From the Publisher
“In Embody, Connie Sobczak brings her years of experience as co-founder and director of The Body Positive alive on every page. Her work offers practical, process-oriented, and gentle support in our journey to reclaim the wisdom and truth of our own bodies.”
Ruth Gendler, Author of Notes On the Need for Beauty
“This is a gorgeous book filled with the wondering, awe-filled voices of people who have found they can lovingly care for themselves in their diverse bodies and circumstances. Our world desperately needs to see this is possibleand Connie serves it up in a feast of triumph and celebration.”
Deb Burgard, PHD, FAED, Co-Founder of The Health At Every Size® Model
“Connie makes the quest for self love and acceptance deeply imaginable in a way that lifts the spirit and carries you to a place of hope and endless possibility.”
Linda Arbus,LCSW, Faculty of the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute, New York
“Embody, touches the mind and heart as it demonstrates how to gain connection to our inner wisdom. Impressively insightful, an excellent resource!
Lela Zaphiropoulos, LCSW, ACSW, Co-Author of Eating Problems
“Embody, is a powerful addition to the Health at Every Size® community. It brings to life what we know from scientific evidence: people of all sizes can live active and healthy livesand love themselves, too!”
Linda Bacon, PHD, Author of Health At Every Size
“Embody, belongs in every school, home, and place where the lives of our boys and girls matter!”
Carol Bloom, LCSW, Co-Founder of the Women’s Therapy Centre Institute, New York
“With Embody,, people of all ages can learn that self-love is the best motivation there is to care for their uniquely beautiful bodies. I am excited to share this wonderful resource with my clients.”
Carmen Cool, MA, LPC, Psychotherapist, Boulder, Co
“Embody, sparks a flame of self-love in your heart that glows brighter when you share it with others. It makes you want to stand up and say, ‘I am beauty!’”
Jessica Diaz, MSW, Founder of Love Guerrillas
“A beautiful, wise, practical book that will empower a next generation to shed our culture of toxic ideas of perfectionism and bodily dissatisfaction. This book, and the body positive movement, are part of a compassionate revolution leading young people to greater dignity and empowerment.”
Dacher Keltner, PHD, Founding Director, Greater Good Science Center, UC Berkeley
Read an Excerpt
THE BE BODY POSITIVE MODEL
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the beginning model obsolete.”
"I am very impressed with your model, and its potential to change people's lives, including my own. I think you are really onto somethinga radical paradigm shift, but at the same time something so simple and elegant and 'intuitive.' Love yourself and your bodyit will not only allow you a chance to take care of yourself and find genuine love and happiness, it will give you a chance to see and develop it in others. Peace, love, and happinesswhat else do you need?"
Brad Buchman, MD, college health physician
At its core, the Be Body Positive Model teaches you to become the expertthe authorityof your own body by first recognizing, and then trusting, its innate wisdom. Sue Monk Kidd offers my favorite definition of the word authority from the Greek language in her book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: “to stand forth with power and dignity.” Elizabeth and I believe this: we all have the right to live with dignity; we possess the power to make good decisions about our unique bodies when we learn to listen closely to the information they provide in every moment. We understand that choosing this path is much easier with support, which is why we have dedicated our lives to helping people reconnect with their inborn ability to identifyand pursuewhat they need in order to thrive.
The Be Body Positive Model does not offer a step-by-step plan to follow from Point A (body dissatisfaction, dieting, obsession with weight and image) to Point B (self-love, intuitive self-care, freedom from obsession). The work does not resemble typical diet, health, fitness, or other self-improvement programs that instruct clients to follow certain steps to the letter in order to arrive at a promised definition of success; where if they fail it’s considered their fault, not the failing of rules that are generally impossible to stick to over the long term, even if they are offered with the best of intentions.
