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Body Talk: Olivia Kent, Operations Manager

Welcome to Body Talk, an S-Life series for the month of February, where we will be fearlessly opening this portal of communication about self-love, self-deprecation, and touching on anything and everything in between.

The aim here is not image-making, or perfection-seeking. Rather, it is image-wrecking, perfection-shattering, and infinite-purpose discovering in order to peel back the layers of the images we have each built of ourselves and who we are suppose to be, in faithful anticipation that we may unearth the absolute Love and Beauty that we have always been, and always will be. We each have unique bodies, and unique stories to tell. Here, we will be telling ours, in faith that you will be encouraged to tell yours. So without further hesitation, may we introduce to you, The #SakaraBodyTalk of: 

Olivia Kent, Operations Manager at Sakara Life

I never thought about my body in a negative or critical way until the summer before my freshman year of college. I was always very thin growing up, with a fast metabolism and a set of extra curricular activities (cross country, track and field) that made me never have to think twice about what I ate or how my clothes fit.olivia_body_talk_sakara

After high school, my parents moved to Boston from my hometown of Key West, FL so the three months leading up to the start of college were relatively solitary. This was also the time when my body started to change for the first time since puberty—my metabolism slowed down, my boobs went from nothing to something, and I started to look at parts of my body in the mirror and think “fat.” For the first time, I felt uncomfortable in my body. I started running twice a day and closely monitoring my food. I knew it was unhealthy, but I had nothing else to do in Boston so it was easy to obsess over a pound or two on my stomach or legs that weren't there last year. I definitely didn’t think about what I was doing as any type of eating disorder. It was only a few months and I was all alone, what else would I do but workout?

Once I got to college, I had so many other distractions, the issues I had with my body earlier that summer stopped being a focus. I felt confident and empowered by my new social and academic life and that attitude was reflected in the way I treated my body: I gained weight, but I never obsessed over it; I was running still but not excessively; I didn’t always love the way old clothes fit me, but I knew I was healthy and started to accept my new shape. I was also surrounded by friends who talked positively about their bodies and the bodies of other women, so to bask in low-self esteem or ramble on about negative body image rarely crossed my mind. 

"I think being able to acknowledge the moments of low confidence and understand where those feelings come from and why is the key to maintaining a healthy balance between food, exercise, and self-image."

That year, I joined an environmental group that spent each summer touring the country, promoting awareness about a variety of environmental issues. It was a small group—12 people total—and we were going to spend 11 straight weeks living together in a renovated bus seeing the country. It was a great experience in so many ways, but towards the end, I got very depressed. Every day was the same and there was little to do. I started running at least an hour a day and restricting my food. Again, I knew this was unhealthy but I was able to justify my behavior in a way similar to the summer before: I had nothing else to do and being extremely Type A, I needed something to put my energy into. Unlike the previous summer, it wasn’t that I felt uncomfortable in my body, but that I felt uncomfortable in the situation I was in—nothing was familiar, nothing was there to distract me, and I didn’t have the friends or family support system I was used to. Looking back at pictures from that summer, I looked physically thin and strong but this was the time in my life when I felt the absolute worst in my body. 

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I don’t think any person (man or woman) can say they have a 100% positive body image but I think being able to acknowledge the moments of low confidence and understand where those feelings come from and why is the key to maintaining a healthy balance between food, exercise, and self-image. In the seven years since that summer before college, my relationship with my body has drastically changed. I’ve made an effort to understand and accept what “healthy” is for me, both mentally and physically. Of course this isn’t always easy but the memory of those two summers where I was so unhappy and so unhealthy has not left me and I work hard not to get back to a place where my only self-worth comes from my body image.

I’ve reflected a lot on how I got to that mental place those two summers and try to surround myself with people and things that help me be confident in my body. Recently, a huge part of that has been working at Sakara. To be surrounded by beautiful and smart women who truly believe that good food—and more importantly, a good relationship with food—fuels your body and brain is infectious. I don’t know if I would be able to appreciate this type of support system if I hadn’t had those negative experiences of the past.  and feel empowered by my body for what it is. It’s a reminder that my relationship with my body is a journey and that negativity produces positive change as long as I have a willingness to learn from the past and accept, love, and feel empowered by my body for what it is. 

