Kate Harding on inhabiting her own body

Kate Harding has a wonderful post, “Happy Yogaversary to Me“, on reclaiming her self as an embodied subject:

Like just about all girls in this culture, I was always taught that my body was primarily something for other people to experience externally, not something I actually inhabited. By the time I was 20, without even trying, I became an expert on which make-up colors suit fair skin and blue eyes, which styles show off fine, wavy hair to its best advantage, which cuts of clothing flatter an hourglass figure. I knew how many calories were in everything and how many pounds I’d have to lose to drop a dress size. But I was over 30 before I learned how to engage just my quadriceps”“without the rest of my legs and my ass getting into the game”“let alone how engaging just my quadriceps could affect what was happening with my feet. I was over 30 before I learned that deep, focused breathing cuts my anxiety in half. I was over 30 before I learned how fantastic it feels, mentally and physically, to put my muscles to good use on a regular basis.

Because no one ever taught me there was a point to any of that for someone like me. If you didn’t enjoy sports”“and hoo boy, I didn’t”“the only, only reason to exercise was to lose weight. Sure, plenty of people gave lip service to the idea of exercising “for your health,” but what that meant was “to lose weight.” Fat was bad and unhealthy. Exercise made it go away. That. Was. All.

So if I exercised and didn”t lose weight, there was no goddamned point, obviously. I wasn’t getting any “healthier,” and I sure wasn’t getting any prettier, and it literally did not occur to me to consider how my body actually felt when I exercised. When I did it, there was only one thought in my mind: “If I keep this up for a really long time, I will be thin.”

Read the whole thing.

Categories: gender & feminism


4 replies

  1. I really liked this post of Kate’s as well.
    I used to be very sporty as a kid just because I really liked running around, and I had a competitive streak (not enough to work at becoming a champion, I only wanted to beat all the people I knew well, not strangers).
    I got very much out of the habit since a nasty leg accident in ’99. The leg/foot has actually recovered pretty fully for a few years now, but my sport/exercise habit hasn’t returned. I want to feel graceful and strong again, dammit. I don’t care if I don’t lose an ounce of weight.

  2. Lauredhel, thanks!
    Tigtog, I can’t recommend yoga enough for coming back to your body (or to it for the first time, as I did) and feeling “graceful and strong.” (Although some former athletes really struggle with the slower pace and non-competitiveness. I took to it pretty easily because I was already used to living in my head and sitting still. Yay for writing!)
    I’m also curious, having seen your breast reduction post, about whether you stayed sporty even after developing the big breasts. (I look a lot like your before pic, btw, and I’ve never had kids. I was thrilled to find out they’re probably only gonna get bigger, let me tell you.) It sounds like you did, which interests me. I feel like my breasts affected my interest in sports almost as much as my lack of coordination and perception of myself as fat. There were things I just couldn’t do as easily as other girls (running, push-ups, etc.)–but because I was so out of touch with my body and insecure about becoming a woman, I didn’t really think about the role my breasts played until years later.
    Okay, sorry for the giant comment. Sometimes I forget I have my own blog. 🙂

  3. Kate, having read some of your bodystuff I think I had the huge advantage of not developing really big breasts until I was in my late teens.
    I remember clearly the summer holidays between year 8 and year 9, when I grew from a just-B cup to a C cup, and got hips and suddenly I was highly visible at school. Before that I was scrawny, to be frank, and was a bushwalker, squash player, crosscountry runner, speedskater and cyclist. By Year 11 I was a D-cup, and I didn’t like running much anymore, but I still played squash, although the boobs fucked my backswing.
    At uni I played Ultimate Frisbee and touch rugby and volleyball in the quadrangle comps, just to run around and have fun, not in the representative stuff. I still bushwalked now and then, and because I was a physio I stayed strong, just because of the work. I did some yoga, too, and I love the body-factor.
    Once the boobs got huge after breastfeeding was when I found that I was much more limited exercise-wise. No more running, really, at all. I still did lots of walking, and some tennis (squash courts have virtually disappeared in Sydney), and plenty of swimming. I loved combining hatha-yoga breath rhythm with swimming laps – I should get back into that.
    Enough of the giant comment.

  4. I loved combining hatha-yoga breath rhythm with swimming laps – I should get back into that.

    That’s a fine idea. I love swimming but haven’t tried doing laps in years, because I always overexerted myself, as I said. Applying what I’ve learned about breathing might just make it fun again.

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