Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Love is a Verb!!

That’s an Action Word! 

The third Wednesday of every October is Love Your Body Day.  LYBD, created by The National Organization of Women (NOW) was launched as an opportunity to remind people that we should love our bodies no matter what their size, shape, weight, ability, color, condition, height, or any other adjective you can think of, may be.

Now that my son is over 21, it is not my place to tell anyone what they SHOULD do.  But I do mourn over the fact that we need reminders and permission to do something that should be as natural and unconscious as the beating of our hearts.

I have had an issue with the word should for a very long time.  When I was an expressive arts therapist in a public school elementary program for Special Education Children, we had a “should jar”.

It was similar to a curse jar except that instead of paying every time someone used inappropriate language, we put a penny in the jar each time someone used the word should instead of could.  We did this to create an environment of choice, to improve decision making skills, and to decrease bullying among the students.  (The pennies were more like tokens that we provided to the kids at the beginning of every week).

It was an effective intervention for changing the culture of the classroom.  One of the reasons it was efficacious was the community component.  When we are trying to change our ways of thinking and our belief systems, it is helpful to have support from others who are trying to do the same thing.

I am fortunate to be a member of a community of people who are adamant about changing attitudes about our bodies and to help others, who are willing, to do the same.  The Health at Every Size® (HAES) and Size Acceptance communities are growing rapidly and the Bay Area seems to be a fertile hot bed for this movement.

We even have a Think Tank that meets about every other month to discuss and report our progress in the work we are doing personally and professionally in the area of body image.   When we last met, I asked the group if we could discuss their thoughts and feelings about Love Your Body Day.  The opinions that ensued provided for a lively and passionate discussion and I wish I had taped it so I could just provide all of you with a transcript!

But unfortunately I was old school and armed only with a pen and paper for taking notes.  Here is the gist of what was shared (and I am paraphrasing the comments).   I am hoping to keep the discussion alive by inviting you to add your thoughts and opinions about what Love Your Body Day means to you and how you may be planning on participating.

The people you will be hearing from are listed below in alphabetical order by first name:

Becky Chigas and Corri Frohlich:  Graduate Students at SFSU pursuing their Masters in Public Health, Dana Schuster, MA:  Fitness Instructor, Vice President of ASDAHDeb Burgard, PhD.:  Psychologist specializing in body image and eating disorders,  Ellyn Herb, PhD.:  Licensed Psychologist, Certified Eating Disorders Specialist, Fall Ferguson, JD, M.A.:  Educator:  Holistic Health Education Program at John F. Kennedy University, HAES Coach, and President of ASDAH Jessica May, Human Resources Administrator and Size Activist, Sonya Renee Taylor:   Artist, Activist, Founder of The Body is Not An Apology.

The topic of the discussion was painted with a very broad stroke.  I mentioned to the group that I was curious what they thought of Love Your Body Day because I had mixed feelings about the event.  I particularly had difficulty with the fact that  sometimes it was portrayed in the media as a “Prime Directive” that we SHOULD all love our bodies in terms of how our bodies look.   I questioned whether that may perpetuate the importance of physical beauty in our culture?  I also added that last year I wrote about my feelings that we even needed to set aside a day to love our bodies when every day should could be Love Your Body Day; were it not for the forces pushing back at us and discouraging us from what would ideally be a natural state of body satisfaction.

The conversation was off and running with a bang!  Heads nodding and bodies leaning forward; Ellyn was first out of the gate with a shout out of

Crystal Holiday's LYBD Poster

Crystal Holiday’s LYBD Poster

it is about loving your body inside and OUT!!! And it’s not an all or nothing thing.  Loving your body doesn’t mean you are happy with it 100% of the time.  Think of someone you love.  You don’t necessarily like them 100% of the time but it doesn’t mean you stop loving them. Or stop caring for them. It’s a process. And then there is the concept of “BOTH AND”.  People tend to have an all or nothing mindset about change.  I invite them to take a “BOTH AND” approach.  I am both loving my body AND working on my body image issues.

