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 – Hello and welcome to season 3, episode 10 of Fat and Faithful. This is our season finale and we today, being me, Amanda Martinez Beck and-
Nicole – Nicole, er J. Nicole Morgan.
Amanda – Are talking about fat joy today! Good morning Nicole, or good day or whatever time it is.
Nicole – It’s morning now, but good day to everyone listening. Hi Amanda! I’m super excited to talk about joy and happy things.
Amanda – Last week we talked about fat grief and that was a very heavy episode. And we didn’t wanna end on that.
Nicole – No, yeah, and as I’ve been just like thinking about the juxtaposition of the grief and joy episode, I’m having lots of flashbacks to college when I took an entire class on William Blake, who did a lot with this whole grief and joy, like, thing. I won’t nerd out on that for everyone’s sake. But it’s interesting, if you ever like to read William Blake, people.
Amanda – If you tuned into the fat grief episode, we’d love to hear feedback from you and also, you know we took the survey on Twitter and Facebook about fat joy, but we’d still love to hear from you about things that bring you joy in your life as a fat person.
Nicole – Absolutely.
Amanda – We wanna talk about joy and now there are two aspects of joy. Maybe not aspects, but two categories of joy. One is joy that fat people can participate in even though they’re fat. The human experiences of joy that sometimes fat people, a lot of times, are excluded from. And then there’s also fat joy that is exclusive to fatness. So I wanna spend a little bit of time on that first category. And then we’ll talk more about the exclusively fat joy.
Nicole – Yeah, the first category we talk about like, fat people can have joy even though sometimes we’re excluded about it. It reminds me of, I wrote an article about this, I guess it’s been an over a year now for Christ and Pop Culture, about the wedding scene for Kate in the TV show This is Us. And it was just such a beautiful wedding scene. She got the beautiful dress, the fancy photographer, the like, Pinterest like, decor and background and she got to have joy in that moment. She didn’t get to eat cake, which was what the article was about, but you know, we won’t focus too much on that. But in general, that wedding scene was joyful for this fat bride, which is something that fat people are often excluded from. But we’re allowed to be happy on our wedding days and other celebrations and show that joy. And I was very grateful to have that moment on screen and to be able to watch that and enjoy it.
Amanda – I have not seen that episode because I had to stop watching This is Us.
Nicole – Fair enough. Also a valid choice for anyone listening.
Amanda – I over identify with characters and just didn’t have enough emotional capacity to do real life and watch that at the time when it was going on. And there’s something about watching a show while everybody else in the country is watching it that I missed out on. And that’s honestly a big part of why I watch shows. So that passed.
Nicole – Because you want to watch it with other people? Or you don’t want to watch it with other people?
Amanda – I do want to watch it with other people.
Nicole – So if you can’t watch it and live tweet, you don’t, it doesn’t matter to you anymore?
Amanda – I think that I have lower standards for spending my time on shows, if everyone is watching it, so I can be a part of that conversation. If I’m just gonna watch shows at night on Netflix, with my husband or by myself, I have much higher standards for what I’m looking for. Or different standards. So other fat joys that, the joys that fat people are entitled to, delight of eating and how things taste, and cooking and eating in public. And eating with friends and family. That is a joy in which we need to take part in, where culture has told us that we can’t.
Nicole – Yeah, I enjoy cooking and for a long time I was like, afraid or ashamed to admit that I enjoy cooking because there’s the stigma associated with a fat person that has any type of joy, or enjoyment around food, can be very shaming. But it doesn’t have to be, we’re allowed to. Acknowledge that we eat and that we enjoy it.
Amanda – I mean, what a sad existence it is for people who feel like, they’re constantly being judged for the food they eat and caring about not being judged. Like we’re still judged by people when we eat, but we just have learned and are still learning to brush it off and claim our space and say no, I’m here, I’m eating and I’m enjoying it with these taste buds that God has given me.
Nicole – Amen.
Amanda – Another thing that is a joyous experience for humans that fat people can often get excluded from, is romantic love and sexual expression. Fat people have romance and fat people can take delight in their sex lives and have positive and full and exciting sexual experiences.
Nicole – Yes! And you can be a fat person who is dating or a fat person who is in a long term relationship and all of those things are accessible as a fat person. There’s definitely, especially in dating, which is my experience, there’s some barriers or, I don’t even know if barrier is the word I would use. There’s some things that are realities that make that look a little different than someone who is thin. But it’s possible and have great dates with people of all different kinds of body types.
