We live in a time when people are paying more attention to health and physical fitness. Childhood and adult obesity is at an all-time high, which can lead to Type-II Diabetes and other health concerns. Studies show that a sedentary lifestyle at home or at the office is unhealthy even if we exercise.
Nudism and naturism grew from the roots of a health-conscious and environmentally friendly lifestyle. The ancient Greeks performed feats of strength and skill while nude during the first Olympics, the earliest documented form of nude recreation. As the colonial era gave way to an independent United States of America, free thinkers such as Benjamin Franklin publicly lauded the benefits of daily naked walks, or as they were called, “air baths.” Other nudists of note included President John Quincy Adams, who regularly bathed nude in the Potomac, and Henry David Thoreau. The health benefits of nudity, both physical and mental, were woven so deeply into the American fabric that the much beloved fictional characters of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn skinny-dipped with joy and abandon in Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, arguably the quintessential great American novel of that time period. AANR has promoted both the physical and mental health benefits of nudity since its beginnings through policy and events such as the World Record Skinny-Dip. And one of the main tenets of nudism is “body acceptance.”
At the same time, we are inundated by unattainable images of beauty in the media and advertising. Although men are affected too, women and girls in particular are sent the message that unless you look like Kate Upton or Jennifer Lopez, you are not beautiful. Sometimes we read an article or blog post that describes nudists’ appearance in unflattering language, clearly based in ignorance and miles away from body acceptance.
So, what exactly is body acceptance? We read about it and we talk about it. But what does it really mean in the context of non-sexual nudity, and how do we achieve it? As nudists, we do not judge others by appearance but do we extend that way of thinking to ourselves?
It seems, at least to me, that body acceptance has an emotional as well as a physical component. Are we able to look in the mirror and accept ourselves without seeing the skinny or overweight adolescent we once were? Does body acceptance mean being content with our bodies the way they are without trying to attain at least a modest level of fitness or does it mean honoring our bodies enough that we see the importance of a healthy lifestyle? Does accepting our bodies mean shutting out the images of the supermodel du jour and being content with who we are? Or is the definition of body acceptance different for each of us?
Share your thoughts. What does body acceptance mean to you?