#IAmEnough©: Sharing my Path to Self-Acceptance on Good Morning America

GMA2This past Tuesday I was incredibly blessed to have been interviewed alongside my sister on America’s favorite morning show. Good Morning America  produced a great segment in which I shared my journey toward self-acceptance, and how it contrasts with my sister’s path. We both found self-love in very different ways. Hers was a diet and fitness journey. The strict diets never made me feel good, so I abandoned them years ago. My journey has been about embracing my large body and recognizing the beauty and strength I have no matter my size. I’m happy to know that there are many different paths to freedom and living your truth.

On Tuesday morning, at 8:45am, I stood in Times Square in polka dot yoga pants and a clingy “Ohmazing” tank from Lineage Wear (thank you so much Katie!) – my thunder thighs, voluptuous arms, and visible belly outline on display for the world to see. And I felt so damn good! (P.S. I’m at my heaviest weight ever, and have never felt more free.) I was claiming my space unapologetically as a fat, brown, afro-wearing woman. Describing it in words simply doesn’t do it justice. Let’s just say it was a #BlackGirlMagic moment!

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As I stood soaking up the energy of NYC (a.k.a. the center of the universe) surrounded by soaring skyscrapers, blinking billboards and a curious crowd, I took a few moments to let the reality of the experience set in. Here I am, 40 years old, finally living my dreams, and in a visibly fat body. Yes, it is possible!

You guys know I come from a history of self-hate and insecurity. So, to be feeling amazing in my skin with the world watching was truly one of the best experiences of my life. I hope it has helped to set others free – that has been my goal all along.

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For nearly six years I’ve been writing about my tumultuous journey toward accepting my body and realizing how amazing it is. I’ve come to understand that my body tells the story of so many women and men who inhabit large bodies but have felt unseen and unworthy. I know now that my voice is my gift. And the Universe needs all of us to lean into who we really are.  Were it not for my years of dieting and self-loathing, I would not be who I am today. And who I am today is a strong, smart, confident, mixed fat chick, with a talent for inspiring others. I am joyful! And as far as I’ve come, I still have so much more to learn and experience. So bring it, Universe!

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Before the live segment in Times Square we did a Facebook Live event where we talked to  panel of women on what body positivity meant us. Among the panelists were fellow body positive activists Alysse D’Alessandro and Essie Golden, who represented beautifully on the show. Y’all are awesome! I also met other wonderful women, including Dana Suchow who is a body-posi tiger!

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I have so many people to thank, beginning with my sister Mara Schiavocampo, whose idea it was to pitch the segment to GMA. I also want to give a big shout out to producers Danielle and Alison – thank you for allowing me to show the world who I am and how body positivity has transformed my life. You are both class acts! And I can’t forget hair and makeup mavens Juanita and Lisa, who hooked me up and with whom I had a wonderful connection.

Until next time, remember #iamenough ©.

xo

I Am #WhatAYogiLooksLike

I’m so pleased to be featured in Yoga International as part of the “This is What a Yogi Looks Like” (#whatayogilookslike) media series collaboration between the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and Yoga International based on the YBIC campaign that launched in 2014 and their continued work in challenging stereotypes, growing community, working collaboratively, and highlighting the diversity of yoga practitioners and yoga practices, as well as their staunch commitment to diversifying yoga media. Also, a special thanks to Melanie Klein for making it possible!

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Photo by Sarit Z. Rogers

As published in Yoga International on June 29, 2016

For so many years, as my weight fluctuated up and down in multiples of 20, I was rarely present in my body. In fact, I spent most of my time researching new diets and abhorring my reflection in the mirror. No matter what the number on the scale, it was never the right one. And so I spent the better part of 25 years feeling like a stranger in my own skin, punishing myself for my “imperfections.”

It was yoga that finally allowed me to experience my large body in a positive way. But it wasn’t love at first sight.

My first experience with yoga was in 1999, and I really didn’t get it. That, and I felt like a bull in a china shop. Seriously, I was less than graceful, and I always felt rather awkward posing alongside people who looked nothing like me. So I said goodbye to yoga without a regret in the world.

It was yoga that finally allowed me to experience my large body in a positive way. But it wasn’t love at first sight.

Because of my poor body image and low self-esteem, I missed out on too many experiences: swimming in the ocean with my family, dating in high school because of my shy demeanor and insecurities about the size of my jeans, and positive sexual experiences because I was too busy trying to sleep my way to high self-esteem. It was a journey toward external affirmation that never ceased. I could not find peace.

