How often do you see overweight women being portrayed positively? How often do you see a display of diverse shapes and sizes, of women who are happy, relaxed and confident?
Unfortunately, it’s pretty rare. Happily, however, we have amazing people like Elizabeth Patch leading the way, showing women in positive, healthy and gorgeous ways.
Elizabeth is a full-time high school art teacher. She’s also the author and artist of More to Love, a beautiful book of illustrations that features uplifting and inspiring messages about body diversity and self-acceptance.
I absolutely love these illustrations. Every time I see one, and read Elizabeth’s eloquent words, I can’t help but smile and feel better about myself. Elizabeth’s work celebrates the female form in all her glory and reminds us that we’re all beautiful. Her work also reminds us to enjoy life and take great care of ourselves, to focus on being healthy and happy, and to respect ourselves and others.
For all these reasons and more, I’m so excited to present part one of my interview with Elizabeth today. Below, we talked about everything from her stunning work to how she learned to nourish herself.
Without further ado, here’s the interview. And be sure to come back on Monday for part two!
What inspired you to create your book More to Love?
More to Love resulted from a combination of several things. As an artist, my favorite subject has always been the human figure. As a high school teacher, I’ve watched hundreds of girls suffer with poor body image and eating disorders. And as a woman, I’ve dealt with the same issues as my students. The idea for an illustrated book evolved from sketches and journal entries dated from the late 1990s, shortly after one of my students died from complications related to anorexia. But the actual book itself evolved over a very long period of time, and has gone through many changes. And I still keep thinking of ways to change it and add to it.
How did the idea for your stunning illustrations come about?
I’ve read a ton of self-help books and dozens of books on body image and size acceptance. I’ve read most of the stories about recovering from eating disorders or growing up large in a thin-centric world. Most of these books are very helpful, and all of them have a place in the healing process. But many are also quite serious and “heavy.” Sometimes you just don’t feel like looking at a bunch of statistics and footnotes, or doing another visualization technique, making a list, or reading about another person’s dark experiences, especially if you are going through a tough time with any of those issues.
I wanted to create something fun, visually appealing and inspirational. As a teacher, I saw a need for a quick “pick-me-up” when you are feeling down about your body, but not in the mood for anything serious. Illustrations, in a whimsical style, seemed the best way to do this.
I experimented with several different illustration styles over the years, from purely traditional media (pencil and colored pencil) to purely digital. I eventually settled on a combination of the two. The illustrations start from messy pencil drawings that I trace several times as I work out the details. I scan the drawings (sometimes one illustration is a combination of several drawings) and then add color with a digital painting program. And yes, I do draw from models!
What messages do you strive to send with your artwork?
Some simple, common sense truths that we all already know: Normal, healthy, attractive, smart, fun, sexy, sassy women come in all shapes and sizes. You can put your life on hold until the magical day when you become “perfect,” or you can choose to lead an amazing life, starting right now.
Even if that magical skinny day never comes, you can still eat well, take care of your body, dress nicely, be fit, have a career, fall in love, follow your dreams, pamper yourself, go on adventures and yes, even like yourself! The greatest accomplishment in life isn’t fitting into the smallest jeans possible. Experiences are what make a wonderful life, not what size you wear. Be as kind to yourself as you would be to your very best friend. And even Goddesses have cellulite!
Throughout your life, you’ve dieted, had a poor body image and struggled with an eating disorder. On your website, you write, “Gradually, ever so gradually, I began to relax, re-examine, and reflect on what was important in my life. I re-learned to eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full.” How did you do these things specifically like dropping the diet mentality, learning to eat intuitively and gaining self-acceptance?
It seems so odd to have to re-learn to eat, doesn’t it? But replacing binge/starve patterns with real food at regular mealtimes didn’t really happen until I became a single mom, and I wanted to provide my little family with the “old-fashioned” experience and habits of healthy, home-cooked meals. Being responsible for the “care & feeding” of my children made it easier to care for and feed myself! Of course, this was a long process that did not happen overnight … For health reasons, I avoid processed junk food, and foods that “disagree” with me, but otherwise I enjoy all the “pleasures of the table.”
I recently wrote a post about the negative voice, that voice that tells you you’re fat, you aren’t good enough, you shouldn’t eat that, you should diet. Do you still hear that voice? How do you work toward silencing it?
Oh yes, I still look in the mirror and occasionally think, “I’m fat”! Not very often, but it still happens when I’m comparing myself to someone else, or what I “used to look like.” The minute I notice that I’m doing this, I do something silly, like call myself a cute name (hey doll-face!) or blow kisses at the mirror, anything to break the monotonously boring poor-little-ugly-me voice from taking over!
When I become frustrated by something that just doesn’t fit well, I have learned to switch from “Do I look fat in this?” to “Do I look good in this?” and that leaves weight out of it completely. I donate anything that is too small, too tight or just not flattering. No need to have things that bring out that negative voice!
I greatly appreciate Elizabeth sharing her work and wise — and inspiring — words! Thanks so much, Elizabeth! Stay tuned for part two of our interview on Monday.
Have a wonderful weekend!
What do you think — and how do you feel — when you see the illustration on this post? I’d also love to hear your thoughts on our interview.