Hopefully at (nearly) age forty I can count on another forty years in this body and I have to say, after reading Sarah Hays Coomer’s Lightness of Body and Mind, I’m actually looking forward to spending a lot more time in this capable, highly functional, extraordinary vessel of awesomeness.
Coomer, with deep wisdom and accessibility, delivers the kind of message that our society desperately needs to hear. As if she herself steps off the page to become my personal trainer, cheerleader and friend, Coomer manages to completely alter my perception, opinion and attitude about my body in a positive and transformative way.
Armed with her “toolbox,” a handy set of thoughtful, doable and simple assignments at the end of each chapter, I’m ready to turn forty in July with a celebratory attitude of gratitude.
I’ve spent too much of my thirties and twenties worried about what others think of my body. Is it thin enough? Is it too thin? Why do I have cellulite even when I’m almost fifteen pounds underweight? Now that I’m an appropriate and healthy weight, should I maintain this exact number by weighing myself every single morning naked before drinking coffee? Am I sexy? Should I wear uncomfortable heels to mask how short my legs are compared to my torso? Is the skin under my arms ever going to not jiggle when I wave hello or goodbye? Is my neck actually starting to droop along with my eyelids? Why do I have a second butt developing under my actual butt?
ENOUGH! If you saw a picture of me, you’d likely want to punch me in the face! I’m lovely but more importantly, I’m healthy.
Gone are the days of depriving myself of a healthy breakfast in favor of a huge coffee to tide me over until happy hour. Goodbye to the days of skipping meals in order to continue to fit the Size 2 skinny jeans. A loving sayonara to weighing myself every day and counting calories.
Coomer has a better plan and it’s a game changer.
“Bodies are beautiful because of what they can do,” says Coomer, “not because of how tiny they are. It’s easy to forget what matters: the ability to bound up a flight of stairs to share good news, or the ability to stand outside on a cool, fall evening watching a storm roll in, with legs and strong abdominals to hold you up; clear vision to see dark clouds over a gray sky; ears to hear the scrape of leaves blowing on the sidewalk; the smell of rain on the horizon; and a chill on your skin.”
With poetic language, gorgeous descriptions and practical reminders, she paints pictures of a life in a body that is useful and respected by me, not a body that is constantly scrutinized and berated. Coomer gives me permission to congratulate myself for being able to walk several miles on two healthy legs in order to explore a new city. She gives me permission to say thank you to a body that can carry a pint of ice cream up five flights of stairs without much effort and then lets me enjoy some of it guilt-free because “Lightness springs from devotion to people and pastimes you love, not from deprivation.”
At thirty nine and ten months I can tell you that my sciatica gives me trouble. My left ankle has never fully recovered from a sprain and aches randomly. When my feet touch the floor in the morning they feel cramped and painful for the first few steps I take each day. I need physical therapy for my neck which is often stiff from tension. None of these things stop me from living the life I love; a life that includes world exploration, hiking for miles, eating exotic foods, performing on stage, making love, laughing, singing, dancing for fun and cardio kickboxing.
It’s the sucking in, concealing, hiding and judging that prevents me from having a good time.
“Bodies are beautiful because of their functionality and uniqueness. The fight to shrink and tuck them has been with us for far too long, and it has failed. The war is lost, and it is my fervent, idealistic hope that this living generation is the one that will step out of the fray and make it stop, that we are the ones who will finally prioritize nourishment and strength over appearance.”
This year of “Extraordinary 40” is meant to help prepare me for the next decade so that I can look forward to it with confidence and hopefully a feeling of excitement rather than dread. Reading Coomer’s Lightness of Body and Mind has been a huge step in the right direction. I plan on focusing on my quality of life and pursuing the things I love instead of attempting to keep my body looking ten years younger than it actually is or trying to maintain some number on the scale because it makes me emotionally feel better. I want to celebrate this body that is super capable and strong, and yes, of course I still care about how it looks but not based on any of society’s norms but rather how I feel in this body and what I can do with it.
“Getting healthier is about quality of life. It’s about serving our bodies the best we can by weaving an intricate tapestry of pleasure, rest, recovery, and motion.”
Amen! Bring on my forties; this body can handle it!
Your #Extraordinary40 Challenge is to make a list of some or all of the extraordinary things your body can do. You can share your answers and photos with @projectwomen and @jameyhood on Twitter. Be sure to use #Ex40!
Lighteness of Body and Mind is now available on Audible.com or you can order your copy from all major book sellers beginning on June 1st. If you’d like to have access to more of Sarah Hays Coomer’s practical wisdom you can visit her website, Strength Outside In, or follow @strengthoutside on Twitter.
Collage art by: Deborah Stevenson