Elizabeth and I have created a framework for true success because we define it not as a static end goal of perfection, but as a way of living that gives you permission to love, care for, and take pleasure in your body throughout your lifespan. No doubt struggles will occur, especially during times of transition or imbalance. Using the Be Body Positive competencies, however, allows you to find what you need to live with as much self-love and balanced self-care as possible. What you discover will be unique to you and your particular life circumstances. Each experience of discomfort will teach you those things you are required to learn to further your growth. One person can recover from body hatred by spending time working with plants. Someone else will need therapy. Another may need to change careers. Someone may have an easier time transitioning their gender because they are grounded in a deeper, more fundamental self-love. Making changeseven big onescan be less complex when you incorporate the aspects of our philosophy that speak to you into your daily life.
Our model is complete; the five core competencies address all of the obstacles to healing that Elizabeth and I unearthed during decades of preventing and treating eating and body image problems. Many other programs offer a piece of what is useful, but aren’t comprehensive enough to help someone deal with the pitfalls that can derail healing. For example, one program might encourage the rejection of media messages that lead to poor self-image, but doesn’t provide support to resist the mean comments and aggression directed at many people’s bodies from family, friends, and cruel strangers. Another might promote self-compassion, but doesn’t speak to the debilitating struggles associated with the pursuit of “ideal” beauty or health that prevent people from truly loving themselves. Focusing on one (or even a few) of the issues related to improving physical and emotional health can be insufficient in supporting positive, lasting changes in a person’s life.
Elizabeth uses our philosophy and specific activities in her private therapy practice. In so doing, she has tested our model with the most difficult population of allpeople suffering with diagnosed eating disorders. She has discovered the biggest hurdles people face when working to make peace with their bodies, eating, and exercise. We have fine-tuned and improved the model by creating a solution to each one of these challenges. Elizabeth’s clients, even those who start working with her after struggling with eating disorders and severe self-loathing for years, get better quickly when they are introduced to the Be Body Positive Model. We offer a path to freedom wherever a person may currently be along the spectrum that ranges from slight dissatisfaction with one’s body (or “garden variety body hatred” as one of our youth leaders named it), to active weight loss behaviors, to eating and exercise problems that require clinical help for recovery. The work not only enhances people’s physical self-care, but has also been shown to improve self-esteem as well as reduce anxiety and depression.
I see the five competencies as creating the boundaries of a safe container in which we can explore the inevitable conflicts that arise because we are human beings. They provide a structure free from judgment and blame that allows each of usin our own individual way and timeto celebrate our physical bodies and (re)discover the beauty and self-love that are our birthright.
When I first came to The Body Positive, my emotional self was buried beneath hardened layers of suffocating shame. When I wasn’t emotionally numb, I was overwhelmed by shame and grief. I had been in and out of therapy, recovery programs, and support groups looking for a way out of my self-loathing. Something in me wanted freedom, but each time I began to thaw, the emotional pain became too much to bear, and I made a run for the door. It felt impossible to follow the positive, constructive steps that the therapist or program prescribed, reconfirming my deeply held belief that I was so damaged that there was no possibility of redemption.
The Be Body Positive Model and community were different. When I first heard Connie and Elizabeth talk about self-love, I rejected the notion for myself out-of-hand; I had embodied my shame for so long that I hardly had a self at all, let alone one that I could love. I had a core belief that I did not belong in the world, which made me feel unique in my conviction that I was inherently flawed, damaged, and defective: self-love is possible for you, but not for me.
However, what I also heard at The Body Positive was that there was no possibility of failure here; that the Be Body Positive Model was not just another set of rules I would surely fail to follow. Instead, I was invited to engage in a process of trial and error where the “errors” were met with gentleness and represented learning opportunitiesthey were not evidence of my weak and defective nature. Most importantly, I didn’t have to get self-love right to belong in this community. What a gift this is! I am still chipping away at the geological layers of shame and self-loathing that sometimes weigh me down, but have been held with love in The Body Positive community long enough to witness the journey to self-love in others, and think to myself, “That could be me one day.”
