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Monday, September 15, 2014

COMMUNITY, KINDNESS, KONA COFFEE AND WHAT IT'S REALLY ALL ABOUT


"A jellyfish...to remind you that life might sting, 
but good lord, it is so beautiful."

Said the inside of the card with a beautiful drawing of just that.

I was driving home today, running an assortment of to-dos through my head. I've been more than overwhelmed lately with the amount of work to be done: house gutting and rearranging, stacks of bills waiting for my attention (I'm good at ignoring them), surprise hairballs and fleas from the roommates, needed organization galore and the delicate process of breaking up with a long time employer and making sure it goes as smoothly as possible. All that (and more) was weighing heavily on my mind when I walked up to my door and saw the package.

I tried to determine if it was that awesome essential oil diffuser I ordered, but it was way too fucking heavy to be that. I opened it, unsure of what I would find, and when I realized what I was looking at... I teared up hardcore. The heavy was gone.

You probably know Amanda Trusty. She's that kick ass burlesque dancer who's "Roar" video went viral and inspired millions of people to peel off society's labels and live/dance like they didn't give a fuck. I just re-watched it and got goosebumps. (And started crying. I'm really emotional today turns out, which I 100% contribute to staying up past my bedtime because I'm mildly addicted (<-- lie. I'm beyond  addicted) to Blacklist. But anyways.)

The box was full of thoughtfully selected gifts from her current home in Hawaii and I don't know how she knew just what to send but there was coffee and banana pancake mix y'all. BANANA PANCAKE MIX. Jesus christ, she's good.


Beyond the goodies, there was an envelope with a beautifully typed list: "14 Reasons Why You Are Fucking Awesome." The list included some of my favorite things penned about me maybe ever, and here are a few favorites:

( "14 Reasons Why You Are Fucking Awesome.")
 1.) You are so knowledgeable about psychology that your body advocacy will forever be different than everyone else's. Incorporating mental health education into your mission is what makes it so positive and inspiring.
7.) Your brilliant hashtags 
10.) Your emotional honesty in your writing. You never lead us to believe that you have it right or perfect. You always take us along for the ride. Thank God. This is why you matter so much, We know we can always fund a relatable story in your archives.
14.) Your courage. Your perseverance. Your balls. Your ferocity. Your strength. Your aura. Your stance. Your fucking passion. All the passion. You've got all the passion. Never forget it. Never ever ever ever. Your passion is your best asset. It will take you places in this world and allow you to change things that you never thought were changable. And you have an army of passionate women here to back you up whenever you call us in. Never, ever, ever forget that,
It was reading through these that made me stop and realize: HOLY SHIT THIS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT. This is what the body love community stands for. This is how it's supposed to work.

I came across an amazing image on Instagram that I just re-posted out of "YES THIS" that says "Her success is not your failure." The sentiment is exactly my experience with every body advocate I've ever met. And this, dear friends, is a beautiful and rare thing.

We live in a competitive world that constantly tells us that someone else's win is our loss, and guess what? Ain't true. I've watched teams and communities grow stronger and more successful when they bask in other's achievements. This basking doesn't mean that the others are falling behind, but rather, it means they recognize the power of collective happiness.

While sun bathing with the indescribably wonderful Virgie Tovar in San Jose, she shared her mission in life: to rid our society of its diet culture habits and to help others be successful in doing the same. Not just to kick ass at something, but to hand off her knowledge to others as well. It was so refreshing, and this isn't an isolated incident. The speakers from the Body Love Conference have a secret Facebook group simply to connect, support, and build one another up. I remember being so touched when the magnificent Sonya Renee took the time to make a lengthy phone call and give advice on how to make advocacy a full time job. There was an email from Marilyn Wann with an opportunity to die for. Volunteers are practically tripping over each other (not really,but I like the visual) to donate time to the conference because they believe in the cause. When I reach out to any activist, I'm greeted by a friendly YES to whatever I'm looking for. Every time.

THIS IS WHAT IT'S ALL ABOUT. This is what the body love community stands for. This is how it's supposed to work.

Did I mention it's rare? It's a lovely thing, seeing people relish in other successes. And I think the reason for this community's undying support of each other lies in the fact that every single one of us believes in empowerment. Positivity. Love. GOD I want to see every person adopt this mindset, y'know?

Amanda also sent that deliciously chubby hula doll pictured above with this message:


I adore her so.

I remember her offering to send something after a particularly rough week of mine, and her act of incredible kindness was just the kick start I needed to refocus my intentions to be even more generous with my support. I remember reading a book when I was a kid called "Random Acts of Kindness," and it's message has stuck with me all these years. The goddawful cover design has also stuck with me, but that's another conversation all together.

