What Does Body Positive Really Mean?

It’s a great question, and one that deserves a bit of exploring.

I believe that body positivity started out as a reaction to the under-representation and negative representations of non-thin and non-white women in the media. Women in particular had become sick and tired of not seeing themselves reflected in the pages of magazines or on television. It was really a grass roots effort to be seen and appreciated.

Having been a part of this disillusioned group, I got on the bandwagon almost seven years ago and created my own niche that includes discussing, fat acceptance, race, taking up space, feminism, chronic illness, accessible yoga, plus fashion, and more.

Of course there are lots of areas to explore underneath the BODY POSITIVITY umbrella. In fact, I’m hosting a teleclass this Saturday that’s all about starting your own body positive blog.

But as the years have gone on, body positivity has come to mean different things to different people.

  • For women of color it has become about becoming visible and being represented in a way that reflects our diversity and cultural richness.
  • For those with chronic illness or those who are differently-abled it is about showing our strengths despite a society that tries to limit us with negative descriptors.
  • For fat women it’s about so many things, including giving ourselves permission to wear what we want when we want. By now everyone knows what a fatkini is, right?!
  • For many it’s about anti-dieting and how this billion dollar industry shames people into believing that a very specific body type (ie. thin) is the only standard of beauty we should ascribe to.

What I understand is that body positivity is really a movement about being seen, heard, appreciated and having equitable access to resources and positive representation across the board. It is constantly changing to be as inclusive as possible, as any well-intentioned movement should. I know my views have changed over the years and I’ve learned so much about my own biases. I do my best to stay open and learn from others who have different experiences than I do.

If you’ve ever wanted to blog about body positivity, join me this Saturday for a super fun class on BoPo Blogging 101. Early Bird tickets are just $15 and available through this Wednesday.

 

3 Ways to Deal with the Fat & Body Shamers in Your Family Right Now!

body positive affirmations (4)

Most of you reading this right now have been body-shamed at some point in your life. It was likely a relative who first made you feel like shit about your body. The first person who body-shamed me was my father. At age 14, standing 5′-7″ tall and weighing 145 pounds, he thought I needed to go on a diet. And it hurt like hell.

I don’t think most of our family members intend to hurt us with their opinions, but it stings like a motherfucker anyway. And unless you have the unusually high self-esteem of say, Donald Trump, it’s likely to leave an impression on you. In my case, the impression was felt for the better part of 20 years.

Up until the last few years, any comments about my weight from my family cut me deeply. I didn’t understand why my body needed policing, regardless of whether it was thin or fat. I just wanted to be left alone — to just be in my body without having to account for my worth based on its size.

We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.

Today, I am mostly free from the abuse of body-shaming from my family. But it took learning some lessons before I could stand up for myself and realize that I had a lot more control over the situation than I realized. Here are three ways that I’ve found helpful to get through the pain of body-shaming from relatives and friends:

1

I know it seems counter intuitive, but having compassion for your body-shamer is very healing. It’s not about you. It’s about them. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the damn truth. After having observed the way my parents had fat-shamed me and others over the years, it occurred to me that they had their own set of insecurities which plagued them. Their insults were just a reflexive response to hating some part about themselves. We’ve all read stories about how a bully was once the object of a bullier. Well, same idea here.

We are exposed to so much pain and judgement in this world. None of us are free from it. We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.  Yes, I just invented that word. You’re welcome.

When we realize that negative comments are really reflections of how others feel about themselves, it easier to forgive and let go. Don’t get me wrong. It takes a lot of practice. But it does work.

*Side note: they do still fat shame other people, but I call it out when they do it every time!

2

Please stop expecting other people to change. You can’t. You can only change yourself. Once I decided that I was done with dieting and that I was comfortable with the way I looked, the comments completely stopped. I literally stood with my head held high. I wore what wanted and ate whatever I wanted in front of whoever was there. I am still in awe of how powerful self-love is. When we stop giving away our power, life is so much better.

12-Step programs and therapy  were instrumental in helping me to get to this point. For so long I hoped my parents would change their tune and simply stop commenting on my body. But this misguided hope was the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Probably not gonna happen in this lifetime. So stop. Right now! Stop it!!!

Instead, I want you to focus on finding ways to love your body more. If you’re reading this, chances are you are on social media and have access to a myriad of resources that DO celebrate your body. Just search for hashtags like #iamenough#bodypositive, and #effyourbeautystandards,  to fill your feed with inspiring images. It really does work!

3Be willing to create boundaries. You have the right to choose not to be around people who make you feel bad about yourself. And you also don’t need to explain your decision. Self-care and self-preservation are your God(ess) given right. So claim it!

You can still love your family and choose not to be around them. They might not understand. They might get angry. But would you rather be angry, or let them be angry? I know what I would do. And if they do confront you about your absence, it’s okay to tell the truth. Again, they may not get it. In fact, they may get defensive (my family certainly does) Simply go back to tips #1 and #2: have compassion and don’t expect them to behave differently.

And then get the hell out! LOL

Look, I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share what has worked for me. I hope these tips are useful and that you find more ways to release yourself from the grip of the body-shamers in your life. Until then, I wish you self-love and light!

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.

open heart

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.

too thin too thick

 

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.

all-bodies-are-good-bodies-poster

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.

