#IAmEnough©: Sharing my Path to Self-Acceptance on Good Morning America

GMA2This past Tuesday I was incredibly blessed to have been interviewed alongside my sister on America’s favorite morning show. Good Morning America  produced a great segment in which I shared my journey toward self-acceptance, and how it contrasts with my sister’s path. We both found self-love in very different ways. Hers was a diet and fitness journey. The strict diets never made me feel good, so I abandoned them years ago. My journey has been about embracing my large body and recognizing the beauty and strength I have no matter my size. I’m happy to know that there are many different paths to freedom and living your truth.

On Tuesday morning, at 8:45am, I stood in Times Square in polka dot yoga pants and a clingy “Ohmazing” tank from Lineage Wear (thank you so much Katie!) – my thunder thighs, voluptuous arms, and visible belly outline on display for the world to see. And I felt so damn good! (P.S. I’m at my heaviest weight ever, and have never felt more free.) I was claiming my space unapologetically as a fat, brown, afro-wearing woman. Describing it in words simply doesn’t do it justice. Let’s just say it was a #BlackGirlMagic moment!

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As I stood soaking up the energy of NYC (a.k.a. the center of the universe) surrounded by soaring skyscrapers, blinking billboards and a curious crowd, I took a few moments to let the reality of the experience set in. Here I am, 40 years old, finally living my dreams, and in a visibly fat body. Yes, it is possible!

You guys know I come from a history of self-hate and insecurity. So, to be feeling amazing in my skin with the world watching was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I hope it has helped to set others free – that has been my goal all along.

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For nearly six years I’ve been writing about my tumultuous journey toward accepting my body and realizing how amazing it is. I’ve come to understand that my body tells the story of so many women and men who inhabit large bodies but have felt unseen and unworthy. I know now that my voice is my gift. And the Universe needs all of us to lean into who we really are.  Were it not for my years of dieting and self-loathing, I would not be who I am today. And who I am today is a strong, smart, confident, mixed fat chick, with a talent for inspiring others. I am joyful! And as far as I’ve come, I still have so much more to learn and experience. So bring it, Universe!

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Before the live segment in Times Square we did a Facebook Live event where we talked to  panel of women on what body positivity meant us. Among the panelists were fellow body positive activists Alysse D’Alessandro and Essie Golden, who represented beautifully on the show. Y’all are awesome! I also met other wonderful women, including Dana Suchow who is a body-posi tiger!

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I have so many people to thank, beginning with my sister Mara Schiavocampo, whose idea it was to pitch the segment to GMA. I also want to give a big shout out to producers Danielle and Alison – thank you for allowing me to show the world who I am and how body positivity has transformed my life. You are both class acts! And I can’t forget hair and makeup mavens Juanita and Lisa, who hooked me up and with whom I had a wonderful connection.

Until next time, remember #iamenough ©.

xo

7 ways Cosmo can undo their back-contouring video debacle

Dear “Beauty” People at Cosmo,

Your recent video featuring a tutorial on back contouring was majorly fu*ked up. Congratulations, you’ve just shamed an entire generation of vulnerable, young women and girls into worrying about the shape of their back bones. Well done.

 

“Back contouring is officially a thing and THIS is how to do it,” says the description of the video. Reminder: it’s only a “thing,” because YOU decided it was. You made an intentional decision to contribute to the low-self esteem of  young women with body-image issues and eating disorders.

The company overview description on your Facebook page says: “Cosmopolitan is the best-selling young women’s magazine in the U.S., a bible for fun, fearless females that reaches more than 17 million readers a month.”

Fearless females?

Uh, last time I checked, fearless females only contoured their backs with makeup when playing super sheroes in the movies.

And also, haven’t you heard about this thing called, Body Positivity?  See, it  started out as a grass roots movement for people with body dysmorphia, eating disorders, and poor body-image to claim their worth, beauty, and space in a world that tells them they should strive for unattainable physical perfection. But in the past few years, it’s been co-opted by large corporations who’ve mainstreamed the idea so they can make money off the hard work of those that pioneered the movement so many years ago. But I digress.