In 2011 I became fed up. I was tired of obsessing about my body and weight. It was then that I began authoring my blog, Chronicles of a Mixed Fat Chick. I conducted lots of research on large bodies, plus fashion, body image, and self-acceptance. It became my mission to try to understand and move beyond my long-held negative body image. Well, I needed some support and inspiration along the way. In my research I came across so many amazing websites that featured women like me thriving proudly in their plump bodies. All along I’d been focused on attaining thinness so I could be happy, perfect, and free. But the ample women on those brilliant sites looked thoroughly content. They were smiling and laughing and basking in their fatness. It was the first time I ever really considered quitting dieting altogether.

Then, a few years ago I began to see pictures all over social media of fat women doing yoga. It was really a magical time for me—I was so attracted to the confidence of these women who were doing something I had always associated with being young, thin, white, and cisgender. And here were women like Dianne Bondy and Jessamyn Stanley, who were breaking all the “rules.” I thought, I’m black and fat, too. And maybe I can do this yoga thing.

Fast forward to 2014, when I finally found the courage to try my first yoga class in 15 years. I went to a sweet studio a few blocks from my house called Crenshaw Yoga and Dance. I showed up early, knots in my stomach. An lovely lady in a green leotard and dark tights greeted me at the door with the kind of warmth only old Black folks from the South can deliver. I adored her instantly. I explained to 70-something Adrienne that this was my first class in a long time—and that I was nervous. I also informed her that I had fibromyalgia and was hoping yoga could improve my symptoms. She smiled her wide smile, nodded, and the rest is history.

When I got on the mat—and finally let myself relax—I was astounded at what my body could do and how it could feel.

Adrienne’s class was life changing for me. There were mostly women of color, including some with large bodies (some smaller and some bigger than mine). The age range was 21 to 75, and there were various levels of experience represented in the room. When I got on the mat—and finally let myself relax—I was astounded at what my body could do and how it could feel. It was the opposite of an out-of-body experience—it was an in-body experience. A first for me.

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In the weeks and months that followed, my poses got deeper and the reflection in the studio mirror became less and less important. I realized that what allowed me to really love yoga was having a safe space to practice, a space in which I never felt judged. I discovered that yoga is not a competition; it’s a way of being in the world. Yoga also helped me to see how my limiting thoughts and behaviors were keeping me from thriving in other areas of my life. And it absolutely proved to me that being in a large body does not determine my worth, my beauty, or my health. Only my opinion can do that.

xo

Fat Girl in a Yoga Magazine: It Happened to Me

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I am so honored to have been a part of an amazing photo shoot for Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine. I’m grateful to Melanie Klein and the Yoga and Body Image Coalition for allowing me to be part of the #whatayogilookslike campaign. This wonderful group is dedicated to creating safe yoga spaces for all body types. And a shout out to fabulous photographer Tani Ikeda, who was so patient with me as I tried to hold my poses through crashing waves and sinking sand! I also want to lift up yoga instructor Chelsea Jackson, who was my fellow model for the photo shoot. We arrived at the beach at 5 am and braved the chilly water for the perfect photos. And it was totally worth it. It was definitely a spiritual experience and one that I’ll never forget.

Remember, ALL BODIES ARE GOOD BODIES, and your body can do so much. Don’t be afraid to try something new and get outside your comfort zone. Yoga isn’t about being thin and bendy — it’s about listening to your body and learning what feels right to you while honoring your own amazingness. Sending you so much love and light!

Namaste!xo

Don’t Fall Into the Trap of Weight-Loss Resolutions

It’s the time of year when everyone is talking about resolutions. Resolutions to buy less and be more; Resolutions to spend more time with friends and family instead of in front of the TV; and of course, resolutions to lose weight.

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Just writing that sentence triggers me immensely. I’ve had decades of resolutions that were focused on losing weight once and for all. Thank God the last resolution I made was to not make resolutions anymore — especially about weight loss. I find them fraught with weighty expectation and inevitable disappointment.

If you haven’t already, you will soon be bombarded with ads for the latest exercise craze, discounted gym memberships, or the diet book that will finally change your life. Yep. It’s THAT time of year. And I fucking hate it. Even as a fat positive activist, I still find it all so overwhelming. 

Just for once, I’d like to get the message on January 1st that I’m OK just as I am. And because I know I won’t see that message on any billboard anytime soon, then I’ll do it — for you and for me!

