In May 2017 we held Chachi Live at Whitespace in Edinburgh. It was the first event of its type for us and a way to establish a space to have a conversation around body positivity in Scotland. I invited Michelle Elman of Mindset for Life and Nadia from Self Esteem Team to speak to the 80 attendee’s about body image, body positivity, body neutrality, how to cultivate your own body confidence and how to speak to your children about their bodies.
In amongst taking some Instagram stories, helping with microphones and making some introductions, I also took a few notes and I thought I’d share them with you so you got a little taste of what we learned.
Fat is not a feeling. Fat is when you have a lot of adipose tissue on your body. People are fat, or they are not. When someone says “I feel fat”, they don’t because fat is not a feeling. Maybe they feel bloated or uncomfortable or guilt over what they have eaten but that sort of language, however harmless sounding, perpetuates this culture we live in where ‘fat is the worst thing you can be’. We have been brought up having been told that fat is disgusting and you have to be thin to be worth something. Saying “I feel fat” is diet chat. It insinuates that you are unhappy with your body because of its size. It invites conversation, it invites comparisons. Not everyone wants to be around that sort of conversation. It doesn’t help some people. You should know what diet conversation looks like because maybe you want to leave the room when it starts up…? Michelle Elman talks more about diet conversation and how to avoid it, in her video here.
Words have power, especially mean words. Mean words have the power to scratch into your psyche for a lifetime. BUT… when you recognise that harmful words are actually little thoughts, figments of their imagination, that floated into someone’s head and out their mouth faster than they could blink then you realise that those thoughts don’t need to have as much of an impact on you. One little thought that someone didn’t recognise had so much power, and which only came into their head because of the culture they have been brought up in, that piddly little judgmental thought doesn’t get to rule you or dictate how you live your life.
As Michelle Elman said: “You have the ability to choose your happiness over a thought or statement which is a figment of someone else’s imagination.”
Sounds simple, is difficult to start seeing it that way. But could change your life.
The best way to talk to your kid about their body image is not to talk. It’s to act positively towards your own body and towards other people’s bodies too. You know it yourself: you can be told a million times but you only have to see something once for it to make an impression on you. Be nice to your body, don’t squidge it and scrunch up your face. Don’t restrict your eating in front of them, don’t talk about the ‘rules’ you may have about food. Kids idolise their parents. They will mimic and learn and soak up everything you do. Don’t use language like: ‘I don’t deserve a snack because I haven’t been to the gym’. Does your kid go to the gym? No. Does that mean they don’t get to have a snack? Applaud people’s bodies and teach your children about them: curly hair, bald, different skin colours, birth marks, disabilities, tattoos, tall, short, fat, thin. The organs, how they work, how our hearts beat. How we are all the same underneath the skin and isn’t it amazing we all look so different?
Don’t think that just because you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, you don’t have to spend time and energy looking after your mental health. Your mental health, and attitude towards your own body fluctuates minute to minute, second to second. Be aware of that, look after yourself, spend some time on self care and do nice things for your mind and body. (We recommend you do 1 nice thing each day to show your mind and your body you care for it. Search #allaboardthechachitrain on Instagram to see our campaign)
Body neutrality: You are more than your body. Your body doesn’t define your worth or your life. You get to make your life what it is. Your body doesn’t get to dictate that. Your body is the tool that helps you move through life and allows you to be the human you want to be. (Read more about how this epiphany changed my life here)
At school we are terrified of being different so our kids need to know that from a young age, unique is cool. Encourage the weird stuff, encourage the extra curricular activities, do it with them if they have no-one to do it with. It’ll open their brain and make them realise what they, and their bodies, are capable of. Sports, singing, musical instruments, arts and crafts are all great ways to help your children use their bodies like the amazing gifts that they are.
Our subconscious makes up 90% of our brains- we don’t pay much attention to our subconscious but it is the thing which controls a lot of our decision making/ mood/ reactions/ ways we cope. Consciously we live in the 10% conscious part but if we tell ourselves something over and over then those thoughts sink into our subconscious and become our every day reality.
To break a negative subconscious reality which you may have cultivated over the years, you need to work on retraining it. Tell yourself the good stuff. Really listen to the compliments which we disregard all too fast. Replay mantra’s like “I am good enough”, “I love my body and I am intent on looking after it” to prime your brain, set yourself up for the day and re-align your mood. It’s a simple psychological method but it is amazingly effective: Tony Robbins is a big fan of this, see more here. Think about those compliments you have been given, say them over and over, ruminate the positives, and slowly they will sink in to that 90% of your brain and that will become your reality. Your new positive reality.
Communication with our kids doesn’t have to be the serious type of chats over the kitchen table. Maybe it’s by WhatsApp, maybe it’s through game playing or art. What works for them? What works for you? Think about it because it is very important to make sure your kid has a way to communicate how they are feeling. And you do too.
Thigh gaps can be digitally altered on moving screens. Who knew this was possible!??!?!? BE AWARE!
Maybe you can join us for the next Chachi Live!? In the mean time, join our meet-up if you are in the Glasgow/ Edinburgh (Scotland) area and come along to our next get together.
If you live elsewhere then why not start your own #ChachiCollective body positive meet up.
Meetup: #ChachiCollective Body Positive Advocates in Scotland
Flipboard: Body Image Magazines