When I first saw someone do a shoulder stand in yoga class, I immediately knew I had to work my way towards it. In time, I got my legs in the air–supported by the yoga teacher and flailing awkwardly. Finally, when I finally managed to hoist my way up, toes towards the sky, I was flush with excitement.
But little did I know that at that moment, in that place, I would come face to face with an old friend. We have quite a history, this friend and I. Really, I should say, this frenemy and I. Maybe just an enemy, to be frank.
I am referring, of course, to that lovely ring of fat around my middle. In a shoulder stand, this area is mere inches from my face. That which was previously rather abstract, just down in my mid-section making it hard to zip my pants, suddenly filled my entire field of vision in all its squishy glory.
My first reaction was shock–is that really what that looks like? Second was horror and third was resolve. I WILL get rid of this awful intruder to my body. Cookies–no, all carbs, begone!
Naturally, this didn’t last too long. My relationship with food, like many people’s, is complex and frought with emotion in a way that goes way beyond mere nutrition. I’ve spent years making angst-filled declarations of one diet or the other, and then the facing the inevitable guilt when those diets fail.
Thankfully, Doctor Who is here to help me enjoy my shoulder stands.
In the episode “Partners in Crime,” people’s body fat is transformed into strangely adorable white little creatures that just walk away, leaving the people thinner than before. They are called Adipose, which is also the real life name for body tissue used to store fat. Of course the Adipose in Doctor Who are all part of a nefarious plot so they can’t be sustained–so, so much for humanity’s easy out from the fat problem.
But thinking of your fat as an adorable little sentient creature is nevertheless kind of helpful for a number of reasons. One is remembering that your fat isn’t some embodiment of your flaws. It was made by you but it isn’t you, not in any way that matters. Our fat can’t really walk away, but it is always evolving. It may come and it may go, even without little legs, much like many of the things that ebb and flow in our bodies–from pain to energy to strength to fatigue.
Another way the Adipose is help us is that they are pretty darned friendly. They are squishy and small and unassuming, even if their caretaker was not. And really, although fat can be unsightly and a detriment to our health, what started it isn’t all bad. Cookies with your kids. Drinks with your girlfriends. A truly delicious sandwich that made your day. The memories that made that Adipose might just make you smile like an Adipose, with the same sort of simple, stumbling joy.
So now when I do a shoulder stand, I try to use it as a chance to say hello to my Adipose. Hello, rose-flavored chocolate I had from that fancy shop. And hello, Christmas cookies that tasted so amazing right out of the oven.
That’s not to say I don’t eventually want to say good-bye to lots of those Adipose. I want to be healthy and primarily feed my body the nutrition it needs, since that’s the best way to make everything work well. Eventually my Adipose can fly up to space or get reabsorbed, waving all the way.
For now, however, I’m going to enjoy my shoulder stand and take it easy on myself and my Adipose. Odds are very good at least some will always be there, reminders of joys past and my ever-changing body of the present.