01/08/2014 10:44 am ET Updated Mar 10, 2014

Your Body Peace Checklist

Body peace is a phrase easily said but not very easily achieved.  When I say not very easily, I mean it's possibly one of the hardest things most people face throughout their lives.

The reality is that most of us are at war with our bodies. We pick away at little things we don't like about the way we look, we constantly compare our bodies to other people's bodies only to feel inferior. Even the way we eat and exercise is all preventative. We think we have to do those things so we don't get fat rather than to keep our bodies in their most productive and healthy condition. Everywhere around us we're taught to keep our bodies in check or whip them into shape and look at them for all the problems they cause us, like not being able to fit into a certain size or replicate a certain image we've been presented as ideal. There are dozens if not hundreds of blogs dedicated just to giving people reasons not to be fat (TW: Eating Disorders) or notto have their body be a certain way. Our bodies are our biggest enemies. That's bad news, because they're with us for life.

The truth behind this war mentality? Body peace is so rare because we're looking at our bodies aesthetically instead of appreciating their functionality. The only way we can make body peace is if we appreciate our bodies for what they can do, not for how they look.

When I was 11, I was diagnosed with Chiari one brain malformation. It was a pretty gnarly disorder that gave me headaches every day of my life. Any time I coughed too much or ran too fast, or even when I laughed too hard, I would be struck with this incomprehensible pain and have to lie around crying for the next couple of hours. I underwent two surgeries, which meant months of being in the worst pain ever, in and out of hospitals, a couple emergency trips, constantly in bed, got meningitis, etc. It was bleak, and it was all because of something that was wrong with my body.

I vividly remember moments, almost on a daily basis, when I would be in tears because of how much my head hurt and just thinking, "Imagine all the people out there who aren't dealing with this right now. Imagine all the people who can get up, walk around, laugh, hang out with their friends, go do fun things, go to concerts, go to school, dance, jump on trampolines, do anything they want to and not be in pain." All I wanted was to be one of those people. I knew that if I could just have a functioning body, nothing else about it would really matter, because I would be able to live my life.

Now that I've recovered, for the past few years I've been keeping a promise to the younger, bed-ridden version of me by not taking my body for granted. I can't imagine what she would think if she saw me sitting around hating my body now that it's finally working. So whenever I have a really bad day and I feel like I hate how I look and I hate the way my body is and I just want to shrivel up and cry, I make a list. I make a list of all the things my body can do now that old Katie's body couldn't do, so that I can make body peace.

It always starts off with: I don't have a headache. The mere act of acknowledging that I don't have a headache when I used to have them 24/7 makes me start to appreciate my body's functionality.

Then I add: I don't have a nosebleed. Those are awfully inconvenient, but I don't have one. I'm not sick or feverish, I don't have food poisoning, I can breathe easily and my heart is beating as it should be. I have all my limbs and all my fingers and toes. I don't have any paper cuts. I can walk. I can see. I can hear.

When I go through this list of things my body can do, when not everyone's can, and think of people like little Katie who want nothing more than a body that works, then I can't sit around and feel bad about my body because there's nothing to feel bad about. I can't feel anything but grateful for the state I'm in at that moment- something that used to be my only wish. Appearance issues become irrelevant when you remember what your body is really there for.

Not everyone's bodies are fully functional, but they're all at least partially functional. If your eyes can read this article, you've got something going for you.

So whenever you have a negative body day and you look in the mirror and want to cry, or you've gone up a size and didn't want to, or down a size and didn't want to, or anything else that starts to make you feel like your body is this enemy you constantly have to fight, make a list. Make a list of all the things your body is doing for you and all the things you can do because of your body. When you take into account how much that means and how fortunate you are even for the simplest things, you start to see that your body isn't against you. It's helping you exist. It's helping you survive.

Who are you to hate it when it loves you so much?

By: Kathryn Wingfield, University of Oklahoma