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.
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 – Welcome to season 3 episode 1 of Fat and Faithful. I am Amanda Martinez Beck and I’m here with my co-host . . .
Nicole – This is J. Nicole Morgan. Hi everybody.
Amanda – And we’re so glad to be back. Nicole, It has been a bit. It has been a minute.
Nicole – It’s been a while. I don’t know… May to, it’s now October so however many months that is like, 7?
Amanda – June, July, August, September. No, just five.
Nicole – Just five. Well OK it felt longer. Super excited.
Amanda – Yeah, this is the longest we’ve gone without recording since we started last summer.
Nicole – We just both had really busy summers which is what we’re gonna talk about today and everything that’s been going on.
Amanda – Yeah, so what’s been up with you? A little bit of big news.
Nicole – Yes, so my book is officially out in the world as of August 1st. So that’s out there. It’s doing great. I had like a launch party which was super fun. And had like a big huge cake version of my book that a friend made me.
Amanda – So nice.
Nicole – That was also delicious. So that was fabulous. It was great to just celebrate it that way. Been getting some good feedback. So I’ve been really excited to launch that and it’s to be officially out there in the world. And what about you? How’d your summer go?
Amanda – Well it was really busy, I got a new job started working full time. And along with editing my book and it’s almost done.
Nicole – Yay!
Amanda – Thank you, I have a few more or, I just need to read it one more time. They sent me the galley proofs yesterday. So just gonna to proofread and then it’ll be printed at the end of October on like physical copies. I’ll get those. But the book releases December 6th. Which, I am very excited about, you talked about your launch party, so I’ve started planning mine.
Nicole – I saw some of your little like launch party decorations. It’s super fun to plan.
Amanda – I’m so excited. It is a strange feeling to be planning something that’s this big a deal. Like.
Nicole – Yeah.
Amanda – Oh it feels that perhaps this is not an appropriate comparison, but it feels like I’m planning a wedding reception.
Nicole – I had similar thoughts and I’ve never been able to do that. So I was very much enjoying having a party. And It’s also, I think you know writing and podcasting are such. . .. I don’t know the right word for it but our audiences are often people that we don’t see in person on a regular basis. And so launch parties are very geographically situated. So being able to celebrate and to share with people that you know but might not be as connected to our work – that was really cool for me. For people who know me and love me and you know just outside of the specific work – and to be able to celebrate that with them was really a neat thing.
Amanda – That’s awesome.
Nicole – And I wish I had teleportation and I can bring everyone who’s listening right now to my party on your party.
Amanda – Agreed. I know I’ve been like “oh I wish Nicole could be at my party.” I really wanted to be at yours. But we live a couple thousand miles apart so…
Nicole – We do and time is a thing.
Amanda – One day we will. You know, listeners, we’ve never met in person.
Nicole – We haven’t.
Amanda – We formed this friendship online so we are very thankful for the interwebs.
Nicole – Yes.
Amanda – One thing was. One thing I’m really excited about is that my launch party is on the book release day December 6.
Nicole – Oh fun. What Day of the week is that?
Amanda – It’s a Thursday. It’s not practical, but um.
Nicole – Hey, do you.
Amanda – Well it’s in the middle of Advent and so it’s the Feast of St. Nicholas which is super fun because one, it’s a feast in the middle of a fasting season.
Nicole – Is Advent a fasting season? How did I not know this
Amanda – It is. Well you’re Protestant. So I won’t hold it against you.
Nicole – OK. I just figured Christmas, feast all the time but it’s not Christmas, it’s Advent.
Amanda – So it’s the four weeks leading up until Christmas and it resets us.It’s, Joy to the World as kind of an advent hymn, “Let every heart prepare Him room”, so we’re preparing for the arrival. “Oh come oh come Emmanuel. ..” That, that, that, longing that hunger for God and then you launch in to a 12 day feast which is from.
Nicole – Twelve days of Christmas.
Amanda – Twelve Days of Christmas, but we’ll probably talk about that more as that approaches. But what Is exciting, is that I did not set my launch date, but the Feast of Saint Nicholas. He is the most celebrated fat saint.
Nicole – So amazing.
Amanda – Isn’t that amazing? And like all bodies are good bodies. So I am, I am having fun. I’m gonna make it a St. Nicholas Day party and my book release. So I’m very excited.
Nicole – That is amazing. That’s so cool. Well besides our books this summer, I know we’re both also on other podcasts Who did you interview with?
Amanda – I was on an episode of The Love Food podcast with Julie Duffy Dillon. She’s a no diet dietitian who focuses on intuitive eating and also PCOS which, her podcast is amazing, she has two podcasts. But you should check her out. Julie Duffy Dillon and we talked about your body telling your story and how that relates to food.
Nicole – Yeah so I was able to speak with I think with, three and I hope I’m not forgetting anyone. So one was Eating with Grace, you can look that up. I really enjoyed talking about that one. Another one was called Can I Say This at Church and so the whole podcast deals with just like various issues that people might find impolite to talk about at church and so we talked with, with him there. And then another one it’s a brand new podcast, it’s called Fierce and Lovely, with an author named Beth Bruno. And talked with her a bit about just all these same topics, body image and what that looks like and what it means to be fierce in loving our bodies but also lovely which is the name of your book.
Amanda – So yeah I like that, I like that word. And I’m going to go ahead and apologize. I have strep throat right now. Listeners hopefully by the time you listen to this I will not have it anymore because that will be a while. But I’m, you’re going to hear me coughing a lot and I’m about to go into coughing.
Nicole – All bodies are good bodies but sometimes they hurt, right?
Amanda – It has definitely been a season of learning to lean into my message that all bodies are good bodies that weak and sick bodies are good even in their, even in their limitations, trying to learn to rest and have relationship right. So if I say that the purpose of my body is relationship and not perfection or health. Yeah, that’s a little harder when, all the sudden you’re like, oh but.
Nicole – I just can’t move!
Amanda – I want a well body. So it’s that, already but not yet, tension.
Nicole – Yeah it’s a lot to learn, grace for the journey.
Amanda – Thanks. Well we’re going to get into discussing an article that went a little viral a few weeks ago. But before we do that we want to give you our resource recommendation of the episode that our group on Facebook, All Bodies Are Good Bodies. It’s facebook.com/groups/allbodiesaregoodbodies. Nicole tell us a little bit about the group.
