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

2016-08-24

I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times: General Life Update from Bevin’s HQ

Friends! I just got back from one of the most inspirational and fulfilling weeks of my life. Intentional community, dream trip, deep emotions, deep caring, connections, luxury bathtubs. It was such a surprise to me that the experience was so deep and so much of what I needed.

I was blogging through the process of my transition to LA from Brooklyn, but things got pretty derailed for me as I have been affected both by the de-stability of the transition and the effects of the mental illness and substance abuse of a close friend. Shit has been rough.

How blessed I feel to have had this experience. Intentional community is incredibly healing for me. Summer camp did that for me as a kid and a teen. The Femme Conference did that for me for awhile, so did performing with my drag king troupe in the early 2000s. Now I have this new experience to reflect on. I’m excited to dive in and tell you all about what I saw, heard, learned, felt and experienced. But first, I think I need to paint a picture of what’s been going on in my life for context.

Exciting Stuff for my Body Positive Art and Activism
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I’m presenting at the Fat Activism Conference in September! It’s an online conference happening September 23-25, 2016 that you can listen to by phone or computer from wherever you are, you’ll also receive recordings and transcripts of each talk so you can listen/read at your convenience. It is super financially and time accessible as far as conferences go. I recorded my speech Disinvesting from Body Currency and Building Activist Resilience in July and I can’t wait to hear what all these other influencers and thought leaders have to say. Big love to the Fat Activism Conference organizers for all their hard work putting it together! <3<3

I was featured in a Buzzfeed article about non-traditional beach wear. Lots of hot and stylish people give their ideas. Many lustworthy instagrams to follow are aggregated. Your girl represented for the fat, flamboyant, vintage collecting femmes.

My friend Jes Baker reposted an article of mine on her incredibly influential body positive blog The Militant Baker. She’s been doing some amazing writing herself and amplifying other body positive thought leaders you’ll be interested in. My post she reposted is 5 Simple Things You Can Do to Start Feeling Okay About Your Body Today.

I also must take this opportunity to plug Dollypalooza in NYC Sept 3rd and LA on October 29th! Come out and party for a cause!

Self Care

I believe self care stretches time (thanks to Kelli Jean Drinkwater’s therapist for that nugget) and in times of rough stuff I have been centering my life around that. In terms of time management I try to pick one modality and wrap my schedule around that per week. I just kind of assess what my greatest needs are and go from there.

4684915640_cddd098660_zDear Goddess: Please give unto me a trip to Sydney to visit my soul sister Kelli Jean. Love, Bevin. Photo from NOLOSE in 2010.

I have mentioned for years that I’m in a 12 step program for family and friends of alcoholics and it has been one of the best choices I have ever made for my well-being. Since shit has been going down with my friend, I’ve been going to meetings about 3 days a week. It’s kind of easy to center life around meetings because they are scheduled. Unlike working out at the gym or “whenever” self care, you make a commitment to get to that 10AM Tuesday morning meeting.

I have had a hard time working out because of my heat sickness and the 100 degree hot like the surface of the sun weather in LA (like that time I passed out at the Getty after doing aqua jog) so instead lately I’m doing light stretching, dancing, and taking sunset walks with my partner Dara and our magical dog Macy.

I believe food is foundational and for awhile I was doing a lot of emotional eating. Eating from a place of “I know I gotta eat and it will gladden my taste buds to have this food that doesn’t serve my chronic digestive disorder so I’m going to do it anyway.” I jumped in on another whole foods summer reset cleanse with my body positive health coach Heartbeets Holistic Health. It’s a keep you hella full and take you by the hand and teach you how to prepare and eat anti-inflammatory foods program. Very veggie focused with access to meat if it’s your thing. Tons of recipes. Tons of self care modalities like dry brushing and detox baths.

Once you do Vic’s cleanse one time subsequent cleanses are gratis. I find when I’m doing a lot of traveling it is soooo helpful for me to focus on whole foods anti-inflammatory eating at home. It’s centering and also keeps the travel food from totally fucking up my life while I’m out of town and don’t have as much control over my food. So during the cleanse I was centering my life around cooking, grocery shopping and nourishing me and Dara.

I was shocked at how much better my capacity for dealing with life’s shit storms got when I was doing this cleansing. My moods stabilized and I was better able to be present with Big Feelings. Like, literally improved my relationship because when I’m in a better space emotionally so is Dara (#Empath4Empath is a tightrope sometimes). By Day 5 I could feel that initial impulse to freak out about something but I didn’t actually freak out. I was like seeing my Big Feelings from a calm and centered space and didn’t need to let it melt me down. What a gift I gave myself by focusing on healing my gut.

10176302283_70a9713433_oThank you forever Vic. I love you. (Vic’s in the center, we’re surrounded by Randee and Leo.)