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    12 Discussions on
    “Body Talk: Olivia Kent, Operations Manager”
  • Nancy Agatiello says:

    Wow! So young and so thoughtful! I am 56, in good shape, with a full life and STILL struggle with body image. I told a friend the other day that I don’t remember a single period in my life that I was totally satisfied with my body. I am hoping the younger generation is more like Olivia: willing to talk about and face the issues!

  • Stacey says:

    Thank you Olivia- As a Women’s Health Therapist, I work with women of all ages and the most positive changes are ones of empowerment. There are so many women with negative body images and that impacts how they perform and feel physically and emotionally about themselves and their relationships. Thank you for sharing your personal journey and the work you are now doing.

  • Ray says:

    Thank you Olivia. This may affect women differently than it does men because of the cultural pressures and expectations but as a man there are an equal number of pressures, so-called manly pressures, about what we men eat and consume together, as men, with the same goal of shaping our image into something “proper” and behaviorally “appropriate”. Except for me it has been a solo journey as I have few male friends to share that rich and specialized journey forward with what I eat. Your message and story crosses gender lines and this guy appreciates it.

  • Editor says:

    Olivia – you are beautiful and I love the honesty.

  • Anette says:

    Olivia hits the nail on the head – there is joy all around and whether we are alone or isolated we can find purpose in things that are larger than us. Food is such a small thing on many levels and yet it is a source of so much more. When we think small, when we inhale on a small scale, we can miss how much our purpose resonates. I could feel that from Olivia and it is something I know as well. You said it so simply and so truthful. Great revelation. Thank you girl!

  • Danielle says:

    Accept. Forgive. Nurture. But at all times stay strong and find strong. Negativity, as Olivia says, can bear new fruit, literally, and when it comes to food as fruit! Yes! Feels so good to have friends who get that, right? Thank you Olivia.

  • Lisette-Anjin says:

    As a woman I have always felt like I had no choice but to identify my worth with my image of my body and even when I objectively knew how beautiful I was I would second guess myself because of other failures or challenges in my life. Everything was linked to that one thing whether it was real or not, earned or not. When I realized that food was no longer some unknown mystery but a place I could center and enjoy I was never able to separate all the false ideas about ME. I can relate Olivia and thanks for saying it in such a precise and sisterly way. Your words remind me, and hopefully all of us, that food is just a part of the wholeness we women deserve. I agree with the comments above – I am sending this to my college age nieces.

  • Meagan says:

    This is beautiful, Paula. Thanks for sharing. You know that you have the power to either remember, or forget where you and your body have been together. Never stop embracing what has been, so that you may come to a place of complete forgiveness with it. <3

  • Meagan says:

    Right?! She’s a total role model. Her spirit is full of courage.

  • Barbara says:

    I am struck by so many things in Olivia’s piece – her courage, her honesty, her personal and soulful beauty, and with regards to Sakara the amazing and infectious landscape of support and peace. If a brand is about an environement well an Operations Manager who feels free to share this way says a lot about the quality of life in and outside of where Olivia works. I think this is pretty critical and personally I know it has taken me nearly twenty years to find a work place where my womanhood, my image of self, and my success all are balanced. I will be sharing this with all my friends and family. I want my two young daughters to meet people like Olivia. Thank you so much – made my day a special day.

  • Roberta C. says:

    This really spoke to me on a very personal level. What a great role model this woman is. It takes courage and discipline and is clearly worthwhile. Olivia defines success on her own level. Bravo.

  • Paula says:

    Thank you Olivia. Doing the math it is easy to figure out how young you are to have such a forward thinking view of what can both drive us and destroy us at the same time. I have been trapped in that cycle many times in my life and the mistake I think I’ve made is trying to forget those bad times rather than hold on to them like you have done as use them as markers to measure and remind myself of the roads that have led to obsession and disappointment. I know how hard it is and how hard it was for you as well but you make me think it can be as easy as being honest with myself and not being afraid of the mistakes I’ve made – and will make again if I forget when I feel happy and why. It is not, as you say, what I do with food and life but why I do it. Great article. Honest and real and no lies. Food is a spiritual source when embraced and deeply missed when mistreated, controlled and feared.

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