Maybe it’s the realization that middle age has firmly and irrevocably arrived. Maybe it’s the aches and pains I notice more now when I leave the gym or finish raking my yard. Maybe my son’s penchant for analyzing his every body part, facial expression and hair follicle in any mirror he passes is a remjnder. Whatever the trigger, I’m aware more and more of how our perspectives on our bodies and their abilities is not a focus only of the young. While fashion magazines are criticized for their adoration of the “thigh gap”, almost all human beings of every age and gender expression can fall prey to body self-loathing and body criticism. This pervasive and unhealthy habit can lead to self-doubt, a negative, distorted self-image and eventually, eating disorders. A few reminders to help keep you from falling into the negative body image trap follow:

1. Focus on what your body can DO, not what it looks like. Is your lap a favorite resting place for a toddler? Does your smile elicit a mirror grin from your beloved? Can your arms support and enfold a grieving friend? Can your legs withstand a neighborhood jaunt with your favorite furry companion? Our bodies are meant to move and feel, NOT to pose or preen.

2. Develop your own definition of health. Maybe your blood pressure is a bit high. You may need to add more fiber to your diet. You may want to develop the stamina to climb the five flights of stairs to your office without getting winded. Health is a personal standard that you can create, as are the steps to achieve it. Health is NOT a number on a scale or the size on a waistband.

3. A philosopher posited that our bodies reside INSIDE our spirits; that, in fact, the physical self is minute compared to the spiritual energy that surrounds it. This belief puts in perspective the relative power of our bodies compared to our spirits. In essence, our true energy cannot be contained in a body — we are too immense for that!