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NHSDA Love Your Body Week

November 17-23, 2024
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. 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 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. 
• Nine Truths About Eating Disorders
• What Are Eating Disorders?
• Eating Disorder Statistics
• Common Misconceptions About Eating Disorders And The People Who Have Them
• Helping A Loved One
• Eating Disorders In Athletes

Additional Resources
How to help a loved one
• Black Lives Matter Resources
• Covid 19 Resources

Keys to Building a Healthy Dance Environment for All Bodies
• 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.
• Embrace and are supportive of a diverse range of bodies.
• Do not express approval of dancers for losing weight or talk about a dancer’s weight.
• Encourage dancers to recognize and honor their own strengths and abilities instead of comparing themselves to others.
• Serve as role models for healthy self-esteem and positive self-talk.
• Are mindful of language used in corrections, and in other interactions with students.
• Do not speak of exercise as punishment, or as food as something that has to be earned through physical activity.
• Do not share “dieting tips” or discuss specific foods to eat or avoid.
• Avoid discussing specifics of eating disorders or the sharing details of personal struggles, as this can be triggering or can unintentionally normalize unhealthy behavior.
• Keep communication open. Have a plan in place for what instructors should do if concern for a student arises.  Identify local professionals and organizations that you can refer students or families to. We do not give therapeutic or medical advice, but instead encourage dancers who are struggling 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.

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!