Amanda – And you can have great sex too!
Nicole – Yep!
Amanda – So, that is real.
Nicole – Anything involving relationships and food, you’re allowed to have joy about in a fat body. Common human experience that can bind us together and you don’t have to give a disclaimer about how you like it, or you enjoy it, even though you have a fat body. You can just enjoy it.
Amanda – Including wearing bright colors and patterns and horizontal stripes.
Nicole – Amen, break all the fashion rules, wear what you want.
Amanda – So the second category, joys that are exclusive to fatness.
Nicole – Yeah, and I just love this idea. I don’t remember the first time I asked myself it, it’s been a few years, where I was just, I was trying to figure out what good gifts fatness had given me. That like, are things that I wouldn’t have had without fatness. And that can be a scary question to ask, because we’re told that it only brings bad things. That’s incorrect, like that’s a lie, like fatness adds things to my life that are good. So yeah, we’ll talk about that, what about you, with like, that question.
Amanda – So I have two different categories within this category. And so one is like, inherent, solo, fat joy that I don’t need to be in a relationship to experience. For example, extra buoyancy in water. It’s really easy to float and I like that.
Nicole – It’s fun to float.
Amanda – And so that’s nice. The other day I remember you posted about your fat shelf. I don’t know what you call it, but like I call it like my food shelf, where your belly can hold a book or a plate.
Nicole – Oh yes! My book prop.
Amanda – Yes.
Nicole – Built in book prop, right there.
Amanda – And that’s something that you know, people with small bellies don’t get to have and that’s something that I really enjoy about reading a physical book, or propping my phone up on my belly.
Nicole – Very handy, who needs phone stands, just carry it with me wherever I go, that’s fine.
Amanda – Someone in our All Bodies are Good Bodies group said that, when she was much thinner, her butt used to hurt a lot when she sat on hard surfaces. And now when she has, she is a fat woman now, she has extra padding, she doesn’t have to bring anything to sit on, ‘cause she’s got fat cushion on her bottom.
Nicole – Yes. It’s nice, like I never used those stadium cushions when I went to football games as a teenager. I’m like these seem like something I don’t need to carry with me.
Amanda – No more extra baggage, I mean you don’t have to carry that cushion.
Nicole – And then I think a common thing that I hear that I also agree with in your other category about being in relationship, like, that we are soft places, particularly for children or for others to snuggle and to cuddle and to, receive comfort and warmth. We have this built in way to offer warmth and comfort to other people. Which is kind of cool.
Amanda – It is cool. You know kids talk, say things and sometimes you’re like, okay, how is that gonna be handled? And not just about fatness, but about age. My grandmother was here for lunch yesterday, my kids call her GG for great grandmother. And my son is five and he picked up my grandmother’s hand and said, your hands are made of plastic. Like, for some reason, he thinks that her hands, the way they’re aging, she’s 80 years old, and the way her hands feel, she’s like, made of plastic. And then he looked at himself and said, my hands are made of rubber. And he looked at me and said, mommy, your hands are made of marshmallow. Just that delight and joy about the differences in our body. This morning I was reading Psalm 104 from the Living Bible and it said something about, what variety you have made, oh God. Yeah, our bodies are supposed to be different. Because difference brings delight.
Nicole – And I think, I have this in my book where I go through like the Song of Solomon and it talks about bodies being heaps of wheat and mounds of things and just enjoying that, the softness and the curves and just, it’s nice to have these curves and the softness on my own body. Like I’ve never, I’ve never been a thin person, I have no frame of reference for what my body would look like with straight lines and angles instead of curves. But it’s like, this is my body and it’s done a lot for me and it’s carried me this far. And I take joy in it. And I don’t even really have a reason to justify that, like it’s not because someone else takes joy in it. Or that I’ve seen what good things it can do, it’s just yeah. My body can bring me joy and I enjoy the way it looks and feels. And that’s just a thing. It’s been a journey to get there but I’m thankful that I made that journey. And that’s just a part of my reality now.
Amanda – Taking joy in my body when it’s not useful, is something that I think is really important in fat positivity. Because a lot of times, and this is not a bad thing, it’s just not exclusively how we view bodies. People will say, you know, women will say, this body has birthed so many children and that’s why it looks like this. And yes, my body has stretch marks from pregnancy, it had stretch marks way before pregnancy. I had stretch marks in the fifth grade.
Nicole – Right, yeah.