Nicole – Yeah, so it has grown a lot since we left the podcast last in May. There’s almost 300 members and Amanda and I were just chatting before we got started recording about how fun and encouraging it is to watch people interact with each other. The members of the group just do a really good job of being vulnerable and asking questions that are hard or maybe a little uncomfortable to ask and then encouraging each other towards loving their bodies and accepting their bodies as good and made in the image of God. And so seeing that community is really encouraging to me personally.
Amanda – Yeah. And like any community it’s not all rainbows and bubblegum. We have good conversations and sometimes we get a little prickly with each other just because we’re learning, right? We’re learning how to talk about bodies in a way that honors all bodies as good bodies. And sometimes that is uncomfortable.
Nicole – Yeah and it’s a private Facebook group I believe, so people may be able to see you’re a member but your conversations and your comments are private to those actually in the group.
Amanda – Right.
Nicole – Which is helpful.
Amanda – And we have a great team of moderators. Nicole and I are the main admins but we’ve brought on a team of, I think four or five people who are just really invested in in this conversation. And it’s one of the best things that I’m enjoying right now my life is The All Bodies group. So you should head on over there and check it out.
Nicole – Yes. Thank you for creating that group, Amanda. I think it started as kind of like a book input group and then grew and you just really shaped that. So thank you for that gift, it’s great.
Amanda – Thanks, Nicole!
Nicole – A great place to be on the internet.
Amanda – I know. So one of my big passions is hospitality. And when I say hospitality I’m not talking like just like the hotel industry obviously. Although that’s part of it. I love staying at hotels. But creating a space where people can be themselves and especially for people of size. We’ve been told so often that we have to fit in a certain space whether that be a physical space or emotional space or even an online presence where there’s not, there’s not room to ask these hard questions without people criticizing us for being fat or for asking questions about, is it OK to be fat. Is it ok not to live in diet culture like 100%. We want to be free from that. And so I am so thankful that the group has turned out to be a place where we can see the Holy Spirit making, making room for us to be ourselves through technology. It’s not something I ever thought I would say about technology but I am so glad I was wrong.
Nicole – Yeah it’s it’s a great place to be. I hope you join, who are listening. Go search us out.
Amanda – Yeah. Search us out make sure you answer the questions that pop up when you-.
Nicole – We won’t approve you if you don’t.
Amanda – Right. So it just makes basically we just need to know you’re not a troll.
Nicole – Pretty much.
Amanda – All right. Nicole what’s next on the agenda?
Nicole – OK so we are going to chat about an article today that went a little bit viral this summer on Huffington Post. And it’s an article called Everything You Know About Obesity is Wrong. And it was written by a man named Michael Hobbes. So the article is super long, so we’re not gonna like read through it, as we’ve done with articles before. But we’d like to just kind of chat about it in general. Amanda, do you remember like reading it or your initial thoughts when you first saw it or anything like that?
Amanda – So I got on Facebook the day that it came out which was September 19th. So it’s been a couple of weeks and I had all these notifications!
Nicole – Same!
Amanda – Of “this is an amazing article”, “these are things Amanda has been saying”, et cetera. And number one. So this this this just made me feel very loved because I’m like oh wow people have been listening to what I’m saying. And most of the people who tagged me were not fat people. They were you know what I would call average sized people who I felt like for the first time, were being vocal about the anti fat bias in our society. And I think they’ve always been friends. But to have people step up as allies and be like, “hey”, that was really encouraging. So that, I started reading it with that feeling of, well I hope this article is good I’m encouraged that my friends are talking about this. What about you?
Nicole – Yes a similar experience to logging on to Facebook to a million notifications about it. That day that it was published I was in all day meetings for work, and didn’t look at my phone once I think for like 10 hours. And so I logged on it was just Twitter, Facebook, everyone had been tagging me and I read the article. I don’t think I read it actually till the next day and I read it. It was just, there was kind of these two things. One, exciting that, like it was out there and that this article was so popular and that it was getting views and feedback and affirmation and that people were seeing it and seemed to resonate. But also there is this like nothing in the article was new to me. Like some of the stories, yes. But in terms of the facts and the health studies and things like that that he presented, it’s work that the fat acceptance community has been doing for a very long time. And so there is that mix of “OK this is great, I’m so glad. But this isn’t new. We’ve already been telling you this”, like is this actually going to change anything. In the article, the author of the article, is a thin man I believe a white man. Not sure. And I saw some of his stuff on his Twitter and he’s, he’s acknowledged some of those same things. That part of his thin privilege is what allows him to write it without as much criticism as fat people get when they say the same thing. And so there’s some of that tension there and just kind of accepting that that’s part of the reality of how, how information gets communicated in our world and who gets believed and trusted and elevated and who doesn’t. So yeah and just kinda hold both of those things. It’s a good article and I’m glad it’s out there.
Amanda – One of the things I’m very, I was very touched by, was the photography that accompanies the piece. They were very thoughtful. I’m reading, this is the note about the photographs. It says, “So many images you see in articles about obesity strip fat people of their strength and personality. According to a recent study only 11 percent of large people depicted in news reports were wearing professional clothing. Nearly 60 percent were headless torsos. So we asked our interview subjects to take full creative control of the photos in this piece. This is how they want to present themselves to the world.” That is amazing. And the photos are so lovely. Oh my word.
Nicole – Yeah they are, they’re great and just the self representation and being able to decide, how your body is presented as a gift that we don’t often get.
Amanda – It’s I mean you know the struggle, excuse me, when we look for stock photos and even the people who choose stock photos for our articles or even our book covers. I had to go through a couple of iterations to find one that included, to find representation of fat bodies that are joyful, competent professional with heads.
Nicole – Right? Smiling.
Amanda – Yeah. And I think that tide is shifting. As we we create awareness of the issue so, I’m really thankful for the piece. Yeah.
Nicole – I remember the first time I had an article published on this years ago and the editor was like, “I don’t know what picture to use.” She’s like I can’t I can’t find one, that was like a positive representation of a fat body.
Amanda – Was this your Christianity Today piece?
