(Psssst! If you’re “late” to the challenge and just getting started, that’s OK too! Just go at your own pace!  Start with this blog post and scroll to the bottom, and make sure you have what you need to complete the challenge and fill out the 10 questions you need to fill out before you get started.  Then you can take it day by day at your own pace!)

Recap

Happy Monday Everyone!  Can you believe we only have a week of the challenge left?  I can’t.  It’s flown by and I am super grateful to all of you for participating.

Yesterday’s reason to love your body was:

“Because it’s sexy.”

I noticed that this reason seems to bring up some discomfort in a lot of women.  I’m not sure if it’s because they have been afraid to think of themselves as sexy, or they are afraid of their own sexuality, or if they had a negative sexual experience in their past, or if they have been raised to believe that being sexy/sexual is wrong — I’m just not sure.

I’m definitely not here to tell people how they should feel or what is right or wrong for them, but I do believe that allowing yourself to feel sexy/sexual is a critical part of the human experience, and it’s my hope that every woman figures out a way to get in touch with that side of herself at some point.

Here is a contribution from a brave woman about her experience:

“My body feels sexiest when I allow it too.

I find I spend a lot of time hiding my sexiness from others, even from my husband. This is due to an incident that happened years before I met him. I have spent decades hiding my best assets and features.

I wear old baggy clothes so no one will see the beauty buried deep within me that was shattered by another. But even with that said I feel sexy when I exercise or when I hug my husband .

I guess I feel sexy when I can be the best me I can. I know I am sexy even though I hide it well.”  - Joanne

Thank you to Joanne for bravely sharing her thoughts.

And now day 21!

***PLEASE BE AWARE, THERE ARE GRAPHIC PHOTOS OF A BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR BELOW***

Reason #21 To Love Your Body

21. Because it tells my life story.

I love, love, love this reason.  Like, love it.  Did I mention that I love it?!

There’s something so special and amazing and beautiful about the story our bodies tell about our lives.

Maybe you’re 50 years old, but still have your tell-tale broad shoulders from being a competitive swimmer as a teen.

Maybe you have more wrinkles than you’d like, but you got them spending your summers at the beach with your family.

Maybe you have stretch marks and some extra skin on your belly from your pregnancy with your darling children.

So much of our life’s history is marked on our bodies through freckles, wrinkles, scars, stretch marks, birth marks, broken bones, and more.  And we often see these as imperfections, but they’re not.  In fact, they are the grandest of storytellers.

Personally, I have a long snaking scar on my elbow from a surgery I had when I was 9.  It was at this time that doctors (and my family) discovered that I have a heart condition called Mitral Valve Prolapse.  My heart stopped during surgery and scared everyone very much.  While this condition doesn’t affect my everyday life much, it’s still good to know that I have it.

I’m also covered in freckles and moles from all of my days at the pool as a child, and from the sun-worshiping that I did before I took charge of my health (for the record, I still expose my skin to sun, but in much more moderate amounts).

What parts of your life story does your body tell?

Read below as Melanie shares her story:

“Hello Molly, 

I have been reading and enjoying your series on Love your Body and I want to contribute by telling my own story. 

I am an artist, a wife, a cat-mom, and a breast cancer survivor. I got diagnosed a bit over 3 years ago. 

When reviewing my options as to how to proceed with reconstruction, I realized none of it would work for me. I did not have enough body fat to move from here to there, nor did I want to have multiple scars over my entire body, I could not imaging moving muscle from my belly to create the semblance of an insensate breast mound, I could not imaging living with a single breast, nor could I see myself wearing the shape of a breast to conform to societal standards.

Melanie Testa

So I decided to ‘Go Flat’, and had both breasts removed.

I did not know anyone who had chosen this option. I had no idea what to expect. I went from a 34DD to flat. I told myself that there was no need to be modest and I decided to have good body image. Yes. I just plain -decided- to have a good body image. When I go to the gym, I get dressed just like I did prior to my new body shape. I do not wear breast forms because my body is good enough, just the way it is. Breast cancer happens, unfortunately. And I do everything in my power to connect with my new shape. 

I had not exercised prior to treatment, and I understand it is helpful in helping the body reject disease, so I started lifting heavy things and began to seek out vibrant, passionate women like yourself, Marianne Kane and Jen Sinkler

And this is an important point to the success of my choice: I do not accept the prevailing thought processes of mainstream beauty ideals. I choose not to read ‘women’s magazines’, where beauty ideals are perpetuated, I have bought exactly one fitness magazine in my lifetime, and this was because Maggie Smith was photographed for it (Maggie is also a ‘Flattie’ and an inspiration to me.

http://www.fitnessmagazine.com/health/conditions/breast-cancer/why-i-gave-up-my-breasts/). I seek out women like yourself who choose to break down the barriers and honestly inform their followings. 

