Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
Nicole – Welcome to Fat and Faithful, an ongoing conversation about faith, politics, and culture as they relate to fatness.
Amanda – Hi everyone welcome to episode 10 of season two of Fat and Faithful. I am Amanda Martinez Beck and I am here with my faithful co-host-
Nicole – J. Nicole Morgan. Hi everyone. So good to be here. Today we are discussing fat acceptance myths: what’s out there, why they aren’t true, and how we can respond when we see them.
Amanda – But before we get to the rest of the episode our resource recommendation of the week is Nicole’s book Fat and faithful.
Nicole – Woo hoo!
Amanda – Yay! Available from Fortress Press. It’s available for preorder on Amazon and-
Nicole – Barnes and Noble.
Amanda – The exciting news is that if you preorder, you get access to Chapter 1 already, and a discussion guide.
Nicole – Yes I have, one of my very good friends wrote the discussion guide and I’m really proud to have that for people. She’s really got at like asking questions and getting you to think and all of that so.
Amanda – That’s so exciting so see Nicole’s Twitter, for more information. It will be the pinned tweet and her Twitter is @JNicoleMorgan. So that is the resource recommendation for the week. And now let’s get to our episode.
Nicole – So Amanda what’s happening with you in faith and fatness this week?
Amanda – I’m so glad you asked so we’re recording this on June 4th. It will release on June 11th, which happens to be my birthday.
Nicole – Yay, happy birthday!
Amanda – Thank you. And yesterday, so June 3rd was the Feast of Corpus Christi in the Catholic Church. What that means is Corpus is body. And Christie is Christ and so it was the Feast of the most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. And I am in the middle of a series on my Instagram called Today’s Good Body Takeaway. And it’s looking at the lectionary from the Catholic Church. And so we have, every three years we read through the Bible in the Catholic Church. We have morning readings, evening readings, mass, all, all different kind of readings. So I’m just taking the daily readings. And looking at them and pulling out lessons about bodies and how we know our bodies are good. So I, and I did not plan that I would be going through the series when we came upon the Corpus Christi feast. Which so, it was really exciting when I was like oh hey, the Holy Spirit has a great sense of timing.
Nicole – I was gonna say serendipitous.
Amanda – Yes spiritdipitous or something like that.
Nicole – Yeah, something like that.
Amanda – And so yeah the Feast of the Body and the Blood is really precious to me because, that’s the reason that I became Catholic. I mean, that’s the reason I became a Christian in the first place. Actually I was three years old. I don’t know if I’ve shared the story on the podcast.
Nicole – No.
Amanda – No? So, I was three years old and my parents went to a bible church in west Texas and they took communion every week which is pretty rare for a Protestant church that’s not liturgical. And I wanted to eat the cracker and drink the juice. Because why wouldn’t you, right, when you’re three. And my parents as it was passed down the aisle my parents shushed me and, and kept me from getting cracker and juice and I was sad. As any three year old would be. So that afternoon, we got home and they shared the gospel with me. They told me about the cross and sin and Jesus saving, coming to save us. So I prayed to receive Jesus. Well the next week at church my parents didn’t think that I really understood ’cause I was three. And so when the juice and the crackers came by again I reached out to take some and they kept me back from taking it. So I said really loud, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and I want to take communion.
Nicole – Very practical child like here’s all I get what I want. Yes.
Amanda – And so they let me take communion and there was never a pause before that again. But I love, I love that the Lord has revealed to me since then that he used my appetite to draw me to him, that there’s just something so precious about Jesus being food and drink ’cause he meets us in that very vulnerable place. So, I love the Feast of Corpus Christi because it’s a celebration of that. I mean we do it every week in the Catholic church every day but it’s a specific feast for that.
Nicole – Intentional. That’s awesome. Yeah. It reminds me of the “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good” verse.
Amanda – Amen, Psalm Psalm 34 verse 8. One of my life.
Nicole – Look at you!
Amanda – One of my life verses.
Nicole – It’s very evangelical of you to know that’s, chapter and verse reference.
Amanda – It’s very evangelical with me. Three years Catholic, a lifetime of being Protestant, so…
Nicole – You got your Bible drill down.
Amanda – It’s true. What’s, what’s new for you in faith in fatness?