Spirituality

I moved to LA to deepen my spiritual gifts and have continued to open myself up to new thoughts and ideas and create new spiritual practices. Given all of the tremendous devastation going on in the world at large right now, listening to NPR makes it hard to resist bawling your eyes out or settle into a default mode of rage. I know rage doesn’t serve me. So I like to employ prayer, gratitude and meditation to help elevate the world. At least it’s a thing I can do. I believe in good vibes. I believe do gooders in the world make the world a better place just by believing in hope. I’ll revisit that idea in a later post.

But let’s just say right now faith is kind of all I have in a lot of arenas of my life. I find it strengthens me when I can lean into it. It’s kind of like when you work out and build your core muscles your back pain gets better? Working out my faith really helps me stand tall in the face of an oppressive world that doesn’t value all human lives equally.

$$$ Hustle $$$

Capitalism is real and your girl has to pay those student loans and health insurance premiums, rent and vet bills. Moving to LA we knew that we had a finite amount of savings to live off of, we knew that I was working to retire from the practice of law and that we’re both building up small businesses. (Dara has a consulting business focusing on educational leadership.)

I believe being transparent about money is a form of classist resilience. They don’t want us to talk about money because keeping us in shame about how we are surviving because shame keeps us complacent. Right now I have about $1,500 in my bank account. Dara just got a check so we know how we pay October’s rent. But last week we didn’t know.

Seven months into our move to LA the hustle is real. I’ve lived before not knowing when next month’s rent is going to come and having to have faith it will—it never feels great. Here’s a list of how I’m gathering my acorns:

Desiree Alliance: I am so fortunate to work with an incredibly bad ass activist, Cris Sardina, who runs Desiree Alliance, a sex worker’s rights non-profit. Things got really busy before our biannual conference in July in New Orleans. We bring together activists working for decriminalization, direct service providers, professionals, academics, current and former sex workers and allies for five days of programming. We had some extraordinary keynote speakers, like Miss Major who is one of our surviving elders from Stonewall. She’s a trans woman of color dedicated to supporting trans women of color in the prison system through her non-profit TGI Justice (trans women of color are disproportionately incarcerated due to transmysoginy, racism and classism). Miss Major is a source of strength and resilience inspiration and just such a sweetheart. There is a movie about her that is winning awards all over the documentary circuit called Major! and you should prioritize seeing it. Her story is important and so inspirational.

I don’t make a ton of money as the finance officer of Desiree Alliance but it is meaningful work I feel honored to do. I’m looking forward to writing more grants with Cris to set up a sex worker activist mentoring program.

crisbevindararueMe, Cris, Dara and her baby granddaughter Rue, named for Rue McClanahan from Golden Girls.

Social Media Party Monitor for The Militant Baker: My friend Jes Baker is what I would call a “more famous body positive activist than me” and has hundreds of thousands of followers. That’s a lot of folks who comment and interact with her on social media and since her work challenges the concept of body currency the trolls who have nothing better to do than hate on awesome fat women uplifting people come out from under their bridges to say shitty things. I feel like a guardian who gets to make it easier for Jes to do her great work in the world. Read her book Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls (I’m quoted in it!!!). 

Dara wondered how I do it without having it affect me since I do the same kind of activism. I don’t know, it’s just easier for me partially because I get paid and partially because it is not directed at me and I know it makes Jes’ capacity greater. One of my life dharmas is to support activist resilience and somehow the purpose makes it easier for me read and delightfully block shit. And one day I’ll be influential enough to hire my own body positive activist friend to do that work for me! It’s great to have a job that is literally in line with your activism, however small it is.

jesbakerbevinchangetheworldHelping Jes change the world is an honor.

Law: I’m still maintaining an office in NYC so that I can practice real estate closings and estate planning for returning clients and friends in NYC. Most of my work is remote anyway and I have a great closing attorney who works with me when I can’t get to NYC for a closing. I just binge watched a ton of Continuing Legal Education classes in June and it was kind of fun learning about cannabis law, a very fascinating area I have no desire to practice in (still working on retiring from practice not starting something new) but as a media maker it’s helpful to have a fuller understanding of the evolving legal climate around cannabis.

The class about substance abuse for lawyers was fascinating, it taught me about how the qualities that makes one an effective attorney lends itself to suicide (the third leading cause of death among lawyers) and really highlighted for me why I am retiring.

Bevin’s Tea: I am still working on my Marie Forleo’s B-School course work and developing my business. I went to the World Tea Expo and cannot wait to have capacity to video blog about all the great teas I learned about. It’s both fun to be working towards a business I am extremely passionate about and frustrating about how long it takes to start something with no capital.

