An awesome body positive gathering on Sunday 4 February.
This morning we began with a lively singalong to Gloria Gaynor's inspiring anthem, 'I Am What I Am', followed by One Direction's 'You Don't Know You're Beautiful'. Musical preferences aside, the songs fit well with the assembly’s theme, ‘Love the Skin You’re In’.
SA co-founder Pippa Evans kicks off the first London gathering of loved-up February by asking the audience to turn to the person next to them and tell their life story in one minute. The way you describe yourself in such a short time is very revealing. In trying to sum myself up, I tell a complete stranger that I 'failed at being a journalist'.
Next, guest poet Mr Gee illustrates "the uncomfortable relationship we have with ourselves" with a poem called 'Beauty and the Beast'. In a flowing, funny rant inspired by time spent in Los Angeles, Gee admits that physically, the grass will always seem greener on the other side.
Warmed up to the tricky subject matter of self-love, we cheer pink-haired body positivity advocate Megan Crabbe to the stage.
January, she begins, is a time of year where we are encouraged to see ourselves, and our bodies, as 'projects'. But this self-improvement mindset doesn’t just involve depriving ourselves of chocolate biscuits. We can also put off any number off life events waiting until we reach the 'right' size, look, or shape.
We increasingly seem to feel, Megan continues, that we are unworthy of living our lives the way we are now. Who decided that we aren't allowed to like our bodies? She only asked herself this after years of dieting, hunger, and disliking her figure.
Megan found that the modern diet industry is fuelled by never accepting ourselves as we are.
"I hit on the realisation, that I had been taught to hate my body for profit."
As an alternative, she suggests making our lives our projects. Instead of worrying about how we look, focus on how we treat people, what we create, and what we do. Never put off what you want because you don’t feel good enough. We have always been good enough.
Leaving to huge applause, she is followed by Harri Rose, who has spoken to the London Assembly before. Harri began Weight Watchers at 13 years old, and developed an eating disorder that consumed her adolescence. The punishing years she spent dieting also resulted in her eating Quark... she still doesn’t know what Quark is.
Today Harri is a body acceptance coach. “Self-love can come across as arrogant,” she explains. But although it has been a long, hard struggle, she can now say to a room of over 300 people that she truly loves herself. It doesn’t feel shameful to do so.
Pippa brings the Assembly to a close by inviting us all to repeat the words of the great Ru Paul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love anybody else?”
Megan Crabbe tweets as @bodyposipanda. She has just completed a book, Body Positive Power, if you are interested in exploring the history of the diet industry further.
Images by: Joe Lindsay