Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-06-12

Two Important Weeks for Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression)

At the beginning of March I debuted my dance aerobics class Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression). I have been pouring so much heart, soul, muscles and hustles into this class! Most of the time I have between three and nine folks in the room and we have a fabulous time. I have two special classes coming up this week and next that I wanted to especially highlight for followers who are in LA, visiting LA or friends of mine who keep meaning to come to class.

The totally optional post class selfie has become a ritual I enjoy!

My class is 50 minutes long, 7PM Thursdays at EVERYBODY gym in Glassell Park, Northeast LA. Price is $14 a la carte and gets cheaper with class packages! A mash-up of dance aerobics, line dancing, sing alongs and unbridled enthusiasm, Fat Kid Dance Party is an act of dance floor reclamation. If you’ve ever been called “too much,” “too fat,” or felt too awkward to dance, this is the supportive class for you. More about my class later in the post.

June 15th I am partnering with The Plus Bus, our local LA plus size resale store, to sponsor a meet and mingle after class. Come sweat at 7PM and mingle from 8-9 in the cute EVERYBODY patio! The Plus Bus will bring over a rack of clothes and some water, and you’ll get to meet new people who are also interested in busting up body oppression. Fat community is hard to find most places, and LA can seem so body obsessed that it’s hard to believe there are other body positive warriors out here. But there are! I love connecting people and wanted to facilitate a way for folks to meet by attending my aerobics class so here goes*! Connect on the Facebook event page (pro tip–will be an easy way to social media link up with the folks you meet).

June 22nd Pop Sugar is coming to class to cover it for their website! I’m both thrilled and terrified about this! Part of learning to be an aerobics instructor is studying other aerobics instructors–their moves but more so their teaching style. Whenever I go cruising you tube I inevitably find a Pop Sugar aerobics dance combo from some slick instructor. It’s extremely cool to have Pop Sugar visiting class. Real talk (it’s my blog, so it’s always real talk) I feel kind of odd about plugging press coming to class. Honestly, I would love for them to see the class full of enthusiastic folks of all sizes and have that translated to their readership. Hopefully the folks who read Pop Sugar will want to come to our gym and support it with memberships and class packages! And folks who have never really thought about Health at Every Size who see the feature might be inspired to lace up their sneakers and try it.

More about my class:

There are four rules for Fat Kid Dance Party (For All Sizes to Heal from Body Oppression).
RULE NUMBER ONE: There’s no wrong way to do Fat Kid Dance Party.** I teach at a low-impact cardio level and offer variations and free dance to raise the cardio for folks who need more to sweat and I offer chairs that are rated up to 500 pounds for folks who want to work out from a chair. All my numbers have flamboyant arms, you’ll get a workout from a chair, too!

My friend T does Ironmans and broke a deep sweat in class with me so I know it’s working for all levels!

RULE NUMBER TWO: We cheer for awkward! If you feel awkward at any time, just say, “I feel awkward” and we’ll all cheer.*** Also, if you go right when I go left or whatever, you’re just making my choreography look more complicated and that makes me look good!

RULE NUMBER THREE: If you want to sing, go ahead. If you can’t sing, sing loud!

RULE NUMBER FOUR: We high five for self care! When we see someone getting water, we high five! When we feel good about movement we’re doing, we high five! Everyone gets a high five for showing up!

I go through the rules during our stretching. I use a stretching modality at the beginning of class that helps to improve mobility, reduce chronic pain and engages all of the muscles in the body. We generally stretch to a Stevie Nicks song and a New Wave song. They rotate every class.

We warm up with a 3-4 song dance combination I teach step by step. I have a cheer dance combo we use all Missy Elliott songs, a drag queen number, a boy band combo (boy in this instance means non-threatening masculinity not determined based on assigned sex at birth), a pop princess combo based on Mariah and Britney, and I just unveiled a confidence routine to all Beyoncé songs.

Each class has a line dance, mostly because I always watch in awe at line dancers but don’t feel confident enough to be awkward and screw up a bunch in front of strangers. But in a safe(r) space like my class we learn the dance first with a slower song then up the tempo a touch and do it on four walls. I pick a real line dance from out in the world of country, oldies, soul and other line dance genres and apply it to whatever songs I want. So far my favorite has been the Step in the Name of Love to Lizzo’s “Good as Hell.”

The rest of class is made up of one-off numbers. I am an artist first and foremost so there’s a lot more to each number than just movements–my years of body positive workshops have infused all over the place.

We do somatic taking up space exercises based on actual research to Prince’s “Baby I’m a Star.” We talk about prison abolition and racial justice with “White Lines” a song that is totally still relevant thirty years later. I do a walking meditation about healing your past bullying and stepping into your light to Erika Jayne’s “How Many Fucks Do I Give?” We heal high school trauma with Gossip’s “Move in the Right Direction.” We do Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl” based on a James Baldwin quote I live by.

Plus Dolly Parton, Pointer Sisters, Vanilla Ice, and still more to come. Mary Lambert’s new overtly queer single “Your Name” will be in a class really soon. We end each class with a cool down and a thank you to our queer and social justice ancestors who did all the work so that we have spaces like EVERYBODY and can heal together.

I am doing my Reiki Master training right now and I have learned lots of ways to put Reiki in the room and in the class content so it is at once a movement class and energy healing!

Jenny declared herself a “regular” after her first class (she found out about it when my friend Jes Baker of The Militant Baker posted it on Instagram) and is my first actual regular who comes to class all the time! I feel honored to have a regular.

If someone had told me two years ago that I was going to move to LA and become an aerobics instructor I would have laughed them out of the room. But then I decided to move to LA and when I heard about the new all bodies are good bodies/gender inclusive gym EVERYBODY opening just six minutes from my house I was so confused as to how to participate. I figured I could give body positive workshops like I had been doing for fifteen years. But then I was in the back of an “all levels” dance aerobics class at Heartbeat House struggling to keep up and realized that I could probably turn all of my drag performance and queer dance party production skills into my own class. A class that is actually for all levels not just for folks who can hop around the room like a graceful gazelle.

Actual quotes from people who have taken my class:
“I broke out into a deep sweat but my joints don’t hurt!”
“I feel significantly more joyful than I did before class.”
“This is like somatic therapy! I wish I could send my clients to your class but I want it for myself.” (Said a therapist with good boundaries.)

I hope you all can make it to this very unique healing modality some Thursday to come!! And if you’re interested in a Saturday evening class sometime, or maybe want to visit LA and need an excuse, I am thinking about doing a special event late Summer/Fall. Clickie on this form and let me know what dates would work best for you!

*If you’re doing body positive work in LA and want to partner up to do an after class hang out, get in touch!
**Borrowed phrasing from Glenn Marla’s brilliant, “There’s no wrong way to have a body.”
***Adapted modality from Kelli Dunham’s Queer Memoir series, where they cheer when an author says they feel nervous. It’s great permission giving for folks who aren’t used to speaking in front of a crowd.
****Since I’m an artist first and foremost, my own process is infused in the class all the time, including my friends I want to continue to connect to who have passed on. I honor my friend Amanda every time we practice the Boot Scootin’ Boogie to The Judd’s “Why Not Me,” a song we bonded over a lot. And I honor my friend Taueret in every class because she and I shared a deep love for cheesy 80s aerobics. She would love this class.

2015-05-20

On Activism, Capacity and Seeing Yourself as “Enough”

I’ve been thinking a lot about capacity, self care and activism lately.

This morning I got one of my daily spiritual emails* that talked about directing our energies without regard to the need to be successful in an outward way. It told a story about Mother Teresa, who was asked why she devoted herself to such a massive problem as alleviating the suffering of the poor, when obviously she wasn’t going to solve poverty. Where did she get her dedication, “knowing that all the poverty and sickness would still be there long after she had died? Didn’t she realize she couldn’t win?”

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“Her explanation was simple: Of course she knew the task was immense, but “finishing” wasn’t her purpose.” Since Mother Teresa was a person of faith, she was willing to do what she believed was the right action for her, regardless of the outcome. She was focused on the task itself, not the completion of it.

This resonated with me today, as I’ve been focusing on learning my capacity for work, developing systems of self care, and thinking about activist burn out. I think the tendency as one is socialized in systems of oppression, is to give and give of oneself until there is nothing left. This is a value often taught to women, the idea that you have to put everyone else’s needs before your own.

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Activist movements, as in almost all things, can suck you dry—there is always more to be done, more people to reach out to, more actions to plan, more art to make, more reaching out. But at a certain point you have to be able to say, this is my limit. But we’re not socialized in a way to know what our limits are, to think thoughtfully about our capacity, and how to use self care in order to build our capacity. We’re not socialized to be able to say, “Enough, I can’t do this any longer.” I’ve seen it wear down on people until disease forces them to make big life changes.