Nicole – So this weekend I got to do something that I had been looking forward to for a very long time. There is, I went on a group hike with a group, an organization loosely held group of people, not really sure, a movement called Unlikely Hikers. And you can find them on Instagram. It’s run by a lady named Jenny Bruso. But she is very intentional about diversity and inclusion in the outdoors. So we had, I believe it was 28 people came to this hike. Which is huge for a group hike. A variety of body types and sizes and ethnic, racial diversity, gender all of that, sexuality. So it was a really cool experience to be in this very inclusive group and everyone was just on board for everyone being outside and being active. And I actually like I kind of struggled with the hike. I have had bronchitis the last week and I probably shouldn’t have gone, but I had been looking forward to it for months and so I went and I like, fell twice which was probably not the result of the bronchitis, just because I’m a little clumsy. And I wasn’t hurt I just, was muddy at the end of it. But I had to like stop and catch my breath. And then just like my stomach was not doing good. And I hike fairly often I never had that happen before. But ultimately one of the women in the group volunteered to walk a little slower with me behind, so the whole group didn’t have to wait, which I was so thankful for. They’re very much about not leaving anyone behind but I was having a special day. So one woman walked with me a little bit slower. And the rest of group went on ahead and I think at the ended up we were only like 10 to 15 minutes behind them at the end. So it wasn’t a huge thing. But anyways it was really good and very affirming to just do it. And even if maybe I should have stayed and rested, given my lungs a little bit more of a chance to recover from bronchitis, I’m so glad I went. And very thankful for that community that Jenny has created and yeah. So I went to check them out on Instagram and on Facebook and Twitter too I think. But Instagram is their big platform and it’s Unlikely Hikers.
Amanda – That’s so exciting. I wish we had a group like that here. Maybe we should start one.
Nicole – Go for it.
Amanda – Although I don’t know where we would hike ’cause we’re in Texas.
Nicole – You just don’t have any shade. I’m a very big fan of the Southeastern hikes where there’s rivers, and lots of shady trees.
Amanda – We’ve we’ve got the trees in East Texas. We’ve got lots of trees but.
Nicole – Oh that’s good.
Amanda – But there’s we have a walking path that extends a couple miles through the middle of town which it’s not hike but it’s walking. So maybe I’ll do something like that. Yeah.
Nicole – I pretty much consider walking in nature hiking, so there you go.
Amanda – We need lots of bug spray. We’ve got lots of bugs out here. So. All right. Well today we are talking about fat acceptance myths or body positivity myths. We are in, Nicole explicitly calls herself as a fat acceptance activist which is a branch of body positivity. I call myself a size dignity activist, because I found that a lot of people in my audience were uncomfortable with the word fat. Which isn’t something we’ll talk about. So. Nicole what’s our first myth to discuss.
Nicole – So here’s one that I hear you couldn’t do the work to be thin. So instead you changed your mind.
Amanda – Hmm. Has someone ever said that to you.
Nicole – Not in those exact words. I don’t know if it’s ever been directed like, specifically at me but I’ve definitely seen the idea. It’s that whole, those who can’t do teach kind of idea where it’s just, if you couldn’t figure out what you actually wanted to do, you just decided that what you were was your goal, is the accusation. That you gave up and are rationalizing. I think is what people are trying to say.
Amanda – Yeah I, I don’t think it’s ever been directed at me but I’ve definitely seen it and it’s made me feel like it’s directed at me. If that makes sense.
Nicole – And I think, for me part of what is most hurtful about this myth, or hearing it. I don’t even know if hurtful is the right word, but there is this grain of truth in there, like I did give up on dieting. I did decide that, that was not a goal of mine and it used to be. So my goal did change and some people will assume my goal changed because I couldn’t reach the original one and that, I that this isn’t kind of like resignation or defeat or trying to make myself feel better about second place. When the truth is I, my original goal was faulty. My original goal is set up to not, for us not to be able to exceed, to succeed. Like most people studies show, can’t lose a significant amount of weight, and keep it off in the long term. You yo yo diet and everything else and so yeah I did change my goal and I did, make something else my goal. But it’s not, I’m having trouble like putting it into words but that nugget of truth is what makes this particular myth kind of hard to talk about with people who don’t get it. But what are your thoughts.
