Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babes: BodyPosiPanda

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

After over two years on Instagram, Megan aka @bodyposipanda has less than 800 posts but over 275,000 followers. She started her account in 2014 and it quickly turned to a body positive account. Since then she has been featured on Daily Mail, Metro, and Huffington Post. She’s been on the cover of New! and Pick Me Up! She modeled for @dearscantilly’s latest lingerie campaign and was interviewed on This Morning. She also has a popular blog and Facebook page.

The voice she started with in her first body positivity post is similar to the one she has today. From 2014: “I'm more focused on being me, and appreciating being me, than trying to look as Kardashian as possible at all times. Because that shit is tiring. And because every woman deserves to feel good in their own skin, and more importantly deserves to feel worth so much more than what they look like.”

Melissa of @yourstruelymelly was the first body positive account she came across, saying she found it on her 1000th crash diet and searching IG for fitspo. She was dealing with years of anorexia, binge eating and exercise addiction. It was the first time she saw someone unabashedly loving themselves, no matter how much space they took up.

“Before I found the body positive community I had no idea that there was an alternative to self hatred and starvation, I just figured that was it. Realising that self love was an option changed my entire life, and I knew I had to turn my account into a body positive one and get the message out there to as many people as I could.”

The way she turned her feed from #fitspo to #bopo, she says is by being cutthroat with who she kept following. “First, get rid of anything that makes you feel shit about yourself - fitspo, thinspo, super beautiful celebrities who you only follow because they're super beautiful but leave you feeling worthless, be RUTHLESS. Then fill your timeline back up with bopo babes, feminist goodness and self love inspiration. Day to day we're bombarded with so much diet culture and photoshopped poison, our social media is one of the only places we can take control of what we see. You can even create a second Instagram account to go to on bad body image days if you like your usual account as it is.”

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babes: SamJohnsonWrites

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

Sam, aka @samjohnsonwrites is a personal trainer, former fitness competitor, and is going back to school in the fall to become a holistic nutritionist. Her Instagram is filled with food porn and gym selfies, but this is not your typical #fitspo page. What started as a weight loss account turned into obsession which, with the help of diet culture, fostered her eating disorder. Now, she’s using her personal experience and education to spread the message of healthy living from her body to her brain.

“My instagram account actually began as an anonymous weight loss account over 3 years ago; It was very "fitspo - I posted "motivation" pictures of girls with abs, wrote weekly about my weight loss and was constantly posting progress pictures. I was new to fitness and my account was a tool to find my way into the fitness world. I documented my experience with at home workouts, half marathon training, weight lifting, and eventually being on prep for a bikini competition. Throughout everything, my focus was always on weight loss, and competing really pushed me over the edge from being obsessed with weight loss, to struggling with bulimia and orthorexia (an obsession with eating foods that one considers healthy) disorder.

My experience led me re-examine my idea of what health and fitness truly was- and it was about so much more than weight loss and abs. It's about eating foods that make you feel great and moving in ways that celebrate and honor your body. With the "fitspo" trend, I feel like that's not a message that's being spread, so I set out to talk about it, and show that you don't need the "perfect body" to be happy, healthy and fit. I'm proud to post my curves and rolls, because this body is so much healthier, mentally and physically, than I ever was when I was dieting and living in the gym. It took a lot of work to come out okay on the other side, and to heal my relationship with food and my body. When I did, I realized that there were probably a lot of other women who struggled the same way I did.”

And that’s when her Instagram shifted into the bopo safe haven it is today. She speaks about her body just as often as she does her mind. She's found a solid community of support on IG, but there was something else that helped her journey - podcasts.

“There’s something about actually hearing someone say the words out loud that helps hammer them into your head. When I was really struggling with body image, I was listening to podcasts constantly: at work, in the car, at home, in the bath, etc. Some of my favorite podcasters are Kaila Prins, Summer Innanen and Maddy Moon.”

