Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
Amanda – Welcome to the Fat and Faithful podcast with J. Nicole Morgan, and Amanda Martinez Beck.
You gave us these bodies
Amanda – We’re so glad you’ve joined us.
You gave us these bodies
And You called them good.
You gave us these bodies
And You called them good.
May we love them as You do.
Amanda – Welcome to this episode of Fat and Faithful. I’m Amanda Martinez Beck and I’m here today with Derek White, also known as The Geek Preacher. Derek, thank you so much for coming to the show!
Derek – Thank you for having me, Amanda.
Amanda – Now Derek, you and I got connected, I believe through a group called Christ and Pop Culture is that right?
Derek – That’s right! Yes.
Amanda – How long have you been a member over there?
Derek – Oh my goodness, oh geeze, probably maybe a year or two after they started. So I know, yeah, when I first found out about them, I connected with Christ and Pop Culture. I was also living in west Tennessee and one of the people who was very active with them at the time, Tyler Glodjo, strangely enough, was working at Union University, which is in Jackson, Tennessee. And we connected both personally and through, not through the podcast, through the forum online. And through many other articles. And so yeah, I’ve been a part of Christ and Pop Culture for some time now.
Amanda – That’s so exciting. I joined 2015 I think? And started writing articles for them. But I had gone to grad school with Alan Noble who’s now, who’s a cofounder and also he’s now the editor in chief. And I have met so many people that are now dear, dear friends through that group of people. And I love the internet.
Derek – Oh yeah, it’s been great, it’s been great. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.
Amanda – Now I have never, I don’t think that I can remember that I’ve ever actually heard your voice. Because we’ve just been internet friends. But I am so glad to have a southerner on the show. Where are you from?
Derek – Well originally I’m from Louisiana, I lived there til I was in y early 20s. and then I moved around some. I have lived in Tennessee now, since 2001. And lived in west Tennessee for a long time. But for the last few years I’ve been living right outside of Nashville and now live in an area that’s considered part of Nashville. So yes, kind of right in the buckle of the bible belt.
Amanda – The bible belt is very large.
Derek – Yeah.
Amanda – I also live in the bible belt down here in east Texas, almost to the Louisiana border.
Derek – Okay.
Amanda – So I’m in Longview.
Derek – Yeah, I know where Longview is, I went to school in Waxahachie for a little while. Actually I’m from Monroe, west Monroe area.
Amanda – Yeah, you’re right down the street.
Derek – Been to East Texas a number of a times. When I was a kid my dad was a pipeliner, I lived in west Texas for a little while too. So yeah, very familiar with that. My aunt before she passed away lived in Plano, so very familiar with east Texas. I’ve been all over much of the south. Probably the only southern state I haven’t lived in that I can think of off the top of my head is Alabama maybe. I’ve lived in Mississippi, Louisiana, close enough to southern Arkansas, lived in Texas, lived in Tennessee, spent a little time in Oklahoma when I was a little kid.
Amanda – You’ve been all over. You know, I’m Cuban and Florida to me was always Cuban. Because that was my context, right? And southern Florida is absolutely Cuban. But my husband is from Florida and it is solidly southern in the panhandle and reaching down there. He’s from central Florida near the Space Coast, but it’s so funny how meeting from different parts of, even your own culture, can just change your perceptions about things.
Amanda – Most definitely, most definitely. So tell me how you got into being a pastor, that’s right, you’re a pastor?
Derek – Yes, yes, I am an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. I have been in ministry in some way, shape or form, except for a hiatus I took, which is a story in and of itself. But I started doing some sort of ministry when I was 21. So on and off for about 28 years now. I did not grow up in a church going family. We were culturally Christian. We only probably went to church maybe around Easter time, didn’t even go around Christmas because what’s Christmas got to do with Christianity, you know? That’s all about Santa Claus, right? so that’s the way I grew up and then I came to faith in my early 20s at about 21, and started being invited to take part in various ministries. You know, when you’re 21, and you’re new and excited about your faith, immediately people wanna give you a job as a youth pastor. Only job I’ve ever been fired from in my life was as a youth pastor because I had no idea what in the world I was doing. And after that I ended up going back to college, well I got married first, went back to college, still did some youth pastoring and some various other ministries during that time. I was ministering primarily with the assemblies of God which is a Pentecostal denomination for most of my 20s. And then I burned out at the grand old age of 29 and said I don’t wanna do this anymore and my wife and I, she grew up in a Presbyterian church and so we ended up finding ourselves in the United Methodist Church. It was really great for us. Became a really good home for us and before I knew it, my pastor was asking me to help out with pulpit supply, and the next thing I knew I was getting calls from our district superintendent asking me to help other churches with pulpit supply. And then they called me up in the fall of 2007 and said hey, we have three churches. Because the United Methodist Church, you can often find yourself pastoring multiple churches at a time. And so we have three churches that don’t have a pastor. It’s August, we need someone to fill in right now. Would you be willing to do that? And so I was finishing up college in my mid-30s, I’d gone back to college in my mid-30s. I was finishing that up and I was working, I said sure, I’ll do that. And then the next thing I knew they were saying hey, we want you to serve a church full time. And we want you to go to seminary. So graduated college in spring of 2008 with a degree in organizational management and marketing. And then immediately went to seminary. While pastoring three, they moved me to another place so I was pastoring three churches. Pastoring three churches full time.
Amanda – Oh my goodness. And you have children. Did you have children at the time?
Derek – Yes, actually, we had our first child was let’s see, 2007, she would have been 8 years old. So our 1st child was 8 and while I was pastoring and in seminary, we had our second child, that was in 2009. And so he was born in May of 2009 and he’s 10, so our oldest now is in college, majoring in social work. And our youngest, our 2nd child is 10 years old and he’s in school, my wife’s a teacher. So that works out great as well. And so I’ve been ministering with the United Methodist church now for 12 years.
Amanda – Well I love how, that when we get connected on the internet, doesn’t mean it’s shallow, right? because the time that I’ve know you in a couple of groups, we met in a Christ and Pop Culture member forum and then you’re also a member of our All Bodies are Good Bodies group on Facebook. And I’ve learned that you are a person of deep passion for caring for God’s children and standing up for justice. So thank you for doing that where you’re at, I know that’s really valuable to the people that you’re around. I was curious about when you became a pastor, you know this podcast is Fat & Faithful, we talk about how faith and fatness relate and then all other sorts of things that relate to living in a larger body. Have you seen things in the church, whether in your growing up experiences or since becoming a pastor, where bodies that are larger, fat bodies have had a harder time belonging or an easier time? What has your experience been or your observation?
Derek – You know I’ve had two very different experiences on both extremes. And so this is actually a really great question to ask. When I was in my 20s and I was ministering mainly in evangelical circles, what would be considered really conservative evangelical circles, you looked around, you did not see a thin pastor. You know, Pentecostal preachers especially, we were not thin. We ate up a storm. I did not, so we didn’t see a whole lot of problems with that, nobody really said anything, nobody made comments about it, everybody just seemed to be huge. And that was just the way it was. I think a part of that’s the south, we have a culture of eating in the south that is unsurpassed by anyone in the world except for our German brothers and sisters who really know how to eat. You know, but so we like to eat. And we just have big folks. Then when I came into the United Methodist Church, a much more mainline, moderate denomination and I was going through the ordination process, there was a huge focus on health. Now for those who don’t know, the ordination process in the United Methodist Church is not quick. I mean, we require you to go to seminary and then after seminary, you could be a provisional minister at least three years before you’re ordained. As I’m going through that process, we’re hearing pastoral health, pastoral health, pastoral health. That’s fine, we’re taking care of our health, I agree with that, self-care is essential to the life of a minister. Sadly, it mostly focused on weight.
Amanda – Oh my.
Derek – And both a friend of mine, very close friend of mine, who was going through the process with me and I, got ticked a lot, because of our weight. In fact I had seen other clergy be deferred for ordination because of their weight and because of their size. They said no, you have to lose weight before you become a clergy person. And so I felt that pressure heavily on me, and forced myself to lose about 6 inches in my waist. It was good in some ways and I was glad I did lose some of that weight. However, you know, if you force yourself to lose wait too quickly, when it comes back, it comes back like gangbusters. It was just not healthy in some ways.
Amanda – The science actually is showing that people are actually healthier if they stay in the weight of their today body most of the time. Because losing weight, when we do that by restriction of what we eat or over exercising, that actually changes the metabolism in our bodies and our brains also say, oh I’m in famine, I need to consume more. And so it’s not helpful and it actually damages your health.
Derek – Right, yeah. I’ve found that what has worked best for me, and this does not work best for everyone. But what’s worked best for me was not changing my patterns of how I eat, it’s been limiting some of the things I do eat. For example, you know, I didn’t do this for diet to lose weight reasons, I recently been diagnosed as diabetic and so I had to cut out a lot of carbs. And in cutting those out, I still didn’t change how I eat, I just changed a few things that I eat and that was just to help maintain my blood sugar.
Amanda – Right, and that goes along with what we ascribe to here on the Fat & Faithful podcast which is called Health At Every Size which is looking at indicators of health besides weight. Because weight alone is not a helpful indicator of health. And so things like, blood sugar, blood pressure, resting heart rate, things like that to point towards, okay what foods make my body feel good and respond well? And that is when you’ve been diagnosed as diabetic, that’s obviously what you need to do is figure out how your body responds to different foods.
Derek – Exactly. And that’s been my experience because there are some foods that are considered healthy that my body doesn’t respond well too, I mean, I just do not respond well to lettuce. I mean, lettuce is supposed to be healthy. My body doesn’t respond well to lettuce, so it took some experimentation. I respond great to spinach strangely enough.
Amanda – Interesting.
Derek – So spinach, which is very healthy food, has been something that we’ve incorporated into our diets. And so at home if I’m making a wrap or something like that, I put spinach on it instead of lettuce.
Amanda – I love that we have a natural intuition in our body that God has given us to figure out what is the best way to care for our bodies.
Derek – Yeah.
Amanda – And I’m just so, I’m so excited when I hear people of faith but especially pastors talking about it. Because so many times the conversation is around gluttony.
Derek – Yeah, and that makes me so mad. When the conversation’s around gluttony. Because I have seen one. People get on to pastors for being gluttons. And then get mad at a pastor when they have a meal at a church and the pastor says, I can’t eat that. Because that’s going to either mess up my diet, that’s got too much sugar in it, I’m diabetic. You know, and so you’re caught in a catch 22 you know, because people are telling you you’re eating too much. You’re obviously eating too much because you’re overweight. No, that’s not it. Everybody’s different. One of the things that gets me, and I looked into the medical science on this, one of the biggest problems doctors have in doctor’s offices, are their weight charts. Because their weight charts are based on having a small build. And your build plays a huge role in that. I have a large build. And someone with a large build versus someone with a small build, that does not necessarily mean height, that means shape bone structure, all of those things.
Amanda – Exactly. And that’s determined by genetics, not intake. And so when we can turn the conversation especially in the church away from seeing body size and body diversity as a result of something under our control, like food intake, it changes the conversation. But there’s something that comes into the equation when we think weight is determined by behavior, that makes it a moral judgement. So you have a ministry called Geek Preacher, or that’s your title, can you tell us a little bit about that?
Derek – I have been a geek all of my life, back when being a geek or nerdy or dorky or whatever you wanna call it, was not popular. Back in the 70s and 80s, if you were geeky and nerdy and dorky, that got you thrown into a trash can, that got you beat up. Especially in the south, when you live among a bunch of country folks, you know, some of the virtues of the geeky world come across as weird and strange. And I started playing dungeons and dragons back in the 80s and enjoyed it. Read lots of fantasy, read Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Roger Zelazny, all kinds of fantasy and science fiction. Frank Herbert, that was my jam. Back in 2007, when I was headed back into ministry, I was invited to take part at the world’s largest gaming convention, Table Top Gaming Convention. Gen Con in Indianapolis. And they were having a panel on faith and gaming, on Christianity and Gaming. And that yea on the panel, one of the cocreators of dungeons and Dragons was going to be on the panel. His name’s Gary Gygax. He helped create Dungeons and Dragons back in the 70s. He was a person of faith, followed Christ, and was on the panel and we had a wonderful, wonderful discussion. I was fortunate before the panel to be able to spend some time with Gary, talk with him. He and I had talked and chatted online before we ever met face to face. So we built a small relationship, a rapport, and then Gary invited me at that convention to come up to a much smaller convention and spend some time with him in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin which is where he lived. That was gonna be in January. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to go because my anniversary is in December and as I’m sure you know, Amanda, December is very busy for clergy for some reason. Especially in a church that celebrates Advent. So it’s a very, very bust time. You don’t take time off in December. So our wedding anniversary was in December, so what we ended up doing was taking a trip together in January while my wife was still in-between semesters at the school she was teaching at. And so we took a weekend off. So I wasn’t able to go. Sadly, Gary passed away in March of 2008. And so after he passed away, I said, you know what, geeks need preachers too. Because I’d been a part of the geek community, I’d been a part of some Christian geek groups since the early 90s. And Christians had not always made a great impression to the geek community. Christians had in the 1980s, we had what was called The Satanic Panic. We’ve seen that in current years, you know, with the attacks on Pokémon, with attacks on Harry Potter. And I said, you know, so I said there needs to be a voice. And that voice, we need laity, regular folks in the church with that voice, but you need a clergy person to stand out and stand up. And I said I’ve got a loud voice, you know, and I’m just going to stand out there and let people know they are loved no matter who they are, whether they’re people of faith or not people of faith. And show them that there are Christians who love these same geeky things they do. And love them without reservation. And so I began doing that back in 2008. Since that time, I have helped lead worship services if not preached at the worship services at a variety of gaming conventions around the country. I’ve been on panels, I’ve led panels, hosted panels on faith and gaming, on Christianity and gaming. I’ve been in interviews for interreligious panels, interfaith panels where we talk about faith, and we talk about literature and comic books and fantasy books and science fiction as well as tabletop role playing games. And board games, and in 2009 Gary Gygax’s children started a gaming convention as a memorial to their father. Because their father was so active in the gaming community. And so in 2009 they started a gaming convention to honor him. And I was invited to attend by a friend of mine who lived close to Lake Geneva. I like to tell people I was the first person to sign up for it. And I went and I’ve been going every year since then. This coming year in 2020, it’ll be the 12th year. I got to be really good friends with some of Gary Gygax’s children who have that conviction. And Luke Gygax, Gary’s second to youngest son, is a captain in the military, I believe he’s a captain in the military. And he and I just got along and talked, I think it was 3 or 4 years ago, he asked me if I would be the Gary Con chaplain. So I am the chaplain for that gaming convention and part of what I do is, I help set up the memorial wall and the memorial table for Gary, we remember those who have passed on, in the gaming community. We remember those people we’ve played with as well as we remember professionals in the gaming community, designers in the gaming community who’ve passed away. So I take care of that. I have a breakfast with the chaplain, I run games, and I also work with a group, a Christian group that volunteers free of charge, they come up and they provide a board gaming library. So if somebody didn’t sign up for a game, they could come in and play games for free in the board gaming library for I believe we’re open 12 hours a day during the convention. So if you just sign up for the convention at Gary Con and you come up there but you couldn’t get into the games you wanted, you could come down there and play some pickup board games with anybody or find an open table and just walk in and play a game. They put signs on the table, In Need of Players, and people sit down. And so I’ve been an active part of that since the convention began back in 2009 but I’ve been an official part of it for either the last 3, 4, or 5 years. It all begins to fade together after a while.
Amanda – Yes. Now this is making my heart very happy, because I’m imagining this room of people playing games together and I think, I enjoy board games and my friends also do, we’re just, you know, we have small children. I know that people play with small children, when our kids go to bed we’re like, oh my gosh we just wanna sleep, so we look forward to the day they’re old enough that we can teach them how to play more complicated games. But in my experience, the people who are really into board games in high school and role playing games, they typically didn’t fit the “cool” stereotype, right? They were either scrawnier or pudgier or somewhere not really fitting in.
Derek – Correct.
Amanda – And I wondered if that affects like, the bodies of the people around you. How that affects your work?
Derek – I’m gonna tell you, and I’ve seen the change over the last decade. You know, when I would go to gaming conventions, you looked around and so many of us fit that stereotype of big, heavyset people. Guys, girls, and everybody in between, no matter where they define themselves on the spectrum. We were all pretty big folks. The people who weren’t that cool. But we also started seeing people who fit the cool build too. You know, people who were into sports and people who were into just working out and CrossFit and all that started showing up a few years ago. And I think part of it has been the advent of social media, the advent of the internet, we’re seeing people like Will Wheaton who’s been, he was in Star Trek the Next Generation TV series, he’s been an advocate for geeks for years. But other movie stars are starting to. Joe Manganiello who played in Magic Mike, I’ve never seen Magic Mike, but I know what it is.
Amanda – Same.
Derek – Yeah, but he’s been in that, I believe he’s married to Sofia Vergara, and he’s actually very active in the gaming conventions circuit now. He does a lot of stuff with Dungeons and Dragons. He comes to Gary Con, runs games for people. So now you know, the diversity has come on the other side now. We’ve had to learn to be welcoming to people who fit the coolness. I actually preached a sermon about that one year when I was at Gen Con in Indianapolis. And I talked about, I don’t know how familiar you are with Indianapolis, but Indianapolis has a couple of events there throughout the year. And sometimes they coincide. So one year, we had about 60,000 freaks, geeks, cosplayers, everybody across the board descend upon Indianapolis for the best 4 days in gaming. That’s how Gen Con promotes themselves. And so we descended there. Well the Colts were also having a, I guess, what do they call it, preseason game that year. And they were there the same weekend. So I would watch, I love to watch people, that’s the greatest thing you can do as a preacher is just watch people. So I just sat outside one day at the convention for about 30 minutes, and I watched the Colt fans walking down one side of the street. And I watched the freaks and the geeks and the cosplayers, all my people walking down the other side of the street. And they looked so different but at the same time, they were the same. You know, some of the Colts fans had their faces painted. So when I preached my sermon, I got up and I talked about how we as geeks, and this could be the same for people with body image issues, or people who have bigger bodies, you know, we need to be welcoming to the gamers, to the football players, and the people who are into sports on the other side of the aisle. We needed to be welcoming to them and incorporate them in because they might be interested in the things we do. And after I preached that sermon, I had a man come up to me, he was about 6’ 3” I think, may have been a little bit shorter than that. But he just, one of the most beautiful men you’ve ever seen. Well fit, just cut, ripped, and he said, I really want to thank you for that sermon. And I said, well why is that? He said because I have always wanted to get into things like this and this was my first year to ever come to a gaming convention or anything like this because I’ve always been afraid to come to something like this. And I said, why is that? He said I was afraid I wouldn’t fit in. And it never had occurred to me, until he said that, that you know what, someone who looked as cool as he looked, he looked really cool, but he also told me he was working on his PhD and he was telling me the things he was interested in. And to realize that some one as cool as he looked, felt like he didn’t fit in with our geeky crowd, but he was just as much of a geek as I am. And if not, more. And so that really touched me and moved me at that point. And I realized you know, body acceptance and the acceptance of other lifestyles and other people is a two way street. And while he may not have experienced the pain and the discrimination I felt as a young geeky kid in the south, he had experienced his own pain as well. Because here he was an athletic guy, who really liked geeky stuff but he felt like he had to hide it.
