To Improve My Body Image, I Spent the Day Naked

This challenge was a tricky one for me, both to complete and now to write about. Not that there’s anything all that racy here. But I’m sharing how I spent the day nude, and I’m worried people will think it’s distasteful or inappropriate, especially for a woman my age. Certainly my mother thinks so!

But it’s exactly these messy, judge-y feelings we women often have about our natural form that I want to address. So let’s get to it. Last Tuesday I spent six hours at home naked. Here’s how it went (including some non-explicit pics) and what I learned.

My Inspiration

My goal for Style Challengers is to encourage women to take small steps to improve their confidence, engagement and pleasure in life. I’m about to turn 60 and I want to hit that birthday feeling great and excited for the future. It’s fun to try new fashion trends and workouts, but it’s hard to accept the undeniable physical changes that come with aging. I’ve realized I avoid looking at certain parts of my body in the mirror and if I do, I feel dismayed by the lines, splotches, bulges and droops. Then I read this story in the New York Times:

and I was inspired! This could be exactly what I need to feel good about my body. I decided to follow two of the article’s recommendations: 1) Spend more time naked and 2) focus on how my body feels (as opposed to looks). I searched my calendar for a day where I had a block of free time to myself, and chose last Tuesday for this challenge.

How I Spent the Day

5:45 a.m. I wake up and immediately take off my pjs and get ready to spend the next six hours naked. Even though I’m under the covers, I feel different. I drink coffee and read the news on my phone as usual, but I’m keenly aware of the sensations of my body—the gurgles, the itches, and the body parts that newly are touching each other. I feel sticky, fleshy, vulnerable. And suddenly very apprehensive about how I’ve chosen to spend the day.

7:15 a.m. Time to walk the dog, so I have a brief reprieve from nudity. I pull on underwear, shorts a t-shirt, socks and sneakers. What an abundance of clothing! During my walk along the river I consider ditching the idea of naked day altogether. It’s stupid and gross and I don’t want to! I note my resistance and it underscores the need for me to overcome these negative feelings. I’m doing it, damnit.

8:00 a.m. Liam is back from Crossfit and getting ready to go to the office. I put all the shades down in our condo (one window doesn’t have a blind) and put the thermostat up to a toasty 75 degrees. I warn him, “This day isn’t about sexy naked, it’s about natural, love your body naked. So don’t get any ideas.” Then I take off all my clothes. He leers at me, but respects my boundaries. I decide to take a shower. Being naked there feels normal and good.

When I get out I dry myself thoroughly. Drying is important when naked. You don’t have any clothes to absorb residual droplets. No pants to wipe your hands on. Once fully dried, I moisturize my bod from tip to toe, taking my time to enjoy the sensation (as the NYTimes says I should). I’ve been taking care of my face, but neglecting the rest of my skin. My dry skin absorbs the lotion like a Bounty paper towel soaks up spilled Kool-aid.

Liam is gone, so I have the condo to myself. I walk around and realize the one unshaded window leaves me quite exposed. My solution is to carry a laundry basket when I pass it for protection. I face a bank of high-rises across the river and they’re far enough away that I don’t think anyone can see in here, but if they were looking through a telescope… I get out my binoculars, crawl behind the arm chair and peer across the river. Someone would have to be trying very hard with very strong equipment to see me. I can’t decide if I care or not. I care. I crawl back to my laundry basket.

8:30 a.m. The kitchen opens to the bare window so I make breakfast behind a barrier of laundry baskets on the counter. A napkin is quite important when eating naked. Crumbs fall, fingers get messy. My second essential naked accessory is a dish towel.

9 a.m. Sitting in the darkened condo not sure what to do next. I feel like I’m in quarantine. I don’t like being naked. I feel vulnerable and awkward, even in my own home. And if I’m honest, I feel a tinge of shame. My nakedness is… unseemly. And there’s this extra flesh to deal with, especially around my middle. I don’t even wear a two piece swimsuit because I don’t want my “Jigglypuff” exposed. I remind myself this is a self love exercise. My bare bod isn’t immoral and my belly is perfectly acceptable!

