What influences how you think about your body? How would your life be better if you had total body acceptance? These are the questions that attendees were encouraged to explore at the Nourish Conference on Nov. 17 and 18.
Nourish, which took place at Station 20 West, was a two-day event that featured speakers and workshops covering a variety of topics related to body positivity. The main messages of the conference were that all bodies are enough, just as they are right now, and that the problem lies in outside factors, which send people the opposite message.
The keynote speaker, Sydney Bell, is a social worker, writer and body-positivity advocate. The main focal point of her discussion was body sovereignty, which means that how we feel about our bodies is self-determined. A person who is body-sovereign would be comfortable with and non-judgemental of their body and how it relates to the world.
According to Bell’s presentation, 91 per cent of women are unhappy with their bodies, and I used to be one of those women. I was convinced that I would have a perfect body in the future, and then, I would be happy and everything would fall into place. As I have learned over the years, this is a fallacy, and body sovereignty comes from a lot of inner reflection and change rather than physical change.
As Bell outlined in her presentation, the three main components of body sovereignty are self-compassion, mindfulness and discernment. Self-compassion simply means acknowledging our own suffering and responding with kindness. This allows us to be honest with ourselves and to take the time to figure out what our bodies really need.
As a practice, mindfulness means cultivating personal insight — particularly an awareness and acceptance of the self. Mindfulness is a difficult thing to master, but it can lead to authentic self-exploration and internal awareness of what it is that we need. Being mindful of our bodies can help us to regain trust in ourselves. Bell believes that exercise is an excellent way to get in tune with our bodies in this way.
Discernment, as Bell expressed, is the ability to think critically about our bodies, to be conscious consumers and to determine for ourselves what is best for our bodies. These three components are not a three-step process, but rather, they should be worked on simultaneously.
From the media, we are constantly told that we are not good enough, and confusing nutritional advice adds to the problem. The Nourish Conference emphasized that body acceptance comes when we gain the ability to trust our bodies to discern what we need, not what outside influences say we need.
Aside from the advice given during the conference, I have found that journaling is one of the things that helped me the most on my own journey to body acceptance. It let me be honest with myself, and after doing it for long enough, I found that I already knew what I needed to feel better — I just did not know how to access it.
Another thing that has been important on my journey to body acceptance is consciously choosing what content I see on my social-media feeds, and what other kinds of media I consume, so that my body image is not negatively affected.
From conferences like Nourish, considerable inner reflection, and reading a lot of Naomi Wolf — author of The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women — I have learned that happiness will not be achieved by changing yourself physically and that real change happens within.
If you missed the conference and are interested in learning more about these topics, you can visit the Nourish YXE Facebook page for additional resources.
Lyndsay Afseth / Staff Writer
Graphic: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor