There’s No Wrong Way To Have a Body: Body Positivity, Disability, & Why It’s OK If You Still Feel Fat Some Days.

Note from Amber: this post is a guest contribution by my best friend Genevieve Hollingsworth.

Genevieve and me at a pool day earlier this summer
Genevieve and me at a pool day earlier this summer

Gen and I met in a MAC makeup Livejournal community in 2004, and have been friends ever since. We’ve been there with each other through hard times and great times. It has been both shattering and uplifting these past several years to witness Genevieve’s struggles with health, body image, acceptance, and her spiritual transformation, becoming an even more beautiful person inside and out. Today, she writes about how body positivity is not a linear journey and how the “love your body, it’s perfect just as it is” messaging we hear in body positive circles often rings hollow for someone dealing with chronic illness or disability. Read on!

A few weeks ago a brave friend admitted on instagram that she still struggles with wanting to be thinner even though she is “body positive“.  She admitted several truths in her post that rang true to me, this one in particular spoke to me the most:

“I think about my size more than I care to admit. And despite all the self love and self care I’ve developed, and the love I have for other people in any shaped body they’re in, I still find that I value myself more in a smaller frame. As someone who cares deeply about the body positive movement I feel like a traitor in some ways for admitting this.”

I could have written those words myself.

Ever since my mid-twenties I have done my best to align my thinking to the “radical” belief system that all bodies are valuable – no matter the size, the skin color, or the physical abilities of that body.

I believe that one’s health is not solely dictated by their BMI, that diets are BS, and that loving yourself as you are is ok and not only that, it’s paramount. My long arduous battle with anorexia certainly helped push me towards the Body Positivity movement but several other factors have also helped me to hold these truths close to my heart.

I feel so strongly about body positivity and yet, so many days I find myself feeling anything but positive about my body.

Some days I feel like a fraud.

I’ll post a Nayirrah Waheed poem about loving your body on Facebook and then 30 minutes later wheel myself to go to the bathroom and then get stuck there in front of the mirror, examining whether my arms look fat. I know I shouldn’t participate, that I should turn off the light and leave the mirror alone, but I get caught in front of it time and again, telling myself all the things I know I am not supposed to say about my body.

This happens far more than I would like admit. I can say all the right body positive phrases and notions to someone else and believe every single word…yet when it comes to applying body positivity to myself, I struggle some days.

How can I believe in that all bodies are good, beautiful, and perfect as they are when I don’t always feel that way about mine?

No body is perfect.

I read a great article a week ago about how body positivity can be faulty when it comes to trans issues, specifically telling someone who is trans that their body is “perfect” as it is.  It definitely gave me a lot to think about and I hope I can carry the message of the article forward in my interactions with the trans people in my life.

It also resonated with me as many of the body positive phrases the article found problematic are also not applicable or helpful to those of us who are chronically ill/disabled.

“Your body is a good body.” “Your body is perfect.””Love every part of yourself”

All of that sounds well and good on paper. However when you happen to own a body that malfunctions and creates miserable pain, your body doesn’t feel very good. I can tell you that when I am sitting in my wheelchair looking out the window wistfully at a street I have never walked on and at a car I can no longer drive, my body feels so very far away from being perfect. Some sayings within the body positive movement cannot be applied to those of us who are disabled or chronically ill.

Perhaps its time that this kind dialogue within the body positivity movement needs to shift.

The fact is not all bodies are good.

Bodies under siege from an illness or from an accident can create a lot of pain and strife. Even those with mental health issues may not be able to align themselves with the idea that their body is good when every day they suffer with intense anxiety, roller coaster moods, or terrifying hallucinations. By telling me to “change your perspective, not your body” its feels like I am essentially being told that I should be fine with the chronic pain I am constantly in or that I should be ok with the fact that my brain damage puts me at risk for developing Alzheimer’s early.

There’s also a large focus on health within the body positive community, which I do think is important. Its far better for people to focus on moving and nourishing their bodies for the sake of health rather than focusing on being a specific size or weight.

The issue again is that some of us will never be “healthy” and how do we find body positivity  when health is not something we can easily attain? Where do the chronically ill fit in?

