I’ve been silly. For the last few weeks, I’ve driven twelve miles to a local spa to bask in the radiant heat of the far infrared sauna. With each visit, I’ve sizzled alone—no other occupants in sight—in my one piece bathing suit.
I didn’t think twice about donning my bathing suit until today. I looked at the glass door with curtain drawn, lock in place. I glanced over my left shoulder, then my right. Just me. Party of one. I wasn’t hiding my unshaven legs or my two half-painted toenails. So why was I covering up the rest of my body?
As soon as I asked the question, the answer came flying out of my subconscious. I didn’t like staring at the extra pooch (as I so lovingly call it) that found its home around my mid-section when I dropped my regular workout routine.
I’m glad I was honest with myself, but the answer still made me mad.
I’m the naked friend: the one who slaps on some big ol’ panties and laughs at my saggy tush. I waded into Ross Lake with nothing on but a headlamp because I wanted to feel free on vacation. I fought hard during my twenties to befriend my cankles, and I don’t own a full-length mirror. Why was I struggling with this?
I stripped off my suit and looked down at my extra roll. I grabbed it in my hand, and then (naturally) I spoke to it:
“You? You have power over me? You make me feel less beautiful?”
It’s fat. Fat. Fat. Fat. It controls us. It eats away at our self-confidence. It determines what size pants we buy, and how many doughnuts we shouldn’t eat. Fat is literally a bunch of loose connective tissue with cells. I don’t know about you, but to me that sounds about as intimidating as a sedated Chihuahua. Yet somehow the amount of fat we have on our body defines us. Whether we lack it or have excess amounts, fat is connected to our self-worth.
Can you imagine if all of our best qualities were actually visible? You wouldn’t look in the mirror distraught over the five pounds you gained on vacation. Instead your sense of resilience, tender heart and inquiring mind would be splayed like proud peacock feathers waiting for others to admire. If this were the case, I would rip off my clothes 24/7, no questions asked.
I’ve learned how to shine a daily spotlight on my inner strengths. Unfortunately, I haven’t mastered self-love when it comes to my body. I cope with my insecurities by downplaying the importance of my physical appearance. I make jokes in department stores with my mom; I moon unsuspecting friends and laugh when my jeans don’t fit. While I think it’s healthy that I’m not crying at the mall or obsessively stepping on the scale, I’m not confronting any of my body issues either. I’ve been stuffing them in the dark closet of my subconscious, which isn’t doing me any favors.
That full-length mirror? I don’t own one because I’m afraid I’d pick myself apart.
Back in the sauna, I let go of my pooch and just stared. Glassy beads of sweat popped up in random patterns along my forearms, running down my elbows. I thanked my body for working so hard to cool me down.
The gratitude felt good. It felt like something I was missing.
I decided then and there that the happiest sauna users must be grateful naked people. So I think I’m going to try that next time I glisten au natural.
Author: Sarah Herbert
Editor: Caroline Beaton
Photo: Courtesy of the author
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