So I'm going to do more of this kindness/support/empowermentofothers thing. And I think you should join me.

It could look like anything. A casual compliment. A surprise gift. A postcard to remind someone that they're fucking awesome. A congratulations on a success. An empathetic "Hope things look up" comment when things go wrong. A "Fuck the haters" when necessary.

A smile.


I wanna see the world re-frame their view of this whole competition thing; we don't have to hate to win. I wanna see us all mirror the body positive world. And I'll vouch: it's such a great fucking world to live in.

So thanks Amanda. For the chocolate covered coffee beans and the reminder that there certainly is beauty in the world.

Monday, September 8, 2014

FAT PEOPLE AND TAX DOLLARS // BY RAGEN CHASTAIN

 
“As long as my insurance and tax dollars continue to pay for there [sic] diabetes, and heart disease, I’ll continue to feel justified in telling every overweight person I see that they need to lose weight.  Shame is powerful and their [sic] fat is costing me real money”
So I read when I broke the cardinal rule of being fat on the internet and read the comments.

First of all, when someone brings this up I typically demand to see their list of things that their tax dollars pay for, broken down into things that they want to pay for and things that they don’t, and the interventions in which they are participating for each of the things they don’t want to pay for.  Nobody has ever produced such a list – I think that’s because this really doesn’t have anything to do with their tax dollars, it’s simply a convenient way to couch their size bigotry.

This argument is based on shaky claims that fat people are unhealthy and going to cost more money than thin people in healthcare.   I’m going to look at this two ways.  First the reality, and then as if those assumptions were true:

Reality:

Independent research has shown that the cost claims about fat people’s healthcare are seriously overblown (thanks to a world where people can say almost anything about fat people and it will be believed.)   The truth is, you cannot tell how healthy a person is by looking at them, you can only tell what size they are.  There is no such thing as a healthy weight.  Health is complicated, multidimensional, and not entirely within our control.  People make all kinds of choices that don’t prioritize their health, they are allowed to make those choices, and you can’t tell based on their size.

Also, research from Columbia has shown that shame and stigma can have negative affects on our health, so it’s possible that if their tax dollars are paying for fat people’s healthcare, they may  actually paying for the results of their fat shaming and bigotry. (We’ll never know the effects that shaming has on fat people until we stop shaming fat people.)

Fat people are targeted because we are easily identifiable by sight, and it’s never a good idea to take a group of people who can be identified by sight and suggest that they should be eradicated to make things cheaper for everyone else.  Not to mention that nobody making this argument can show a single method of weight loss that has been shown to work for more than a tiny fraction of people over the long term.

But let’s pretend that the assumption is true.  In that case:  I’m fat, so I’m unhealthy and may cost more money. But…

  • Fat people pay taxes too, and our taxes go to pay for the war on obesity – we are actually funding a war waged against us by our government for the purpose of our eradication.
  • I’ve never even smoked a cigarette.  And yet my tax dollars go to all the people who get health problems related to smoking.
  • I don’t drink.  I’ve never even been drunk. And yet my tax dollars pay for cirrhosis, drunk driving accidents and  alcohol poising.
  • I’ve never done drugs.  And yet my tax dollars pay for people whose lives and bodies fall apart due to drug abuse.
  • I look both ways before I cross the street.  And yet I have to pay for people who get run over after failing to do so.
  • I don’t mountain climb, but my tax dollars pay for the healthcare costs of people whose attempts to do so are dramatically unsuccessful.

And well they should, because that’s how civilized societies behave. I would rather my tax dollars pay for antibiotics to cure bronchitis than pay for an ER visit and hospitalization for pneumonia.  And I’d rather my tax dollars pay for an ER visit and hospitalization for pneumonia than pay for a public funeral because someone didn’t have access to healthcare.  I think that a society where everyone has access to healthcare is better from every possible angle and so I’m interested in removing barriers to healthcare, not justifying them with an argument about my tax dollars.

Even if health was entirely within our control, I’d  rather my tax dollars go to the healthcare of people who make different choices than I do than live in a world where there is someone who gets to tell us all how we should live and I think that the people making the “fat people and my tax dollars” argument would agree.  I’ve also noticed that people who want to police my “health” (and by health I actually mean body size which is not the same thing) are never that excited to have other people police their health.  Should vegans only have to pay for the healthcare of other vegans if they believe that’s the healthiest lifestyle?  Should Christian Scientists taxes not have to pay for any healthcare at all?  Should people without cars not have to pay taxes for the road, should people without kids not have to pay taxes for schools?  Since I think that people who make this argument are bullies should I not have to pay for their healthcare since I don’t like bullies?

