How My Scar is Helping Me Have a Better Relationship With My Body

“I’m struggling with my body image right now,” I confided in the aSweatLife team on one of our daily calls some amount of days ago—let’s call it two months. Shelter-in-place had locked us all up within the square feet that holds our stuff and I’d spent half of my days looking at my own face in a box on Zoom.

Body image is a tricky topic for me because what I want to believe about myself is that I love my body and that I’m an advocate for others to love theirs too. But like all relationships, it’s complicated. I know that I fall on the side of body image privilege—as a white, cis woman, the images in the media have more similarities to me than differences and I’m able to easily find concealer and bandages that blend in with my skin.

But— as a rule—I don’t step on scales because knowing the number feeds something inside me that’s unhealthy. In the past, the knowledge of that one stupid number has led to an obsession over being *less* instead of nourishing the powerful body I have to joy to inhabit.

Around early June, I’d started to rewatch the live workouts I taught on Facebook with an analytical eye for my body. Screens, scales, mirrors—I was falling into the same pattern of contemplating my right to take up space.

Flash forward to nearly a month ago when I woke up from a 4.5 hour emergency surgery with an incision down the center of my stomach. Swollen, distended, with tubes coming out of everywhere, I refused to even glance in that direction.

“You have to look at it,” the surgeon told me, encouraging me to stop averting my gaze to the ceiling as he and residents cleaned it.

Mangled. That’s how I felt at the moment when I saw about 9 inches of staples running vertically straight through my belly button. I gasped and looked back up at the ceiling again. That night, I cried to my husband when he almost saw it. I just wasn’t ready, I explained to him.

But as I started to heal and was able to start walking in slow, methodical laps around my temporary home at the hospital, I made a deal with my body.

“I’ll take care of you and you take care of me.”

In the weeks that followed, I started to realize how much time I had been wasting on the old way of viewing my body—as something to shape and reshape to fit what I’m supposed to look like. I realized how I hadn’t been holding up my end of the deal with my body. It used to sound like, “I’ll spend way too much time picking at you for having cellulite and you take care of me.” 

Who wants to be in a relationship like that?

I’m realizing that the scar—now closer to 6 inches as the swelling in my stomach subsides—could have just set me free from the old way I viewed my body, my stomach in particular. Instead of obsessing over whether I do or do not look good in a crop top, I look at the incision every morning and promise to take care of my body in exchange for it doing me that solid right back. 

It already feels like a much healthier relationship— all it took was losing a little bit of my colon.

Your challenge this week:

Celebrate what your body does to take care of you each day. From carrying around your big powerful brain to picking up heavy things to walking you up and down the street. Make your body a promise to take care of it too in whatever way is most impactful and meaningful to you.

Are you struggling with disordered eating? You’re not alone. Reach out and get the help you need. You deserve all of the beautiful space you take up.

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About Jeana Anderson Cohen

Jeana Anderson Cohen is the founder and CEO of asweatlife.com a destination for living better lives, with fitness as the catalyst. But before starting health-focused companies Jeana earned a degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. For the first decade of her career, she created and executed social media strategies for brands. aSweatLife fuses her experience and her passion for wellness and SweatWorking was the natural evolution of that experience. You can find Jeana leading the team at aSweatLife, hosting aSweatLife’s monthly #Sweatworking events.