Photo by Michael L. Baird
I’m about to get wordy! Sorry for the essay here – but I thought I’d share a little bit about my beginnings. Several people have asked me, so here goes!
Women and Their Bodies – Why Do We Hate Ourselves So Much?
One of my earliest “body-image” memories with my mother revolved around the kids in my school who made fun of me. They called me “shrimp” ALL THE TIME- and in fact I was a good foot shorter and 15 pounds lighter than many of my peers. My mother told me, “This may feel bad now, but you’ll be happy you’re small when you get older. Just you wait.”
Sure enough, my genes for small stature served me well as a dancer and as an adult. But I couldn’t help but wonder, What if it had gone the other way? What if I had been born with the propensity to be overweight? Many of my peers had family members who were larger, and many of them struggled with their weight for many years if not their whole lives. We were all dealt certain cards in our families, and why was I any better because I was small?
Heading into the world of dance and fitness, I have always had very strong feelings about the way we’re treated as women and about the way we as women feel about ourselves in a world of such extreme body messages. We’re told that skinny women are more beautiful, that overweight women are slothful or messy, that the skinnier we are, the more lovable we’ll become. I saw dancers hospitalized for developing bulimia after being told to lose ridiculous amounts of weight by their dance schools, and I knew many fellow dancers who engaged in some of the most extreme and bizarre eating disorders I had ever seen. All in all, they were trying to fit an external vision of what they people wanted to see, and they gained their sense of selves from their successes or failures at controlling their appearance. I became angry about these body pressures and sad for them all at the same time. I wanted to tell them to find things in their lives – especially dance and movement! – that made them feel better about themselves. And to forgive themselves for eating. Because after all, we ALL have to eat!
The Fitness Journey Begins
I came to fitness through dance. A great friend recruited me to work for Tracy Anderson, and the discovery at her studio that dance-inspired movement could also serve as great exercise was one of the biggest revelations I ever had. I had not completely understood the value of fitness until then (since I had honestly only gotten exercise from dance classes and shows). I have since developed my own system for strengthening and toning the whole body, but I’m grateful that such a huge, great fitness world opened up to me at that time.
Despite my excitement at discovering dance-fitness, my awareness of body image issues in women became all the more apparent to me – even more than in the dance world! In many fitness classes I took and taught, I saw some intense peer pressure, self-loathing, and exercise bulimia, and I saw so many women who couldn’t manage to feel good about themselves because they were so critical of their bodies. And many overweight women I knew never wanted to step into a fitness class at all because of their fear of being judged. And lots of times, they were right to be worried.
I knew what my own mission needed to be
My decision to start Body Conceptions came out of my observations of different fitness studios and the ways I realized I wanted to run my own business differently. I worked on different approaches to exercise with my own private clients, and I observed how they got the best results. Most importantly, I realized that my strong feelings about how to support and encourage all women of different ages and sizes required me to break out on my own to create my own place, my own environment. I wanted to give the best workout possible, no question. But I wanted to make every different woman with every different body, life stage, and fitness level feel like they were welcomed, accepted and encouraged. This mission is an ideal that needs constant work and constant self-examination — but I’m willing to take the challenge.
Starting Body Conceptions