Body Talk: Hannah Aylward, Client Services
Welcome to Body Talk, an S-Life series for the month of February, where we will be fearlessly opening this portal of communication about self-love, self-deprecation, and touching on anything and everything in between.
The aim here is not image-making, or perfection-seeking. Rather, it is image-wrecking, perfection-shattering, and infinite-purpose discovering in order to peel back the layers of the images we have each built of ourselves and who we are suppose to be, in faithful anticipation that we may unearth the absolute Love and Beauty that we have always been, and always will be. We each have unique bodies, and unique stories to tell. Here, we will be telling ours, in faith that you will be encouraged to tell yours. So without further hesitation, may we introduce to you, The #SakaraBodyTalk of:
Hannah Aylward, Client Services Associate at Sakara Life
DISCLAIMER: Everyone should have to go through this process. Writing this is a therapy session on it’s own.
Ah, my body. It is interesting, you know? In a sense, I feel like it is my best friend that I treat with so much respect, and in a sense I feel like it is my worst enemy that I am constantly bashing. I wish I could say that I treat my body with the utmost love and kindness...but I would be lying.
Since moving to New York and beginning a new chapter in my life, I have found connecting to my body has been more difficult than normal. I go to blame it on New York’s fast-paced lifestyle, the stress of my job, the food that is around me, the exhaustion, this new chapter, my age, my tiny New York apartment, my subway commute, and others telling me to “lighten up”. However, I know that deep down this stems from me. My body and I have not been getting along recently because I am not truly listening to it. Fortunately, strides are being made.
I definitely feel worst in my body when I am not listening to it. For me, this mainly means not pausing and breathing. Breathing through the discomfort, the struggle and the joy. I am so quick to just spin out of control. This means looking to food to comfort me, feed my soul and distract from other, more important, things that I really need to give time to. It is not so much the eating too much or having a glass of wine in my bed that makes me feel bad. It is the act of doing these things, with loss of control.
I feel best in my body when I am nurturing it. This means getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, eating mostly vegetables, exercising to sweat often and meditating regularly.
When I am doing these things, I feel like I am really nurturing myself and being my best so I can be the best for everyone else. I never felt truly nurtured as a child, so providing that feeling for myself is so incredibly important to me. Being around my family also makes me feel the best in my body. I feel so much love from my dad and my sister. I could show up in a trash bag, fifty pounds overweight on my dad’s front doorstep and he would say 'Honey it is so good to see you, you look beautiful'. With so much love, happiness and reassurance around you, it is easy to feel content. My dad and sister are also on the healthy living train -- eating well, exercising daily, breathing deeply...all of it. This makes it easy to feel good around them too. We treat our bodies well, together.
I think many different things when I look in the mirror. Typically I think, 'Hmm this could be better'. This is a real struggle for a type A, perfectionist, Capricorn. My thoughts about my appearance are more often negative than not. 'My stomach could definitely be flatter, my arms could be more toned, my legs used to be so skinny', etc. Which is really terrible. I compare myself to the past far too much. But then I think, 'Wow Hannah, you are beautiful just STOP'.
I do think about food and exercise a lot, but mostly when I am out of balance. If I am happy, I am not thinking about these things as much. However, I really love food. I love cooking, I’m a health coach and I work for a meal delivery service. Food is a big part of my life. I think it’s beautiful. The way it brings people together -- pure magic. One of the easiest ways for me to show my love is by cooking for loved ones. Cooking brings joy to my life, and sharing that with others makes me beam with light. I’m not very good at openly expressing my love to others, so this is a really lovely way that I feel I am able to do so. Exercising is also one of my biggest passions. I have always been an athlete and moved my body vigorously. Exercising, specifically dancing, makes me feel euphoric. I would lose my mind without it. So I do think about it often, in a good, excited way. Often times, like last night, I can’t sleep because I go over routines in my head. I want to jump out of bed and bust a move.
My relationship with food is very emotional. It is my quickest go-to for comfort and happiness. I am breaking this cycle NOW though. It feels really, really good. Meditating and breathing really helps with this. Knowing your worth doesn’t hurt either. It’s a vicious cycle, right? You eat because you are stressed or unhappy, or you eat much too fast. Then that makes you feel stressed and unhappy. Why would anyone do that to themselves? I know why: because dealing with the other stuff is harder. The deeper, darker stuff. The junk that needs to be dealt with.
If I gain weight, I feel terrible. Do I freak out? Yes, because my weight has always been such a touchy subject for me. When I was a little girl, my mom put an emphasis on my weight. I was modeling and in TV commercials, so my appearance was always being watched. I will never forget her coming in to my room one night and asking me to get on the scale. She weighed me and said we would check back on it in a few weeks. This scarred me. Much more than I thought it would at the time. It wasn’t just that though -- I started dying my hair and waxing my legs in the 5th grade. My mother made appearance seem very important in life. So this is something that I battle with a lot. I won’t let it rule my life, but it’s there on my shoulder. Fortunately, I am finally getting to a point where if I gain weight I have the ability to recognize that the world is not ending and people probably aren’t noticing, and if they are, they don’t care. Moreso now weight gain comes with an 'Oh, that doesn’t seem right...' I can recognize, find the root of the problem, work towards addressing that, and then naturally trust that when I live my life how I want to, everything will fall into place. I know who I truly am, so I just have to trust that when I start acting like myself, my weight will fall where it should.
I think at one point or the next I have envied everything in other people’s bodies. Unfortunately I am quick to notice other people’s bodies. I think this stems from being a woman, having some issues with appearance since I was young and feeling insecure in my own appearance. I don’t mean to and I would never, ever want anyone to feel like I am judging them. I just notice. If I had to choose a specific area of the body that I envy most, it would be the stomach. My body is shaped in a way that it's always been my 'problem area', so how anyone has a flat stomach makes no sense to me. I envy how other people’s bodies move, so gracefully and smoothly, especially when dancing. That fluidity is something that I strive for.
I can say some really awful things to my body, and thinking about it kills me, as it goes against everything that I truly believe and want to inspire in others. I can say that I am too fat. I can say that I am ugly. I can say that I need work. I am mean. That one Whole Foods poster that says 'Treat your body like it belongs to someone you love' stopped me on my feet. The time I stood there and read it and let it sink in, I wanted to cry. I would never talk to ANYONE the way that I talk to myself. That destroys me. I have read all of the books and watched all of the talks. I know better. It is just a really hard habit to break. With practice, it gets easier and easier every day.
Letting this out feels pretty freaking good.