Using the Be Body Positive Model in Your Own Life
“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
Henri Bergson, French philosopher (1859-1941)
The Be Body Positive Model shifts the focus from using harmful, ineffective weight-loss efforts to a practice of improving and maintaining self-care behaviors that are motivated by positive rather than punishing forces. As you practice the competencies, you cultivate the art of forgiveness for making “mistakes” with food, exercise, and other life choices, and allow yourself to learn and grow from your daily experiences. Over time you relax into the trial and error process of learning to eat and moveand liveintuitively. As your definition of beauty expands, you have the extraordinary opportunity to see beauty everywherestarting with yourself. You may find that friendships develop with individuals who choose to appreciate their own bodies, and enter into (or stay in) relationships with people who love and respect your body, just as it is in the moment. When the inevitable burdens that come with being human start to weigh you down, you have your Body Positive community for support, or employ humor and self-love to lighten the load when you are alone.
It takes practice and conscious awareness to experience life through a Body Positive lens. After awhile, however, you’ll realize you’ve fully embodied the competencies, and it feels natural to love yourself and care for your body from a place of trust. You will become the ultimate authority of your body and your life. As you develop a highly attuned relationship with your body, you will begin to move towards experiences and people in all areas that feel healthy on an intrinsic level. As one person said about her work with The Body Positive, “It’s a process to take this all in, but once you do, it just becomes part of your everyday life. It’s addictive!” The addiction she speaks of is the commitment to self-love, the ability to see great beauty in oneself as well as in others, and the pursuit of positive, joyful self-care. What could be better?
There are numerous reasons why you chose to pick up this book. It is possible your struggle is that you don’t feel comfortable with your weight; you are fighting the inevitable process of aging, listening to the messages telling you older people are not beautiful; your height and/or shape cause you to feel you’re not attractive; you like certain body parts but others get negative attention from your inner critic. You may be completely fine with your body but can’t find love for your human self. Or, you might just be tired of being surrounded by people who are critical of themselves and others, and you’re searching for ways to create a community of people who relate in an unusual wayby supporting one another in cultivating self-love and pursuing passions other than a perfect physical image. It is for all of these reasons that Elizabeth and I created the Be Body Positive Model, an intuitive approach to health and wellbeing that:
Defines physical health with real measurements of health rather than arbitrary numbers
Restores trust in our own bodies and in our ability to care for them well
Gives us permission to deeply and truly love our human selves
Expands our definition of beauty to include ourselves and all people
Offers a new way to relate to one another, one that does not include self-deprecating comments about our own bodies or comparison with, and judgment of, other people’s bodies
The competencies are offered in a particular order because Elizabeth and I see them as building upon one another. As you integrate them into your daily life, however, you will see that each is part of a whole process and the order becomes irrelevant. You become able to address whatever particular issue arises in the moment with the skills you’ve gained.
Please remember, the Be Body Positive Model does not offer quick fix that will lead you to a prescribed end goal. As with all things “worth their weight,” changing your relationship with your body can be messy and painful at times. It takes practice. But Elizabeth and I believe this journey is worth every ounce of energy you invest, because it will lead you to a place where you are free to live without restriction; where your fears and internal critics lessen in intensity because your voice of kindness and compassion grows in strength each day. It becomes easier to fully express your thoughts and feelings because your practice of self-love protects you from taking in judgmentor releasing it quickly when it does get under your skin. Beauty surrounds you in abundance and life becomes a richer, more meaningful experience.
“Embodying the Be Body Positive Model’s core competencies is simple and it’s not. It’s choosing love as often as we can. It’s finding humor when we look at the imagery society offers up as beauty. It’s listening closely to our bodies and doing our best to follow their wisdom. It’s forgiving ourselves when we make ‘mistakes.’ Ultimately, it’s honoring our bodies in all their varied forms as precious and worthy of love and respect.”
Lisa E, Body Positive workshop participant