I decide I’ll feel better if I get moving and queue up a short yoga video. I’m really not comfortable with exercising in the buff, but the slow, deliberate pace of yoga feels surprisingly good. Much less weird than I expected. (I’ve since discovered naked yoga is a thing, but be careful if you google it.) I get a shock from the view in down dog, but overall it’s freeing to move while so unencumbered.

9:30 a.m. Time to do some work. I scurry past the uncovered window with my laundry basket and settle in to write at the counter. I take a few deep breaths and try to focus on what my body is feeling. I feel the air on my skin, the fabric of the chair beneath me. I feel a bit chilly, there’s a draft blowing over my shoulders, across my breasts. But I’m getting used to being in the buff. If I didn’t have to worry about being seen by my neighbors, I might even enjoy it.

10:15 a.m. The NYTimes story recommends doing everyday tasks like household chores in the nude. In my exposed state, cooking and ironing seem too perilous, but laundry seems safe enough. Plus it’s dealing with my most coveted objects right now—clothing! I fold and put away my clothes then stretch out on the bed for a little reading. Being naked makes me want to loll around languidly and I’m just going to go with it.

11:45 a.m. Wait, where has the time gone? My six hours of nakedness are almost up. It’s time to look at my body, a la Emma Thompson in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. I spend a few minutes goofing around in front of the full length mirror in my closet. I take some silly photos with the ironing board. It’s fun. It’s no big deal. It’s just my body—wiggly, droopy, imperfect, yes—but also strong, healthy, limber and normal!

To prove I really did this thing, here are a few PG-rated photos from my day: doing yoga and laundry, writing and being silly. I look tense in the beginning, but loosen up by the end. The sunglasses helped.

Noon Time to wrap up naked day. (I know it’s technically a half day, but I have stuff to do!) I dress and take Phoebe out, smiling to fellow dog walkers, feeling a little extra bounce in my step. I feel relieved to be back in the land of the clothed, but also proud of myself for completing my adventure. And yep, definitely more affectionate toward my 59-year-old body.

4 Things I Learned From Spending Time Naked

  • This challenge made me realize I’ve been carrying around a lot of shame and judgment about my body. Women’s bodies naturally come in all shapes and sizes and change over time. My body looks nothing like a supermodel’s, but it isn’t bad or wrong—it’s chugging along, doing its thing. I can’t say I’ve released all of those negative thought patterns, but this challenge has made me aware when I’m being self-critical. This body allows me to experience life! The heart pumping climb up a mountain, a close tennis match, a gorgeous sunset, an enticing meal, a tender embrace, the smell of fresh cut grass—all these pleasures are brought to me courtesy of my miraculous body. Thanks, body!
  • The more time I spent naked, the more comfortable I became. It’s not because I discovered I was a gorgeous, sylph-like goddess. It had nothing to do with looks at all. I just felt increasingly relaxed and at home in ALL of my body. Think about it, do you spend your days feeling unhappy with your elbow? No! It’s just part of your arm, nothing offensive, who even thinks about it? Spending more time nude made me feel both accepting of and indifferent to all my parts. My butt wobbles? My boobs droop? Yep, uh-huh, who cares?
  • The challenge wasn’t about sexuality, but I do feel juicier. I tried something new, taboo and (at least to me) daring. I started the day feeling really awful and uptight about getting naked, and ended up feeling confident and free! All week I’ve kept this little secret to myself and it’s been making me feel warm/sparkly/proud. Now the secret’s out, so I hope that feeling continues.
  • My body is mine; I decide what to do with it. As I wrap up this little ode to my bod, I realize how lucky I am to have the freedom and security to experiment in this way. Women can only appreciate and enjoy our bodies when we have the ability to safely choose what happens to them. You can read more about bodily autonomy and how giving girls and women this basic right promotes gender equality and benefits society as a whole here.

Now I’m off to order a shade for that damn window.

After this tricky challenge, I feel warm/sparkly/proud.

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