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Redefining Beautiful: Learning to Love Your Body at Every Stage of Life

A few years ago, I attended Beautiful: The Carole King Musical in Indianapolis. I'd long been a fan of King’s work, and the production took me deeper into the life and loves of one of our country’s greatest singer/songwriters.

The title of the play is also the title of one of King’s most famous songs, and the lyrics have often inspired me:

You’ve got to get up every morning

With a smile in your face

And show the world all the love in your heart

Then people gonna treat you better

You’re gonna find, yes you will

That you’re beautiful, as you feel.

This message goes to heart of what we try to teach people at Holly[s Pilates Village. Beautiful is not a size. It is not what you have accomplished in your professional life. It is not how many pikes you can do on the Wunda Chair.

Beautiful can best be represented as a positive spirit. It refuses to engage in body shaming. It focuses on health and improvement rather than on numbers or achievements.

A recent article in Pilates Style Magazine reported on the movement known as body positivity, which "is the notion that you can, and should, accept your body regardless of your color, age, size, shape or so-called 'imperfections' like wrinkles, scars, stretch marks or veins. It’s about taking stock of all your body does for you and being truly grateful for that, whether or not it lives up to society’s set image of beauty."

Often, when people first call or stop by our studio, they are full of explanations and apologies--about how much weight they have gained, or how tight they have become from desk jobs, or why they stopped exercising or allowed themselves to become deconditioned. We listen respectfully because we understand pain and injury and illness and aging and how all these changes can alienate us from our bodies.

And then we get to work, helping our students see how Pilates, yoga, Nia, and the other forms of exercise that we offer can help them change the way they look and feel. Over the weeks and months that we work with new students, we strive to show them their progress and point out both small and major milestones. The encouragement is not forced; it’s a real reflection of what we see each day and what we share with our fellow teachers. We are proud of you. We notice the changes in you. We love the people you are and are becoming.

As Pilates Style reflects: "The good news is that we can take charge of and change how we view our bodies. Once we're aware that our thoughts skew negative, we can learn to focus more on the positive, like how strong our abs feel, how far we can hike, how much more energy we have when we exercise . . . when you have a healthy self-image, exercise is a 'weight-neutral' activity, and practices like Pilates can inspire you to look and feel your best."

Remember the message that "You're beautiful, as you feel."

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