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

2015-01-09

Five Ways I Shake Off Body Oppressive Rhetoric During the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon

Having spent the last three weeks traveling, between a road trip for a meeting at Dollywood and a family trip to Seattle, I’ve been really off my game. I find it so challenging to travel and meet my self-care needs.

I manage a chronic digestive disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the Western diagnosis, but I know it’s more complicated than that) with food restrictions and I can feel when my digestion isn’t working. I can get away with not eating in alignment with my body for a little while but eventually it adds up and I’ll pay a price with intense flares and body pain. It’s hard to not want to eat all the amazing food you’re exposed to when traveling. Moderation works for me until it doesn’t.

I also manage my mental and emotional health with exercise. I am still not sure what alchemy I need to carve out time for more than walking the dog when I travel, but more often than not if I pack my gym clothes and shoes I won’t use them. I’ll end up cranky and spiraling by the end of a trip from not getting my angst out on the elliptical. I know that setting better boundaries and time management when I travel is a growth area for me.

15889385960_a7632fe2fa_zWe already had the Seattle trip booked when we got a meeting with the Dollywood Foundation to partner with them for silent auction prizes for Dollypalooza in September… We decided to just go for it and took a road trip, and fulfilled my bucket list dream to see Dollywood at Christmastime. It did not disappoint.

As I was preparing to leave Seattle I found myself really excited to go to the gym and drink green juice, smoothies and detox from sugar. And as I heard the same kind of “drink all the green juice!!!” and “get a new gym membership!!!” trumpets from the anti-fat mainstream media and billion dollar weight loss industry in conjunction with the new year’s resolution influx of people working to lose weight for the umpteenth time, I felt gross about it. Like, here I was wanting to participate in something that is also being used as weapons against bodies like mine.

I thought a lot about what was going on in my head about this stuff and how it was that I have herstorically dealt with the new year’s uptick in relentless weight loss commercials, before and after I began eating in alignment with my body and going to the gym. I came up with some ways that I’ve used to make sense of the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship I have with loving my fat body, hating the sizeist media and making choices that help my body feel its best. I share them below.

1. Run your own race

I like to remember that everyone has their own life and their own life challenges. It’s really difficult to live in a society that literally has a war on body types like yours. In my case, the war on obesity hits home, but other bodies are under attack–people of color, disabled folks, transfolks, aging people. It’s also true that oppression of any body affects all, so the fear of becoming fat, or old, or disabled affects the narrative and creates a society where no body is safe.

So that said, people who need to focus on diet and exercise to lose weight, I just let them do their own stuff. That’s their life path, not mine. I am very self aware and know that my choice to go to the gym doesn’t mean I think my fat body is bad. I also don’t expect some kind of wild body transformation. I do expect that as I keep going back I’m going to feel calmer and more at peace with my surroundings and the onset of Winter and the Winter Blah Blah Blahs (aka Seasonal Depression). (P.S. I’m writing this blog post while sitting under my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy LampUV Happy Light.)

16085137075_a651db95c4_zSpeaking of lights, that’s a hologram of Dolly Parton playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Dollywood production of A Christmas Carol.

2. You are worthy of love exactly as you are.

All of the “NEW YEAR NEW YOU” rhetoric (actual graphic I saw on the itunes store app center thingy this morning) is basically shorthand for you’re not good enough. Remember there are multiple billion dollar industries that require you to feel insecure in order to sell you products. It is not in their best interest that you feel good about yourself.

But here’s the thing. Today, right now, you sitting right there. You are actually good enough because you are human and you are worthy. That’s something you can choose to believe.

There’s a myth that losing weight and modifying yourself is going to make you feel worthy, but self-acceptance is actually the surest way to make yourself feel that way. I know a lot of people who have lost weight in a myriad of ways, and the thing that seems the most common among them is that people who started out hating their bodies had a lot of self hate left once the weight was gone. Wild insecurities pop up when you lose weight and haven’t lost the hate for your body.

It’s not like we don’t all have ways we want to grow and change, change is the only constant in life. I’m a lifelong learner and self-developer. But I know even as I have “areas for growth” (I’m always working on improving my language to be more gentle with myself) I’m worthy right now. It’s just choosing to shift your perspective to believe that you’re worthy and accept yourself as you are. Maybe that’s a change you can work on for the NEW YEAR NEW YOU.

15897718658_474ccf4ff1_zThis kettle corn that I watched get made in front of me was very inflammatory and very delicious. Moderation in all things, including moderation, said Maya Angelou.

2. Be critical of the media you consume

When I was first getting involved in size acceptance I went on a complete media diet. I focused only on size positive or size neutral things. I obsessively collected pictures of cute fat people and put them around my house so I could see them. I trained myself to see fat as positive.

Now I’m able to employ lots of techniques for consuming mass media (that’s probably a whole other blog post). I work to be very critical of what I consume.

