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

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.

2014-10-01

Are you Single and Ready to Manifest Your Dream Date?

Earlier this year I did a few sessions of relationship coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, better known as the Lesbian Love Guru. She’s so kind, sensitive and smart. Christine had some incredibly valuable advice for me and Dara about how to communicate better and to have a more fulfilling relationship. What surprised me about the process of her coaching was that we both met separately with her via phone, working on our own stuff so that we could get together and create more harmony.

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This approach makes me confident Christine is a great singles’ coach. I think a lot of times we get in our own way to finding the kind of love and sex relationships we’re looking for. As queers, women, people of size, people of different abilities and all sorts of marginalized identities, we’re not taught that we’re worthy of love. We’re not taught how to be open to love from a self-confident and self-aware place.

I kept picking the wrong folks who were emotionally unavailable and didn’t have what I wanted. When I realized I was repeating the same pattern again and again I buckled down and did some hard work on myself. I know it was doing that work on myself that opened me up to love with folks who were a better fit for me.

For a limited time, Christine is offering an exciting package deal for folks who are ready to do the work to open themselves up to the right love relationship.

Her new online workshop, “Manifest Your Dream Woman*: How to Attract the Love of Your Life” is for single women who are ready to find lasting love. She’s created a simple, proven 4 step process for attracting the woman of your dreams. It’s a powerful, exciting process guaranteed to get you moving forward in your love life!

Christine will take you by the hand and personally lead you through the entire process step-by-step. Over the course of 30 days she’ll empower you to manifest your dream woman – someone who is just right for you!

Get Started Here!

In the workshop series, get ready to:
*Create a crystal clear picture of the kind of relationship you really want…and discover the secret to getting it!

*Identify emotional blockages that keep you from getting the love you want and learn how to easily move past them!

*Experience a massive perspective shift that will allow you to effortlessly attract the love of your life and keep her!

*Enjoy the unstoppable self-confidence you need to be yourself and attract a woman who loves you exactly the way you are!

*Find loving support every step of the way – motivating, encouraging, and sharing experiences with each other to create the ultimate support system along the journey

*Get re-energized and excited about your love life again, certain that your dream woman is on her way to you!

Christine is a dating expert and coach and she’s helped women all over the country find love and create deeply connected, passionate relationships.

Along with the program you’ll get great bonus content including a private 30 minute one-on-one “Love Life Transformation” coaching call ($297 Value), “Perfecting Your Online Profile” Program ($47 Value), and…

Special guest coaching call with ME, Bevin Branlandingham, sharing my secrets for loving yourself and enjoying unstoppable self-confidence! (Because in the words of icon RuPaul, if you can’t love yourself how in the hell are you going to love somebody else…)

IMG_6671My beloved friend Jess got this RuPaul shirt air brushed in Pigeon Forge, TN when we went to Dollywood!

So if you’re struggling in your dating life – if you keep dating the wrong women, feel frustrated by the dating process, or even lost hope that you’re special someone is out there – join Christine in her “Manifest Your Dream Woman” workshop and get ready to completely transform you love life!

Click here to reserve your spot (space is limited!)

Karen C.’s feedback to Christine:

“After attending your [Manifest Your Dream Woman] workshop last Aug, I came home and found her. Yay!! Without a doubt, I attribute finding her to your workshop.  Finally, I really knew what I was looking for in a partner, where to look and tada!, I found her. Thanks!!!!”
Eteranally Grateful, Karen C.

If you’re ready to find your special someone, click here.

*Christine’s work is for all self-identified women. She’s worked with singles, couples, poly situations, and folks of all genders and sexualities. Also, during my coaching call I’m going to use the term “Womanifest your dream woman.”

2014-02-13

My Second Session of Relationship Coaching with the Lesbian Love Guru

This is the second entry in a series about my experience Relationship Coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru. Follow the lesbian love guru tag on the blog to catch all the entries!