I had to learn how to start saying no to things, how to learn how to ask folks for time to respond to them (I usually take at least 24 hours to say yes or no to volunteer work), and how to assess whether I wanted to continue working on things that were pulling a lot of my energy. I have flares of my chronic digestive disorder whenever I start getting really stressed out emotionally or with work.

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Today I went for a walk on Venice Beach. My partner is in LA for a work conference and I got to stay with her at the conference hotel. I’m so grateful for a super flexible day job where I can work remotely from a hotel! I took an hour and a half off for lunch and a drive to the beach. I was very charmed by the beach but so troubled by the amount of trash that was washing ashore. I grew up as a Girl Scout in Northern California and we were always doing eco events, picking up trash in wetlands and things like that. It’s a great way to have intimacy with nature and be of service.

Whenever I’m in nature I can’t help it, I just start picking up trash. I get so troubled by seeing it, imagining plastic wrappers wrapping around the necks of birds and things like that. I am 36 years old, I’ve been hearing about environmental conservationism my entire life. It feels so sad that beach clean-up and litter in the ocean is still an ongoing issue. And don’t get me started about the Pacific Trash Vortex. I can’t even.

17721574790_ee6a1b7bc8_zSome kind of corporate stress ball that looked like it could have been a jellyfish from afar. The weirdest trash I found today was an empty bottle of Patron Silver.

My brain is wired in this way where I just start to go there, I think about how big the problem is, how futile it feels for me to walk on the beach and pick up trash without a trash bag. Just gathering things in a found Starbucks cup or precariously clutching them in my paws. I had to think about what I was doing with my time. Was I going to spend my entire walk on the beach picking up litter? Or would I take the relaxing walk I had originally intended?

I decided to asses my capacity and go from there. So I focused with the intensity of a Capricorn for two ten minute bursts, and spend the rest of my thirty or so minutes on the beach in contemplation of birds in the surf and walking along. It felt like a great way to put into practice just doing something I felt called or compelled to do, without regards to the fact that my twenty minutes of litter removal was not even a drop in the bucket compared to trash island. I needed to see it as good enough and let go of the outcome.

17906139372_6e7f32ce97_zI’m obsessed with this bird. Did it ever find the fish it was looking for today? It didn’t the whole time I watched it but I hope it found something delicious later on.

I want to be the kind of person in the world who is of service, and also a person who enjoys life. I think that enjoying life and being person who is receptive to good in the world makes me better able to dismantle systems of oppression that say that fat people, queer people, and women, folks raised working class should not be free to enjoy their bodies. That by being a living example of a fat, embodied, sexually liberated person enjoying life is a form of activism. And that enjoying life is a way of increasing my capacity to do good.

I also know that I can use my privilege as a White person, a person with higher education, a cisgender person, temporarily able bodied, some level of “pretty privilege**,” and a person who has access to media privilege to help causes that are important to me. I never believed that by posting a blog post about Lyme Disease that I was going to somehow cure it. But I did know that by raising awareness of it, encouraging even one of my followers to watch that documentary about Lyme might make someone more sensitive to it and make the experience of Lyme for someone they know easier because someone “gets it.” That’s something. Or maybe just one of my readers has $50 to throw at my friend Jessica’s Lyme fund.

17288704433_242a2f15b2_zWhen I’m a rich lesbian I will have lots of money to give to all sorts of great organizations doing good in the world, and will create a foundation dedicated to funding projects that mainstream funders avoid–like fat stuff, radical queer stuff, sex worker organizing–and building capacity in those movements to make them more effective and support their self care matrixes. Also I will have a baller house on the beach and all those windows will have a giant mural that says “All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are.”

It can feel so daunting to be an activist and want to work to make the world better. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you don’t feel effective. To get stuck in spirals of inactivity because you’re depressed, anxious, need to focus on making money or just survival and feeling so helpless. Getting used to seeing what you are doing as enough, learning that because you are human you are worthy of love and it’s not about what you “do” that matters it’s more about who you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the matrix of success lately, as I struggle through yet another round of letting go of my need to “accomplish” and “prove my worth.” I spent an entire session in therapy trying to talk about how I can get more done and my therapist arguing with me about how I am way too hard on myself. I have had to go through this so many times in my life and it usually ends up the same. I learn to let go of how much I accomplish, learn to feel worthy in spite of my ideas of success, and release blocks that enable me to find deep bursts of energy, creativity and the ability to work more effectively.

That airplane idea about putting your oxygen mask on first before helping others? I want to help create movements with folks where that is the norm and we help each other learn what our oxygen is.

17722918699_c035db8ea3_zLearning about my self care and what is effective self care has been really important for my journey to building my capacity and refilling my tank. Being at the beach really helps me. Such cleansing energy, with the wind (air), earth (sand), water (obvs) all that is missing is fire for a full four element cleanse.

*The one I am referring to is Today’s Gift from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which supports my work in a twelve step program for families and friends of alcoholics. I also get a daily email Note from the Universe which is super cute and whimsical.

**It feels really weird to say that you have pretty privilege when you are talking about yourself. I have so much to talk about in a subsequent post about that, but there’s definitely an element of being someone who has some level of conventional attractiveness that affects your privilege in the world, even as a fatty.

2014-10-27

Why I Posed Nude for Diva Magazine

This past July I received an email from Sophy Holland asking me if I would be interested in posing nude for Diva Magazine’s Body Issue. I know Diva—it’s an international lesbian magazine based in the UK. I loved their Body Issue last year. I immediately checked out Sophy’s website and found an incredible portfolio of sumptuous photos for many world-class publications. It was kind of scary to say yes to something like this. Sophy was very enthusiastic of my work with body liberation and I trusted my intuition, which gave Sophy a thumbs-up.

15447725338_31a39d7308_zOn set with Omyra. All backstage photos by Madison Shields.

I know first-hand the power of seeing real women’s nude bodies and transforming people’s perceptions of themselves… it’s one of the most significant ways I was able to begin to unlearn my own body self-hatred. (I talk more about this in my interview that went along with the photo shoot.) I wanted to take this step politically, and personally I needed to make an amends to myself.

Five years ago I had just turned 30 and my friend Molly was launching her boudoir photography business Fat Bottom Photography. She offered to shoot me and several other folks during a day-long marathon of lingerie and nude photos. I learned a lot about posing nude from that experience, both in front of the camera and Molly’s detailed pre-shoot instructions. The most memorable advice was to hydrate, get plenty of sleep and not wear a bra before you get shot nude because it’ll leave marks on your skin.

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When the proofs came in Molly sent me the gallery and I looked at it a couple of times. But I never got around to telling her which photos I wanted to have retouched and I just let it sit in my gmail drafts for years. An embarrassing amount of years, until I just accepted that I didn’t have it in me to select nude photos of myself and deleted the draft.

I can’t really explain why I never went for those photos. They were gorgeous! Molly is an incredible photographer and I have many treasured portraits she’s taken on other occasions, but there was something about the vulnerability of seeing my naked body like that. I can stare in the mirror and like what I see, I can wear lingerie on stage and post those photos on my blog. But naked? Too tender.

15013670633_b3de0f127b_zMake-up artist Shirley for W3ll People doing her magic on Sam, a super talented celebrity cake decorator.

With the Diva Magazine shoot, I knew it would be different. Saying yes and showing up meant Sophy got to do what she wanted (subject to my personal comfort with what type of nudity I consented to). It meant I couldn’t stall the release of the photos. It meant distribution. And in some ways that felt scarier than having private boudoir photos of myself, but it also meant making a choice to make a difference in someone else’s life.

Going into it I was a bit nervous. Usually I can bring a buddy along for shoots but not this time. Since it was nude, it was a closed set. And, with twelve on-camera subjects, make-up, hair, photo assistants, catering and a few other folks it was already full. Sophy made sure to tell me I would know one of the other on-camera subjects, Robin.

The Diva shoot was way more glamorous than I imagined it would be. I’ve modeled a handful of times and it’s usually kind of uncomfortable and a bit ad hoc. I love being in front of the camera, though, so I’m totally up for discomfort for the sake of art.