I was in the airport and saw the new Self magazine with a big headline of “Love Your Body.” I didn’t have the chance to read it because I was too busy being paranoid because I was accidentally high, but I went onto the website to find out if they were really joining the bandwagon of loving your body as it is. And I saw that the Love Your Body headline right where every other month has weight loss tips, and I looked through their website and saw all of their weight loss articles, so I realized they were just co-opting language to sell weight loss! Real classy Self magazine!

This time of year especially, I work my hardest to remind myself that mass media is not the boss of me and try not to get defensive or mad every time I see something that advertises quick weight loss or uses headless fatties to scare folks about fat. Getting defensive or mad is totally a valid response, though, and my rage does flow through, but rolling my eyes is better for my stress level. I remind myself that lots of fat people are really healthy. Health at Every Size is all about people at all sizes having access to activities that are good for your health. And that is an inconvenient truth for magazines that rely on fear of weight gain in order to sell copies.

I know that choosing to go to the gym is all about me loving my body and not about me losing weight in order to love my body, a complexity that seems contradictory but is actually not at all to me. I worked really hard to make peace with that.

I also know that people who are fat and don’t choose to go to the gym or restrict their eating are totally worthy of love, too! There is no “good” or “bad” way to have a body, it’s just a body!

16076930595_5d2229e69f_zMe and my fat friend Santa just hanging out on a porch in front of the Christmas buffet. I actually found the buffet meals to be full of food options for lots of dietary restrictions. In addition to a mac and cheese station.

4. Replace should with could

This is a wonderful strategy for treating yourself with kindness. I used to be the kind of person whose resting thoughts were always on the ways in which I needed to improve myself. “I should learn Spanish. I should eat better. I should be working on my book. I should get back into working on neurolinguistic programming.” That’s an actual transcript of my inner self abuser that I just tapped into. I can go DEEP into self-shaming with shoulds.

Because I’m still a work in progress and I believe language is so powerful, I have been working for about a year on replacing my shoulds with coulds. “I could learn Spanish. I could be working on my book…” It’s so much gentler. This constant New Year’s chatter of all the ways you should change keeps reminding me of the ways I want to change. But instead of hearing “You should go to the gym” I am hearing, “I could go to the gym.” I am hearing, “I could organize my room.”

5. Every BODY is different

Dr. Phil is full of complexities and I don’t love all of his messages, but he said one thing that really hit home for me when I was early in my fat activist days. I was in a place of “I’ll eat a cupcake whenever I want” as a way to express fat rage. (That’s still a totally valid place to be, of course, but I like to be strategic about my fuck yous and eating a cupcake more than once in awhile will cause me a lot of pain so I don’t.)

Dr. Phil said something on his show specifically about sweet tea that I haven’t ever forgotten. It’s that, basically, all bodies are different and he drinks a glass of sweet tea and gains weight and lots of folks drink a glass of sweet tea and stay thin.

His point was that he had no control over the type of body he has and he had to accept it. And that’s just kind of how things are. Like, it feels really shitty that I got this amazing huge gift basket from a professional colleague for the holidays and pretty much everything in it, wine, crackers, pretzels, caramel corn, hot cocoa, is all food that will make me sick. That fucking sucks. But I’m at a place where I am choosing to accept and love myself for who I am and that means cherishing the complex body I was given.

And I would love to eat a fuck you mass media cupcake, and I probably will eventually. But in the meantime I’m going to accept my body and do the work it needs to do to feel good, so that I can do the work I want to be doing in the world to change it. To create media that helps people feel good in the bodies they have and become the people they want to become by cheering them on instead of shaming them.

15890219499_633f4fb47f_zHow about a fuck you 25 pound apple pie from Dollywood?

Do you have additional ways you choose to shake off the body oppressive media this time of year and/or manage to strike a balance with your own personal wellness goals?

2013-01-25

How I Decided to Join a Gym

Up until October of 2011, I had never once joined a gym.* I debated for a long time joining the Bed Stuy YMCA before I took the plunge and I had a pretty detailed thought process that might help folks out there deciding whether to join a gym.

COST
There are a million gyms in New York City and they all vary wildly in how much they cost. In 2006 I was thinking about joining a gym because I wanted the benefits of an elliptical machine but I decided that buying an elliptical would cost me less than three months of a gym membership so I did that instead. I got a machine that was pretty good and $100 used on Craigs List. But when I moved to Brooklyn I no longer had space for it and had to let it go (and was able to sell it on CL for what I bought it for, thanks used marketplace!). I’ve also used the same logic before to buy home video workouts that I do enjoy but there’s something about the seriousness of going someplace to workout and using the nice machines and classes.

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Me and Hana at Brooklyn Pride.

What really pushed the decision forward for me was that the YMCA offers yoga classes and water aerobics. I love to swim and I love low-impact workouts and hadn’t done water aerobics for years. I figured at $45 a month** it was worth the membership if I attended three classes a month, since the NYC street value of a yoga class is about $15 now and water aerobics is impossible to find outside of a gym. Also the Y offers financial aid for folks who qualify.

