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

2015-07-08

How Getting Neutral About Food Helped Dara Drop Sugar

When I posted my thoughts about being a good ally to fat folks by getting neutral about food, Dara and I have had a lot of conversations about it, including a pretty startling revelation that I wasn’t aware of. It turns out that Dara, working to get neutral about her food self-talk in order to be a better ally to me as a fat person, was able to transition to a low-sugar anti-cancer lifestyle a lot easier with food neutrality than if she had kept up agonizing about food being “bad” or “good.” Her words on this are below.

bevindarapridePhoto by Tinker Coalescing.

What Dara says is in alignment with what Health Coach Isabel Foxen Duke says about the diet-binge cycle. Hating your body creates the desire to emotionally eat which is a feedback loop that causes more body hatred. When you get neutral about your food it helps you detach from emotional eating as well.

Some background of Dara’s choice to go for a low-sugar anti-cancer diet. We believe pretty strongly that her breast cancer was the result of high stress. Prior to doing the Anti-Candida Murder plan I read the book The Candida Cure, which talks about how when your body is stressed out, your blood sugar spikes–just as though you ate a donut. Lots of studies show lots of things about preventing cancer reoccurrence but for sure creating a less stressful lifestyle comes up a lot. Lots of studies talk about how cancer feeds off sugar. So, we believe stress becomes sugar and sugar feeds cancer. (Dara did a video blog about this theory when she announced she was stepping back from the global initiative she started and self-funded.)

The eating plan she follows is based on Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Cancer diet, if you’re interested in reading more. Lots of green veggies, plant-based whole foods, a little bit of meat (that’s not in the Kris Carr plan, but you do what you do), whole grains, yadda yadda yadda.

Anyway, here are Dara’s words about getting to food neutrality.

IMG957531Dara doing paddleboard yoga during our trip to Key West.

When Bevin first asked me to stop talking outloud about my uphill battle with cutting sugar from my diet (a step that research suggests prevents cancer recurrence), I had mixed reactions. I mean, cancer is a whole different thing than body positivity, right? Surely, the same rules of food neutrality don’t apply to me?

Because I love my partner deeply, and so respect the work she does in the world to help everyone love and value their bodies, I decided to give it a try. (I mean, I could always use the Cancer Card to say, “Baby, this just isn’t working for me” and know I would get a free pass.) Instead, I decided to give it a shot… and in doing so, I had a surprising and powerful realization: IT ACTUALLY GOT EASIER TO SAY NO TO SUGAR!

I don’t know how it happened to be honest, but I think it got easier to say no to sweets because instead of badgering myself (outloud often) about whether or not I should eat something, and what it would mean about me, and my lack of discipline, or my willingness to commit to staying alive… instead of having this agonizing back and forth, I instead just said a simple ‘no thank you.’ And that was that.

What would normally take up at least 10 minutes of space in my brain, and cause unknown quantities of anxiety and self-flagellation pretty much just went POOF! Gone. Buh-Bye!

It made me realize just how much my anxiety about what I was eating was wrapped up in my head. How much of a victim I was to my own insecurities and doubts. Making the decision to be neutral about food put me back in control, and enabled my rational brain to take the lead, while my negative internal chatter was forced to sit quietly in the back of the room.

Now, I’m not saying it’s easy to turn down cookie-cake or a jelly-filled donut when offered – and I’m not even saying that I do turn it down all the time. But I will say that it no longer consumes my thinking like it once did. And I no longer feel guilt or shame about my decisions. I feel stronger, more in control… and (as a result of the fact that I now eat less sugar) can say that I have a better chance of living the rest of my life cancer-free.

IMG_7020At the Dyke March in 2014, just about a month after her last chemo treatment.

I am grateful to Bevin for helping me better understand the idea of body currency and food neutrality. As a fat ally, I have for sure sought to prioritize ways of being that enable all bodies to been loved exactly as they are. But this side benefit of being able to apply the concepts to my own health, to be able to live a longer, happier life? That one I didn’t see coming.

