One of the things that’s helped me in building a more positive body image is realizing the magnificence of my body. Of the human body. It’s amazing how we are assembled. It’s amazing the parts, the intricate systems that make up our whole. It’s amazing how hard my body is currently working so I can write these words.
And yet it doesn’t feel strenuous. My fingers breeze across the keyboard. Years ago my brain memorized the different keys, so I don’t need to look down when I type. I don’t need to think through the different letters. Whatever thought, whatever words, materialize simply transfer into my fingers onto the page. I’m sitting upright without any trouble, while enjoying my oatmeal and listening to the sound of the spoon touching the bowl.
Whatever I want — a sip of water, a quick peek at my phone, a note in my notebook, a tissue a few feet away — my body obliges. Without any effort.
How our bodies function is a miracle.
Reminding myself of this fact makes me feel grateful for all the behind-the-scenes work my body puts in. It reminds me of how powerful and magnificent we are, even in the smallest of moments — when we’re eating oatmeal, typing an email, saying a few words aloud. It helps me to see my body as more than an ornament. Instead, it reminds me that my body is a machine, a work of art.
Years ago, in a past post, I shared five astonishing facts about our bodies from Glenn Schiraldi’s book 10 Simple Solutions for Building Self-Esteem. Here are a few of them as a reminder:
“The blood vessels of the body stretch over 75,000 miles…The heart, weighing just eleven ounces, beats tirelessly, each day pumping enough blood to fill several railroad cars.”
“The 206 bones of the body are stronger, ounce for ounce, than steel or reinforced concrete. Science cannot duplicate the durability and flexibility of a joint like the thumb, which requires thousands of messages from the brain to direct its complex movements.”
“Each of our cells contains the genetic plan for producing all of the cells in our bodies. The genetic code contains billions of steps of DNA that would extend more than five feet in length if stretched out in a line. However, this code is coiled to a length of only 1/2500 of an inch within the nucleus of each cell…The trillions of cells in the body, millions of which are replaced each second, would stretch over a million miles if placed end to end.”
“The brain, weighing in at three pounds, contains one hundred billion nerve cells…continuously monitors the body and then initiates needed adjustments in temperature, blood sugar, fluid balance, and blood pressure…the brain allows us to recognize unique faces, understand subtle facial and vocal expressions, mobilize to fight or flee when we are threatened, remember vital lessons and set goals.”
In her playful book Leap Write In! Adventures in Creative Writing to Stretch and Surprise Your One-of-a-Kind Mind author and writing coach Karen Benke also shares a few incredible facts about our bodies:
…our body contains 206 bones, which make up our skeletons, without which we’d flop around like blobs of jelly. The tiniest bone, the stirrup, lives inside our ear and is just three millimeters long. The longest, the femur, is in the leg. The largest is the thick and sturdy thighbone. We have more than 600 muscles, the most powerful of which are located along our spines…There are 78 organs in our body, each of which plays a specific role and works with the others to keep us alive and writing.
Benke includes an excellent exercise, which I think can be powerful for our body image. She suggests picking a body part you’ve never heard of or have heard of but don’t know the function. For instance, she lists everything from the coccyx to the ulna to the thorax to the maxilla to the talus to the trapezius to the hyoid. Find out how that body part works. Then pen an ode (“a poem of praise”) to this body part.
You can even research a different part each week, and write an ode. If you have kids, get them involved, too. Remind yourself of the miracle of your body. Because that is a fact. We don’t have to go far to experience magic. It’s inside us.
What body part will you research? What does your ode include?