My not-yet girlfriend and I had our second session of relationship coaching the week after we began. Christine suggested we continue our coaching separately. It’s counterintuitive to how I pictured this coaching would occur; I imagined we’d both be together on skype with Christine, but instead we each take thirty minute separate calls with her. Since we tend to be together when it happens, the other hangs out in the living room with music playing.

Being out of earshot enables real talk with Christine about what’s happening. Often if you explained a problem in your relationship to a third party, you would use really different language than if you were together. I find it a relief not to think about Dara’s feelings when I’m explaining something. I feel like I can get right to the solution without spending extra time sugar coating an issue.
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Prior to the second session we had each filled out intake forms for coaching and sent them to her as well as one another. The intake form reinforces Christine’s confidentiality agreement.

The issue of confidentiality is paramount to this [coaching] relationship. My understanding is that nothing in this [coaching] relationship is to be discussed outside of our conversations. There are times when references to others may be helpful, however I would not ever mention a name or person that would lead someone to infer the discussion was about you as a client.

The rest of the intake forms were about our future visioning, setting out goals and what we think is limiting us. I liked that we shared them with each other because sometimes it’s good to see what the your sweetie is expressing in terms of goals for an ideal love life and how they see their future. What if your big goals are really incompatible? That’s important to talk about!

In my one-on-one session with Christine we focused on what was going on for me at that moment. This had a little less to do with my relationship and more to do with how I was feeling with my own time management. One of my goals this year is to get more structured about how I use my time. I am also really worried about caregiver fatigue because Dara has breast cancer and I’m her primary caregiver. Time management is important because I need to make sure I prioritize my self-care, which is easy to let fall by the wayside when you’re only dealing with things that are “bleeding.”

20140213_124617At her first chemo appointment, as the awesome nurse Erin at Sloan-Kettering was “pushing” the first dose of chemo poison, Dara sang Alice Cooper’s “Poison.” I would have gone with Bell Biv Devoe’s “Poison” which might do more to explain our communication issues than anything else.

Even though caregiving isn’t all that taxing (yet), it is a lot of time. After her surgeries was a lot of letting her rest and heal while I took on the lion’s share of the housework. Making sure we’re eating whole, healthy foods is another thing I’ve taken on 90% of the time. Her cancer diet is pretty restrictive, which means most of what I make is from scratch. Add to that we both work to only eat humane meats, which requires special trips to the butcher. I feel extremely grateful for my work from home lifestyle because when I plan well I can be cooking while working. But my time management can really use some improvement so that the planning part of that intention actually happens!

20140212_203059I highly suggest this infinitely customizable pizza casserole recipe, passed along to me by my dear friend JLV.

Christine suggested a Tony Robbins tool called “Rapid Planning,” which helps to ensure what you’re doing is in line with your priorities. I’ve begun implementing it in stages and so far it is helping me be mindful of my priorities. Just because something is urgent (bleeding) doesn’t mean it’s important and I need to remember that.

She also taught me a grounding exercise. When I got on the phone I told her I was feeling really spazzy and she did a meditation with me that was really quick and powerful. She’s offering an MP3 of the grounding meditation on her website for free if you click the link. I love a guided meditation and am totally keeping this on my phone for when I need a 30 second reminder that I’m right here, right now, one with the universe.

Dara and I usually talk about our sessions afterward–highlights and tools. She got a tool to work on for homework about how she responds to my emotions. I have really Big Feelings sometimes* and my face is a billboard–I usually don’t want to express myself right away but I can’t help it! Often what I feel immediately isn’t what I feel ultimately once I’ve had time to digest my reaction. My emotional reactions have historically been very difficult for Dara to handle, as she hates disappointing me or hurting my feelings. This has been difficult for many of my past loves.

20140213_111246I thought it was important to wear something cute to chemo.

Christine suggested a tool she calls “Holding the Bucket” where Dara doesn’t actually have to do anything but witness and recognize my feelings. She doesn’t need to take them on or feel bad for hurting me. I actually love this tool because it gives me a chance to have my Big Feelings and later apply the tools I have to respond instead of react and engage in my process without worrying about her reaction.

