Continuing our series featuring people whose work we love, and hope you will, too, today’s post is a Q&A with Rachel Estapa, owner and operator of the Boston-based More to Love®, focused on helping women learn to love and appreciate their bodies, no matter their size.
Welcome to A Weight Lifted, Rachel! We’re so pleased to feature your work here. Let’s start with finding out what exactly it is that you do!
More to Love (MTL) is devoted to teaching people — mainly larger-bodied women — the practice of body acceptance. And I say practice for a reason — this isn’t about figuring IT all out, it’s about learning how to listen to yourself.
I make it possible for people to explore their own body acceptance on a few levels — physically (as through my branded MTL Yoga classes), mentally (like my More to Love e-course), and through virtual and in-person communities of support.
Someone who is ready for MTL is a person ready to let go of the long-held belief that weight loss is a requirement of self-love.
They know that’s not working for them, they are tired of the cycle of self-loathing but they don’t know what to replace it with — this is where MTL enters. So when they arrive to me, they have an open attitude of “Ok, I am ready to try this and I trust Rachel to guide me along.”
Another theme for majority of More to Lovelies (as I call them) is a desire to trust themselves, their body, their heart – and move away from believing that they are a problem to be fixed.
Most people in MTL have a long, complex history with dieting, weight and shame around this, but they also know they have a deep potential to live more confidently – they just want to learn how to access that. And that’s what I do – I teach people how to listen and trust themselves by providing safe, responsible and effective programs to explore the relationship between their bodies and authentic selves.
Why were you drawn to this work?
I consider myself, above all else, a teacher and student of self-love.
But it certainly was not always like this – I did not set out with a clear mission to help people learn body acceptance and yoga. Instead, my life has been a series of connecting the dots of my own interests, strengths, skills and most important – lessons learn through struggles.
Growing up, weight was “my problem” and I felt ashamed that I couldn’t change my physical appearance, no matter how many diets I tried. But parallel to this was my interest in personal growth and development which lead me to become a trained life coach in my early twenties.
Armed with the skill of being able to sift through negative thinking and self-limiting habits, I turned my focus then onto my biggest hurdle: my relationship to my body. This is then where yoga and body acceptance entered into my life.
Yoga first became a practice of self-acceptance, of realizing that my body was remarkably peaceful if I just listened to it.
Through yoga, I learned to turn the volume down on critical self-talk and appreciate my body, no matter its size. This interest urged me to train at Kripalu Center because I knew I wanted to help make it possible for other people to trust their own body through yoga.
Through learning to help myself, I had the ability to help other people struggling with learning to love and appreciate their bodies and self.
So MTL is really the blending of my own learnings and interests paired with world-class professional training in coaching and yoga.
What are some of the common challenges your clients have around self-care?
I define self-care as simply making space in your life to just be, without an agenda.
This is very hard for me to do! Which is why I value it so much. Since we live in a scheduled world, making “self-care” feel like another to-do stresses people out. So when people come to my yoga classes or take my e-course, they all start with this: give yourself permission to just be with whatever comes up.
Because the truth to what prohibits people from prioritizing self-care is a belief that tending to yourself is indulgent and too scary to turn a light on to what has been considered the problem for so long.
It’s scary to take steps towards change, even when you know it’ll help, those first few steps are full of anxiety, uncertainly and fear. So I try to assure people they are welcome and safe in my company as they work through these issues.
This is also where the power of a community is most inspiring – no one in MTL is doing this work alone. I prioritize creating space for people to share and talk with one another about the complex “stuff” that comes up – especially when you start to push back against long-held beliefs about worth and self-image. A sense of togetherness fuels confidence – and that’s a great asset.
Is there anything in your work that consistently “turns on the light” for the people you work with in regard to self-care? Anything that they consistently say to you that lets you know that you’re making a difference?
The thread of similarities between all the More to Lovelies is they don’t feel so alone in their struggles, and they are awed at how soft and gentle their own inner voice is when they make space to listen to it.
People are inspired when they realize just how strong they really are! Words like “confidence”, “believe in myself”, and “appreciate the community support” also come up a lot too. People walk away from my programs with a very deep appreciation for themselves just as they are, even the flaws, and that is priceless to someone who long thought they were a problem to be solved.
Would you say many of your clients struggle with eating and exercise – and, if so, what do you think caused that struggle?
The majority of those in MTL worry that their body as it is isn’t good enough, flexible, strong, etc – but they are ready to change believing that.
I credit this worry to years of fear, anxiety, societal pressures and also personal struggles with connecting weight loss and physical movements. Lots of people developed injuries, exhaustion, intimidation with movement.
Eating is also another HUGE factor, one I don’t dip too much into as I am not a trained person on eating issues, but I think nearly every MTL’ers on some level has struggled with eating and movement. Lots of shame gets connected here, lots of history, habits, identity, belief of self-worth. Food and movement is intimate so if you feel the core of you is flawed, then that would extend to the behaviors around eating and moving too.
What do you wish everyone knew about food, exercise and self care?
I wish everyone knew that it was a spectrum – that the only habits and awareness one needs to devote time to is understanding their own.
Comparison destroys self-love. I’ll say that again: Comparison destroys self-love.
So much of my work is devoted to helping people experience their OWN unique spectrum of health and wellness and understand it’s always changing, evolving – and that body acceptance isn’t about getting to a certain point and staying there, it’s about learning how to acknowledge, respond and tend to kindly to all the various sensations and moments that build our life.
Do you have any upcoming workshops or events you’d like our readers to know about?
I am the keynote speaker for the annual Boston Curvy Fashion Week Expo happening on Saturday, July 30. This fall, I am planning a few yoga workshops and day-retreats in the Boston area, so best to follow More to Love to get updates.
How can our readers find you?
We hope those of you in the Boston area can find your way to Rachel to take advantage of the tremendous support she has to offer!