Jill Andrew is one of the co-founders of Body Confidence Canada, which produces an annual awards show each year, The Body Confidence Canada Awards. As part of the fundraising effort for those awards, she’s helping to host the Body Love Ball, coming up at The 519 (519 Church St) on December 2nd. 

We chatted with Jill about lovin’ one’s bod, and how to get there if you don’t. 

SDTC: What does body love mean to you?

JA: Body love for me changes over time according to what’s going on in my life. Last year I had a major health scare. I live with chronic health issues so appreciating my body and having the strength and desire to still claim my body is huge for me. It’s not easy keeping your self concept intact when you’re constantly being reviewed, evaluated, poked and prodded by medical professionals.

Overall, body love means my ability to sincerely have love for my body even at times when I hate it or feel disappointed in it…or even feel scared or judged in it. For me, body love is recognizing the continuum of feelings I’ve got for my body and knowing that all are valid. It means taking care of my body, investing in self-care, which is often a consistent negotiation for me. Recognizing the value self-care has for me primarily allows me to focus on all the other amazing things I prioritize in my life and communities I occupy.

Why is it so important to recognize and celebrate all body types?

It’s important to celebrate body diversity, especially bodies that are most prone to discrimination and/or harassment because of their marginality. This includes size but surely isn’t limited to that. It also includes different raced, gendered, sexed, aged, classed, and disabled bodies…the spectrum of embodiment.

When we celebrate our diverse bodies, we are occupying space that is rightfully ours. When we demand access to places, resources, products and services that recognize our diverse bodies and acknowledge the social justice, human rights and economic benefits of celebrating diversity, we are creating more space not just for our own bodies but for others’.

How has your relationship to your own body evolved over time?

As I’ve stopped taking my body for granted, I’ve begun to develop a deeper relationship with my body. I’ve also become more critical of recognizing who I let into my space – whether it be a friend, acquaintance, colleague. These things matter to how I, and I believe all of us, feel about our bodies over time. I surround myself with close-circle people I feel genuinely care about me and my well-being.

Unlike TV shows that pit us (often women) against each other, or make it seem like women can’t have “healthy” relationships with one another, I try to keep my body free from unhealthy relationships. It doesn’t mean conflict is a bad thing; it’s actually a good thing if you handle it correctly. But it does mean that I’m selective. The maturing of my body relationship also means that I’m not as ashamed about admitting that I don’t like something (or that I do) simply because I’m a feminist or a part of the body-positive movement. I don’t abide by any movement rules. I make my own. 

What would you say to someone who is struggling to accept and celebrate their own body?

BE PATIENT! Don’t rush the process. Do it on your terms and it’s not all or nothing. It’s also not a linear journey. We all start and stop at different places. Not liking a part or your entire body on one day or in one time or space doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It doesn’t mean you can’t still love yourself, too.

I’d also suggest that the top 10 self-help tips – while they can provide some topical support or direction – aren’t the gospel. You don’t have to feel that your answer is in some store window, bookshelf or in a bottle. Social media: enjoy it, be inspired by it, but also recognize that more than half of what we see isn’t always the full story. What seems perfect – whether we are talking bodies or lifestyle “trappings” of online happiness– isn’t always as it seems. My biggest advice is to be mindful of who you surround yourself with and to know when to say NO to people (or yourself!) for your body’s care.

What can we expect at the Body Love Ball? What do you hope guests will take away?

Oh man! We’re hoping people will have fun! There will be body-positive feminist art installation, singers, speakers, a pianist – for goodness sakes – photo booths and a dance floor that won’t quit till 1 a.m.! And who knows, everyone might get a car! (Just kidding – old Oprah reference). There will be CANDY! Lots of community building we hope, and certainly the takeaway message needs to be that we have got to support each other. Especially those of us who experienced particular intersectional forms of body harassment and appearance-based discrimination at a higher rate than others.

Also those who canNOT attend will know that their purchase of a Solidarity Ticket HAS made it possible for someone who needs support to attend.

Get your tix here.