Body positivity cannot be not a one size fits all movement.

I have come to realize that each of us is on a journey to body positivity and that journey is a deeply personal one. How we get there may be vastly different than how someone else arrives at self love and acceptance. A friend may still participate in negative self talk or may still try to diet every so often.

This doesn’t negate that they are trying to find their way, they are just taking a slightly different path towards self acceptance.

It’s also important to recognize that we all deal with different body “privileges” and that how we experience our body (and in return how the world experiences our bodies) may be very different than your best friend or your mom or your next door neighbor.

We have too many people with too many different backgrounds, privileges, and experiences with different kinds discrimination to assume that that we all can follow the same narrative of body acceptance and positivity.
(girl standing against wall) body positivity, body positive, wheelchair, disabled, feeling fat

I am white and I have been tall and thin for almost my whole life.

While I was a size 10-12 for a short period of time, I have existed on this planet for 33 years with the privilege of both having a certain skin color along with having a socially acceptable waist size (even if that waist size wasn’t small enough to me).

I do not know what it is like to worry about someone calling me fat as I run down the street. I do not know what its like to have someone complain openly about sitting next to me on a plane. I do not know the sting of someone making assumptions about me because of the color of my skin. I do not know what its like to be terrified when pulled over the police.

My two best friends have had vastly different experiences than me due to people saying terrible things to them because of their weight/shape. I have learned a lot about what its like to navigate America as plus sized women from the stories and painful truths my best friends have shared with me.

Sometimes the things they tell me bring me to tears.

The thought of strangers being incredibly hateful to the two women I hold most dear enrages me. I fantasize about reaching through my computer screen and throttling the group of jerks who make fun of my best friend  on a “we hate fat people” forum. I leave tiny half moons in my palms from clenching my fists too tightly as I listen to the terrible things people used to say to my other best friend in high school.

There is no wrong way.

Now that I am in a wheelchair, I am learning more about what its like to have people look at me differently. I understand what its like to be categorized even though someone has never spoken to me. Last fall I had a man tell me I was too pretty to be in a wheelchair. It reminded me of how fat women are often told “you have such a pretty face”.

(shadow of a woman in a wheelchair) body positivity, body positive, wheelchair, disabled, feeling fat, geneen roth

My body positive narrative has shifted dramatically and continues to shift the longer I am in my wheelchair.

My understanding of my body and my relationship to my body is more complicated now and some days I feel angrier at it than I ever have before. I know the anger serves no purpose and makes no sense but some days I am furious at my legs and my nervous system. Im sure some people would tell me I shouldn’t be mad at my body, “it’s not my body’s fault” etc but those people may never undergo the physical challenges I deal with or grapple with the complexities of being disabled.

This is my narrative and my journey with this body and it can be painful to have someone tell me I am not being body positive.

We can all learn from each other’s experiences so listen up and be aware when your privilege may keep you from hearing what someone else is sharing about their body. There is no wrong way to have a body and there is also no wrong path to liking yourself. Someone’s narrative may not match yours and that’s ok.

Self love is a journey, not a destination.

I think we all need to remember that our relationships with our bodies are ongoing. Its a relationship that ebbs and flows and will change over time as your body does.

Repeat after me:

Body positivity doesn’t equal feeling 100% positive about your body all the time

You can know all the right phrases, read all the right literature, and follow all the bad ass body positive people on instagram….and still wake up hating your thighs some days.

In the eating disorder recovery community, there is a belief that recovery is ongoing and that you never are recoverED but instead on a continual adventure every day to do your best to stay grounded in recovery. I feel this may also be true with body positivity. You believe in the movement, your passion for it helps you through the day but some days you just still feel fat.

Feeling fat or ugly doesn’t negate who you are, what you believe in, or how hard you work to be body positive.

You are human and we live in a tough society that pushes negative self-talk and airbrushed images at us all day long. Its hard to escape that tough inner critic inside our heads when a very similar one resides outside  of us. I can quiet that nasty voice inside me some days but then I see a magazine cover or stumble upon an instagram account that posts bodies that I will never own and then I am back in my head berating myself.

