The 1st episode of Curves in Asia Body talk was on air on Friday 15th Oct, 2016. It is an absolute honour for me to be with RTHK 3 to talk about body positivity, a topic Hong Kong has rarely tapped into!
Our first guest of the show is Michelle Elman of Mindset for Life Ltd.
Michelle is a remarkable strong woman. She has experienced 15 surgeries since she was born; not only she had to go through having serious sickness since a young age, she also has to learn to live with the scars that came with the unfortunate events in her life.
But her scars do not define who she is, her inspirational spirit does!
Michelle holds a psychology degree and is qualified as a Master Neuro-linguistic programming (NPL) Practitioner and Master NLP Coach.
Nowadays Michelle shares her story to the world aiming to inspire people to love the body they are in. She has also set up her company Mindset for Life Ltd. as a body confidence coach so she can help people that are struggling with body image, to rebuild their confidence again.
Body Talk 1st Episode content
During the show, we talked about Michelle’s experience of her life bearing scars, how body image affected her childhood and the liberating moment when she first wore a bikini to advocate for body positivity. Since then, Michelle started the #scarrednotscared campaign in hope to normalise scars on bodies and to and remove the fear from our society.
(Watch her campaign and her story here being published in the dailymail.co.uk)
We have also talked about the stigma that is ingrained in our society about fat bodies, fatphobia, as some of the things women has to endure at all times and the difference of being plus size in Asia and in the west.
There are a few highlights I would like to sum up about our talk,
- Having scars on our body is not abnormal and it is nothing to be ashamed of
- We need to raise awareness in the society that the perfect images on TV and magazines do not reflect the reality
- Why we think that people criticise on fat bodies and what we can do to help raise awareness about Health at every size
- The parenting method that could help build confidence in our children and what we can educate them about body image issue
Listen to our show here <3
What really is Body Positivity (Bopo)?
Apart from what we talked about during the show, I feel that we have more to explore when it comes to body positivity, and so I have asked Michelle some more questions on the topic for this blog post.
Bertha: I know your body confidence campaign tapped on many different subjects on body image and you are an active body positive activist, do you feel that the world view is changing and what we can do in daily life to help advocate it?
Michelle: I do believe the world is changing. Body positivity is something which most people hadn’t even heard a decade ago – me included.
So I do believe there has been growth and development. That being said, we still have more work to do and on an individual basis, the way to start is being sensitive about your language and inclusive in your actions. I also believe that if you begin with your own self love journey, you are adding to the body positive movement.
Bertha: Things about Bopo are said so many times but there is still not a encyclopaedia to explaining these terms to people, do you think the way Bopo warriors provoke is making the idea being perceived better or worse?
Michelle: I agree. Everyone has different definitions for body positivity and self love. The terms and the definitions seem to shift from person to person and that’s what makes it even more confusing.
This is why I always clarify how I define words before using them. For example, you shouldn’t call a person fat unless you know the person uses it in an empowering way.
This is a trigger word for so many because this was the word that was often used when they were bullied so it’s important to be sensitive to that instead of plowing through regardless with your own agenda.
Bertha: We see comments online everyday on posts of bopo and I see so many people misinterpreted the idea and say bopo is not positive, “It’s actually just lazy people’s excuses to not work hard on their own body, if they work hard they will not be fat anymore”
So What would be your answer to simplistically explain bopo to people who has this opinion?
Michelle: People often think that body positivity is for fat people. It isn’t. Body positivity isn’t solely about weight.
My page is a body positive page and for the most part we discuss scars. People who use those terms believe that being fat is a problem that needs to be fixed and therefore imply that you are a person requires fixing. This is so abhorrently wrong. We need to unravel the associations that are so often tied to being fat. Fat does not mean lazy, fat simply means fat. I personally also laugh at the people who think that by shaming me they are helping me improve my health. How about my mental health? It is counter-intuitive and in my case, deeply ironic because my weight gain only started after I was hospitalised for 3 months for reasons completely unrelated to my health.
Bertha: Is it only body images that we are trying to do justice for, when it comes to body positivity?
Michelle: No, body positivity is for everyone, fat, skinny, tall or short. Body positivity isn’t just for different sizes but completely different bodies, skin tones and abilities as well.
Bertha: Do you reference weight with the BMI chart at all? Why? Do you agree or not agree that people falls into the morbidly obese category shouldn’t worry about their health because of fat positivity?
No I don’t. I actually believe this is where eating disorders stem from. According to my BMI, I am morbidly obese, I have been categorised that way since I was 12 years old. What I didn’t realise when I was 12 years old is that I am and have always been very muscular and only when those scales that show you your muscle mass came out, did I discover this. More importantly, I have metal, plastic, and scar tissue in my body from 15 surgeries – a BMI scale cannot ever account for that yet doctors would warn me about my weight, without understanding my full medical history. These doctors were relying on a tool and being completely blinded by it because right in front of them was a 12 year old girl who wore UK size 12. I was a perfectly healthy size but was told I needed to lose weight because of a warped tool that didn’t take into account the individual.
Bertha: We don’t generally see people that are morbidly obese in Asian, due to our lifestyle in general and the confine space there is living in the city. Do you think that the Asian body shaming culture is preventing us to become morbidly obese? do we find any good in bad at all?
Michelle: I agree that we don’t generally see morbidly obese people in China but just because they aren’t being seen, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I believe the disparity is due to the differences in our diets, americans tend to have larger portion sizes than both British and asian people. I do not think this connection has anything to do with body shaming because I have never met an individual who has lost weight long term due to body shaming. People do not lose weight because of shame, they lose weight because of their own personal choice.
Bertha: How do you see fat acceptance and fat positivity different than bopo and body acceptance?
Michelle: Body positivity was born out of the fat acceptance movement but over the years we have seen body positivity being used as a platform to propel companies and convey the perception that their company is in touch with younger generations. I believe they are the same movement with the same cause. Most people would disagree because most people who are “using” the body positivity movement include caveats about health. They will say phrases like “You can be whatever size you like, as long as you are healthy”. It is important to me that this doesn’t happen because these phrases imply that you need to be healthy in order to be worthy as a human being. As a person who has suffered with her health, I do not believe I am any less worthy if I am healthy and if I am not. How the word healthy is being used by those people implies that it is a choice… My 15 surgeries prove otherwise.
If you would like to learn more about body positivity, check out the related post below!