And I choose to be the inspiration I needed when I was going through treatment and making these very difficult decisions. 

(Editor’s Note: Just a heads-up, the link below does contain nude photos. They are a part of Melanie’s story, and I think they are extremely beautiful and brave. Just wanted you to be aware before clicking the link). 

http://melanietesta.com/2014/02/the-grace-to-be-flat-and-fabulous/

After going through treatment, experiencing chemotherapy, surgery and radiation, I realized what an intense, beautiful and interesting subject my body is. I healed wonderfully from everything they threw at me. My body is resilient, strong, capable, available and worthy of my complete attention. I choose to get out of my own way.

Our minds have great impact on our bodies. Thinking negative thoughts translates into negativity within our bellies, our muscles, our breasts, and cancer teaches me that I need to be nice to myself both body and mind. 

I do not mean to imply that my journey has been easy, but I can confirm it has been worthwhile.

This is my mantra, “My body is beautiful, No Matter What”.

Thank you for being all you can be. Thank you for helping other people do the same.  - Melly”

Wow Melly.  Thank you for sharing your story.

Mantra:  ”My body carries the markings that tell my life story.  These are all beautiful and unique to me.”

Repeat this (to yourself or out loud) 10 times right now,  10 times during your action step, and 10 times before bed.

Action step:  This action step might take a bit longer than 5 minutes, but I think it’s worth it.

I want you to spend 1-2 minutes visualizing yourself as someone who is very advanced in age  (80+-ish).  I want you to picture what your life will have been like.  How it will have been lived.  What your body will have carried you through.

Then I want you to write a letter to yourself at the age you are now, from the age you are then.  So if you’re 30 now, you are writing a letter from your 80-year-old self to your 30-year-old self.

What kind of things will you say?  Do you think your 80+-year-old self will be chastising you because your thighs aren’t smaller?  Do you think she will be angry at you for not eating less? Or spending more time at the gym?

I have a feeling that woman will tell you to enjoy every single moment that you have with your body from now until eternity.  She will tell you to enjoy all that can do, and all that it can see, and all that it will do for you in your lifetime.

She will tell you to cherish every waking moment you have that you are healthy, and happy, and alive.

Take her advice.  She’s a smart lady.

FIND DAY 20 HERE

FIND DAY 22 HERE

15 Responses to Love Your Body Challenge – Day 21

  1. Kristie says:

    What an interesting and fun action step today! The morning my 80yr old self decided to write me a letter, she was in front of the mirror admiring her facial wrinkles, giving extra gratitude to all those smile lines. My, does she have a lot of them! We lived our life smiling, laughing, loving and being silly with our friends, family and lovers. Sometimes impulsive and sometimes foolish, but always with love and the intention of creating and spreading joy. She laughed about some of our mistakes, but reminded me that we learned from them. She thanked me for participating in the amazing 28 Day Body Image Challenge, because it truly changed us. Her letter made me feel good about the path I am currently on, the one I recently chose. She signed it “With Love and No Regrets, Kristie”.

  2. Heather says:

    This one had me crying. So much I’ve been through. So much still to come. So much good, so much bad.

    Dear me,

    This body held our son to say goodbye and our daughter to say hello. I held hands with my daughter, my husband, my mother, my sister, my best friends. I hugged and touched and kissed and loved. I shared and commiserated and listened and helped shoulder the burdens of my loved ones, physical and otherwise. I walked down the aisle with the man of my dreams, looked into his eyes, and spent every one of the days that followed him loving him a little more than the day before.

    I was big. I was small. I was soft. I was strong. I was wrinklier and greyer every year, but never lost the sparkle in my eyes and the sweetness of my smile. I watched that little girl grow bigger and smarter and sweeter and more mind-blowingly amazing every day. And now I’m old and wrinkly and so damned happy at all I’ve gone through. Good or bad, it all made me me…and I’m really awesome.

    Even better? I’m YOU. Which means YOU, you right now in this moment, with all the mess and confusion and insecurity. YOU are awesome. You are strong and incredible and mind-blowingly amazing. Make space for that. Allow it in a little more every day. Baby steps are alright as long as you’re taking them.

