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

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!!

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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