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This was modeling in style! My call time was 8:30AM at Pier 59 studios, a professional photography studio with a gorgeous row of make-up mirrors and chairs, a gorgeous zen garden and a juice and coffee bar. I was among the first to arrive and had so much fun digging into the delicious catering brunch while Keiko began the three and a half hour project of making my hair “Priscilla Presley meets Dolly Parton.” And Shirley (Shirley Pinkson for her amazing make-up brand W3ll People) doing my make-up was so soothing. (Sometimes I think of getting my make-up done as a form of body work because I find it so relaxing.)

Sophy was incredible. She showed me photos of inspiration for my individual shoot and hair. She checked in with me about what I was going to wear and checked in about how I was feeling leading up to the big moment in front of the camera. She worked to make me feel super comfortable, supported and valuable. I know this was in the context of a very professional photo shoot, but in a more bedroom context, these are also characteristics of a good top. I’m just saying.

15447928677_7b9d36dcb9_zThe only behind the scenes photo Sophy sent us of herself, here she is overlooking Carly’s look. Sophy is the stunner standing with the perfect long blow-out. Carly has all the bombshell red lipstick.

They played music over the sound system for each individual shoot and Sophy was the first to play All About That Bass for me. I didn’t realize it was a size positive pop anthem until after the shoot and it has been forever endeared for the association with a special day.

15013094284_31de553106_zMy finished hair and make-up selfie in progress with Shirley and Keiko.

My individual shoot took almost no time to complete—given all that hair and make-up it was less than two songs and a few “Move your foot a little to the right” and then we were done. Most of the rest of the time waiting for the big group shot I hung out and got to know the other models. A DJ, a triathelete, dancers, my pal Ashley Kolodner of Gay Face 1st Class, one of the stars of VH1’s R&B Divas, and more. Each of us has an interview in the feature article with their nude photo.

The group shot was really fun to do, and I tried to make my facial features as interesting as possible. It was kind of awkward, since we were all half naked hanging around in poses, but we were cracking jokes and getting to know each other.

15447868227_d79ef1d462_bI actually think my hair has never looked better than it did after all this hard work by Keiko!

The final results are gorgeous, I am absolutely in love with the shot that Sophy chose for my feature. I was interested to note it features prominently my stomach rolls and my stomach is an area of my body that is still complex for me. But it’s a testament to the power of a good photographer to be able to help you see a part of your body in a new way.*

The article that goes along with the cover story (teaser here) is each person in the shoot talking about their body and how they became at home in it. Though most of the bodies are normatively shaped, almost everyone has a story about how it was a struggle to love it. I also really appreciate Rosebud’s story of coming home in their trans* body from a place of wishing it was masculine or anything other than what it was.

15447783748_eb3b00286f_zYou should check out Monifah’s album, it’s wonderful.

I still feel a little bummed I never got those photos of myself from that Fat Bottom Boudoir shoot— all bodies change and I’ll literally never have the same body I had when I was 30. I’m so thrilled with what Sophy did and am really proud of myself for making that personal amends, being afraid and doing the photo shoot anyway. Now I have a gorgeous record of where I was in my body and about my body at 35. And I know it’s never too late to keep moving forward in the journey to loving and being comfortable with your body.

The Diva Magazine is available for digital download for $5.99, on newstands now (check your international newsstand since it’s a UK-based international magazine), and you can order a print copy to be delivered to your door. The stories in the feature article are incredibly inspirational and empowering—I hope you’ll get a copy!

15447360949_494e5d44f9_zHere’s a teaser screencap of my picture but you’ll have to get the magazine to see the whole thing!

*My photographer friend Sophie Spinelle does this with her Shameless Photography Pin-up clients. I really want to get together with Sophie Spinelle and Sophy Holland sometime.

2014-10-15

I Lost a Bunch of Weight and Feel Really Complicated About it

Last year I lost a bunch of weight without intending to lose weight.

I’ve debated writing about it for a long time. What do you say when you’re a body liberation activist, who is fat and totally okay with it, when your body shifts in an unintended way? My silence around the how and why of my weight loss has partially been political—my body is nobody’s business except my own—and partially been because I needed to make my own peace with the shifts happening on a very intimate corporeal level.

IMG_20140906_045612Me, backstage at Dollypalooza with MILK from RuPaul’s Drag Race and Camille Atkinson.

During this process I’ve learned a lot about making peace with a changing body. I have been fat my entire life, since I was maybe 5 and it was identifiable to me that fat was a thing you could be and that’s what I was. I’ve been the fattest in most of my friend groups, among the fattest people almost everywhere I go, and generally at the higher end of plus size so that not all plus size stores carry clothing that fit me. My experience of fat came with some privilege—I have not had a Super Fat experience, for example—but I definitely was decidedly fat.

And I loved my body. I still love my body. I had gone from hating my body and being completely checked out of it to being an embodied, yoga attending, dancing full body in spandex outfits on the dance floor, person who could tell you exactly how her body was feeling at any moment. I did so much work to get to that place and to love every inch of myself.

Chronic disease.

Starting in about 2006 I was dealing with chronic digestive issues. It would flare up differently and at different times. Stress, anxiety and I was extremely reactive to fiberous foods—like broccoli and raw salads. My digestion was so bad at times I couldn’t leave the house, or I was often late getting places because I would need to spend time having diarrhea or cramping. I went to see gastroenteologists about my condition twice over the span of a few years. Both came up with different diagnoses, both had me go in for a colonoscopy and upper endoscopy. The first diagnosis was colitis, but that was later ruled incorrect. The ultimate diagnosis was IBS—Irritable Bowel Syndrome—which my last doctor explained as, “We know something is wrong with your digestion we just don’t know what it is.” I have tried several different prescription medications for it and nothing resolved it.

I knew from paying attention to my body that coffee was something that made my digestion way worse, so I dropped that habit a couple of years ago. It helped. Replacing coffee with tea in my life is what inspired me to start the Lesbian Tea Basket.

I knew from paying attention to my body that alcohol, especially bourbon, caused a revolution in my intestines. When I gave up drinking at the beginning of 2013 it was partially because of wanting to address these ongoing digestion issues.

IMG_20140419_170005I could never have gone through this process without a fat positive health coach who I could call from the grocery store. “Hey Vic, is spelt the same as wheat?” “It’s better than gluten but still in the starchy carb category.”

Along came the candida overgrowth. It started for me as the presence of yeast during sex. Just a kind of weird, what is that white stuff presence. Then it happened more and more. Because it wasn’t itchy or causing any other symptoms of a yeast infection I didn’t think it was the “chronic yeast infections” a few folks I knew who had gone on the Candida Diet. But my friend and health coach Vic, of Heart Beets Holistic Health, said she was pretty positive my yeast presence was a Candida overgrowth. Vic suggested I read the book The Candida Cure and consider going on what she called the Candida Starvation and Murder Plan.

A lot of people call it the Candida Diet and I hate the term because “diet” is so loaded with baggage. In the media and in common parlance, it is used often as a violent word to attack bodies like mine. So often people don’t understand why fat folks “don’t just diet” when weight loss is much more complicated than that.

Number one, fat might be just the way someone is built. Number two, the systemic oppression of fat people actually makes it really difficult to take any lasting measures towards health. Number three, my body is nobody’s business but my own. Number four, plenty of fat people are healthy. Number five, it’s also okay if someone just wants to eat how they want to eat, they should not experience oppression because the genetic lottery means that will show up as a larger body. No one’s value is based on their choices—all humans are worthy of love and respect.

I could probably rant longer about how much I hate diet culture but that’ll do.

The Candida Cure.

Setting aside my issues with “diet” language, I read the Candida Cure, taking what I liked and leaving the rest. The author of the book was diagnosed with MS and uses the Candida Starvation Plan as a way to live symptom free. Since the whole point of the eating plan is to starve the candida, which feed off of sugar, I began referring to the eating plan laid out in the book as the Candida Starvation Plan, playing off of Vic’s jovial ways of making complex nutritional issues extremely accessible.

I learned a lot about what causes a candida overgrowth—big factors are any period of stress in your life (stress spikes your blood sugar which feeds the candida), going on antibiotics, eating a lot of sugars over a period of time. The book said that up to a third of people probably have a candida overgrowth and Western medicine really doesn’t talk about it. (Which is true—I saw Dr. Oz a few weeks ago and a guest was talking about how antibiotics are causing digestive issues but totally danced around ever using the word “candida.”)

I learned that candida was living in my intestines, eroding the lining and likely causing my years of chronic digestive disease and inflammation.

The Candida Starvation Plan is brutal, when compared to the typical American Diet. No sugar, not even fruit sugars, no caffeine, no gluten/wheat, no corn, no soy, no grains or carbs of any kind besides brown rice in limited quantities. No nightshade veggies like mushrooms or peppers. No sugary veggies. The Candida Cure even says no pork because the antibiotics given to pigs might feed the candida.

