BEAUTY, BODY & BLISS
by Meghan Ochs
Photos by John Devine
The female body is breathtaking. While its beauty has ornamental appeal, this is not its true purpose. Those whose eyes fail to see true depth and meaning see it only as such. The female body has curves, angles, contour, and power well beyond its ability to turn heads. More importantly, beyond its physical beauty, the body is a machine. Despite its enormous potential, many of us waste our bodies. We value them only for their ornamental application. We misuse and abuse them. We neglect them. Perhaps, worst of all, we shame them.
Ornaments are for aesthetics and machines are for function. As a machine, the human body functions unlike any other. With use, and especially overuse, most machines breakdown and need repair. The human body is better, though. The more the body is used, the stronger and healthier it gets. The human body machine is built for movement. Stagnation is as bad for the body as it is for the mind. It can perform on many levels, complete many complicated athletic movements, and execute a variety of skills. Few, if any, other machines have as many uses, capabilities, and limitless potential.
Similar to any other machine, the body needs all of its components working synergistically. If one system fails, it impacts others. While each human body has the same framework, each is built slightly different in its natural shape, size, height, and weight. With proper use and treatment, the body reaches its own level of optimum health. What is right for one, may be slightly different for another. Each is uniquely different, making the human body machine that much more reverent.
The human experience though, is not just limited to the physical body. We are not our bodies, but they are a part of us. They carry us through life, but we steer the ship. Through them, we can enjoy life’s experiences. While they can break and bend, they can also mend and heal. They also create and give life. When we both fully embrace and challenge our physical abilities the pleasure is reflected in our enjoyment and appreciation of life’s full potential.
Below are our bodies, and more importantly, our stories. While we have ornamental appeal, our measure exceeds that. Our worth is measured in how we see the world and how we function in it. We are physical women with confidence. Our personalities, talents, and machines are all different, but each are used to the best that we know how. We are real women, with curves, shapes, and lines; living our everyday lives in our real bodies. We are imperfectly perfect. Our bodies are full of both features and flaws. We are many things, but more than anything else, we are proudly ourselves. We are Bliss Body Positive.
Amy Burkett, 41, Co-Owner Soul Space, Personal Trainer & Massage Therapist.
Amy Burkett lives, breathes and dies body positivity. “I live my life doing everything I can to promote body positivity.” Meeting Amy, it's easy to grasp that she is not only a strong and gorgeous woman, but she is physically and emotionally confident. It seems apparent that Amy’s self-worth has come with experience and time. Experiences that can often be seen as negative have turned into opportunities for Amy; manifesting themselves into self-growth, which seeps out in both her personality and poise. At her fitness studio, her life revolves around the body. “We get to motivate all shapes and sizes to be their best. When their hard work pays off, their face lights up. It fills my cup!” As an active woman, Amy realizes the full capacity of the body. “What a gift we live in!” She firmly believes that daily movement will help you keep a positive outlook and allow you to appreciate what your body does for you. Personally, Amy’s body does a lot: she runs, spins, and lifts weights. She is also a proud mother. “Just when I think I have pushed too far, it pushes me through the next day.” Proper tender love and care keeps her going and helps gauge her capacity. “I know what I am working toward daily and that is true happiness in my own skin. Bad days don’t stick around forever, so I ride out the wave. I constantly send love and gratitude to my body through affirmations, or pep talks. It matters. It resonates. I know I am worth it. My body is worth it.” Amy will keep following her own path to be positive in mind and body; hopefully, others follow her lead.
Morgan Dawn, 29, Yoga Teacher and Personal Trainer
Upon meeting Morgan, one is likely to recognize all of the positive traits of almost every wonderful yoga teacher. She exudes a subtle confidence, calmness, and positivity that resonates in the way she carries herself and her body. Her occupation helps Morgan understand the mind/body connection. “When I’m dedicated and focused in my life, that’s reflected in my physical appearance and the way I carry myself.” Staying active is important to Morgan and she understands that if she is not feeling her best that a good workout helps. She knows that we are all works in progress. “My body is constantly evolving based on the discipline I put in it. I love how strong my body is and that it is a reflection of my mind. It serves as a reminder of where I am at mentally.” Exerting control over her body, via yoga and fitness, literally helped save her mind. Morgan refers to herself as a sober alcoholic, and happiness and positivity as her new addictions. Her dedication to yoga began the same day as her sobriety.
Thankfully, Morgan understands that our bodies, much like us, are human, and we are going to have bad days. If she can’t change something she prefers to change her perspective on it. “I keep a mantra and look myself in the eyes in the mirror daily and say, ‘I love you’…and remind myself that I am beautiful and strong.” Thank you to Morgan for sharing her practice.