This is one of my favorite quotes about body positivity:

“You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.” (Geneen Roth)

Its time we wave a white flag and stop shaming ourselves for slipping into negative self talk.

We need to realize that body positivity is not all about loving yourself every minute of every day. We are all have bad days and hard months. I know for me when things  in my life are hard, it is reflected in how I feel about my body and food. Frankly it’s impossible for any person to exist entirely in positivity all day every day. How can we say that body positivity is all about loving our imperfections but then expect our feelings towards our bodies to be perfect and 100% positive? That makes no sense to me.

Our humanness means we each are fallible, especially around certain topics that for whatever reason are our “sore spots”. Obsessing about weight and body image has been an integral part of my existence for over 20 years. I used to get upset and angry with myself that years and years later I still struggle so much with these issues.

It’s taken me some time to make peace with that.


I now accept that I will have days where I feel fat or cannot stop thinking about how gross my cellulite is and and how I have cankles. I accept that there will be days where I am obsessed with any morsel of food I put in my mouth. I accept that being a size zero is something I may always long to be despite the fact that its a size I cannot obtain without starving myself.

Im tired of shaming myself over the fact that I have these thoughts and feelings.

It makes no sense to berate myself over the days where I feel fat. In fact continually admonishing myself any time I am struggling with my body is honestly just negative self talk in a different form.

Body positivity is about the journey. Its about loving yourself and hating yourself and finding peace with both. Its about doing our best to treat our bodies with respect but understanding we may slip and fall once in awhile. Our bodies are not perfect and neither is our relationship with that body. I have found that life is all about existing in the grey and this definitely applies to how I feel about my body.

My body is not a problem to be solved and my relationship with my body will never be perfect or 100% positive. I am not a traitor or fraud when I engage in negative self talk or fall into the pit of romanizing my anorexia.

I am a flawed human learning every day what it’s like to own this flawed body and accepting that the relationship I have with that body will feel good some days and rotten other days. 

rocking my body positive yoga t-shirt to my first inpatient ketamine infusion.

How about you dear reader? Do you struggle to feel like you belong in the body positive community? How do you deal with bad body image days?


4 new videos: Free introductory YOGA FOR ALL course!

Yoga For All

I’m excited to share four brand new videos from Dianne Bondy and myself in this free introductory Yoga For All course.

These videos contain key strategies to make you a better, more inclusive yoga teacher, or to improve your own personal practice as a student. What you’ll get:

  1. What if there are no props? Propless Vinyasa flows for bigger bodies
  2. Big Body Triage – making room in folds, twists and lunges
  3. Wheel Pose – modifications and variations for body diversity
  4. Bonus: Gomukhasana – modifications for cow face pose

Get a taste of the training we offer in our online course, Yoga For All: Creating Body Positive Yoga Classes for All Shapes, Sizes & Abilities. Registration for the course opens April 5 but you can sign up here today to get the free videos!

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Honing our language as yoga teachers: trauma-sensitive verbal cues

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” –Cornel West

A few days ago, I posted the following picture and caption on my Body Positive Yoga Facebook page:

Upward-facing dog with a chair
Want to work on upward-facing dog? If you’re still building the strength to balance on just the hands & tops of feet, or if you have limited ankle mobility, try this version of updog with a chair. Brace your abdominals (like someone was going to punch you in the gut – front and back). Pull your hip points up toward your navel to keep your pelvis in good alignment and to keep the low back from hammocking. Straighten the arms, keep the shoulders away from the ears (don’t sink into the shoulders) and squeeze a block between your thighs or calves for extra resistance and to teach your body how to fire up your legs and core.

I got lots of great feedback on this backbend variation, but the most valuable comments (to me) were from two yoga teachers who gently encouraged me to examine my language. They drew attention to the “punch in the gut” cue and suggested that I find non-violent imagery to use instead.

I’m always grateful for a chance to hone my language. I want my yoga classes to be not only body positive, but trauma-sensitive as well, and I have a ton to learn when it comes to creating safer spaces for everyone.