IMG_20140901_133725Ribs, when prepared with no sugar, are debatable on the Candida Starvation Plan. My body needed the pork, though.

After I read the book, having gone on her Spring cleanse and determining by the direct cause and effect (“Hey, when I eat a banana I get a yeast infection”) that I did have a candida overgrowth, Vic stepped in to help me design a Candida Murder Plan. The Starvation Plan works a lot better if you’re actively killing off the Candida, too.

Vic gave me a cycle of four herbs to take, since candida can get used to one herb and then not be affected. She also prescribed this “dirt drink” that takes an oil that kills the candida, mixes it with psyllium husks and powder to take it to different parts of the intestines and delivers it with food grade diatamaceous earth and bentonyte clay. Once I was using the dirt drink every morning I could tell that I was healing.

The whole Candida Starvation Plan was about 7 months, with a couple of times where I got off the plan because of life circumstances—travel with limited food options. If I could have avoided the life circumstances it might have worked in about 3-4 months.

My IBS symptoms cleared up about 60% within a month, and were almost entirely gone within 2-3 months. I now only get flares when I eat trigger foods or am very emotionally stressed out.

Losing weight affected me in complex ways, and most of them were difficult.

First of all, it startled me. Having tried to lose weight a lot of different methods over the years and rarely seeing a shift above or below a certain 60 pound range (I called it my pendulum, where as an adult I never went above my pendulum or below it) I really thought I’d just plateau around my normal “low” weight and stay there. I rapidly sunk below that low and kept going. I genuinely didn’t think my body was going to have that in store for me.

Second of all, since the weight loss was unexpected, I felt kind of resentful of it. If you’re one of the billion typical people who are seeking weight loss, the kind of hassle that comes along with it is bearable and perhaps even embraced. But if you aren’t expecting or seeking a weight reduction having to buy new clothing and replace really simple stuff like bras is annoying and a cost that is hard to absorb. Also, when the weight loss was coming on I was also at a period of really intense brokeness and couldn’t afford to replace my wardrobe.

IMG_20140713_125708This dress was a handmedown from a dear friend. I had two friends do closet purges and invite me to dig through their leftovers–goddesssends in a time of brokeness when I needed some staple dresses to wear and many of my favorites were too big.

Third of all, I was impressed with my friends and family. Sure, there have been lots of folks who have given me the nonpliment of “you look great.” There is one friend who I’ve distanced myself from, in part because she just never heard me when I said, “I need you to stop calling me skinny and telling me how good I look. It makes me uncomfortable when you talk about my body.”

The majority of my personal community and family has been really neutral about my weight loss, waiting for me to bring it up if I do bring it up and not showering me with praise. This has been really awesome, because I know I’m doing a great job surrounding myself with body positive allies, and educating folks about how to be an ally to fat folks who appear to have lost weight.

Fourth, I made a decision once I realized I was losing weight to be extremely neutral about it with myself. I even made it a spiritual challenge, to see myself as just a soul having a human experience, that my body is going to change no matter what I do (hello, aging) and that this was just another change. I don’t want to feel bad or glad if I do end up increasing weight in the future. I want to accept it as another phase my body is going through.

I also wanted to really live the phrase Health at Every Size. I’m willing to do the work of knowing what my body needs to feel healthy and do the work to love myself at every size I’m at. If I am going to advance the belief that all bodies are good bodies I am going to treat my body that way as well.

Fifth, I was surprised that sex was different when I lost weight–and not how I would expect. Weight loss rhetoric would have you believe that sex gets so great when you lose weight, but actually it was super weird for me. I have lost sensation in many parts of my body and I can no longer get fisted. I don’t get it. I’ve had sex with two people before and after the weight reduction and both noticed the difference. Vic thinks it might have to do with less adipose tissue, which means less estrogen and less sensation. Who knows, but I’d love to get fisted again. I mean, I’ll continue to have great sex no matter what, but it would be nice to not have to learn a whole new language about how my body wants to be touched sexually.

Sixth, I actually felt weird when asked to pose nude for an international magazine (look for Diva Magazine out on October 18th) that I had lost so much weight. I ate a bunch of dairy before the shoot so I would look plumper.

So what did I eat?

I had to learn a whole new way of eating for my body. I tried the Candida Starvation Plan for a month with no pork, at Vic’s suggestion. That part really sucked and after a month of no pork I went back to bacon—antibiotic free, hormone free, organic heritage humane pork is my preference anyway so I became very strict about that aspect of the pork.

IMG_20140420_182121Vic suggested when I was hungry to make sure I was eating enough fat. Fat fills you up. Deviled eggs are full of fat, but it’s rough finding a no sugar added mayo. I went to Whole Foods.

I got really good at slow cooking meats. I would make a pork shoulder in the crock pot which would feed me for 3 weeks. I ate a lot of bone broth (Vic’s recipe is great).

Breakfast was a challenge. I would have eggs, bacon and greens on some days. Some days I’d make kale, bone broth and pulled pork. Other days I’d have this weird grain cereal called Quia, being sure it was the type of Quia that didn’t have dried fruit in it. I’ve since found this amazing paleo baking queen named Brittany Angell who sells a $10 premium membership that comes with a breakfast recipe ebook.

I had big salads, veggie stir fries, tons of thai food cooked without sugar, and meat. I was doing a lot of cooking and thus doing dishes, but I though I was starving the candida, I was never starving!

I would get a little carb crazy sometimes, and then I would do some baking. Almond flour biscuits were a saving grace, as were brown rice tortillas from trader joe’s.

The Candida Cure allows half a grapefruit, or a handful of blueberries, or a small green apple per day, as all are relatively low sugar fruits. Also sweet potatoes a few times a week, so I got some fries every now and again. I was very strict on the candida starvation (I wanted to be one and done with the Candida Starvation Plan) except for caffeine which I had in iced tea probably once or twice a day because I drink a lot of iced tea. It’s decaf at home but I grab it at Dunkin Donuts often.

It was remarkable, actually, how different food began to taste when I took sweet out of the equation. Regular stuff, like veggies, get sweeter when you aren’t having sugar regularly.

I had tried to diet a many times before I decided to love my body as it was. I always failed. I hated my body. But this time, I was totally embodied and paying attention to how food was affecting me. I love my body and I like paying attention to it and doing things that make it feel good.

Being able to feel the difference in my chronic digestive disease so quickly was really helpful. I knew what I was doing wasn’t some amorphous “maybe it’ll help the candida;” I really knew it was working.

Since I weaned myself off the diet, I try to eat a generally anti-inflammatory food plan. I focus on no gluten/wheat, no soy (this is the most reactive food to me), no dairy during allergy season and limited dairy otherwise, sometimes no corn, low sugar, low starchy carbs. I focus on eating veggies, fruit, meat and protein. It’s really similar to my partner Dara’s anti-cancer diet, so that is helpful.

IMG_20140510_161609I’m really delighted to be back together with honey.

I can tell when I’m eating inflammatory foods because my stomach gets really hard. It’s much squishier when things are moving well. I kind of err on the side of Paleo because that’s a pretty big food movement that is most similar to my food guidelines. Thanks cross fit folks for making a food plan that helps me find recipes easily.

So, that’s the elephant in the room. Longtime readers of my blog probably noticed that I reduced my weight and were curious. I’m annoyed that so much of how I lost weight had to do with not eating cupcakes and donuts and things that I freaking love. Food celebration is a big part of my body liberation performance and activism.

But I also really fucking love my body and don’t want to be all cramped up unless it’s worth it. (By the way, my friend Maggie and Karen’s epic, decadent, weekend wedding extravaganza last weekend? Worth the whole week of yucky digestion.)

I would never have been able to love my body the way I needed to in order to do what I needed to do to resolve my chronic digestive issues before I loved my body.

A long time ago I made peace with my body and began to love it. I’m really glad I can love my body no matter where it is on the weight pendulum. And even though I lost a bunch of weight, I’m still fat.

2014-10-10

Nine Steps to Be Ready to Wear Sleeveless Shirts or Shorts Next Summer

If you spent this summer consistently covering up your arms because you were ashamed to show that part of your body, now is a great time to start working on being ready for next year. You can unlearn the lies that people tell you about how you have to cover up in order to be socially acceptable.

I remember very distinctly an episode of the Oprah show I watched when I was a teenager where she waved her upper arm in the air and spoke derisively about the skin and fat “waddle” dangling there. I turned crimson with the recognition that I already had that “waddle” and that because Oprah was opposed to it then I should be ashamed of it.
2957045493_cb41415748_zI thought I’d do a little flashback Friday with photos of me sleeveless through the last decade. Here is a photo of me showing my arm waddle during a performance at the International Drag King Extravaganza in Columbus circa 2010. This is the dapper and amazing Heywood Wakefield.