Amanda – Right. That’s the power of hospitality, right?
Derek – Exactly.
Amanda – Making space. Making space for difference which is part of what you do also with Geek Preacher and accessibility. We talked about, or you mentioned talking about accessibility for size and neurodiversity.
Derek – Correct.
Amanda – Would love to hear more about that.
Derek – Well our son, five years ago, was diagnosed with autism. And we’ve been working through that and dealing with that and dealing with the complications of it. Yet our son also loves to play the same type of games that his dad and his mom and his sister play. And so this year, we had some extra time off, which is very, very rare. And I took him to a gaming convention in Ohio. And one of the reasons I went is because they said they had a room for people with autism if they got overwhelmed they could come to this room. And we went to that room the first day. And it was great. It was great. He loved it. As he got overwhelmed we took him into the room, it was wonderful. The problem was the next day when we went back to make use of that room, they told us, unless we’d signed up previously we could not use the room, because it was being used by the hosting organization for a private event. And I said, what? This doesn’t make sense. Well it’s on the website. You actually had to drill down on the website to find that. And that just really frustrated me because the busiest days of the convention, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, the room was off limits to people who had not previously signed up. And if you’ve ever dealt with a child on the spectrum, you never know when you’re going to need something like that. You don’t know when your child is going to be overwhelmed. They may do fine for hours on end and then suddenly they’re overwhelmed. Now the convention did not have to provide that space, they’re not required to. But if you’re going to provide a space like that, you need to be aware of it. And so I mentioned this to a close friend of mine who’s in the gaming industry, he also publishes a comic book/gamer magazine called Knights of the Dinner Table. And the issue that I’m referring to I believe is going to be coming out very soon. My friend’s name is Jolly Blackburn and Jolly said Derek, I want you to write an article on this. And so I wrote an article about how gaming conventions need to really think about accessibility. And in the article I put links to places and other gaming conventions that are very aware of these needs. And we need to be accessible to people who are neurodiverse but we also need to be accessible to people of size, the aisles don’t have room for people with just a big build. Whether you’re fat or not’s irrelevant, I’ve seen people who are weight lifters at these conventions now. Like I said, we have diverse crowds come. I’ve seen really seen really big folks have trouble getting through these aisles. But I’ve also seen people who are in wheelchairs, who have been going to these conventions for years, for decades. Some of them have been going to conventions like this longer than I’ve been alive and I’m almost 50 years old. And so they have accessibility issues. And a lot of these conventions are not making things accessible to people of size. They are not making it accessible to people with other disabilities and I think they are cutting out, just on a purely marketing scale, by not doing that, they are relegating a good percentage of their population to never going to these conventions. And so I, while I’ve advocated for it as a chaplain at a gaming convention, and we’ve tried to make things more diverse for the LGBTQ community and we’ve tried to make things more diverse for, you know, female gamers. A long time female gamers and female game designers were shut out. We’ve tried to let those voices in and open doors for those voices. But we need to also think about just these things like people who have autism and other spectrum disorders like that, we need to make it accessible for people with physical disabilities, we need to make it accessible for people of size. And these are things to take into consideration. Now I understand your small conventions where you only have about 3 or 4 people show up, that’s going to be difficult. But the larger conventions that make, that have so many people need to be aware of this, and need to make spaces for this. One of the other problems I’ve found is that, these convention centers, I don’t know how they get by having the things they have with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some of these convention centers and some of these hotels I’ve seen, the requirements for them to meet standards is so low, it’s ridiculous.
Amanda – And it depends on the age of the building. I worked in an office that, the building had been built in the 20s and there were no handicapped bathrooms. And I require a handicap bathroom. That’s a big deal. I do love what you’re saying. I would probably say that even the smaller conventions need to do it too.
Derek -They would be able to do it, if the places that they held them, were held to the standard of making their sites accessible.
Amanda – Right and so the way that we make a change in that, is by number 1 asking, hey, is there accessibility for people of size and disability and for neurodiversity? And then we all benefit from that. That’s the way that our intersectionality of the ways that we’re marginalized actually help when we come together because we can say no, we all need these accommodations. And we are important, so please do something about it.
Derek – There are a number of organizations out there that are working toward these goals. There are some groups, there are conventions that are making room for people.
Amanda – That’s awesome. And when that article comes out in your friend’s magazine, Knights of the Kitchen Table is that right? Dinner table?
Derek – Dinner Table. And one of the things he’s going to do once the magazine hits the stand, he is going to release a PDF link just to that article. So that people can actually download that article for free. And after the interview, I’ll try and get you some of the links. The name of the article is called Quiet in the Convention Center. For example there’s one group, and I backed this on Kickstarter. It’s actually a role playing game called Critical Core. They’re putting on a roleplaying game, helping kids on the autism spectrum build confidence and social skills. So that’s really awesome. There’s another group, it’s called Game to Grow and they use table top games in weekly therapeutic social skills groups, to help young people become more confident, creative, and socially capable. And so there are a lot of groups out there working for this. And that really makes me excited. Pax is also a large convention center, all of the Pax conventions use a group and they have places for anyone who feels overwhelmed and needs a place to regain their calm. So I wanna say there are groups out there working toward this. And so I do wanna encourage people that it is not a wasteland. That there are people who see the need for this. And to be honest, I’ve talked to many people. Few people who were there in the early days of the 70s and 80s who were industry professionals back then and they told me, Derek, I don’t go to conventions anymore because I have accessibility issues. And I’m tired of getting knocked over and knocked around and running into me. I’m tired of not finding easily accessible bathrooms. I mean, things of that nature. And I understand that. I felt that need as well. I’m an extrovert, but even I need to time to find quiet places. And one of the things we did a few years back, actually about 5 or 6 years ago when I was doing the worship services at Gen Con, I was working with a group called the Christian Gamers Guild and we had at that time, we could get a booth. It’s really, really hard to get a booth in the dealer hall now. And what we did for a couple years in a row, at our booth, is we actually had a local resident on site who would bring us a sofa and we would put up a couple of chairs and we would tell people, you know, no matter who you are, you don’t have to be a Christian, you don’t have to be anything. You wanna just come in, sit down, get off your feet, and just get a little bit of a private space from all of these crowds, you’re welcome to do so. And it was great. And we weren’t even thinking about it in terms of accessibility or neurodiversity at that time. We were just thinking about it as Christian hospitality.
Amanda – Yeah, and people have bodies and bodies get tired. That is a perfect way to close our podcast today because our tagline for Fat & Faithful, we changed it last season. And it’s loving God incarnate, and loving our neighbor’s bodies as our own. So thank you, Derek White, thank you so much for coming on the Fat & Faithful podcast today. We have so much great material, I’m really excited about this episode going out. How can our listeners find you and what you’re doing, do you have social media?
Derek – Yes, the easiest way to find me is I have a Facebook page, it’s called The Geek Preacher.
Amanda – Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today, God bless you.
Derek – God bless you Amanda, and thank you for having me, I enjoyed it a lot.
May we love them
Nicole – This podcast is co-hosted by Amanda Martinez Beck and J. Nicole Morgan and made possible through the generous support of our Patreon donors. To become a supporter, visit patreon.com/fatandfaithful. Please subscribe, rate, and review wherever you listen to your Podcasts — this helps others find us and the fat acceptance work we’re doing. You can join in on the discussions in our Facebook group All Bodies Are Good Bodies or follow us on social media. You can find Amanda on Instagram at your_body_is_good (with an underscore between each word) or on Twitter @AmandaMBeck. Nicole is @jnicolemorgan on both Instagram and Twitter. Fat & Faithful is produced by Amanda Martinez Beck, transcription services are provided by Fayelle Ewuakye, and our theme music is “These Bodies” by The Many. Visit their website at themanyarehere.com and learn more about the “This is My Body” liturgy they created around this song at pluralguild.com/this-is-my-body. Thank you for joining us as we learn to love God incarnate and our neighbors body as our own.
Inside outside through and through
Let us love them as You do
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
Amanda – Welcome to the Fat and Faithful podcast with J. Nicole Morgan, and Amanda Martinez Beck.
You gave us these bodies
Amanda – We’re so glad you’ve joined us.
You gave us these bodies
And you called them good.
You gave us these bodies
And you called them good.
Nicole – Hi everyone! Welcome to this episode of Fat & Faithful, this is J. Nicole Morgan and I am here with my co host. Hi Amanda!
Amanda – Hi, I’m Amanda Martinez Beck and we’re so glad to be here today. We have a special guest today.
Nicole – Woo hoo, yes! So I’m very excited about this interview and if you are a listener to the Fat & Faithful podcast, you should recognize the name ‘cause we’ve been talking about her. But with us today is my friend Fayelle Ewuakye. And she does our podcast transcriptions. So she is part of the Fat & Faithful team and you’ve probably seen us talking about her. Welcome Fayelle.
Fayelle – Thank you for having me, this is so exciting, I feel so special.
Nicole – You are indeed very special.
Amanda – Fayelle, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Fayelle – Well I’m married, I have 2 kids living in northwest Georgia which has finally cooled down, fall finally arrived so I’m happy ‘cause I’m a cold weather lover. I love your podcast, I love that I get to listen to it, I feel super blessed not only do I get to hear it but I get to transcribe it which provides a service and I get paid for it which is an extra bonus. And I love doing it, it’s just the greatest job for me, it’s flexible with having kids and yes, I really enjoy that job. This is, I’ve had so many jobs I haven’t liked and this is just one that I’m just, so I just fall all over it, I’m just like, I just love doing this so much and my husband chuckles. It’s been a real blessing for us. So I’m an avid book reader and Netflix binger and chocolate lover and baker and cat adorer.
Amanda – And salad eater for breakfast, salad for breakfast eater.
Fayelle – Oh, salad. All the crazy salads yes. I’m a salad connoisseur.
Amanda – So is Nicole.
Fayelle – Yes, when she talks about her salads, man, we need to get together and salad it up, ‘cause it sounds great.
Amanda – Are you there Nicole?
Nicole – Oh, I was apparently on mute and I was just blabbering away about my salads but I’m back. I got a new microphone this season everyone and not quite sure how to use it apparently.
Amanda – You wanna tell us about your salads?
Nicole – They’re really good. Yes, that’s the sum of what it said and that I like Fayelle’s salads too and that we should create a Fat & Faithful salad recipe book.
Fayelle – Oh my gosh, what a good idea! I love cookbooks.
Nicole – Or maybe a website. Because that seems to be more our speed, but yes. This is a great idea.
Amanda – Maybe we should do like a weekly salad feature, Fayelle, maybe you could do that in the All Bodies are Good Bodies group.
Fayelle – That’s genius. I have to think about that, that could be great.
Nicole – How did you start eating salads for breakfast? Like when did you figure that out?
Fayelle – Well, for the longest I’ve appreciated leftovers for breakfast more than breakfast food. So I’ve been doing that for a long time. And then starting to get, I don’t know, I started enjoying greens a lot more in the past few years. And so, of course that just lends itself to salads because I like them raw as opposed to cooked. And then I was like, you know, if you can make a taco salad, with beans and meat and cheese and whatever else, tomatoes and things, then why can’t you put leftovers in a salad? Which sounds bizarre, but I mean, I was like cutting up leftover you know, chicken parmesan and putting it in my salad and then I started adding vegetables that I like and now it’s just crazy. Now it’s just, I open the fridge I’m like, what all can I stick in here today? And so, then it was, okay I don’t have any protein in this salad, so let’s throw an egg in there. And then it was oh I have leftover sausage and so now it’s more breakfast-y. So, crazy combinations just evolved.
Nicole – I feel like it’s a high end hipster restaurant menu, where they put like a poached egg on top of your salad.
Fayelle – That’s my favorite, a poached egg on top of my salad.
Nicole – Yeah, like this is just your kitchen is like the hipster restaurant.
Amanda – Y’all are making me hungry.
Fayelle – I would love a restaurant where I could like, create my own salad with more stuff than what I have, you know like I want, not like just a buffet—
Nicole – Like a salad bar?
Fayelle – No no, like more than that. Because the salad bar’s not gonna have like, lots of cooked ingredients that have already been made. Oh my gosh one of my favorites, meatloaf on salad is one of my favorites. I love it. Love it. So, it’s crazy.
Nicole – You’re gonna need like an Instagram account dedicated to your breakfast salads.
Fayelle – I do, yes. I might have to do that too.
Amanda – What would you call it? Like Fat Salad Lady? I mean—
Fayelle – I’m not opposed to that, that’s great.
Amanda – Like I would all about that Instagram account. I mean, that’s basically what I get on your Facebook feed in the mornings when you post about your salads.
Fayelle – I kinda wanna add like crazy at the beginning like, Crazy Fat Salad lady, like I feel like my salads are bizarre in a lot of ways.
Nicole – Yeah.
Fayelle – And oh man. I have to, yeah, I’m liking this.
Amanda – Yeah, consider that, present it before the Lord and ask his blessing on it.
Fayelle – I will! And then the whole weekly in the group with the salads, and my account, there’s, and then a recipe website, oh wow.
Amanda – Fayelle, we’re on to something big.
Fayelle – We really are.
Amanda – Speaking of salads and well, this is an awkward transition, but if we’re talking, we’re on Fat & Faithful this season is interviewing people who are fat and are doing daily life. So do you consider yourself fat, Fayelle?
Fayelle – Yes, definitely.
Amanda – Do you use that word to describe yourself?
Fayelle – I do. Only recently though. That used to be a bad word in my brain. But thankfully from people like you, I have changed the way I think. And so I’m starting to use it more and more.
Amanda – Well that’s cool.
Nicole – And Fayelle, so Fayelle and I live somewhat close to each other. She came to the Fat Pool Party this summer. Which was really fun.
Fayelle – It was so fun.
Nicole – Fayelle, I think you might be like my only like, no, not only, you’re one of my few in person friends that I see occasionally. We see each other what, once a year?
Fayelle – Yeah, probably.
Nicole – But that like identifies as like, fat positive and like is super serious about it.
Fayelle – Right.
Nicole – Like I enjoy being able to spend time in person with you.
Fayelle – I agree.
Nicole – And have that commonality. That kind of community is good.
Fayelle – It is, I agree.
Nicole – And it’s mostly online for most of us.
Amanda – Really jealous that y’all are like in the same time zone even. And can’t wait to meet both of y’all in person. Podcast listeners, I don’t know if y’all know that Nicole and I still have no physically been in the same space.
Nicole – Ever.
Amanda – Ever.
Nicole – Not at all.
Fayelle – And you guys act like you’re together, all the time. It’s really, it’s cool how that works.
Amanda – We would probably, well I’ve considered Nicole my friend for a very long time.
Nicole – We’ve had this discussion before at how like, maybe a year into it, I thought you were my friend.
Amanda – That’s the difference between a 2 on the enneagram and a 5 on the enneagram. So, but now Nicole told me I am actually her friend. So we’ve made it. And Nicole is one of the people that I process fat grief and joy with first. Like, I have a hard interaction being fat and so Nicole gets a text. Because I don’t have that in person. I mean my husband’s very supportive and will listen to me but there’s something about knowing what it feels like.
Fayelle – That’s so true.
Amanda – To process that, yeah. And even talking about salads makes me a little nervous because fat people are only supposed to talk about salads if they’re trying to lose weight and get healthy. Because fat people quote, don’t eat salads.
Fayelle – You know and I think that is one of the hugest reasons why I talk about. I’m like, look at my awesome amazing salad that has nothing to do, in fact, I mean if you wanna like break it down caloric wise, it probably doesn’t meet whatever the rules are. And I just wanna be like, you can enjoy salad without being so restrictive or stereotypical or, look at this great salad. Yeah, I totally get that.
Nicole – Yeah, I feel like we need like pictures of all of us laughing at our salads that are not healthy.
Fayelle – Yes!
Amanda – Oh my gosh.
Fayelle – That is the first thing we’re gonna take a picture of when the three of us ever get together. Is all of us in front of a salad cracking up, and just look at my salad joy because—
Amanda – This is a reference to stock photos where there are thin women laughing at their salads.
Nicole – Yes. Because of the joy the salad brings them. But they have joy because they think it’s going to make them thin. We just like salads because they’re delicious.
Amanda – They really are delicious.
Nicole – So, Fayelle, you and I, originally met in like, in online world, a million years ago, on LiveJournal, right?
Fayelle – Yes!
Amanda – This is amazing.
Nicole – Yeah.
Fayelle – Yes!
Nicole – It’s been over a decade. I don’t even know when, it was a long, long time ago.
Fayelle – A long time ago, yes.
Nicole – And I, I was introduced to fat acceptance on LiveJournal, but I don’t know if you were. Or if we intersected in a different way there. I really don’t remember like, why we became LiveJournal friends.
Fayelle – I cannot tell you how our first, now I do know that when I started LiveJournal, I was lonely and kind of on the, like I was very excited about LiveJournal. And I was like, let’s find people who are awesome and so I very well could have just stumbled upon you and been like, she’s awesome, you know. But you, actually Nicole, you are my first true fat positivity, all that, like I had nobody before that. And then it was, oh my gosh, she’s even more awesome than I thought, listen to this! I never thought about this.
Nicole – Yeah, I mean that was early days, right? Did you ever have a LiveJournal Amanda?
Amanda – I don’t even really know what LiveJournal is.
Nicole – It’s like pre social media. So it was like, it was a blog. It was a blog network.
Fayelle – It was like, slightly more connected, diary feeling-ish.
Nicole – Yeah.
Fayelle – Where people could comment on your diary entries, like a blog, but it seemed it lot more, a lot easier to comment and see other people’s comments and respond. That type of thing. I loved it.
Nicole – And there were like communities where you could submit entries to, so there was like, there was a Fatshonista which is where I learned about fat acceptance while I was trying to like, find clothes to make me look slimmer. Instead I found fat acceptance. But you could like post your outfit of the day, and that’s how I learned about it, because all these people would post pictures of themselves in clothes and we would all put our measurements and our weight and our height and our size so that people, like for me I could see other people and be like oh, that’s really close to my size and they don’t look like a hideous creature, so maybe I’m not hideous. So that was a LiveJournal community back in the day.
