On Our Broken Bodies

After shoulder surgery at the beginning of the year, I grudgingly cut my exercise regimen to walking and not much more. Five months later, I started to jog again, but, today, almost ten months later, I enjoy a bonus gift from my surgery: ten pounds I can’t seem to lose. I feel like my body is saying, “Hey buddy, cut on me, I’m making you have all your slacks taken out.”

The weight gain after the shoulder surgery is really just the latest in a long line of betrayals. It’s difficult to pinpoint when it started. The 2014 bunion diagnosis? The 2013 orthotics for flat feet? The odd eye rash of 2012? The accelerating hair loss around 2010? The knee surgery of 2005? The need for glasses in 2001? The pulled hamstring of 1989?

Maybe there’s no real starting point. Maybe, once we reach adulthood, we’re all at war with ourselves, relentlessly and unsuccessfully bridging the gap between our limitless spirits and our increasingly limited bodies. Aches, pains, injuries, diseases — we want to be whole, our spirits are whole, but our bodies break down. Biological entropy.

Of course, it’s not just the failures that bother us, it’s the inadequacies too. The nose that is too large. The breasts that aren’t big enough. The spare tire. The bubble butt. The muffin top. At my gym, I frequently run into a fellow exerciser. He vigorously pumps away at the weights, working his shoulders, arms, and chest relentlessly. And, his efforts have produced results; he, indeed, has very large upper body muscles. When one glances down, however, you see the skinniest toothpick legs you’ve ever seen. Maybe he can’t put on muscle in his legs. Maybe he doesn’t want to. Who knows, but he stands as an odd (top heavy) testament that, even with our best efforts, the end result is still sometimes less than balanced, less than aesthetically pleasing.

Yesterday, I read an article about the fruitlessness of dieting. Turns out, the vast, vast majority of dieters gain almost all lost weight back within two years, regardless of the specific diet, age, sex, income, and any other health factor. That’s a bummer, but, hey, go ahead and have that dessert. What does it matter!? It’s just more evidence that, despite our ceaseless attempts to control our bodies, we most often fail, coming up short (or fat or skinny or lame or hurt or sick, etc.).

Perhaps we need to come to peace with these imperfect, frequently broken vessels we’ve been gifted. We should be active. We should try to eat a healthy diet. But we can’t expect that even perfect efforts will yield perfect results. They don’t and never have. The sooner we accept our broken bodies, the sooner we see the unblemished, amazing beauty staring back at us in the mirror.

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