Today, I gave my workshop on nurturing positive body image in teens and adults. That’s great! What’s even more fun is that I got to do it as the intern minister working with teens, youth advisors, religious education teachers, and religious education professionals. What a great group!
And what an important task. In the Unitarian Universalist Association, we have made a commitment to life-affirming, accurate, reliable, holistic sexuality education. One part of that education is about body image. It seemed to me, though, that as a fat minister now committed to the Health at Every Size philosophy, I have something additional to bring to these adults and teens. Especially because most of the adults had not taught or gone through OWL, I decided that yes, I was going to offer this workshop. And it was great.
One of the first things I did was put my prior commitment to Health at Every Size on the table. It wasn’t a Health at Every Size workshop, per se, but I needed to make it clear the “fitness” and “health” don’t belong only to the non-fat. Furthermore, that “health” (“fitness” too) is a contested idea. But I only did a little of that because I wanted to get into what they had to say, how they were going to respond to one another, and what might emerge.
And what emerged was beautiful. Parents concerned for the health of their children, and yes, conflating health with weight loss and thinness. But then so much discussion and understanding around the worth and dignity of all people, and specifically people who look different from what the fashion-capital-industrial complex says we should look like..
We talked about how we all have the opportunity to affect our own and others’ body image both positively and negatively. What does it mean when everyone has always said you look like your father, and your father hates on his body and his looks all the time? It means, among other things, that you’re likely to come to believe that your body, like your father’s, is worth hating.
We also heard from teens about how people had responded to their bodies. What people have said about them. What they have believed about themselves. How they try to help fight against the objectification and commodification of human beings. I learned that there were adults in the congregation who had been powerfully affected by a sermon I gave on embodiment and covenant. I watched participants’ body language become more and more relaxed over the course of our time together.
And I realized that I want to do more of this. I’m going to a day-long Health at Every Size retreat/workshop in July and I’m going to find out more about how to bring health, fitness, and fatness into my ministry. Scary for this fat minister who was a fat girl who became a fat young woman hating her body every day. And liberating for that same girl and young woman. Most of all I hope this ministry will help liberate others who come to talk, play, dance, draw, sing, and pray with me.