Lessons from the Garden: Beauty grows in countless forms
I know Mondays typically feature tips for improving body image, but I wanted to continue with part two of my interview with author and artist Elizabeth Patch. Elizabeth’s work and words serve as the perfect inspiration for improving our entire self-image.
Her book More to Love features beautiful illustrations of happy, confident, vibrant women, along with uplifting messages. Elizabeth’s work is powerful in a playful, joyful way (as one reader described it).
It reminds us that, like the title of this post declares (and as Elizabeth talks about below), we can be happy and healthy at every size. And I think that goes hand-in-hand with developing a more positive view of ourselves and life in general.
I hope you enjoy part two of our interview. If you didn’t get a chance to read part one, you can do that here.
You’ve been a teacher for 20 years now (wow, by the way! You must be very patient 🙂). Does it seem like talk about dieting and weight loss has become more common throughout the years? Do you talk to your students about self-acceptance?
I thought it was bad enough when I was growing up, but at least I had a period of innocent childhood where I was a carefree girl, and ran around happily unaware of what I looked like. Girls today start to worry about their looks and their weight even in the first grade!
By the time girls reach high school, some are just crippled by the cultural pressure to be stylish, sexy and super-thin. It’s heart-breaking to watch these beautiful young women wasting their precious youth obsessing about diets, and hating their own bodies. I don’t make self-acceptance an actual lesson, but I stop “fat talk” whenever I hear it, and I use “teachable moments” to redirect conversations into a more positive direction. Getting the students to accomplish something, rather than focus on their bodies, is one of the best ways to build self- confidence.
You’re an advocate of Health at Every Size. What do you like particularly about this movement and how has it affected you personally?
There are many, many things that define health; a focus on BMI (body mass index) is one very limited measurement. I know that personally, I was at my unhealthiest when I was also my thinnest. Personally, I love the idea that exercise (movement!) should be appropriate and enjoyable, which doesn’t mean everyone should be trying to get 6-pack abs or run a marathon, neither of which is realistic for me. I can take walks, garden, do some yoga, and generally be active without feeling like I need to “whip myself into shape.”
Your motto is also “Happiness At Every Size,” which I absolutely love. What kinds of reactions or misconceptions have you run into when you talk about being happy and healthy at every size?
The most common misconception, and I need to be patient with this, is that the concept of health and happiness at every size encourages obesity, which is far from the truth. I encourage positive body image and size acceptance for everyone, and promote leading the most positive life possible.
Whatever size we wear, and whatever life circumstances we have, we can all make positive choices to lead a more balanced, healthier, happier life. We can all learn to accept our “flaws” and lead a wonderful life anyway. I know someone who turned down a romantic trip to Hawaii because she thought she was too fat, and she has never forgiven herself!
People always react to my size when they meet me (but you’re not fat!). Every one of us (yes, even skinny girls) have been affected by our culture’s obsession with Thin! Thinner! Thinnest! Negative body image is nearly universal among women (and sadly among teens and girls, too). Think of all we could accomplish if we could learn to accept, honor and love our one-and-only bodies, at every size and stage of life!
What’s one or two of your favorite illustrations? How come?
That’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite children! However, I’m very fond of the woman standing in her garden, surrounded by flowers of all shapes, colors and sizes. She was the very first one that I finished in the style I now illustrate in, so of course, she has a place in my heart.
[Margarita: That’s the stunning image above that accompanies this post.]
Anything else you’d like Weightless readers to know about your work, self-acceptance, health at every size or a related topic?
Many people have asked about my next book, art prints, and stuff for kids. I have sketchbooks and journals full of ideas, and am always waking up in the middle of the night with something to add to the list! However, all of my writing, illustrating and blogging are done at nights, on weekends, on vacations and whenever I can squeeze in a few free moments. (I am a mother to a big, blended family, and have a full-time teaching job).
I am slowly making progress on a new illustrated book, and have some other projects that I hope to have out by the end of the summer. In the meantime, I am committed to sharing illustrations, sketches, and thoughts on my weekly blog posts. I love getting feedback on my art and writing, so please leave a comment on my blog, talk to me on my FaceBook page, or on Twitter.
Thank you so much, Elizabeth, for creating such positive, beautiful images of women and for spreading the important message of self-acceptance, self-care and an appreciation and respect for body diversity.
Again, I’m honored to share Elizabeth’s work with Weightless readers!
What do you think of health and happiness at every size? How do you work on building your self-confidence?