Oprah is in a unique position—she’s so influential in US culture that many people listen to what she says with the same kind of attention that we might give to a parent or relative. My parents and relatives were also fatphobic and ashamed of their bodies and it was easy to internalize that the fat body I had all my life was wrong, with a hearty reiteration from Oprah.

We’re all human, though, and I recognize everyone is doing the best they can with what they have. My mom is now super supportive of my work with body liberation and Oprah is definitely much more body accepting in the twenty teens than she was in the nineties.

I don’t understand why our culture is so opposed to fat people’s arms. What is it about the arms specifically that makes us need to cover them up most of all? No fat person’s arm has caused more harm than a thin person’s.

I was on the phone with a body liberation coaching client and told her the story of how I got through my own shame about sleeveless shirts, and I wanted to share that with my readers. This is the same time of year I began that journey, so I thought it would be great to encourage others who are ready to take these steps to begin now for next summer.

I’m outlining here a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. All bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are AND they deserve to be comfortable.

14558700107_5d7497a1ae_oThese are my stickers! Aren’t they cute? If anyone wants some, make a donation via paypal of any amount to queerfatfemme at gmail and include your address.

1. Get ready to do things differently

I was 19 when I embarked on the journey to start wearing sleeveless shirts. I was at an interesting turning point in my life. After a many years long, often suicidal depression, I had decided to stop hating myself. I didn’t know what that meant and I had no identifiable role models for fat people who didn’t hate themselves, but I knew I needed to do something different. That summer, I met someone who basically made me promise to stop putting myself down and work on loving myself. Grant was a lifeguard at the Girl Scout camp I worked at and he wrote me the sweetest note in my camp yearbook. It meant so much to me. It was the first time I was ever able to hear that I was worthy of not hating myself.

I knew instinctively that I was wrong for hiding my arms. It was uncomfortable and annoying and I wanted to feel the freedom of my skinny counterparts. I had a couple of tank tops as layering pieces and I started to open myself up to the idea of wearing them, and set a goal to be wearing them outside by the next year. I wasn’t sure exactly how, but I was going to do it.

If you want to do things differently, you need only set your mind to it. If you’ve been spending your summers all bottled up under hoodies or wearing pants even though you would be way more comfortable in shorts, you can move past your fear and shame and start being more confident.

You just need to want it. It’s also okay to not want it and spend the next year or however long getting to a point to want to go sleeveless or wear shorts. That’s okay, too!

2. Go shopping

If you already have tank tops or shorts you want to wear, great, skip this step. If you’ve avoided them forever, this is a great time of year to get low stakes clothing that you’re not that attached to.

Now that I’m comfortable with my body I don’t have a problem investing in pieces that are armless and short legged (herstorically I’ve spent a pretty penny on vintage lingerie pieces). But if I wasn’t comfortable in a short sleeved shirt, I wouldn’t want to spend a bunch of cash on them just to see if I could learn to love myself in spite of all the lies people tell me about my body.

Right now Target has summer clearance hanging around—I got two really great sleeveless dresses for $12 recently. And a quick search online yields promising results (like this long tank top, I love a long tank top). I also totally adore Target’s Liz Lange maternity clothes–this sleeveless V neck cami marketed for “sleep” but totally not just for sleep is a great plus size sleeveless first step shirt.

Layering pieces are super helpful for this process, too, if you need some guidance for what to buy. The tank tops I started trying out when I was 19 were meant to go under overshirts. One of my favorite looks when I was in college in the late nineties were men’s dress shirts worn open over a frilly tank top. When I was ready to wear tank tops out of the house it helped to have the layers ready to go whenever I felt shy.

If you’re wanting to try shorts out, there’s a little less layering wiggle room, but it’s a great time of year to get clearance shorts, too.

15498653845_ffa838faff_zThis is a layering look I adored in 2011, a sleeveless dress with a cardigan on top.

3. Identify confidence anchors on your body

I didn’t do this when I transitioned to tank tops, but when I came out as Femme I used this a whole bunch. I found the part of my body I felt the most confident about (my cleavage) and I dressed around it. I could try pretty much anything if my cleavage was bangin’. The Lane Bryant Plunge bra was great for this. If your anchor is your cleavage, make sure you have a great bra for stepping your way into wearing tank tops next summer.

For some tips on bra shopping check out this article I wrote about getting a custom bra fitting.

So maybe your favorite part of your body is your calves or your forearms or something. Find a way to highlight it and use it as an anchor.

647924376_8cb8653c4f_o2002, at the IDKE showcase. Corsets were really good to me in the focus on the cleavage not the arms department.

4. Practice at home

Once you have the will to try something new and the new garments you want to try, start practicing at home. At 19 I was a Resident Advisor in the dorms, so this was an experiment just in my room at Thoreau Hall at UC Davis. I would just use tank tops as my around the house wear. Previous to this I was so ashamed of my arms that I wasn’t even wearing tank tops in the privacy of my own home, not even as loungewear.

What made the tank tops different than loungewear was that I would be all dressed for outside, but in a tank top. This is where layering pieces helped—I was able to just throw on an overshirt and go about my day. But in the house, I was wearing the tank top that I wished I had the confidence to wear outside.

If you’re trying on shorts, wear them around the house and get used to what your body looks like in shorts. I know a lot of folks who are super insecure about hairy legs, cellulite, weird skin stuff and leg size or shape.

5. Identify your body positive allies

This is a really great exercise whether or not you are already a sleeveless shirt and shorts wearer. Who in your life is a body positive ally? Your best friend? A certain group of friends? I sure hope you have some folks in your life who affirm the body that you’re in right now and don’t think you need to change.

If not, start making a list of the attributes of friends who will be body positive allies to you, and open yourself up to finding those friends.

9304102569_cdb266b898_oThis was the first time I ever wore a bikini, with my friend Jacqueline.

6. Identifiy your “safer” spaces

Once you’ve identified body positive allies, come up with a list of safe(r) spaces to try out wearing new clothes. This is a great technique for any kind of fashion risk. Places I like to try things out:

*Casual hang out with your allies.
*A body positive ally comes over and you just don’t cover up your arms.
*Brunch—this is my favorite petri dish for new fashion. Low stakes and early in the day.
*Going out in public with a body positive ally who can compliment you when you’re feeling nervous.
*Going out in public with a layering piece so you can quickly cover up if you need to. Challenge yourself to go without the layer longer and longer each time.

2504463608_9827babbb3_zA little chicken satay and body positivity with Rachael, one of my oldest friends, in 2008.

7. Fake it till you make it and act “as if” you’re already comfortable in sleeveless shirts

When I was trying out tank tops I remember the first time someone came over by surprise and I just didn’t cover up my arms. It was my not-yet first girlfriend and I remember feeling embarrassed about my arms showing but also really wanted to try to be okay with it. I was so crushed out on her that it was easy to forget to be insecure because my mind was absolutely full, and that’s exactly why I forgot to put on an overshirt in the first place!

What I did was I just faked it. I pretended to be okay with my arms showing. The more it happened with folks coming over the more I realized it wasn’t a big deal. No one was going to think differently of me with my arms showing.

3683063609_4ce737edc2_zPride parade 2009 with the Femme Family NYC.

8. Instagram or tumblr body positive images

I really like to reinforce positive body image for all bodies. I love Instagram and Tumblr for this. To consistently surround myself with people who believe all bodies are good bodies and who exude self-confidence is a really great antidote for our fat shaming society. Get used to seeing bodies like yours in sleeveless tops or shorts!

By the way—never read the comments. People are gross on the internet.

Remember throughout this process—so many of us have been there. The people you see in Instagram and Tumblr feeds are people who have survived the same body policing and fat hating society. Don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides. Just because someone seems confident doesn’t mean they are not vulnerable, human and insecure just like you.

9. Do what you need to do about beauty rituals to feel comfortable in sleeveless shirts

Again, this is a process of self-acceptance and learning to be comfortable in the body you have right now. However, if you need to do things to feel good in them that are achievable, maybe you try that. Maybe it’s a spray tan. Maybe it’s an arm tattoo. Maybe it’s shaving your legs every single day to wear shorts until you can get comfortable enough to go hairy legged one summer. Maybe it’s addressing a skin thing keeping you from showing your arms. I’m not saying modification of your body is necessary to body acceptance, but sometimes it’s helpful to baby step your way.