I have been learning so much both in practice and in B-School about creating a product-based business. Supporting artists and activists who maybe don’t have time or money to go get energy healing to take the fifteen minutes to prepare and consume a cup of reiki-infused tea is definitely part of my dharma. Thank you to everyone who has pre-ordered tea, it really helps a lot to learn the business by doing and I love the feedback. Can’t wait for you to see the product packaging I’m developing with my graphic designer!

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I also had no idea how much work it takes to start a new business and am taking each failure, mistake and triumph as necessary stepping stones to becoming the wildly successful energy healing mogul I know I can be. Also I want a line of clothing on QVC someday. As Dolly Parton says, Dream More!

Blog: My blog is a source of trickling income. I get gift cards for Amazon.com. When readers click links and buy literally anything on the site I get a commission. That helps me buy stuff for the house.

I get cash money from Bandelettes, the single sexiest form of chub rub prevention on the market (I used to spend all my commission on fatkinis but lately it’s gotta pay the bills).

The blog leads to the occasional speaking gig or sponsored blog post. If you want to reach a bunch of awesome people about your product or service, hit me up queerfatfemme at gmail.com. A BIG THANK YOU to everyone who has pre-ordered tea through my blog or used the Amazon referral link. Seriously helping right now.

everybodyeverybootyMe in my EveryBody tank and Dara in her Everybooty tee-shirt. East Coast West Coast queer lifestyles. Gym vs pride party.

OMG how many people have told me I “should just get a job” when I have a lot of them and am working towards being a full time body positive artist/activist/healer. But… I am getting a job, in addition to all the other jobs I have. I had to write my first resume focused on body positive activism! There’s a new body positive gym opening up 6 minutes from my house in Northeast LA. EveryBody is revolutionary, I’m honored to be part of the team.

It’s my deep pleasure to announce that I got a job as a fitness instructor doing body positive, accessible movement classes. I don’t think I would have ever thought in my whole life I would move to LA and become a fat femme Richard Simmons without the diet talk, but I’m really cute at it. I had done two different drag acts where we did fitness routines and those were for revolution not movement motivation but I’m stoked to get to be doing it for cash. I’ll give you more info when I have it.

Friends who visit LA–keep me updated because part of the class will involve interviews with artists and activists. Imagine a drag queen special guest star in a fitness class? I can’t wait to blow your mind. It’s like the next step to my body positive dance parties is to facilitate a dance party as part of moving and loving our bodies and healing collectively.

TRAVEL

I love to travel and have had some great opportunities this summer. I went to New Orleans for the Desiree Alliance conference and my friend Dana just happened to be staying at the same hotel after a bachelorette party. There’s nothing better than being at work at a conference dealing with the complaints of the AV guy and have a hot butch friend wearing a Dolly Parton tee shirt interrupt to hand you the best fried chicken in the world. I ate that fried chicken later on naked in my hotel room and it was the best moment.

danadollyshirt

I went to Columbus a couple of weeks ago to visit my close friends Christie and Becky and their daughters/my nieces Etta and Joey. Our friends Erica and Amy joined us from Philly with their kids August and Ani. Yes, I have lesbian friends whose baby’s nickname is Ani and I think that’s a #lesbianlevelup. It’s such a gift to be close to children and get to be part of their growing up. My heart swelled with pride when Etta and Joey were on a meditation pillow showing me how they find “Inner peeeeessss.” I love those kids so much.

Next week I head to NYC for Dollypalooza for my first time back since we left in late December. My heart is happy and also breaks a little because I know I won’t get to see nearly everyone I want to while I’m in town.

Last week I was overseas and I have an epic series of blog posts about that a comin’.

auntbevinettaandjoeyMy goal is to always have it be THE MOST FUN EVER when Aunt Bevin comes to town. I taught them how to hop train cars using this long cart at Target.

BEVIN <3 DARA

Dara and I never formally lived together before we moved to LA. Shit has been rough for us externally but we continue to find one another as a source of strength. Every time we hit a rough patch, we get through it and things get even stronger between us. We’ve talked about marriage obviously (and the legal protection offered would be really cool) but we’re waiting until we have the cash to have the blow out epic wedding of our dreams to pursue the level up. Queers have been finding creative ways of honoring our love connections for years outside of marriage and I am having a great time creating family culture and ritual with her based around our super woo spirituality and her Jewish cultural heritage.

bevindarathemedressI don’t support colonial imperialism but I do love red white and blue. How lucky that Dara loves theme dress as much as me?

