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Cindy Lange-Kuibick: Embrace your body -- the movie and the Lincoln woman who wants you to see it

Callie Sills knew she wasn’t alone.

Not the only woman on her block -- in her neighborhood, her city, her state, her country, the world -- who didn’t love her body.

Not the only woman who had struggled with an eating disorder or with crazy diets, with self-acceptance and self-loathing, with feeling like she was simply what she saw in the mirror -- a body being judged by her own eyes and by society’s.

That’s why she reserved a 220-seat downtown theater Wednesday night and stood in front of the doors to No. 12 at the Marcus Grand, checking off names and handing out colorful business cards, a quote on each side.

This body of mine is not an ornament, it’s a vehicle.

Don’t waste a single day of your life being at war with your body.

The quotes spoke to her, said Sills, 32, a former Lincoln woman now living in Olympia, Washington.

And she figured they would speak to others.

Both of them are lines from “Embrace,” the crowd-funded documentary she brought to Lincoln for one night. A 90-minute journey, starring a mom from Australia who traveled the world talking to women about body image.

Sills saw “Embrace” this fall in Olympia, and she fell in love with Taryn Brumfitt’s message: Celebrate and accept your body.

“I absolutely loved it and I immediately thought, ‘How can I get this movie to my family and friends and all the people I care about?’”

The film is only available through pre-sold screenings. Sills knew she would be back in Lincoln for Christmas, so she contacted Marcus Theaters and found out she could secure a 100-seat theater if she sold 60 tickets in advance.

The nurse anesthetist began spreading the word. She sold out the 100-seat theater, then the 170-seat theater, and finally (with the help of a spot on the TV news), the complex’s largest theater.

Then she sat in the dark on a snowy night with a few hundred friends and strangers, her mom beside her, both of them in tears.

A dozen years ago, Sills became anorexic. It started with skipping breakfast, and then lunch. It ended with the 5-foot-5 college student weighing 84 pounds.

The feeling of watching that body emerge was exhilarating at first, Sills said.

“But when I was the most thin, I was the most unhappy, alone and depressed I’d ever been.”

Her mom convinced her to go to treatment and, after a year of individual and group counseling, Sills returned to her life, finished college and eventually moved to the West Coast.

She considers herself an average American woman now, with an average woman’s concerns about her body.

And “Embrace” speaks to the average woman -- a woman who is inundated daily with messages that say her body isn't all it should be. (Translation: 91 percent of women say they are unhappy with their bodies.)

The road to the documentary begins after the birth of Brumfitt’s third child. The Australian photographer had made it her mission to get fit and ended up winning a women’s body-building competition. But the time and energy needed to achieve physical perfection exhausted her and she gave it up. She stayed fit -- running and lifting weights -- and she gained weight.

In 2013, she posted “before” and “after” photos on her Facebook page: body-builder Brumfitt (before) and more full-figured Brumfitt, naked and smiling, (after).

The post went viral and the happily transformed Brumfitt ended up on talk shows across Australia and the world.

She heard from thousands of women unhappy with their own bodies and eventually set off to make the documentary, traveling for nine weeks, talking to women who had made their own peace with their bodies. A runner who’d been severely burnt in a bush fire; a size 12 model who’d witnessed her fellow models eat cotton balls to fill their stomachs; a woman with facial nerve damage from a brain tumor. Women who’d lost breasts to cancer; a candid Ricki Lake, who still struggled to accept her size; an emaciated woman with anorexia who can’t escape its pull.

Sills is right about the documentary. It is affirming and transformative, a powerful antidote to daily images of unattainable female perfection.

The day before the screening, I caught myself in a department store dressing room mirror deriding my own body.

The day after the movie, I embraced my back fat -- and the rest of me.

Accepting her body has been a journey, said Sills.

She wishes the movie had been there for her 12 years ago, but she keeps the card she made in her wallet as a reminder of who she is and how she wants to live.

This body of mine is not an ornament, it’s a vehicle.

Don’t waste a single day of your life being at war with your body.

Sills went back to work and her fiancé in Washington, but before she left, she called the Marcus Theater.

If she sells enough tickets, “Embrace” will be back March 22.

You should take your beautiful body to the theater and see it.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7218 or to watch video about movie to buy tickets

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