A mirror is a useful thing.  Driving a car – it stops you reversing into the garage door.  Brushing your hair – it helps cover the bald patch. Bomb squad – it shows what lies on the other side of the door. A scale too is a useful thing.  Measuring exact quantities of sugar for chocolate fudge.  Selling correct quantities of said fudge at the school fete.  But how useful are these tools for feedback on your body?

Weight and image

The two external measures by which every Tom, Dick and Harriet make decisions and choices about whether their bodies are, “perfect”, “toned”, “obese”, “fat” or “frumpy”.  Why are we fixated on these measurement tools?  Do they tell us anything useful about what our body is capable of, how sexy it is, whether we can dance the tango, or give birth to triplets?

Our cave-dwelling ancestors probably only saw their hazy image on the surface of some idle pond when fishing (probably scaring both the fish and themselves).  How heavy their bodies were mattered only if they were balanced on a creaking pole whilst crossing a raging river. Too heavy; it breaks (should have gone the long way round).  Light enough and you get to watch Hairy Harry fall in from the other side.  What did matter was what their bodies could do.  Whether they could outrun the woolly mammoth or hold onto the vine long enough to swing across to Jane’s perch. What was their source of feedback?  Probably, simply how their bodies felt and what their bodies could do.

Feeling the moment

A ballet dancer by training and profession, I recently took up fitness pole dancing. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking!  Actually, it’s an amazing form of dance which uses every core muscle you have to stay on the pole and frustrate the wishes of gravity to bring you back down to earth.  When performing before an audience, especially when completing a routine that’s taken months of practice, it’s as if my body takes on a life of its own.  It moves without effort, I occupy a “zone” in which mind, body and the moment all fuse into one.  All athletes get that glazed look when they talk about being in the “zone”; when winning is secondary; when time slows down and all of the body is in total sync.  It’s the moment when the body is at its optimum and it can’t be captured on a scale or in a mirror.  It’s a moment that is just felt.

Useless number

The majority of my clients arrive at my door with a magic number in their heads.  Not the lotto numbers, but a number they think will bring them even greater joy. That number is always expressed as unit of ‘killer’grams.  My job is to get them to feel their bodies again; to tune into what their bodies are broadcasting. To provide them with the hammer that will turn their mirrors and scales into cathartic art.

What can you do?

In the end, our pursuit of the “perfect” body only brings us unhappiness. Bodies aren’t meant to be perfect.  They’re built to do.  They’re all designed along similar principles, but not one is the same as another.  So what can your body do?  When last did you visit that zone, when your mind, body and time all merged into one and you FELT, “perfect”?


About The Author

Tanya started out as a professional ballet dancer. Swopping her pointe shoes for takkies, she decided being a hip hop dancer was way cooler, so chopped off her bun and joined a street dance company. For many years, she also taught dance and fitness classes in Cape Town before deciding that nutrition and lifestyle coaching was the way to help people change their state of health for the better. So, while writing two health and fitness books, she moved to London to study and began her ‘real life’ – that as a health and lifestyle coach. She’s been in private practice for 10 years now, is a mom of a 7-year old pig-tailed ball of energy, writes for various national and local health publications and is a health presenter when the occasion arises. Oh – and once a dancer, always a dancer – she’s also taken up ballet pole dancing.

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