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babes: MsLindsayM

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

If you’re not one of Lindsay, aka @mslindsaym over 25,000 Instagram followers, maybe you’ve used her hashtag #selfiesforselflove or you’re following her page by the same name. Selfies for Self Love has a separate following of over 25,000 and features humans of all shapes and genders. The purpose behind her movement is not only to spread the message of self love, but also to increase diverse representation in media. This quest is something near and dear to Lindsay who’s day job is working in the feminist movement to end violence against women. Intersectional feminist analysis is not only her passion, it is her career and where her formal education is based. Diversity and inclusivity is something that the body positive community could work on, according to her.

“I think we need to acknowledge that the roots of this community come from the fat acceptance movement which was originally created by queer fat femmes, women of colour and people living with disabilities. This movement is about marginalized bodies and when we constantly put thin, white, straight, able-bodied women on a pedestal to represent us, we are doing our history a disservice. I think we got a bit lost in the message of body positivity being for all bodies when it was created by a very specific group of individuals who have faced violence and hatred because of their oppression. While I do want all people to love their bodies we need to be making space for those least allowed to do so, according to societal standards.

Compare this to other movements for example, we don't let straight people run Pride Parades and we don't let White people control Black Lives Matter. Sure we want everyone to be able to have a partner they love, but only queer people are currently being denied that. Yes, all lives matter but currently Black lives are being treated as if they don't by the justice system. Thin people are already accepted by our society, even if they personally don't love their body. They will never face the kind of oppression or discrimination that fat people face in the same way that I as a White person can have empathy for the experience of racism, but I can never truly know how it feels to be the target of racism.

People in positions of privilege are needed as allies, to help us achieve our goals, but never to take over the movement or start to dominate the conversation. As a queer fat femme myself, it hurts me to see this history ignored and for the voices from that community to be pushed out of the centre stage to make room for less marginalized bodies. It makes me sad to see our movement co-opted by people who not only don't know the history but are doing their best to erase it and capitalize on it.

I'd like to see the body positive (and the feminist) community do better around issues of anti-racism and anti-oppression. Sadly, given how long we have been asking for this in the mainstream feminist movement and the lack of results, I don't think this trend will happen any time soon, if at all. In fact, I predict the opposite. I bet you there will be at least one comment that says that I am oppressing people (by saying these things). The people who believe in reverse racism and that we need straight pride parades will not be impressed with my response. But I am tired of not speaking up on this issue and starting to consider moving away from the term body positive in favour of embracing the fat acceptance movement since it is more inter-sectional.”

Friday, August 12, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babes: BrittPysar

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

Britt, aka @brittpysar has a self love journey that started offline. When she moved from Vancouver, BC to Hamilton, ON this year she found the change to be a bigger one than expected. Moving across country is already a huge deal, but she found herself following her passion – retail. She finds plenty of opportunities to spread her body positive message at her job.

“I work in retail in a plus size women's store and listening to the way some women talk to/about themselves is heartbreaking but it opens up the opportunity to engage in more meaning conversations about the real problem, which NEWSFLASH, isn't any of our butts or bellies or hips or thighs, the real problem is corporations and conglomerates selling women's bodies and setting a standard that is unattainable for the vast majority of us.”

Not only has her new job provided meaningful conversations with customers, but she says she met an amazing group of women who continually inspire her.

“I work with this group of hilarious, confident, empowering, beautiful and absolutely kick ass women. Working alongside them has changed the way I see myself and other people and has given me this beautifully positive outlook on life. They really are my inspiration. I have never felt such a connection to other humans beings so quickly, and I feel for the first time that I am exactly where I am meant to be.”

Having followed a lot of bopo accounts and being a frequent commenter on their posts, she decided to put herself out there and see what happened. Over 1,000 Instagram posts later, she’s got a following of almost 17K! She’s made quite a splash, I’d say!

