My colleague, Connie Sobczak, eating disorders activist and founder of the non-profit organization The Body Positive, has announced the release of a great new DVD resource entitled, "Discover your Healthy Weight", a documentary that encourages viewers to
"Improve your health.
Honor your body.
Love your life!"
Connie has kindly shared her story with us, a story of heartache, recovery, transformation, learning, and growth that will inspire many.
You'll learn more about here new DVD series here as well...
My Story, by Connie Sobczak (written for the Volvo For Life Awards, 2008):
"I nearly lost my life attempting to transform my body into the cultural ideal of beauty," says Connie Sobczak. "My sister Stephanie did lose her life."
An activist and founder of The Body Positive, a nonprofit organization that promotes healthy living and body acceptance, Connie knows from personal experience the consequences of trying to replicate an idealized version of how women are supposed to look. Growing up, both Connie and her sister battled bulimia. For Connie, in addition to dangerously compromising her health, the condition led her to repeatedly drop out of college and even think about suicide. Almost at her breaking point, she reached out for help and started on the path towards recovery.
But her sister Stephanie continued to spiral downwards until her body, overtaxed by her eating disorder and poisoned by the silicone in her leaking breast implants, finally could take no more. She was dead at the age of only thirty-six, and her two young children were without a mother.
In the wake of losing her sister, Connie founded The Body Positive so that other women and girls would not have to risk serious illness or death in order to feel good about their bodies. "The way I see it," Connie says, "body hatred killed my sister." After a decade of work on the project, Connie has come to believe that body acceptance provides a key element in enabling all women to reach their full potential. Education, attention, and care can counter body hatred - a psychological and physical threat that afflicts women of all ages, manifesting itself in everything from eating disorders to self-mutilation.
The Body Positive promotes the Health at Every Size philosophy, which encourages all people to adopt healthy active lifestyles by becoming physically active, consuming nutritious foods, and acquiring healthy eating attitudes and habits. Connie argues that all children need acceptance and seek inclusion in their peer groups. All children can benefit from shame-free and caring relationships to their bodies, and acceptance of their natural sizes. All children can enjoy fun, non-competitive movement every day. And all children can learn to eat a satisfying balanced diet that fulfills their own hunger and satiety signals.
Since forming its first youth leadership group in 1998, The Body Positive has directly trained hundreds of youth leaders. Over one thousand schools and communities, including 525 school districts in the state of Illinois, have created their own body image programs, based on The Body Positive's youth leadership model. Distributed worldwide, the project's BodyTalk videos have reached an audience of more than one million children and teens, and Connie has spread the word in numerous TV shows and broadcasts, locally, regionally, and nationally.
Connie Sobczak wants women and girls - including her own daughter, Carmen - to focus on changing the world, not their bodies, and sees body acceptance as the final frontier of women's empowerment. Her advocacy comes directly from the struggle of personal experience and the knowledge that her work is literally saving lives.
If The Body Positive came on the scene too late to help her own sister, it is not too late to help other women and girls who are feeling the pressure to conform their appearance to an unrealistic ideal. "The world is changing more slowly than I had hoped," she says, "but Carmen has spent her sixteen years expressing her intelligence and creativity, instead of using her time, brainpower, and energy attempting to mold her body to fit an externally created standard of beauty. Her world is a beautiful place."
Below are Connie's thoughts on body image and women, along with the purpose of the new DVD series, and Discover your Healthy Weight specifically. (To see an excerpt from the DVD, click here)
As women, we have been told for eons how we should look to be considered attractive, how we must feed and move our bodies to achieve health, and how we are supposed to act in order to please others. The messages have changed over the centuries, but the story remains the same: someone else knows what is right for us, and we do not.
Since the days when women were honored as powerful and wise members of society (it’s hard to believe such a time truly existed), we have been instructed to follow the rules laid out by patriarchy about what women are supposed to be, and suffer the consequences when we do not. Our culture projects harsh, demeaning, and sometimes violent messages towards our bodies. Advertisers promote our insecurities with the motive of emptying our pocket books.
We are fed image upon image of lifeless women with no vitality whatsoever, and these women are meant to be our role models. We are hammered daily with the message that if we buy products and services intended to improve our appearance, love and happiness will be ours forever. We are brainwashed into comparing our bodies to teenage models and told that if we buy firming creams, wrinkle creams, aging creams, cellulite creams, skin lightening creams, hair straightening products, hair curling products, hair coloring products, cosmetic surgery, weight loss programs, weight loss surgery, weight loss products—the list goes on forever—we will be able to look like that very young (and airbrushed) model, no matter our age. Sadly, we have internalized these stories told to us about who we are—or should be—as women, and spend much of our time, mental and physical energy, and money attempting to conform to the ideal image and identity created by those who stand to profit from our dissatisfaction with our bodies and our lives.
The Body Positive was founded to empower people of all shapes and sizes to connect to their internal wisdom, freeing them to live happier, healthier lives. Our video projects serve the purpose of telling a new story about women: about our beautifully diverse bodies, our ability to care for ourselves by listening to our own wisdom, and about our self-love.
Discover your Healthy Weight, the first DVD in our Intuitive Health™ series, was created to explore the science behind the failure of dieting to keep weight off, and to offer an alternative view of health that is about real health rather than a number on a scale. We have included medical experts who discuss the reasons why dieting causes more harm than good. We also share inspiring stories from women who take care of themselves by paying close attention to their bodies’ physical and emotional needs, while also honoring their genetically inherited body shapes and sizes. They have made the choice to see themselves through eyes of love. Their lives are as varied as their body sizes and shapes, yet their stories present a common theme—these women experience joy and passion on a regular basis because they have chosen to stop participating in the American female ritual of body bashing.
"Imagine living in a world where women are healthy, joyful, and feel attractive in bodies of all sizes, shapes, colors and ages. Envision a world where deprivation and dieting are not a way of life—where women are at peace with their bodies. Picture a world where women intuitively know what to eat, make healthy balanced choices by trusting their bodies’ innate wisdom instead of following external rules and restrictions, and exercise for pleasure and vitality. A world where self-expression reigns supreme over self-punishment, and having an appetite for food and for life is honored and valued."
This is the world of The Body Positive. It is more than the name of our organization—it is a state of mind. It is a way of thinking that allows women and girls the opportunity to find their way through the confusing messages they are hammered with daily about how to live their lives. It is a mindset that allows people to choose how they wish to inhabit their bodies so that they may cultivate a relationship with themselves that is alive, vital, and loving. The Body Positive is a community of women and girls who support each other in laying down the burdens of judgment, comparison, and shame. We include ourselves—and all women—in our definition of beauty because we believe that soul expression and life force are the qualities that make a woman truly attractive.
©2008, The Body Positive