Nicole – No. This is before that a smaller piece. But yeah it was just it was really difficult and I don’t even remember what we ended up in, like a silhouette. I think that was like some kind of like, I don’t even remember. But it was a fat person or the outline of a fat person who didn’t look sad and so like we’re going with it. Good, found one.
Amanda – Well I remember when I, listeners, if you haven’t listened to the first couple of episodes back in season one I’ll recap. Nicole and I met because I was writing an article about thin privilege and in the church particularly, well my online search yielded the result of, God Loves My Fat Body As It Is that Nicole wrote for Christianity Today. And I remember I can still even without looking back at the article, the photo the featured photo in the article, is a woman standing in a road or a path. A fat woman, and it’s fall I think, she’s wearing fall clothing, and I thought that was you, Nicole.
Nicole – A lot of people did, it looks similar to me but it’s not me.
Amanda – It’s funny when when I reached out to you to ask if I could interview you. And then we Skyped. I was like, oh that’s not Nicole. Your image being different from that picture. But it’s just so interesting because I never thought it could be a stock photo, because it was a fat woman with personality. Like she’s not smiling in the photo. She’s looking seriously. But I just assumed it was you, because I’d never really seen a stock photo like that.
Nicole – I know they did, she did a really good job editing on that one, of finding that photo. I loved it too.
Amanda – Was it Kate Shellnut?
Nicole – Yes. And I don’t actually know she chose the photo. But yes that was the editor of the article.
Amanda – Kate and her team. Way to go Kate Shellnut. Yeah. So what about the article, what do you think made it go viral.
Nicole – You know. I mean, oh goodness analyzing the psychology of everybody. I mean it’s a well written. It’s got all the, it does move you. There’s lots there. I don’t know, what do you think about why this particular one?
Amanda – So I’m, I’m looking at the first couple of paragraphs and it’s about scurvy. Which is not something I would automatically connect with fat bodies right? What do we know about scurvy, it’s prevented by eating citrus and it happened to sailors. So but I love what, what’s the author’s name?
Nicole – Michael Hobbes yeah.
Amanda – That you just found out by kind of trial and error that if you had lemons, limes, and oranges then scurvy would be preventable or treatable. And when when the crew was given, they were doing a study where part of the crew was given citrus and the other part wasn’t. And the results were so clear because the ones who ate fruit improved so quickly they were able to help care for the other group. Right. So but the findings were published and then no one really paid attention for 50 years. And I think, this is a line from this kind of myopia results through repeats throughout history. Is it my-OP-ia? My-O-pia? And so he has this built in to his article of, things we’ve known scientifically that we haven’t put into practice for generations. And how is it affecting the people who are missing out on that but looking at science dieting, doesn’t work, it’s harmful to your health to, to diet. The studies are showing that but people don’t want to hear it because it contradicts the narrative of what we are being fed. No pun intended.
Nicole – When you look at it. So he uses this example of the scurvy. And he does a brief paragraph on seat belts and they both have this resistance to implementing what actually works because of money. And this idea that it was cheaper to try and treat scurvy this other way that didn’t work at all. But it costs less money. So at least we feel like we’re doing something. And then the seat belts, let’s see cars in the 60s used asbestos… It didn’t start banning things that they knew were harmful or forcing things that they knew were helpful for quite a long time. And I’m sure like, cost was a factor there. And that’s the thing we hear often when talking about practice and health is like how much fat people cost the medical industry, as if our bodies are a drain on the system. And so I think there’s some of that same resistance there which I think it’s interesting that he used these ideas. Like somehow, right now for most people, like fat bodies aren’t allowed what their bodies need in terms of resources or investment in our economy as a whole. And so just pondering that is a thing that can get to me, that you know it’s those bodies aren’t worth the certain that there’s a limit to how much my body is allowed to cost myself or the society.
Amanda – That commodification right? Feminism talks a lot about the objectification of women, as it should. We are humans and not objects that exist for someone else’s use, we are created in the image of God. But there’s, my friend Marion Hill put it this way. He says, “weight discrimination is the last acceptable bias that we have.” We think it’s OK to commodify fat bodies. There’s, there’s this story that that there’s a better body to have, a thin healthy body, or a muscular healthy body. So we look for the details. We look for studies that confirm our anti fat bias. So.
Nicole – Yeah I mean I modify that quote to say one of the last, because I think there are other bodies that are still definitely people, are socially acceptable to mock in many ways. But fat bodies are definitely a group of people that, we’re society at whole thinks it’s, who are good, to mock us or to discriminate against us, that it will somehow shame us into being thin.
Amanda – I would say that in the most progressive even though of circumstances, that he’s right. Because I think there’s a lot of awareness of disability discrimination and gender orientation discrimination. But again it’s not a competition. I mean it’s not a competition.
Nicole – No I would agree it’s, it’s fairly common to be in very progressive spaces and for people who are very, very intent on honoring bodies of various identities that they still leave out fat bodies. It’s common. So I would agree in that way.
Amanda – Have you have you been watching The Good Place.
Nicole – I do. I’m watching it, yes.
Amanda – I’ve been reading a lot about it. Mayfield has been writing about it and I love the show. But the thing is, they have represented so much diversity except there are no fat bodies in the show.
Nicole – That reminds me. The other day I think it was yesterday I was scrolling through Facebook and there was an image associated with some event that’s local. And it had a bunch of different arms with raised fists still like a feminist thing and one of the arms was fat and I like, just stopped and stared at it for like a good couple of minutes. I’m like that is so rare. Like all of the arms had different various skin tones and like types of like, jewelry and you can tell they’re trying to represent a wide range of people. And they included fatness. And I’m like that’s so rare.
Amanda – It’s like someone remembering what your favorite candy is but like on a much bigger scale.
Nicole – Like, I exist.
Amanda – Not just what kind of candy I like but that I’m here. Turning back to the article I’m going to read a couple of sentences and then connect it to what’s going on right now. “Forty five percent of adults say they’re preoccupied with their weight. Some or all of the time, an eleven point rise since 1990. Nearly half of 3 to 6 year old girls say they worry about being fat. The emotional costs are incalculable. I have never written a story where so many of my sources cried during interviews where they double and triple check that I would not reveal their names where they shook with anger describing their interaction with doctors and strangers in their own families.” So what is the value of our emotions? Is our emotional health on par with our physical health in in the public discourse. And this is particularly relevant to me thinking about, as we’re recording, the Senate confirmations for Kavanaugh are happening actually today and just thinking about the, the emotion I have seen people express on both sides. Those in favor and those against his confirmation. But I’ve seen so much of it reduced to, that people who are against his confirmation are just being are quote just being emotional as if emotional cost of our public conversations should not matter.
