Your body story matters: Roxane Gay, ownership & healing

Written by: Center for Body Trust

Exploring your body story is a powerful catalyst for healing and reclaiming the body trust that we believe is a birthright. When we investigate and shine a light on the experiences we’ve had living in our body, something deep within begins to shift. The part of you that’s been minimized and silenced by diet culture and our patriarchal society begins to show up, speak up, take up space, and reclaim what is rightfully yours. Your body story is more powerful than you may know.

Ask yourself this: what has come between you and being at home in your body?

How has your relationship with your body morphed and changed over time?

What experiences have affected this lifelong relationship?

When we go into our body story through the lens of body trust, we get to choose the narrative instead of having the story narrated for us by the weight-biased world we live in. Part of this reclamation includes unearthing the portions of the story that have been buried by shame, self-blame and isolation. This is precisely why memoirs like Roxane Gay’s Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body are desperately needed. The stories highlighted in mainstream culture center on young, white, thin, cis women. When we hear stories such as Gay’s, we begin to see possibility. We find ways into the truth that were previously hard to articulate.

In her recent article Why We Need More “Hunger” And Less “To The Bone”, Melissa Fabello writes “my eating disorder story—and the collective story of those like me—has become the only story.”

The answers we seek will not arrive until everyone is included. The world needs to hear the body stories of fat people, people of color, disabled people, queer and trans people, and people with high weight anorexia (yes, there is such a thing!). Men’s stories are missing altogether, though we can see that they do not escape suffering.

In her TED talk The Beauty of Being a Misfit, Lidia Yuknavitch says:

They were cutting a path through the mainstream with their body stories, kind of the way water cut the Grand Canyon.

In our programs, workshops and retreats, we witness the power in naming our body story. The narrative changes from “What the hell is wrong with me?” to “This is so not my fault.” We turn the tables and authentically ask, “What the hell is wrong with the world.”

And then we get pissed off, and the anger we’ve long internalized is now externally directed towards the things that should rightfully be blamed—sexism, racism, classism, sizeism, healthism, ableism.

And then we grieve…

the loss of time

the hours wasted

the potential for thin privilege

the illusion of control

the death of a dream

the thin ideal

the big reveal

As we move through the various stages of grief we more clearly see what’s been put upon our body that was never ours to begin with. We develop some reverence for this body—the keeper of our story—the one that has shown up for us, day after day, despite the pain and messiness of real life. We see how resilient we are, and how our coping is rooted in wisdom. That’s right—wisdom! We start to see beauty where it hasn’t been named before. And the opportunity for healing begins.

When we share our body story with people who’ve earned a right to hear them, shame dissipates, and from this wellspring of empathy and deeper understanding, a willingness to nurture ourselves arrives. We start to do things for and with the body as opposed to and on the body. We change how we talk to ourselves about our behaviors, our body, as we nurture self-compassion. Self-care gets rooted in weight-neutrality, loving-kindness and gentle expectations. Our focus shifts away from nutritionism and healthism—ideologies that have nothing to do with healing—to nourishment. We redefine what healing truly looks like as we let go of perfectionism and the pursuit of cosmetic fitness under the guise of health.

Rebecca Solnit says, “Some women get erased a little at a time, some all at once. Some reappear. Every woman who appears wrestles with the forces that would have her disappear. She struggles with the forces that would tell her story for her, or write her out of the story, the genealogy, the rights of man, the rule of law.  

The ability to tell your own story, in words or images, is already a victory, already a revolt.

That’s exactly what Roxane Gay did in her Hunger memoir. We saw her speak at Powell Books last month and she said it’s the hardest thing she’s ever had to write. Nevertheless, she persisted. And we are so glad she did.

We see you too. We can say with certainty that this is not your fault. Your body story needs to be heard.


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