#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

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

Fat Girl in a Yoga Magazine: It Happened to Me

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I am so honored to have been a part of an amazing photo shoot for Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine. I’m grateful to Melanie Klein and the Yoga and Body Image Coalition for allowing me to be part of the #whatayogilookslike campaign. This wonderful group is dedicated to creating safe yoga spaces for all body types. And a shout out to fabulous photographer Tani Ikeda, who was so patient with me as I tried to hold my poses through crashing waves and sinking sand! I also want to lift up yoga instructor Chelsea Jackson, who was my fellow model for the photo shoot. We arrived at the beach at 5 am and braved the chilly water for the perfect photos. And it was totally worth it. It was definitely a spiritual experience and one that I’ll never forget.

Remember, ALL BODIES ARE GOOD BODIES, and your body can do so much. Don’t be afraid to try something new and get outside your comfort zone. Yoga isn’t about being thin and bendy — it’s about listening to your body and learning what feels right to you while honoring your own amazingness. Sending you so much love and light!

Namaste!xo