Since her online debut, she’s used social media as a tool to meet other babes. “I have found this beautiful community of like minded people who I can share my thoughts with and have open discussions with about important topics. Honestly, I don't think I ever really utilized the hashtag search function on any social media platforms until I started getting serious about having these very real conversations about self love with total strangers. Seeking out people who believe in the same things as you and striking up conversations and friendships is the best way of improving your view on not only your own body, but understanding societies standards for our bodies as well (and why those standards are so unrealistic and damaging).”

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Ashley Graham is not the role model for me.

Ashley Graham is a beautiful and confident role model for women, as long as you’re under a size 20, are healthy, and love calling yourself curvy.

Graham herself is a successful young woman with great public speaking skills and someone I find incredibly inspiring. I applaud her for overcoming self doubt and body hatred. I think her advice of “speaking life” into your body is hands down some of the best body positive advice I’ve ever heard. She describes speaking life as feeding positive energy into yourself as you think about your body. If you’re constantly saying “my body’s gross,” you’re going to start to believe it. She has had to deal with some fat shaming of her own not only in private I’m sure, but very publicly as well. (ref: Nicole Arbour, Cheryl Tiegs, agent)

Graham is a self-described “body activist” and spreads her battle cry of “#beautybeyondsize” wherever she goes. She has quickly become the most well-known plus sized model in recent history. Graham has been on the cover of Glamour, Sports Illustrated, Elle, and Maxim, just to name a few. She’s been backstage at Miss USA, in a music video for DNCE, all over social media, and possibly even in your closets. She’s known for her curves and speaking out against the fashion industry’s label of “plus size.”

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Behind the Scenes With BoPo Babes: FranHayden

Welcome to my new blog series! I will be going behind the selfie sticks, tripods, and self timers with some of my favorite body positive babes. I suspect if they're not your favorites yet, they will be soon!

During her day to day life Fran works as a marketing assistant for a cruise company! She adores the style of the 1950’s and cats. If you met her in public, you’d find a sweet freshly dressed young woman. Online though, Fran, aka @franhayden  is a powerhouse. She has almost 39K followers on Instagram, a popular body positivity blog and a Facebook page. She shares trials and tribulations of her own self love journey as well as encouraging diversity in the community.

Fran told me her own body love was inspired a lot by other body positivity accounts online. “My own body positivity grew out of respect and adoration of others who professed love publicly for their bodies, and supported others in doing so too. The community is a wonderful source

of encouragement and a journey of self-love shouldn't be done alone. Ingrid, @mswink on Instagram and Melissa, @yourstruelysmelly were two of the first plus size bopo babes that I came across, then I discovered Megan, @bodyposipanda - and the rest, as they say, is history. These strong, astounding women have inspired me endlessly and I owe a lot to them for my own bopo journey.”

Following in these women’s footprints, she started her own online presence. She told me she’s never posted of picture of something she didn’t wear in public. Maybe you wouldn’t see her at the grocery store in her underwear, but every other outfit is genuine. Her pin up style can draw attention in real life not to mention just existing as a plus size woman. “It can be difficult to see people give you disapproving looks or whispering about you - but if you hold your head high and make a point of not letting it get to you, it will become second nature.”

Being online, behind a screen makes it easier for people to be hateful. She says she receives more hateful comments online than to her face, but she doesn’t let it get to her. “People are a whole lot more likely to post a negative comment or to bully someone online than they are in real life - sadly, as we spend a large majority of our lives online, we can all be victims of trolling. It can be difficult dealing with online hate, but I tend to block and delete the hurtful comments. They have no place in my life, online or otherwise.”

While most of the hate is online these days, she has been bullied for her size. “I was told by someone that I asked out that they "don't date fat girls", I have been physically harmed because of my size, a friends house was broken into when we were having a party because some people took it upon themselves to bully me, I was bullied at school - you never, ever forget these things and at the time it hurt. But you know, if I can deal with the shitstorms that I've faced in my life, it shows me how strong I am and the potential that I have within me to overcome whatever I set my mind to.”