Our house is cute as fuck and I’m learning how to let go of my perfectionism about it. House projects are constantly mounting and my Mariah Carey closet is still not finished. I was making myself suffer mentally and emotionally because I had this idea that everything “should” be done by now. I know now I had expectations that weren’t aligned with reality and given lack of cash, time and capacity we can’t have everything done yet. Houses are a lot of work, it’s like having another pet but way more demanding. I’m relying now on the power of six months and sitting in gratitude for what is done. We have a fridge (that wasn’t always true). I have my dream kitchen faucet we paid for through a rent reduction when the last one burst.

Now I just let it go, trust the universe and sing that song I Know There’s Gonna Be Good Times

My goodness it feels good to be back to real talk on the blog. More soon. Sending love out to all who need it.

2016-05-09

What the Heck is Inflammation and Why is Drinking Anti-Inflammatory Tea Good For You?

My friend Mucha just moved to LA and she’s renting out our guest room briefly while she gets settled. It’s nice to have someone to teach all of my newfound information about the neighborhood and living in LA. She used the same movers we used, she already has her driver’s license, she’s getting stuff done.

She’s also getting hives. It’s probably a weed allergy she hasn’t been exposed to yet, so she’s doing the things you do like taking Zyrtec and whatnot, but I suggested drinking my Hibiscus Coconut tea to help with the inflammation.

hibiscuscoconutteaThis tea is so gorgeous, when it’s in dry form and when you brew it, it’s so pink and pretty.

She said to me, “What the heck is inflammation anyway?” (She didn’t say heck, actually.) She’s right, people throw around health buzzwords but they rarely get explained in this mile a minute internet world.

I’m going to tell you my understanding of inflammation. I am not a doctor and you should totally consult a doctor or naturopath or someone in the medical field who knows your body before you take my advice, but maybe this will help folks have more understanding about how inflammation works and why anti-inflammatories are so good for you.

My understanding of inflammation comes from my experience doing my friend Vic’s cleanses. Vic is my health coach and I am so forever grateful to her for helping me address chronic health issues by reorienting how I interact with food. Her cleanses are a real stay full, learn about cooking and foods and your body’s reactions to foods experience.

Inflammation is when your body is in fight mode. Our immune system is meant to rise up to attack when we get sick or injured, to move healing energy to that part of our body that needs healing. When you have a cut that’s puffy, that’s inflammation because our immune system is going to work. When we have chronic inflammation it is where our bodies are fighting everything.

beltanemuchaA weed allergy and yet the opportunities to hang out on lawns on blankets with friends in LA abounds!

For example, if you are allergic to the grass around your house and every single day you had itchy eyes and watery nose and hives, you might get used to that being your everyday life. But you go to visit a friend’s house and when you’re there you have clear eyes and no watery nose and no hives. You feel so good! And then you go home again and feel crappy. Inflammation is like a silent version of that, where your body is exhibiting lots of side effects from other parts of your body you don’t realize.

Inflammation in the gut (where 70% of your immune system lives) can lead to tons of outside symptoms–for me it was chronic IBS and my body being achy. For other folks it can lead to auto-immune disorders, psoriasis, increased depression, the list is endless. Anti-inflammatory foods are also sometimes linked to cancer prevention and since my partner is a cancer survivor we work hard to give her nourishing anti-inflammatory foods!

bevinmuchaLove this babe so much. She got to town four days before Dara and I threw a HUGE Seder dinner/performance art event in our backyard. This photo is from my outfit as “God.”

Inflammation can result from the food you eat, sleep deprivation and stress. Yes, having an ongoing stressful situation can physically harm you and wind you up with a chronic or worsened health condition.

I handled my chronic inflammation by doing the Candida Murder Plan. Working with Vic, it really helped me figure out what are my trigger foods and how to orient my nutrition.

I now focus on supplementing my diet with anti-inflammatory natural foods. (Like the Good for Me Lifestyle Heal Me honeys–so good for inflammation and migraines.) I make a lot of bone broth and try to make sure there’s always soup in the house made from bone broth. The recipe I use is from my health coach and I make sure to add a whole bunch of scallions, more salt than you think you need, a little pepper and a cup of dried Nettle leaf because of its anti-inflammatory gut healing properties.

muchaonsunsetWalking in Silverlake.

When I made my Hibiscus Coconut tea it was because I wanted something refreshing and hydrating and delicious. I also realized as I did more work with hibiscus, how good it is at anti-inflammatory work in the body. I decided to add Nettle leaf to the tea to just give it a wham pow of anti-inflammatory magic. So folks who bought the tea in the first pre sale got the original version and when I tried

The way Reiki works is to transmit life force energy. When you get a Reiki treatment, this energy is put into you by your practitioner. Because it is energy once you are Level 2 certified, you can transmit that energy through time and space and into objects. My goal with my teas is to amplify the naturally occurring herbal benefits in the flowers and leaves themselves, as well as provide the drinker with Reiki healing energy.