Wisdom of the crowd

I asked a bunch of smart yoga teachers in the Beyond Duality: Yoga and Social Justice Facebook group for another way to cue this energetic action in the body and they had so many good ideas!

The standard cue that we hear in a lot of classes is “pull the navel toward the spine.” This sometimes does a good job of activating the transverse abdominals, but the “punch in the gut” cue that I used creates an abdominal brace which includes the obliques and the back and the legs even, rather than just sucking in the stomach which navel toward the spine often does.

I wanted to share the wisdom from that thread so we can hone our language together.

From Tiina Veer of Yoga For Round Bodies:

Hug your (inner) muscles in to the bones, all the way around — front, sides, back… of mid, upper and lower torso, including buttocks and pelvic floor. Include the inner line of your legs, hug your inner leg muscles in and up. Wrap yourself powerfully but softly. See if over time you can find that hugging-in action versus a clenching-in action.

From Aaron Friesen of Brave Sparrow:

I get folks imagining strings that connect from the iliac crest, diagonally across the belly to the low ribs, and then continuing around back to the shoulder above the hip. I tell them to imagine that when you pull on the string, everything attached to it will draw in slightly. Then I ask them to pull the string. Incidentally, I also find it help people with drawing their shoulders down and in into a more supportive position.

From Charlotte Easterling:

One of my teachers describes it as “zipping up your hoodie,” which I like.

Several folks mentioned a corset, or girdle, or Spanx, and there was a big discussion about those also being a different kind of triggering imagery. Onward…

From Tara Lazanis:

I’ve used corset before but not in the sense of changing shape more in the sensation of drawing inward. What I like to do is think of other places I can cue the body to gain the same shape or sensation, like draw your pelvis and lower ribs towards each other while keeping your shoulders blades moving back and down.

From Teo Drake:

So far in this list, I would feel most able to stay present and follow Tiina Veer’s language. Any reference to the types of gendered clothing mentioned is a struggle for many cisgender men and for transfolks like me.

The concept of wrapping muscles supportively is much more in line with what I am trying to help my body learn to do. “Bracing” for any onslaught isn’t going to help me stay present as easily.

From Lisa Vaughan-Meer of Brute Yogi

It’s the same sensation as sneezing, coughing, or bearing down to poop!

From Hala Khouri:

Lately this is what I do. First I break it down – I have folks connect to the transverse muscles by putting their hands on their hips and feeling the feedback in their fingers inside the front hip bones, then I cue belly to spine, and front ribs soften. Then I connect it with grounding the legs and expanding the collarbones. After the breakdown, I then just say, SUPERHERO POWERS ACTIVATE!

There are so many great cues in here. I’m grateful to my community for all the help on this one.

Now, I know there are a few of you out there who are probably thinking, “these people are overreacting or being too sensitive.” or “Why do we need trauma-sensitive yoga, anyway?”

I wanted to take a moment to share some of my reflections from the Yoga and Body Image Coalition event in Toronto, where I presented a few weeks ago. My biggest takeaway was from Jamilah, founder of Brown Girls Yoga.

Love harder.

The best answer to these questions about why we do social justice work is, we do this stuff so we can love harder. Love more. Lessen suffering.

If someone tells us that they were harmed by something – language we used, a barrier to entering a space (like stairs), a teaching style that didn’t adapt for their body, being touched without consent (a huge problem in yoga spaces perpetuated by teachers), not seeing themselves reflected in the population of a space – don’t we want to meet them halfway? Don’t you want to love harder? Don’t you want to love more? I know I do.

Lean into the discomfort

We can all examine our biases. They are there. I don’t care who you are or what you identify as. Biases and prejudice are baked into us from the time we come out of the womb.

Our job is to identify those biases, and when that uncomfortable feeling comes up, to lean into that discomfort. To poke at that. To be curious about it. To start to push it apart. This is the definition of compassionate self-study (svadhyaya if you want to use yoga-speak).

Our job is to catch it. As quick as we can. And every time I get called on my language or my privilege, if my reaction is to defend myself or roll my eyes (yep, still happens, all the time), I can catch it and challenge myself to love harder. We can all start to do that.