Amanda – But knowing that our body, we don’t have to have excuses for our body to look the way that it does, to delight in it. Every night when I put my son to bed, he does this thing where he asks for a full body hug. And that’s where he’s laying on his bed, and he opens his arms and legs up and he wants me to come and hug him and then he wraps himself around me. And every night he goes, mommy, you’re so fat. And you know, I’m, I try to hear that and receive it the way that he’s intending it because that’s, you know someone has said that before. Sometimes I don’t, I didn’t receive it as a compliment or as a delightful thing.
Nicole – Right.
Amanda – And so I asked him, what does that mean for you? And he’s like, I love your fat belly. I love that it jiggles and I love that it’s so big and it’s so soft. And so asking questions of my children when they make a comment about fatness, usually just brings me delight. Because they are just looking with curiosity and enjoyment of the world.
Nicole – Yeah, they just like it all, they’re like this is fun and new. I had a moment with my nephew a few weeks ago, where he just made the comment, he’s like, you’re fat. And he wasn’t like being mean or anything and I just reached over and looked at him and like, and you’re thin. And then we giggled about it. And like, you know, it’s just kids are great at terms of, when we can when we can not assign to children our own anxieties, when we can remember that kids aren’t as tainted by the world as we are, and that they’re just observing for the most part. And sure like, even young kids can be taught things that are harmful and dangerous and have prejudices from a young age. But more often than not they’re just observing and noticing and commenting and how we respond to that can teach them to have joy about bodies. Instead of fear and shame.
Amanda – Yeah, and I think it’s important on the journey from baby to adult, to see how we shift in our conversation of delight and chubby or fat. Like a baby that’s chubby, we just fall all over.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – And the question is, at what point does that become unacceptable culturally? If you can delight and joy in bodies, that never becomes culturally unacceptable. Like we change the culture by delighting and giving our children and our nieces and our communities the ability to see fat joy throughout all ages.
Nicole – Yeah, I think another way, I’ve been thinking about this topic over the past weekend, is that my fat body, for much of my life, has been a kind of shelter for me. In a good and a positive way, in that, I mean it has to do as much with my personality type as my body, but I grew up in like public schools, in a Christian home, but there’s so much that I just, I was never exposed to or experienced. Like in terms of like the clique-y-ness of like, high school, or like this whole mean girl phenomenon. In some ways, my fatness and my personality combined to just isolate me in some ways and as like a very strong—
Amanda – Insulate?
Nicole – Isolate, insulate, both? But as a very strong extrovert—
Electronic Voice – Nicole is not an extrovert, she is an extreme introvert. Do not be deceived. She simply misspoke.
Nicole – that was not damaging to me. That was protective for me. And so like, I don’t have a lot of stories of being bullied or made fun of, there’s like five in my entire kindergarten to high school through college life of any time someone said something negative to me directly about my body size. Like, my shame about my body came from a very different place. And a lot of that I do attribute to just in some ways I was not approachable, or I wasn’t the person that everyone like, wanted to include. And this all sounds like so mean, but for me it was good. Like, it gave me time to get to know myself. And I was happy and fine and content to spend a lot of my time alone. I had a few friends that I would see in the neighborhood, so I wasn’t completely isolated. I’ve been pondering that a lot, like the way that it protected me from, from peers and not just fat jokes or fat shame from my peers, but even participation in other things that would have been damaging to me whether it was like, drug or alcohol use or parties that I didn’t really wanna be at, or sexual activity before I was really ready. Like, in just that my body kept me distant from those things. Or was part of what kept me distant. So yeah, grateful for that and find joy in that gift.
Amanda – Yeah I was thinking about something similar and I’d probably articulate it as character development. Because I’ve never had a doubt that I’m pretty, and attractive, like I don’t suffer from self confidence in that area.
Nicole – Yeah, me neither.
Amanda – Lack of self-confidence, like I know that I’m beautiful. But I did see that the thin privilege my peers had, enabled them to treat people like a bad word. And I didn’t have that cushion of understanding or forgiveness from others and I learned very early that the way I treated others affected how they saw me. And so I was saved from that cattiness and that putting other people down to raise myself up. There’s a little bit of negative in that, I learned that I had to please people in order to be accepted. But there is also this understanding of those that get overlooked and we formed a bond in grade school and beyond of, we are all kind of on the fringes and there’s community here. I call that fat privilege. That we, being in a fat body, I have the joy of seeing through eyes of someone who’s marginalized, even though I have very little oppression in my life besides being a fat woman. I’m white, I grew up wealthy, like that is not, those are not places of oppression and I was insulated from pain in those areas. But my fatness enabled me to live on the margins with wonderful, beautiful people who our society also marginalizes.