1393354441_e2bef3304b_zFound this photo of my friend Zoe’s leg tattoo–a great reason to wear shorts!

Dolly Parton’s character Truvy in Steel Magnolias says there’s no such thing as natural beauty, and I do believe that everyone should get to do exactly as much “work” as they want to on their appearance. For me, when I’m feeling nervous about something, I throw on a full face of make-up including fake eyelashes and big hair and it definitely ups my confidence.

When I was about 9 years old I started developing bumps on my arms. It looked kind of like chicken skin after feathers were plucked from them. I was super insecure about it, and my paternal Grammy told me it was genetic. Eventually I learned that this is a really typical skin condition and I could just exfoliate three times a week and it would go away. I don’t know if I would have felt comfortable trying tank tops if I hadn’t already addressed this skin issue I was having, but I’d like to think I would have still tried. (Right now I use Lush’s sandstone soap to exfoliate, and also a scrubby washcloth.)

Oh, and once I started exposing my skin to the sun more often, the bumps were way less prevalent.

Being self confident is a baby stepping process. I was 19 when I started trying to wear tank tops and it took me until I was 22 to start to embrace my fat body and fat as an identity. You can get there. Every single day is a great day to start.

7310063030_3093c1724a_zRebel Cupcake second anniversary party, 2012.

2014-07-10

Bevin Branlandingham Included in Go Magazine’s 100 Women We Love

Every Gay Stamina Month, or “Pride Month” as most people call it, Go Magazine, the big lesbian party and lifestyle magazine, produces a list of 100 Women We Love. This year I’m included!

I’m super honored to be on the list talking about my mission to make the world safe for people to love themselves, and especially their bodies!

″Too many folks spend so much of their lives putting off really living and enjoying themselves until they lose weight or modify themselves in some way. Truly feeling worthy is an inside job, not something that is conditional on outside acceptance or conforming your body to a cultural norm.″

Unlike lots of lists out there, Go Magazine asks for an interview and consent from the participants and I was really grateful to get to talk about what is important to me about the work that I do. Consent is sexy!

Check out the whole article here! 100 Women We Love–Bevin Branlandingham.

20140702_173956My mom is going to be stoked that I’m right next to K.D. Lang.

2014-04-18

Six Strategies to Not Care When People Stare at You

When my girlfriend started to go through chemotherapy, she shaved her head. She didn’t want to start losing her rock star style shaggy hair in great clumps so she figured she’d go bald on her own. She doesn’t shy away from flamboyance, so she did a whole head shaving party and got our buddy Khane Kutzwell from Camera Ready Kutz to do a whole fancy design, that you can see in the below video.

Shortly thereafter, folks started staring at her more than they used to. Especially as her hair thinned and she slowly went bald. She worried, when it got really obvious that she was balding, about what other people were thinking about her.

12762536225_3f2f5d8db7_z

I could relate to how she was feeling. I used to constantly stress out about what people thought about me, even when I was a more run of the mill fat girl when I was a late teenager and in my early twenties. (I did my best to blend in, but it’s hard when you’re 5’7” and fat.) As I started to come more into my own, I started dressing more flamboyantly and now I get noticed a lot. It’s actually kind of a relief in New York City because you get less stares when you look like a weirdo than you do outside of the city. I often forget how conspicuous I am until I travel.

13513393314_3d9cd2f604_zPhoto I took in a bathroom on a road trip through small towns when I realized people were staring at me and I remembered that I usually stick out.

A lot of folks do the long look to try to decide what’s going on with someone when they look unusual. And that’s way more noticeable when you’re not used to it. It feels weird. And when Dara started to notice it, she felt uncomfortable and insecure about it.

I surprised myself by rattling off a bunch of strategies she could use to get more comfortable with being conspicuous. So here, dear readers, is a cheat sheet for how to stop caring about what strangers think about you.

This is, of course, just strategies for your perceptions of people looking at you. This list doesn’t address the real danger of homophobic, transphobic, misogynist, femmephobic, ageist, sizist, antisemetic, racist, anti-erotic street harassers and jerks out there. For my readers out there blooming as the gorgeous weirdo flowers you are I send a lot of love and protective energy to you.

1. It’s not about you.

I like to remember that everyone in the world is running their own race. What that means is that everyone is on their own journey and you don’t actually know what’s going on in their mind. We’re all living in a beligerent society that commodifies insecurity. It teaches us to hate ourselves and our bodies. When I was at my most insecure, I rarely paid attention to anyone else except if it was in a way that I would put my own self down.

I would hazard to guess that most folks who you think are looking at you aren’t actually noticing you. And if they are noticing you and passing judgment or having thoughts about you, it doesn’t affect your value one bit.

One of the best things you can do for yourself is to work on your own value internally. How much you are worth isn’t decided by the woman standing behind you at Starbucks who won’t stop looking at you. Even if she is judging you, which she might not be, her scowl could just be about how she’s not sure she can actually afford to pay her light bill and she’s wondering if this latte is a good idea.

If you’re familiar with the Four Agreements, I like to remember the second agreement in times like this. “Don’t take anything personally.”

2. Pretend they are thinking you are beautiful.

I read a tweet from Our Lady J that changed my life. She said something to the effect of pretending like the people staring at her were thinking she was beautiful. So many people might be looking at you because you’re beautiful but you might not have the ability to agree with them so you’re assuming it’s a negative judgment when it might actually be something positive.

I really like the call to assuming people’s best intentions and an affirmation of your own beauty if you can go there. And also, sometimes negative body comments are a way of masking folks’ own discomfort at finding nonconformative bodies attractive. That is really complicated for people.

Our_Lady_J_8Photo of Our Lady J by Santiago Felipe.

3. Remove your judgments about other people.

I believe true change on a global level starts from the personal. If you can transform the way you think it will help transform the world. I think this is true for how you feel about other people.

I used to comment internally on people’s bodies. I grew up wildly focused on my own body. Now I work hard to be really neutral with myself about my own body, but I had to stop my internal chatter about other people’s bodies before I could apply it to myself. When I found myself saying, “That person is thin, I wish I was more like that,” I would stop myself and remind myself of my core value: All bodies are good bodies.

We live in a society that teaches us that it is okay to pass judgment and value other bodies in hierarchical ways. The media is constantly critiquing people’s bodies and appearance–it’s so difficult to step away from that programming!

If you can replace criticism with compassion for other people it will transform the way you feel about yourself. Once I started learning more about how to apply compassion in my own life (I talk about this in the April write-up with Empowering Astrology) I mellowed out a lot and cared much less about what other people were thinking about me.

13416539085_5c6b735962_zDara’s alien as it started to fade.

4. Work on your own perception of yourself.

From about age 8-13 I was bullied relentlessly. I absorbed those terrible things kids and adults said about me and my body. I became the worst bully of myself and started a constant internal chatter of criticism. I believed those things. It took years and years of choosing to rearrange my thoughts to not berate myself.

Accepting and then eventually loving myself took a lot of time and intention on how to think about my body and then eventually my own self worth. There are a million strategies for this (I offer body liberation coaching to help folks work on loving their bodies), but one of my favorites is below.

Piggybacking on removing judgment about other people in number 3 above, is removing your own judgment. Often we look for things to reinforce the thoughts we already have. Our thoughts are incredibly powerful. When you walk around thinking about how awful your body is, that is what you reinforce with your thoughts about what other people are thinking about you–a toxic feedback loop!

Instead, try replacing your negative thoughts with positive affirmations. The deal with affirmations is that they are statements that may not be true in the present but that you will eventually begin to believe the truth of. (See Louise Hay’s You Can Heal Your Life.)

Some good affirmations that you can splice into your thoughts when you get caught up berating your own body or worrying about what other people think of you are:

I approve of myself.
All bodies are good bodies.
I love myself.
My body is wonderful.
I am beautiful and smart and that is how everyone sees me.

5. Wear sunglasses.

As a nightlife performer in New York City–where venues with proper dressing rooms are a luxury–I have had to learn how to not worry about people openly staring at me because I’m wearing a weird costume and a lot of make-up. Once, on the way to the Dyke March wearing a Wonder Woman costume I put on a pair of sunglasses and I decided that if I couldn’t really see other people they couldn’t really see me. It worked, I stopped caring that much about whether people were looking at me.

6. Fake it till you make it.

This is also a great strategy for learning to love your body. It’s just acting like it doesn’t bother you when people look at you. Maybe it still does but if you pretend to yourself and maybe to other people that it doesn’t bother you, you’ll start to believe it.