Amanda – Oh man.
Nicole – And Fayelle, somewhere we found each other. And it stuck.
Amanda – That’s fun. Thank God for the internet. Fayelle, are you an ennea fan?
Fayelle – Yes I am. I’ve just recently figured it out, or at least figured out to the, as much as I can handle at the moment. I know I’m a 9. And, I like really irritate people by saying I have balanced wings. And people are like, you can’t have balanced wings and I’m like, look at me have them.
Amanda – And that’s your 8 coming out. Your 8 wing. So what do you like about being a 9?
Fayelle – Oh I love the peacemaking aspect, as much as that can also get me into trouble, I really, there have been so many people that say to me, I just am so peaceful around you. It’s comforting and relaxing. And they can just be themselves and even in times of conflict, I’ve had people gravitate towards me ‘cause I’m gonna keep the peace. And sometimes that means retreating from it, retreating from the conflict, and I’m good at that too. I will try to get both sides of the story, and think of the different possibilities of other perspectives and alright everyone, let’s calm down and talk rationally and civilly and that can really help people out sometimes I’ve noticed. And so I really like that.
Amanda – Have you noticed an aspect that’s frustrating about being a 9?
Fayelle – That same characteristic. Means that I just can’t pick something. Like I just, what do you think about XYZ, well, I have this thought but then I can see the other side too and, pick something! Just, I don’t know, and it can really hinder when I say things. Whether I’m answering a question or wanna voice an opinion, it can be just something trivial or something huge and I just become a, oh but wait. There’s this as well, and they might think that so I better not say it. It becomes overwhelming in my head sometimes. And I just have to, I’m like stop, calm down.
Nicole – Does that interact in any specific or particular way with like fat acceptance and like, believing that, like for me as a 5, I had to research the wazoo out of it and didn’t tell anyone for like 6 years that I believed it.
Fayelle – Totally. I can hear all the research and still say, oh but it will look like I’m not healthy, or this person’s not healthy. Even if they could be totally healthy. But what about physically, the heaviness of weight, what that’s doing, even if their cholesterol’s fine. Like I will go all around from every angle, whether right or wrong. And then I have a hard time going, no, you know what is true and you know what research says, what these examples have shown. But I’m like, oh, but, there’s always just so much but, but, and so it can really put a damper on what I’m trying to do, how I’m trying to feel, what I’m trying to believe.
Amanda – As a 2 I find a similar feeling of yes I’ve seen the research but I’m afraid of how it’s gonna hurt people or make them not like me if I say it.
Fayelle – Yep.
Amanda – When I get into one of those conversations I usually have Nicole’s voice in the back of my head. Or I actually ask her to come into the conversation.
Fayelle – Nice.
Amanda – To speak her five peace and then move like, help me not have to be the one that brings the facts.
Fayelle – Yes. And that’s the other thing too, I feel like I can’t talk, I can’t say things, without having all the facts ready, because if there’s conflict and I can’t respond and I’m left hanging by myself flailing, there’s no peace there and so I’m freaking out. And I don’t know what to say. And I’ll tell you, and this is not just, this is so not as superficial as maybe it might sound or so many other people might think, but when I first learned through Nicole about fat positivity, like real fat positivity, and I remember she would be, what would Nicole say in this situation, all the time, in the back of my head. And I was like, how much worse off would my life be if I didn’t have that? Like I would not have come so far. And so I’m really appreciative of that. But I did it all the time in my head. What would Nicole say? It was like the voice of truth.
Amanda – How does that make you feel Nicole?
Nicole – Wildly uncomfortable but also grateful. Like there’s a mixture of emotions. But I think part of, so like as a 5, I can feel like a robot who lacks any ability to interact with humans on a relational level. And so I appreciate when Amanda asks me to like, come in and be a part of a conversation or things like that, where it shows the value in the way that I think and the way that I interact. ‘Cause the truth is, I’m not an emotionless robot. Like I have emotions and feelings, I just express them in different timing and ways and intensity than other people, more emotionally centered people. And so like, being able to embrace that my factual, logical research based knowledge is as valid and as relevant to how we live and exist as humans has also been like, very freeing for me to live into the things that I believe and things and the way that I feel. So yes, I appreciate that.
Amanda – Well I know that I couldn’t do this without your 5-ness. Well, without your Nicole-ness. Because man, I just get so caught up in being a little pastoral person, worrying as opposed to caring about how people will perceive things. And so I need, for me to be able to realize that I’m not lacking, it’s okay for me to be the one that cushions especially when you and I are working on something together because I know that you’re going to provide the support underneath the cushion.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – And we’re a team.
Nicole – Yeah, and I, with my, Fayelle, with the friendship with you, I feel like there’s a similar dichotomy there, I don’t even know if, that’s not the right word.
Amanda – Dynamic?
Nicole – Yes, that word. Where there’s different perspectives and different ways that we approach it but that it compliments.
Fayelle – Yes.
Nicole – And strengthens the other. Which I very much appreciate with both of you.
Fayelle – I do too.
Amanda – I’m not even saying it because we’re recording a podcast. I value the friendship.
Fayelle – I agree and I totally, me too.
Amanda – Man. This is so important for me, that fat people have support in their lives. Because we’re not all like, we’re not monolith, we’re dynamic and we have different gifts and so often, fat people are expected to fill a couple of stereotypes whether it be the person that gets walked all over, or the person that’s bitter and isolated. And that’s such a sad view of our humanity. And I think when we get together, in mass, when we’re together in a group where we can start to see those personality traits and how we round out each other, I just used a bunch of fat euphemisms.
Nicole – As you should.
Amanda – Yes. That it just, it just affirms the dignity of the fat person in community. Like we have things to offer, for so long I believed that I didn’t have anything to offer because I was fat.
Nicole – And like, that is, you saying that reminds me of one of the things that I love the most about you Fayelle, as I have been friends with you, is that you offer your relationship and your friendship to the people in your little community. Like I just see you doing that for like your actual neighbors that live near you. And I’m seeing this mostly through Facebook or LiveJournal back in the day.
Fayelle – Yeah.
Nicole – But I believe you when you’re telling your stories. And so I guess, I love, we have a few minutes left, I’d love to hear you talk a little bit about how like, how your body interacts with that, or if that’s even a consideration or, I don’t know, if there’s anything connected to like fully living into who you are as, not just a person but a fat person. And how that like, influences or interacts with how you love your neighbors well and your children well and your community and their school and all that.
Fayelle – I feel like being a fat person and actually reaching out to neighbors and school, I don’t know, many times I just feel, not more, I just feel real. Like, I want to be an average person in society just doing my things. I don’t want to stick out. And sometimes I feel like as fats, we do stick out and it’s like, oh my gosh, I’m the only fat person in the room. Or whatever, and I feel like the more I can be out there doing the things, the more normal it is for me to be fat. And anybody else for that matter. And so I try to, on days when my own emotions are hard, you know, I’m just gonna live my life. And whether I’m bringing fat into it or not, I’m just gonna live my life. And then I would just hope that it doesn’t have to be a fat woman doing this. But just a woman. Just a person. There’s a person, whole bunch of people, and they’re doing these things, and they’re helping others. And whether they’re fat or not. And hopefully if somebody else is reserved because of their fatness or any other reason, they can just say, these other people are also bringing food to their sick neighbors or volunteering at their school or whatever and it doesn’t matter, I guess, if that makes sense. Just me.
Nicole – Like, where it’s like simultaneously you’re just a human but also for other fat people who feel like they can’t do something because they would stick out, you’re also being a person that says you can do this. Even if you do stick out.
Fayelle – Yes! And I have looked, there are times where I’m emotionally fragile for whatever reason, nothing has to have happened, I just am and I will look for the other person who, of color, who’s fat, who’s older, who’s younger if I’m with older, you’re just trying to find somebody else like you and I think that’s a very normal response. And if I don’t go out, I’m depriving somebody else of possibly seeing that. Maybe somebody else is looking for that as well and I can be that person. And I may never know and most of the time I don’t. But it’s just nice knowing that I can use my body for the way it is, the good body that it is, regardless of how I happen to feel that day, it can be helpful to somebody else. Even just visually, even just a, oh look, somebody like me. Good, here we are, doing our life together. Similar in a way.
Nicole – Amen.
Amanda – Oh man that’s so powerful.
Nicole – I love that.
Amanda – Well Fayelle thank you so much for being our guest today.
Fayelle – Yeah, you’re so welcome, thank you for inviting me, it’s really fun, really really fun.
Nicole – It’s good. And you’ll have fun again when you like, transcribe yourself, when you listen to this.
Fayelle – I’ve been trying to like, speak clearly, because I know it’s coming back to me. But I don’t wanna be like, what did I say, what’s going on?
Nicole – Well this was fun. I’m so glad we did this and did it as all three of us even if we weren’t always sure who to talk when.
Amanda – Or Nicole getting her microphone muted.
Nicole – Oh my gosh and then my computer keeps making dinging noises which I don’t know if y’all can hear.
Fayelle – Nope.
Nicole – Fine. Good. That’s good.
Amanda – Well thank you for joining us for this episode of Fat & Faithful, we look forward to hearing from you about what you liked about this episode. You can follow us on social media at Fat and Faithful. And we have a Patreon if you would like to support what we’re doing. We provide resources in fat acceptance to anyone who needs them, regardless of their ability to contribute. They’re open posts on our Patreon which is Patreon.com/fatandfaithful and we would love to have help. Because that’s how we pay Fayelle.
Fayelle – Yay!
Nicole – Woo hoo! Yes, and also if you don’t already join us at our Facebook group, you can talk with all three of us at All Bodies are Good Bodies on Facebook so be sure to join us there. This podcast is co-hosted by Amanda Martinez Beck and J. Nicole Morgan and made possible through the generous support of our Patreon donors.To become a supporter, visit patreon.com/fatandfaithful. Please subscribe, rate, and review wherever you listen to your Podcasts–this helps others find us and the fat acceptance work we’re doing. You can join in on the discussions in our Facebook group All Bodies Are Good Bodies or follow us on social media. You can find Amanda on Instagram at your_body_is_good (with an underscore between each word) or on Twitter @AmandaMBeck. Nicole is @jnicolemorgan on both Instagram and Twitter. Fat & Faithful is produced by Amanda Martinez Beck, transcription services are provided by Fayelle Ewuakye, and our theme music is “These Bodies” by The Many. Visit their website at themanyarehere.com and learn more about the “This is My Body” liturgy they created around this song at pluralguild.com/this-is-my-body. Thank you for joining us as we learn to love God incarnate and our neighbors body as our own.
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
You gave us these bodies
Amanda – We’re so glad you’ve joined us.
You gave us these bodies
And you called them good.
You gave us these bodies
And you called them good.
Amanda – Welcome to this episode of Fat and Faithful, you have joined us for the first episode of season 4. I am Amanda Martinez Beck, and I am here with my co host.
Nicole – Hi everyone, this is J. Nicole Morgan. Super excited to be back for season 4 of Fat & Faithful podcast.
Amanda – It’s been a little while, Nicole.
Nicole – It has, we enjoy our long summers here at Fat & Faithful, I think we both stay pretty busy with our various lives over the summers. But it’s good to be back.
Amanda – It’s true. Well, something big has happened since we have been on the air, and that is what I like to call, the Lizzo effect.
Nicole – Lizzo effect, I’m gonna let you go all into that, you and your Sharpies.
Amanda – I am in love with Lizzo. And I didn’t know who she was when we were still in season 3. So that was my loss. Are you a Lizzo fan?
Nicole – I am a fan of the Lizzo effect. I will say that it’s not really my style of music that I enjoy. But I like what she’s doing.
Amanda – Yes. And that is a fair thing to say. I like her style of music.
Nicole – Also fair.
Amanda – I can get my groove on, as white as that just sounded, when I listen to her. She just captures my musical imagination and I’m really thankful for her music.
Nicole – That’s awesome.
Amanda – But you mentioned my Sharpies. I’ve been—
Nicole – Your Sharpies.
Amanda – I’ve been Sharpie-ing a lot.
Nicole – You have, and everyone if you are not following Amanda on Instagram yet @your_body_is_good, and there’s underscores in between each of those words, as she likes to make it complicated to explain how to get to her Instagram on a podcast. That’s Amanda. And she has been doing some amazing work there. And is getting a lot of recognition and interaction and I’m just like, incredibly proud to be your friend. With you and your amazing Sharpies. But I’ll let you talk about what your Sharpies are. But that’s my plug.
Amanda – Thank you, my Sharpies are, I was given by the board of Now She Rises, a 72 count Sharpie package when I was going through a rough time. Which is like, one of the most amazing gifts I’ve ever gotten. Shout out to Erin Petty for suggesting it. It was her doing, she’s the Care Coordinator for all the Rise women.
Nicole – And does a good job at it.
Amanda – Oh my gosh, she’s so good. But, she’s also one of the admins for our All Bodies are Good Bodies group on Facebook. She is just such a, this sounds like so spiritually cheesy, but she’s such a blessing to me. She really is. So I’ve started, well continued writing out body empowering messages on my Instagram and they’ve caught some attention.
Nicole – They have, that’s exciting.
Amanda – Do you know who Evelyn Tribole is?
Nicole – I don’t.
Amanda – She is one of the co-authors of Intuitive Eating.
Nicole – Okay.
Amanda – And she has endorsed my Instagram on her stories, just so you can follow her. And so yesterday, I got a comment from Jes Baker.
Nicole – Oh wow! That’s awesome!
Amanda – I know.
Nicole – We’re totally fangirling over here. This is amazing.
Amanda – And I was like, oh my goodness, thank you so much, what an honor to hear from you, such a pioneer in this field. And she was like, I really like what you’re doing. Especially your journaling skills, your notebook skills. Like ah! Total fangirl moment! What do you know about Jes Baker, have you read her books?
Nicole – No, I haven’t. She wrote Landwhale, is that?
Amanda – Uh huh.
Nicole – Yeah, and something about cupcakes maybe?
Amanda – I think so. I haven’t read her books, but she’s known as The Militant Baker.
Nicole – Yes, that’s the baker, the cupcakes thing. I’m really bad at like recall of book titles and authors.
Amanda – Okay, that’s the cupcake connection. The Militant Baker. She’s one of the first fat women I heard speak openly about what it is like to be fat.
Nicole – Yeah, I’ve heard her name for quite a while in the fat acceptance movement. She’s definitely a big name and I saw, well you linked out to a lot of these people as well. And then I saw Ragen Chastain commented as well, which is fun.
Amanda – And you introduced me to Ragen Chastain.
Nicole – Well, I don’t remember that, but it would not surprise me, I’ve followed Ragen’s work for many, many years. Ragen is the one who has the doctor like, questions to ask your doctor, the cards to take into your doctor’s appointment to have a fat positive doctor visit experience. And she has a lot of work around that.
Amanda – And we mentioned back in a season 2 episode, when we talked about going to the doctor while fat.
Nicole – Yes.
Amanda – ‘Cause she’s been really influential for us in that. Her website is Dances With Fat I believe.
Nicole – Yeah, she does some ballet dancing and I think she ran a marathon or a triathlon or both as well. Yeah.
Amanda – Is she doing The Iron Man while fat?
Nicole – Maybe?
Amanda – We have some research to do.
Nicole – We do, but all of these wonderful people, you can find them all at Amanda’s Instagram. Because that’s where they all hang out now.
Amanda – Okay, so Nicole you have had something published since we were last together!
Nicole – I did, I had a chapter in a book that was published. The book is called Evangelical Theologies of Liberation and Justice. It’s published by InterVarsity Press. The co editors are Mae Elise Cannon and Andrea Smith. And so I have a chapter in there on liberation from fat shame, focusing specifically on, kinda my experience in the evangelical church and using kind of an evangelical framework of liberation theology, which some people might find to be an oxymoron, but it’s not. So that book is out there in the world, it came out September 10th of 2019, so it’s still pretty new. And there are lots of great chapters on all different ways of liberation and justice, especially for people who are marginalized and oppressed in the world. So it’s a great resource in general beyond just my chapter in there. But I wanna encourage people to pick that up if you have any kind of interest in theology and freedom and justice.
Amanda – That’s so exciting. You did tell me that you were asked to write that until the book was coming out. And you’re like, oh I have a chapter here.
Nicole – It was one of those things that like, it was a long process of writing the chapter. And it’s getting submitted and the book finalized and sometimes book writing takes a very long time.
Amanda – True.
Nicole – But yeah, so it’s exciting included within a broader work on, the broader theme of liberation and justice. So that when people pick it up, maybe initially connecting more to some of the other chapters, that the concept of fat liberation is there next to them. And in front of them, to pair with those other ideas. So that’s exciting to me to have that.
Amanda – Yeah, as you know we have found that some of the most shaming people are progressive in every other area of justice. And haven’t yet learned that fat liberation is an important key part of social justice.
Nicole – Yes. I’d agree with that. We have, there’s some areas and people who aren’t quite on board and that’s okay, we’re doing our work. And slow and steady and faithful and all that.
Amanda – You know, as I name drop here, when Jes Baker commented on my Instagram post yesterday, we were talking about Jameela Jamil and the work that she’s been doing with @i_weigh. Because she was on Trevor Noah’s show to talk about diet culture and how she’s just not, she doesn’t focus on her body. She just lives her life and ignores her body and there’s so many things going on there.
Nicole – Right.
Amanda – But Jes said that she loves what Jameela’s doing and it’s important, and she also likes to have a nuanced conversation about how activism looks different for everybody. It’s not one size fits all activism.
Nicole – Exactly.
Amanda – And that, that’s what Jes said. And that was interesting to me, because I know that the work of getting straight sized people to understand they’re not fat is a journey. Right?
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – And I think it can just get hard to remember that everybody’s activism doesn’t have to look just like mine to still be an important part of the work, if that makes sense.
Nicole – Yeah, there’s like these stepping stones on the journey. And we need people who are doing activism work at what we see as entry points and they probably don’t see it as entry points so this might be a little bit patronizing. But yeah like, there’s, you don’t jump from being wrapped up in diet culture and body shame straight to like, embracing fat bodies as joyful and whole and worthy of love and respect. Like there’s a path that gets you there. And I do, I think the work that Jameela is doing like, there’s some nuances and some disagreements I have with how she phrases things or how she puts things into context. But I think she is an entry point for many people into the idea of body acceptance that will eventually be fat acceptance if people keep pushing forward. And I guess that’s just my encouragement for people in general is to keep asking what you don’t know yet, and what you’re still missing because we’re all still missing something. And there’s always a step further to go to be more welcoming and loving of our neighbors and ourselves.
