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Finding the geode inside of you

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With a new year, can come a lot of well-intended resolutions for a new and better self. Some will vow to quit smoking, spend less money, or travel more, but the most common resolution people tend to make is to lose weight.
January is associated as the most common month in which diet fads and gimmicks, push sales to recruit new members to a weight loss regime. Former Valley resident and body activist photographer, Teri  Hofford, has been advocating for and helping people, to love the skin they are in. Recently she published a book that encourages people to love their bodies the way they naturally are. Hofford is all too familiar 
with the push from society and weight loss companies, for people to buy into a notion and products to transform into a skinnier version of themselves. 
“I used to work for U Weight-loss and at that time, my knowledge of empowerment, was to help people lose weight,” said Hofford. “I realized early on that while the commission money was nice, it was the actual earning of prizes that drove me to success with the company. I had surprised myself with how
good I was at selling. At first, I didn’t have any kind of sales formula or strategy, but at the time, I really believed in what the company was trying to do. This was all before I knew about the diet industry’s dirty secret. 
I truly believed I was changing lives, helping people achieve their desired confidence and success. Shortly, I had made a name for myself as one of the top salespeople in the country. “I thrived in their
high stakes competitions to win trips, purses and even a television. However instead of congratulating me, the company used my drive for meeting targets, as a way to push me for more. Their
mantra became, ‘why be fourth place when you could be first?’ and used other ideals like ‘if you only lost more weight, if you just pushed harder, you could get there’. From there, the prizes began to lose their
sparkle. This unveiled my first experience with the glass ceiling concept.” The push from U Weight-loss to get more sales, earn more commissions and earn better prizes left Hofford feeling less that fulfilled. To
keep up in the company, she soon found out she would have to resort to tactics that were not in character with whom she wanted to be identified as. 
“There’s nothing like the needed approval of other people to make you behave in ways that are not in alignment with who you are,” explained Hofford. “I started to steal sales from coworkers. I began to convince people to buy stuff they didn’t need, and I became obsessed when I was not hitting a target set by the company. Then at a manager’s meeting, it was revealed, that the company did rely on 80 percent of the participants to fail, in order to keep the profits going. I was so disappointed and realized this was not what I had signed up for. “They did such a good job of making me feel that if I just got a bit more success, then they would be proud of me. That’s the thing about glass ceilings, what you think you desire seems so close, but in reality, its so far away. It leaves you depleted from the constant attempts to break through and achieve that non-existent, final goal. This leaves you altered and changed from the person
you really are, and not in a positive way. I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all the diet culture loves to profit off the hopes and dreams of women who don’t think they are enough, so why would these companies treat their employees any differently? Experiencing this gave me the inside to the dirty secret of the diet culture, not wanting people to succeed. This is where I found out who I really was, by finding out who I wasn’t.” 
This experience caused Hofford to start on another journey, one where she focused on learning more about body image and the diet culture. She found herself feeling the same pressures as other women about their body image, obsessing about being fat and wanted to get to the root of it all. “I first want to break down the word fat,” explained Hofford. “People do assign it as a derogatory word and it can be perceived as that, but it is actually not. If people keep thinking of it as an insult, it’s not going to help people who want to be ok with their bodies. To me, fat is just a word used to describe people, just as tall,
small, big, or thin. As soon as people start using the term fat as an insult towards a bigger person, the best response is to say ‘yes I am and your point is?’ It’s merely a description; only the individual receiving it can interrupt it as a negative thing. The responsibility is on us, bigger people, to take that power away from it being misused. We have been taught and conditioned to believe this is a negative term. 
“I wrote a blog a while back about how being plus-sized is difficult in terms of dealing with fat phobia and the world is essentially geared towards making a person feel bad about their body. I think it’s more stressful for people who tend to adhere more to beauty standards, because it’s like that glass-ceiling effect.
When is enough really enough? These people tend to think they are close enough to those standards, if they just lose a little more weight, but what they do not realize is that there is no finish line or end game. According to those standards, you can never be thin enough. I have photographed hundreds of people and it didn’t matter what size or shape their body was; they all hated their body. So this tells us, it can’t be about the body, because some of these people were a size two and thought they were too fat. The message we are being fed, is that the worst thing in the world you could be is fat. “There are terrible ways this has been communicated, and one is the Body Mass Index (BMI),” noted Hofford. “The BMI was created and then overnight, most of the population became obese. It’s become a way to even  further discriminate against people who were now over a certain BMI, for certain things such as health coverage, especially in the United States. However there have been studies that show if you do have fat
on your body, it does make you healthier.” In amongst the discrimination surrounding body sizes, Hofford
has also come across the battle of fat shaming versus thin shaming and how they are not on the same parallel. She stresses that you cannot compare the two forms of humiliation, for the factors are not the same, especially when everything in the world can accommodate a thin body, but not one that is bigger.