With all of my teas, I think you get the most benefit drinking one cup a day. Set aside fifteen minutes a day to enjoy a cup, treat it as a centering experience and you’ll experience better quality of life. Even if you don’t buy into the anti-inflammatory idea, self care stretches time. Taking that pause is important!

I’m excited to be feeding Mucha lots of nourishing foods and see if having her drinking deliciously tart Hibiscus Coconut tea every day helps with her “Welcome to LA you’re allergic to everything” hives.

bevinmuchadunks

I’m doing a pre sale of my teas through May 10th, but will leave the sale open a bit longer if you’re reading this post later than that. Can’t wait to scale up my business so I can do orders all the time!

And if you have questions about any of the tea blends hit me up, I am excited to talk about them and have so much communications work to do on my forthcoming website! It’s truly my dream come true to develop a business to help get healing and self love into as many hands as possible!

2016-03-08

LA Week 6: The First Doctor’s Appointment is so Stressful

I kind of accidentally started titling my LA transition posts about the week I was in rather than the week I had passed. It always bugged me a little bit. I like the process of earning time passed rather than counting time passing. It’s also kind of like how annoyed I am that Time Warner makes me pay for the month of internet service ahead of time instead of like credit cards and electric bills you pay after the month has passed and the service has earned its money or whatever. This adventure just turned six weeks old on Saturday!

eaglerocklumberWe went to a lumber yard that was playing Adele in the warehouse. Also, I love love love the old vintage signs all over LA.

The biggest thing that happened last week was enrolling in B-School! I earned enough money through pre-sales and donations to take a big chunk out of it (saving lots more than I’ll need for materials because I might need to order stuff expedited and I’m not yet selling enough to buy in deep bulk) and the remainder left to pay for B-School was the equivalent of less than one month’s expenses here in LA. I’ve had lots of times where I had no idea how I was going to pay for next month’s expenses and I have at least three month’s savings still. I am feeling really called to this B-School experience and really have faith that what I learn will make my business flourish–before I use up my savings. So thank you thank you thank you to all who pre-ordered and who donated and who shared the page. I cannot wait to show you how great my teas are and keep you updated about the progress of building this business!

Last week Dara and I doubled down on making progress in the Mariah Carey closet attic renovation. We spent all of Thursday afternoon and Friday during the day working on walling up the sides of the attic. We have this beautiful stand-up space that slopes pretty steeply and I realized that the unusable space would be better off walled up. Boy was that an adventure. After the whole rennovation is over I’ll do a recap DIY blog post like all those people on Pinterest do and show you how we did everything.

femmeswithpowertoolsMe wielding a power tool!

atticinprogressProgress!

The very first moment I stepped into the attic when we saw the house I immediately saw the vision for the Mariah Carey closet. But having never taken on any home renovation projects I didn’t vision for the HOW. Luckily, Dara’s friend Dari and his wife Jen came over last weekend and Dari gave us a prescription for how to wall up the sides.

Jen kept me company while I continued to paint the ceiling and looked really cute.

Dari and Jen moved to LA from Brooklyn a little less than a year before us and it was great to hear about their transition process! It made me feel really good to hear what it was like for them to hit the six month mark and realize there were no further boxes and everything was set-up. It also made me feel SOOOO grateful for all of the friends I already have out here. It has been very grounding and reassuring to have people I know visiting and hanging out here. I think if absolutely everything including all of my friends were new it would make my transition even more difficult.

dariandjenWe already had a bunch of friends in common and yet never met in Brooklyn!

I’m actually feeling more settled as the weeks move on. I know our neighborhood pretty well now. We went to the farmer’s market and I found the humane farm to market meat I wanted to find! I made my first pork shoulder and bone broth. (That link is my go-to recipe from my health coach Vic, and my additions are a bunch of green onions/scallions and more salt than you think. My bone broth game is on point.) OMG it feels good to be getting back to how I like to cook! I never realized how much work it was to set-up a kitchen and I definitely thought it would be easier and cheaper and faster to get microwave safe plates I enjoy from thrift stores but that is actually not going as swiftly as I’d hoped.

My guacamole game is getting stronger! My friend Lauren suggested white onions, chopped ridiculously fine (I used a tiny chopper appliance) and garlic salt and so far that has been the best batch of guacamole yet! The next one I made had too much onion, not chopped as fine and was not as good. I’m still soliciting guacamole recipes so if you have one, leave it in the comments!

We have done a lot of weird clean-out projects here, a few weeks ago I cleaned out the cellar and found epic amounts of scrap wood in varied condition (we used a lot of it in the attic). Right now we’re using the cellar for deep storage–my mom is retiring and sent me all of my childhood ephemera. I’m choosing not to deal with it just yet. Before I could use the cellar for deep storage I needed to clean it out so there I was hauling wood and sweeping a hundred years of dust out.

bevininthecellar Pro tip: Tie up your hair or you will get weird dust all up in your hair.