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It’s certainly not wrong to want to lose weight or get fit, unless the desire is comes from a place of wanting to meet an unattainable version of yourself that someone else thinks is what you need. In that case, I am emphatically anti-weight loss. The reasons have to be internal. They must come from a genuine desire not to please anyone but yourself. And for many of us, myself included, that’s almost impossible.

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Even though I’m a size acceptance activist, I still have the occasional thought about losing weight. And it’s almost never about how I will feel physically. Almost always it’s about what I will look like, and how my life will be better. I don’t like admitting that, but it’s true. Thankfully these thoughts don’t come up nearly as much as they used to. But I have a history of disordered eating and self-loathing which I must put into check every day.  

Just so you know, not everyone who is fat or chubby wants to be thin. Advertisers would have you believe it, but it ain’t true. I know too many women (and men) who have found beauty, strength, and acceptance in their large bodies. And I’d like to think I’m one of them (though I still struggle). Their stories are a reminder of what it is to have serenity around our bodies, and I absolutely NEED those messages in my life.

Check these hotties out!

 

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Vanessa of Sweet Leigh Sewn

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Aarti of Curves Become Her

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Please know that if you are feeling the resolution blues, it’s ok. You’re not alone. Your body is perfect. Yes, even your fat rolls, jiggly thighs and wide hips! Most people in the world look like you — not Beyonce. I promise!

There is so much body positive stuff out there to support you on your journey. Of course I’m here for you always, but here are some other peeps who are talkin’ the talk too:

Today I am loving myself. Today I compare myself to no one. Today I am enough.

Happy New Year!

xo

Mercury is in Retrograde — And Just in Time

mercury-retrograde-signHave you been feeling rundown? Yeah, me too. It turns out that Mercury is in retrograde from October 4-25. Which basically means it’s a bad time to make big decisions or take too much on. Almost two weeks ago, I decided I need a break from social media. Keeping up with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram just got to be too much. I was completely sucked in, checking it first thing in the morning, and last thing at night. No wonder I couldn’t sleep. All that information was swirling around in my brain, and getting quiet was impossible.

I’m a big believer in feeding your spirit, but somehow I let all my obligations fill the void of really looking at what’s been going on with me. I’ve felt anxious and fidgety lately. I spend my free time looking for new cities to live in (hello, Portland), or obsessing over my fall capsule wardrobe project. And those things can be fun, in the right context. But not when you’re clearly trying to avoid something important. And for me, it’s my health. My fibromyalgia symptoms have worsened recently, and I haven’t wanted to face it. I’ve taken on way too many commitments, which have been great opportunities for my advocacy work, but bad for my health.

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I am exhausted. From the pain. From the lack of energy. From the inability to fully use my body.

Disconnecting from social media was a fairly easy strategy to start with, but I’m going to need to do a lot more than that to get well. I’ve finally made an appointment with a rheumatologist to see what she might offer in terms of answers and potential solutions to my condition. But if I’ve learned anything over the last few years, it’s that I have to advocate for my own health. I have to do the research and be open to trying different modalities for healing. And with Mercury in retrograde this month, what better time to reflect on my life choices and take stock of what is and isn’t working anymore.

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I don’t intend to make any big decisions right now, other than slowing down my pace, and making time for more rest and self-care. That includes things like:

  1. Going to bed earlier
  2. Eating better (gotta check that sugar addiction)
  3. Continuing my yoga practice
  4. Saying “no” more
  5. Meditating

I tend to be a real perfectionist, so I might need add one more thing to that list: Let go of  the idea that I will do these things consistently and perfectly. 

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I’d like to be blogging more, but if you don’t see a post for a while, just assume I’m sleeping, or reading a book, or cooking a healthy meal for my husband and I.

Until next time,

Pia

3 Reasons I Avoid Talking About My Sugar Addiction

I’m a sugar addict. I am.  When sugar gets into my system, I get high.  And then I need more. And more. And….Ugh!

I don’t like talking about my sugar addiction for three reasons:

  1. It’s very real, but conflicts with my position on dieting, and my disdain for food/body policing.
  2. I’m not sure I can stop, and that frightens me because it completely affects my fibromyalgia and arthritis. Let me be clear, I am talking about MY health, NOT yours.
  3. I don’t want you to judge me.  Yes, I can be that insecure.

So, in order to tackle this issue, I’ve decided honesty is the best policy.  I’ve given up sugar three times in my life, for periods ranging from two months to a year, and I had lots of help. It felt so good, and my body was grateful. If you want to know what I did, you can email me and I would be happy to share more. But for the purposes of this post, it’s irrelevant.