“Fat shaming relies on a form of fat oppression, which is a concept based on the fact that the world is not set up to accommodate a bigger body,” said Hofford. “This means that people will be refused certain
aspects of health care. People, who are large, can be stereotyped, as less trusting. People who are bigger will face the risk of being paid less for work. Then there are countless experiences of where parents have gone to amusement parks and the rides are not set up for people who are a certain size, to go on the rides with their children or in general. The sad reality in this instance is that amusement parks are
not inclusive to people of all body shapes and sizes. “As a plus-sized person, I can attest to this, people with bigger body sizes have such anxiety of flying. We try to shrink ourselves down. I would try to suck in
my thighs if I could, but I can’t. We do this to make not only ourselves try to feel more comfortable, but other people on the flight seated next to us as well. This is a terrible feeling. Instead, the airline industry
could just build planes that have bigger seats for bigger bodies. This would also provide more room and space for smaller bodies as well, making it more inclusive for everyone.”
Hofford found a way to push the message of making things more inclusive for people with larger bodies. Through her photography studio, she has focused on photographing people as a way to help them love
their body, and expanded her body activist message. “Over the years I have been incredibly privileged to be an empowerment photographer,” said Hofford. “That gave me the insight to how body image can manifest. All of a sudden I was hearing other women’s stories about how their body image manifested. Interestingly enough people felt that it was easier for them to come in for a photo shoot project and then talk about their body image issues, then it was for them to come in and talk about it.” The experience began to expand from there as Hofford started getting involved with projects that required a group effort
to communicate the message. Within these experiences, she found a bonding strength that carried the message even further. “There definitely is power in bringing people together, especially women,”  explained Hofford.
“They love that feel of communal support and rallying each other. I have done quite a few projects of this nature, out of my studio. There was one at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR), that was
created by another body image activist from Ontario, who travelled all over North America to organize these big group photo shoots, to celebrate the fact that bodies are perfect just the way they are. A group gathered around the CMHR and were able to wear as much or a little as a person felt comfortable in.
Most people opted for bikinis or undergarments, and we took a bunch of group photos.
“The other project that I was quite proud to be a part of, was when I created a billboard that featured bodies that are not normally seen in that form of advertising,” explained Hofford. “The whole purpose behind that particular project was to show representation of bodies that we normally don’t see in the
advertising industry. Plus I wanted businesses to understand that people, who have different body types, buy stuff and shop at their stores, just like everyone else. So why are they not represented in the advertising for these stores? It was kind of a twofold project in that sense.” All of the research and projects were instrumental towards Hofford writing and publishing her book, The Geode Theory, which was recently just released. The book is not about pointing out all the flaws in being fat, but rather helping people love themselves and their bodies in their natural state.
“I actually came up with this concept known as the geode theory and that we all have this inner sparkly bit,” noted Hofford. “Then overtime, people have been treated poorly; faced biases towards their bodies;
forced to abide by certain beliefs; have been torn down and led to think less of themselves.
This causes our outer exterior to turn a little grey and sad. People tend to forget about that inner sparkly bit inside them that really makes them who they are. This book is set up to walk people through chipping away at the belief systems and thought processes, that contribute towards the feelings they have about
themselves. When readers get halfway though the book, they stop and realize, wait this isn’t about the body at all, but rather how they have conditioned themselves to think. 
“This concept came together with my love of geology, my work as a body activist and my interest in positive psychology. I had created the concept for the book for a few years ago. I bought the domain, but
at the time I didn’t really have a plan for it. Then in my positive psychology class, I had to do a final project. I made the workbook piece of the book, the project. From there I decided to fill it with stories and make it into an actual book. The actual writing process took me seven months, and with that I hired a book coach to help me to be accountable to get the writing done.” The Geode Theory went live on Dec. 22 and recently was put on Friesen Press’ Bestseller List within a week. It is available to purchase online 
through Hofford’s website at www.terihofford. com, Friesen Publications, Amazon, and in the near future other book retailers such as Chapters.