    Love, Me.

    P.S. Being an old lady rocks. You finally realize you can say and do whatever you want to. You were always free.

  3. Anna says:

    What an amazing story and so well-written with human passion and strength! You have so inspired me Melly! When I write my letter to my 80-plus year old self, I shall consider myself fortunate to read it when that time comes. I have learned to love all the scars on my body from competitive mountainbiking. My mother has told me many times to cover up those horrid legs, or at least my knees. I do love my body for its strength and my mind for its bravery to commit to the line. Melly is going to ride with me as my new mojo on my handlebars!

  4. JS says:

    I have been so motivated by this challenge; it came at a perfect time in my life!

    As I sat down to write my letter from my 80 year old self to my 50 year old self I consider the difference 30 years can make. I think back to my 20 year old self (30 years ago, am amazed by the life change that has taken place in those 3 decades and I realize how much more life I have to look forward to at 50! At a time when many of my friends are saying things like “I’m too old to do that” or “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, or “I need to act my age; I’m not 18 anymore” I am excited that taking part in your challenge has allowed me a shift in mindset, moving me towards an era of renewed beginnings! I am already embarking on a new career path, I’ve reconnected with my ability/desire to MOVE my body and I’m sure my 80 year old self would be writing me to say: “Don’t stop chasing your dreams! Find things you are passionate about and DO them. Love others along the way and offer encouragement to those who aren’t there yet. Continue to stay authentic, you do that really well. Yes, you have more lines on your legs than a Rand McNally map, but those legs are taking you where you want to go-appreciate them. Stop covering them up! Stop being so self-absorbed that you think people actually care what they look like :) Do what you have control over to keep your mind, body and spirit healthy and stop worrying about what “normal” is-in this house it has never been more than a setting on the washing machine anyway. “

  5. i love love love love love love LOVE this reason, too, Molly!

    I actually kind of think of this reason every day already. it really helps me. i even blogged about this reason in the post i wrote when promoting your challenge :) anyways, whenever i have a tough day and feel negative about my body image i think of all the good i am doing for my body. if i am uncomfortable with my abs that are hidden that used to be very noticeable i remind myself that i no longer have noticeable abs because i no longer restrict foods from myself. i no longer eat from a meal plan and count calories/macros. i ENJOY my foods without caring about portion sizes and it feels SOOOOOO GOOOOOOD. so whenever i look at my tummy and feel self conscious i ALWAYS remind myself it is because i am now HEALTHY and then i become very happy and forget about my insecurities.

    our bodies tell amazing stories :) and i love it so much

  6. Giselle says:

    Well, this reason is just what I needed for today.
    I’ve been concerning A LOT about if I keep working out (as I like & enjoy), I might not look like I want & it terrifies me, but I guess this one post helped me a lot.
    I’m facing so many of my fears & trying to stay cool, relaxed & accept everything that is thrown my way, because I’m sure all that will lead me where I need to go, to do those things that I am so in love with & I’m willing to enjoy the ride as it comes.
    So, all I can say to my future self is that every moment’s got more than one point of view & we do from every situation the best because it is what we need to go through to reach our dreams.
    Hopefully I’ll enjoy much more the ride from now on.
    I’ve regreted SO MANY THINGS, but after pondering for long time I’ve realized that, no matter what I’M PRETTY HAPPY with where I am, doing what I like, trying new stuff, feeling my mind with new information & my body with movement & nurturing it. I AM GRATEFUL for most that I have & I’m gentle with myself & try to see the other side of every issue. At this point I REGRET NOTHING of what I’ve gone through (bad or good or even better!).

    I LOVE MY BODY! n.n

  7. Karen says:

    My 80 year old self told my turning-50-this-week self that she’s proud of me, of my current work and progress in losing fat (51 lbs so far), gaining muscle, jogging/walking regularly now and all my new eating/lifestyle changes that are permanent. I am a frequent letter writer to myself on FutureMe.org and it never fails to strike a chord, so this one did too. Thanks.

  8. Deanna says:

    Today I am compelled to write. I have many times looked at myself, yet I don’t think I ever really saw the real me. My life, my existence, is inscribed on my body and it is one of the greatest stories ever written. I just didn’t realize it until now. These days, the marks show a woman who follows her passion for martial arts…in the bruises and scrapes, but also in the muscles and inner strength. And I am proud of that. And I am proud of the body that carried me to this point. It is beautiful.