Ideally folks have just one big life change at a time. I’ve talked to lots of friends about THE CALL, when their parents or guardians make a big life change and call to say “You need to get your crap childhood artifacts out of my garage/attic/basement crawl space.” Not everyone has living parents or family they are in contact with in that way, but for those of us who do, it is a rite of passage.

I went through all of that stuff on one visit to my mom about six or seven years ago. I thought I got it down to about six rubbermaid tubs but there were several cardboard boxes that I didn’t know about underneath my mom’s house and it all came when the moving truck with my mom’s hand me down furniture arrived and is now in the cellar. It’s big emotional life work, to go through and decide what to keep and what to get rid of, especially if you have experienced trauma as a child. So I am doing what I do well, and saying what is urgent isn’t important and what is important isn’t urgent and choosing to go through it slowly and not right now.

Because right now, Dara and I are planning our first Seder.

My friend Bridget and I had a great conversation where she told me her strategy to get settled into the Fox Den (her gorgeous Jersey City apartment) was to have a party where people were flying in for St. Patrick’s Day. That way it put enough pressure on her to get her apartment together.

constructiondaraDara is nervous about the ceiling of the attic (it’s a stand-up in the middle with some slopes that are prone to head hitting if you’re not careful). She loves wearing this hard hat up there. Plus it’s cute, she’s a fox!

I realized Dara and I unintentionally did that by saying to her out of state brothers, their kids/wives and her mom that we would host Seder dinner when they visit LA the week of March 20th. I’m very very excited about this, I love planning and executing major events, throwing parties and cooking for people. I also love encouraging Dara’s engagement with her Jewish cultural heritage and I love making things fun. We are going to have the most fun Seder ever. (As an aside, the last thing Dara’s Dad, Mel, ever said to me privately before he passed was after the family’s skype Seder dinner that I would be hosting Seder for the family soon enough… I know we will do Mel proud!)

One of the things I keep saying as I do stuff I am not enjoying to set up the house is that I can’t wait to throw parties here because that is fun for me. Methodically measuring wood, screwing things in until my hands cramp and painting until I get calluses on my hands is not that fun for me, but I know we’ve got to get this all done before the Barlins descend on us.

andymoviesMy friend Andy loaned us some movies and, more importantly, a saw! Totally saved our butts! Andy is going on tour with Chris Pureka soon, you can get the album pre-sale for the next 10 days, I hear it is great! I’ve loved Chris’ stuff as they’ve evolved as an artist.

So because of this deadline we realized we have had to be more strategic about getting stuff in order rather than just kind of picking at different parts of the house as we were doing. Dara declared this and she’s right, we need to finish the attic so my clothes can move out of the office and upstairs and then we can turn the office into the staging area and set up our living room at last.

In all of this, I am so in awe of my Virgo friends who move into a place and are unpacked and set up in a week. Virgos are the organized meticulous Zodiac sign. I have a Virgo rising, I may appear so organized and methodical but on the inside I’m not so much.

My friend Holly from Brooklyn & previously the Bay Area was in town last weekend. She moved to a new apartment with her sweetie Topher just before New Year’s Eve and she is a Virgo. So their progress was fast and furious AND it still felt reassuring that she said she had dropped wads of cash at IKEA every week for a couple of months getting set up. Having not had the wads of cash to get all that we need to make things work just yet is hard but we have no shortage of things to do in the meantime.

lissainstallationLast weekend I went to my friend Lissa’s installation as the Senior Minister at the Unitarian Universalist church in Pasadena. She’s the youngest Senior Minister of a large congregation and her congregation’s first female and openly queer Senior Minister. Red lipstick on the pulpit! I’m so proud of her! It’s so amazing to watch your friends flourish!! I’ve known Lissa for a long long time and it’s so great to see her living her dreams!

I hosted my first small dinner party here on Friday night when our friends Anne and Susanna were in town. Anne is Macy’s second family, she’s been her primary dog sitter for years and years. As someone who loves her dog and loves to travel, having a home she can go to where I know she has as much or more fun than she would with me feels so reassuring. Honestly, Anne was a big reason I was having pause leaving Brooklyn! And then she decided to move to Boston! She just got there last month.

Having Anne over was a big priority so Macy could get some Anne time on the couch. Macy was so excited to see her she actually fell off the couch because she wasn’t looking where she was going!

meannesusannadaraOnce the attic is done all the stuff on the staging area goes in the office and we install IKEA blinds over the windows instead of our temporary privacy drapes.

