1.  How can we redefine beauty & health through movement and dance? 

By turning our attention inward. By paying attention to what we’re thinking and feeling as we move. Our inner landscape directly affects our outer life. Health and beauty start within. They are internal guideposts we follow by paying attention to what we believe, what we think, and then how we feel. I call it our body consciousness — the connection between our body and mind. This body consciousness, it will communicate what is healthy for our unique body. It will guide us to food, movement, people, conversations, and communities that fill us up and give us life. When we’re awake to our body consciousness it draws us in to our beauty. Not into our thought forms of beauty, but into our feeling of beauty, radiating and shining our light from the inside out. 

Dance is a form of movement that activates our inner freedom, our pure joy and happiness. We can let go of the external pressures, and what we “look like" as we dance. I hear over and over from people that they can’t dance. If you have a heartbeat, you can dance. You may not have the desire or skill set to be a stage performer in the art of dance, but dance, as a way to move, release, set free, feel beauty, and enjoy, is available to everybody. 

In the end, to redefine we must reclaim. We must reclaim our life, our truths, our selves. No external standards or measurement for health and beauty can define this for us. This path only oppresses us, confines us, and conforms us to market trends. We become commodities. We become powerless victims to smart and persuasive marketing copy carefully crafted to pull on our insecurities. Let us not be insecure. Let us be whole and complete by turning our attention inward. Therein lies all the answers we’ve ever needed. 


2. Let's talk more about body image. Can you tell us more about your personal journey?

As a 10 lb. baby, I came into this world with size. As early as I can remember, I always felt connected in my body and strong. Athletics came very easy to me and felt natural, but also gave me a different body awareness. Doing gymnastics at a young age created an emphasis on the appearance of my body, as opposed to just what it would let me do. Through college, I received a number of mixed messages from my coaches in other sports about what my body “should” look like, regardless of the results it was giving me and the success I was contributing to the team. There was this constant myth being forced upon me that in order to be a successful athlete my body needed look like the athletic ideal.

The irony is that I was having the success already, and when I did in fact transform my body to look that way (through eating disorder behaviors and compulsive exercise), I became weak, insecure in my abilities, and benched for the first time in my life. It was only after a few weeks of extreme changes to my diet and exercise that I found myself battling a full-blown eating disorder. It’s as if I suddenly woke up one day to a voice in my head that never existed before, and this voice was very scary. I knew right away that something was wrong. That something inside of me had changed. That my brain was different. After a few months, I started seeking treatment. There’s too much to say here about what all unfolded for me next, but in the end, I sought out recovery, and not only healed from the eating disorder, but freed myself in ways I never thought were even possible. 


3. You ran your first marathon in 2001. We love your 3 mantras: "Slow and steady wins the race; patience and perseverance; and object in motion, stays in motion." Do you still use these today?

I still use these three mantras in my approach to life today. They are timeless and are relevant to all areas of my life; work, relationships, travel, and art. They are reminders for me to ground, stay present, and look at the big picture. My personality can become so goal-oriented and tunnel driven that I can lose sight of the small steps to take along the way. Truth is, life is the small steps. Just like I could never get to the end of that marathon without each and every single step, I too, cannot get to where my heart wants to go without each and every beat. 

4. You're a spokesperson for Ophelia's Place. Can you tell us about your mission and what your work is with this organization?

Ophelia’s Place is a non-profit organization that aims to redefine beauty and health by empowering individuals, families and communities impacted by eating disorders, disordered eating, and body dissatisfaction. We do this by providing support, treatment, education, and community. Circles of Change is our prevention movement through Ophelia’s Place to change the culture and conversation surrounding health, beauty and body image. We believe that change starts first within yourself, and then moves outward within ever expanding circles. This is how we believe we can create change. Circles of change also invites everyone into the conversation because we are all impacted by shameful and oppressive beliefs regarding our body, whether we’ve struggled with an eating disorder or not. We are excited to be holding our first Circles of Change Conference in 2017, where change makers from all over, who embody this message, will join us in a powerful event centered around living, moving, and thinking differently about our body. Stay tuned!

I have been connected with the organization in some capacity since the beginning. My current role of spokesperson has me speaking, educating, and empowering to wide range of audiences on these topics. I also fulfill the organizations media requests. One aspect of my role where I experience a great amount of joy is in the sharing of my recovery story in a one-hour storytelling event, where I infuse drumming, dancing, and speaking on stage. It’s a story filled with great adventure, risk, passion, and meaning-making. 


5. What current projects are you working on? 

I’m writing on a book. It’s a labor of love, but I’m so thankful to be doing it and believe in it serving a greater purpose. To me, all of our stories have the power to heal and help others. There is a place, space, and purpose for all of them. Sharing my story in a book format (as opposed to just my speaking) enables me to potentially offer love, support and encouragement to others who I may not otherwise be able to reach. Every time after I give a talk, at least one person comes up to me and says, “I wish my daughter, son, mother, friend, etc. … was here and heard what you said. I think it would have really resonated with them.” This response has been a significant force in me committing to this book project.

6. What is the most special dancing experience you've had recently? 

I just had the privilege of teaching dance workshops on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. This was such a special experience for me and full-circle moment because it was on Kauai where I started to dance 14 years ago, and where I ultimately healed the brokenness of heart and mind from the eating disorder. There I was just the other day, holding the space of a class, sharing my art and heart, with women who were once my peers in class, and even my own teachers. It was overwhelming in ways to see how much I’ve grown. Kauai changed the course of my life forever and set me on the path I am on today. Kauai morphed me from athlete to artist ... from student to teacher ...from seeker to healer. She showed me that the only limitations I have are the ones I put on myself. She taught me that what truly matters in life is following our bliss. Not our highs, but our day to day affirmations of peace, gratitude, and kindness. Forgiveness then finds us, and opportunities arise. The journey continues today, and now, more than ever before, on my own terms - the musings of my heart.

September 16, 2016 — jbarnard

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