It’s true what Dara said, if she needed to keep externally processing about food to support her anti-cancer goals we would have come up with another solution, another way to talk about food that isn’t laden with shame and guilt. We work together to mutually support our goals. I’m really grateful that I had a way in which I needed her to work as a thin ally to me and it ended up enhancing her goals!

You can read more about Dara’s cancer journey on her cancer Tumblr page as well as read my posts about going through chemo and her diagnosis process.

2015-06-25

Be a Great Ally to Fat Folks by Getting Neutral about Food

Nothing bums me out faster when I’m about to eat some food than someone commenting about food. Like this, “Oh I’m being SO BAD! I NEVER eat cupcakes!” Or “I really SHOULDN’T EAT THIS!” Or “I wish I could eat THAT but it would make me SO FAT!” Or “You’re lucky you can eat whatever you WANT I will blow up like a BALOON!!!”

If you want to watch a hilarious send up of this phenomenon check out this Amy Schumer skit. Where everything they eat is the bad thing, not killing a gerbil for fun.

551535_10153123306043749_7782605515862982091_nFood can be so confusing! Who knows what is a “good” food or a “bad” food–the media is always changing their mind!

Listen, I get it. We live in a fatphobic society where all bodies are vilified. Either you’re fat or you COULD get fat. Living in fear of being fat in a fatphobic society brings out the worst in people. Food is super threatening and triggering of all of those perpetuated fears. We have this contradictory culture in America where we hate on fat bodies yet have all this food that is normalized in the American diet that actually can cause weight gain. Where commercials on TV cycle between McDonalds and Coca-Cola and Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. What a mind fuck.

Words are SO powerful. When you speak something again and again to yourself or out loud, you are creating truth. I learned early on in my journey to love myself that language was one of the first things to change in order to shift your consciousness. When people shit talk food and bodies, it erodes self-confidence, body love and food enjoyment.

I think the best thing we can do, as fat folks and folks working in solidarity with us, is to refuse to participate in the system of body currency perpetuated by society. A system of body currency, where certain bodies are privileged over other bodies, creates competition, body hatred, feelings of never being enough, endless fear about body change. Body currency doesn’t just affect fat folks, it affects folks with any non-normative body–people of color, older people (we are literally all aging), disabled folks (we are literally all only temporarily able bodied), trans* folks, etc… I learned about body currency from the brilliant Jes Baker of The Militant Baker. Her analysis of why people hate Tess (Munster) Holliday and other fat happy people is totally spot on.

551438_10153458325913223_472698898048493744_nCelebrating a wedding with fancy friends with all different genders and bodies! Photo by Emily Huber of Seeing Through the Hands massage, a favorite body positive massage therapist here in Brooklyn.

Checking out of a system of body currency means assigning no hierarchical value to your body and no hierarchical value to other bodies. It means you love your body AND you leave lots of space for loving all the other kinds of bodies out there.

So you’re sitting around the lunch room at work, out to dinner with friends, at a BBQ at your parents’ house and suddenly everyone is talking about their food being SO BAD, or “I was SO GOOD, I only had three pieces of turkey bacon.” I mean. How alienating. All these people are doing is making food the enemy and turning the top soil of body hatred.

Body hatred for the fat people around them who just sit silently and assume everyone in the room is judging their bodies. Body hatred for the little kids around them are absorbing all of that food shame and body hatred like SPONGES. Body hatred for the people around them who are just trying to enjoy their burgers and don’t want to think about anything but their food enjoyment.

So what do you do when you’re surrounded by the I’M SO BADs of the world?

10277472_10153405563288749_6914403281423525504_nMe and one of my favorite fat folks with whom to enjoy food, Devon Devine of the SF party Hard French.

When I’m in situations like that with people judging food I have a variety of responses. I’m secure in my body and have a deep analysis of the fatphobia in our culture so I’m fairly resilient to the commentary. I’m also a fat person whose reputation and activism often precedes her so I feel confident piping up with something educational in the moment.