Nicole – Yeah, I resonate with a lot of that. And just, I call it being part of the Island of Misfit Toys. You find the solidarity there and people who understand the concept or the feeling even if not specifics. And you do the same in turn, likewise. We offer solidarity to people who are marginalized for whatever reason.
Amanda – One of our followers on Twitter gave us an example that she works with youth in a church setting. And she loves being fat because the girl students that she works with, can see her as a positive influence. This is a fat person that doesn’t hate their body and she loves being there for that.
Nicole – Yeah, I read that tweet and it made me think of my years working with teenagers and young women especially. And just that was one of my biggest goals was to just show them joy in my body and to just, by example show that I didn’t have to, you don’t have to be ashamed of your body or to criticize it all the time. I don’t know how well I did that or not, but it was a goal that I put before me. And I’m thankful for the chance for like, to live into that and model that.
Amanda – Yeah, and that’s such a place of prophetic witness. We proclaim the goodness of God and the reality of fatness as good in our bodies. We can walk into a place and you know, your phrase, you’re not too much, you are enough. You and I embody that, in our flesh in a way that we can share in flesh and personality with others. We can take up space not only in our big personalities but in our bodies too. So we speak against the patriarchy that says be smaller, be smaller, be smaller. And we say, first of all my body doesn’t fit what you’re trying to do to me. And secondly my voice doesn’t either.
Nicole – Our fat bodies have given us courage and a voice.
Amanda – One thing that I have enjoyed doing in Catholic communities is talking about the fat saints who have been thin washed. Like Saint Theresa of Avila. She had an amazing embodied relationship with God. And to see a mystic and a doctor of the church, being her fat self, is something that one, makes people uncomfortable because they have this idea that thinness is godliness. And two, that there is room for them to be fat and follow God as well. So Saint Theresa of Avila, Saint Thomas Aquinas who has given the Catholic church so much of its theology, he was a fat man. Saint Nicholas, being the fattest, most wonderful saint, not only is he fat and we celebrate him in his fatness, but we also can celebrate his drive to set children in the slave trade free. Like, he embodies this joy and tenderness towards children that also works for justice.
Nicole – And when we thin wash these saints, then all the pictures of them become thin and then fat children, fat people, studying the saints, they don’t see themselves there even though they are. So it’s not so much that fatness had to be a part of their mission or what they did, but that they’re a fat person who is living into the call of God on their lives. And I remember being a teenager in my church and just looking desperately for fat Christians around me. And they were so hard to find that were esteemed. Like there were fat Christians in the pews, but as far as those who were respected and esteemed and whose work for God was honored and valued, I just didn’t see them. So it was hard to imagine myself there. And I mean this is a common conversation about representation. But I love that you do that work within your context of talking about the thin washing of saints.
Amanda – There was one more thing. So I would love to see Jesus represented as a fat person in art.
Nicole – Yeah, what is his name. Fernando…? Botero. B-O-T-E-R-O.
Amanda – I’m familiar with Botero, but I didn’t know he had some Jesus images.
Nicole – And so like, I would say from what I’ve read about Botero, like his motivation for painting fat people is not exactly this fat positive thing. But we think the images are… it’s not anti-fat either. I don’t know. Anywho. Research Botero, as people would like. But he does have some images of fat Jesus and fat, I believe, Mary?
Amanda – Yeah, I’m seeing that too here as I search.
Nicole – Yeah, some cool ones.
Amanda – You know Jesus was accused of being a glutton. And so I just don’t see him as the, you know, muscled, thin, ideal body type that are on so many images or crucifixes or representations of Jesus. Like, I think he was probably plump, and I know you don’t like that word, but I think he was not, yeah, not trim.
Nicole – I would probably like, I don’t know, he walked around a lot, which doesn’t mean like you’re thin, but I would still, I imagine historically, that he was on the lean side.
Amanda – I don’t know, the accusation of gluttony is something that sticks out to me so.
Nicole – Yeah but gluttony doesn’t mean that—
Amanda – Agreed, but did the people accusing him of that feel that way?
Nicole – I think say saw him feasting.
Amanda – Okay.
Nicole – I don’t know gluttony equals fat would have been in the same context. At that time period.
Amanda – Okay, that’s fair.