Once we discover those biases, we can lean boldly into them. We can use our privilege (however small it is) to raise up those on the margins. We can learn to allow for the possibility that someone else is having an experience different from our own. We can love harder. Love more. Listen more.

“Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of another person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose: to help him or her to empty his heart. Even if he says things that are full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness, you are still capable of continuing to listen with compassion. Because you know that listening like that, you give that person a chance to suffer less. If you want to help him to correct his perception, you wait for another time. For now, you don’t interrupt. You don’t argue. If you do, he loses his chance. You just listen with compassion and help him to suffer less. One hour like that can bring transformation and healing.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

Build your home yoga practice with these easy videos

Do you want the transformative power of yoga in your life?

Do you struggle to find time to practice at home?

Maybe you get on the mat and just have no idea what to do?

Perhaps you’re just bored with your normal asana routine and want to mix things up?

I created the Body Positive Yoga Home Practice Kit just for you.


Sara Seinberg on movement, the fallacy of willpower, and seeing the body as an opportunity

IMG_9791In today’s video interview, I’m pleased to introduce you to Sara Seinberg!

Sara is a Holistic Health Coach, a writer and an artist. Through a holistic approach she supports clients in their quests for health, wholeness, joy, and truth. Using nutrition as a starting point, clients team with Sara to tackle obstacles, face fears, and one day at a time, create new living patterns that topple years of blockage and hurdles.

In this interview, I talked with Sara about finding movement we love, the fallacy of willpower, seeing the body as an opportunity, and much more. Check it out:

Connect with Sara

You can find Sara around the internet at the following places:

Seinberg Health Coaching

Posts from Sara: Bad at Running: A Quiet Paradise | Willpower: The Big Bullshit Hoagie

The Lucky Devil Getaway – a retreat with Sara this fall!

Her custom seasonal restorations


I hope you were inspired by this interview! If you have any questions for Sara, stick ’em in the comments below.

Body Positive Yoga Interview series

If folks are doing work around yoga, body image, or radical self-acceptance, I want to talk to them! If there’s someone you’d like for me to interview, let me know in the comments – who would you like to hear from? What should I ask them?

J. Brown: the time he almost quit yoga, how yoga has changed, and the Slow Yoga Revolution

In today’s video interview, I’m pleased to introduce you to a yoga teacher I truly respect and have learned much from, J. Brown!

For more than fifteen years, J. Brown has been developing techniques to teach people how to practice yoga in a deeper and more fulfilling way.  He is also a well known writer, having been featured in Yoga Therapy Today, the International Journal of Yoga Therapy, Elephant Journal, and Yogadork

J. Brown
From J. Brown’s Yoga Video

I was really thrilled to be able to chat with J. In this interview, I talked with J about his yoga story, the time he almost quit yoga, how yoga has changed in the West, the Slow Yoga Revolution, and much more. Check it out:

Connect with J. Brown

You can find J around the internet at the following places:

Posts from J: Slow yoga revolution | Gentle is the new advanced

I hope you were inspired by this interview! If you have any questions for J, stick ’em in the comments below.

Body Positive Yoga Interview series

If folks are doing work around yoga, body image, or radical self-acceptance, I want to talk to them! If there’s someone you’d like for me to interview, let me know in the comments – who would you like to hear from? What should I ask them?


Modifications for Garudasana (eagle pose) in a larger body

If you are in a larger body, perhaps you’ve groaned with frustration when your yoga teacher announces that the next pose is garudasana (eagle pose). The wrapping and tucking thighs and arms just doesn’t happen for those of us with bigger thighs, arms, or chests!

I’ve got options for you! Here are 4 variations for the legs and 4 variations for the arms – see what feels best in your body and create your own eagle combination!

Let me know how those variations worked for you or if you have any questions!

Tell your yoga teacher about my Body Positive Yoga online teacher training course!

Do you have a yoga teacher in your life who you wish knew a little bit more about how to work with YOUR body, or make their class more body positive and Health At Every Size-friendly?

Fellow yoga teacher Dianne Bondy and I have created an online teacher training to help yoga teachers do just that!