Amanda – So, I want to look like structurally at this myth. So you couldn’t do the work to be thin. So instead you changed your mind. Now the first part of that, you couldn’t do the work to be thin. So we asked the question, why do we need to be thin, right? Why, I’m writing this down, we need to be thin. And then, this is how I dissect things. I write them down. So why do we need to be thin? We don’t. That’s, that’s the first part. And that kind of takes away the power of this of the phrase. Because we don’t have to be thin. But then, addressing the second part, you couldn’t do the work. Couldn’t do the work. yall get to hear my teacher mode today. This is what, when I would teach, I would have my whiteboard and be writing down whatever I said. And dissecting it from there. So couldn’t do the work. So what is the work involved in being thin? That’s not a rhetorical question.
Nicole – Oh, sorry. You’re not writing down your plans. OK. That was an actual question. So the work to be thin, is diet and exercise for the most part. Or, people will say self-control. You don’t have any self-control. That’s really the work of being thin.
Amanda – Yeah. And I think. Ooooh, I just I feel that. Because I ugh, I’ve thought it so much. I just don’t have self-control like, when the scripture says, and is it first Timothy, that the Lord has given us not a spirit of fear but a spirit, a sound mind–.
Nicole – Sound mind.
Amanda – And self control.
Nicole – The fruit of the spirit.
Amanda – Right. So am I not spiritual? Do I not have the Holy Spirit living in me. And that’s that’s the painful accusation that comes when people say that weight issues are just a matter of self-control.
Nicole – Right. And so then if you can’t do the work of self-control and so you instead, you change your mind, we’re going to stick on this whole scripture thing. So now you are what is it, a piece of driftwood tossed easily to and fro. That’s the verse that would always get me. So now you have, you have no convictions. You have no understanding of who you are, who God is, or what he wants from you. So all of this myth, is basically telling us we lack all ability to know ourself and to do hard work. Which is just not true.
Amanda – And to let God change us.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – Because you know the first article I read by you. How, the way that we were introduced was, you wrote the piece for Christianity Today, “God loves my fat body as it is.” And in there you said that, you asked God so many times to help you lose weight, right?
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – Because that would prove that you were walking with him and that you could do all things through Christ.
Nicole – Right. So weight loss became a sign of my self control and my dependence on God and that I was a good Christian.
Amanda – So is weight loss an indicator of self-control, or weight loss, or thinness. And the answer is…
Nicole – No.
Amanda – No. Weight loss and thinness are not a function of spirit given self-control. Weight is factored, has so many different factors, and it’s way more complicated than calories in, calories out. Calories in, being diet. Calories out, being exercise. It is way more complex than that. And so part of part of fat acceptance or body positivity or size dignity, is accepting that, is coming to our bodies humbly and saying, we don’t get it. We don’t know why all these things are happening. We can’t say for certain that x causes y, that causes z, because people in all size bodies get diabetes. People in all size bodies have heart attacks. We can’t just say we get how the body works completely. So I think it’s really coming to it with an attitude of humility. To recognize that, weight is not an indicator of discipline, self-discipline.
Nicole – Yeah. So I think, then their response to this myth, is yes my goals changed. But they didn’t change because I gave up. They changed because I understood reality better, or I understood my body better.
Amanda – Yeah. That, my goals changed. I couldn’t do the work to be thin, no. I decided I didn’t want to do the work to be thin. ‘Cause it wasn’t my body piece.
Nicole – Right.
Amanda – And I did change my mind. it definitely involves changing your mind.
Nicole – It does.
Amanda – Definitely.
Nicole – It is a dedicated persistent work of changing your mind on this topic. I tell people frequently, it is a journey. It is a path. Someone asked me, I don’t remember where, like, how long it took me. And it was at least 10 years before body positivity and accepting myself, was my default most of the time. And even now, it’s not always my fault. But I remember, it was 10 years after I really started trying, where I realized one day, oh this is almost second nature to me now. Now I typically assume my body is good rather than assuming it is bad.
Amanda – I love that. I mean that’s, I love that you’re there. And I think we’re so focused on a quick fix. For everything in our life, right? And knowing that, that is an act of self-control. You have been walking in self-control about thoughts towards your body for 10 years. And you’re seeing the fruit of that. So if anyone ever tells you that you don’t have self-control, when we look at the fruit. And my loving God, and my neighbor as myself better than I was 10 years ago. Yes, then I am walking in some measure of self-discipline. That is the purpose of self-control. Is to be able to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself more.