Let’s get to the matter at hand. You did bad. And you can fix it. Here’s how:

  1. Apologize profusely.
  2. Destroy the tutorial video and remove from all websites. Promise never to pull that shit again.
  3. Hire a diverse staff IMMEDIATELY, that would know better than to put this tom-foolery out into the Universe.
  4. Feature more girls and women of color, women of size, women who are differently-abled, and transgender folks on the cover and inside pages of your magazine.
  5. Stop photo-shopping your images. That’s so 2015.
  6. Use your platform to bring attention to underrepresented bodies and voices.
  7. You’ve been around since 1886, for heaven’s sake! Ok, you didn’t become a women’s magazine until the 1960’s, but still, this is 2016. Get it together.

Look, I know this letter seems harsh, but sometimes you just gotta let folks know what’s up. And what’s up, is that you owe us more than that. Every woman I know has read Cosmo at some point her life. It has sparked many a conversation about our periods, and led to good, safe sex for many of us all over the world. You taught us about anorexia and bulimia. And we thank you. Which is why we’re confused about that awful video!

I challenge you to do better, now that you know better. I encourage you take this opportunity to grow. And finally, I ask that that you surprise the shit out of us by actually implementing some the above changes.

Sincerely,

Pia Schiavo-Campo
Body Positive Activist, Writer, and Speaker

I Am #WhatAYogiLooksLike

I’m so pleased to be featured in Yoga International as part of the “This is What a Yogi Looks Like” (#whatayogilookslike) media series collaboration between the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and Yoga International based on the YBIC campaign that launched in 2014 and their continued work in challenging stereotypes, growing community, working collaboratively, and highlighting the diversity of yoga practitioners and yoga practices, as well as their staunch commitment to diversifying yoga media. Also, a special thanks to Melanie Klein for making it possible!

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Photo by Sarit Z. Rogers

As published in Yoga International on June 29, 2016

For so many years, as my weight fluctuated up and down in multiples of 20, I was rarely present in my body. In fact, I spent most of my time researching new diets and abhorring my reflection in the mirror. No matter what the number on the scale, it was never the right one. And so I spent the better part of 25 years feeling like a stranger in my own skin, punishing myself for my “imperfections.”

It was yoga that finally allowed me to experience my large body in a positive way. But it wasn’t love at first sight.

My first experience with yoga was in 1999, and I really didn’t get it. That, and I felt like a bull in a china shop. Seriously, I was less than graceful, and I always felt rather awkward posing alongside people who looked nothing like me. So I said goodbye to yoga without a regret in the world.

It was yoga that finally allowed me to experience my large body in a positive way. But it wasn’t love at first sight.

Because of my poor body image and low self-esteem, I missed out on too many experiences: swimming in the ocean with my family, dating in high school because of my shy demeanor and insecurities about the size of my jeans, and positive sexual experiences because I was too busy trying to sleep my way to high self-esteem. It was a journey toward external affirmation that never ceased. I could not find peace.

In 2011 I became fed up. I was tired of obsessing about my body and weight. It was then that I began authoring my blog, Chronicles of a Mixed Fat Chick. I conducted lots of research on large bodies, plus fashion, body image, and self-acceptance. It became my mission to try to understand and move beyond my long-held negative body image. Well, I needed some support and inspiration along the way. In my research I came across so many amazing websites that featured women like me thriving proudly in their plump bodies. All along I’d been focused on attaining thinness so I could be happy, perfect, and free. But the ample women on those brilliant sites looked thoroughly content. They were smiling and laughing and basking in their fatness. It was the first time I ever really considered quitting dieting altogether.

Then, a few years ago I began to see pictures all over social media of fat women doing yoga. It was really a magical time for me—I was so attracted to the confidence of these women who were doing something I had always associated with being young, thin, white, and cisgender. And here were women like Dianne Bondy and Jessamyn Stanley, who were breaking all the “rules.” I thought, I’m black and fat, too. And maybe I can do this yoga thing.

Fast forward to 2014, when I finally found the courage to try my first yoga class in 15 years. I went to a sweet studio a few blocks from my house called Crenshaw Yoga and Dance. I showed up early, knots in my stomach. An lovely lady in a green leotard and dark tights greeted me at the door with the kind of warmth only old Black folks from the South can deliver. I adored her instantly. I explained to 70-something Adrienne that this was my first class in a long time—and that I was nervous. I also informed her that I had fibromyalgia and was hoping yoga could improve my symptoms. She smiled her wide smile, nodded, and the rest is history.

When I got on the mat—and finally let myself relax—I was astounded at what my body could do and how it could feel.

Adrienne’s class was life changing for me. There were mostly women of color, including some with large bodies (some smaller and some bigger than mine). The age range was 21 to 75, and there were various levels of experience represented in the room. When I got on the mat—and finally let myself relax—I was astounded at what my body could do and how it could feel. It was the opposite of an out-of-body experience—it was an in-body experience. A first for me.

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In the weeks and months that followed, my poses got deeper and the reflection in the studio mirror became less and less important. I realized that what allowed me to really love yoga was having a safe space to practice, a space in which I never felt judged. I discovered that yoga is not a competition; it’s a way of being in the world. Yoga also helped me to see how my limiting thoughts and behaviors were keeping me from thriving in other areas of my life. And it absolutely proved to me that being in a large body does not determine my worth, my beauty, or my health. Only my opinion can do that.

xo

How the Body Positive Movement Unintentionally Shames People Who Choose to Lose Weight

I began my journey to body positivity (BP) and self-acceptance almost six years ago. It’s been a wild ride, with lots of bumps and bruises. But mostly it’s been an amazing experience resulting in the formation of a wonderful community of advocates and friends. And I’m proud to say that I’ve allowed my views to change and grow as I’ve learned more about inclusivity and the importance of hearing one another with an open heart and mind.

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Admittedly, I’ve also witnessed and been a part of shaming people in the BP community who openly express their desire to lose weight. The pervading thought seems to be that BP folks who want to lose weight are inherently self-hating and thus negate all the strides the movement has made to be seen and heard. That, and we tend to internalize the choices of others as an attack on us. I get that the space we’ve created is so special and hard-won, that we’ve become very protective of it. But we must remember that this movement is based on the idea that ALL bodies are GOOD bodies. The BP movement is about learning to love and accept our bodies and those of others without judgment. So, if we shun people who make a personal decision to lose weight (for whatever reason), then we are hypocrites. Me included.

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I know plenty of women who have learned to love themselves because of the movement, and still want to lose weight and do what feels right for their bodies — and it’s OK!  I’m a firm believer in health being something you define for yourself. As I’ve said before, there are people who are fat and healthy, and fat and unhealthy. The same goes for thin people. So if you are fat (or thin), and you don’t feel good in your body, then do whatever you need to do to feel good. Don’t let anyone, not even the BP movement, shame you into staying where you don’t want to be. By the same token, abstain from judging those folks who choose not to lose weight.

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I’m bringing this divisive topic up because I’ve had conversations with many women in the movement who are expressing a desire to lose weight for their own personal reasons, but feel afraid to share it for fear of banishment from a movement that purports to be inclusive.

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Let me remind you that people have all sorts of reasons for why they want to lose weight, and frankly, it’s their business. Hell, I’m thinking about losing weight because my plantar fascitis is getting increasingly worse (I’ve tried everything, including orthotics and special shoes, but to no avail). And 30 pounds ago, I didn’t experience this problem (for someone who loves to dance, it’s a real bummer). Let me also say that at my current weight I can do yoga,  have great cholesterol levels, and my blood pressure is normal. So yes, I have health in many areas, but not in others (my feet hurt!!!). And I want to feel fully vibrant: physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s my God-given right, and it’s no ones’ business but my own.

Side note: For those of you who do want to lose weight, I hope you’ll do it sanely and healthily.

My ultimate desire is that the body-positivity movement embrace all forms of self-love and wellness. It may look different for each of us, but at the end of the day, all most of us really want is to feel our best and to be accepted without fear of judgement. Your thin body is no better than mine. My fat body is not more worthy than yours. And my desire to lose a few pounds so I can dance without achy feet is no reflection of your personal choices.