It’s so humbling and vulnerable to have people over to your house when things aren’t set up yet. I served dinner and didn’t realize I only have three dinner plates. (Again, working on only having things that spark joy, but a slow roll to getting plates apparently.) So Dara ate off of a really interesting platter we have.

I had my first doctor’s appointment with Kaiser. I went with Kaiser after I lost my health insurance in NY for failure to re-apply or something I didn’t realized I had to do because I didn’t get mail about it. I had Kaiser before when I was a kid and I like the concept of getting all of my specialists and doctors in one place. It’s the closest to universal health care I’ve ever experienced. Anyway, Kaiser called me and kind of pushed me to see a doctor right away for an intro visit. I felt kind of adult about it, since many times I’ve not seen my PCP until I had an illness. I figured this way if I need a prescription for an illness I could call her and maybe get it. I asked the Kaiser representative who called me for someone LGBT friendly just on a whim in case they had that and they did!

It was stressful, though, going to see a “health” practitioner for the first time. Not knowing if they were going to be fatphobic or not. I want a doctor who treats me as a human and not as a number on a scale. I wore a full face of make-up because that makes me feel better, and I was ready to recite to the doctor things about health at every size.

bevinatthedrFull face of make-up at the doctor.

I got nervous in the room waiting for her because there were not just one but three posters about weight loss stuff. They have SIX weight loss/”health” programs, and I’ll say I feel glad for it if simply because by offering them for free they are taking money away from the billion dollar diet industry. You can give Oprah your money at Weight Watchers (right now I’m not paying any money for Oprah things, she can just take her billions from toxic diet culture she doesn’t need my money), or you can get free nutrition counseling on the phone from Kaiser or one of the other five programs. Or, you can love your body as it is and work on your overall health and wellness and learning to be in loving communication with your body about what it needs because your size doesn’t need to change for you to be a whole, worthy human being. That’s the tactic I’ve been using and my happiness is pretty great.

ANYWAY, my new LGBT friendly doctor who might be younger than me didn’t mention my weight once and just did regular stuff asking about my family health history. I also got a tetanus shot because of working on the attic and those rusty nails.

Kaiser has a whole medical center in Hollywood (near the Scientology hive), and the one annoying part is that they charge you for parking in addition to your co-pays. But otherwise everything was pretty seamless.

After Kaiser, I stopped at the Dunkin Donuts in Hollywood. It’s the closest one to our house (about 15 minutes away) until the one in Atwater opens up later this month. Dara and I love Dunkin, East Coast nostalgia, she loves their coffee, they have almond milk and endless flavors and solid iced tea. We have always had this thing since we got back together about “I love you a latte.” So I bought her a latte because we had been fighty on Wednesday.

I definitely don’t want to be a blogger who only reports the good stuff and acts like my relationship is perfect all the time. It’s not. We struggle and we work on our communication and sometimes we get into dumb fights over why the dishes aren’t clean enough. Wednesday was such a day (so ironic since I had just posted about those strategies we used to strengthen rather than stress out our relationship during our move). On Thursday, after my doctor’s appointment and before we headed into the attic, I wanted to start off on a solid “I love you let’s have fun together” foot, so I went to Dunkin and got her a latte. And as I pulled up to the house I saw her in the doorway, she had flowers in her hands for me! We were both on the same page about wanting to be in a good space with each other and make this project fun!

Which was great, because our muscles were soooo sore by Friday night. Progress!

dariteachesdara

2014-10-15

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chronic disease.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Candida Cure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what did I eat?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014-01-14

I’m in the Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit

My new friend and colleague, Amy McDonald, invited me to participate in the first ever Happy, Healthy Lesbian Telesummit.

For those of you who have never participated in a telesummit before, basically it’s an online “event” (meaning, a limited period of time) where you can listen to live or recorded presentations or conversations with moderators. I went deep down the rabbit hole of woo and self-development at the first Hay House World Summit last year. This one is next week! January 20-24!

Facebook The Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit

Amy is the Founder of the Happy Healthy Lesbian, an online community for queer women who want to live their best lives. To help us all off to our best start in happiness and health for 2014, Amy has brought together all of her favorite queer women mentors, coaches and guides in The Happy Healthy Lesbian Telesummit.

And guess who she’s chosen to talk all things Happy and Healthy Body? Your old pal, Bevin Branlandingham!

She’s also talking to my health coach Victoria from Heart Beets Holistic, my newly minted relationship coach (more on that journey in a blog post later this week) Christine Dunn-Cunningham of the Lesbian Love Guru, and my friend Dawn Kirby who taught me about tapping! She’s launching a business to help women heal from sexual trauma.

You can register for the summit here. You’ll get emails each day of the Summit with the days’ available conversation to download!

