embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!)

embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!)

embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!)

embody: Learning to Love Your Unique Body (and quiet that critical voice!)


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This book’s message is rooted in the belief that people inherently possess the wisdom necessary to make healthy choices and live in balance. It emphasizes that self-love, acceptance of genetic diversity in body size, celebration of the unique beauty of every individual, and intuitive self-care are fundamental to achieving good physical and emotional health.

Embody guides readers step by step through five core competencies:
– Reclaim Health
– Practice Intuitive Self-Care
– Cultivate Self-Love
– Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty
– Build Community

Anyone can practice these fundamental skills on a daily basis to honor their innate wisdom and take good care of their whole selves, and research indicates that this work significantly improves people’s ability to regulate eating, decreases depression and anxiety, and increases self-esteem.

Rather than receiving a prescriptive set of rules to follow, readers are guided through patient, mindful inquiry to find what works uniquely in their own lives to bring about — and sustain — positive self-care changes and a peaceful relationship with their bodies.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780936077802
Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
Publication date: 06/10/2014
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 393,378
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Connie Sobczak is a mentor, writer, and award-winning video producer. Her experience with an eating disorder in her teen years and the death of her sister Stephanie inspired her life’s work to create a world where all people are free to love their bodies.

In 1996, she and Elizabeth Scott, LCSW, co-founded The Body Positive, a nonprofit organization that teaches people to experience radical self-love, inhabit their unique beauty, and reconnect to the voice of wisdom within that offers freedom to live with purpose and passion.

Connie is a leader of the movement to prevent eating problems and improve the self-image of youth and adults through her videos, writing, workshops, and peer-led programs for students in middle school through college. Her video Discover Your Healthy Weight was a grand festival award winner in the 2009 Berkeley Video & Film Festival. She was a 2008 semi-finalist for a Volvo for Life award honoring “real-life heroes.”

A California native, Connie currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with her partner, Jim. Their daughter, Carmen, is her inspiration and her joy.

Read an Excerpt


“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the beginning model obsolete.”
–Buckminster Fuller

"I am very impressed with your model, and its potential to change people's lives, including my own. I think you are really onto something—a radical paradigm shift, but at the same time something so simple and elegant and 'intuitive.' Love yourself and your body—it 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 happiness—what else do you need?"
—Brad Buchman, MD, college health physician

At its core, the Be Body Positive Model teaches you to become the expert—the authority—of 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 identify—and pursue—what 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 changes—even big ones—can 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 all—people 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 us—in our own individual way and time—to celebrate our physical bodies and (re)discover the beauty and self-love that are our birthright.

Kelle J
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 opportunities—they 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 move—and live—intuitively. As your definition of beauty expands, you have the extraordinary opportunity to see beauty everywhere—starting 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 way—by 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 judgment—or 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

Table of Contents

Foreword by Elizabeth Scott
Introduction: Welcome to The Body Positive
Chapter One: The Be Body Positive Model
Chapter Two: Competency 1: Reclaim Health
Chapter Three: Competency 2: Practice Intuitive Self-Care
Chapter Four: Competency 3: Cultivate Self-Love
Chapter Five: Competency 4: Declare Your Own Authentic Beauty
Chapter Six: Competency 5: Build Community
Chapter Seven: Now What?
About the Author

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