Have you or anyone you know ever been in a relationship of any sort which was affected by someone’s negative or unhealthy body image? If you have, then you know how much of a downer it is and how it can affect every aspect of that person’s daily life.

A lot of the women who have contacted me recently in response to my blog have shared about their struggles throughout their entire lives with their own body image as it relates to their sense of self worth. Many of these women are unsuspecting: seemingly healthy, fit and confident people. But the truth is that no matter her shape, size or weight, many women are trained from a very young age to learn to hide these “imperfections”.

And so the point is that it’s not actually about the body so much as about the fact that we are MISSING OUT ON LIFE by being obsessed with our bodies, our weight, and our appearance. The truth is that it is simply a huge time suck be forever worried about the size of various parts of one’s body. This is time that could be otherwise allocated to doing AWESOME THINGS and to utilizing one’s talents and energy to create and be engaged in life.

Many readers said they experienced body shame because so many of us feel or have felt as if we are weaker-spirited or weaker-minded if we feel bad about our bodies…Strangely this is NOT often a function of body fat percentage or pant size. In many cases, women feel ashamed and self-conscious regardless of how our bodies actually look or feel. This is interesting isn’t it?

This is what I call a social epidemic. And we are 100% able to change and heal it. It begins with letting go of the shame and guilt by using your intelligence and heart to understand that this way of thinking is learned, it is not natural, and it is not YOU.

The other fascinating aspect of the feedback I’ve received is that so many women used words like “courage” and “bravery” when commenting about the images of me. Yes, I suppose it is brave to put pictures of oneself showing some skin online in front of peer, family, and public groups. Totally. I agree. But that’s not actually what most people were referring. See, it has become very normalized for thin women and models to be in our faces in the media with very little clothing on, but when a bigger voluptuous woman does so, it is DARING, a bit taboo and totally courageous!

The reality is, I’m just another woman posing in front of a camera! My waist is thicker and cheeks are fuller. So it’s really not about the amount of skin being shown, for we see hundreds of images every day in the media showing equivalent amounts of skin. The fine print in what some readers are really saying (perhaps only subconsciously) is: “It isn’t culturally accepted to have curves, (weight in the areas where most women naturally do) and so the bigger curvy woman is less attractive, less sexy.” And so, for a curvy woman to celebrate and show her body, instead of hide, camouflage or reject it is considered… SO BRAVE!

Take a minute to dissect all of this. I encourage any readers who had this response to question the underlying/unconscious belief from where it came. You may find that this is very likely a culturally constructed belief, which was absorbed at some point in your socialization and that maybe it has also affected the way you look at and treat your own body.

I imagine many people felt the dual reaction of both sadness and empowerment from this website, which are both awesome and authentic responses. So yes! -Be sad, grieve, be angry, cry and scream (highly recommended for releasing a bit of rage). And then afterward, forgive, move on…and get fierce. Things are changing fast. And YOU are the agent of this change.

Your grace and sense of self are all you have.

Written by Chantal Peterson
For more on this topic, visit
Photo by Bettina Norton

Mayor Helene Schneider, Assemblymember Das Williams, and Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson recognize What is Love


The WIL Program is proudly supported by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson:

image007“I commend the “What is Love” organization for holding this event in our community to bring awareness to the very important issue of teen dating violence. When nearly 1.5 million high school students nationwide experience physical abuse from a dating partner in a single year, that indicates a larger problem,” said Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson. “We must send a message to our youth that is not appropriate behavior and there is help and support available. I look forward to continuing my work with ‘What is Love’ to encourage proactive solutions for teens in my district and throughout the state of California”



Assembly Member Das Williams Recognizes What is LOVE

“True love does not know or accept violence,” said Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara. “Teens need to make healthy choices and under no circumstances should anyone accept verbal, emotional or physical abuse.
What is Love is an important organization in this battle for awareness. I commend them and others who take a stand against violence.”





What is LOVE . . . “exemplifies how important it is to spread the message about love as opposed to talking about hate and finding ways to stop the violence”



Youth Leaders from each Santa Barbara High School were invited to apply for the Peer Educator/Leadership training. Teens care deeply about their friends and their relationships and they hold the key in promoting healthy relationships, bringing awareness to abusive relationship behaviors, and creating social change. Christy Haynes M.A. Psy, selected leaders to participate in an intensive training to support a better understanding of abusive relationships and how to promote healthy relationships. The training covers warning signs, elements of healthy relationships, referrals for help, cyber literacy as well as peer lead outreach campaign initiatives.

