Talking Tarzan Style

Lynne Murray says:

Learning how to listen and talk to my body in a positive way was probably the most valuable part of my fat acceptance experience.

Through a support group and several workbooks, I used techniques similar to those in Carol Munter and Jane Hirschmann’s When Women Stop Hating Their Bodies, as described on their website overcoming overeating. One exercise was writing a letter to your body, inviting a dialog to heal the many wounds inflicted by decades of body hatred. I never managed much back and forth dialog during those exercises. My body had few words, even in my imagination. But the more I respected it and listened, the more I heard what it had to say on its own terms and in its own terms–essentially in “body language.”

Bodies communicate on the simplest level, very much like Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan in Tarzan of the Apes. Burroughs had many flaws. He was a spinner of yarns and an early 1900’s kinda guy, with all the prejudices of his era. But he created an unforgettable noble savage in Tarzan, and when I was 9 I read all the Tarzan books I could get my hands on.

Tarzan, self-taught from books found at the scene of his parents’ death, could write but not speak English. The body’s first language, like Tarzan’s, is purely animal. But now that I’ve learned how to listen, and the channel is open, my body makes clear and always sensible requests:

Body: Hungry.
Self: Toast?
Body: Ehhh…
Mind: Ramen noodles with egg?
Body: Nah. More protein.
Self: Eggs, cheese and spinach?
Body: Yes.


Body: Pain in hands, stop typing.
Self: 15 minutes more.
Body: Pain in hands, arms.
Self: Almost done.
Body: Pain–hands, arms, shoulder…back?
Self: I’m stopping to rest now.

It’s like having a roommate who never speaks, but leaves notes like: “Buy more Soy milk!”

From a Buddhist standpoint, body and mind are two sides of the same coin, and I have found that respectfully listening works better than trying to restrict.

<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">diet</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">food</a><br /> Carol Munter<br /> Jane Hirschmann<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Body Hate</a><br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Body Communication</a><br /> Edgar Rice Burroughs<br /> Tarzan<br /> Lynne Murray<br /> <a href="" rel="tag nofollow" class="broken_link">Body Impolitic</a><br />

3 thoughts on “Talking Tarzan Style

  1. That’s an excellent post, Lynne. I am learning to slowly listen more to what my body is saying. I have spent most of my life ignoring most of the messages, pushing myself to do more, exercise harder, walk further, etc., despite pain, despite clear messages that my body was being pushed beyond its limits. I have cerebral palsy & now also some arthritis, bone spur, tendonitis in my Achilles, the effects of aging, of the onset of joint problems complicated by the existing CP, & also the effects of the way I have spent 56 years convincing myself & the rest of the world that I AM able-bodied & I can do almost anything anyone else can do.

    Much of my pain is in my arms & hands, &, yes, I write a lot, too, first for many years in longhand, & now a lot of typing. I am fat, genetically & metabolically designed to be round, descended from many long-lived round people, but that is no disability to me. To anyone who would suggest that the pain & gradually increasing mobility problems are caused by fat, I reply that I know, that my BODY knows & tells me, that it is more the result of aging in a somewhat disabled body & also of being the body of a very stubborn, independent woman who has put over 55,000 miles on this body just in outdoor walking for exercise & to run errands, because I have neither a car nor a driver’s license.

    I have hated my body so much for so much of my life for being defective, for not being “pretty” enough, for not being able to move in a graceful & “ladylike” manner, & I have pushed it & punished it, & now it is finally speaking loudly enough that I cannot ignore the messages, & I am finally growing enough in self-love & self-acceptance, coming to feel at home enough in this body, to listen.

  2. I can relate to what you say, Patsy, though my experience is different in some ways. I’m 57, and I’ve been both fat and healthy (which is frustrating because our current culture says fat in and of itself is a disease) and fat and sick and/or disabled. The latter seems to confirm in the eyes of the world that, as the Jets say to Officer Krupke in West Side Story, “Deep down inside of us we’re sick.” That can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, unless we fight it. At the very least, it puts more layers of pain and burden on already burdened self.

    What you say about coming to feel at home in your body is a great way to put it–we are literally coming home to ourselves. It’s not easy to do, but so worth the effort! As I patiently kindle my own self-love and body acceptance, I find I can raise my head to look around me and realize, alas, how very radical this idea still is.

  3. It becomes more radical every day, Lynne, because the fat hatred in this culture grows every day. The terrifying & disgusting part is that it doesn’t really even grow because individuals hate fat so much in their souls, but because all the big money interests…the diet industry, drug industry, the large medical organizations, our government…are USING fat as a target for all their programs to control people & to make as much money as possible off fear, anxiety, self-hatred, over worries about health, fears of food, & God only KNOWS what else! There is nothing wrong with being fat, I come from a family of very long-lived fat people, & I myself may have always been disabled, but I have also always been very healthy. There is plenty wrong with dieting, with WLS, with trying to fight our genes & be something we are not. Fat is no killer, but many of the things they persuade people to do in the interest of losing it ARE. Dieting damages our health more than many people realize, it damages more the longer & more often it is done, & dieting as we age (people our age & older, Lynne) increases mortality risks by a large degree. Whatever they do, it is not for our health, but for their power & profit. Coming home & living in our bodies, owning ourselves, loving ourselves enough to truly treat ourselves as well as we would any other loved one, is the most important & most radical thing we can do. It is particularly radical for women, since men usually, on average, feel more comfortable & at home in their own bodies than women do, since they are taught that their bodies are instrumental & women are socialized to believe that ours are mostly ornamental.

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