of doing.

Think about it this way — professional athletes are healthy because they do what they love. Professional athletes also have teams of doctors and experts on their sides to help them find the right balance, but most of all, professionals know that you have to listen to your body, especially when it needs a change of pace, a new challenge or rest for an injury. Fitness is most easily attained when it’s the result of being passionate about something and committing to it daily.

We sometimes lose perspective, though, on the other half of what it means to love your body: embracing every part of yourself, even the parts you wish looked different.

Truly loving your body means appreciating your sky-colored eyes equally as much as the fold on your stomach you wish you could get rid of.

It means being as content with your endearing smile as you are with the spatter of acne on your forehead.

And it means coming to peace with not being perfect.

We all have our own struggles and insecurities. But we could lessen our own loads significantly if we took to heart the idea that we are far more than the sum of our parts, that we are uniquely beautiful individuals and that our worth is not tied to our appearances. Loving our bodies means seeing ourselves as somehow perfect in our imperfection, and it means perceiving others that way, too.

Maybe this week and every week, we could go easy on ourselves, take a few deep breaths and choose to embrace our appearances — perfect imperfection and all.

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