  9. Melissa says:

    I’ve been keeping up with the challenge, but THIS activity moved me to want to share it. I haven’t gone through any dramatic changes or problems, no ed, no sickness, I’m actually very plain with simple body image issues. I’m the everyday mom. But writing from the future was very encouraging:

    Dear 41 yr old self:
    Don’t worry so much about having a flat tummy or about your back fat. I’m older now and am so healthy and strong because you chose to strengthen your muscles, your body, from the top down. I don’t feel pain from squatting. It doesn’t hurt to walk. I can still carry my own luggage, groceries and purse. I glive, I walk briskly and with purpose. My core is tight because you didn’t give up on having strong abs. I’m still flabby in the tummy because it never “sprang back” after having 3 kids in a row. Now your fault; that’s just how your body chose to go. Because of that tummy, you will always have some extra hip flab, that crease will always be in your lower back, but you will be STRONG. Your confidence will be sky-high because you have energy. You KNOW you can carry heavy things. You KNOW you can run just a little longer than some others. You KNOW you have made healthier food choices and have no clogged arteries, bum liver or kidneys, and low cholesterol. You are beautiful and strong. Go find jeans that fit, and tops that flatter, but stop trying to starve yourself or hate your body. It’s strong. It’s complete. The hubby loves it because you take care of it. So don’t stop caring for it.

    Love, your 80 yr old self

  10. bodynsoil says:

    Melanie has an amazing story and kuddos to her for making the choice to go flat as well. Breast size, for many women, define their femininity and that has to have been a difficult transition. How many young girls struggle with their personal breast size, always wanting more or struggle feeling like less. For Melanie, who went from a 34DD to nothing, the process had to mentally exhausting and I’m so in awe of her choices.

    Three years ago I went through the whole biopsy series, and stress, that goes along with breast cancer. I was one of the lucky ones that came through the testing and deemed without cancer. Still, three years later and I have scars from the testing, both physical and mental.

    Hugs to Melanie for all that she has gone through and thank you for sharing your story, your post surgery body is beautiful..

  11. Sabrina says:

    I didn’t do the action step yet, but it struck me as really powerful, and it reminded me of Day 11, when you wrote about young girls. It’s SO incredibly obvious we should never tell girls they are anything but worthy – and it’s also incredibly obvious that 80-year old me will see today’s me as worthy. Yet today’s me…is not such a fan of today’s me.

    I think we all know that the perspective of time offers a powerful lens that could totally flip our view 180* – but why must we wait? How is it that can we look back on our past self and see we were awesome then, and believe that our future self will see we are awesome now…but we can’t just LOOK AT OURSELF TODAY and see that we’re awesome?

  12. Maria says:

    Dear 26 year old Maria,

    Firstly, congratulations on your recent PhD! I remember that you never gave yourself any credit for any of your achievements. You always wanted to push yourself harder and nothing was ever enough for you. I’m glad you’re motivated, but just pause for a second and congratulate yourself for the hard work and effort (emotional and mental) that you went through. It was difficult at times but you didn’t give up and for that I am so proud.

    You take it for granted now but trust me: being able to move everywhere without any aches or any pain is a wondrous thing. Try to stop occasionally, to feel and appreciate it because painless mobility doesn’t last forever and injuries take longer to heal. But you have taken good care of me over the years and for that I am extremely grateful.

    You’ve been through a lot so far in life but there is so, so much more to come! Both very good and very bad. Don’t be scared of the bad. Trust that you will know what to do when it arises – because you always get through everything in the end and you know how to take care of yourself even in the darkest moments. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to reach out to others.

    Here’s a little secret: when all is said and done, no one cares how lean you are. I’ve never been to a funeral where they’ve said “well, at least she had abs!” Chase a meaningful life, not a body fat percentage.

    Yes your mind and your metabolism will slow, your physical strength will diminish and parts of you will wrinkle and sag. But your love for the world, the people in your life and for yourself can continue to grow: the world can never cease to amaze, and as long as you have this you will be content.

    Remain impulsive. Continually look for ways to improve yourself and your happiness. Never settle. Be slow to anger, and quick to wait. Always try to find the funny side of every situation. Remember that your friends and family won’t be around forever, so make sure they always know how much they mean to you.

    I love and respect you, no matter what,

    your 80 year old self.

    PS. I know you like postscripts, so here you go!

  13. Jenna says:

    This was the most fun day of writing, as well as the most emotional. Thank you, Molly, for this challenge. (And yes, I’m way behind :)

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