Nicole – Yeah I think there is that underlying assumption. Even if it’s subconscious, that there are some things so important that your emotions and your mental health don’t matter. Your feelings don’t matter. And I say that would be true in the discourse around these Kavanaugh confirmation hearings. And then I think it’s also true when people who are anti fat talk about fat bodies. You often hear that shaming works. That shaming makes people lose weight so therefore it should be employed. And so mental health and like our holistic health of who we are as an entire person, is sacrificed on this idea that somehow we’ll be healthy if we’re skinnier which isn’t even true. Yeah. So yeah I think that’s a key thing.
Amanda – So I was raised to be very thinking oriented even though I am very much a feeler and I saw that come out just even at the beginning of this podcast. So our feelings towards this article are very indicative of our personality types and pardon me, listeners but I’m going to talk about the any enneagram. So if you, if you’re not on board, just, just hit that that little skip button if you want to not hear about the enneagram. But for those of you who don’t know, the enneagram is a personality profiling tool that has nine different personality types and they’re based quantified, not quantified, identified through numbers. And so like a 9 as the peacemaker, the 1 is the perfectionist. The two is the helper or befriend-er. The three is the achieve,r the four is the artist, the five is the analyst researcher, the six is the loyalist, seven is the adventurer, the eight is the challenger OK. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about it what do you mean, I could just recite those from memory with no problem. No I was not reading any notes, I’m just really into the enneagram. I am a to 2, the helper, the befriend-er, the feeler. Not that other numbers don’t feel, but I’m very much concerned with how others perceive me, and how, how I can help other people. And so reading this article my response is like, I’m being seen. People are, people are coming alongside of me. I have friends on this journey. It makes me feel known and it’s not a perfect article but it’s still really great. Calling out the greatness it. Nicole on the other hand, you’re a 5.
Nicole – I’m now laughing thinking about how I, what I said about it.
Amanda – So what did you say?
Nicole – I was like well it’s great, but we really knew all these facts.
Amanda – Which is such a 5 thing to say!
Nicole – Cool, guy got attention. But, where have you been?
Amanda – Because you’re like, this is data and we’ve been saying this, we’ve been doing the research and reporting the data for years.
Nicole – I’m like, welcome to reality everyone.
Amanda – It’s so funny. Nicole and I have a message, our message on Facebook, back and forth just about life. And after having come across the enneagram and learning that Nicole is a 5 and knowing that I’m a 2, I’m like oh my gosh we’re a great team. Because I have all the feels and she has all the thinks.
Nicole – So look we got something for everyone out there, so, good to go.
Amanda – Let’s, let’s talk about this motif and I don’t know if motif’s the right word. But he says in the, the article “my interest in this issue is slightly more than journalistic. Growing up my mother’s weight was the uncredited co-star of every family drama, the obvious unspoken reason why she never got out of the car when she picked me up from school, why she disappeared from the family photo album for years at a time, why she spent hours making meatloaf and then sat beside us eating a bowl of carrots.” The idea of an uncredited co-star in every family drama, that line. Wow.
Nicole – Yeah. And it just it makes me sad for people who are still hiding from life because they think they’re not allowed to participate. And I totally place the blame for that on our society as a whole rather than the individuals. I wish I could let people know that you’re allowed to live your life in the body you have right now.
Amanda – That’s our slogan, right, to it’s the heart of our motto, slogan not sure the best… Our vision statement for the podcast, Loving God incarnate and our neighbors..
Nicole – Our neighbor’s body as our own.
Amanda – That something like that. We have it on our notes, right?
Nicole – Yes and our mission is to love God incarnate and our neighbor’s body as our own.
Amanda – Yes there we go.
Nicole – We know what we’re doing.
Amanda – The truth is anybody can do a podcast guys.
Nicole – Just get a mic and record yourself.
Amanda – Pretty much but with that we are so consumed by fear about our bodies and a lot of it is not irrational fear. A lot of it is people have been cruel and to be able to come to a place where you say you know what, for the sake of God for God’s sake and for my sake for my neighbor’s sake I’ve got to get the right understanding and see myself the way that God sees me so that I can live out and bring his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven where all bodies are good bodies. The author’s mother said, “the bigger way my weight affected my life was that I waited to do things because I thought fat people couldn’t do them.” She got her master’s degree at thirty eight her PhD at fifty five. “I avoided so many activities where I thought my weight would discredit me.”
Nicole – And I think that a lot of our stories. Like I got into fat acceptance in college so fairly young. But I still often think like if I had known who I was, if I hadn’t been so focused on just like my size in high school like what choices I’ve made that were different than the ones that I did. And I’m very happy with my life, I have a good life but I often wonder, what would have been different if I had been ok with myself and confident about myself from an early age. And I think there would have been differences.
Amanda – Yeah. Even just the emotional exhaustion.
Nicole – Career choices I think there would’ve been a lot of things that I would have explored or pursued that I didn’t or that I chose not to.
Amanda – High school for me was very fraught with weight issues. I was not fat in high school but I thought that I was. I would have passed the chair test. Well I don’t know if pass fail. I would have fit in any chair. Now I do not and I’ve always dreamed of teaching big audiences. Like that’s I just love teaching, and I love performing right. That’s that’s a gift that God has given me. The bigger that I’ve gotten though, imagining myself on a stage as a fat woman has has been one of the struggles. I’m a dreamer. Like, I have to dream it. I have to see it. And then I can go do it. But there just are not a lot of fat women on stages. Yeah. And I…
Nicole – Yep. And the ones that are are often, their body is the center of why they’re on the stage. They don’t get to have their stories.
Amanda – Yeah well it’s can we have a show that, and not even a show. But can we have a person, can we be the person that says I’m here. Well you know I know that you do non-profit work and I am, I’m the new job that I’ve gotten is in the nonprofit field as well. And so meeting people, talking to people, teaching about the different things that we are working for. I’m still, I still even after years of, of loving my body and learning to accept it. I still am afraid of what people are gonna think of me. When I talk about something that’s not bodies right. I can talk about bodies all day long. All bodies are good bodies. This is what you need to do and I’m a witness to the fact that.