Amy will be speaking with lesbians and queer women from Canada, the USA, Thailand, and Australia, sharing wise woman wisdom about how we can all be happier and healthier this year. Together we’ll share our favorite tips and techniques of happy and healthy bodies, relationships, money, food and nutrition, travel and spirit.

All by queer women for queer women.

Registration is free and easy. AND by registering you’ll also be able to access loads of free gifts from me and Amy’s other guests, including teleclasses, e-books and more.

Register here!

I’m really excited about this event. I hope you can join in the fun!

2013-11-25

A Great Way to Deal with Yucky Feelings: Emotional Freedom Technique aka Tapping

In advance of the #thx4support event on Thursday I wanted to talk about a tool that has been enormously helpful in my life to deal with yucky feelings (on Triggergiving, I mean Thanksgiving, or any other day).

This summer I worked with a woman whose work with lesbian survivors of sexual trauma involves using Emotional Freedom Technique, colloquially called “Tapping.” I had heard of it before but never really learned about it until Dawn told me about it. She walked me through the basic steps, and honestly it seems so simple it can’t possibly work. But, as my health coach Vic from Heart Beets Holistic said about Tapping, “The neuroscience is there. It really works.”

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So I gave it a shot. And a few months after starting to use it in areas of my life I was finding the most difficult to navigate, mostly money stuff (growing up working poor problems, like scarcity and fear) and residual grief from a break-up, my life in both of those areas has radically improved. I don’t know that Tapping is the only thing that worked but things have gotten better and it’s a great tool so I have been telling everyone I know about it.

Here’s how it works. If you have a yucky feeling come up, you start Tapping. For example, when I feel fear come up about money, my whole insides tense up. My stomach goes in knots and my heart hurts and I just have a total physiological reaction. What I do when I feel that way is I start doing the tapping sequence (and apparently there’s no exact “right” way to do the tapping, but lots of people say starting with the pinky sides of the hands hitting against each other) and naming the emotions that are coming up with me. Then I do the whole tapping sequence and usually end it by saying what I want to release and tapping my head.

The real powerful part of this, I think, is naming your feelings honestly. Even if you believe working with the meridian points is all made-up, being able to name the feelings you’re having is so incredible. We’re taught to swallow our feelings, not express them. So I express my fear that there will never be enough, that I will always be broke, that I don’t have enough money to pay for things, that I won’t be able to live my life as an artist. Then I release them. I sometimes follow-up with affirmations because I like the antidote to fear and insecurity with positivity. (In the foregoing example, “I live an abundant life and the Goddess takes care of all of my needs… I have more than enough to cover my bills and give money generously, etc…”)

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The idea is that Tapping helps you move the trauma out of your body. It’s an energetic release that works spiritually, physiologically and emotionally to acknowledge the trauma response and let it go. I know a lot of people who have worked with Tapping to deal with significant life traumas and it has really helped them. I believe if it can work with people on the really big stuff it can also work on the smaller more chronic issues that block us from our path.

I am a fan of free call-in seminars and I did one in September that was about releasing fear around money. I was so annoyed that I spent an hour and a half listening to this call and the “how” of it was only five minutes about naming your money fears and releasing them through the tapping points. It’s also much easier to learn the tapping points in a video. My favorite how-to video is below. Five minutes with one of my favorite spiritual leaders, Iyanla Vanzant. She has an incredible show on OWN called Iyanla, Fix My Life. I highly recommend it.

Again, it feels wild that it’s so simple.

My yuckiest feelings sometimes come up for me when I’m in transit, especially in the subway. Mostly when I’m moving my mind is going the most rapidly. One time I found myself tapping while on the F train and felt a little weird about it. Vic says that you can tap on just your finger tips because those are meridian points as well, but sometimes I just tap for real anyway because I don’t really care what people think of me on the subway and, honestly, tapping is the least weird of the weird stuff I’ve seen happen on NYC Transit.

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If you’re going to be dealing with hard things on Thanksgiving, Tapping is a great idea to have in your arsenal! I think having a tool box of things that help you stay grounded and centered is a great way to pre-plan for hard stuff. If you’re new to Tapping, maybe sketch out a list of the meridian points to tap and keep it in your purse or pocket and excuse yourself to the restroom to let it out. And don’t forget to follow hashtag #thx4support on Thanksgiving to be part of a whole community of folks supporting one another through the holiday!

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I’m fundraising to support QueerFatFemme.com! If you’ve been touched by the site, please consider donating money and getting a really cool prize! Folks in NYC can give $40 and get gourmet cupcakes made by the Rebel Cupcake Princess, Morgan! These are incredible cupcakes you basically can’t buy anywhere else.

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Morgan, talking about the background of the Riots Not Diets cupcake (a reclamation of past grapefruit diet trauma) at Rebel Cupcake in May. Photo by Gizelle Peters.

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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