Deb was neck to neck with Ellyn and I really wish I had a video clip of her brilliant diatribe!  But the part that emerged most triumphant was her framing love as a verb.  It is an action.  It is a commitment.  If you have a sibling whom you loved, you would protect that sibling from a bully wouldn’t you? Loving your body is a commitment to the relationship with yourself.  What would you want for someone you loved?  You don’t wait to treat a friend with loving kindness until they reach some specific goal.  You love them along the way whether they reach a goal or not.  Some folks believe they can’t start loving themselves until they are at a certain weight or size.  With a receding goal like that, the love gets lost and body acceptance is never achieved.  At this point, several people in the group referenced a recent You Tube video, that I was unfamiliar with, to illustrate this point.  If you missed it, it is about a twin brother writing a letter to Santa asking that Santa stop kids at school from bullying his twin sister for being fat. I may not have a video of Deb, but I do have the link to the Video.  Have hankies ready.

Jessica added to the concept of the “verbishness” of the word love.  She explained that she sees it as a tangible physical practice of loving. and has started rubbing oils into her body as part of her self-care. Not rushing the process.  Taking the time to show devotion, respect, and acknowledgment to her body for what it does.  Choosing not to ignore or avoid it.  She makes a practice of doing things for her body and not blaming it for what it isn’t doing or can’t do.  Praising it for what it is.

There seems to be this core belief that I am separated from my body, Fall added.   Where is the separation?  Who and or what do I love and what does love mean?  Think about unconditional love. Think of someone you love unconditionally.  What does that feel like?  What  would it feel like if your body/you,  was/were the recipient? Loving is not always easy, not always fun.  We commit to unconditional relationships through sickness and in health. But with our bodies there seem to be conditions set for being worthy of love.  This kind of unconditional love is something we seek from the moment we are born and we know on some level that it is worth seeking. Our bodies/we deserve unconditional love.

Sonya, founder of The Body is Not an Apology and a first time attendee of our Think Tank explained that her organization was created to remind us that we do not need to wait to feel beautiful tomorrow.  We can choose to act in honor of our bodies today, no matter the form they currently take.  All lasting, healthy growth is born of love.  Your body needs you to love it today, just as it is, however it is. Just being here is a tiny act of shameless self-love. And it takes practice; like building a muscle. Loving yourself is like doing reps.  But MOST importantly it is re-conceptualizing the word beautiful. We don’t always ascribe the word beauty or beautiful to how someone or something looks, we also use the word to describe feeling, energy.  So reconsider other definitions for the phrase “feeling beautiful.”

It (LYBD) runs the risk of falling into the notion of having to be perfect, Dana was off and running!  I remember reading about the concept of being a “Good Enough” mother.  (Choruses by all of the therapists in the room sang out, “Winnecott Winnecott!”) Patiently Dana continued, It is helpful to remember the middle ground, being good enough.  Not perfect, so you don’t blame yourself for not loving yourself the way others think you should. And it’s important to remember what you are up against, the factors in the world that perpetuate body hate.

Becky agreed with this and added that many of the concepts of LYBD and HAES® have been co-opted by people/corporations wanting to profit from our body hate.  She cited several examples including the new ad for Weight Watchers® that are trying to convince us to buy their products but change the language in the attempt to attract the non-dieters and size acceptance communities.

And that’s where having a LYBD isn’t enough offered Corri.  I think that LYBD puts the burden on us to make all of the changes internally. She recommended that we read this piece about body love written in the blog, Black Girl Dangerous, and proposed that maybe the day after LYBD can be an ACTION DAY when we take one step to change what is influencing us from the outside that perpetuates our body hate.

Which brings us full circle to Love is a Verb…that’s an ACTION word! Click here for a treat!!

What are your thoughts about LYBD?

This post was originally published on October 14, 2013 and can viewed here.

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