Here are some scripts that I employ:

“Hey, I try to be neutral about food because I think all bodies are good bodies.”

“Hey I’m worried about commenting about the value of food and body insecurity in front of these little ears nearby. I’d love to help them love bodies of all sizes so they don’t end up with food or body issues.”

“Cultivating a culture of food enjoyment is really important to me. I would love to enjoy this delicious food instead of assigning value to it!”

1798876_10153291498942464_5151942065411462089_nJack Dawson wearing a gorgeous outfit. I freaking love the pop of color on the sunglasses and the tie pattern over the shirt and the pocket square. Killing it.

My friend Jack Dawson sent a dispatch from their fatphobic corporate office life that I LOVE. “My female coworkers regularly express their appreciation for me because ‘Jack is SO nice, Jack never judges what I eat, even when I’m sooo unhealthy!’ Pretty much every day at lunch time I find myself saying some version of ‘I actually think that everyone is the boss of their own body and I support people in making whatever choices they want with their bodies, so it’s great that you’re eating what feels good for you today!’ In response to some kind of ‘Don’t judge me!’ or ‘I’m so bad!’ comment from coworkers.”

Being an ally to fat folks is especially important when you are a person of thin privilege. People get especially fatphobic around folks who they don’t perceive as marginalized in that way. My bestie Rachael calls it being a secret agent on behalf of fat folks, so when people hear you speaking truth to the all bodies are worthy of love exactly as they are party line, they are taken by surprise and also sinks in a little better.

10421425_10102336927006350_7030431944225492207_nThis photo was of the time I introduced my friend Leo to Jack Dawson, who we started calling “New Leo” because they both resemble a young Leonardo DiCaprio and also Leo moved away. Photo by my health coach Vic.

If you want to go a little deeper than these scripts, try to create a lifestyle where you are actually neutral about food! I find this a wonderful daily challenge as a person who is fat and proud, who knows what kinds of food I am sensitive to and the effect they have on my body. (I have a chronic digestive disease that is wildly affected by the food I eat.) In my internal monologue, I could say, “I’m being so bad I’m eating this gluteny piece of wedding cake!” But instead I just think to myself, “I am making a choice about participating in the food-centered nature of this celebration and I accept the physical consequences that will surely develop tomorrow. I’ll take a probiotic about it and I will make different choices tomorrow.” Sometimes replacing an internal monologue with something very long that actually explains your feelings and what is happening in a neutral way is really effective in changing the way you think.

I work with my partner on this all the time, too. She is on a super low sugar anti-cancer diet after her experience with breast cancer. (We intend her to be “one and done” with cancer, so we’re employing lots of holistic ways in which we can keep her cancer free.) I cook 90% of her food so I work hard to make sure she eats in alignment with her body and her spiritual guidance around her body.

Dara is an external processor so listening to her process externally about her food choices gives me the opportunity to support her with reframing her language to be food neutral. It’s also helpful, too, that as a Body Liberation coach I can coach her into how she talks about food so it isn’t loaded with shame when she wants to have some sugar or whatever. Life is for living and life is for pleasure–everything in balance.

It’s important to me, as a fat person who is dating a person with thin privilege, that she knows her privilege and works with me 100% of the time on team Stepping out of Body Currency. (Which she does, Dara is amazing.) I’ve dated fat and thin people who were not 100% body positive and it was really shitty. It’s not about her eating sugar or not, I don’t care if she does, it’s just about how you use language to express your feelings about food and whether that language is perpetuating body currency.

10996651_10153116129793749_5950987657574205891_nI love Dara a lot, she is super supportive and open to new ways of speaking and being in the world. I feel so grateful to have such a wonderful partner in adventure.

In the words of Nicki Minaj “Life is a journey, I just want to enjoy the ride.” I can’t enjoy my food around folks who are shit talking food. So I do my best to create environments where food enjoyment is valued and food is value-neutral. I invite you to join me, life is much more fun this way!!

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