I recently spoke at the Environmental Awards in Irwindale. My speech was called No BODY Left Behind–Workplace Wellness for All. I talked about workplace wellness in terms of four “i-opening” words–information, incentive, invitation and inspiration. I must give credit where it is due. Jon Robison and Rosie Ward and their fabulous new book “How to Build a Thriving Culture at Work” helped to transform my thinking.
I shared a lot about what I thought was working and wasn’t working in workplace wellness. I talked about how many wellness programs feel unfair because they ARE unfair. They reward the already privileged in a way that is subsidized by the less privileged. They only accommodate the needs of the folks that are in least need of the program. They use shame and peer pressure to try to shove employees into a single vision of “health” which is largely driven by media-fueled unrealistic expectations and the personal bias of the program creators and managers. They could be inviting. They could be inclusive. They could make every BODY feel welcome. But they usually don’t. And they often end up causing more problems than they solve.
I think I did a good job at the talk. But it was weird. As a speaker, I mostly give upbeat, Rah-Rah, body positive and funny speeches. And this kind of speech is instantly rewarded. People watching and hearing the speech cheer and laugh and clap. People smile and have a good time. It’s a pretty strong, emotionally positive feedback loop. And I usually leave the stage feeling awesome.
This talk was different. People were paying attention. But people were thoughtful. Listening carefully. Letting my words sink in. This talk was serious. I had a positive takeaway. There are ways we can do this better. But this speech was not fun and it was not funny.
And as I walked off the stage, I wondered. “Did I do okay? Did I get through. Did people hate it. Did they learn something?” I felt very insecure. Sure, there was applause at the end, but no positive, laughing, feel-good feedback loop.
I always feel a little unsure when I release my need to entertain–to be funny–to be jolly. But I’m always kind of amazed at the response when I do. As I sat back at my table a woman immediately asked for my card. Not because she wanted me to do a fun and jolly speech at her workplace (a local college). But because her school has implemented a wellness program modeled after The Biggest Loser television show. And my talk made her think that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea. I’m hoping to speak with her soon. So I could see a very positive result from straying outside of my comfort zone.
And this was a good reminder. Being upbeat and positive and funny are great tools. They are some of the colors with which I can paint. But when communicating with others about size acceptance and body positivity and social justice for people of all sizes, it behooves me to use ALL the tools at my disposal and all the crayons in the box–even those that aren’t my normal favorites or the most comfortable ones to use.
Which leads me to this point. I’d like to straight up invite you to attend the Fat Activism Conference. Some of the people there will be taking a “fun and funny” approach to fat activism. Some will be serious. Some of the testimony may be full of pain and not so much fun to hear. Some of it will be LOLROTF funny. But what the conference allows you to do is hear a variety of voices coming from a wide range of perspectives all speaking on the topic of making the world better, safer and more inclusive for people of all sizes. And frankly, today is the last day you’ll be able to get the lowest possible price to attend the conference. Our super earlybird pricing ends tonight. So if you’re up for hearing all different kinds of voices sharing using all the tools at their disposal and all the crayons in the box, while sharing ways to make the world better for Every BODY why not register now?