FeetOnScale2

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.

Patti-Digh

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

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!

 

chenese lewis

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

Why Do We Have to Be Pretty All the Fucking Time?

pretty

When I wake up in the morning, one of the first things I do before getting out of bed is to decide what I’m going to wear that day. I scan my overflowing closet in my mind’s eye, carefully matching (or in my case, not matching) the pieces I think will work together. Next, my thoughts wander to the perfect lipstick color and how best to style my unwieldy mane.

Yes, admittedly my first few thoughts upon waking are about how I look. And I’m kinda over it.

So why do I do it?

The simple answer — habit. The complicated answer — I have been brainwashed by a media that is largely influenced by making a business out of ugly-shaming me. Like so many of you reading this, I get frustrated by the constant pressure that I have to be pretty just to go to the grocery store, or to work, or to socialize.

And let me also say that I love having fun in fashion. But in my heart of hearts, I know that sometimes I’m doing it so I can feel like I’m enough.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve been sold a heaping load of stinking bullshit.

As a society, we have intentionally decided that pretty is the thing you should be, but you can never really get. It’s a total setup. And it absolutely requires you to be vigilant about the kinds of messages you allow yourself to hear. I know, you’re probably thinking, well, Pia, tell us how to do that so we can go and fucking do it.”

First, a teeny bit about my experience. My rocky road to healing only really started when I began making the kinds of environmental changes that created a safe space in which I could begin to experience worth beyond my appearance. And as I always say, I have not yet arrived. The journey is in the healing, and the healing is in the journey.

body  positive affirmations

Social media was the turning point in my recovery. All of a sudden I had access to resources and support for how to move past my eating disorder and begin accepting my exhausted self. I met fierce activists, proud fatties, plus size designers, chubby bloggers, thin allies, and now dear friends, all of whom have had an impact on my healing.

And I let myself be raw. I told my truth so that the collective energy  from these relationships began to kindle my spirit. I summoned a strength I never knew I had. I allowed my  thick, light-deprived thighs to bask in the sun’s warmth, aware that no one at all gave me a second glance.

Instead of reading mainstream magazines, I began to read blogs that celebrated larger bodies. Rather than hold onto old jeans that no longer fit me, I embraced the amazing options in plus size clothing and found a style that took into account my fluffy proportions AND my personal style.  I made a conscious choice to surround myself with images, words, and relationships that supported my work towards self-acceptance.

I became part of a revolution to take back my life, my choices, and my dignity. And in the process I became me — a mixed fat chick who fights for justice whilst eating gluten-free donuts. Because I’m allergic to gluten. Not because I give a fuck about carbs.

Ya know, I really want to not be writing about this in five years. I hope there won’t be a need.

In the meantime, bombard yourself  with positive messages with the same energy you were using to beat yourself up. It takes effort and planning to make fundamental changes in your thinking and your behaviors. Don’t worry, there is no race to the finish line. Take all the time you need, and celebrate the victories — big and small — along the way.

Sending much love, light, and healing to you!

xo

 

P.S. I have an amazing E-Course coming later this summer. Stay tuned!!

Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel Campaign Misses the (Stretch) Mark

lb

Lane Bryant‘s #ImNoAngel campaign has gotten lots of attention for its recent diss on Victoria’s Secret’s long-time angels ads. But is it really that different from it’s straight size counterpart? Um, not really.

Why are we so damn excited that six flawless plus models who have been photoshopped to death are representing the plus size woman?

The bodies in that advertisement are young, have round butts, smooth thighs and not a stretch mark in sight. The message it sends is that there is a very specific non-thin body that is ok to have. It has all the markings of the Dove’s Real Beauty ad from 8 years ago, which in my opinion lacked body diversity too.

dove-models-real-beauty

Haven’t we come further than that? I hoped we had.

It still remains in the hands of grassroots body positive advocates to push the envelope and fight for inclusivity in the real sense of the word.

The #ImNoAngel campaign is a watered down attempt to make big girls feel good about themselves. But no one in that ad could have been bigger than a size 18. That leaves out a very important cross-section of Lane Bryant’s customer base. They carry sizes 14-28. Why aren’t the models in the campaign representative of that diversity?

In a news release, Lane Bryant says its campaign aims to “celebrate women of all shapes and sizes by redefining society’s traditional notion of sexy with a powerful core message: ALL women are sexy.”  Sorry LB, the message did NOT come across that way. You forgot to include women who wear a size 18 or bigger, or who have stretch marks, or cellulite, or any number of so called imperfections.

I can’t be the only woman of size who yearns to see herself reflected in a lingerie ad with fat, dimpled models. I give credit to companies like Curvy Girl Lingerie, who use models of different sizes on their website. It is seeing those images over and over that will really help us to get over our society’s hatred of fat bodies.

curvy girl model2

So excuse me for not being grateful to Lane Bryant for this mediocre attempt to be inclusive. As a company that has served plus size women since 1923, I expected more.

People may accuse me of being harsh, but we are in a time of great change, and I think companies like Lane Bryant often get credit for the work that body positive activists have been doing for years. And frankly, their version lacks the kind of progress we so desperately need.

I challenge Lane Bryant and other mainstream plus size clothing brands to really think outside the box. They can be agents of real change if they so choose. The time is now. The only question is, will they take the leap?

xo