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Being inclusive can only strengthen our cause. So, can we just open our hearts and mind a little more and make space for everyone to feel supported and seen? I sure hope so.

xo

Breathing While Black is Punishable by Death

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Today, being Black in America means you are at risk of being killed by police while selling loose cigarettes or CDs, or going to a party, or wearing a hoodie, or breathing (or not being able to breathe), or running away, or being fully cooperative.

Last week, activist and Advancement Project Boardmember Jesse Williams spoke passionately about the need for systemic reform. His speech was a call to action in a world where the names of Black folks murdered at the hands of police have become nothing more than hashtags for thumb activism.  We watch in horror as another slaying is caught on videotape, and then sob and shake our heads in pure frustration when police officers go free despite damning evidence that proves their guilt. We share memes about injustice, and ask ourselves why this is happening, until the next shooting inevitably occurs. And the cycle continues, despite public outcry.

It is not our hearts and minds or those of our allies which require adjustment, but rather the hearts and minds of those who are blind to injustice that need to be transformed.

Many of us in the movement have worked tirelessly to change the systems and laws that have prevented people of color from living safely and thriving. But one system – whose job it is to protect and serve, has failed us time and time again. The brute force with which law enforcement mistreats, abuses, and kills Black and Brown people demonstrates a real disregard for those lives. Mainstream media helps to uphold the idea that Black lives are less valuable than those of Whites, while misconduct by law enforcement proves it’s true. We live in a society that dehumanizes and criminalizes Black people so that when one is killed at the hands of police, the media is quick to present “evidence” that depicts them as unworthy of being protected. It is a system that gives police a free pass to murder innocent people.

Like you, I am fed up. I stand in solidarity with the families of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and so many others who have died at the hands of police. My thoughts and prayers go out to them. But I know that’s not nearly enough. So many of us are preaching to the choir with our activism. But we’re preaching to the wrong people. It is not our hearts and minds or those of our allies which require adjustment, but rather the hearts and minds of those who are blind to injustice that need to be transformed. And law enforcement must be at the top of the list.

Perhaps what Jesse Williams offered up is a good next step. Let this be an opportunity for us to make it our collective business to better define the role of police in this country, and to really examine the practices and policies that allow the murders of Black people to continue. The current system lacks accountability and consequences, which makes it a safe space for this kind of behavior to persist.

Until we have justice, until we have dignity, and until we stop being murdered, we will not stop fighting.

Those who hold onto the idea that #AllLivesMatter without understanding the importance of #BlackLivesMatter will continue to be defensive and unyielding by holding onto their racist views. If we as human beings aren’t fully committed to changing hearts and minds, then hate, fear, and ignorance will continue to fuel the war on Black lives.

A recent video highlighted an experiment where Germans were asked to sit down with refugees and look them in the eye for four solid minutes. In short, the result was compassion and understanding. You can watch the video here: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/748953555246154/.  Watching it made me realize how important it is to have one on one connection with people who don’t look like us in order to see their humanity. But how can we foster understanding and mutual respect when many people’s views are informed by racist representations of people of color by the media?

We must not let up. We must continue the conversation and be willing to challenge the current police state and the implications it has for the Black people upon whose backs this country was built. Until we have justice, until we have dignity, and until we stop being murdered, we will not stop fighting.  In the meantime, continue to say their names: Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Sandra Bland, Ezell Ford, Tamir Rice, Travyvon Martin…

xo

Talking Self-Love & Body Acceptance on The Chenese Lewis Show

I was so pleased when Chenese Lewis asked to interview me for her hugely popular podcast, The Chenese Lewis Show. Take a listen as we discuss my journey to self-acceptance, which includes my years of dieting, liposuction at age 23, and how I’ve come to love myself exactly as I am!

 

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I was lucky enough to interview Chenese a few years ago. She is an amazing advocate and early champion of body love. Learn about her journey here!

xo

You are enough, You have enough, You do enough.

You are enough,you have enough,you do enough

I’ll keep this brief.

We are constantly told that we aren’t doing enough — that we should achieve more, want more, be more, get more. The truth is, you have everything you need. You are everything you need. You are doing your best right now.

So print this image out and put it where you can see it everyday as a reminder of your enoughness!

xo