13133225584_0696c9b086_zDoing Chemo karaoke.

It’s taken me many years to get over people’s perceptions of me. Ultimately, I know if what I am doing, wearing, writing about, living is in alignment with my core values, I know I approve of myself. And that’s the most important thing to me, being a person who knows who I am and lives that life authentically–no matter how people judge my body or my lifestyle.

2013-10-09

My Experience with the Heart Beets Holistic Seasonal Cleanse

A few months ago I began a health coach relationship with one of my friends. I actually really love the coaching experience–I had an artist life coach three years ago and the experience radically transformed me artistically and spiritually. There’s something about the accountability required with one on one attention and the individualized diagnostics that can happen with the right chemistry between coach and subject.

The gateway activity for me and Heart Beets Holistic health coaching was her seasonal cleanse. I was initially extremely dubious. I have heard about cleanses people have used before and they often seem like fad diets or fasting. Many people say “cleanse” as a euphamism for radical diet. As someone who is body positive, fat positive and virulently opposed to diet culture, I am not prone to want to jump on eating trends. Cleanses seem trendy right now.

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Vic. She’s not just a coach, she’s also a babe.

Heart Beets Holistic announced the first cleanse group and I immediately thought, “Not for me.” But Vic is persistent and persuasive, so though I didn’t think it was going to be a good thing I agreed to try it for the three week period. I trust Vic as a body positive, health at every size focused health professional. She believes all bodies are good bodies. She’s a nurse practitioner and a holistic health pratitioner who is very excited about fat. “Mo’ fat mo’ betta!” she likes to say to me.

“I can’t seem to get full!” I say to her.

“Eat more fat!” she replies.

She’s the first health practitioner I’ve ever been involved with who is pro fat but she is right when she tells me to put butter on stuff. It’s the opposite of how I was raised. It was a non-fat milk, low fat food kind of lifestyle, even though I was always fat.

The cleanse was appealing to me because it was about eliminating the most inflammatory foods. Sugar, dairy, wheat/gluten, corn, peanuts, eggs, and soy. I have kicked sugar before and I felt great, so I knew this would help me reinvent my eating.

She gave us recipes for every meal. Most cleansers were doing two smoothies a day, one in the morning and one at night, but because of my IBS (Irritabel Bowel Syndrome*) Vic didn’t want me to have so much fiber so close to bed, so I was to eat bone broth with veggies cooked in it at night. There was a healthy, filling lunch in the middle of the day and we got recipes for that, too.

I also have been interested in moving towards a whole foods lifestyle and I found the cleanse really helpful for that. Focusing on eating whole foods–not processed or pre-packaged and getting down with some vegetables I hadn’t used before was easy to learn through the methods of the cleanse. It also reset a lot of my eating habits and made me focus on my eating in a new way.

It wasn’t a cheap process. The cleanse experience made me think a lot about food justice. It’s really hard to eat well in an inner-city, and it costs a lot of money. Stuff with wheat in it is cheap! Processed food is cheap! We have all these corn subsidies so corn stuff is cheap!

Getting the things I needed for the cleanse recipes took a lot of hoofing it around Brooklyn and Manhattan (this would be easier if I lived in a town with a Whole Foods and a car). But Vic is also all about teaching you how to do things cheaper, and towards the middle of the cleanse we can replace protein powder with beans and nuts (together become a complete protein). Beans in a smoothie are weird but actually not bad.

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Grocery haul at the beginning of the cleanse.

I’m not going to lie, some of the smoothies were a little weird, but by the end you learn how to create your own to suit your palate, and being forced to try something new is actually a good exercise in learning how to deal with change.

At the beginning of the cleanse I was feeling very diet triggered. There was so much emphasis on what I couldn’t eat, so much focus on food that it made me think of all the millions of times I embarked on a diet. But I also recognize that, for me, when I am aware of a trigger, I can make different choices around my self-care. I recognized the feelings coming up of rebellion, “You can’t tell me what to do” and the familiar sense of failure that haunts diets in the life of a fat person. But I reminded myself that my goals in this were to try a new way of eating and feel better, it wasn’t about losing weight or finally getting skinny so I could begin my life, which is what all my old diets were about.

I also could talk to my friends (and my health coach) about those feelings and work through them.

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Me, Randee, Vic (in the burger costume) and Leo.

The cleanse took some time and focus every day. All that food preparation is a good amount of work and at least a couple of trips to the grocery store a week to stock up on vegetables. But it was only three weeks and I kept reminding myself of that. I can do anything for three weeks.

I felt totally sore the first couple of weeks. She suggests epsom salt baths to help with the sugar detox, and I was taking herb supportive and immune system supportive tinctures three times a day. Vic also sent out journal prompts and daily breathing exercises to keep us working on the mind/body/spirit connection.

We also gave up smoking, caffeine, and alcohol during the cleanse.

I liked having friends who were involved in the cleanse with me. Leo did it, too, and we mutually bitched about all the stuff we missed and supported each other through it. There was a facebook group since we did this as a group for a seasonal thing (in May, this was the Spring detox) but Vic also does the cleanse with one on one coaching clients.

I had a lover over one night during the cleanse and I made her a smoothie that I was having. She had been fighting a cold for three weeks and after that smoothie she was totally back to normal. These smoothies are no joke, extremely filling and full of nutrients.

Tons of people asked me how it went and Jacqueline was the first to point out that my skin was glowing because it really was. Some people lose some weight on the cleanse and while I was actually at a pretty low weight for me to begin with I felt kind of puffy and I noticed the inflammation die down. I also had more energy and felt better overall.

After the cleanse was over there’s a re-entry period where you see what your body reacts to. Turns out I am really reactive to soy, corn and dairy, which kind of blows because I love a latte’ and hardly anyone has almond milk. (I’ve begun Yelp check-in tips about places that serve almond milk.)

The cleanse, for me, was great because it completely transformed how I eat, cook and relate to food. It was also the realization for me, as suggested by Vic, that I had a candida overgrowth and would need to treat that, too. I’ll blog more about the candida cure at a later date.

The cleanse also sparked a 90% reduction in my IBS symptoms. This is something I’ve struggled with for over six years, had two colonoscopies and upper endoscopies, lots of medicine and nothing has helped other than avoiding food triggers. But it turns out that many of my food triggers (raw salad, kale, broccoli, blueberries) are totally digestible if I’m eating in this whole foods way. Doing the candida cure this summer has resulted in an almost entire elimination of IBS for me, which feels like a miracle because, while mine was not a terrible case compared to others, it was definitely really difficult under constant threat of debilitating digestive episodes.

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Pretty stoked to be eating broccoli again.

If you’re interested in doing the cleanse with Vic, I say go for it. Her packages are sliding scale and each comes with two coaching sessions, which happen over the phone. Also, if you’re interested in having a supportive, body positive health coach who is really amazing, I highly endorse Heart Beets Holistic Heath.

*For me the IBS “diagnosis” was basically my second gastroenterologist telling me “We don’t know what’s wrong with you but there’s something wrong with how you digest food.” Super unhelpful. So people with IBS often present differently with different symptoms.

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2013-10-04

How to be a Good Ally to Fat People Who Appear to Have Lost Weight

Our culture normalizes talking about bodies all the time. There is especially a lot of value placed on weight gain or loss. Turn on a television and just listen to diet chatter. It’s pervasive, obnoxious and well-meaning individuals perpetuate it in our personal lives all the time.

I like to create an environment in my life that is about substance over small talk, where compliments are genuine and weight is value-neutral.

“Oh, but Bevin,” you may be saying. “I really mean it as a compliment when I notice you’ve lost weight!”

But, well-intentioned friend, just because you’re well-intentioned doesn’t mean what you say doesn’t have a harmful impact. Weight loss doesn’t mean I look good. I believe I look good at all of my weights–all bodies are good bodies. And I know your perception of me might have changed because you are socialized to believe smaller is better, but I would like to gently invite you to do something different with your nonpliments of “You look so good!” when someone has lost weight.

It’s also important to remember that the well-intentioned friends come in all shapes and sizes, fat, thin and in between.

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Photo by Amos Mac.

1. How about don’t talk about it?

I strongly subscribe to the philosophy that my body is nobody’s business but my own. If I want to talk about it with someone, I will and I do.

I completely understand the inclination to ask questions about an obvious change. I am a naturally inquisitive person. My friends call me the Queer Oprah because of my tendency to really like to get into the meat of people’s stories. As I’ve learned how to become a more sensitive and compassionate person I have had to learn that sometimes you just don’t ask and you stay in the dark. It feels kind of impossible to not be nosy about it but I do it anyway because it’s not my business.