Marathoners drop dead of heart attacks.  People who do everything “right” (“right” here having the meaning of “what health concern trolls say we should do”) die of diseases to which they were genetically predisposed. Other people live their lives in ways with which we disagree, we live our lives in ways with which other people disagree, and all this “won’t somebody think of my tax dollars” hand wringing is nothing but thinly veiled fat bigotry.


Bottom line:

Even if they could prove that being fat makes me unhealthy (which they can’t). And even if they had a method that was scientifically proven to lead to successful long term weight loss  (which they don’t). And even if there was proof that losing weight would make me healthier (which there isn’t). And even if they were going to go around yelling at smokers, drinkers, jay walkers, and thin people who climb mountains (which they aren’t) this slope is still too slippery.  And that doesn’t take into account the reality that their premise is completely flawed, their assumptions are faulty, and their method of shaming people is utterly ineffective since they can’t make us hate ourselves healthy or thin.

So I think it would be dandy if they would just shut up.

-------------------------------------------------------

Ragen Chastain writes on the blog Dances with Fat where she challenges social assumptions about bodies daily. Chastain is the author of FAT:The Owners Manual and an accomplished dancer.

She believes that basic respect and the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are not size dependent.  She believes that it is impossible to tell somebody’s health based on their size.  She believes that public health is about making options for health affordable and accessible to everyone, not making fat people’s bodies the public’s business. And she believes in respecting whatever choices others make about their bodies, whether or not they are the choices she would make.

Monday, September 1, 2014

MAYBE THE MOST EXCITING NEWS I'VE EVER HAD...EVER.



No really.
The title isn't clickbait.
This is probably the most exciting (and for me, most certainly terrifying) news I've ever shared.

I'M GOING TO LEAVE MY CURRENT JOB AND DO BODY LOVE ADVOCACY FULL TIME.

Yes.
Yes, that's happening.

A couple of years ago I would have never thought that I would have the opportunity to teach self-love and body acceptance as a career... but here we are! It's a thing. It's happening. And I'm so excited.

I've found myself running ragged, working 86 hour weeks (no joke) trying to give every part of my life the attention it deserved... and well, that proved to be impossible. But I tried for a year and half and I'm shocked I haven't torn all my hair out. Shocked and grateful. What I started to realize is that when it comes to body positive activism, I needed to be all in, or completely out. And of course, I'd NEVER let you down, SO I'M ALL FUCKING IN.

It's time.

Time for more blogging about critical subjects that need exploration. Time for updating this website and pumping it full of content. Time for me to respond to pop culture when it happens, and not weeks later. Time for me to share where to find bad-ass clothing for all sizes. Time to have more guest writers. Time for me to learn HOW TO FUCKING VLOG. It's hard but you want it and so I'm gonna learn! Time to write a curriculum for teens. Time to teach that curriculum in high schools. Time to collaborate with more bad-asses. Time to give the Body Love Conference the love it needs. Time to invest fully in that which I feel most passionate about: helping you (and others) learn to love yourselves just as you are.

Because you deserve it.
Seriously.

I'm using an amazing thing called Patreon to support this transition. 
You can contribute to my mission (for $2!) , get killer perks, and learn more here.


Can't contribute that way right now? It's totally okay. Try sharing the Patreon link instead!

Lets change the world bitches.
One month at a time.

Ya with me?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

MEET ME IN NEW YORK (AND MODEL FOR MODCLOTH!)


Holy JESUS I have exciting news for you!

1.) I'm going to be in NYC on WEDNESDAY, September 3rd! It's been FAR too long, and if you're in town I wanna see you!

2.) The world is shifting, y'all. Body positivity is jumping into the big leagues and being adopted by some really big names. It's no longer stuffed underground.. it's gaining momentum! Do we have a long way to go? Totally, Have we  made unbelievable progress? Hell yeah!

3.) ModCloth is one of those companies embracing body love. One of the founders just wrote about her body image issues and how important she believes inclusivity is in advertising. She also noted that ModCloth was the first fashion company to sign a kick ass Truth in Ads pledge that promises to not digitally alter bodies which, shiiiiiiiit, I'm all about. (You can see more here.)

4.) The best one of them all: YOU GET TO BE PART OF THE CHANGE. And what I mean by that is: ModCloth is kicking off Fashion Week early with an open model call and YOU'RE INVITED. Seriously. They want to represent YOUR body and so they're having a pop-up photo event and I'm gonna be there. Bring your fashion A GAME and come tell me all about your thoughts on body love, diversity, Photoshop, the fashion world, inclusivity in advertising... and whatever the fuck else you wanna talk about! There is going to be press and we're gonna make a movie and ModCloth is gonna post some of your pictures on their FB and blog and, and and... sounds pretty great huh?