Tiffany Dethmers, 30, Mom & Model
Tiffany is hard to miss, standing at 6’ 2” she has beautiful bright red hair and gorgeous features. She stands out. Her favorite physical trait is her natural red hair. “It took me some time to realize that I am beautiful in my own way, no matter my hair color, skin tone, or height. It’s truly amazing how different your life can be if you have a positive outlook about yourself.” Every body has its own features that make it wonderful in its own unique way. Tiffany is adamant that other women realize this. “You are truly perfect, beautiful, and unique and there is no one in the world like you. Love who you are. You are a work of art and you will never be duplicated. Show the world. Be proud.” As women, we sometimes feel threatened by other attractive women. It would be easy to feel intimidated by Tiffany and her attractive looks as surely they are desired by many; however, that is not her message. Tiffany explains that by having confidence in yourself you can be an example to others and that we all have admirable qualities, both inside and outside. “Beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder. I love every inch of my own being and wouldn’t trade it for anything else.”
Jacki Hallerbach, 49, Executive Director of a Non Profit
Beauty and adversity come in all shapes and sizes, and is possible at any age. Jackie’s beauty is stunning and it comes in a tiny but powerful package. “I focus on the strength and health of my body. This body has borne children and allowed me to explore and travel. It is strong and flexible. It dances, skis, runs, hikes, swims, stretches, hugs, and loves. I like to think that I’m earning my scars and wrinkles as badges of a life worth living.” Jacki’s body has done a lot and also overcome a lot. Both Jacki and her doctor credit her fitness for the relative ease in which she overcame cancer and her double mastectomy. “My body carries me through long days and over many miles, it is strong.” Both Jacki’s physique and her attitude exemplify everything we can be capable of: the body as a machine and the mind as the computer operating the machine. The two work in conjunction. “We all have imperfect bodies, but beauty shines out from the generosity of our spirit. We need to see our own inner beauty and strength, not as separate from our bodies, but as the lens through which others view us.” With one look at Jacki and by simply listening to her speak a few words about herself, she is undoubtedly the epitome of Bliss Body Positive. She is powerful, confident, and beautiful in both mind and body. Rightfully so.
Madeline Hardacre, 47, Physician
Madeline has a career that wholly exemplifies female strength and body positivity. As an OB/GYN physician, Madeline is constantly reminded of the capabilities of the human body. “I am forever in awe of pregnancy and childbirth. In my mind, the creation of life is the absolute most amazing thing a woman’s body can do.” She thinks women do not give themselves enough credit. For her, a huge step toward positivity is surrounding yourself with people that are positive influences and offer encouragement. Madeline knows women can not only be influenced positively by others, but can also influence others by being strong role models for those around them. Her 13-year-old daughter is a great example. Madeline views her as the younger version of herself, indicating, “We talk about body image and what makes a woman strong. I stress the importance of living in the moment, having a positive mindset, finding your passion, dreaming big, and having no doubt in what you are able to accomplish.” Madeline is obviously an ambitious, smart, and successful woman. She insists by focusing on her goals, confidence, and body positivity come naturally. “I rarely focus on my physique. That has happened naturally as I live a life focused on taking care of this body that I love through a healthy diet, surrounding myself with amazing like-minded women, and by having fun with my physical limits!” Few things seem more conducive to body positivity than that.
Felicia Imelli, 29, Boudoir Photographer
Nothing stays the same for long, including our relationship with our bodies. Felicia’s wisdom on body image and encouraging other women to embrace their true selves seems well beyond her 29 years. “I’m constantly working with other woman trying to help them see themselves through new eyes. The more I can help them feel beautiful and see their bodies as beautiful, the more I am able to feel the same away about myself and my body.” She admits when she was younger that she lived and died by the scale. She wanted to change her size and was insecure as to how her appearance compared to other women in the room. “Thankfully, I have grown out of that. Body positivity means appreciating yourself for who you are, and others for who they are, without taking anything away from either of you.” For this type of photo shoot, Felicia is usually on the other side of the camera, but she too has an incredible beauty all of her own. In her late twenties, she is far more aware and appreciative of what she has and what sets her apart. “My message to a younger me would be this: Everyone has a body. You have one life to live here on Earth. It’s just a body. It doesn’t define you. What’s important is what you do with your body, how you use it, and how you take care of it.” That type of insight is timeless.
Danyelle Sargent Musselman, 40, Sportscaster and Spin Teacher
As a sportscaster, Danyelle uses words to convey her message, and as a spin teacher, physical actions help her accomplish her goals; however, her beauty and relationship with her body seem to be a combination of the two. Her beauty is both stunning and strong, but comes across as subtle. While she is obviously outwardly gorgeous, her inner beauty also shines. Amazingly, she appears entirely humble about it all. Her modest attitude is all the more impressive because Danyelle literally glows. Her features are striking but her ability to overcome and thrive is just as noteworthy. When she was eight months pregnant, she suffered a stroke due to an unknown heart defect. She also has Hashimoto’s disease. Danyelle, like many, admits in her younger years she took her health for granted. She knows better now and is in the best shape of her life. Danyelle credits her body and health for allowing her to run her busy household and manage her family life. She also admits that she has learned to develop thick skin and not worry about others opinions. She appreciates what is good and what works. “I am proud that I was born with drive, ambition, and perseverance. There is nothing more beautiful than a confident woman.” It’s tough to disagree.
