Form Follows Function

My friend Beth, over at Yoga Pants Sassy Mouth, wrote a significant, view-altering post tonight, “Body Image vs Usefulness“. I think it’s the shift I needed.

You see, I’ve been really working, for the past year or so, on doing the hard things. I’ve made some pretty significant changes in how and where I do a large part of my life. I started experimenting with being super honest about my views and beliefs, and I pulled up stakes, and after 10 years, started a new job. These have been exceptionally difficult, and overwhelmingly healthy things for me to do.

There has been one place, however, that I have just been unable to make any progress. My physical health. Let’s face it, I’m past my P.Y.T. years. And the way fitness and health is so frequently portrayed, it’s all about how you look (flat abs, thigh gap, big boobs, round butt — on and on ad nauseum). I know for a fact that even if I devoted all of my free time to diet and exercise, I would not reclaim my youth, and I would not look 20 years old again. I accept that I am the age that I am. It doesn’t really bother me. And since I have had a kid, and carried a lot of excess weight for a long time, even with significant weight loss, I would not return to pre-fat form without assistance of some kind of surgery.

So, I’ve just about given up on trying to do anything. I’ve been in an all-or-nothing sort of place. Once I’m locked down on an issue like this, it’s near impossible to push me into action.

However, I have also known that there would come a time when I would change my mind. That someday, my desire for longevity (I have a 9yo that I want to see grow up and become independent) would push my brain to find another path — another way of thinking that would free me from the trap of “if I can’t do it right, I won’t do it at all”. I need hope. I need to have a goal that I can see is actually achievable. Something that I, in my future, could actually attain. Something that would be genuinely worth hard work and different choices.

In comes Beth and her wisdom. In essence, she has put the idea of fitness into a perspective that I have always believed. Form follows function. I deeply respect usefulness. Functionality. I couldn’t give a crap what something looks like if it does the job well. Seriously. Somehow, I hadn’t made the transition in my thought process to myself in the realm of physical fitness. Midway through her post she asks,

“What are you building? Do you want to be able to run and jump and play with your children – your grandchildren? Do you want to be able to work a construction job? Are you planning on competing in any specific sport? Do you have a sport that you love so much you want to condition your body for that? Why are you building your body at all? Then I suggest the most CRAZY notion: …what if you let that dictate what your body looks like?”

I almost started crying. You mean I can pick something ELSE, something FUNCTIONAL, that I want to be/do that doesn’t depend on a completely muffin-free top and flat abs (that I know are impossible with this body of mine without surgical intervention)?? I can totally skip the magazine-photo-clipping-vision-board stage of this and just pick some thing I want to be capable of, and work towards THAT?!?

Whoa. Gonna let that one settle in. (Thanks, BK.)


“Whether it be the sweeping eagle in his flight, or the open apple-blossom, the toiling work-horse, the blithe swan, the branching oak, the winding stream at its base, the drifting clouds, over all the coursing sun, form ever follows function, and this is the law. Where function does not change, form does not change. The granite rocks, the ever-brooding hills, remain for ages; the lightning lives, comes into shape, and dies, in a twinkling.

It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.

— Louis H. Sullivan in The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered as quoted in the Wiki Article on Form Follows Function

[Featured image credit: Jinzel]