“If we are to interrupt this cycle of dating abuse, this must begin with the youth voice”, said Christy Haynes M.A. Psy.



What is LOVE will provide Santa Barbara area youth more resources to help identify abusive love and build healthy relationship skills this fall. What is LOVE is using a grant from the James S. Bower Foundation to expand the reach of its dating violence prevention and awareness program. One in three teens in Santa Barbara County experience dating abuse and most never ask for help.

Jon Clark, President of the James S. Bower Foundation, said, “We are pleased to be supporting What is LOVE and their work in the Santa Barbara School District. We know that part of what students need in order to succeed are school and social environments where they feel safe and supported. The District has made it clear that addressing dating violence is a major part in creating those environments and that What is LOVE has a comprehensive program to help make that happen.”

This type of violence can have a profound impact on the physical and emotional growth of a youth with short- and long-term consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that youth who are harmed by teen dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, to report binge drinking, attempt suicide, engage in physical fighting and have a greater likelihood of teen pregnancy. Together, they create lasting harm that affects the victim of abuse, their friends, families, schools and surrounding communities.

What is LOVE addresses this crisis by utilizing a restorative justice approach, providing innovative outreach with interactive technology, demonstrating the power of storytelling, and supporting teen-driven awareness campaigns. Its programs currently include a school assembly and school-based workshops for youth and parents. What is LOVE plans to expand its programming to include a documentary, teacher and parent tools, and a dating quiz Mobile APP.

Christy Haynes, MA Psy., founder and director of prevention for WIL said, “Thanks to the generous support of the James S. Bower Foundation, we can continue to provide this essential programming to Santa Barbara County youth. This investment will provide an opportunity to capture more teen stories for the Assembly Format, develop Mobile APPS helping teens identify abusive love, train UCSB peer educators, expand our outreach capabilities with on-line resources, provide educational workshops to parents & teachers, and provide every school in Santa Barbara County awareness materials with resources for help.”



NEW YORK, October 2014: From violence to verbal taunts, abusive dating behavior is pervasive among America’s adolescents, according to a new federally funded survey. It says a majority of boys and girls who date describe themselves as both victims and perpetrators.

Sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago, a prominent research center that provided preliminary results to The Associated Press. Input came from a nationwide sample of 667 youths aged 12-18 who’d been dating within the past year and who completed a self-administered online questionnaire.

Nearly 20 percent of both boys and girls reported themselves as victims of physical and sexual abuse in dating relationships — but the researchers reported what they called a startling finding when they asked about psychological abuse, broadly defined as actions ranging from name-calling to excessive tracking of a victim. More than 60 percent of each gender reported being victims and perpetrators of such behavior.

The survey found no substantive differences in measures by ethnicity, family income or location.
Elizabeth Mumford, one of the two lead researchers for the survey, acknowledged that some behaviors defined as psychological abuse — such as insults and accusations of flirting — are commonplace but shouldn’t be viewed as harmless.

“None of these things are healthy interactions,” she said. “It’s almost more of a concern that our gut reaction is to accept this as natural.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in its campaigns against teen dating violence, also stresses the potential seriousness of psychological abuse.

For assistance, counseling, and referrals to local advocacy centers, please call the appropriate hotline below. You are not alone.

General Support and Help by Text:

Text “LISTEN” to 741741 to chat with a compassionate, trained counselor about anything.

Dating Abuse Help by Phone:

National Teen Dating Abuse 24-Hour Helpline
866-331-8453 (24/7) 1-866-331-9474/tty:



Santa Barbara, CA September 22, 2014: School principals, counselors, parents and teens have resoundingly expressed an immediate need for continued and expanded in-school dating violence prevention programs. Dr. Cash, Superintendent of Santa Barbara Unified School District, lead an effort to secure a contract with What is LOVE to provide this programming to all secondary schools beginning in the Fall of 2014. School board members unanimously approved the contract in June. ONE in THREE teens in Santa Barbara County experience dating abuse and most never ask for help.

Monique Limon, Board of Education member shared, “I am excited that every effort is being made to help our students be successful. This includes helping our students understand and identify unhealthy relationships. I am thankful to What is LOVE for partnering with the Santa Barbara Unified School District to change the troubling reality that one in three students in the county experiences dating abuse.”

