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NHSDA Love Your Body Week

November 12-18, 2023
A week dedicated to creating body-positive dance environments

NDEO invites all individual participants and chapters of the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA) to join us in celebrating "NHSDA Love Your Body Week" - a national campaign to encourage body positivity and celebrate all the wonderful things our bodies can do.

Please carefully follow all guidelines and resources provided on this page as you plan for your dance program's celebration. 


The Beginnings of Love Your Body Week

In 2005 Rachel Stewart was teaching at All That Dance (ATD), as well as working as a volunteer for the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). She was struck by the constant negativity she heard from her dance students about their bodies. ATD is a positive, supportive dance environment, and still she overheard a number of things that made her feel concerned - teens talking about skipping meals on days they had to wear a leotard, and dancers as young as five comparing the sizes of their thighs. She felt a strong conviction to counteract the negative messaging about their bodies that young people face, and to acknowledge the additional pressures that dancers experience. Inspired by NEDA’s National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and knowing that dancers are in the highest risk group for eating disorders, she wanted to create a program to promote positive body image, but oriented towards dancers of all ages. She went to ATD’s Director Maygan Wurzer with the idea, and the two of them held the first Love Your Body Week (LYBW) that year. The basic concept is to take time out of each class to talk or dance about body positivity and self-love.

In 2009 Rachel left teaching to begin graduate school, and Mary Pisegna Gorder took on the responsibility of managing and continuing to develop LYBW. She began making use of teen leadership, having NHSDA members facilitate LYBW activities for younger children and for their peers. Their engagement on this level helps to inspire a great connection to and understanding of the LYBW ideals, and allows for deeper investment. The program has changed and evolved over the years, with many teachers contributing their expertise, artistry, and support; it continues to be a collaborative effort between the teachers and students.

Today, Rachel and Mary run LYBW together. Rachel currently works as a mental health therapist and primarily works with children and teens. Mary is the Ballet Department Lead and NHSDA Chapter Sponsor at ATD. Over the years they have developed the curriculum to include a number of different activities, some discussion based, some that include readings or videos, and some focused on movement. At the culmination of each activity, dancers write or draw a message of self-love to post on the mirror. By the end of the week the mirrors are completely covered with positive statements. In 2014 LYBW was featured in an article in Dance Teacher Magazine. In 2016, Mary and Rachel presented about the program at the NDEO National Conference. In 2017, the National Dance Education Organization approached Mary and Rachel asking for their assistance in making Love Your Body Week a National NHSDA Celebration. 

How to Celebrate NHSDA Love Your Body Week:

In order to ensure that Love Your Body Week (Nov. 12-18, 2023) is a safe and positive experience for your students, it is essential to review our FREE Training Webinar.

Teaching from a body-positive perspective should be a priority for all NHSDA host dance programs year round. To support that consistent mission, for one week a year we celebrate Love Your Body Week. We invite instructors to take time out of every class to intentionally foster body positivity with carefully planned activities using the prompts provided below. NHSDA host dance programs are encouraged to allow each of these exercises to culminate with the drawing or writing of a positive statement to be posted on the mirror, so that by the end of the week the mirror is completely covered in messages of self-love. All instructors interested in hosting a Love Your Body Week celebration should take time to carefully prepare by reading through all guidelines and resources listed here, and by exploring the NEDA website. Preparation is key in creating a safe and healthy experience for all participants. NHSDA would like to thank Rachel Stewart and Mary Pisegna Gorder for their efforts in preparing all NHSDA Love Your Body Week materials.

Love Your Body Week Guidelines and Resources
• Discussion Guidelines
• Training Guidelines
• Discussion Prompts/Movement Activities
• ATD Body Peace Treaty


Required Reading Materials
Please take the time to read over the following materials provided by the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) prior to hosting your Chapter's Love Your Body Week celebration. Proper preparation and training is key to ensuring a healthy and safe experience for all students and staff members involved. 
• Developing & Modeling Positive Body Image
• 10 Steps to Positive Body Image
• Tips for Coaches: Preventing Eating Disorders in Athletes
• Tools for Educators
• Tools for Coaches and Trainers

Additional Resources
• Identity and eating disorders
• How to help a loved one
• Black Lives Matter Resources
• Covid 19 Resources

Keys to Building a Body-Positive Dance Environment
• Keep communication with parents open.
• Value progress, skills, and effort over appearance and thinness.
• Avoid communicating that weight loss or the achievement of an “ideal” body will lead to greater success in dance.
• Do not share “dieting tips” or discuss specific foods to eat or avoid.
• Embrace and be supportive of a diverse range of body shapes and body sizes.
• Serve as a role model for healthy self-esteem and positive self-talk.
• Be mindful of language used in corrections, and in other interactions with students.
• Do not express approval of dancers for losing weight or talk about a dancer’s weight in front of others.
• Encourage dancers to recognize and honor their own strengths and abilities instead of comparing themselves to other dancers. • When discussing body positivity, avoid discussions of eating disorders or the sharing of personal stories, as this can be triggering or can unintentionally normalize unhealthy behavior.
• If you feel concerned about a student, refer them to The National Eating Disorders Association, or to a trusted local resource. Do not give therapeutic or medical advice, but instead encourage them to seek professional help.

Tips to Remember About Hosting Love Your Body Week 

• Hosting LYBW is a process. It may take several years of practice to feel fully comfortable. The important thing is that you are starting the process. Just like dancing, it takes time to hone the skills to lead difficult conversations and practice new behaviors. The goal is to plant the seed.
• Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. It is more important to do something than to do nothing. You can continue to grow and improve the program every year.
• Be the agent of change.  Practice.

Considerations for Hosting LYBW Virtually
As many of us are continuing, or returning to, online teaching during this pandemic year, here are some thoughts on presenting and working through this material on a virtual platform.
• Discussions may be harder to spark and keep going, and that’s ok. There is still value in students being presented with this material, even if they are less chatty about it this time around. Be patient and continue to model as facilitators by sharing your own answers. 
• Dance training via video may be bringing up new or exacerbated body-image stress for some of your students. For some the camera may feel just like the mirror, and for others it may be much more challenging. Hold space for wherever your students land. 
• Breakout rooms can be used to facilitate small group discussions with teens, we recommend making sure that you have at least one facilitator per room you open, as sensitive topics can come up and it’s best to have someone moderating to ensure everyone’s safety. 
• For the children’s prompts, book pages can be scanned into a PDF file, and then screen shared that to facilitators can read aloud from home and kids can see the pictures. 
•For prompts using video links, if screen sharing the video doesn’t work well (internet bandwidth can cause issues), try sharing the link in the chat bar and asking each dancer to play it on their own device and then come back together. 
• If you are not able to gather together, and therefore can’t post all the artwork on your studio mirror, encourage dancers to hang them on their own mirror at home. You can ask them to send in pictures of their decorated space to share with your studio community. 

Share Your #NHSDALoveYourBodyWeek Experience

Don't forget to share your experience! Use the hashtags #NHSDA and #NHSDALoveYourBodyWeek to show us how you are participating. We might even share your experience on our social media pages to inspire other chapters to join in the celebration!