Yoga For All: Creating Body Positive Yoga Classes for All Shapes, Sizes & Abilities


Class starts June 15 – please share this link with your yoga teacher or studio owner! (And if you’re a teacher, we’d love to have you join us and learn to expand your student base, and make your classes more welcoming for all!

Visit for complete details and to register!

Enrollment is now open: Yoga For All online training

Today is the day!

Registration is now open for the online training course, Yoga For All: Creating Body Positive Yoga Classes for All Shapes, Sizes & Abilities.

Yoga For All: Creating Body Positive Yoga Classes for All Shapes, Sizes & Abilities

This course is geared toward yoga teachers who would like to make their classes more accessible to all bodies, as well as students in non-typical bodies who’d like to take their practice back into their own hands.

Dianne Bondy and I have poured our heart and soul into this course and we can’t wait to have you be part of the Yoga For All movement.

Visit for complete details and to sign up now.

This course launches June 15 and space is limited, so don’t wait! 
We are so excited you’re part of the body positive movement to make Yoga For All!

Let the world know you’re body positive (grab a t-shirt)

Make a statement. Be visible. Spread the body-positive love. Support Body Positive Yoga’s mission to bring accessible yoga to all.

Thank you :)Body Positive Yoga has an amazing online community, and it’s about time I got to actually meet y’all!

This summer and fall, and on into 2016, I am planning a road trip around the U.S. and Canada to teach, hang out, and spread body positive, accessible yoga to everyone who can stand me!

I’m launching a t-shirt campaign to fund my travel.

Proceeds from t-shirt sales will go to fund travel costs for my fall workshops in Auburn, Toronto and Chicago, as well as a 2016 road trip! Plus, you get a badass shirt to decorate that gorgeous body of yours!

There are four designs to choose from:

Click on the links above to see color and sizing information. Shirts will ship directly to you and should arrive around June 12.

Thank you so much for all the support! I can’t wait to see y’all sporting these awesome shirts!

Ragen Chastain on being a fat athlete, IRONMAN training, and using the body you have today

Ragen Chastain - Ragen is pictured in a dance pose against a white backdrop. She is caucasian, fat, with long dark wavy hair and a determined look on her face. She balances on her right foot, while she stretches her left foot high, up near her head, and holds it with her left hand. Her right hand is gracefully reaching up and away from her toward the right.In today’s video interview, I’m pleased to introduce you to Ragen Chastain! Ragen has been a huge inspiration to me for years and her activism work around size acceptance and fat discrimination are so impactful and absolutely necessary.

Ragen is a trained researcher, three-time National Champion dancer and marathoner who writes and speaks full-time about self-esteem, body image, and health. Ragen is the author of the blog DancesWithFat and the book Fat: The Owner’s Manual, and her writing has been published in forums including the Huffington Post, Calgary Herald, and The She has been a guest on programs including Fox News, Alberta Primetime, HuffPost Live, NPR, BBC, and NBC News, and has been featured as an expert in media including The Associated Press, Bloomberg Businessweek, FITNESS, and the Chicago Tribune. She is the editor of the multi-volume anthology The Politics of Size – Perspectives from the Fat Acceptance Movement, due out for Praeger in 2015.

In this interview, I talked with Ragen about being a fat athlete, IRONMAN training, using the body you have today, and much more. Check it out:

Connect with Ragen

You can find Ragen around the internet at the following places:

Dances With Fat – Ragen’s excellent blog, full of resources on size acceptance, fat activism, and Health At Every Size. You can also support Ragen’s activism and become a contributing member to her blog.

IronFat – where you can follow Ragen’s IRONMAN training

The Fit Fatties Forum and Fit Fatties Facebook page – where anyone, of any size can discuss fitness from a weight-neutral, Health at Every Size perspective

Buy Ragen’s book and dance DVDs

Join the Dances With Fat newsletter list

Facebook | Twitter

I hope you were inspired by this interview! If you have any questions for Ragen, stick ’em in the comments below.

Body Positive Yoga Interview series

If folks are doing work around yoga, body image, or radical self-acceptance, I want to talk to them! If there’s someone you’d like for me to interview, let me know in the comments – who would you like to hear from? What should I ask them?