“Holding the Bucket” helped Dara prepare for a difficult conversation she wanted to have with me that we did some more work on getting geared up for during our third session. Dara said it helped her see that she didn’t have to take my feelings so personally, since they were about me and my process not necessarily about Dara.

Dara also told me she had been triggered by something that happened between us the night before this session. It was a relief to be able to talk to someone who was such an impartial party and a great listener.

I am really enjoying my experience working on my relationship with Christine’s help. I was pleasantly surprised at how skilled she is at working with folks on an individual level. She works with singles, couples and poly permutations. Experiencing how she is able to guide me one-on-one, though it’s centered on things coming up in my relationship, definitely enforces how awesome she is with singles looking to break down their limitations on finding and experiencing the love relationships they want.

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Christine offers a limited number of free introductory thirty minute calls every month. Twelve of you signed up last month. If you want to try her out, click here and sign-up! You’ll get to know Christine and find out if she’s a good fit for you, as a single, couple or poly permutation! (Even though she’s a “Lesbian” Love Guru she actually works with all gendered folks on all parts of the gender and sexuality continuums.)

*In my natal chart I have a Scorpio Moon.

2014-01-23

I Got Back Together with My Ex and Started Relationship Coaching with the Lesbian Love Guru

This is the first entry in a series about my experience with Relationship Coaching with Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru. Follow the lesbian love guru tag on the blog to catch all the entries!

In November of 2012 I started dating someone who I thought was just going to be a friend with benefits. That turned into a super deep connection I wasn’t expecting. Neither of us did. I went with it and we fell into a “thing” we were calling “keeping company,” a delightfully old fashioned term she picked up from her uncle’s description of his courtship of her aunt thirty plus years ago. We had a lot of fun together but ran into a lot of static around a few areas, including communication. It took me until months after it ended to realize that how disparate our semantics often were. She would be saying one thing, using the same words I would use, but mean something completely differently than I was understanding. Like we’re both calling something an apple but really I mean a peach.

8868390850_f762dea0b1_oLast May. Photo by Grace Chu.

Things ended at the end of March when the fact that she didn’t want to be in a relationship, and hadn’t wanted to be in one in the first place, meant we needed to break-up. In our first iteration, things were just always so hard for us together emotionally, and when you don’t want to be in a relationship you don’t want to do the work to be together. She was also preparing for an epic, possibly forever, road trip. Selling all of her possessions, getting some part time consulting she could do remotely, and staying with loved ones a few weeks at a time. A life in an RV I’ve been visioning for a long time, a tiny version of which I took in 2011, but she was going solo.

I had thought we could eventually transition to long distance in some way, and we fell back into an “ambiguous” relationship status within three weeks of breaking up. Eventually that fell apart, too, she left town and I thought I’d never talk to her again. By the end of that ambiguous period I had my own reasons for not wanting to be in a relationship with her. Our mutual frustration lapsed into a long period of radio silence.

I recognized that the grief I was feeling about the break-up was incommensurate with the loss. I started doing some spiritual work through the help of Katie at Empowering Astrology. She helped me cut emotional cords and end what she described as a karmic cycle Dara and I were in.

Cut to October, when we had a pretty organic reconnection. She was back in NYC for a couple of weeks and we met-up and made peace. I thought maybe we could try “benefits without friends,” as a way to just focus on what always worked with us. (Sex.) I could slot her into my life the way a few treasured friends have; when we’re in the same town we sleep together if our relationship statuses allow for it and the rest of the time we’re just casual friends that text every now and again. This was a mildly complicated idea for me because I knew I was still in love with her I just couldn’t be in a relationship with her.

8867777135_1606770681_bPhoto by Grace Chu.

Life threw us a giant curve ball because when Dara was in town she happened to visit her GYN for her annual exam and they found a lump. She was diagnosed with breast cancer after she had gone back to LA (where she was at the time) from her NYC visit. (She’s been video blogging her experience with cancer.)

