I’m a queer and non-binary writer, speaker, and body neutrality coach.
Having been sexually abused at 7 years old, and having endured endless sexualization, objectification, and sexual harassment throughout my adolescent years, I learned early on three things about my body: that it was extremely powerful and important, that it was the only thing about me of worth, and that it did not exist for me.
Is it any wonder I developed severe body anxiety, insecurity, shame, disgust, and body checking habits? I had internalized the belief that I owed men a positive experience of looking at me, that I had to look good in order to "earn" someone's attention or connection, and that nothing else about me was of interest or value to anyone.
Unfortunately, stories like this are extremely common, especially among female-bodied folks like me.
At 21, I fell in love with fitness, and became a personal trainer in NYC. This was surely the key to overcoming body image issues, I thought: using diet and exercise to conform more closely to conventional beauty and body ideals!
Over the years, however, I found myself training some of the most conventionally attractive folks on the planet (including successful actresses and Victoria’s Secret models!) and none of them seemed any less insecure about their bodies. Plus, I occasionally worked with folks whose bodies were far from those conventional ideals, who seemed perfectly happy and content in their skin.
I was eventually forced to acknowledge that body image issues aren't just about how you look. But then... what are they about??
I became obsessed with finding the answer to this question.
I learned everything I could about topics that might connect with body image: mental health, shame, sex, gender, brain development, mindset, trauma, self-worth, beauty ideals, and systems of oppression. I got my life coaching certification through iPEC, I became a certified clinical sexologist, and I read hundreds and hundreds of books, looking for the answer.
Over time I started to put together the pieces, and form my own theory for how body image issues come to be. Eventually I left the fitness industry altogether, to focus on body image.
Around that time, I noticed trying to be body positive seemed to often do more harm than good for my clients, and I embraced body neutrality instead. Body neutrality is the idea that we don't need to love our bodies or hate our bodies–in fact, we don't even need to have an opinion on it at all– because our bodies don't mean anything about us, our worth, or what we deserve.
This became my mantra: how you look is the least interesting and important thing about you. And with it, my entire life changed.
Personally, this approach was uprooting and dismantling my own body image issues faster and more deeply than anything else I had ever tried, and the same thing seemed to be happening for my clients.
Coaching through a body neutral lens also brought the following crucial insights to the surface:
1. We experience body image suffering when we've assigned our body a task, job, role, or purpose it cannot fulfill.
2. We experience body image suffering when we've assigned our body false/excess significance, meaning, or moral interpretation.
3. Our body image issues are always trying to help us.
4. While any part of our mind believes (consciously or subconsciously) that we need the help of our body image issues, they will never go away.
By then, I was feeling genuinely body neutral. I'd long since stopped weighing myself, dieting, following fat-loss exercise plans, or picking myself apart in the mirror, and I no longer did the femme beauty work I'd once considered "obligatory," like dressing in "flattering" clothing, wearing makeup, or sucking in my belly. I felt deeply connected to my body, relishing in its existence for me and for me alone, and I felt a deeply rooted sense of my own value and worthiness as a person, having nothing to do with my appearance. I got my needs for attention and connection met with abundance, and I no longer cared whether or not others found me attractive.
But I was also aware of my own bodily privilege as a relatively young and thin, white, able-bodied person who passes as straight and cisgender... and I knew that many of my clients had developed body image issues for completely different reasons than I had. So in order to create a system for helping anyone quickly and effectively identify (and overcome!) the underlying reason for their body image suffering, I knew I had to look at the data, research, and patterns from my coaching practice.
First, I created the 4 Body Image Avatars to help people place themselves in the confusing landscape of body image issues, and then I created the Body Neutrality Blueprint to guide someone through the exact steps needed to go from here (body image suffering), to there (body neutrality).
My book (Body Neutral: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Body Image Issues) comes out June 6th!
Whew! If you've made it this far, here are a few more random things about me:
My favorite color is sunshine yellow.
I love to make art, especially painting and glass-blowing!
My favorite foods are cream and butter.
I have a total of 6 tattoos (so far).
I live in Asheville, NC, with my partner Drew and my cat Walden.