The only body we have…



By Caitlin Kelly


This is a heartbreaking essay, by a woman writer, about 50 years of hating her own body, from Medium:


Sandwiched between two ruthless brothers in a household where verbal cruelty was a competition sport, I was easy game. My parents — the should’ve-been referees — were, instead, the audience. With the rebuttal they should’ve been providing to my brothers’ barrage of relentless brutal nowhere to be found, I had nowhere to go, nowhere to hide. In the void of any contradiction, every harsh word became truth.

Few events will make you as deeply, weepingly grateful for your body’s health and strength than than the loss of some of it — or the potential loss of all of it.

I say this with the hindsight of someone who, before the age of 40, never saw a damn doctor for anything more intense (ouch!) than an annual mammogram and Pap smear. Since then I’ve had both knees “scoped” — i.e. arthroscopy — which removed torn cartilage (the price of decades of squash games, now verboten), a right shoulder repaired (minor) and my left hip fully replaced.

It’s a funny moment when — as I was being wheeled into our local hospital’s OR for my breast lumpectomy in July — the female, Hispanic (so cool!) head of anesthesiology recognized me and vice versa. That’s comforting, but also a bit too much surgery.

I really hit my limits in March 2017 when I arrived at the hospital with chest pain so intense I could barely tolerate the seatbelt worn for only 20 minutes to get to the ER.  Turned out I had a 104 degree temperature and pneumonia I had been ignoring. That meant three days in the hospital on an IV and coughing so hard I thought I might pass out.

I sweated so much I was thrilled to be able to shower there.

I apologized out loud to my exhausted body, the one I’d been abusing and taking so for granted.

Never again!

As someone who came of age during second-wave feminism and in Canada, I never spent a lot of time fussing about my body and how it looked. I like to be stylish and attractive and have always loved fashion. But freaking out about the shape or size of my body?





I care most, still, about being healthy, strong and flexible.

I love being able to hit a softball to the outfield and savored my four years being a nationally ranked saber fencer — in my late 30s.  I hope to get back to downhill skiing, horseback riding, hiking.

Social media has made the endless and relentless scrutiny of our bodies even worse than it’s always been — policing our size and shape is such a useful way to distract us from essential issues like the size of our paycheck.

Shaming women for being fat(ter) than someone would prefer us to be (MDs only, thanks) is just another way to undermine us in a culture that demands insane “productivity” and only makes beautiful clothes for women smaller than a size 10 — when the average American woman is now a size 14.

Some of the most “beautiful” women I’ve met — those externally chic and spotless — have been ruthless and unkind.

So my definition of beauty, and human value attached to a body, isn’t only rooted in what we see on the outside.


How do you feel about your body?



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18 thoughts on “The only body we have…

  1. “Policing our size and shape is such a useful way to distract us from essential issues like the size of our paycheck.” Brilliant. And amen. I have a thyroid that is keeping me all too conscious of my body–and has a mind of its own that changes often. I am aiming for health. Food, drink, exercise. Meditation. Positive thoughts. The rest be damned. I want to look good–but am tired of being eyed (or not) because I’m supposed to be a pretty piece on a shelf rather than a flesh-and-blood human being. Thanks for the good post, as usual!

    1. Thanks!

      The amount of time and energy women waste focused on our appearance is insane. Yes, be pretty. Yes, feel attractive. Whatever! But to make this the primary or exclusive focus? NOPE.

      Sorry to hear about thyroid issues…

  2. when i was young, it was easy for me to do nothing and stay in good health and i took it for granted. the older i’ve become, the more it’s become a greater challenge and my body does not snap back from things like it used to. i learned to accept myself over time, for being the best i can be, without obsessing about it, and without the size 8 body, but to me it means more to be healthy enough to do the things i enjoy doing, to feel well, and to fully experience life. anything else is a bonus. i take none of it for granted.

  3. I’m fat. 6’1″, 265 lb. gotta face it, the numbers don’t lie. Fortunately for my stupendous gut, I have a great face and lots of luscious hair. Pretty good for 57. I make this statement because I’m willing to make the first one. I don’t have any aftermarket replacement parts, not many aches or pains and I can hike a steep, rocky trail no problem. So, I guess my answer to your question is fat or not, I feel pretty good about my body. I hope everyone else will too.

  4. It’s a lifelong struggle. I remember loving my body until I turned ten. It was all downhill from there. Now, just past 60, I’ve stopped hating. Working on loving. Some days I appreciate how well it works, even admire certain things about the way it looks, in a good light. Others I turn a blind eye. Too bad they don’t make makeup for our inner critics. Love the foot selfie by the way!

    1. Thanks! I like my feet…:-)

      So so sorry to read that you and your body are not happy companions. I have a few things I’d like to change (belly, UGH) but generally am happy with what I have. Yes, I need to drop 30-40 pounds (likely? not really) but my appearance and capabilities still give me pleasure, even with a right knee so effed up I had to give up (sob) softball.

  5. I’m a woman-of-a-certain-age, a writer, fine art photographer and horsewoman. I’m still able to lead an active life with horses and walk around our hilly farm. Recently, I was out of commission for five years dealing with adrenal fatigue, brought on by a lifetime of Complex-PTSD. I have recovered, for the most part, but must regulate my activities. … Gravity is now having its way with me and my metabolism is slowing down. So, I’m no longer the size 8 I used to be and clothes don’t hang as nicely on my curvaceous body as they once used to. I frequently ask myself who I’m looking at when I see my reflection in the mirror. However, thanks to years of therapy and alternative medicine, I am healthier in mind, body and spirit than I have ever been. I am more resilient and able to meet life’s challenges with more confidence. Okay, I’m not as athletic as I used to be, but I can still ride my dressage horse for an hour and learn new movements, and walk the rolling hills, and stack firewood, and on, because I have taken care of my body. I have to go clothes shopping soon, and I’m dreading it only because the idea of being a “large” is so repulsive. But why? I’ve earned every lump, bump and wrinkle. They’re a part of my story; a testament to having made it this far, and all that really matters is that I’m healthy.

    Thanks for the reminder to honour the only body I have. 🙏

    1. Thanks for this…and what a great life you’re leading!

      As someone who has had to buy a size large or extra large in the past decade — gaining 23 pounds in one year while I wrote my first book and dealt with my mother’s (benign) brain tumor removal — I don’t feel any shame or anger at this aspect of my body. I don’t like it but it’s where I am now. Like you, I can still do many of the things that define me and give me joy.

  6. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Sunday links | A Bit More Detail

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