Also, what if you’re wrong? A friend of mine just said she gets asked all the time if she lost weight when she puts her hair down!

Being nosy and being inquisitive are natural things that I am still working on curtailing. But I think it’s worth it to do the work to be sensitive because I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I want my friends to feel like they can be their most vibrant and awesome selves around me.

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Super cute picture of me and Sarah Jenny from the Yes Ma’am archives.

2. Wait for the person to bring it up.

Have you ever noticed that lots of straight people will out themselves to you within about ten minutes of conversation? Sometimes as short as two. Straight people in a heteropatriarchy are reaffirmed all the time about how great, normal and important their straightness is. Therefore, they have likely not had the experience of having to hide or code their sexuality to people. They don’t really play the “pronoun” game and affirm their heterosexuality without thinking about it.

The same is true for lots of people who have lost weight. In a diet-obsessed culture, it is super normalized that weight loss is a good thing. People who are excited about their weight-loss will probably bring it up because it is normalized to talk about people’s bodies whether that is right or wrong. So let it happen if it will organically.

People don’t stop to think about whether or not weight loss might be a sign of someone’s increased health or not. I know many people who have had cancer that lost a lot of weight rapidly. Candye Kane (an amazing blues singer) said on stage once, “I don’t recommend the cancer diet.”

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Candye Kane by XRaySPX. Buy Candye’s cds! They’re great!

Maybe just ask them what’s going on in their life and talk to them organically. The core questions you have about them may just come to light. But, again, their body is none of your business unless they bring it up.

If they do bring up their weight loss in a positive manner, you can do the work of someone working in solidarity with fat people by saying, “I think you look great at any weight, but I’m really glad you feel good in your body right now.”

3. Mention a general compliment that is more neutral.

If you really want to compliment someone because you genuinely think they look good, there are lots of things about someone’s appearance you can go for. Instead of mentioning weight loss thing, if you want to compliment someone you can go for something else. “Your hair looks great!” “I love this outfit!” There are a bunch of different ways to express positivity to someone that don’t take into account weight loss and reinforce that weight loss is the only way to look good.

I can see friends who come at me when I’ve lost weight sort of looking for a way to talk about my appearance without going down the wrong road because they know I loved myself X number of pounds ago and they don’t want to bury themselves in the wrong kind of compliment.

4. “You seem particularly present tonight. I don’t know what it is, but you just seem extra YOU today. I love it!”

If you must say something to the person, I suggest the foregoing. Kris Ford gave me this quote.

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Kris!
I think it’s really great! What a remarkable way to get to the essence of what your weight loss compliment is really about. When we stop to think about what we really mean when we’re talking to people we might be able to clearly communicate without hurting them.

5. Absolutely don’t ask someone what they’re doing.

Omigod, my family is so into this discussion. I zone out when I start to hear diet talk, Weight Watchers, walking the track, whatever new thing they’re doing. I truly believe in health at every size and will totally pipe into discussions of fitness, feeling good in your body and other things from an all bodies are good bodies perspective. But I have heard “What are you doing??” question so many times and I just absolutely hate it.

Again, often folks will offer it if they want to. But in general the “what you’re doing” question is such a standard thing people think is okay to ask but it’s actually really personal! I have a super close friend I asked this question of because I genuinely had no idea how she had lost weight and wondered. But I’m close enough to her that when she dropped that it was an eating disorder it was a safe(r) space to talk about it. I also learned from that moment to tread even a little more lightly with that stuff, to open those kinds of conversations with gentle warnings or open slowly. Because people who are just hanging out or going about their life maybe don’t want to just talk about their traumas out of the blue because you want to comment on their bodies.

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Another picture of Kris because I couldn’t choose. Hot fatkini!!

I struggle with what to say to people when they comment about changes to my weight. True fact about me–I tend to be an emotional non-eater. If I am going through a rough time I will likely lose some weight. I lost sixty pounds when my fiance left me and every time someone commented on my weight I would say, “Bad break-up.” I would kind of grumpily respond to a nonpliment with snark.

I don’t always want to do that, but I really leave it up to how I am feeling in that moment. Sometimes I go with, “I think I look great at any size.” Often, especially if it is a friend or loved one, I go with a very long explanation of what lead to my recent weight loss so that they understand what I’m going through, that it’s been a real struggle and that the weight loss is a byproduct of a larger initiative to resolve a chronic condition I have.

Sometimes, I just respond to weight loss nonpliments graciously because it’s not worth the fight. I learned to respond to compliments I didn’t agree with back when I was still self-hating. I would do things like respond to compliments with, “Oh, I don’t look good I still have x,y,z wrong with me.” And I replaced that with a simple, “Thank you,” until I was ready to really hear and absorb good things about myself.

A friend told me once, “Hi skinny,” in response to weight loss. My response was, “Um, I don’t identify as skinny.” Because anytime I’ve ever lost weight in my life (as someone who has a lifetime of fat experience) I have always been fat.

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Miss Mary Wanna dressed as a pizza. Photo by Gizelle Peters.

And, in the case of my beloved Grandmother, I accept her compliments graciously and deeply appreciate when my mom pipes in with, “But we love you at any size.” Because sometimes it’s not worth the fight. But it is amazing to have my mom acting in solidarity with my politics and values around all bodies being good bodies at any size. This was not always the case, but working with her in love, respect and compassion through the last twelve years of my participation in body liberation activism, has actually been really rewarding.

I’ve also blogged about being a good ally to your fat lover as part of my Fat Sex Week series.

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Get this tote bag for a $40 contribution to my fundraiser! I’m fundraising to sustain QueerFatFemme.com and my art projects! Please consider supporting with a gift subscription (and getting some great prizes) if you have been touched by this site!

2013-09-27

Update on Fundraiser for Queer Fat Femme

A little over a week since I launched my campaign to raise funds for QueerFatFemme.com and I’m already 20% towards my goal! This is amazing! I’m truly touched by the things folks have been saying with their donations and shares! I’ve been writing this blog for almost five years and I had no concept of what the audience for it would be when I started. I am so grateful to everyone for reading and participating with QueerFatFemme.com.

I wanted to update folks about some of the additional prizes available as well as some prizes that are TOO HOT FOR GO FUND ME but you can still take advantage of through paypal.

First of all, I would like to introduce the designs for the $30 poster and the $40 tote bags.

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For $30 you can get this poster! 11”x14”. I was saying this to myself over and over again while battling a pretty deep depression in August and it felt right to include this as a poster for folks who might need a boost as well. It’s hard being a person in the world sometimes and I think a reminder of how resilient we are is crucial.

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I thought this would make a hilarious tote bag, so I’m doing that. I’m still deciding on colors and type of bag and it kind of depends on how many folks choose this level based on what I can order from the manufacturer and silk screen.

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All bodies are good bodies is the cornerstone of all of my politics. This is also going on a tote bag!

All of these designs were donated by my incredibly talented beloved ex James Leander. James Leander has always been an incredible artist and has recently turned to graphic design and I’m super stoked to have these designs for my fundraiser! Thanks, JLV!

Jacqueline is making potpourri for the fundraiser as well at a $12 level. If you want a little witchy woo, she’s making them with intention and magic and it’ll arrive for you to have as decoration or incorporate into rituals or whatever.

For $80 there’s a beer package from Kansas City, MO, which is donated by a hot butch there named Jen. Go Fund Me took down the prize level because they don’t support alcohol but you can get it by donating $80 to queerfatfemme at gmail via paypal. 2 bottles of Boulevard Bourbon Barrel quad (2013 and 2011). 2 bomber bottles from the smokestack series if your choice.
And a t-shirt or hat of your choice.

I you want a sexy Lap(top) dance from either Drae Campbell or Miss Mary Wanna, you can paypal $100 to queerfatfemme at gmail.com. There’s two available from each of them so get it while the getting’s good.

Here’s the info!
$99
Lap(top) dance by Drae Campbell! Drae Campbell, butchlesque artist & comedian, will perform a laptop dance via Skype for you! Up to ten minutes. She’s hot as shit!

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Photo of Drae Campbell by Kelsey Dickey at Rebel Cupcake.

$100
Lap(top) dance by Miss Mary Wanna! Miss Mary Wanna will perform a private laptop dance via skype for you! Up to ten minutes of Southern shimmy! (Also redeemable in person.) We originally conceived this as a lapdance but it was definitely funnier if it was a laptop dance.
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Photo by Patience Owens.

Here’s the link to donate! Thanks again for all of your support, both money and spiritual. It’s been a rough time for me lately but this has been extremely uplifting!

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