By Kayla Sosa | Photography by Jess Weal
The Better Body Image Conference, which takes on Saturday, March 2, on the second floor of the Grand Valley State University Eberhard Center, welcomes Grand Rapids residents for an afternoon of supportive dialogue and stimulating programming.
Conference founders Bri Luginbill and Connie Flachs met in 2017 and, realizing they had similar interests and goals around body image work. Body image is how a person views their own body, and other people’s bodies, and how it affects their lives. This can range from negative self-talk and eating disorders to depression and anxiety. The conversation around body image also includes how our society views bodies, and in that, race and gender.
“A lot of body shame comes from isolation, so it was so important for us to create a community,” Flachs expressed. “There are great online communities out there, and [we wanted] to create one that actually exists in Grand Rapids.”
The first body image conference was held in March 2018 at Wealthy Theatre and attracted nearly one hundred attendees who gathered to watch a film, attend workshops, hear from speakers and even participate in a yoga class.
In the course of a year, Luginbill and Flachs established the conference as a nonprofit and set up an advisory board.
“We have four other women, and they all range in body sizes, so we really increased the size representation in who is organizing,” Flachs said.
Luginbill and Flachs stressed that the conference is about providing a space for attendees to connect and support each other.
“It’s about being that connector and giving a voice to people who don’t have that opportunity, ” Luginbill expressed. “It’s about educating ourselves as well as others about different perspectives and upbringings. Everyone experiences their own body image journey differently and we need to have those conversations in a safe, inclusive environment.”
This year’s conference begins with a social hour and includes workshops and a final movement practice. The keynote speaker is Dianne Bondy, renowned yoga teacher and activist, who will explore the pros and cons of the body positive movement. Workshops will also expand to talk about disability, ethnicity and LGBTQ+ body image.
Flachs emphasizes that body-positivity is more than just feeling good about how you look.
“It’s really a public health issue,” Flachs said.
Partners for the conference include the Michigan Eating Disorder Association and Partners for a Racism-Free Society.
- What: The Better Body Image Conference
- When: Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m — 4 p.m.
- Where: Grand Valley State University Eberhard Center
- Cost: $40