Nicole – Amen, like that is the test. I wish I knew who said it but I just scrolled through a tweet the other day and it said, the test for if you love God in the Bible, is if you love your neighbor. The test for if you love your neighbor, is if you love your enemy.
Amanda – Wow.
Nicole – And so yes exactly what you just said. If what you’re doing with your body means you love your neighbor more, than you’re getting something right.
Amanda – Right. Well speaking of enemies, fat acceptance myth number two.
Nicole – Yes, so fat acceptance shames thin people.
Amanda – So, allow me to be a little bit nerdy. The ideas behind deconstruction, in a literary sense, like in literary theory or, I don’t, it’s much bigger than just literary theory. But, was it Foucault who is the deconstruction person?
Nicole – Oh I don’t know. Derrida.
Amanda – Derrida, thank you. Is it Derrida?Jacques Derrida.
Nicole – Yeah I mean it’s been a while since literary criticism.
Amanda – Foucault, I think Foucault is structuralism.
Nicole – Yeah, that sounds right.
Amanda – I need my English teacher husband here, because he’s really helped me see this in terms of deconstructing. So when, and please jump in at any point. But deconstruction is, is looking at something, a topic like thin versus fat. And you have thin as, is the good and fat is the bad. So the first is good. The second is bad. And in order to look at that in a better way, you flip those two. So fat versus thin, where fat becomes the good and then becomes the bad. The point is not to say that thin is actually bad, it’s just to point out the differences between those. And I think people get uncomfortable when we start saying fat is good because they automatically assume that, that means thin is bad.
Nicole – Yeah. So you do this mental trick, or this mind exercise. Where you find the goodness of fat and sometimes because of just the way our culture has talked about bodies, like you, like you’re saying you have to put them on the bad side in order to get your mind there. But that’s not the goal. All bodies are good bodies right?
Amanda – Right. Exactly.
Nicole – And then I think on the same time, that there’s definitely, some people, no matter if what you’re doing, if you are elevating bodies of one type, they will think you’re criticizing bodies of another type. We see this when we talk about other issues of justice and inequality. If someone says Black Lives Matter, someone else is gonna think you don’t like white people. Which is not at all what it means.
Amanda – Right.
Nicole – And so this is the same a very similar situation. We’re saying you we need to treat fat bodies with love and dignity and respect and give them equal access to the world.
Amanda – Part of that is when a certain body type has had the cultural favor, forever, when you start to push for equality, it’s going to feel limiting towards those who have been in a position of power. So in the fat versus thin world, thin people have been privileged to be celebrated, to be idolized, to be held up as paragons. And part of claiming the goodness of fat bodies is saying not only that fat bodies are good, but we’re worshipping thin bodies so you gotta bring it down. And that feels uncomfortable for, for the thin paradigm. Does that make sense?
Nicole – Yes. And that means that some people might have to give up something. Just this is a common example for me. But group T-shirts, you talked about it in a couple episodes ago, with your ability to have a shirt for your work function. But I’m at the point where I’m saying, if you can’t find a distributor that has sizes up to at least a 6X, like don’t order T-shirts. Then people don’t get em. No one gets T-shirts unless everyone gets T-shirts. And whether that’s a band or a musician, like huge large popular entertainment on tour who brings all their band shirts with them to sell. Or a Christian conference, or your church’s, you know, hospitality team. Like whatever it is like, if everyone can’t participate, then no one gets to. And there might be thin people who would be like, “why don’t we wear T-shirts anymore.” And you, you lose your ability to have the T-shirt that you always had, if you’re going to really be on board. We’re going to make sure everything is equitable as much as we can before we participate with it. So.
Amanda – And the thing about this is, it’s gonna be uncomfortable for both sides to be talking about these things. Fat people have been told for so long that they don’t deserve to take up as much space as they need, and that they are a blight to society and I mean the list can go on and on and on. But we have to say, because the negativity towards fat people has been so great, it’s going to feel really awkward for both sides to say, “hey this makes me feel dehumanized.”.
Nicole – Right.
Amanda – And just for people to recognize that, if I’m a fat person talking about fat bodies being good, I’m not saying you’re thin body isn’t good but I’m saying that, the way that our culture has supported you, has dehumanized me. So it’s not to shame thin people, but it is to point out idolatry and injustice. And that makes people uncomfortable.
Nicole – Yeah. And I will say like I have, I have heard people who are, who are fat, who have said negative things about thin bodies, who will criticize them and make jokes and say things like, “Eat a hamburger” or they’ll make cool comments and those comments are wrong.
