Have you heard of the (relatively) new website called Body Confessions?
It was created by Diana Spechler under the theory that voicing our struggles, our insecurities, and our shame about our bodies can help relieve it. Especially because in doing so, we learn that no matter what challenge we’re facing, chances are high that someone else has “been there.”
I recently had the opportunity to interview Diana about Body Confessions. Here’s what she had to say.
Tell us about the concept behind Body Confessions.
Body Confessions is a safe space for people to anonymously post their thoughts and feelings about their bodies. The posts aren’t open to comments, but other users can click “Been There” under confessions that resonate with them.
What motivated you to start the site?
I’ve always struggled with my body image. Since I was very young, I worried that I was fat, and worried about what kind of message my body was sending to the world. I worried that I ate too much. I worried that I would never be thin enough. Thin enough for what? Who knows? But I worried and worried and worried. By the time I reached adulthood, I realized that I wasn’t the only one. Everyone I knew seemed to have issues with food and with their bodies.
Because I’m a writer, I wanted to write about this phenomenon. But first, I wanted to study it. So in the summer of 2006, I went to work at a weight-loss camp for ten weeks. I wrote a novel largely based on the experience. Writing frankly and sometimes graphically about the agony of body obsession unburdened me. I’d never really been candid about it before, but while I was writing SKINNY, I often felt as if I were writing in my diary. That’s when a light bulb went on: We needed more honesty! But honesty isn’t easy because it leaves us open to criticism. We needed honesty in a safe space. That’s what fiction writing is to me: I can write honestly about my feelings, but apply them to fictional characters and situations. In a way, the act of writing a novel is anonymous honesty. That’s what Body Confessions is, too.
What’s the concept behind the “Been There” button on the site?
Sometimes the Internet depresses me because it feels like a battle field. Comment sections can get particularly nasty. People hurl some pretty impressive insults at one another under pseudonyms like “SunnyGuy38.” Really, Sunny Guy? Are you that mean in person when you’re attached to your real name and your real face? I doubt it. The anonymity of the Internet can make some people unduly caustic. Because I wanted to keep Body Confessions “safe,” I was adamantly opposed to allowing comments on the site. I did, however, want to foster a supportive environment. I’ve read so many confessions on the site that make me think, “I hear ya!” That’s what the “Been There” button is for: commiseration, validation, and support.
What has the response been so far?
I’m blown away by the response. I’ve had thousands of visitors. Yesterday, I had visitors from 26 countries, which tells me that there’s an absolute need for this site. People really want to vent.
I know the site has received some negative feedback. Some people worry that it’s triggering and that it focuses too much on the negative. What is your reaction to that criticism?
While many users come to Body Confessions to vent about their shame and frustration, others post positive, life-affirming, and even funny confessions. The site is for everyone, and it’s not censored, so people can “confess” whatever they wish. I understand the argument that bemoaning our body flaws keeps us down, but in my opinion, what’s worse is to pretend that everything is fine. If we force ourselves to focus solely on what we like about our bodies, we’re lying to ourselves, which compounds our shame. With that said, anyone who finds the site triggering should by all means avoid it. My intent is to help, not to harm.
What are your long-term goals for Body Confessions?
I hope that more and more people will find out about it, and know that they have a safe place to talk about the things they think they shouldn’t talk about.
Tell us more about your upcoming novel Skinny.
In the aftermath of her Orthodox Jewish father’s death, twenty-six-year-old Gray Lachmann finds herself compulsively eating. Desperate to stop bingeing, she abandons her life in New York City for a job at a southern weight-loss camp. There, caught among the warring egos of her devious co-counselor Sheena, the self-aggrandizing camp director Lewis, his attractive assistant Bennett, and a throng of combative teenage campers, she is confronted by a captivating mystery: her teenage half-sister Eden, whom Gray never knew existed. Now, while unraveling her father’s lies, Gray must tackle her own self-deceptions and take control of her body and her life.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I want to thank you for having me!
Thank you, Diana, for sharing your thoughts with us!
Have you heard of the Body Confessions site before? What do you think of the concept?