Nicole – I would think they would be more closer to the consumption aspect of gluttony than we are. But it is, I mean we could imagine Jesus as fat, like I completely validate that exercise and what does that mean. And actually the first article I ever had published, the editor asked me about like, a fat Jesus picture. And I had not seen Botero at this point. And I was just like, I had to pause because I was just so anti that idea. I was like, Jesus isn’t fat. And I had to figure out what was going on there. And it was just this, you know, still, and this was 6, 7 years ago now. There was still that lingering kind of like internalized anti fatness that came up with that, this idea that I didn’t want to put fatness on Jesus. Which is why I went through this whole, Jesus was probably actually thin, this is why I had so many thoughts on that. ‘Cause I like, did all that work back then, I was like, okay, so let’s think about this. Historical context, like here’s likelihood, who knows. But yes, let’s imagine Jesus as fat and why am I so, why is my visceral response so negative to that? And working through that.
Amanda – Yeah, good thoughts. Man, I’m currently looking at a crucifixion scene that Botero has of a fat Jesus and I am in love with it.
Nicole – Yeah, he’s got some cool paintings. There’s another fat Jesus which is super anti fat, I forget the artist, but it’s like the Ronald McDonald Jesus thing, which is like a whole art series. Which the art series in general is like all the things that are killing our children.
Amanda – Oh God.
Nicole – And they use fast food as one of the things. And the art series as a whole, I think is very poignant and whatever, but, they missed the mark when they’re talking about fast food.
Amanda – I take joy in fast food.
Nicole – Go fast food! Every once and a while, you just really want an Arby’s sandwich, good times.
Amanda – Oh man, I… full permission to eat, that’s one of the intuitive eating steps and that brings joy. You have to fight for that joy, but definitely, full permission to eat without shame and fear.
Nicole – Yes.
Amanda – Well another fat joy is the comradery of fat people who have started this journey towards loving their fat bodies. Man, I can’t express how wonderful it is to have found you as a friend, we’ve made it to the friend level, ya’ll.
Nicole – We have.
Amanda – Nicole finally calls me her friend.
Nicole – If you would like context on that, please see my Twitter feed, yeah, I don’t really use the word friend freely.
Amanda – Whereas, I called Nicole my friend from like, it’s probably been like 3 years since I’ve called her my friend.
Nicole – Probably like the second we got off that first interview, where you were interviewing me and I had no idea who you were, but that’s fine. I warmed up to you.
Amanda – I’m thankful for that. Finding comradery within fatness is something that has just been enjoyable. C.S. Lewis talks about friendship as the, “oh you too, I thought I was the only one” Aspect, and that’s definitely something that I have found with my fat friends.
Nicole – And it’s good to have those people who get it, and there’s joy in that. And I will be heading to the beach in a couple weeks and putting on my new fat bikinis and will try to get pictures and share them and that can be a little bit of a summer fun fat joy for everyone, ‘cause that is also something that we are not excluded from participating in, is water fun and summer fun and wearing things that make water and summer more bearable and enjoyable.
Amanda – Yeah. And I would say if you can rate and review this podcast because you find joy in it, that would be awesome.
Nicole – Nice segue there!
Amanda – And also share this episode, because the narrative out there is that being fat is not joyful. So if you are fat or thin or anywhere in between, sharing this episode can actually change people’s lives. And I’m not trying to overemphasize that, but really feel that strongly. To hear people talking about fatness with joy, oh my goodness, how powerful that is, so we would love it if you could share this episode of the podcast specifically, maybe with a photo of you enjoying the beach in your beach body, which Nicole, is number one having a body, and number two—
Nicole – Putting it on a beach!
Amanda – Yep!
Nicole – Voila! Done. No multilevel marketing scheme needed.
Amanda – It is true.
Nicole – Well, we’re so thankful that you all have joined us for this third season of Fat and Faithful and we’ll look forward to coming back in the fall. In the meantime you can keep up with us on Facebook, on Twitter, on our Facebook group, All Bodies Are Good Bodies, and yeah, do we need to say anything else? Do you need our Twitter handles again? @JNicoleMorgan, @AmandaMBeck, @your_body_is_good, underscores between each letter.
Amanda – Because I’m extra like that.
Nicole – Amanda makes her Instagram a little complicated. But you can find her, promise it’s worth it. And yes, you listeners, we found out last week, or we passed this last week, 10,000 downloads of these episodes. And that for sure is a cause for joy for both Amanda and I, that we’re sharing with you this journey. We’d love to hear from you and thank you for joining us in loving God incarnate and loving our neighbor’s bodies as our own.
Amanda – Have a great summer, ya’ll.