Amanda – Yes.
Nicole – And they do not honor the dignity of the person that they are speaking about.
Amanda – Absolutely. .
Nicole – Don’t excuse those comments. But as you were talking earlier with that, where you flip the script. It is a coping mechanism that people in fat bodies use because of how often fat bodies are devalued. And so you flip the script in your head, it’s a coping mechanism and it’s not right. And I call it out when people around me are doing it. But there is a power differential in a fat person making a joke about a thin body, than our entire culture that marginalizes fat bodies.
Amanda – Yes.
Nicole – And so that’s an important thing to remember as a thin person. Definitely call out your friends if they say something hurtful, let them know. But also, at the same time understand where the privilege and the power is in this relationship.
Amanda – I love that, that was really well said, thank you. So, the last myth that we will address today is fat is a bad word or it’s rude to call yourself fat. What are your thoughts on that. Nicole.
Nicole – I am fat. I don’t think that’s rude. So, but at the same time, if I’m talking about people that I don’t know where they’re at with their body acceptance journey, I will use the term plus size until I know how they call themselves, what word they used for themselves. It’s becoming more common to use fat as a neutral word which is amazing. Because that has been the goal for a very long time in the fat acceptance community. But we’re not there yet. And it definitely matters in the tone and how it’s said. You can tell when someone is insulting you or just using a neutral word. So I would say lead with what the person uses about themselves, is kind of how I play with that. Yeah. I think that is the wrong phrasing but yeah.
Amanda – That’s how you gauge when to use it?
Nicole – Yes. There we go, that’s a better word. Yeah, how about you?
Amanda – I, I’m still not a huge fan of the word fat, if someone else uses it towards me. Unless I know them well, because it, words have power right? Words can be wielded as weapons of destruction or as instruments of peace. And when we decided to name our podcast Fat and Faithful, for me it was a very intentional claiming of the goodness of my body and the descriptor is fat. So I definitely believe that it is a good word. I have a lot of baggage that comes with the word. And part of calling ourselves fat, for me, is to remove that stigma, not just for myself, but for other people that the world deems fat. For example, when my children say someone is fat, I have to affirm the humanity of the person that they’re referring to. And so instead of saying, “don’t say that because it’s shameful no one wants to be fat” in how I respond I say, oh tell me why you think that. And what do we say about bodies? All bodies are good bodies. And so it’s redefining the script around the word fat. That is my mission even though using it, when someone uses it towards me, it still makes me uncomfortable. That’s precisely why I want to keep using it. Because it is not the worst thing in the world to be fat. It is not shameful. And so when I encounter the word and stand as a witness against the shame, that is, I believe that’s powerful. And it’s something small and yet incredibly important that I can do, so it’s not a bad word.
Nicole – It is not, and I love how you, you talk about with your kids like you interrogate their labelling almost. Like why are you saying that? What are you saying? What does that mean about them? So that’s really good. And it’s part of teaching them what our new slogan is, that we love God incarnate in our neighbor’s body as our own.
Amanda – I love our new slogan. All right. Well here this was a really good discussion today with our fat acceptance mythbuster episode. I want to remind our listeners about Nicole’s book, Fat and Faithful. It’s available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and is it available from the website site Fortress Press?
Nicole – There’s a link there with ways you can order. So they have different ways you could order from there.
Amanda – And remember if you preorder you get access to Chapter One and a discussion guide. And so make sure you do that and check Nicole’s pinned tweet to get details on accessing Chapter 1 and the discussion guide. We’d love to hear what fat acceptance myths you have encountered, and how you responded to them. Also this is our final episode for season two. We’re gonna be taking some time this summer to plan out season three. So make sure you share your ideas on Instagram or Facebook or Twitter about things you’d like to hear from us in season 3.
Nicole – Thank you so much for joining us today. We’d love for you to continue to engage with us online. You can find us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook at fat and faithful and join the discussion group on Facebook, All Bodies Are Good Bodies. Please take a minute to rate and review the podcast on iTunes and share this episode on social media using the hashtags #allbodiesaregoodbodies or #fatandfaithful. This helps us reach more people with our mission to love God incarnate in our neighbors body as our own.
Amanda – We hope y’all have a great week and we’ll see you in season 3.
Nicole – See y’all later!