Monday, June 15, 2015
Body Love Conference 2015 - A day of inspiration
I first learned about the Body Love Conference last year from the social media page of Jes Baker aka The Militant Baker. She's an advocate for body acceptance and active in many different ways to try to help us embrace the idea that truly all bodies are beautiful and an important figure in the HAES® and size acceptance movement.
I found out they were accepting submissions and I figured I'd submit an idea that I had for a presentation. Luckily my submission was accepted! We'll get to that in a few, but first let me tell you more about the conference and the time leading up to it. As the conference got closer and closer, I was obviously nervous about being in front of a group of people but, in all honesty, there were other issues going on. Recently I've been filled with self-doubt for many different reasons but let's just say the past six months have been a struggle. The self-doubt that I was experiencing (like with all things negative) permeated into other parts of my life. With the conference approaching, I was looking forward to be in an accepting environment of all different types of people, not just as a presenter but as a participant also.
The other thing that I was looking forward to was connecting with some other professionals that I've followed via social media for a while, the co-founders of Be Nourished, Dana Sturtevant, MS, RD and Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC. These two women are inspirations for me because they embody the type of body positive practice that helps people across the country heal their relationship with their body and with food. In addition to Dana and Hilary, I also met another HAES® professional, Carmen Cool, MA, LPC and a teen dynamo Maya Greenberg. Together, their work at the Boulder Body Alliance is something every community needs: adults and teens working together to advocate for body positivity to local school boards and local and federal government. These colleagues (and now friends) were a large reason why my weekend was so memorable. Coming to a conference where you really don't know anyone can be daunting but when you're struggling with self doubt and depression, it is overwhelming to say the least. Their sessions inspired me and their kindness towards me will always be appreciated because it made me feel accepted and a part of the community.
Being accepted was a theme that really resonated with me over my whole weekend in Tucson. Part of what I was going to talk about in my presentation was my own personal experience with weight stigma. As a fat dietitian, I get it almost weekly and I wanted to share my experience at the conference. So as I got to the conference, I was excited to be in a community that was so open to all different shapes, sizes and genders. I was not disappointed one little bit. Over the course of the entire weekend, I felt so comfortable around everyone and it was a feeling that I continue to hold on to. When it came to my presentation, I was standing in front of a group of people and never once did I feel judged by my size....not once! Usually when I present, I notice about 25-50% of the people there stealing peeks at my stomach, not looking at my eyes. Well, that never happened--not once--during my entire weekend.
Truly, it was an overwhelmingly positive experience. It was amazing to be surrounded by so many "body positive" activists. It felt so amazing to meet Jes herself. When I did, it seemed as if she was just as excited to meet me as I was to meet her. I'll always be thankful for her warm reception and accepting hug! I'd also like to thank the team of volunteers who organized this weekend. It was truly a labor of love and the fact is this: their work in organizing this weekend made a positive impact on hundreds of lives.
Now that I'm home with some perspective on what this weekend meant to me, the answer is clear. It was just what the doctor ordered. I came home energized and ready to spread the message of body positivity, Intuitive Eating and HAES® to all the future Jedis out there. I came home smiling but also ready to tell the world, "Your body does not need to be changed!" Embrace the body you have now! For remember, what Yoda said, "Luminous beings we are!" and I've never been more convinced of that statement than I am today.