This type of violence can have a profound impact on the physical, emotional and academic growth of a youth with short and long-term consequences. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention points out that youth who are harmed by dating violence are more likely to do poorly in school, to report binge drinking, attempt suicide, engage in physical fighting, and have a greater likelihood of teen pregnancy. Together, they create lasting harm that affects the victim of abuse, their friends, families, schools and surrounding communities.

What is LOVE (WIL) is committed to addressing this crisis utilizing restorative justice principles, innovative outreach employing technology, the power of storytelling, and a teen driven awareness campaign. Their programs currently include a school assembly format, workshops for youth, parents and school staff, and outreach materials.

Christy Haynes MA Psy., founder and director of prevention for What is LOVE said, “I am so grateful for this new partnership with Santa Barbara Unified School District, we can continue to provide this essential programming to Santa Barbara Schools and we can grow our outreach and programming. This new relationship with SBUSD will provide an opportunity to raise funds for more teen stories for a documentary, develop mobile APPS helping teens identify abusive love, train additional peer educators at UCSB, expand our outreach capabilities with on-line resources, provide educational workshops to parents & teachers, and provide every school in Santa Barbara awareness materials with resources for help”.


WIL_020914_LovebirdEvent-53 Santa Barbara, CA February 2014: On Saturday, February 8th, 2014 Community members gather at the Lovebird Boutique to help launch the “I STAND FOR HEALTHY LOVE”, a month-long series of events helping teens identify abusive love and build healthy relationships skills. The event featured music from LOCAL teen bands “SOZO” & “TRIP ACES”, from Santa Barbara Youth Music Academy. DELISH EATS & SWEETS provided BY FREEDOM4YOUTH Culinary Program. And LOCAL teen artists proudly displayed art created to bring awareness to dating abuse on the ART WALL.

Mayor Schneider and Christy Haynes MA Psy copyTeen Dating Violence Prevention and Awareness Month is a national effort to raise awareness about abuse in teen relationships and promote prevention programs during the month of February. What is LOVE, is proud to present the “I STAND FOR HEALTHY LOVE,” a series of events and activities designed to increase awareness of Teen Dating Abuse and to educate our community’s teens, and parents about the importance of healthy relationships.

The #1 indicator for school success, increased test scores, reduced fighting/bullying, and increased happiness. HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS.

WIL_020914_LovebirdEvent-22However, ONE in THREE teens report experiencing physical, verbal/emotional, sexual or cyber abuse in a dating relationship and most teens never tell or ask for help. Dating abuse is not just dangerous and sometimes deadly, teens who experience abuse in a relationship exhibit decreased grades, higher rates of truancy, higher rates of violence, school drop-out rates, drug abuse, risky sexual behavior and an increased risk of suicide.

“Identifying dating abuse and building healthy relationships skills helps support school success and safety”, says Christy Haynes MA Psy, What is LOVE, founder.

What is LOVE, Santa Barbara Youth Council, Santa Barbara Public Library, Freedom4Youth, Santa Barbara Youth Music Academy and LoveBird Boutique partnered to bring the month long series of events to our community.

    • TEEN ART WALL INSTALLATION: Located on the main floor of the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 East Anapamu. Check out a book from the February Reading list, sign the I STAND FOR HEALTHY LOVE pledge, TAKE THE dating quiz, PIN an example of healthy love on the ART WALL. Community service and healthy love activity available at Youth desk.


    • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 14th: ALL-SCHOOL ANNOUNCEMENT- We have invited High Schools from Santa Maria to Carpinteria to participate in the “I STAND FOR HEALTHY LOVE” 2014 School Announcement. Designed to be read over a PA system or to individual classes, the Announcement directs young people to visit to learn more about how to prevent and end abusive relationships.


  • FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28th: Indulge at the “I STAND FOR HEALTHY LOVE” Ice Cream Social at Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 East Anapamu Street, Townley Room from 3:30-4:30PM. Participate in the Ugly/Awesome Activity, MEET new friends, EAT lots of ice cream. Community service hours available.

For more information please contact Christy Haynes at 805-705-0011


Community Partners and Sponsors:

Santa Barbara Central Library

Contact: Jayne Lee, Youth and Teen Services Outreach Coordinator
Phone: 805-564-5646

Santa Barbara Youth Music Academy

Contact: Cory Nelson (805) 450-4983


Contact: Billi Jo Starr (805) 689-3755

Lovebird Boutique & Jewelry bar

Contact: Jennifer Scarbrough (805) 884-0242

Santa Barbara Youth Council

Contact: Susan Young (805) 897-2650