An Open Letter of Gratitude to my Body

I’ve seen a few things floating around on the internet about some weight fluctuations due to the recent social changes we’ve been experiencing. And with that it’s easy to get caught up in this minor change, maybe because it provides a sense of control when everything else feels so unanchored. I typically don’t engage regularly within the body positivity conversation of the internet because I instead like to think of myself as brain positive – valuing myself for the things that I’m doing and creating – my passions and purpose, a human being that takes up space and has something to contribute. More than just a body. My body is for sure important, but isn’t the end all be all thing. I am not defined by it.

BUT. This doesn’t mean I’m immune to having body thoughts. During these times when the internal chatter starts to get louder and louder, I like to think about all the amazing thing that my body does for me every day. And this would be my piece of advice. When you start to hear the noise, begin to remember just how hard your body is working for you on the inside. Give it gratitude and give it grace. And then write yourself a letter of thanks and gratitude so you have a physical reminder of these things. Here’s mine:

Dear body,

First and foremost, you’re doing amazing. I am honored to be on this journey with you. It’s downright incredulous what goes into the amount of energy needed to function well every day, and I don’t think I give you enough credit for that. For getting out of bed during those impossible 4:30am mornings on your surgery rotation. For showing up to class for limitless amounts of exams. For somehow surviving the overnights. For walking me across the city of Boston so I can marvel in its changing of seasons. For allowing me to still dance despite a prior back injury. For the ability to take a huge deep breath of fresh spring air. For so, so much. So let’s start from the top:

  • Thank you brain for your curiosity, perseverance, creativity, affinity for language (puns), thoughtfulness. I know I’m hard on you for being so anxious and sad sometimes. It’s okay. It’s this analysis paralysis and overthinking that continues to lead you on a different and unique path. And teaches me so many lessons about who I am and where I’m going.
  • Thank you neck and double chin for holding up said brain. And for protecting my thyroid!! That thing is important! (metabolism, digestion, mood, bone maintenance, and so, so much more).
  • Thank you lungs for getting me through that 4-7-8 breathing during times of what felt like limitless anxiety. For allowing me to hike, to run (begrudgingly), to LAUGH, to make it through a tough dance performance. You are stamina. You connect my mind to my physical body.
  • Thank you heart for that thump, thump, thump you do so well. For oxygenating my brain. For racing when I get a new idea for content that makes me oh so excited and brimming with purpose. For breaking. And then rebuilding. Then shattering. And rising again. That’s the work. That’s the human. The empathy creator.
  • Thank you stomach for protecting my gut microbes. It’s you who does so much work – regulating digestion and mood, controlling my immune system, and affecting my brain function. Thank you for receiving and digesting food that fuels me and gives me literal life. Thank you for providing the gut reactions and responses that have led me to where I am right now.
  • Thank you spine. I’ve spent a lot of time not liking you so much. I’m sorry you were hurt in high school. But it’s made me give you some extra TLC – physically and emotionally. Going to acupuncture and chiropractic and yoga. Physically strengthening you and reminding myself to have some backbone. Be firm in my convictions and opinions.
  • Thank you hips for filling out my jeans. I used to pray in middle school for that hourglass figure during a time when I felt so behind all of my peers. You were slow to fill out and then you bloomed all at once. And when that happened – when I got what I asked for – I threw it back in your face and hated you. I’m sorry for that. It was cruel and confusing. That brown adipose tissue keeps me warm during these frigid Boston winters.
  • Thank you thighs for being best friends and sticking close together. You’ve carried me through a grueling year of PA school rotations, to many different countries, through workouts, on leisurely wine walks. Thank you for the humor you provided when you ripped 2 different pairs of pants when I was abroad. And another pair in PA school. You keep me laughing. You keep me moving. You’re great just the way you are.
  • To my feet. Thank you for hitting the floor every morning and going (except for the few occasions I was so tired I slid to my knees.) I’m sorry for the time I broke a toe when running around in a cape at the premiere of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Thank you for giving me that story.

I also like to remind myself just how many cognitive resources it takes to perseverate negatively over something that I instead should be wildly celebrating. Think about all you could accomplish if when you start to notice a negative quantitative spiral, you could instead shift to a place of qualitative progress. Spending that time and energy instead into the things that really matter to you – your passions, hobbies, friendships, family, and purpose.

I am grateful to have a medical experience of a body and an emotional experience of a body. It’s created some wisdom. It allows me to refocus when I look in the mirror and start nit-picking over literally nothing. To be okay with weight fluctuations. To remind myself that the outer things protect the FAR more important inner things, and that the inner things matter more. And that I am so much more than a physical body. I am a brain with passions and experiences, taking up space, creating and impacting. My body takes me places that my brain creates. For that I am forever grateful.

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