Nicole – Yeah but when you’re just being professional and whatever your day job it is, like is anyone going to believe me? Do I look like a slob? Yeah.
Amanda – Right. Does my weight discredit me?
Nicole – We should and entire episode on like professionalism and body size and how that intersects thing.
Amanda – It’s a real thing. Well we’ve been talking for forty two minutes.
Nicole – I know this was supposed to be like our catch up, we won’t chat for long. Welcome to Season 3. But we like to talk so. But we’re going to have an exciting season for y’all. We’ve been talking about notes, we’re going to be interviewing some people. We also hope to expand the season to talking about, talking with people who are loving their neighbors while in other types of marginalized bodies. So expanding that because our mission is to, love God incarnate and our neighbors body as our own and that extends to more than just other fat bodies. So how can we be better at loving all of our neighbors. So we’re gonna learn from some other people in that regard as well. Yeah.
Amanda – Just a reminder. Seek out our Facebook group, facebook.com/groups/allbodiesaregoodbodies and request to join and answer the questions, we’d love to have you there. Contributing to the conversation, asking any questions you have about bodies, and it’s all while we are people of faith, it is open for people of all faith, any faith, no faith. You are welcome.
Nicole – Absolutely. Well 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 neighbors; bodies 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.
– Welcome to Fat and Faithful , an ongoing conversation about faith, politics and culture, as they relate to fatness.
Amanda – Hey everyone, Amanda here. Nicole is not with us today, I am interviewing a guest, Julie Duffy Dillon. She and I talk about intuitive eating, what it means to find food peace, and how that connects to being a person of faith. I’m really excited to share this with you guys. So once you’re finished, or right now, if you can go, rate and review this podcast on iTunes, that would be really helpful to us, because the more people that rate and review, the more people see when they’re searching for things about fatness and faith. Thanks so much! And here’s today’s episode.
Amanda – Welcome to this episode of Fat and Faithful, I’m here with Julie Duffy Dillon, of the Love Food podcast, one of my absolute favorite shows to help me in my journey towards food peace.
Julie is a registered dietitian who discovered that diets didn’t work for her clients. She set out to find a better way. That brought her to intuitive eating and Health at Every Size, also called HAES, Mindful Eating and Joyful Movement. And she uses her wisdom and insight, not only in her practice but also on her podcast, which has an epistolary format, which I love. It’s written as a letter, a listener writes a letter to food, with a questioner’s struggle, and then Julie and usually a guest discuss the letter and then we hear food’s response.
Here on Fat and Faithful, it’s our mission to encourage our listeners and ourselves, to love God incarnate and to love our neighbor’s body as our own. Finding peace with food is an integral part of loving one’s own body, so that we’re more available for relationship, which doesn’t happen with restriction.
Nicole and I wanted to give our listeners and ourselves a better understanding of food peace through intuitive eating, and that is why we invited Julie to the table.
Julie I’m so glad to have you on the show today, welcome to Fat and Faithful!
Julie – Thank you Amanda, you know it was so great to hear that introduction, that was so lovely, so I appreciate the kind words. And I am honored to be here and I’m so glad to know about your podcast because I think it’s filling a really important need.
Amanda – Well thank you, we’re excited to be able to talk about faith in relationship to bodies but we know that, not all our listeners are people of faith so wherever you’re at in your journey, I hope that you can learn from what Julie’s gonna teach us on intuitive eating. So let’s talk about, in your experience as a dietitian, why is dieting harmful?
Julie – Well, what I’ve come to appreciate from research and also clinical observation, you know, sitting next to people who are trying to make peace with food and also trying to find ways to promote health that’s long term, is, I basically came to this conclusions, that, diets don’t work. And not only do they not work, there’s risk with dieting, you know it’s not just this kind of decision that has little meaning to it, and as a Health At Every Size informed practitioner, something that appreciate is that, a person’s size is not something that’s necessarily going to determine how healthy they are. And as a Health At Every Size practitioner, I also appreciate that, when someone’s at the statistical, which is always a hard word for me to say, statistical extremes of the weight spectrum, we are pretty sure that weight is something that can be harmful. Yet when someone is at those extremes, you know, those extremes, I try to be like sound in my research, but I can’t say the words. When someone is at those extremes, we still don’t have an option for a person to lose weight in a way that’s gonna help most people and promote health long term. And what I always tell people, especially dietitians, who are struggling with this conversation, is even if someone comes to you and wants to lose weight just because they want to look differently or because maybe they’re at a very high weight, and you have to let them know, like they need to have informed consent before they start a diet, because it is something that we know is harmful. So like, starting a diet, you basically need to tell them, well it’s probably not going to work, it’s probably gonna lower your resting metabolic rate, so basically, the amount of food that you eat to maintain your weight at whatever weight your body wants to be at, is gonna be lower than it was if you had never tried a diet. And also it’s gonna increase your risk for things like high cholesterol, high triglycerides, depression, you’re pretty much gonna have a lower self concept as per the research, you know there’s like all these things that we’ve been able to connect with dieting. And also like, dieting predicts weight gain. So like, there’s so much to just be aware of, so yeah, it’s harmful, and they don’t work, so we need to find another way. That’s where intuitive eating helped me in my career and also how I relate to food, it helped me to have a language to do that. And it’s, I think there’s 85+ studies now on intuitive eating and how it helps promote health and how it’s being established and the research as an option, so um, and more being done everyday. So it’s an option that I think is really important and, I don’t know as I’m saying all this stuff, there’s often things that people will say to me whenever I talk about intuitive eating, like well, if I do intuitive eating, does that mean that I’m just letting myself go? And I always think about how, intuitive eating is really this, it’s not a passive process, it’s a really active process to stay engaged with one’s body and also to be aware of messages of like, shame, and judgement and to try to move away from that type of paradigm. So it’s not letting yourself go, and it’s really something that you have to work towards and acceptance is not being a gluttonous kind of couch potato, it’s actually the opposite, you know.
Amanda – Right well it’s interesting, you use the word gluttonous because that gets thrown around in faith communities when it comes to bodies and we did an episode a couple weeks ago on what is gluttony? In looking at the scriptural backing towards gluttony, it’s actually connected towards consumption that harms your neighbor instead of just eating a lot. So, listeners if you wanna check that episode out, it’s actually 2 part episode because we talked a long time about it. Please do that. So Julie what I’m hearing you say is, dieting doesn’t bring about the desired results and intuitive eating helps people get to a place of listening to their bodies.
Julie – Yeah, I think the assumption is, is if I just do the diet correctly, and keep doing it, then it’ll work. And what we know from our research so far is that, even if someone does the diet correctly and continues on it forever, they’re still gonna regain the weight and one third to two thirds of people will regain more, so, so yeah, I feel like intuitive eating is this kind of, I don’t know, a gently kind of in your face like, hey it’s not you that’s failing, it’s the diet that doesn’t work so don’t think you’re doing it wrong, like you got the wrong tool.
Amanda – And on your website you have a saying that you alluded to earlier, that intuitive eating is not letting yourself go, it’s letting yourself be. I love that so much.
Julie – Yeah it’s an important one because I think there’s a lot of shame with addressing, where’s the source of this judgement and shame coming from and saying, you know what? It really isn’t my fault. And I think a lot of people hear from maybe family or in their community that they should really be working hard on their health, and that if you’re not working hard on it then you’re letting yourself go. And that’s why I feel like intuitive eating is often just thrown out there like, well you’re just letting yourself go and when we let ourselves be, I think, what I connect to personally and from a lot of my clients too is, when you let yourself be, I think you can help quiet the noise. And I often picture, like if we live in a, I live in a pretty small southern town, but if I even went further out in the country, and there were no like, city lights, you know I could see all the stars in the sky, in the nighttime sky. But then if I went to like New York City, or Hong Kong, all the lights and everything, I wouldn’t see as many stars, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there. I just can’t, there’s all these things blocking it. And I picture dieting and body hate and this misuse of things like you said, gluttony, I think that’s basically the smog and the city lights keeping us from what is already there. And so when we can just be, I think we can connect with our faith, we can connect with our body’s wisdom and the answers are there. And I don’t think we, we shouldn’t have to have dietitians, I feel like, we have our own in there that’s letting us know what we need. So yeah, when you just let yourself be, I think it connects to all of our strengths which for many of us will be our faith, and also the like, innate kind of processes in our body, like our physiology that just lets us know, hey, this is what we need to eat right now, and this is what we need to be satisfied. We really can rely on that.
Amanda – I love it. It makes me think of when Moses is on the mountain and he hears, or he sees this bush that’s not burning up, it’s like so weird and out of his comfort zone, and he hears the bush inviting him to come closer, and it’s God in the bush. And when he asks what his name is, God answers, I am who I am. Like, he’s so comfortable being himself, and I think that you’re saying of it’s not letting yourself go it’s letting yourself be, puts us, puts me at least in a place of being in touch like, I can be me, and I’m a fat woman, and I use the word fat as a descriptive, neutral, rather than an epithet, and I can walk into a room and not worry about what other people are thinking about my size, because I’ve just come to this place of, I am who I am. I am the person that is in front of you, and that’s enough.
Julie – And you know, one of the most beautiful experiences in my office, is when I’m sitting across from someone who has that moment where you can see it, you can feel it in the room, where there’s a touch of acceptance. And they’re feeling acceptance, I’m getting tingles just thinking about it. And it’s a very, to me it’s always been a religious experience in a sense because I know I’m a religious person and I feel like it’s how God is, in the room. And I can tell in that moment how it’s happening, it’s always wonderful and I never thought about connecting it to Moses like you just said. That is really awesome, thanks.
Amanda – And even to connect it further to Moses, Moses is really insecure. Like, he says, a lot of people say he has a speech impediment or he’s just unfamiliar with the Egyptian language because it’s been 40 years. And I just see God being like, you know what? It’s okay, you can be who you are and do the things I have for you. Like, I’m so empowered by that because in the church a lot I hear, you need to be fit, you need to be healthy so that you can do what God has for you. And I think that, that is a limited view of who God is and who he has inherently made us to be.
Julie – Yeah yeah, I love the, how you said that, for two different reasons. One is, the fit and healthy, like are tools that we think are supposed to do that, don’t actually promote that, they promote the opposite. From most research, suggestions, what we’re finding right now is that really in the end, diets make us more sick. But then the other side of it is, health isn’t a moral issue either, you know? That doesn’t provide favor as whether someone’s healthy or not. Because there are people I feel like, they shouldn’t have to choose to be healthy, there’s so many, there’s such a dynamic type of experience and access to health is not equal, so it’s a very complex kind of situation so I’m like, yeah, health isn’t a moral issue either. So, that’s an interesting point to me.
Amanda – Not even, listeners I did not tell her to say that health was not a moral issue, you’ve heard us say that here before.
Julie – Oh that’s funny!
Amanda – Which is amazing because it’s true, and the truth makes itself known. But, especially as a thoughtful Christian, to look at the kingdom of heaving as being, turning the expectations of the world upside down, where might is right in our world, and whoever has the strength and the ability is celebrated and given wealth and honor. And that in the kingdom of heaven, it turns that on its head in the weak and broken and the sick are to be cared for with a special tenderness and so to recognize that our worth is not in our ability and is not in our weight, it’s not in our health, but it’s in the goodness of our bodies as created by God, so. I love, we did not plan to talk about all that, it just kinda came out, it’s awesome.
So when we talk about intuitive eating, can you tell us how we can eat intuitively? What are the practices we can set up in our lives?
Julie – So intuitive eating has three main areas to it. And when, I’ll describe em, but I feel like it’s important to just acknowledge that it’s pretty non linear. It’s kinda, it’s messy and complicated. And it takes time. I remember Evelyn Tribole, one of the authors of Intuitive Eating, when I first did a training with her in 2006, I believe, she mentioned that when a person comes to her and they’re in a place where they’re not restricting their eating anymore, but their relationship with food still doesn’t feel safe, it still may be chaotic, but yet they’re not, malnourished. It can take, typically about a year, to go through a lot of the processes. And I’ve seen a lot of people experience that and also people take a longer, oftentimes just depending on how they’re experiencing their body, like you, we were talking about earlier about body size. My clients at higher weights, they have to live in a world where their body’s not accepted all the time, and still reject diets. I think that’s harder than for someone who’s at a lower weight. And so I, those are clients that often take longer. So I just want to put that out there. But one of the foundations that I think is important for people to know about is the unconditional permission to eat, and when I sit with clients who are working to make peace with food, that’s the first thing. I think it’s the default always the most important one, the important part of intuitive eating and you know we have to have unconditional permission to eat whatever we need and whatever we want. And that’s the part that gets really messy and is uncomfortable, especially if someone is new to intuitive eating they’re like, wait, so I would just eat cake all day? And in the end it ends up being a much smaller part of the process time wise than a lot of the other stuff, but it still is the most important to me as I, when I work with clients and often times we have to go back to it. Because if we don’t have permission to eat certain foods, certain amounts, or certain times of the day, or for, measuring our weight in the process, which messes that all up, it’s not healing. It’s kind of staying with the paradigm that’s still dieting. But then the other parts of intuitive eating are eating according to hunger, fullness, and satiety cues, so like, using our body as a way to know how much to eat. Like our body’s tools that it was just born with, through our physiology, and relying on those. And then when we’re not relying on those, whether it’s not eating or eating past a fullness or satiety level, often times, I feel like, we don’t all eat intuitively all the time, because we’re not robots, and we all emotionally eat. But if it’s something that’s happening frequently as a way to cope, it’s eventually finding ways to cope outside of food, for more of the times. So those are kinda the core things that people go through, and as I’m saying all this, I can’t remember your original question. But, hopefully I answered it.
Amanda – I think you did! So the question was, how do we intuitively eat? And so, number one is, giving yourself unconditional, full permission to eat. And then number two you said –
Julie – Relying on your hunger and fullness cues and satiety cues.
Amanda – So the good body that God gave you, to trust that it knows what it needs. And then three?
Julie – And then when, that’s not happening, to find another way to cope with tough experiences, tough emotions, basically building a toolbox that’s gonna allow coping without food as the only option.
Amanda – That’s awesome. So I get this question all the time and I wonder if you do, but, people ask me, but what about health, how can I be healthy if I’m not counting calories in and out?
Julie – And that’s the really important part of the intuitive eating research or the non-diet, or mindful eating research, is that they basically were asking that question, because that’s always, that is the first question. I remember talking to a friend of mine’s father just a couple months ago and I hadn’t seen him since I graduated from college which was 20 years ago, and at that point I was a pretty typical dietitian, and working in weight loss and things like that. And so, he said something about like, oh could you give me a diet, and I was like, well actually… this is what I do now. And he was like, what? So I mean, you wanna promote like, cirrhosis and heart disease and like, what? Wait! And so one of the key things to keep in mind about society is that we tend to think in extremes and black and white, especially in the US, it’s just kinda how our brains are used to thinking about concepts and it stinks because the world is so beautifully gray and complicated, and diverse in so many ways, right? And so when we think about not dieting, like we said earlier, well that just means I’m letting myself go, it’s the same kinda thing. Just because we’re not dieting, does not mean we’re not pursuing or promoting health. ‘Cause there is, like, if you had a continuum and had, not like super diet-y and I don’t know, maybe doing that to promote health and then someone who’s just sitting on the couch all day and not doing anything, like, that’s just not the only options, there’s like a gazillion spots in between there. And so it’s just really moving away from dieting that as long as you keep yourself from going to the all or nothing, kind of calling it out when it happens, I think is really awesome. That it’s just not an all or nothing event. And what the research is showing us, like I said, there’s like 85+ studies now on intuitive eating that it does promote health, is that people who score as high in the intuitive eating scale that they have developed, they are people who have lower triglycerides, lower insulin levels, they have lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, their markers for health are better. And the other part of it is, it’s more sustainable, that’s what research has been able to show too, this is something we can do forever, unlike dieting. And especially if we lived in a community that supported it, which a faith based community would be amazing to have the support to help people in their community to continue to make peace with their food and are just not think that diets are the only way to do it.
Amanda – I think, two things that stuck out to me as you were talking and one is, food peace is a part of health. Because health is not just your indicators, right, not even like your blood sugar and all those things. Health is for your body, your mind, your soul, and it’s an incarnated thing. I think that the line that I like to use when I’m talking about, what about health, is, do what brings you peace. The scriptural analog to that would be, seek peace and pursue it. From the Psalms. That we have the opportunity to find peace that works for all parts of us. We are one whole person. And if I am over emphasizing “health” which is usually slang for thinness or lack of fatness, then that can be very damaging to my mind and my heart. And then therefore I am not actually healthier.
Julie – Wow, yeah, that’s a wonderful scripture, what did you say?
Amanda – Seek peace.
Julie – Seeking peace
Amanda – And pursue it.
Julie – Yeah I love that.
Amanda – And so that means, I have people ask me, well then should I just eat junk food? And I’m like, that escalated quickly.
Julie – That’s that all or nothing, yep!
Amanda – All or nothing. Which, I have a very all or nothing personality and I’ve had to learn to let that be challenged by things that I’m learning.
Julie – Yeah, I think too, we live in a world that’s all or nothing, and some of us will have personalities that are very detail oriented so we can easily kind of, that can be our default, plus culturally we learn it, but the really neat thing that intuitive eating can teach us to do with our brain, is to acknowledge that the first thought is what we’ve learned, and then, or part of our brain wiring, but the second thought can be more in line with what our heart knows to be true, or what we’re trying to promote. So if we’re trying to promote the peace like you said, you can have that as your second thought, it’s kind of like the unlearning, I like to call that.
Amanda – Yeah, absolutely. It’s an unlearning and that’s what we are trying to do through our podcast is unlearning what we’ve been taught about bodies and starting with, for me, part of my faith journey was learning that my body wasn’t bad because I grew up thinking that everything spiritual was good, but my body and all my appetites were bad. And that is actually a heresy addressed by the early church, called gnosticism. And I talk about it in my book, but basically when we see Jesus as the incarnated God, he is reaffirming that the human body is good because he is uniting himself to humanity forever. And so we can’t say, all these spiritual things that I do are great and all the things I do in my body don’t matter, no we’re integrated wholes, we are, just like Jesus is fully God, fully man, we are spiritual beings with good bodies. And so changing that script of my body is bad to my body is good has let me pursue peace in a more holistic way. That, I think, gives a great berth in my life, b-e-r-t-h, for intuitive eating, so I’m excited to learn more about it.