Amanda – For sure. I am interested in talking a little bit more about the term “fat liberation”. Because it has been really opening me up in the past month or so, of what is the difference between fat acceptance, fat positivity, and fat liberation? I know that I’ve written a little bit about it on Instagram, but I was wondering your thoughts.
Nicole – So I think we had a bit of this discussion on Facebook I think. For me, like I see fat acceptance as a more powerful or intentional term than fat positivity. And I think a lot of people, that’s exactly the opposite. For me acceptance is, this intentional thought out statement or lifestyle that you’re, that’s not the right word, but it’s the way that you’re living is that you’re acknowledging that fat is an acceptable way to be and that fat people should have access. Whereas positivity is just a feeling. And maybe this is just a 5 thing, where I value thoughts more than feelings. Like, positivity seems like you’re sugar coating something and you’re just gonna put a smile on it without dealing with the actual realities. Whereas acceptance is, no, this is a lived reality for people and we are going to understand what is happening to limit fat people and move that out of the way so we can accept fat people. And I do think liberation is even a step further, we’re talking about liberation, we’re talking about getting rid of the things that imprison or bind or limit. And so we’re gonna talk more about structural society, the way that, we’re notoriously bad as a culture at following ADA compliance for people with disabilities. But to start including size as accessibility in those ADA compliance for our society so that places of business and churches and schools and hospitals have to have resources for, to accommodate fat people. So that’s liberation to me, when we start like, breaking the chains. And that can get all kinds of spiritual-y metaphor. But that’s kinda where I order them.
Amanda – I think that’s a really good take on it. I would probably say, I think of fat acceptance as like an umbrella for what, for accepting fat people as humans. Worthy of dignity.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – And it gives space for fat positivity because we need positive examples of fatness and the good things about being fat, but it also makes space for the negative things that come along with being fat. But to be expressed in a context that doesn’t blame the negative thing on the person suffering it. And that’s something, I think we’re really good at in our group, All Bodies are Good Bodies is creating space for fat people to grieve.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – I know we did an episode last season on fat grief and it was really powerful. But even just the day-to-day sadness of, I went to Lane Bryant and they had every size but mine on the clearance rack in this dress I wanted. Fat people know how big a deal it is to be able to find cute fat clothes on clearance. And so to have your excitement raised of, oh I might find this dress and then it not be there. It gets, it’s like death by a thousand pinpricks.
Nicole – That’s so rare to begin with, it’s not like we just missed the one dress in a million, we missed the one dress.
Amanda – Yes.
Nicole – Yeah, I just posted something yesterday on Twitter and I’d seen one of those comments where someone was talking about like, their body image and how, when they looked back at their high school or college pictures they realized they weren’t actually fat, they just, you know, had bad body image. And I like, validate that as like part of working out this crazy body shame culture we have and seeing where you had thoughts that were lies. But for some of us we look back on our pictures from high school and we were fat. Like, it wasn’t just my mind playing tricks on me, like I actually was. And to just, those are different experiences. And they’re both valid and they’re both fraught with emotions and everything else, But yeah, so I had a moment of sadness over just, my experience of being an actual fat teenager in the 90s, before online shopping existed, is different than someone who had a negative self-image when they were in high school that could still find clothes, and could still sit in the school desks comfortable. And yeah, just naming that and that there’s a difference there. It was just part of my own acknowledgement of the grief of being fat.
Amanda – I saw that when you posted and I felt a little bit of remorse because I know I’ve said that exact thing. That I thought I was fat in high school but I actually wasn’t. And as I’ve investigated that feeling of what do I need to take from that? And it’s made me realize that I’m mad that I was told that I was fat. Right? It wasn’t all in my head, I was excluded and told that I wasn’t small enough. And not only getting mad for myself, but getting mad for you. Getting mad for the people that I’ve met since then weren’t small fat or you know, that had actual limitations to access because what they were telling me about not being small enough was amplified for you, does that make sense?
Nicole – Yeah, that makes complete sense.
Amanda – And being able to get angry at that instead of getting down on myself for being like, ugh, why did I think I was fat. No, I was being fed that information that I was fat and it wasn’t just injustice for me, it was injustice for everybody. Especially people I love in bigger bodies.
Nicole – Yeah, I think we’ve both said before that fat liberation is liberation for all of us. Because if fat people are free to live and have access, then this fear of being fat that society and people use to control others, especially women, like, that loses its power. It’s freedom for everybody when all the bodies have a place.
Amanda – Right, yes. And that is what I was trying to express in my Instagram doodles to Jameela Jamil. Like, thank you for what you’re doing. If you could talk about being fat not being a bad thing, what freedom you would bring to people of every size.
Nicole – Right, yes. We always want to push people further and I want people to push me further. So it really is liberation for everyone. That’s the goal.
Amanda – Yeah. That’s the goal. Using, spending our privilege, whatever privilege we have, for the sake of those that have even less than we do.
Nicole – Amen. Well our summer catch up episode got a little deep, but that’s fine.
Amanda – That’s how we roll, Nicole.
Nicole – So yeah, so fat liberation, justice, Sharpies, it’s fine. Sharpies are gonna take over the world. Would Sharpies like to sponsor this podcast? We can arrange that.
Amanda – I would love to get another box because honestly, I’ve almost used up a lot of the markers. Have you ever come across the Sharpie that’s just been outused? Not like left the lid off but—
Nicole – But like used all the ink out of it?
Amanda – Yes.
Nicole – Yep, that’s a lot, I believe it, with the way that you’ve been doodling.
Amanda – And you don’t even see the drafts that I don’t post. So, I’ve had a lot of things doodled. So if any listener wants to sponsor my Sharpie usage, I can get on board with that. But you can do that in a specific way. Nicole, we have a Patreon.
Nicole – We do! And we are so grateful for everyone who’s signed up over the summer when we weren’t giving you anything. And now that our season 4 podcast is up and running, we’re excited to announce our Patreon. That’s patreon.com/fatandfaithful. And you can support this work. Our first goal is to get to sustainability. To make it so that we can keep doing this. We love it, we wanna keep doing it, you don’t get anything extra for being a Patreon, you just get to say that you’re supporting this work. Everything’s available for everyone. We’d love to have you join us in that regard.
Amanda – Also, on our Patreon page, it says posts and then you can go into the posts section and there are resources for free, for anyone. You don’t have to be a Patreon subscriber. But resources for how to talk to your doctor if you’ve had a history of an eating disorder and you don’t wanna talk about weight. How to talk to your doctor about HAES, Health at Every Size. How to answer the trolls or the people who won’t stop asking you about your weight.
Nicole – Just ignore them. I ignore, block, walk away. There’s probably better ways but that’s my method.
Amanda – Nicole’s much better at not getting drawn into emotional struggle than I am.
Nicole – I’m like, eh, they bore me. I’m leaving.
Amanda – Oh to have that level of emotional control which I do not. So another exciting thing is that we have a new theme song.
Nicole – We do! Yes, so this is a band that I’ve heard play at Wildgoose and maybe somewhere else but they have a great song out called This is My Body. The band is called The Many. So we’re excited to share that music with you this season.
Amanda – Their website is themanyarehere.com. So make sure you visit them and check out their new album coming out.
Nicole – Well this season 4, we’re excited, we’re gonna have lots of interviews for you this season with people who are fat and doing just the daily work of life and doing it well. And excited to introduce you to these people over the next season and Amanda and I will check in with you too occasionally. But it’ll be a great season!
Amanda – So excited, remember our tagline is “Loving God incarnate, and loving our neighbor’s body as our own”. So go do that this week.
Nicole – Amen. This podcast is co-hosted by Amanda Martinez Beck and J. Nicole Morgan and made possible through the generous support of our Patreon donors.To become a supporter, visit patreon.com/fatandfaithful. Please subscribe, rate, and review wherever you listen to your Podcasts–this helps others find us and the fat acceptance work we’re doing. You can join in on the discussions in our Facebook group All Bodies Are Good Bodies or follow us on social media. You can find Amanda on Instagram at your_body_is_good (with an underscore between each word) or on Twitter @AmandaMBeck. Nicole is @jnicolemorgan on both Instagram and Twitter. Fat & Faithful is produced by Amanda Martinez Beck, transcription services are provided by Fayelle Ewuakye, and our theme music is “These Bodies” by The Many. Visit their website at themanyarehere.com and learn more about the “This is My Body” liturgy they created around this song at pluralguild.com/this-is-my-body. Thank you for joining us as we learn to love God incarnate and our neighbors body as our own.
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
Amanda – Hey listeners of Fat and Faithful, Amanda Martinez Beck here. Nicole is off this week and I have the opportunity to interview JoAnna Wahlund. JoAnna is the woman behind the Catholic Working Mother blog on Patheos, and also the Catholic Working Mother group on Facebook. Today we talk about a lot of things regarding bodies and pregnancy. And Family Medical Leave Act. I just wanted to give our listeners a heads up. Nicole and I know that we have people of all different stages of life listening to this podcast. And we’re really thankful. JoAnna and I are both mothers of multiple children. And we both have had experience working full time and dealing with pregnancies and medical leave with that. And Nicole and I recognize that family medical leave that affects not just married people with children and we’re really thankful for the input that you all give us about that. One thing that JoAnna says that I think is the heart of this episode is how bodies are perceived in the workplace, and she says this: “we need to change the concept of the male wombless body as being normative.” So I’m really excited to share this episode with JoAnna Wahlund of Catholic Working Mother and I hope y’all have a great week and can’t wait to have Nicole back on air with us, thanks.
Amanda – Welcome to Fat and Faithful. And ongoing conversation about faith, politics, and culture as they relate to fatness.
Amanda – Well hey Fat and Faithful listeners. I am here today with JoAnna Wahlund and I didn’t ask if that was the right way to pronounce your name.
JoAnna – That’s exactly the right way to pronounce my name.
Amanda – Great, well JoAnna is the woman behind the Catholic Working Mother blog on Patheos and the Catholic Working Mother group on Facebook which has over 5,000 members –
JoAnna – Actually we’re over 6,000 now.
Amanda – Awesome, 6,000 members, and I joined back when it was a wee 4,000 members. A couple years ago. JoAnna and I have a special bond because we have the same publisher and she is coming out with her book, the Catholic Working Mom’s Guide to Life at the end of May. And so I wanted to have her on to talk about life as a Catholic working mom because I am one as well. And I just love, love your book.
JoAnna – Well thank you! And I’m so happy that you participated in my book, I wrote about you in chapter 4!
Amanda – Yes, I was so excited to see my story there! I had forgotten responding to your interview questions until I read your book again. My memory is pretty terrible.
JoAnna – Yeah, join the club.
Amanda – It’s a mom thing.
JoAnna – Kids kill brain cells.
Amanda – Yeah, they give us some other great stuff, but they do take up a lot of mental space and also deplete our resources mentally. JoAnna tell me about how you started writing and where all of this for the Catholic Working Mother began.
JoAnna – Well I’ve been blogging off and on since, oh gosh, I suppose right after college was when I started. But that was with LiveJournal if you remember that, way back when. But I’d just been blogging off and on, not too seriously for a while. And about a year after, I started the Catholic Working Mother’s group, I was talking with someone who worked in a Catholic publishing company, you know, just tossing around the idea of a potential book. You know, nothing concrete. And she said, well, if you’re gonna write a book, the first thing you want to do is build up your platform. Because most authors these days, you’ll have a better chance of getting a manuscript or a proposal accepted if you already have an existing platform. And they know there’s people waiting to buy your book. So she recommended that I start, ‘cause at the time my blog was just a general Catholic mom blog type thing. But she suggested that I start a blog specifically about being a Catholic working mother that would tie into the group. So I did that and started blogging with that. And a couple years later, the channel manager for Patheos emailed me and invited me to start blogging on that platform which I did. And I’ve been doing that for about a year now, on the Patheos platform.
Amanda – Oh that’s so exciting. So we have the same publisher, Our Sunday Visitor, and tell me what it’s been like to go through the publishing process.
JoAnna – There have been a lot of surprising things and some things I expected, some things I was, kind of, not expecting. But it was, what surprised me was how fast it was. Because I sent my proposal in February of 2018 and they got, it was like February, well I know the exact, about exactly when it was because I was laid off from my job on February 20th, and I sent in my proposal just like a few days later.
Amanda – Wow.
JoAnna – So it was like that. And then, it was holy week of that year when I got the email saying they wanted to publish it. So it was like a month later.
Amanda – Wow.
JoAnna – So I was super surprised at how fast that was, because I thought, for sure it was gonna take months for them just to get back to me on whether or not they were interested in publishing it. But that was pretty quick. And then they said they wanted the finished manuscript by October 1st so they could publish it in spring 2019 and I was like, oh boy. But considering I had just been laid off from my job, and I suddenly had all this free time I was like, okay sure, I can do that, really. It’s been, it’s a fulfillment of a lifelong dream, ‘cause writing a book has always been at the top of my bucket list. So it’s just been amazing to go on that journey especially transitioning from the typical 9 to 5 full time, 8 to 5 full time job. And then all of a sudden I’m, not a full time employee anymore, I’m an author writing a book and trying to fit in writing in between taking care of kids and grocery shopping and housework and all that fun stuff.
Amanda – Right. I was about to ask how is it writing a book with, you have 6 children?
JoAnna – 6 children, yes.
Amanda – Are they in school? Or do you homeschool? What is your situation like?
JoAnna – I do not homeschool. My oldest 4 are in school full time. My oldest is gonna start high school in the fall she’s 14.
Amanda – Wow.
JoAnna – And then I have 3 more who are in 5th grade, 3rd grade, and 1st grade at the moment. And then my 5 year old, he’s on the autism spectrum and he goes to a special needs preschool every day but that’s only a half day. So he’s there from about noon to three most days. And so, then I have my youngest is 2 and she’s at home full time. She’s not doing preschool or anything right now.
Amanda – And does she nap in the afternoons?
JoAnna – Sometimes, if I’m lucky.
Amanda – Right.
JoAnna – There are some days she will only want to sleep on me. There are some days I can get her to take a nap right after lunch and there are some days she will not nap until her siblings have gotten back from school. It’s like she waits for them to get home and then she’ll conk out.
Amanda – Doesn’t wanna waste any one on one time with mama.
JoAnna – Pretty much. So it’s a toss-up. And really, the only way I was able to get the book written, was for the last, I’d say the last 2 months before my deadline, I left the house on Saturday morning and I went to the public library and I wrote all day long and I came home. And then the next day I’d get up, go to mass, go back to the public library, write all day long and then go home. And I did that every weekend for about 2 months straight.
Amanda – Wow.
JoAnna – I told my husband, this is the only way I’m gonna get this book done, if I’m able to leave the house and write with no distractions. And he’s like, okay, you do whatever you need to do and we’ll manage, and I’m like, okay! So that’s what I did and that’s how it got written.
Amanda – That’s awesome. Not unsimilar to my story. I was fortunate to have an office to go to in town. There were definitely late nights. It’s interesting being an author while having little kids. People are like, how did you do that? I’m like, I don’t honestly remember.
JoAnna – You know, I was trying to write during the day but that didn’t always work ‘cause, you know, inconsistent nap times, then the kids would get home and needing that time to run errands or make phone calls or whatever. And then I would try to write at night but that didn’t really work because you know, once I made supper and we cleaned up the kitchen and then we did the bedtime thing and after that point, I didn’t have any energy to write, I just wanted to collapse in the bed.
Amanda – Right.
JoAnna – And you know, I tried during the weekends, we have a bedroom in our house we use as a home office. So I would try to lock myself in the office and write on the weekends but that didn’t work because I had kids constantly banging on the door needing something. Even when my husband was around, they’d be banging on the office door saying mom I need this, mom I need that, mom, he’s punching me, mom he called me names, mom! And it was just like, oh my gosh, I can’t do this.
Amanda – Yeah. Well you know, part of what I talked about in my short snippet in your book was the idea of capacity versus potential. And how you and I are intelligent women. We have a ton of potential but our children and our life stage limits our capacity to achieve that potential. Where have you felt that tension as a working mom, as a writing mom?
JoAnna – Well what’s really difficult, as a working mom, is well when I was working, I couldn’t usually stay late if I needed to. Because I had hard deadlines in terms of picking up kids from daycare. So if say, this didn’t happen so much in the job I was in for 8 years, but if like a coworkers wanted to go out for a drink after work. I couldn’t do that because I had to get home, I had to pick up kids. I was really the only young mother with children on my team. Everyone else was, there was like 2 other mothers but their children were either high school age or adults and the rest of the employees either weren’t married or didn’t have kids or you know, so, I was really the only one with those limitations. Which kind of made it frustrating because if I didn’t get something done, I couldn’t stay late and do it. Because I had to get home to pick up kids and if my coworkers wanted to do something, I couldn’t do it because I had to go get kids and that kind of thing. And just the fact that I had to use up all my sick and vacation time when kids were sick or you know, or something and it’s like, sorry my phone alarm’s going off. It’s just frustrating because I felt like if we wanted to go on vacation, I felt like I had to scrimp and save my vacation time because I’d used so much having, and if I had a baby that year? Forget about it. Because all of my vacation time went towards maternity leave.
Amanda – And when you consider that you have 6 children, that happened a little frequently.
JoAnna – Two times out of my 6 kids where the company I worked for was so small that I didn’t qualify for Family Medical Leave Act. So I didn’t even know if I’d have a job once I was done with my maternity leave. I mean, there was no guarantee. And some of my leaves were unpaid so we had to scrimp and save just to pay for me to be able to take 6 weeks off after.
Amanda – Right.
JoAnna – I might have had some paid time off, but usually I was only able to save up a couple days. But with kids getting sick and obstetrician appointments and that kind of thing, so.
Amanda – You know, one thing I really loved about your book, is how practical it is. But especially you know, I have my group, All Bodies Are Good Bodies that you’re a part of. And we talk about the ways that our bodies affect all of our lives. And I think pregnancy is a huge way that women are affected at work.
JoAnna – Oh yes.
Amanda – And I love your chapter on pregnancy and work, teaching women how to stand up for themselves and to talk about FMLA and maternity leave and paid time off. Have you found that companies are willing to work with people, just with anecdotal evidence? Is there resistance to that body issue in women’s working lives?
JoAnna – It really depends. And I know that’s a vague answer. But it really depends on your workplace, it depends on who owns the company or your boss. I’ve been fortunate I guess, in that everywhere I’ve worked, even if I didn’t have paid leave, I at least didn’t have a problem getting leave. It was fortunate where I was never in a situation where they were like, well I’m sorry, you don’t get. With my first child, I was working for a very, very small company. Had maybe 10 employees. Probably less than that. But it was very small. So it was a very small business. So they obviously did not offer any kind of paid leave. I’m trying to remember, I’m not even sure if I had paid time off let alone paid leave. It was like my first job out of college basically. And I talked with my boss and our conversation about maternity leave went something like, well how long do you think you’ll be out? And I said, well I guess about 6 weeks. ‘Cause none of the daycares I’ve spoken to will take a child who’s younger than 6 weeks old. And he said, okay, just let me know when you’re coming back. And that was it. So I never, I didn’t have an issue there. But I mean, I know I’ve heard stories of women who basically could only take 2 weeks of maternity leave.
Amanda – Oh my goodness.
JoAnna – Because their bosses were just basically like, well if you don’t come back in 2 weeks, you will no longer have a job. We’re not willing to hold your job longer than 2 weeks. And if it was a company that, where they didn’t qualify for Family Medical Leave Act, they had no recourse, they had no alternative. It was either try to find a new job while pregnant which is hard, or not have a job which is hard. And it’s just, you’re in a really tough situation there. And then I’ve been in other situations where I did quality for Family Medical Leave Act, and I did have some sort of paid maternity leave. So it really depends, it’s still a problem I think. I think it’s still something we are gonna need. We need to change the concept in the workplace of the male wombless body being normative. Because the basic assumption seems to be, you’re gonna be this employee without a womb, who does not get pregnant, who does not need to take 6 to 8 weeks or more of leave every couple years. And that’s how you should be and if you’re not, you’re deficient in some way. Or even just, starting to encourage fathers to take paternity leave or family leave or parental leave or whatever it’s called at various places. Because if we can make it seem normal for a person of any sex to take 6 to 8 weeks off when a new baby is born, it’s not gonna seem like that much of an accommodation or that much of a hardship, you know? Because I know with all of my kids, my husband took, I think the most he ever took off was 2 weeks. And we were grateful to get that 2 weeks. ‘Cause there were sometimes he was only able to take like, 3 days off and then he had to go back.
Amanda – Wow.
JoAnna – And you know, so the times where he was able to take 2 weeks off was wonderful. But even then, I mean, it would have been amazing if he could have taken a month off, or 6 weeks off. Or even 8 weeks off. Just to help me, just to help our family adjust. And I don’t think enough fathers are, if they’re offered that benefit, I’m not sure if they’re taking advantage of it. Maybe they’re scared that if they do, their career’s gonna suffer. Because coworker Bob, who doesn’t have kids is gonna be seen as the go getter because he didn’t take 8 weeks off.
Amanda – My husband was off for 2 weeks of paternity leave for our 3rd child and our 4th child. Those kind of blend together for me because they’re only 15 months apart. And he was only gonna take a week of it. And you know, we lived right across the street from campus, and so I thought, okay, well he’s a professor. I can deal with one week of him fully at home and one week with him you know, on call. But his coworkers, his male coworkers said, hey we fought hard to get these 2 weeks of paternity leave, you need to take both.
JoAnna – Yeah.
Amanda – And so I was really thankful for his coworkers to say, no, this is something the university is trying to say they value. You need to spend 2 weeks at home with your family. It would have been awesome if it had been more. We have a little bit of more flexible situation since he’s off a whole month at Christmas and three months in the summer.
JoAnna – Yeah, my husband, before he had the job that he has now, he worked for a school district. I mean, he wasn’t a teacher or anything, he was a computer programmer, so he didn’t like, get the summers off. When our 6th baby was born in January 2017, he still, he only took a couple days off because that’s all he had. He didn’t have any kind of family. I mean they had unpaid family leave. But they didn’t have any paid family leave and they couldn’t afford for us to take unpaid leave. So he took, I’m trying to remember, she was born on a Saturday, I think he took like 3 days off and then went back to work that following Thursday, I’m trying to remember. But yeah, that was all he had. I basically, you know, 3 days after she was born, it was back to business as normal. And I had to get up and get everyone ready for school in the mornings and everything.
Amanda – My goodness.
JoAnna – It was hard. It was really hard.
Amanda – Yeah, I couldn’t have, we moved back to my hometown to be near my parents when I was pregnant with our 2nd. So that has gotten me through a lot of that.
JoAnna – I lived close to my family when our first two were born which was really nice.
Amanda – Your book is called The Catholic Working Mom’s Guide to Life. And it’s obviously targeted towards Catholic working mothers. But I really think that any working mom, any mom who thinks she might want to work or you know, needs some help in her daily life would benefit from reading your book. Do you think so?
JoAnna – I think so. The 2nd chapter is all about working mother saints. So I’m not sure if our protestant brothers and sisters or non-Catholic brothers and sisters would be as enthused about that portion. But otherwise I think it’s a book that any working mother could get something out of, definitely.
Amanda – And where can our listeners find your book?
JoAnna – Right now it’s available for preorder at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble. And I think it’s gonna be up pretty soon on the Our Sunday Visitor website as well.
Amanda – How about you, how can our listeners get in touch with you and your Catholic Working Mothers group and blog?
JoAnna – I have all that information at my website which is www.catholicworkingmom.com.
Amanda – Okay! Well, JoAnna I thank you so much for taking your time to talk with me today and tell your husband thanks for covering when I misunderstood the difference between central and mountain time.
JoAnna – No problem!
Amanda – Well I look forward to reading your book in hard copy and thank you so much for sharing what you’ve done and what you’re doing with the listeners of Fat and Faithful!
JoAnna – Great, thank you so much for having me!
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
Amanda – Welcome to Fat and Faithful, an ongoing conversation about faith, politics, and culture as they relate to fatness.
Nicole – Hi everyone and welcome to this episode of Fat and Faithful, we’re so glad you’re joining us here today! This is J. Nicole Morgan, and I am here with my podcast cohost and friend, Amanda Martinez Beck. Hi Amanda, how are you today?
Amanda – I’m doing well. Good to talk to you Nicole!
Nicole – You too! It’s been like, I feel like it’s been a few weeks since we’ve actually sat down to record, we’ve just had life.
Amanda – Yep, sick kid, sick cohosts, life.
Nicole – Travel, yeah. Anyway, so welcome back everyone, we’re glad you’re with us. We’re not a consistent one week a week, one podcast a week podcast people, but you love us anyway.
Amanda – That is okay. What are we talking about today, Nicole?
Nicole – So today, we are talking about fat grief. And I think we’ll have to define what that means a little bit for both of us. And it can mean a whole variety of things. But just this idea that there’s some like, deep sadness and sorrow that’s connected to being fat. Yeah, and that’s a reality and how do we process that and what’s that look like for us.
Amanda – Yeah, and where our safe spaces to grieve for that, there are not many. So we’ll be talking about how you can find a safe space to grieve, and it’s gonna be a good conversation, not our most lighthearted conversation. We’ll start with, a friend shared with me not long ago, that she was grieving a loss. And didn’t feel like she could share that in public because people would blame that loss on her being fat. And so she felt very alone in her grief. I just, it struck in a powerful way because, ugh, if we have to grieve alone, that is just so isolating. I’m really glad that she found a place that she could grieve the loss that she had experienced. But what happens when you feel like you can’t grieve publicly? So what circumstances, Nicole, have you had something where you’ve felt grief but you haven’t felt free to grieve publicly?
Nicole – Yeah and I mean, I’m not like a public griever by nature, but there’s definitely, where I don’t feel like I’m allowed to express my sadness and my grief and how it’s connected to fatness. And I guess you know, right now, most of you who follow me on Twitter, you know I’m talking about my attempts to date this year. And often there’s this reality that my singleness is connected in some ways to the size of my body and that that influences. And I know that’s not the only reason I’m single, I know thin people are single and fat people get married. Those are all true things and it’s also true that my body plays a role into who’s available for me to date and who’s interested in dating me. And so often it feels like when I express that kind of grief, people want to quickly assure me, that those aren’t the people I want anyways, if they’re not willing to date me, or they offer all of these, I mean platitudes maybe. Or just reasons. Or they try to assure me that it’s not my body or that if it is my body, that I don’t want them anyway, or tell me stories about fat people who got married or thin people say that they’re single too, and all of those things can be true. But sometimes I just want to acknowledge that part of our messed up world and how we’ve coated fat bodies and their value means that it’s harder for me to get a date than if I was the same person who was also thin. And so yeah, that’s a source of grief. I posted on Twitter a couple weeks ago, that, or maybe not that long, that you know like, intentionally dating this year has had its fun moments, like you know, going on dates and flirting is fun. But it’s also just highlighted like a loneliness. Yeah, that’s a reality. And my body is a part of that reality. And having space to acknowledge that and be sad about it is difficult.
Amanda – You know on Twitter you’ve been expressing grief but I think it’s also been laced with humor.
Nicole – Yeah, which is kind of my default. You know, coping mechanism.
Amanda – I think there can be that tension of, there is grief and humor tied together and that’s one way we cope. But also, and maybe this isn’t something that you’re looking for, but is there space on Twitter to grieve about online dating without it being funny? Like, that’s a question.
Nicole – Yeah, I mean, I don’t know. It’s hard to sit there, like you’re putting it out in this public forum. For me, that’s probably not the most conducive space for me to just be sad and to not have the little bit of humor with it. Because, yeah, and putting that out there for people, and this is not like my close friends, like it’s just literally thousands of people. So many of you I love dearly but I don’t know half of you either. So yeah, that’s an awkward space to do that in.
Amanda – Yeah and I think that’s something instructive, like we have to learn where it is safe to grieve.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – Fully, without humor, or without the pressure to perform in our grief. To draw some life lesson out of what we’ve experienced, or to say, you know, let God’s will be done. And just to sit in that uncomfortable place. I think that’s a human experience that we need to have. But from our perspectives as fat women, what are not safe places and what are safe places to grieve?
Nicole – Yeah ,and I think in terms of like, public grieving, about fatness, I can do it much easier if it’s not about me. And so can express grief and anger over fat erasure or fat abuse on Twitter without being funny about it if it’s not about me. If it’s about other fat people. And I mean even then, like you’re gonna get a lot of people trying to fix the problem. Or it’s just like, this echoing chamber of let’s all yell over each other. And so even then like, that just like, let’s just sit in the grief and be sad and feel it, is hard. But I’m less likely to need to like protect my own kind of vulnerable emotions if it’s about someone else than if it’s about me. And I don’t necessarily think that’s wrong, I think it’s good for me to know that and make sure that I’m like aware of all of those dynamics as I’m processing my own emotions. But yeah, I think there’s a distinction there.
Amanda – Yeah, I’m glad you made that distinction. I was thinking about another way that grief can feel limited for fat people. And that’s with fertility issues. A couple episodes ago, it might have been the last episode, I don’t remember but, we had Nicola Salmon on and she deals with fat fertility but that’s one area where, fat people are really not allowed to publicly grieve without getting input or shaming. Because of the size of their body. Well if you just did this, or if you ate this way, or if you lost weight, than all these problems would be solved miraculously and you could have a baby. And putting the burden of that grief on the person that’s grieving. It’s basically your fault that you can’t have a baby.
Nicole – Right. And it’s just, I mean I think we as humans are bad at grief in general. Like we try to run to fix the problem, but with fatness there’s that specific, everyone, such the common cultural assumption that we can just, we can make this grief go away if we would just fix our bodies. And for so many people it’s the simple, well just do this, or why you are upset about it? You should know that this is what’s gonna happen if you’re fat. And one, that’s like not true, and two, it’s just rude.
Amanda – I think one way that we think about grief as fat people is a similar way that we think about medical problems. We ask, you know, if a doctor says you need to lose weight, we say well can we, does this problem occur in people who are quote, average weight? You know, does infertility occur to people with average weight. Yes, okay then, I’m allowed to grieve this, this is not my fault. And just taking that burden of fault away has such a huge thing. With your body and dating too, like, it is a systemic issue, it is not Nicole’s fault, or Amanda’s fault, that people in our culture have been trained to find thin bodies more attractive than fat bodies. That is not our fault.
Nicole – Right. It’s like we live with the consequences of that. But we’re allowed to grieve those consequences and the impact they have on our lives.
Amanda – Right. A couple of spaces that Nicole and I have found to be helpful for grieving is one with close friends, where you feel safe, expressing that, even how your size plays into that. So Nicole and I might talk to each other, we grieve together a bit. And then we also have our group, All Bodies are Good Bodies and when you can come together under the premise that this body is good, no matter what size or condition it’s in, then there’s a freedom to talk about things that grieve you. And then Nicola Salmon has a group, Fat Fertility, I’m not sure the name of it, I can post it in the show notes. But finding a space of people who are like you in a similar struggle that you can commiserate is part of it, the commiseration, but also just a safe space to grieve.
Nicole – Yeah, and I think, I have a local friend group that I hang out with and just, we were, last time we got together we were chatting and somehow it got on the conversation of like, churches. And we were talking about visiting a local church and I made the comment that I had looked into visiting this particular one and then when I pulled up the website and I read the pastor’s bio, she had a fat joke in her bio. And you know, I was very thankful in that moment, we didn’t spend a lot of time on that topic, but that that the other people at the table with me, got why that was an issue. And there wasn’t this, oh well like, what’s the big deal, everyone does it. They are just like, oh, that’s awful, you know, like, they agreed with me. That that is just disappointing and disheartening, like when you’re excited about trying out this new thing and you think you’ve found the place. Like church hunting is hard and complicated and all kinds of crazy, there wasn’t like a moment of grief per se. But just kind of picture to me of what it looks like to make space for that type of, for the grief in your communities. Like they didn’t dismiss it or minimize it, and it wasn’t even a big deal, we spent like 2 seconds on the topic and then we moved on.
Amanda – How valuable, how valuable is that though. I mean it reminds me of the word compassion. So com means with, like con in Spanish. And then passion is suffering. And that, when we have compassion on someone, we sit there with them and we suffer with them, like our hearts connect in a way that binds us together. You know, we talk about that in Christian settings, but people of any faith or no faith can practice that, sitting with someone in grief. And how valuable that is. So I was thinking about one question that you and I get asked, Nicole, is if we’re on the journey to body positivity and fat acceptance, is it okay to grieve that we’re fat?
Nicole – Yeah, that’s a hard one. I mean, yeah, common.
Amanda – That we’re fat.
Nicole – Yes, I remember very early on in my journey and occasionally it will pop up, but I had to grieve the loss of the hope that I would one day be thin. Like and that’s part of this fat acceptance journey is letting go of this dream you have, or this idea that one day you’re gonna figure it out and your body is gonna look like the world tells you it’s supposed to look like. And it’s not, I don’t know people might take this out of context to say, oh see, she’s just saying you give in and you get as fat as you want to. That’s what I’m saying at all. I’m saying, you accept your body and you let your body be as it is. And you stop striving for, or believing that one day you’re going to actually be this completely other body. Yeah, there’s a grief process there.
Amanda – Right, and I think part of that is also grieving the reality of being fat, what it means for your body in society. That it’s hard, that makes life harder. That people feel free to comment on the space that you take up or the clothing that you have available to you. I mean people are not leaving their houses because they are grieving, they are afraid of being attacked for being fat, for being different, for having a body that doesn’t fit cultural standards. That brings me grief in thinking of the pain and the suffering that people are experiencing because of how absurd our culture is about bodies.
Nicole – Yeah, I remember writing in a journal, like back when I did hand written journals a million years ago. I was probably 6 months into me learning about fat acceptance. And I just, I wrote that I wanted to unlearn, like what I had seen. That I had started learning about the ways that fat bodies are systematically, institutionally, marginalized and discriminated against in healthcare and jobs and housing and access and accommodations. And I lived in a fat body my entire life before then, but I didn’t see all of that because I believed I deserved it, or a believed that it was my fault, and so any type of discrimination or just hate against my body, like I internalized and it was my problem, instead of the world’s problem. And so as I began to kind of see the way that the world was set up to discriminate against my body, I didn’t wanna know anymore. Because it was harder to know that then to just go with the flow. And be the person who was trying to lose weight and who knew I was bad and who knew I needed to fix it. Like, then it was just me instead of this entire world that was setup against me. And I wanted to unlearn that, it was so hard to have all that knowledge and to know that I was that hated by so many other people instead of just myself. That was a hard moment to push past. I read, for those of you listening who might like, some of the theory around this. Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed deals a lot with this like, internalized shame and stigma, where you take on society’s stigma against you and you internalize it and you believe it about yourself. And I think that book has been very influential for me in terms of kind of understanding how some of those dynamics work.
Amanda – Thank you for sharing that recommendation. Can you repeat the name of the book and the author?
Nicole – Paolo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
Amanda – You know, you mentioned what you deserve as internalized. And a lot of research is coming out now that, number one dieting doesn’t work for most people. 90% of people who go on diets fail. But also that children as young as 8 are expected to diet and have body conformity. And how that influences the way that children see themselves. Around the age where they’re starting to develop self-identity, they’re being told you take up too much space. You’re too big. And then it creates this culture of, “I deserve any bad treatment I get because I’m not conforming.” And that doesn’t just affect self-esteem, that affects how peers treat them, and also how adults treat children.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – In a way that, we’re about to share something that’s pretty intense, so just wanna, to give you a content warning, we’re gonna talk about child abuse related to a child’s body size. So if you don’t feel like you can handle that, then maybe leave off the episode right now. So we’re gonna talk about the story of La’Ravah Davis. She was —
Nicole – 5.
Amanda – She was 5. And she was a little girl who did not fit the cultural standard of small which is kind of the expectation for little girls. And her mother and her mother’s boyfriend who was a former professional football player, her mother’s name was Amy Taylor. And the boyfriend’s name was Cierre Woods. And they were accused of the murder of this little girl because of the size of her body. Nicole, if you wanna share.
Nicole – Yeah. So I just, this was a Tweet that I saw and then I texted it to Amanda and just talking about like Twitter as a space to share grief. Like I didn’t even retweet it because I was just so sad and outraged. That I was like, I don’t even know, Twitter wasn’t the place for me to express my grief about it. But reading some articles on it, it seems like that there was some abuse going on outside of this incident that we’re gonna talk about. But the boyfriend was trying to find ways to discipline the 5 year old girl and he says in some of the interviews that we read that he didn’t feel like he could spank her. So he would have her exercise because, and he said, she was chunky. And that it would be good for her and it would help her on her life. And then this girl, this 5 year old child died as a result of the abuse. And part of that was that he had her running and doing sit-ups and she went into cardiac arrest. And just the fact that this 5 year old child was exercised to the point of death, along with the other abuse, that it’s all tragically mixed up there together. But that this was, you’re disciplining a 5 year old child and you’re calling her chunky and saying that she needs to do this extreme exercise in order to get onto a better path in life. And just that, that grief reminded me a lot about, 2012 I believe, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta did a campaign against childhood obesity that was just abhorrent. Where they stigmatized fat children. And bullied fat children publicly. And it made me think of that, and how this, this case of this young girl dying is tragic and everyone will call it evil. But it shows up from official people who are supposed to care about the health of children and everyone calls it good. And just that grief.
Amanda – It’s really an indictment against diet culture and our obsession with thinness. That if you’re thin you are saved from a lot of pain, of the experience of fat people. You know the campaign had a billboard that said, it’s hard to be a little girl if you’re not a little girl. And oh my goodness, to define someone’s childhood as good or bad based on the size of their body is awful. I can’t even express, you know and I, in some of the other groups I’m in on Facebook, when dieting about children comes up, I try to offer some input. You know, one of the biggest reasons that I know that I have to keep doing the work that I’m doing and that I’m so thankful for the work that you’re doing, Nicole, is that I want to leave a legacy of body love. Because it’s rooted, so much of, so many problems are rooted in the self-hatred and the self-loathing. And I want my children and their children and their children to know, that all bodies are good bodies. My body is good. And I don’t have to change to be loved.
Nicole – Amen.
Amanda – If you are needing a place to grieve about your body, if you are experiencing isolation in your body because you don’t fit into society’s standards, we very much welcome into our group, All Bodies are Good Bodies, on Facebook. You can get there by going to Facebook.com/groups/allbodiesaregoodbodies. And please know that you have a place that’s safe to grieve. You don’t have to grieve alone.
Nicole – Yeah. We’d love for you to join us there if that’s something you would like to do. You can also join in on discussions on Twitter, you can find me at @jnicolemorgan there, Amanda is @amandambeck on twitter. And then on Instagram, I am @Jnicolemorgan there as well and Amanda is @your_body_is_good with underscores between each word. We’d love to have these conversations with you and hear what you’re thinking.
Amanda – Well much love to you guys, and if you have a topic you’d like us to discuss on the podcast, get in touch with us, we would love to have that conversation.
Nicole – And as always, if you enjoy the podcast, we’d love if you would like, review, share our podcast with your friends. That helps us to reach more people with our mission to love God incarnate and our neighbor’s bodies as our own.
Amanda – Thanks y’all.
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.
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
Amanda – Welcome to Fat and Faithful, an ongoing conversation about faith, politics, and culture as they relate to fatness.
Amanda – Hello and welcome to this episode of Fat and Faithful. I’m Amanda Martinez Beck and Nicole isn’t with us today. Instead, I have a guest. Kendall Vanderslice is joining us today. Hi, Kendall.
Kendall – Hi!
Amanda – So glad to have you on the show.
Kendall – So great to be here.
Amanda – So Kendall, can you introduce yourself, tell us what you do, how we got connected and, uh, just why you’re interested in being on our podcast. Thank you, by the way, for being on our podcast.
Kendall – Yeah, thanks for inviting me. So I am a baker and a writer. I explore the intersections of food, faith, and culture. My background is in food studies. So I study the social dynamics of eating together and the role that food plays in our social interactions. And that has caused me to question, what does my faith say about food and how do these food studies theories intersect with theology. So, I’m now a student at Duke Divinity School, kind of exploring those themes a little bit further.
Amanda – So what is the degree that you’re seeking at Duke Divinity?
Kendall – I’m seeking a Masters of Theological Studies.
Amanda – Ok. And do you get to pick a concentration or is it just you’re, you’re studying food.
Kendall – Yeah, I’m, I’m specifically studying food, working on developing a theology of the culinary arts and of eating.
Amanda – That’s fascinating and something I’m so interested in.
Kendall – Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
Amanda – So, I was looking at your website this morning and you said something about researching around the country about meal-centered worship. Can you tell me more about that?
Kendall – Yeah. So, I have spent the last three years studying dinner churches, which are churches that hold their services over the course of a meal. Uh, kind of trying to connect back with some descriptions that we have of how the early church met, around the table. And also trying to reconnect, the regular daily meal with our understanding of the practice of the Eucharist. So, I spent the last year traveling around, visiting ten different churches across, the United States, a range of locations, a range of denominations, a range of, sizes, to see how this practice works. And I am now working on turning that into a book that will be out with Eerdmans Press next year.
Amanda – That’s so exciting.
Kendall – Yeah!
Amanda – What is your publishing date?
Kendall – Probably winter of 2018, 2019.
Amanda – ok.
Kendall – Like that, that December to January-ish range.
Amanda – So exciting. There’s so many books…
Kendall – Yeah
Amanda – …coming out this year about, or in the next year, about things that I’m really interested in. Your book, Nicole’s book, which is on faith and fatness, and…
Kendall – Your book.
Amanda – …my book, on…
Kendall – I’m so excited about all of these.
Amanda – …bodies, so it’s, I’m really encouraged that not only are these books being written, but they’re being written by my friends. It’s, it’s kinda crazy. You wake up one morning and you’re like, oh my goodness, my friends, like, are awesome.
Amanda – So Kendall, I think that we met on Twitter.
Kendall – Yeah, I think so. I was, I was trying to think back through that, but I think it was Twitter.
Amanda – And…
Kendall – I love Twitter.
Amanda – I think maybe Nicole might have retweeted you or something. I think that’s how we got connected.
Kendall – It must be. I think I just stumbled upon Nicole, I’m not even sure how, and then, through her, I think, yeah, connected with you and…
Kendall – Oh, cool.
Amanda – A year and a half ago. And that’s how we became friends, so, I love the interwebs.
Kendall – Me, too. Man, I have met so many fascinating people over Twitter. That is, it is a great place.
Amanda – Yeah, so I have some questions for you.
Kendall – Ok.
Amanda – Why do we eat?
Kendall – Oh. Well, so, I see, from, from a theological standpoint, God created us with really two, each individual with two basic needs. We have a, a need for food, for nutrients to keep our bodies going and we have a need for companionship. We have a need, for, to be with other people and to be in community. And food is the place where both of those needs are met. And it’s also the place of our greatest delight. We, we fill, our needs for nourishment are met, our needs for other people are met. And we find great delight in the process of eating together. So.
Amanda – That is beautiful. I, I have an, an etymology question for you.
Kendall – Yeah.
Amanda – Do you know where the word ‘companion’ comes from?
Kendall – Yeah, it comes from bread. The person you break bread with.
Amanda – The person with whom you break bread. That is one of my favorite word stories.
Kendall – Yeah, it’s great.
Amanda – I love it. So, literally, to have companionship is what we’re made for. To break bread with other people. And obviously, that’s connected with the image of the Eucharist and breaking bread together.
Kendall – Absolutely.
Amanda – With thanksgiving. So, do you think that food is more than just fuel for your body?
Kendall – Oh, absolutely. I, I think, I always go back to, just the Genesis account of creation and, and the purpose of the world, and food is central to the entire thing.
Amanda – Hmm. Tell me more about that.
Kendall – We were created out of soil. So humanity was created out of, the very product through which food comes, too
Amanda – Mmm.
Kendall – So, we were not created first, we were not created, above all else. We were created out of the soil. And we return back to the soil and same with food. It, it’s born out of the soil and it returns back to the soil, to, to feed the soil further. And so, in this way, food reminds us that our relationship is not just a relationship between us and God, but a relationship between ourselves and the ground, one another, our own bodies, and those physical relationships are what connect us with God. And this, this very first command that humans are given, is to keep and till the earth, and then to, to multiply and, and bear fruit. So, we were told to protect the ground and to, to harvest food out of the ground, and to carry life on through our relationships with the ground and with one another. And we don’t really see a break in any of those relationships until the act of eating the food that we’re not supposed to eat. You know, God, God ordered the world in this beautiful interdependence, where, where we rely on the ground and the ground relies on our careful, tending of it. And, and God said, you know, preserve this interdependence and, and life will continue to move forward. And, the first humans ignored that and, and discovered that they could use food for good and for evil. And from there we see the breakdown of our relationships with the ground and our relationships with one another and our relationships with our own bodies and food is still central to that breakdown.
Amanda – Wow…this is, there’s so much here my brain is like, racing with so many things that I have not thought of, but are very pertinent what I’m writing and thinking through. Wow, I’m like, gonna cry. This is so good.
Kendall – You know, these theologies of the body and theologies of eating are so deeply interwoven. So, yeah, I’m really excited for what you’re doing, too. I think it’s gonna be so informative of my own thought process.
Amanda – Well, I, man, this is really good. I gotta collect myself a little bit. I feel like the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. Just when, when Eve eats the forbidden fruit, um, how much, how much of the shame that we feel in eating is connected with that, and, man. Because for me, food has not been a celebratory thing for the bulk of my life, it has been a battleground.
Kendall – Yeah
Amanda – My appetite is a battleground. And so, being, I used to believe that my spirit was good and my flesh was bad because I had so much hatred for my body. And because I couldn’t seem to get in control of what I ate, or if I ate the right things or the wrong things and, just to, to hear you talk about how food connects us to the physical world is kinda blowing my mind right now. Prevents us from living a gnostic lifestyle. And for, for those who aren’t familiar with the term gnosticism, it comes from the Greek word, gnosis, which is knowledge, And it has to do with saying that the spirit world is good and the physical world is bad and it’s this dualism where we are actually created beings, we can’t be separated spirit and body, like we are integrated people. So, we said why do we eat, number one food, number two companionship. My next question is, what is food for?
Kendall – So, I believe that first and foremost, food is about delighting in God’s creation. I think that God created, God created out of love, an overflow of love, that God desired for there to be a creation that that just contained this overwhelming love the God has. And a part of that was a creation that eats and a creation that delights in food, and in sharing food together. And so, I think that’s really kind of, first and foremost, God created us as eating creatures to connect with God and the world that God created. So I think that’s what we see going back before Genesis 3. And I think because that is the deep powerful purpose of food, I think that is why our relationships with eating, are such fertile ground for shame and for brokenness, because I think it is so central to the purpose of creation that, of course, it’s going to be so central to, what is aching in creation, as well.
Amanda – Ok, I’m holding back tears here because…
Kendall – It’s ok. I cry all the time when I start thinking about it. It’s still, every time, every time I say it or write it, you know, I get very emotional because it’s, it’s so beautiful.
Amanda – And just thinking about, in, in t
he garden of Eden, in the Genesis account, God gives us choices of what to eat.
Kendall – Yeah.
Amanda – And one tree of eating brings us life, and one tree brings a knowledge of good and evil and subsequently a break in relationship with God. So, how important is it that Jesus says, “This is my body broken for you. Eat this. Unless you eat my body and drink my blood, you have no part with me.”? Just that redemption of eating and I’m just like, I’m going to have to sit in this for a little while and let that redemption, that purchasing back, like, food, our appetite, part of our appetite led to separation from God and now God uses our appetite to bring union in the way that he always wanted us to have a union with him. That’s so good of him.
Kendall – Yeah, I think, I think when I began to see that parallel, when I made that parallel between the eating in Genesis 3 and this meal that brought destruction and then the parallel of that, this meal that brings redemption and connecting those two is so deeply moving for me and that is what, that is what has kind of pushed me on in all of my future studies and food.
Amanda – Wow. So a question that, this is a question about a verse that just hit me recently with its connection to food and bodies, but can you think of a time in Scripture where it talks about swallowing?
Kendall – Oh.
Amanda – Anything ring a bell?
Kendall – No.
Amanda – Sorry I didn’t know I didn’t give you any prompts so.. That’s OK. Paul writes about, in 1 Corinthians 15:54, he says “death is swallowed up in victory,” and then in 2 Corinthians 5:4, this is the verse “for while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” I can’t remember if I’m remembering correctly, sometimes my memory is a little iffy, but I think C.S. Lewis said something about the humility of Jesus, in letting us eat his body. Like, he humbles himself to let him be taken into us through the Eucharist and then those molecules become part of us. So, we eat the body of Jesus, we drink the blood of Jesus and – this is me being pretty Catholic so, sorry listeners, if you gotta wrap your mind around this. But believe that we’re eating and drinking Jesus. And he, his body, his life actually is integrated into our physical being. But it, it, it makes me wonder. I don’t know if you’re familiar with N.T. Wright’s work Surprised by Hope?
Kendall – A little bit.
Amanda – So he talks about creation and how we’re not just gonna go live in this heaven without bodies, like God’s plan is for a world of bodies with, without sin, but like through the cross and resurrection of Jesus there’s a new heavens and a new earth that actually have soil like we were incarnated in the resurrection. So, to think, so often I think about, or when I talk to other Christians about what happens when we die, it’s this separation of body and soul. And they can’t wait to be done with the the body. So when I came across these two uses of swallow in Paul, death swallowed up in victory, what is mortal may be swallowed up by life, it makes me wonder though about the eating imagery there. Like what, what is it going to look like in the new heavens and new earth? How does it…what does it mean for the mortal to be swallowed up by life? Because previously I thought it was just destruction, like death shall die and be no more. And we’ll live. But what does it mean for, for what is mortal to be swallowed up by life? I don’t think, I don’t expect you to have an answer. I just wanted to ask what you wrote with your initial thoughts were on that passage.
Kendall – I love that imagery. I haven’t, I haven’t noticed the use of the word “swallow” but I think that’s so, so beautiful. The thing that I always put I’m drawn to is the imagery in Revelation where we have this parallel with the garden from Genesis. And we have the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil is not there just the tree of life. And the tree of life it is described as a tree whose leaves hail the nations. And in that I see a very physical world where it is again the same, the same, the same soil that produced us, and the same soil that grows fruit and grows trees. Those, those very trees are going to be the center of this reconciling and this healing. And I also just envision this this imagery of Jesus, after his resurrection, being in a body. And it’s it’s not a glorified body, it’s not a body that is more beautiful than the one when he walked on Earth. It’s a body that’s scarred it’s a body that bears the wounds of his crucifixion. And so when this imagery of the mortal being swallowed up by life, I envision that the scars of this world, it’s not going back to this garden in Genesis. It’s not that we’re wiping away or overlooking what’s happened in the meantime, the ache and brokenness that’s happened in the meantime. But even that ache and that brokenness is being taken and made beautiful. And our understandings of what is good are going to be so overwhelmed and flipped on their heads and turned around that even our scars are going to be something beautiful.
Amanda – Oh my goodness.
Kendall – This very physical, embodied world, is gonna be made good.
Amanda – Well I have two thoughts connected with with that imagery. Well three. One is just the amazing, creative love of God. That it’s, it’s not a let’s start over, it’s a let’s move, let’s go from here. And that that is ultimately even better than what it would have been had Adam and Eve never eaten the fruit. That this, it’s just endlessly creative, and powerful love that’s so delightful. So that’s my first thought. My second thought is the healing, the leaves will be for the healing of the nations, from the tree of life in Genesis, I mean in Revelation, while same tree from Genesis. But…
Kendall – Right, right.
Amanda – But so that the leaves are good but there’s, it bears fruit in every month.
Kendall – Yes, yes.
Amanda – Like, just this absurd amount of life happening. Of every, every month, and you’re like, oh hey, it’s another fruit on this tree. This is so weird. And wonderful. I just, I’m fascinated by thinking about that. And with the leaves being healing I imagine, like, taking leaves off a tree and putting them in a mortar with a pestle and making like a salve. And it reminds me of Jesus healing the blind man when he spit in the mud. And I heard that story explained so many time,s like Jesus didn’t need to spit in the mud, he could have just healed him. But I think that for that man, he did have to spit in the mud and rub that dirt in his eyes. Which is so counterintuitive, right? You don’t, you don’t heal someone’s eyes by putting mud in them. But anyway it just.
Kendall – I just in that see this reconnection again with, God didn’t have to pick up the mud to create us, but God did.
Amanda – I mean that’s a that’s a zing, a good zing. He was having fun. He was delighting himself in creating. And that’s one thing I really, when I talk about bodies, I ask the question, you know if you stopped worrying about how much you were eating and how much you were exercising, what would you be doing instead? Like, what would you have the time to do? And if you enjoy exercising and if you enjoy eating vegetables only, do that. Do what brings you peace, but don’t, let’s let our creative energies flow. Let’s let our imaginations be captured so that we can love our neighbor well and love the earth. Wow, so good. So, one, one more question. I think it’ll, it’ll give us a few minutes of conversation. What, when you talk about what you’re writing about, do people have objections?
Kendall – I have not come across many objections at this point. I don’t know if that’s because I am typically in communities of people that are really excited about food and reconnecting worship with food.
Amanda – So the reason I ask. Maybe I should just give a leading question. I get asked, and I know Nicole does too, when we talk about the goodness of bodies and fat acceptance or size dignity activism, say, “well, what about gluttony?” And so I was just wondering if you had anything to say about gluttony, what you’ve, if you studied that at all.
Kendall – I’ve not dug too deeply into gluttony. It was something that actually came up a lot in my, my food studies program. Because, kind of, my, my program was called a, it was a master’s in gastronomy. And the very word gastronomy sort of gained popularity because gastronomes, people who were very deeply interested in food, were trying to differentiate themselves from gluttons. Saying, you know, we care about the fine things and the enjoyment of food, and making it into a high class thing in comparison to the idea of gluttony. So the topic came up some in, in that context. But, I think I work really hard to frame, to frame my work in the mindset of fasting and feasting. And, and seeing that throughout scripture and throughout Christian tradition, fasting and feasting always kind of go hand-in-hand. I think of the season of Lent. It’s a season of fasting, but within that season of fasting, we have intermittent feasts. You don’t, you don’t fast on Sunday during Lent. That’s always a feast day and at the end of the season of fasting, you have 50 days of Eastertide. Fifty days of feasting to go along with that 40 days of fasting. So, in thinking of those tensions, it kind of moves out of the language of gluttony I think, because language of delight and of savoring, has a kind of restriction inherent to it. If you’re truly delighting in something, you’re not just consuming it thoughtlessly, you’re thinking about the process of consumption.
Amanda – It makes me think of Matthew 5:11, which says, “it’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out.” When we place moral judgment on food, like this is a good food and this is a bad food, we’re saying what goes into you defiles you. Do you talk at all about that in what you’re doing, about the goodness of food versus how sometimes it’s perceived as bad?
Kendall – Yeah. I am, I am intent on getting people to see food as inherently good, to see food as gift, to see food as, this is the center point of creation because God longs for us to delight in it. And that the moralizing of food, that seeing it as bad, is actually a result of being fallen and broken. That the food itself is a good gift created by God and we can use it in bad ways. We can use it in ways that hurt other people. We can use it in ways that hurt the earth. But that food itself, was created by God has been called good and was never called not good. So that’s how I am working to kind of change the conversation around food.
Amanda – I like that. I like that a lot. This is so good. Edible theology, Kendall.
Kendall – That’s what I do.
Amanda – That’s so exciting. So I, I don’t know that I’ve told this story on the podcast but when I was three years old, I wanted to take communion at my Bible Church. We took it weekly and my parents wouldn’t let me and they told me why after church, they explained the gospel to me and I prayed to receive Jesus because I wanted to eat. I wanted what my friend Amanda Wortham’s daughter calls, the Jesus snack. And that, God drawing me to him through my appetite is something that I was initially embarrassed by because, I mean you make fun of little kids who just always want to eat, but that he has shown me in the past several years that no, that’s what he, “That’s what I do Amanda. I use appetites to draw you to me.” That’s, appetites draw together for food, for companionship, for procreation, for so many things that he uses our appetites to draw us to him. So, we learn, we learn things about our appetites as we go through. But it’s, they’re not bad. They are, they draw us to Him. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst.
Kendall – Yes, yes. Oh, that’s so beautiful. That’s so beautiful.
Amanda – Well, do you have anything you’d like to tell our listeners? Anything that you’re, that I didn’t touch on that you want to communicate with us about the goodness of food and edible theology?
Kendall – I mean, there are so many things, that I can talk about it forever. Yeah I think my, my biggest thought is just that we can never fully understand the goodness of food, unless we do what it is that God told us to do as the church and eat together. That it is in this process of eating together as the church, that we can really begin to work our way into this deeper understanding of the goodness of food at the center of creation, and the role of food in healing our divisions.
Amanda – Wow. Well, I am really excited for your book. We will definitely talk about it on the podcast once it’s out, hopefully have you back to talk about it.
Kendall – Yeah, I’d love that.
Amanda – And where can our listeners find you?
Kendall – You can find me on Twitter, is my favorite spot to hang out. I am @kvslice and then I’m also on Instagram, at the same @kvslice and on Facebook as Kendall Vanderslice.
Amanda – Great. And your website is KendallVanderslice.com?
Kendall – Yes. Yes.
Amanda – And Fat and Faithful listeners you make sure that you follow Kendall, ‘cause she’s got good things to say, thought-provoking things. And you can also follow us @fatandfaithful on Twitter. And then Nicole’s handle is @JNicoleMorgan and mine is @AmandaMBeck. And we always love to hear from our listeners. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet us. You can also find us on Facebook at fatandfaithful.com/fatandfaith… I’m sorry Facebook.com/fatandfaithful. And we always love to hear your questions, you know get push back a little bit, we love, we love the, the struggle. And working through this together like Jacob wrestling the angel. We’re seeking understanding and blessing through that that struggle.
Thank you so much Kendall for joining us and Nicole and I look forward to the next time we get to talk to you.
Episode Transcription by Fayelle Ewuakye. Find her on Twitter at @FayelleEwuakye.
Amanda – Welcome to Fat and Faithful, an ongoing conversation about faith, politics, and culture, as they relate to fatness.
Amanda – Welcome to this episode of Fat and Faithful. I’m Amanda Martinez Beck and I’m here with my faithful co-host.
Nicole – Hi everyone, I’m J. Nicole Morgan. Nice to see you again. . . . or hear you? I don’t really know what to say there.
Amanda – Nice to present our disembodied voices to you on a podcast platform.
Nicole – It’s a pleasure. As always.
Amanda – Nicole, how are you today?
Nicole – I’m doing really well. Yeah life is good. How about you?
Amanda – I’m doing great. This is the first podcast we’ve actually recorded since both of our books have been out.
Nicole – It is yeah. The last one we recorded we were waiting on all that, I forgot. It’s been a while.
Amanda – How how is book sailing? Sailing. Book selling?
Nicole – It’s going great. I confess I’m one of those authors who tracks the Amazon sales. If you’re not an author, you may not know this, but there’s like a little graph on Amazon that’s completely wrong based on your publisher’s numbers. But you can watch a little graph go up and down, of like you’re ranking and how many books Amazon says you sold. And it’s a little nerve racking but it’s fun. But one thing that’s been interesting is, I noticed like after the New Year, like it started going up again. And my book released in August. So that’s exciting to watch and see and, it’s not making the New York Times bestseller list or anything. But it’s fun to see that people are still engaging with it and that it’s still active in people’s minds even all these months later. That’s been encouraging.
Amanda – That’s awesome.
Nicole – Yeah. What about you? How’s yours going?
Amanda – Going good. I talked with my publisher, about halfway through January and I don’t look at the Amazon chart thing because I…
Nicole – Too much?
Amanda – Forgot about it. Well I forgot about how to access it. And so I’m like well, I’m just going to go straight to the donkey’s mouth. No.
Nicole – Horse’s mouth.
Amanda – Horse’s mouth?.
Nicole – Relatively the same thing.
Amanda – The hoofed animal’s mouth. So yeah, books are selling well and they’ve got to take my book to something called the Sikh conference in,I think it was at New Year’s. And it gained some attention from conference goers and then I’ve been on some podcasts and it’s really exciting.
Nicole – Yeah I was able to speak at an event a few weeks ago in January, was a local Atlanta women’s event. But that was, it was fun and cool. It was my first like, event where I was invited to speak instead of I like had to pitch people and convince them to let me come speak. So that was a fun milestone and the women were very receptive and it was encouraging to chat with them about it.
Amanda – Good. Well I wanted to talk today about something that I posted on my Instagram account about. I’ve started a weekly advice column called Ask Amanda, where listeners and readers of our books, our blogs and part of that All Bodies Are Good Bodies Facebook group can ask questions and then I usually get some feedback from Nicole and other members of our All Bodies Group and write out a response. So this week we covered something that Nicole gave me the word for. And that is fat erasure. Nicole can you define what fat erasure is?
Nicole – Yeah and I’ve seen people to define it a couple different ways but the biggest is when, in film and media, there are no fat bodies. And that can either look like, it’s a fictional story and fat bodies just don’t exist to the storyline, even as extras in the background. Or they do only in ways that are like stereotypically negative about fat bodies. Or if you’re looking at a movie or a film that is based on a true story, that people who in real life are chubby or fat or plus size, becomes slim in those representations of them on film. And then I’ve also seen people use the same term when they’re talking about when super fat people get pushed to the side in favor of what we call smaller fats’ voices, where like the more socially acceptable fat gets the center stage instead of like the extremely fat person. So all of that is kind of around the same idea of just silencing and ignoring the voices and very real bodies of people who are fat and not getting to see them or hear their perspective in the media that we consume.
Amanda – Yeah I also, before you taught me the term fat erasure, I used the term thin washing.
Nicole – Yes I think that’s also great.
Amanda – Because I just noticed my, one of my favorite saints is St. Teresa of Avila, and in portraits of her from around her lifetime, she is shown as very quite, quite plump, fat and delightfully so. And I remember in college just finding a kinship with her in that. But then I see prayer cards in churches and they’re always very modern concept attractive, thin, with striking eyes, portraits of her.
Nicole – Yeah. People might ask like why does that matter.
Amanda – That’s my next question, why does it matter?
Nicole – I think the term like gut punch, like when I realized that it’s happening, when I can actually see and notice. It does very much feel like, oh well this isn’t, my body is not the kind of story that people want to tell. Like my body causes too many problems to include it in the story. I guess maybe the opposite of fat erasure, like fat inclusion. I remember a couple years ago I think, whatever year the Netflix christmas prince movie came out, like that cheesy movie where with like a reporter who like sneaks into a castle and marries the prince. That’s probably describes like 12 movies but the one that Netflix made. Like two years ago. The very last scene or very close to last scene there’s like a dance. And in the background, people who have no, they have no names. They’re literally just extras. But there is a young woman who’s dancing and she’s fat, like very visibly fat and she has on like a formal dress. And she’s just dancing and there’s nothing else about her. And I remember I just stopped and I rewound the scene and I watched it like 5 times, ’cause that was so shocking. Like I don’t see, you don’t see fat people in the background. And so when it’s included it’s like, oh someone thought that it was OK to have a fat person just be a part of the world. She didn’t have any lines or anything, but she was just part of the world. That was very affirming for that three seconds.
Amanda – Maybe some of our listeners are thinking, well there’s been a lot of fat centered narrative lately. Like Dumplin’ on Netflix, or This Is Us with Kate’s storyline, or American Housewife with Katie Otto. There’s a difference in what we’re talking about between fat main character and, and this concept of fat erasure.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – One of the differences is is, can a fat person have a storyline that does not revolve around their weight.
Nicole – Amen. It seems complicated.
Amanda – So does, do all those movies revolve around weight. Or all those roles a lot, yes and at some point yes. And we don’t, we’re not saying we want people to ignore that fatness has a societal impact because it does, it’s a, there’s structural bigotry and prejudice against fat people that is going to make itself known in narratives. But with something like background actors, there’s no narrative for them to live up to or or to play. So if we only cast thin people, thin able bodied typically white people in in backgrounds, then it says that in this real, this scene that’s supposed to be like real life, there are no fat people. And it just speaks a lot about our cultural assumptions about fatness.
Nicole – Yeah it’s like we don’t exist. We’re not part of standard society.
Amanda – Unless it’s in a negative light like presented like the bullies in class are always, are typically fat or, you’re at a gym and there’s a class for fat people going on in the background or something like that.
Nicole – I think one of my favorite go to examples of fat characters, is Sookie from Gilmore Girls. Sookie who was just fat and that really wasn’t a part of her storyline which is interesting to me ’cause that show’s creator, writer Amy Sherman-Palladino, like is super anti fat. A lot of her work. If you’ve seen Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, like it’s pretty awful. There’s even a lot in Gilmore Girls. I think I wrote a blog post about this one time. I’ll have to look it up. But it’s like everyone in Gilmore Girls who’s not Sookie, or Babette, or forgetting the other lady’s name. There was another neighbor, the dance teacher, Sookie, and a neighbor were all fat and they were all okay because they were loved in the town. But any other person who is fat or that they wanted to shame, there is a fat joke about them. And so I guess that’s part of fat erasure too. I love the Sookie character, but at the same time it’s super problematic that fat is still bad unless you’re talking about the few people who love you, and have decided that you’re OK, even though you are fat. Like you have to redeem yourself before you’re allowed to just be a person.
Amanda – Yeah and the movie that brought this up to me in a real way, I watched the preview for the new movie, Unplanned, that’s coming out about the conversion story of Abby Johnson. And if you’re not familiar with Abby Johnson, she was the director of a Planned Parenthood in Texas. I believe it was Bryan-College Station where Texas A&M University is. And she had a pretty dramatic transformation from supporting abortion to when she assisted in abortion, it changed her mind about abortion. And a lot of my pro-life friends are excited about this film because they’re like, finally we’re getting a quality movie about this really life changing event. I am pro-life. I don’t think abortion is a right. And, it’s hard to talk about it. So hear me out for just a second. As I watched the trailer and they show Abby Johnson’s character, I just felt really sad. Because they took Abby Johnson from real life, who is a fat person, and they gave her life story to a very thin actress. And it it hit me pretty deeply because in my writing, I talk about how embracing this body that I am in, is part of my pro-life ethic. I am pro-life, womb to tomb, meaning I believe life begins at conception and ends with natural death. And I believe that accepting the weakness and limitations of our body is a part of living that out. So that includes people with disabilities being completely celebrated and accepted and given opportunity for living vibrant lives. And that means people at the end of their life being treated with dignity because our bodies are good because they are created for relationship and not perfection. So to see this champion of the pro-life movement, her fatness being erased? That was very impacting to me.
Nicole – Yeah. I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve seen pictures of Abby. And I know that she is a plus size woman. Yeah just affirming that feeling of loss and that sadness. I think that’s all very valid in real.
Amanda – I think people. Who call themselves pro-life may say, but it’s not a big as big a deal as abortion. So get over it.
Nicole – Yeah and that’s super frustrating. That type of argument in general. Because I firmly believe that things are intersectional, and that means a lot of that everything is connected to each other. And if we can’t honor the bodies of everyone as they are and understand that bodies have these characteristics that matter. Like my fatness impacts how I interact with the world, and how people view my life and its worth. And if you fail to understand that, I don’t understand how you honor the life of anyone else either. Like you’re missing part of the point if you just focused on one aspect of living into full embodiment and not all of the others. And then I mean this comes into play with all of the ways that we diminish people because of something about their body. Whether it’s race or gender or sexuality or anything like that. We have to take the time, to understand how our, our erasures, and our minimizations impact that across the spectrum. And I feel like I was just being super philosophical and vague there, but hopefully that made sense.
Amanda – No I appreciate your words. My guiding principle in my life is consistency. And I don’t mean that in, obviously I want to be a woman of my word and follow through with things I’ve committed to. But what I mean is that, in everything I believe, I want it to be consistent with the way that I live my life. And so I believe that all bodies are good bodies. And that that has to, I have to let that saturate my actions, saturate my thinking that my actions to the point where, when people are saying that some body does not deserve equal protection or representation, I say well that’s not consistent with what I believe. And so it is a big deal.
Nicole – Yeah. When you brought this up, when you mentioned a message, or Instagram, I immediately thought of a movie that I watched based on a true story. And it was some like, inspirational film, made for TV movie I think. I’m not really sure but I was like, oh that was a sweet story, it was based on a true life. So as I do with everything I went to go research it.
Amanda – ‘Cause you’re a 5.
Nicole – Yes. So you know I always like I go to Google the real life story whenever I watch real life movies, because I want to know, like what was true and what was different and what actually happened. And I’m scrolling through and it was a story about a family and, faith based movie and there is some medical drama involved. And I’m scrolling through and I realize that they slimmed everyone down. And that this family, you know, they were active and they were in church and some of the kids were were athletes and they slimmed everyone down. And so like on top of just this fat erasure, like you had a real life teenager who wa, you know, just a school athlete who was also chubby or plus size. And in the movie, that teenager became a thin teenager. And when I was looking it up again for this show I was going through and I realized that everyone including the doctors in the movies got slimmer except the pastor in the movie who got fatter as an actor. And I’m not really sure what’s up with that. But I thought that was interesting. And all of our societal connections between faith and body size, and I haven’t really explored that fully because I just realized that like 30 minutes ago.
Amanda – But that’s really interesting. I was thinking of you know, if you took 15 year old Amanda, and you know something dramatic happened and so they’re making a movie of my life and they’re picking an actress to play me. What does that say to the child actor. Like we’re not going to find someone that actually looks like you, we’re gonna find someone who looks like the culturally acceptable version of you. And what that says is you’re too much, you’re not enough. And so we’re going to pick someone who doesn’t look like you because we think it’ll sell better, we think it’s a better way to tell the story.
Nicole – Yeah, I’m, I’m trying to imagine, you know younger me, who is not body positive, and just… I can imagine I would have been so grateful, that they pick someone slimmer. That, that, oh okay, so this whole idea like, when I was younger I was very much steeped in the idea that if I loved God enough, then I would look beautiful despite my body. That somehow like my inner holiness and purity would like shine through and people would see something besides my fat body or they would just like not pay attention to my fatness, because they would see how devout and holy I was. And so I think like a younger version of me, if they had made a movie about my life and chose a thinner actress to play me, I would have felt somehow affirmed that, oh good. They decided not to like, display my shame for the entire world. They decided to let the real me take presence on the stage. And now that is just like deeply sad to me. Because my body is such a big part of who I am and how experience life, and how people interact with me. And to lose that, this is a big part of who I am and what my story is.
Amanda – Because our bodies tell a significant part of our story.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – So who is doing this well. Who, what have you seen where fat people are included, without being either the main focus of the story and who are just a part of the fabric of this storytelling. Do you have any feedback of who’s doing what well?
Nicole – Oh goodness. Off the top of my head. No. Let’s see.
Amanda – I had a reader write in that in, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, she was surprised to see that some of the background people were fat and it wasn’t a part of the plotline it’s just normal people being fat.
Nicole – I haven’t watched that show in a few seasons. I’m not sure. Like I’m obviously like thinking of like storylines, modern storylines where we have fat people who are central characters. Which are hit and miss, whether they’re good or not. In terms of background fat people I think of like, Grey’s Anatomy has some great people, like I’m seeing it more often. Especially like in a medical drama, like we have some plus size doctors nurses. I think there’s like a new intern person on the past couple of seasons who’s plus size. So they’re not background characters but they’re there and their body is not part of the storyline. And Miranda Bailey has long been a character like that if you watch Grey’s Anatomy. She’s obviously a central character but her body is not part of her storyline.
Amanda – That’s awesome.
Nicole – Yeah, I’m not sure.
Amanda – Well I think this means there’s a lot of room for improvement.
Nicole – I know. Attention, anyone in Hollywood. Just stick fat people in the background, you’re gonna make us happy. It’s great. I mean give them a role too.But, a step in the right direction. Yes.
Amanda – All right well, Nicole, I don’t have any, other than that. And I’m constantly watching out for it.
Nicole – Tweet us and tell us what you know because we’re at a loss.
Amanda – Speaking of tweeting we are on Twitter. Our, the podcast handle is fatandfaithful. Nicole is JNicoleMorgan and I am AmandaMBeck. And then Instagram. Can you share that Nicole?
Nicole – Yes. We’re also fatandfaithful. And on Instagram Amanda is your_body_is_good. And there’s underscores in between each of those words. And you can find me at JNicoleMorgan there as well. And then Facebook is a great place to get connected with people talking about this. You can find the group All Bodies Are Good Bodies on Facebook, just search for the groups for that. I think if you go to Facebook.com/groups/allbodiesaregoodbodies and find it as well. It’s a private or a closed group so you need to request membership. There’s some questions to answer and make sure you answer those and then we’ll approve your membership.
Amanda – Yeah. And we’d love to have your feedback for Ask Amanda. So hop on over to Instagram, or there’s also a contact submission form on my blog AmandaMartinezBeck.com. And Valentine’s Day is this week. This episode I will be posting the week of Valentine’s so please know, that whether you find yourself alone or with a partner, you are loved. You are not too much, you are enough and you are lovely.
Nicole – Amen. All right. Thanks everyone. We’ll join you next time.
Amanda – Thanks.
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 at All Bodies are Good Bodies. Please take a minute to rate and review the podcast on iTunes, and share this episode of social media using the hashtags fatandfaithful or allbodiesaregoodbodies. This helps us reach more people with our mission to love God incarnate and our neighbor’s body as our own.
Amanda – We’re so thankful that you joined us today have a great week.
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!
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 this episode of Fat and Faithful. We’re glad to be here with you today. Today we’re talking about being the fat kid: experience. . . The experiences of fat children. I am Amanda Martinez Beck and I am with my cohost.
Nicole – Nicole Morgan.
Amanda – We grew up as fat kids.
Nicole – We did.
Amanda – So we wanted to talk about that a little bit.
Nicole – So a few weeks ago I had a picture in my Facebook memories that showed up and it was like a picture of me when I was 13 I think on the beach. . . and I was like, yeah, a picture of my childhood and I remember being 13 and trying to remember, or trying to figure out if I was allowed to like that picture of myself. I was like carrying a little boogie board and the sun was setting. It was very beachy. It looked kind of cool but, I was like well I’m in a bathing suit and I’m fat so maybe I’m not supposed to like this. And that was kind of … I was like, we should talk about this and just all of the things that go on as a fat kid.
Amanda – Absolutely. Well what what is new in fatness and faith?
Nicole – Oh goodness. I usually have an answer ready for this. And I don’t today. I got a haircut yesterday. Maybe that doesn’t sound like fatness, but it’s short hair and all the rules say you’re not supposed to have short hair when you have a fat face. But, I love it.
Amanda – Oh no, It’s an amazing haircut. It’s an amazing haircut.
Nicole – I should retweet it into the Fat and Faithful timeline.
Amanda – Oh please do.
Nicole – So everyone else can see my hair.
Amanda – Well it’s connected to what I wanted to bring up about in faith and fatness not related really to faith or fatness but I guess it’s been a week or maybe two weeks. There was a “post your original headshot” from celebrities.
Nicole – I saw all that.
Amanda – And they . ..so we see pictures, like Reese Witherspoon as a 13 year old who looks pretty much exactly the same in her face as, I don’t know, a 40 something year old but I thought it would be fun if we found pictures of ourselves that we liked as children. Or you know to go back and look and be like see, I’m obviously didn’t have a headshot done here or maybe had a Glamour Shot done or whatever but just to post them, to post them on the Fat and Faithful page so we can just delight in your child’s self.
Nicole – Fat and faithful childhood.
Amanda – Yeah.
Nicole – Have our own hashtag.
Amanda – And you don’t have to be fat to post your picture, because everyone’s body is good. But I found some awesome pictures. It’s definitely I was, I was always the biggest kid in my class, but when I look back at my pictures I’m like, I was also the most awkwardly dressed.
Nicole – We should talk about the lack of plus sized children’s clothes..
Amanda – Yes especially in the 80s 90s. Oh man.
Nicole – I can tell you a little about that as we get into. What I remember wearing. There was lots of stretch cotton.
Amanda – Oh yes. And my shorts that I was not allowed to wear to school but that I still wore. I was buckin’ the system early. They’re like, my teacher, I remember my fifth grade teacher being like, Amanda, you can’t wear bike shorts to school. And I was just like nothing else fits!
Nicole – Like, this is all I’ve got.
Amanda – Yeah and even to wear it, which was very counter to my personality type. I was very much a people pleaser. But if you don’t have clothes, that’s a big deal.
Nicole – It is a big deal, it’s a thing, it’s a problem. I think it’s better now for kids these days. But it’s a thing.
Amanda – Yeah the internet has made things so much more accessible.
Nicole – So we asked many of you about your fat childhoods and if you wanted to share anything with us or tell us about what that was like if you were a fat kid too and we heard quite a few of you. So I wanted to read some of those stories. So I guess we can just go back and forth and read these. So I’ll start. So this is from Erin. And we did ask permission to use everyone’s names so we’re good here. So Erin says “I was a fat kid with a thin mom and sister. I think the thing that messed me up the most was the mixed messages I got from my parents. My mom in particular. I never doubted I was loved. I was told I was beautiful. They never berated me or called me out for being fat. Never praised my sister for being thin. But they took me to the doctor to see if there was anything physically wrong with me, ’cause why am I so fat and my sisters are not. They asked me if I had been abused, because I guess that would have explained something. But I hadn’t been. It would stop me from taking second helpings at dinner. My mom, who is naturally thin, always complained about her weight, obsessed about what she ate, or demean herself when she gained weight and she never weighed more than 112 pounds when I was growing up. The thought I internalized was, if she thinks that about herself, what must she think about me.”.
Amanda – There’s so much there.
Nicole – One thing with what Erin shared was that, they called her beautiful. They didn’t make fun of her. And that’s so often, I hear people’s that vice for body image is for like parents to tell their kids that they’re beautiful or tell their girls that they are beautiful. And I, I understand that. But like, pretty is not the point. Parents or others can tell people they’re beautiful. But when you get treated like you’re different, it still matters. It’s still noticed. Kids still notice that, and there are definitions of beauty in our culture that change with culture and change over time and you can play into those or not play into those on any given day. But for me I just I don’t really, I like to feel pretty personally but that’s not the point for me. And so I tend to not advise people to use like, the princess beautiful pretty language because that makes it so that that’s the goal, is to be attractive in some way. When in reality the goal is to be accepted for who you are and valued for who you are and not made to feel ashamed or othered or that you don’t fit into your family or that you’re somehow different in a bad way. Because of your body.
Amanda – I have three little girls and a son who’s awesome. They’re all awesome. But figuring out how to speak to them in a way that affirms their bodies is something I think about daily. And I’m probably counter what you said just slightly. I think it’s important to teach children what beauty is and then affirm that beauty in them. So I think you’re probably using beauty as a shorthand for attractiveness.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – And I I remember growing up and never really hearing that I was beautiful and that there was a place in me that wanted to be beautiful. I think that that actually I would say that’s a human drive to be beautiful. And I think we, each person is. But we define it in our culture as attractiveness, which has to do with what other people, how other people value our appearance as opposed to the inherent goodness. Now I’m not saying you said that any of that like you didn’t.
Nicole – Yeah, you’re just clarifying the words. I definitely mean like attractive and I’m like not everyone is attractive.
Amanda – Right.
Nicole – That’s just the truth.
Amanda – It’s true.
Nicole – That doesn’t mean not everyone is valuable.
Amanda – Yes. My two older daughters they’re 6 and 2 and my oldest, she’s a fashionista. So she’ll put on clothes and she’ll comment she’ll be like Mommy am I beautiful?And so in those circumstances, trying to unpack that of, Oh my goodness you are beautiful and I think you have good taste in clothes and you are delightful. I try to round it out so that she knows that it’s not merely what she looks like on her face or her body, like she’s engaging as a person. But my 2 year old has started doing it just in the past month or so. She’ll say “do I look pretty and my beautiful?” And so trying to, I’ve been just trying to work through that of, oh my goodness she’s so beautiful. And I want to affirm all these other things that are valuable. So sometimes like I remember there was a Verizon commercial. I don’t know why it was a Verizon commercial. But is about a little girl not being able to play in the creek in a dress, and like turning her away from science, and because she was being complimented for being pretty and beautiful, and we needed to compliment brains instead. And I just remember watching them being like, I think we have a desire to be aesthetically pleasing. You know what I mean?
Nicole – Yeah I think it’s a yes and a both and. Yeah I mean I, I tell my nieces they’re pretty, and I like being pretty when people tell me I’m pretty, everyone told me my haircut was pretty. It was fun. But like yes, what you’re saying is go beyond that. So you have good taste in clothes or, that was very creative of you or I let your adventurous spirit or you know adding to it that it’s not all about what you look like at the moment.
Amanda – WelI, I don’t want to encourage an gnostic view of bodies, saying that our brain or you know soul is more important than our flesh. What we want to to celebrate the whole thing together as an incarnational people. So I’m sure, I’m sure that we’ll get a lot more interesting points so we go on. We’re kind of going off the cuff with how we’re discussing these things. So I love it. I’m, I’m an off the cuff kind of person, Nichol’s a very planned person. Let’s go into the next story here. This is from Jordan. “I was always above the average weight but it started becoming noticeable more as I entered elementary school. I liked foods especially, quote, bad foods and hated vegetables, still do because of food textures. I remember going through my school scrapbook, my grandmother kept of me and her getting frustrated as my weight kept crawling up, up, up, every year. I heard constant versions of if only you lost weight. You have such a pretty face or if only you looked like her or her, or you can wear such cute clothes or do this or that if you were skinny. The list could go on. The worst was when they’d compare me to my cousin, five years my junior, who has special needs, one of which includes eating and stomach problems so she’s super skinny. I remember being told once, I’d never be able to do a certain job. I think it was singing, I had wild aspirations as a child because I was fat. It stung. I was also an emotional eater who was extremely sensitive to these types of comments. So instead of pushing me to lose, they were pushing me to eat more. As a child, we tried different diets and such, but nothing stuck. I was put in dance classes in an effort to lose weight. I was forced to play outside to play, bike ride, despite having asthma and severe allergies.” What do we see in Jordan’s story.
Nicole – The thing that sticks out to me is that I resonate with, is the limitations on what your future could be. She couldn’t be a singer. And I just remember, like I so clearly remember like especially like middle school, high school, even thinking about like the whole what do you want to be when you grow up thing. And like cycling through ideas. And there was a time that I really wanted to be like a pediatrician or something, I don’t even know. It doesn’t sound like me at all anymore. But I just I remember at the time thinking well that’s going to be weird if you’re a fat doctor. Like, you can’t do that one. And ultimately my first job after college, was a high school teacher. So I went to college to be a teacher. And I was just, I like walking back into a high school as a fat person was, I didn’t know if I’d be able to do that. So like my, for like one of my like really big diets that I lost a lot of weight on was early in college because I was like I can’t be a teacher if I’m fat ’cause they’ll never listen to me. And as a fat high school teacher there were some times when that became an issue. But that, by that point. So in college I discovered fat acceptance and learning to love my body. So by that point I had more of a sense of who I was and what was appropriate what wasn’t. But yeah that was a huge thing. What can I do in this body. And there was lots of limitations that other people would say or I would place it for myself.
Amanda – I think the thing that sticks out to me in Jordan’s story is the comparison with her cousin. In this case there was actually a medical issue that that prevented her cousin from being anything but who she was. I mean being super skinny, and that’s not a problem. The problem is when we compare people. I mean, we do it to ourselves right, we we say what do they have that I don’t have. But we also, oh my goodness. I try. I try so hard, I hope I have never compared bodies for my children. I compare behavior though. So I know that I do compare, I’m like look you’re sister’s doing this why can’t you obey like her. Making it clear that you are accepted the way that you are. One of my childhood difficulties was that I never felt like I fit in my family. I felt, felt on the outside. And some of that is just my personality. But some of that was because siblings automatically, or cousins you know whoever ever close family members, automatically are looking for, hey this is unfair. My kids constantly are like, you did this for so and so and not for me. So when I would analyze the treatment of, between my sister and me, my younger sister, I would say okay so why is she getting treated differently. Why, you know what my parents would praise her for the way that she ate, ’cause she just ate so slowly. I’m just, there’s nothing slow about me. I just like to be going. And so I felt ashamed by the way that I just like to eat fast. I like to read fast. I like to do everything fast. And there are definitely character development things that I’m learning to take things more slowly. But so when we’re automatically looking for, to our siblings. Like why do they get treated differently than I do and I’m not, we’re not blind like fat kids are not blind, they can see that oh my body is bigger than so and so’s. Is she getting treated better than me because of X Y Z. So to have that reinforced verbally to be like, why can’t you be like so-and-so who doesn’t eat very much. Or further isolates and others, makes you other-ed.
Nicole – Inside your own family.
Amanda – Oh one note on that is, being forced to play outside despite having asthma and severe allergies to pollen. That is a big deal.
Nicole – And fleetly ignore your actual health issues and for this aesthetic purpose of being thin. Yeah I mean that speaks even, that doesn’t stop. As you get older, medical issues get ignored. Everything can be solved by losing weight apparently. So.
Amanda – OK. Next story.
Nicole – This is someone left a comment on the Fat and Faithful Instagram, from Fayelle. She says, “all my childhood, I was told to hold on my stomach until I had kids that actually made a difference and how I looked. But I realized just a few months ago that it was actually physically impossible for me to casually walk around without involuntarily holding in my muscles. I have to intentionally relax them and even then as I move around other things my mind, I find that my abs have tensed back up again.” The thing that stuck me with this one is, there’s a lot of people who would read that and say, wow, success. And I think she even went on in her comment a little later say she’s kind of proud that she could retrain all of her muscles but also, oh my goodness look what I did to my body. Yeah like their muscles aren’t supposed to be tense 24/7 and especially not for, look a little bit slimmer, a couple inches slimmer.
Amanda – I mean so think about this. If you’re, if muscles in a different place of your body are tense all the time, we send you to a chiropractor or a massage therapist.
Nicole – Right, let’s work out those knots.
Amanda – Right. So we need to learn to carry our bodies with peace. Right. And that means I mean if you want to talk hold your stomach in great. Do it. Just know that you don’t have to. So this is, last night I watched Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy and she’s a social psychologist and she was talking about posturing and how our body language affects our psyche. A lot of alpha personalities are very open with their bodies their hands, their hands go up. They spread their legs, they sit. They take a commanding posture, called the power pose. And the weak poses, people who like hold their necks when they talk or cross their arms or just try to make themselves smaller, and that’s the language that she used, have different response psychically not psychically, psychologically. So the things that we do with our bodies affect our mental state and vice versa. She said, let me pull up the quote that I wrote down from what she said last night. She said “our bodies change our minds and our minds change our behavior, and our behavior changes our outcome.” So if we have in our mind that we need to be small. And I think that is a pretty common for women, that we are required to be small, that actually affects our psyches. That means that we’re going to try to impose less power in a room, we’re going to try to make sure that we are fitting in a specific space and that’s very limiting and it affects our our interactions with the world and not just in a, I’m going to be a small feminine thing way, but we don’t take up the space that our personalities need. And so it just made me think of, I knew we were recording this episode today. So I was thinking about how, as I have developed in accepting my body I have started just being way more open. I was always very confident. But but just being like this is my body, I’m not going to apologize for it. I’m not going to tense up my muscles to suck in my gut. I’d rather spin those, that energy that I have doing something else. And so when we’re children, just being aware that our kids need to be able to be fully themselves, no matter what that looks like.
Nicole – Yeah I don’t have specific memories but just the general, I was always like crossing my arms, or like pulling my arms in close to myself. Just really trying to take up as little space as possible or try to fit into the space. I remember in middle school I guess, middle school and high school, when the desks changed and the chairs were attached to the desks. Like, getting into the classroom earlier because there was a few desks that people had managed to bend the chairs back on. So there’s a little more space in between the chair and the desk in front of you. And just trying to get there so that I can get into that seat. And never actually have to say that’s what I was doing. And make it obvious, but just to be able to find the spaces where I could fit without having to hold myself uncomfortably. And always be on the lookout for that.
Amanda – For some of our listeners who have not had to endure being physically constrained into a tight space without choosing that, I don’t know people get into roller coaster apparatuses that squeeze you into tight spaces. When you sit in a seat like in school, and it, you don’t fit in it, the whole time you’re not able to fully engage in your lesson, right. Because it’s either, you’re in pain or you’re uncomfortable or you’re self-conscious like so many, so many aspects of that are limiting. And that also comes to clothing too.
Nicole – Yeah it just becomes like this dull kind of thing that’s always with you. Like I got pretty good at tuning it out but it’s just kind of always there. Like to use the biblical example, the thorn and the flesh, you know it’s just there. You learn to live your life around it and to accommodate for it and to make adjustments to make it as bearable as possible.
Amanda – Yeah. The next story comes from my friend who preferred to stay anonymous. And we talked on the phone so I’m gonna be summarizing her story and pointing out some things that I, that I thought were worthy of talking about. So this is my friend and we’ve been friends for a long time. But she talked about just the ostracism of being the fat kid. And that her friends’ parents even would do things that let her know that they know. They knew she was fat and that it was something to be changed about her. She shared a story with me, that she went over to a friend’s house and they went to a restaurant where they serve just health food, when she was staying the night with her friends and then, and then when they got home the parents were like let’s do some activity. And my friend said she remembered it being fun and enjoying like going out to eat and then doing activities. Then she wondered later, was that because I was there. Did they change… like why were they saying, what were they saying by taking me to this restaurant and getting me to, you know climb, to do stairs together as a kid. She also told me about a trip she went on to Europe and being the fat person on the trip and she was in junior high, that people, I mean Europeans stared at her. She says she didn’t feel rejection from the people on her, in her group but that she was ogled, ogled as a fat person. So she would get comments from adults. She remembers that she wanted to be a majorette, to be a twirler in the band and the band director had a conversation with her mom that was basically we don’t do fat majorettes here. Like she was on Fen-Phen in sixth grade.
Nicole – For those who don’t know Fen-Phen was a diet drug that got pulled off the market because it caused heart attacks.
Amanda – She remembers being on a retreat with her with like a church program and one of the leaders, who was a mom, and one of the other girls came to her to talk about her weight. You know and to the point where she just didn’t, there was no place to feel safe. I’m sharing all of these specific instances because sometimes people think that fat people are being overly sensitive, but these things, this is just a sampling of things that happened to this one friend that I have. The school cafeteria where she was, there was a section for the teachers and the section for the students and it was like you could go back and get a seconds and, whatever it was a small school. And she said she would always get seconds or thirds. And she knew that other people were looking at her like she didn’t need to eat more. But her friends accepted her and so she was like, whatever I want to eat more so I’m gonna eat more. One time she was walking back up to get more food and her favorite teacher shouted across the cafeteria, No. Like said her name and said no about her going back to get more food.
Nicole – Wow.
Amanda – And just the I mean any kid in junior high or high school, for a teacher to intervene like that, no matter your size, I think would be embarrassing. And so for it to come just at a tender place of course couldn’t that have been more discreet. If you feel the need to, to police what other people are doing with their own bodies, couldn’t have been more discreet as opposed to publicly shaming.
Nicole – Yeah, the thing her story made me think of specifically the trip to Europe, when she was in sixth grade, and going on field trips and class trips. I remember when I was a freshman, one of my classes at high school took a long weekend trip, a field trip. And I don’t even remember really why we were going. But they went and like lived on a ship in New England for the weekend and was like the ship’s crew. It’s like an old like sailing vessel kind of thing. And I didn’t go because my family couldn’t afford that kind of trip. But I remember like I was sad I couldn’t go. I wanted to go. But I remember knowing that it was probably better anyways because something in me just knew, that like ships were cramped. And had tight quarters and like narrow passageways and things like that. Or you’d have to climb up into the, to do all the sail lines and climb up into the wren’s nest or whatever and they did all those kinds of things. And so I stayed. I didn’t go. And when they came back and they were showing pictures and stuff and I was just looking at like, how small the openings were to get down like below deck. And all the things they had to do. It’s like I knew that if I had gone, and who knows what actually would have been the case. But it in my mind as a 15 year old I was like I wouldn’t have fit that there anyway, even if we could have afforded that trip. So just the sense of being outside of your classmates and you can’t really participate and no one else is thinking about that. No one else is trying to figure out if it’s accessible to you or even asking those questions.
Amanda – Hey listeners we’re going to continue this conversation in the next episode. So make sure you check out Part 2 on Being the Fat Kid.