Processed sugar is one of those substances that is in so many of the foods we eat, that it requires a lot of awareness and intentionality to avoid it. I know, I know — I should eat more veggies and just stop with the sugar.  But it’s not that simple for me.  Sugar behaves like heroin in my body.  At first it soothes, then it gives me a spurt of energy, followed by an awful crash that can only be avoided by eating more sugar. And so, I do.  The cycle is beyond vicious. It’s insane.

When I was diagnosed with arthritis two years ago, and fibromyalgia a year later, the first thing my doctor’s told me was to eliminate sugar because it causes inflammation.  It made sense, and I thought that having a doctor tell me would change my behavior, but it hasn’t.  Why? Because I’m an addict who fools herself into believing she can control the controller. And I’ve proved to myself thousands of times that I will always lose this battle.

So, why am I sharing this with you? Why should you care?

Well, I know a lot of people who deal with this addiction, fat, thin and in between. And I want them to know they’re not alone. They may be size acceptance activists like me, who are struggling with the moral dilemma of having a sugar or food addiction and not wanting to fall into the misogynistic trap of fad diets. You guys know I spent many years dieting, and I’m so over it (mostly).  But this isn’t about weight loss, it’s about continuing to do something that I know is harming my body. It’s like if I kept dipping my toe into boiling water and burning the fuck out of it, but doing it anyway because I just can’t help myself.  Yes, it’s that crazy.  It’s doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Which, by the way, is the definition of insanity. The definition of addiction.

I talk to my close girlfriends and my husband about this issue regularly, but I’m tired of thinking about it now. I simply want to let go of it so that in it’s place, a peaceful, spiritually sound woman can emerge. I want to make space for more important things, like working to create a world in which women of all sizes, ages, colors, orientations, and abilities are free to use their goddess-given gifts without fear of being judged on their appearance.

Is that so bad? 

This inner work is never done and it’s hard.  But I know it’s worth it. So, I don’t have any hard and fast answers to my sugar problem, but I just wanted to acknowledge on a public level that I struggle too. And I want to remind myself and you, that body positivity takes so many formsI can love my body at it’s current weight, and still aim for better health.
 

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I’m so grateful for the Health At Every Size campaign, which proves to me that even at 230 pounds, I can achieve my health and fitness goals without having to ever lose a pound. I want to improve my downward facing dog because it would feel fucking awesome to push my body that much.  I want to wear a tight yoga top and matching pants that hug my every roll, and celebrate my shape as I move into a headstand. I want to give up sugar so my body won’t hurt so damn much.

That’s all.

In solidarity,
Pia

I’m Fucking Overwhelmed

 

I know I’m not alone in this.  I have so much going on in my life right now, and at times it feels completely unmanageable.  I have a full time job which is extremely stressful;  I have a marriage that requires time and commitment; I’m an activist, blogger, model and writer too.  Many of the things that are happening are wonderful, and my hard work is paying off in all sorts of amazing ways.  But I feel the need to slow down and say “no” more often.  
  
Many of you know I have fibromyalgia, which is a chronic illness I’m learning more about since my diagnosis last year.  For me that means I can’t do everything I want, because my body simply won’t let me.  

It’s very frustrating, but at the same time it feels good to slow down and make time to take care of myself. My doctor told me, “you need to really pamper yourself.”  I don’t think any medical professional has ever said that to me.  But it was just what I needed to hear. 

I know intellectually that getting massages regularly, and going to bed early are not only good for my body, but also for my mental health.  But strangely enough, I find relaxing really hard to do.  Even when I’m not technically working, I’m on social media late at night, or doing chores, or running errands, or thinking about what’s next. I’m always running!

It’s rare that I’m still.

What does all this mean, anyway?  

I think it means that I have to trust the Universe/God/Goddess/Higher Power to guide me during this tough adjustment period.  I’m a spiritual person who has lost her way a bit.  I’m a tough broad, but I’m not impermeable.  I’m human and I have limits.  

As a feminist I often feel like I have to do more just to prove that I’m down with the cause — that I’m always hustling.  But an exhausted Pia cannot be of service, she cannot give her best if she is not caring for herself first.  It feels selfish to say no and to take a nap instead, even if that’s what I really need.  

So, if you see less of me on social media, it’s not because I’ve abandoned this important piece of my life, it’s because I need a break from time to time. I’m still here. I’m just taking extra special care of myself.

In solidarity,
Pia