It was helpful to me to determine the value in a realistic timeframe. Before I joined the gym I was going to yoga 2-3 times a month (with desire to do more but not the cash). It was not realistic to say I was going to go to the gym three times a week when doing the cost analysis because that’s not where I was in my fitness lifestyle at the time. I wasn’t trying to get “wishful thinking” value out of the gym, I was trying to see how it fit in financially with my lifestyle at the time. (Now that I am a member I often do go three times a week.)

FACILITIES
With the value factor figured out just from the classes available at the YMCA, I was leaning towards it. They had a member drive in September 2011 (with no joiner fee) and I went on a Saturday and took a tour of the facility. I really recommend letting people “sell” it to you, even if you’re already pretty sold because you’ll find out even more about the place than you would on your own.

The Bed Stuy Y is dope! Lots of new equipment, a ton of rooms, childcare, an indoor pool, giant locker room and showers, the aerobics/dance/yoga studio is really nice. It’s also a community place with a lot of activities and seemed really unpretentious.

For me the facilities that were most important were a pool, plentiful ellipticals so I wouldn’t have to wait, and a rowing machine because I am rowing machine curious. Also, those recumbent bikes, I saw a fat person using one on a reality show once and I thought it seemed like a good bike alternative. It helped to have a list of what I was looking for and ask the tour guide to show me.

I discovered they had Bravo on the machines so it was a great way to get some Real Housewife action and I’ll be honest, sometimes I time my workouts with Shahs of Sunset.

There is also a “family” locker room for folks to use that might not feel comfortable in either gendered locker room. Most of my pals on the trans spectrum who work out there feel okay in one or other of the locker rooms but one time Glenn Marla and I had a really frank discussion about being fat and gender variant folks who work out at the Bed Stuy Y with the Membership Director. I had a really positive experience from that conversation and I think if folks have questions about multi-gendered folks using the Y’s gendered facilities they would feel comfortable talking to her.

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Singing Father Figure at a Fuck You Dad Father’s Day Event last summer.

GYM CULTURE
I think the culture of the people is so important to whether you and your gym will be compatible. I researched the culture of the Bed Stuy Y very diligently. The biggest thing that influenced my opinion was how many great Yelp reviews it had. Yelp, and other consumer review websites, can really give you insight into the culture of the place.

There were a lot of things that made me hate the idea of going to the gym. Not the least of which is being a fat person exercising. I don’t love to exercise but I do love how it makes my body feel and it is essential to my mental and emotional health. I need my exercise to happen in a fat positive or at the very least, fat neutral, environment. I combed the Yelp reviews and interviewed my friends who went there about how many fat bodies were working out and what it was like. Other than a slew of diabetes prevention program vis a vis weight loss flyers (which thankfully does not have a targeted fat body on it, the person’s face is thin-appearing), the focus of the gym environment there seems to be on fitness rather than weight loss.

On the other hand I would never consider the NY Sports Clubs because they specifically use fat hate speech in their advertising, which is gross and tells me everything I need to know about their culture!

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Damien goes to my gym.

I have heard about “cruisey” gyms and I also can’t stand the idea of someone hitting on me while I’m working out or anywhere close to about to work out. I’m not wearing make-up, my hair is sloppy and I’m in a comfy gym outfit. My mind is anywhere but on getting dates. I like that my gym is not cruisey at all and every now and again I get compliments on my leg tattoo when I wear a sweatskirt and my hair even when it’s all riled up and ridiculous from the pool. But they are nice compliments and not sleezy.

I’ll be honest, one time I saw a really hot queer working out on one of the weight machines and I briefly considered introducing myself and then I remembered by staunch opposition to gym cruising and decided to “let it begin with me” and trust the Goddess that if I was meant to meet this person they would end up crossing my path at one of my parties or something.

PALS THAT GO TO THE GYM
One of the biggest factors that went into it was whether or not there were folks I knew at the gym. I thought I would really need a buddy for those first few workouts to help me get over my intimidation at being a gym newbie.

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Glenn Marla is my favorite gym buddy. We aqua jog!!

It turned out it was really hard to schedule so I just started going on my own, but it was an incentive. It also gets me to go to some of the classes more when I meet up with a friend for a “good decisions date” where we attend a class and then gossip in the steam room afterward. But you can’t gossip too hard because basically all the queers in a 2 mile radius go to this gym. At any given time I’ll see a famous self-identified trans queer rap artist working out or a queer performance artist pal in the locker room.

The last 15 months at the Bed Stuy YMCA have been pretty boss and I am looking forward to getting pals to come with me to check out the other YMCAs in town. I hear the Vanderbilt YMCA is “so nice you never want to leave.”

*For awhile in the mid-aughts I worked out at Curves but I don’t think that counts as a gym.
**The Bed Stuy Y went up to $47 last Fall but still remains worth it.

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