What does it mean when your ex gets diagnosed with breast cancer? I didn’t know. I knew I was still in love with her, that had never changed. I knew I didn’t want her to be my girlfriend because I’m really dedicated to loving unconditionally and to want her to be my girlfriend would mean I would require her to change… and I didn’t want to do that. So I resolved myself to just be there for her as much as I could be. “Open heart and good boundaries,” became my mantra. A witchy friend even prescribed a tincture of Ocitillo which I serendipitously found in a South Brooklyn apothecary.

We hung out when she got back to NYC to start treatment. It was really great and really easy. We hung out again. And then another time. The quality of conversation, the ease at which we were able to tread topics that would have been hard or hurty before was surprising. I was able to do the things that I liked to do to support her–cooking nourishing meals, being sweet to her, giving massages. As well as encouraging her to relax and do self-care, two things she is now learning how to do post-diagnosis that she’s never prioritized before. The ways in which I thought I needed her to change kind of melted away, and somehow I was different, too.

I was a little confused. I mean, when does your ex become your lover again? She has breast cancer and sex is life affirming. And all the in between moments were so magical. I kept telling my friends I felt like Dara and I were in a different dimension.

There was other stuff, too. I kind of thought I could be there for her but there’s no way she could show up for me, having cancer. And then my December 2013 took hold, three friends passed away in the span of two weeks and the week before Christmas I unexpectedly and quickly had to put my beloved cat ALF to sleep just six months after his brother Bear passed. And through it all Dara was a champion–supporting me, handling logistics, making sure I could bring Macy with me to the vet when I had to rush ALF to the kitty ER for his final moment. After my fiance and I broke up I swore I wouldn’t get serious about someone again until we had gone through a crisis together. Being with Dara in this iteration feels like we’re running a gauntlet–except we’re laughing, holding hands and getting through it in this hopeful and happy way I never knew was possible. Like if we can be this good in a crisis how nice will life be when we can just work and travel together?

1497957_10201768063297968_397615989_oAfter her first lumpectomy surgery (she had to go back in for a reexcision lumpectomy two and a half weeks later) I was in the recovery room with her and we made a game about how silly of a photo we could create with found hospital objects. Together we conceived her Rudolph look.

With the heady mix of old intimacy and new relationship energy, I suggested we might want to get relationship coaching. In fact, neither of us is willing to call each other “girlfriend” yet because we want to eliminate fears of slipping back into old communication patterns and the stuff that was so hard before. It hasn’t happened yet, we’ve done a great job of communicating through rough spots; often we just stop a conversation that feels like it could get sticky and awkwardly back out of it. But it could happen, and a professional might help us set the kind of foundation we never had before.

Enter Christine Dunn-Cunningham, the Lesbian Love Guru, who I met over the summer. I was thinking of working with her as a single person who wanted to open myself up to finding the future Mx. Branlandingham. When Dara and I were starting to become a “thing” again, I read some of the Lesbian Love Guru blog entries (full of incredible tips) and this one about High Quality Quality Time totally helped me. In the entry she suggested having a conversation where you figure out which activities create the deepest sense of connection between both of you. So I had that conversation with Dara one day cuddled up in bed. Thinking about what I needed in a connected moment helped me ask for that the next time we were both having a rough day. (The connected activity for me was praying together, by the way.)

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Hanging out in this week’s blizzard.

The success I had with applying the tips from the blog entry definitely told me that Christine would make a great coach for us. And there’s a huge difference from following advice in a blog and working directly with someone to create a program for you. That’s why I love coaching!

We corresponded via email and she offered me one of her free introductory sessions.

I talked to her on the phone during the session and she explained that her coaching can take different forms. Sometimes she works just with one of the people in a relationship, who then takes the work back and applies it to the relationship. Sometimes she works with both partners separately and sometimes she works with them together. I had originally envisioned the two of us on Skype with Christine building capacity for our communication, but she said she would want to start with a session where the two of us spoke to her on our own to get our perspectives.

