Last weekend, I made the trek westward to Tucson, Arizona for the first annual Body Love Conference, or BLC. When I first learned of the event sometime last summer, it was a mere twinkle in The Militant Baker’s eye. I was immediately intrigued and wrote to Jes, The Militant Baker herself. I offered my event planning skills to her mix and was thrilled when she wrote back requesting a Skype date. My skills were only useful for a short time, since my Florida location isn’t exactly accessible to Arizona and an amazing onsite planning crew was established shortly after I came along. Still, I was thrilled to be a part of it all, even if only on the periphery. Plus, our organizational chart was a cupcake, and how freaking adorable is that?
Jes has found herself in the international social media spotlight several times with her deliciously radical responses to the status quo beauty nonsense that permeates our culture and, many times, shatters the sense of self worth in perfectly worthy people. Her blog “Things no one will tell fat girls, so I will” grabbed my attention when it went viral last year, and I became hooked on her writing and her perspective. I was just beginning my own healing process with my body and found comfort and strength in her straightforward honesty and wit. She doesn’t know this, but she inspired me to start this blog.
I was emboldened to wear a mid-drift shirt to the conference, something I haven’t done since I was 15 years younger and 60 pounds lighter. It’s a beautiful paisley shirt that I wear to bed sometimes, but hadn’t mustered the courage to wear in public. Jes wrote about wearing crop tops “while fat” last summer and the images of her rocking a belly shirt stuck in my mind. I wore the shirt…and the world didn’t end. Not even when I left the safety bubble of the conference. I got countless compliments on the shirt AND the tattoo on my hip that no one ever sees. I flew on that high all damn day…
Enough about me: What about the conference? In short, IT WAS AMAZING. There were over 400 people there, mostly women, aged 20-60 something. There was a glorious rainbow of ethnicity that demonstrated an organic inclusiveness that I’ve yet to see at any of the scores of conferences I’ve attended over the last decade. There were women of every size, shape and height. There were women with visible and invisible disabilities. And there were panels, workshops and speakers to address issues that most everyone could relate to.
The energy in the main ballroom was excited and authentically friendly, with nary a ‘body-check’ in sight. In fact, I have never been among a group of women I didn’t know and felt so at ease – especially one 400 strong. Admittedly, I went a bit fan-girl meeting some of the people that had been inspiring me since I first decided to extricate myself from diet dogma almost two years ago. Fortunately, everyone was super friendly and down to earth, despite their celebrity-like hype on the internet. These ladies are doing life right, living authentically and boldly, and embracing the very characteristics of themselves that much of society deems unacceptable. Pssht, who asked society, anyway?
The workshops were hard to choose from, but I wound up in the right rooms. The highlights of my day included taking a workshop from Sonya Renee Taylor entitled “The body is not an apology, so raise your RUHCUS: Transforming historical patterns and behaviors of body shame” that was a roller coaster of hilarity and vulnerability. RUHCUS stands for Radical Unapologetic Healing Challenge for US. Basically, it encourages people to choose to do something that directly addresses whatever shame or body hate they carry around, whatever makes them want to hide from the world. The idea is to show it to the world for 30 days, and to boldly and publicly document the process. For Sonya, it meant shaving her head instead of trying to hide what she considered a shamefully sparse head of hair with wigs and weaves. See below for a video that she showed as part of her presentation. She is an amazing storyteller and the founder of The Body is Not an Apology.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll start my own RUHCUS and there will be more belly-shirts and curve-hugging clothes in my future…
Another highlight was the Ultimate Self Confidence workshop from the World Famous *BOB*, who is a burlesque performer and body love guru. This was another hour spent oscillating between laughter and tears as she discussed how to become more aware of the choices we have in how we see ourselves and the world. Do we want to water our “negative plant” and let it grow, or would we rather water our “positive plant?” It may sound self-indulgent to some, but I have been doing some intentional work around this for quite a while with a life coach that I have been fortunate enough to frequent over the last year. For me, it was a process of recognizing the script in my head so that I could slowly begin rewriting it. I had a “voice” in my head that kicked in when I got stressed, or had any sort of emotional turmoil. I have no idea why that voice was so damned destructively negative, as it has proven much more effective for me to be supportive of myself, instead of kicking myself when I am down. Apparently, *BOB* uses similar tricks and she suggested that we draw the plants, positive and negative, and to give them a name and a personality. I did a similar exercise with my coach last year and have found it quite useful in my effort to rewrite that mind script. The Commander Bitch and Little Miss Woe is She have much less power over my perspective than they have in the past.
Then, of course, was our keynote speaker, Tess Munster, who has been named one of the world’s top plus-sized models by Vogue Italia, Refinery 29 and Huffington Post. She shared her story, and there was not a dry eye in the house. We were literally taking napkins and tissues, ripping off pieces and passing them down the rows of chairs. She has launched a campaign called “Eff your Beauty Standards,” and proceeds from merchandise goes to support victims of domestic violence, a cause near and dear to her heart and mine.
Again, it was an amazing day. I made some new friends from Arizona and Los Angeles and met dozens of people who are doing this radical thing called self-love. Learning to love my body has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life. It is an ongoing process that isn’t always sunshine and rainbows, but already I am reaping benefits from the newly freed energy that I have to do the things I enjoy, like writing. I take better care of myself than I ever did when I hated my body. I get continuously mind-blown by the numerous impacts that this little shift in perspective has on my life and I want to share it with EVERYONE. I can’t wait for the next BLC and hope I can be a part of bringing this kind of event and energy to the southeast in the not-so-distant future.
A few more links to resources that have been useful to me along the way:
- “The Fat Nutritionist” keeps an informative blog on intuitive eating and can also be hired as a coach. Last year, she helped me get a grip on my relationship with food. It was an interesting and fun process and I really enjoyed her coaching style.
- Whitney, of “Fat Girl Dancing” is fun, adorable and has sweet moves. Watch an inspiring and moving video of her dancing with a short interview here. She also started the No Body Shame campaign.
- Go Kaleo is a great blog for people of any size who want to get real about their approach to health and fitness. She takes a no-nonsense, zero tolerance for bullshit approach to food. Who knew eating food and moving the body could be so damned fun and rewarding?
- Taryn Brumfitt started the Body Image Movement after having a daughter and struggling to reconcile a decision for cosmetic surgery with her desire for her daughter to have a healthy body image. She is also starting a campaign to crowd fund an upcoming film project. Those that want to help spread the word can join her Operation Global Change Facebook group.
- Golda Poretsky has an informative blog called Body Love Wellness that focuses on a Healthy at Every Size, intuitive eating approach. Here is a link to the TEDx talk she did, much to the ire of the internet trolls.
Now, for the lovely Sonya Renee: