Body Love: A Conversation with Jessica Williams

By: Alyssa Curran

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Jessica Williams is a wellness coach focused on promoting health and body positivity for women. She founded WERK Your Curves to create a safe space for women, and especially women of color, who are trying to improve their overall wellbeing. She takes a multi-faceted, holistic approach to coaching, touching on clients’ personal relationships, spirituality, finances, fitness and diet.

We talked with Jessica about the body positivity movement, the underrepresentation of women of color in the fitness space, and why we should never comment on weight, even if we’re trying to offer a compliment.

What led you to the wellness industry and the founding of Werk Your Curves?

I have dealt with body issues for years. My natural body tends toward a more curvy and stout stature and I always felt something was wrong with me. It started at a very young age and I never really settled the score with how I feel in the skin I was blessed with. I tried yo-yo diets: Weight Watchers, South Beach, you name it, but they weren’t sustainable. Once I reached a certain weight or aesthetic, old habits crept back.

It wasn’t until the past several years that I recognized the need for a more holistic approach to health and wellness. I want to know that if I make great choices and treat my body with care, my size does not matter to those around me. With Werk Your Curves, I help clients Work, Embrace, Respect and Know (WERK) their bodies and improve their overall well-being. We look within to discover underlying issues and manifest change from the inside out.

Let’s talk about the underrepresentation of women of color in the fitness and health space in Tennessee.

As a woman of color, I personally do not feel represented by the fitness status quo. Fitness has a certain look. I don’t know any other industry that values aesthetic more than this industry, and guess what? She doesn’t look like me, and she never will unless we create a space where she does. I’ve been to countless gyms and fitness events where I didn’t see enough women of color represented. I know so many women who have felt isolated in the wellness space and this really sparked something in me.

My goal is for all women to feel like they have a community. I’m coaching women and hosting events for women where they have a safe space to work on themselves. I want my clients to know they’re not fighting this battle alone. They can have candid, safe conversations here. My clients are all shapes and sizes. We’re not scale focused and no one is judging.  

Body shaming is disgusting and cruel, but happening all the time. What recommendations do you have for helping to foster this body positivity movement?

One easy fix is to stop commenting on weight, period. Commenting on someone’s weight is a no-no unless they’ve brought it up, whether they have gained or lost. We often feel like we’re being nice if we say, “Wow, you’ve really lost weight.” Unfortunately, you don’t know what measures someone has taken to get to this new weight. Are they doing something unhealthy like eating 600 calories a day and going to the gym twice a day to sustain this weight? Are you feeding into that negative behavior that’s causing this person to lose/gain that weight? Or, perhaps they don’t want you to acknowledge that you noticed their previous weight in the first place. I can’t stress enough - don’t mention it unless they bring it up first.

That being said, my idea of body positivity lies in the idea of finding my own version of my best self. It doesn’t have a specific size or weight, but it does have a very specific mindset. Going into every single day with an affirming attitude that I will take care of my life in a very holistic manner, love where I am and look forward to where I’m going. We are all strong and powerful and beautiful. We find that in our process.

What language would you recommend using to compliment someone’s healthy behaviors?

Say something like, “You have this glow about you” or “you’re really thriving.” If they bring up weight, then you have permission to talk with them about it. Let them guide the conversation.

As a mother, how do you talk with your son about body image?

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I focus on encouraging my son to have a healthy relationship with food. He’ll say little things like, “Mommy, I’m fat.” I tell him, “You are not fat. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re not, don’t.” Additionally, if I I’m not feeling as body positive as I’d like on a particular day, I try not to express negative self-talk around him. So many of our body image issues are passed down because our parents were so vocal about theirs.  

What are your favorite self-care routines?

I indulge in simple self-care. My favorite activity is taking a bath using essential oils, epsom salts, and lavender. I also enjoy quiet time in prayer and thought on my deck. I feel refueled by increments of solitude.  

What does one week’s worth of workouts look like for you?

For my personal taste and my body, I do a lot of kettlebells and strength training at The Southern Squeeze. I commit to a one hour workout, four times a week. I also incorporate other fun routines like taking a walk outside. In holistic health, finding balance is key to success in any facet. It’s about establishing routines that are effective, enjoyable, and sustainable.

Connect with Jessica on Instagram and visit her website to schedule a complimentary intake session. Don’t miss Jessica’s upcoming event: Werk Your Body: A Body Love Movement for Women of Color on May 12.