Julie – I would wanna add something too to what you were saying about, when someone is saying, does that mean I’m gonna be eating, I don’t know what you said, like junk food or candy or something like that. And one of the areas I specialize in is working with women who have poly cystic ovarian syndrome, which is a condition that has lots of nutrition recommendations, often diet focused, and they have, I think it’s like 40% of women with PCOS get prediabetes or diabetes by the time they’re 40, so if someone maybe has maybe diabetes, has this PCOS, and they’re seeking food peace, eating the “junk food”, or candy or whatever, may actually be the healthiest thing to do, and this is why. If someone has a relationship with food that’s super chaotic and has no permission, seeking permission, and you have to think long term, you know, in the long term, it’s gonna allow for the variety which variety in food like, choices and access to a variety of food, and I wouldn’t say just in a day process but more of like a week or month. That variety to me is what healthy eating is. I mean, if I had to like, describe it, if I was forced to describe what’s healthy eating, then like, eating a variety of foods and a variety of pleasurable foods and it’s, and you’re nourished enough, that to me is healthy eating. So seeking permission and sometimes having then to work through permission of certain foods that are labeled as not health promoting, is what is the healthiest step. And so I often will kinda chuckle, because I’m like, when they gave me my license to be a dietitian I bet they weren’t thinking of me eating cookies with clients, but that’s what I do with some people!
Amanda – I love it.
Julie – We eat foods that have a scary connotation because we need to find a way to live alongside all the food that we have. And I also want people to be able to go to like a birthday party or some kind of celebration and be able to be a part of it and not avoid it or have food be the focus. Like, relationships are what’s the most important in life, not the food, food does not deserve that power. So seeking that food peace, like if you just examine one slice of it, it may be like, whoa that doesn’t seem right, that’s not healthy. But when you look at the big picture, it makes sense, and that’s, really I’m about long term, lets long term help people find that peace and promote whatever they’re able to do for their health.
Amanda – I love it. That is so helpful. Julie, this has been an amazing conversation. Before we finish, I would love to ask you a question that I learned from listening to your podcast, which is, do you have a resource that you would like to encourage our listeners to access, it can be your own or something that you’re reading, we’d love to know what has helped you and your clients.
Julie – Well one thing that I would recommend is my podcast, you know it’s something that if someone is experiencing some kind of complicated relationship with food, they’d find it helpful, and you can get to it by juliedillonrd.com, and the other one is the blog Body Beloved, which is a blog that’s written by dietitians of faith. And it’s from a Christian perspective, so it’s specifically Christian faith, and they’re really dissecting all of the topics that you also seem to be going through, so if you would like to read things instead of just listening, that may be a resource. When I get questions from people of the Christian faith who are feeling stuck in intuitive eating because of things like gluttony that we were talking about earlier, that’s a resource that I, many people have found helps with that peace process. Because they’re like, oh, so that’s a really good one.
Amanda – Thank you so much! And again listeners, Julie Duffy Dillon, her website is juliedillonrd.com, and the name of her podcast is Love, Food. The comma is actually the sign, not the word. So, and it’s available anywhere podcasts are downloaded. And you’ll really, it’s a treat to listen. I’m, I’ve only recently discovered it and have been listening like every day. I listen to multiple episodes a day and it’s really great.
Julie – Aw, thank you.
Amanda – Where can our listeners follow you on social media?
Julie – So I’m probably most active on Instagram. And it’s at foodpeacedietitian.
Amanda – Perfect. And anything, any words of wisdom you’d like to close us out with today?
Julie – Oh wow, well I believe that everyone can trust their bodies, so you can too.
Amanda – I love it. Thank you so much, this has been so helpful.
Julie – Thank you so much for inviting me, it was so nice to talk about this and I really look forward to listening to it.
Amanda – Thanks for joining us for episode 9 of Fat and Faithful, season 2. We hope that this discussion with Julie Duffy Dillon on food peace and intuitive eating gave you some insight on how to live at peace with food. We have one more episode coming to you before we take a break, and prepare for season three. And as always, we would love to hear your input. You can email us at email@example.com or reach out on social media. Search for us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, with the handle fatandfaithful. May God bless y’all and have a great week as you deepen in love for God incarnate and your neighbor’s body as your own.
This is a photo from my childhood – I am standing with a neighbor of ours, Ms. Trudy. She and her sister whom she lived with – Ms. Mattie – were like grandmothers to me. They taught us how to make pickles and their home was a frequent destination. I’d admire their collection of porcelain dolls and my brothers would watch baseball games on TV with them. This is one of the only pictures I have with Ms. Trudy. Although it is blurry, I’m grateful for the tender moment it captures.
I write about Ms. Trudy in my book. About how she was one of the first people to model for me what it means to be body-positive. She certainly didn’t use those words. She just lived her life in ways that we call radical now. I write more about what that looked like and how it impacted me at a young age in chapter one.
My publisher, Fortress Press, is offering a download of chapter one of Fat and Faithful as well as a discussion guide to everyone who pre-orders.
You will receive a link to download the first chapter of Fat and Faithful AND a free discussion guide.
If you ready chapter one in these next few weeks before August 1 – I’d love to hear what you think!
Join me this July in Hot Springs, NC for a weekend of art, spirituality, music, and stories at Wild Goose Festival.
I’m thrilled to be returning as a speaker for the third year in a row. I’ll be leading two sessions, one open to all and one in the youth tent.
So often we look at fat bodies as failures – and that is no different inside the church than out. This session will look at some truths about fat bodies – that they are made in the image of God, tell us something unique about God, and are not a sign of sin. While the world tells us that our fat bodies are too much, the truth is that all bodies are expressions of the body of Christ. We will talk about how our churches and communities can be places where fat bodies are welcome and intentionally included as part of a vibrant community. There will be time for questions and discussion.
This weekend is one the highlights of my year for a variety of reasons; the body-diversity and inclusion present at the festival is one of those reasons.
To learn more about booking me as a speaker for your event, visit my Speaking Page.