The holiday season. It has finally arrived, cresting the horizon with all the subtlety of a toddler performing brain surgery with a jackhammer. Turkey-themed stuff at every drugstore in town battles to hold the perimeter against Christmas candy inching its way in from the sidelines, readying itself to combust into a storm of red and green foil wrapped treats as the clock strikes 12:01am on Black Friday.

The holidays really take over the last two months of the year, and if you’re anything like me, it’s easy to let yourself get lost among the season’s financial, social and familial commitments. It’s confusing, because these winter holidays are ostensibly about love, gratitude, and coming together with those we love. A lot of times, however, I feel overwhelmed, stressed out and my body feels physically compromised from not enough sleep, too much food and drink, and the fallout from letting self care take a backseat to other things.

In thinking a lot about Thanksgiving this week, I have been considering how I often vocalize and express gratitude for family and friends during the holidays, and I even take the time to be thankful for things like my job, my home, my spiritual practices and emotional capacities. However, I can’t remember the last time I took a moment to appreciate my body.

My body did a bunch of stuff for me in the last 72 hours alone. It turned things that grew out of the ground into energy so I could show up to work today. It flexed and twisted its way through one of Carla’s buti classes, producing what felt like a half gallon of sweat in the process. It carried me from place to place, allowed me to communicate, feel things, see things… it’s basically the greatest.

As women, we’re constantly being bombarded by messages that our bodies aren’t good enough. Even people who are paid to embody the alarmingly narrow, patriarchal definition of what our culture sees as “beautiful” are photoshopped and manipulated in images in order to push aspirational ideals. Buy this product, sign up for this service, drink these $10 protein shakes and you too can achieve this “perfect” body!

But the aspirational target isn’t real. It’s kept purposefully unattainable to keep the consumerist engine chugging along. If every woman really could “change their body in eight weeks with this one weird trick,” then the vast majority of us would have done it already, even if just to fit in with the culture at large. So the cycle keeps going: we receive the message that we’re not “good enough,” we try the latest fad to become “good enough,” then when we don’t see the changes we were promised, we turn inward and blame ourselves. We blame our bodies, our willpower, our laziness, and our lifestyles, but most of all, we blame our bodies.

We blame our bodies.

I want to cry just writing that. We blame our bodies. Our bodies, that give a home to our souls, our creativity, our light. Our bodies that can create human life, that can climb mountains and figure out astrophysics, that can build temples and vessels that can sail across oceans. Our bodies that can express love through touch and movement, our bodies that are so resilient as to overcome injury, disease and abuse. We blame our bodies because we’ve been told to – it’s not in our instinct, it’s not who we are.

This Thanksgiving, let’s take a moment to be grateful for our bodies. Let’s remember that our bodies are perfect as they are in this very moment. Let’s thank our bodies for all of the hard work that they do. Let’s look in the mirror and just see ourselves exactly as we are. Let’s feel strong in the ancestry of our bodies and claim our heritage as warriors in the name of loving our bodies, our beautiful, perfect, unique bodies with all of their bony bits, their jiggly bits, their muscular bits, their hairy bits and everything else that we’ve got or don’t got.

Gratitude is such an important part of living a life that honors self care and service to others. Honor your body with Steph on Thanksgiving morning with a one hour Hustlercize class to leave you feeling energized and confident for facing your holiday head on. All of the proceeds from this class will be given in humble gratitude to the Preble Street Center to say thank you for enriching our community here in Portland.

Thank you so much for being a part of the Hustle and Flow community. Happy Thanksgiving, and we’ll see you in the orange room soon!