Amy is a full time nanny from Nashville, TN & enjoys reading, dancing, hiking, traveling, being a plant mom and finding joy in simple things. Amy reminds us that societal norms do not have to be followed to be happy, acceptable and loved. We can find our own paths toward a more loving approach to ourselves & our bodies.
What was your relationship to the outdoors when you were a kid? What’s it like now?
I would do almost anything to stay indoors. As a fat kid, I didn’t feel like I fit in with any outdoor activities and I hated being hot. Now, nature is one of my favorite places to be when I need to think or connect or process. I wonder how that would have helped me as a kid if I’d made that connection.
How did you feel about your body as a kid? How do you feel about it now?
I wasn’t very verbal about hating my body, but I expressed that my body was unacceptable by continually dieting (as early as 4th grade) and not doing things I really wanted to do, like cheer or join the dance team. I thought that my fatness was what held me back from everything that I wanted and if I could just get skinny, everything would fall into place. I now recognize that our culture’s beauty and health standards are biased and often unrealistic. I see my body as a vehicle to do all the things I want to do rather than an ornament or representation of my worth.
Healing body hate takes a really long time. When I first started trying to view my body as a whole and not pieces to love or hate, it seemed like an impossible task. Even on days when I don’t feel really positive about my body I try to focus on body neutrality and recognize that “bad body days” usually aren’t about my body or weight but about something else. For example, I haven’t weighed myself for over a year because I don’t think it’s an accurate measure of health and it’s too tempting to slip into an old mindset of my worth being attached to a number, but several months ago I found myself really wanting to weigh myself. It took me a while but I finally realized it wasn’t really about my body at all. I had started online dating and was feeling insecure and vulnerable and subconsciously I was still connecting my value to a number on a scale.
Do you identify as fat? How do you feel about the word fat?
I remember being scandalized by people calling themselves fat when I first entered the world of body positivity. I do identify as fat but am mindful about calling myself or others fat in circles that don’t understand that it isn’t being used in a derogatory way but in a descriptive way. There is power in redeeming a word that has so often been used to harm. There’s freedom in saying I’m fat instead of skirting around it with I’m heavy, or overweight. It’s like I thought that if I didn’t call myself fat no one would know that I was.
How has religion played a role in your relationship to loving yourself/self care?
Interestingly, the role of religion in my life has shifted dramatically in the last year. I started hiking and learning about body acceptance around the same time I was going through a major deconstruction of my faith. My entire life I had based my inherent worth on my relationship to God and whether or not I was participating in that relationship well. That way of viewing the world was very black and white and having an external authority on every issue quieted my own inner knowing. As all of those constructs started to fall away, hiking and being in nature really helped me feel connected to something larger even if I didn’t exactly know how to define that “something larger” anymore. Today, self care looks more like honoring my intuition, taking time to immerse myself in beauty, seeing body movement as medicine, both mental and physical, and allowing myself space to explore and ask questions.
What sort of mental process do you go through when you hike?
I have my best thoughts and revelations on the trail. Something about the steady cadence of one foot in front of the other creates the perfect space in my brain for problems to unwind and wisdom to be restored. I actually have my best internal talk on the trail. “You’ve got this, Amy. You can stop anytime you want. You don’t have to hurry; you can be here all day. Wow, look what you did! Look what you get to see!” There is definitely a connection between physical movement and mental movement. When I feel mentally stuck, and few hours on a trail will usually unstick me.
Is it important to feel represented in outdoor media?
It is important. We are surrounded by so many images and most of them telling us how we should be different or better. One of the first things I did when I began learning about body positivity was to diversify my news feed. I was shocked to see how quickly my brain changed from being shocked at considering larger bodies beautiful to being more shocked when I saw images I used to consider average or normal.
Do you think hiking offers you a more positive or loving approach to your body?
Yes! I love that on the trail there are no mirrors. It’s the only place I’m not thinking about my belly and if I should suck it in or pull my shirt down. On the trail my body is literally the vehicle to breathtaking vista views and surreal waterfalls. Hiking has helped me learn to listen to my body, when I need rest, when I need fuel, when I have it in me to go on. The best part is that after awhile, that spills over into non-hiking life and I’m able to better care for myself in all areas.