Deets:

I love this concept. I love NYC. I love companies that walk the talk. I love modeling. I love cute dresses. I love these Cicada earrings that I'm definitely gonna wear. I love you.  I LOVE BODY LOVE GODDAMNIT.

So get your sexy ass there, okay?
You can RSVP here for freezies .

And I wanna know: what do you think about advertisements and honest representation? Is it possible to sell as much if you show something other than the media's "ideal"? Is this sustainable? Should more companies follow suit? What does the world look like when we don't hate ourselves?

Talk to me bitches.
I know you're smart.

Monday, August 11, 2014

EXPOSE: SHEDDING LIGHT ON COLLECTIVE BEAUTY



Tell me something.

When was the last time you opened up your browser and saw a beautiful image of a body shape that looked just like yours?

When was the last time you saw an image of skin markings that looked just like yours?

When was the last time you saw an image of breasts that looked just like yours? An ass that looked just like yours? Scars that looked just like yours? A belly that looked just like yours? 


Unless you're a celebrity look alike and have real time Photoshop (like, a program that follows and moves with you) I'm going to guess that for the majority of us... it's been a while. It's been a while since we've (or maybe we've never) seen our body positively represented within that overwhelming flood of images that fills our social media feeds, televisions, and magazines.

I think it's time to change that.


A week ago, an amazing thing happened. 96 (plus Liora and I...yes, nearly 100) women of all shapes, sizes, shades, and ages, gathered together in a beautiful room in Tucson Az and undressed their glorious bodies.

Nearly all had something to personally gain from the experience; it was a test of self-trust. They bared all to defy a lifetime of being told that their bodies were less than camera ready. And defy they did. Every time the shutter clicked, triumph was theirs. God, it was moving.

But they also bared all for you. They undressed because they wanted to share their curves and angles, smiles and frowns, firmness and softness, strength and fear... with you. With the world. With everyone who wonders if they are alone in their physical form.

We all know that what we see in the media isn't the whole story. It's not representative of all of us. And because of what we see (or rather DON'T see) we start to believe that we are the only one with our particular stretch marks. Our uneven boobs. Our scarred legs. Our asymmetrical nipples. Our belly shape. Our body hair. Our what-ever-it-is-that-you-don't-see-on-display-any-where-else... Rarely do we see our beautiful and complex combination of body parts that makes us magnificent.

And when we feel alone in our body, we feel as though we are not enough. When the truth is: we are MORE than enough. And we are not alone.



So much of the female body that we see is pushed up. Pinned down. Sucked in, tucked in, and airbrushed. It's only presentable state is when it's altered, and so when we look at ourselves in the mirror (naked, untucked, and vulnerable) we say "My body must be wrong."

Your body ain't wrong girlfriend.

Liora K and I hosted The Expose Project last week to offer a medicinal photography opportunity (steps towards healing through terrifying naked poses while a hundred women clap and cheer!) and also to offer YOU more images that perhaps reflect what you might see in the mirror.

98 bodies, untouched. Real, and raw, and more gorgeous than I can put into words.

























I was in awe when Liora showed me the final images...each and every body is so gorgeous to me. I've flipped through these images time and time again, every click deserving it's own breath. I see it. I see the beauty. I see the diversity. I see the vulnerability. I see the power.

And with these images also come respect. ALL of these women are powerhouses. Some were strong and silent powerhouses. Some were cheeky, laughing powerhouses. Some were fierce and ferocious powerhouses. And some were sobbing, shaking powerhouses... but they all did what SO many are afraid to do: they were able to expose themselves in a light that highlights their beautiful vulnerability. It's never easy, and every feeling imaginable arose. But they did it, and because of these images they are changing the world. Theirs, mine, and yours.

Will every person reading this post see their body and shape represented here? Definitely not. We can't represent 7 billion people with one shoot in a small city like Tucson. But we can show that as women, our bodies differ in every way conceivable... That we're not alone, and that we are all fucking perfect, just as we are.

You can view all 96 women here, if you'd like. I'd recommend it.
You can also read this recounting that made me cry as well as Liora's post.

I want to come to your town with Liora someday and do this project again. Will you have us? Lets do this again. And again. And again, until we all feel represented. Until the beauty becomes a blur. Until everything we hide is exposed, including our inherent worth no matter what shape our bodies take.

What part of you do you wish you saw more in the media?
What do we need to see more of, representation wise?
Would you participate in a shoot like this?
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