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Christine also has experience coaching folks in polyamory, which was great for us because some of our stickiness is around establishing a foundation where we can create some kind of non-monogamy or polyamory that works for both of us. I’ve never successfully done non-monogamy in a primary relationship and Dara has been practicing polyamory for twenty years.

Even though she’s called the “lesbian” love guru, Christine actually coaches folks of all genders, on the trans spectrum and some straight couples. Because at the end of the day, relationships are relationships.

During the first session where we each spoke separately, Christine asked us for each of our versions of our first iteration, what areas of growth we wanted in our relationship and what we were hoping for out of coaching. Dara remarked afterward that she felt “heard” about our first iteration for the first time ever. Christine is really easy to talk to and is great at asking the right questions to open you up.

I’m excited to work with Christine moving forward. I’ll be blogging about the experience so stay tuned!

Christine is offering a limited number of free introductory sessions to readers of my blog (with folks later in the game on a waiting list). The first session is great–it’s a great way to see if she’s a match for what you want. Again, Christine works with established couples and single folks and people of all genders and sexualities (even though the landing page is geared towards women specifically). She’s really great and in that introductory call you’ll walk away with tangible stuff you can apply to your life to help you open yourself up to a great relationship.

Also, this week Christine and I were both featured in the Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit. Hopefully you got to catch our interviews when they were released, but if you missed them you can download them as a package (along with a slew of other great interviews about money, nutrition, love, travel, healing and body love). Click here to view more details

2013-10-21

Introducing the Lesbian Love Guru

This summer I had the good fortune to meet Christine Dunn-Cunningham, better known as the Lesbian Love Guru. I was a little bit skeptical (that name is some big britches to fill!) so I settled in, Queer Oprah style, to ask her what she knew about lesbian relationships. I was really impressed with her advice! She had a lot of right-on perspective about how important it is to put work into your relationships.

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She’s launching a new program called “Relationship Magic: How to Re-Ignite, Re-Invent, & Re-Define your relationship to create deeper connection, love, and passion!” Christine asked me to share the program with my readers. She’s going to be giving away 3 videos filled with things you can use to create fulfilling relationships no matter what relationship stage you’re in.

The videos are free and include the following:

How to create more quality time with your significant other
How to avoid common relationship problems
How to create more passion in your relationship
How to get your needs met easily

She’ll also be doing a paid program for lesbian couples ready to “Completely re-ignite, re-invent, and re-define their relationships to create deeper connection, love, and passion.” This will be on a members-only website with 8 online video workshops, an interactive forum, and 6 group coaching calls with Christine, the Lesbian Love Guru, where members will get additional content, support and be able to ask her questions directly.

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More from the Lesbian Love Guru: “In the program couples will learn how to re-invent their communication patterns so they can work as a team to create a fulfilling and fun life together. I’ll show them the secret to re-igniting the passion in their relationships even if it’s been gone for years. And, I’ll help them create a deeper connection where both partners get their needs met and feel supported in their relationship. I’ll also be giving away a bunch of bonus content including my ‘Date Your Wife’ program.”

I had a chance to look through some of the Date Your Wife content when I met Christine this summer and it was legit–a lot of magic is lost when we take for granted the kind of intimacy and fun created in the context of dating.

The video content is free, relevant to folks no matter what relationship status they’re in and you can sign up here. You can also comment on the videos to win prizes, like $25 Amazon gift cards.

The Lesbian Love Guru also offers individual one-on-one coaching and couples coaching. She’s lively, inspirational and fun! She’s also a graduate of the Tony Robbins Mastery University and a Certified Extraordinary Coach, Peace Process Master Practitioner, Reiki Coach, Instant Miracle Coach, and Certified Rapid Coach. And she knows her stuff because she’s been there and did the work to turn her own marriage around to create a fulfilling and satisfying partnership.

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Christine and her wife Liz.

This post was in partnership with the Lesbian Love Guru but all words and sentiment are mine!

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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