Meghan Ochs, 33, Author of this article, Coach, Professional Ski Bum, Business Owner
My body and I have been in a serious relationship now for 33 years. It’s a love/hate thing. In some ways, it’s the most intense relationship of my life. There are days where I’m disappointed with my body’s performance, but often the physical limits of my body surprise me. Most days, I’m incredibly proud. Throughout my youth and early adulthood, there were a million times where I wanted to change something about my body’s size, but now, in my thirties, I have finally come to embrace my body’s natural build and respect its capabilities. Despite the fact that my body is active and helps me earn a living, we still have challenging times. I imagine there will be many more in the years to come, but now more than ever, I am fully accepting of this gift, its talents and capacity. Part of my new acceptance is age and experience, the other is true freedom from caring what others think. This relationship is like any worth having. You have to fight for it to work. Healthy relationships aren’t easy. There are ups, downs, ebbs, and flows. I constantly remind myself of this. My body sometimes feels weak, but it is always strong. I love that I don't need anyone else to lift, pull, and carry heavy things for me. A want is different than a need. I love that when people see my body, they often tell me about my strength. I love my strong legs, as well as my full shoulders. These are my favorite things about my body, but above all else, I love that it is mine.
Jackie Peacock, 42, BODYpow Founder, Developer and Instructor
When Jackie Peacock speaks about body positivity and confidence, the concept of intention is an underlying theme. While she has always used her body as a vessel for physical achievement, she understands that what works for her might not work for others. Jackie believes that we should all use our primary skill set to live and be more body positive. “Living your personal priorities and your own passion invokes a sense of confidence. I think that living what you love creates positivity from within and an overall sense of happiness.” Jackie uses her body daily. As the founder of BODYpow, a new twist on aerobic body fitness, Jackie’s body is incredibly strong, beautiful, and by almost every current mainstream beauty standard, ideal. While it’s obvious Jackie is a natural athlete, she constantly stresses the importance of mental health in relation to physical limits. “A mind that believes helps the body achieve. I’m grateful that I have been able to maintain the mind-to-body connection to continually challenge myself physically and mentally. It’s empowering.” Jackie emphasizes being comfortable in your own skin. “I believe that living my true passion is what empowers me. I find confidence knowing that I am living one of my top priorities in my own way.” Jackie will continue to lead by example, using her body and abilities the best she knows how. Both her intentions and impact, are glaringly positive.
Mena Spodobalski, 48, Evoke Fitness Owner and Trainer
It’s human nature to compare. We compare ourselves to others or to past versions of ourselves. When insecurities get the best of us, fighting this tendency is difficult. Mena is a reminder that even the fittest among us struggle with self-doubt. But, like anything else, it’s not the struggle that defines us, but how we handle that struggle. Mena’s attitude is worth emulating. “We all want to feel and look good, but it’s not just aesthetics. If I am having a bad day, I do not let it linger. I move on.” She teaches her clients to love their body at every stage and always motivates. Feeling negative about her own self doesn’t help those who she wants to influence positively. “I want to keep clients excited to see results. I do not allow them to say mean things about themselves, so why would I about myself?” In preparation for her participation in fitness competitions, Mena often transforms her body to an incredibly lean, strong and fit state. In between shows though, she admits she sometimes struggles with the pressure to always look a certain way and meet others expectations, including, her own. So she resets them. She knows the prep she puts in for fitness shows is not always attainable. “I don’t want to be someone that never has a cocktail, a piece of pie or a carb. I don’t want to live like that. Sometimes I love my body and sometimes I don’t. This is the only one I’ve got. I do the best I can to care and enjoy it.” To Mena, health is the ability to experience life and function. “It is about growing old gracefully and actively.” While Mena certainly is fit and aesthetically pleasing, her attitude is worth more emulation and comparison than her appearance. As a smart woman with great capabilities, she knows that this is the better compliment.
Our bodies are our machines. They are our vessels. They are not ornaments. They should be respected. They are not to be objectified or shamed by anyone, including ourselves. They are not meant purely for the sexual pleasure of anyone else unless we choose. These choices are ours, and ours alone. We are proud of our bodies; what they do, how they move, create, heal, and function. We hope other women feel the same. #blissbodypositive
Email us at [email protected] to get more information about these incredible Bliss Body Positive women, their passions, and their businesses.
Meghan Ochs is passionate about many things: animals, skiing, fitness, travel, the outdoors, coffee, and good food. Her friends and family, too. The order of these interests depends on the day. In between all of these things she
occasionally finds time to put her thoughts to paper.