What Does Body Positive Really Mean?

It’s a great question, and one that deserves a bit of exploring.

I believe that body positivity started out as a reaction to the under-representation and negative representations of non-thin and non-white women in the media. Women in particular had become sick and tired of not seeing themselves reflected in the pages of magazines or on television. It was really a grass roots effort to be seen and appreciated.

Having been a part of this disillusioned group, I got on the bandwagon almost seven years ago and created my own niche that includes discussing, fat acceptance, race, taking up space, feminism, chronic illness, accessible yoga, plus fashion, and more.

Of course there are lots of areas to explore underneath the BODY POSITIVITY umbrella. In fact, I’m hosting a teleclass this Saturday that’s all about starting your own body positive blog.

But as the years have gone on, body positivity has come to mean different things to different people.

  • For women of color it has become about becoming visible and being represented in a way that reflects our diversity and cultural richness.

Gaby Sidibe

  • For those with chronic illness or those who are differently-abled it is about showing our strengths despite a society that tries to limit us with negative descriptors.

 

  • For fat women it’s about so many things, including giving ourselves permission to wear what we want when we want. By now everyone knows what a fatkini is, right?!
Fat Woman of Color in a bikini

Art by Tatiana Gill

  • For many it’s about anti-dieting and how this billion dollar industry shames people into believing that a very specific body type (ie. thin) is the only standard of beauty we should ascribe to.

 

What I understand is that body positivity is really a movement about being seen, heard, appreciated and having equitable access to resources and positive representation across the board. It is constantly changing to be as inclusive as possible, as any well-intentioned movement should. I know my views have changed over the years and I’ve learned so much about my own biases. I do my best to stay open and learn from others who have different experiences than I do.

If you’ve ever wanted to blog about body positivity, join me this Saturday for a super fun class on BoPo Blogging 101. Early Bird tickets are just $15 and available through this Wednesday.

 

Clean Eating is Just Code for Diet & Me No Likey

For the last few years I’ve been seeing the phrase “clean eating” become the latest craze in Dietlandia . And what in the holy hell is that? I mean, really, isn’t clean eating just a regular ‘ole diet dressed up in a jazzy new outfit? It’s like calling water “that wet stuff.”

The clean eating craze has given voice to lots of instagramers who take photos of their clean food, which include mostly fruits, veggies, and protein. There is little to no fat in sight. Except for avocados. They love avocados.

body  positive affirmations (3)

Unfortunately, I think clean eating is a dangerous business, especially for those with eating disorders. It suggests that food and eating are a moral issue — that there is good food and bad food. If you eat the former, you are good. And if logic follows, if you eat the latter, you are bad. What an awful assault on our individual choices and worth!

I fucking HATE diet culture. It is responsible for so much self-hate and it breeds competition in the worst possible sense. I am officially calling it out as a not-so-undercover attempt to rebrand weight loss propaganda. And this bish ain’t havin’ it.

xo

 

Why Do We Have to Be Pretty All the Fucking Time?

pretty

When I wake up in the morning, one of the first things I do before getting out of bed is to decide what I’m going to wear that day. I scan my overflowing closet in my mind’s eye, carefully matching (or in my case, not matching) the pieces I think will work together. Next, my thoughts wander to the perfect lipstick color and how best to style my unwieldy mane.

Yes, admittedly my first few thoughts upon waking are about how I look. And I’m kinda over it.

So why do I do it?

The simple answer — habit. The complicated answer — I have been brainwashed by a media that is largely influenced by making a business out of ugly-shaming me. Like so many of you reading this, I get frustrated by the constant pressure that I have to be pretty just to go to the grocery store, or to work, or to socialize.

And let me also say that I love having fun in fashion. But in my heart of hearts, I know that sometimes I’m doing it so I can feel like I’m enough.

And I’m pretty sure I’ve been sold a heaping load of stinking bullshit.

As a society, we have intentionally decided that pretty is the thing you should be, but you can never really get. It’s a total setup. And it absolutely requires you to be vigilant about the kinds of messages you allow yourself to hear. I know, you’re probably thinking, well, Pia, tell us how to do that so we can go and fucking do it.”

First, a teeny bit about my experience. My rocky road to healing only really started when I began making the kinds of environmental changes that created a safe space in which I could begin to experience worth beyond my appearance. And as I always say, I have not yet arrived. The journey is in the healing, and the healing is in the journey.

body  positive affirmations

Social media was the turning point in my recovery. All of a sudden I had access to resources and support for how to move past my eating disorder and begin accepting my exhausted self. I met fierce activists, proud fatties, plus size designers, chubby bloggers, thin allies, and now dear friends, all of whom have had an impact on my healing.

And I let myself be raw. I told my truth so that the collective energy  from these relationships began to kindle my spirit. I summoned a strength I never knew I had. I allowed my  thick, light-deprived thighs to bask in the sun’s warmth, aware that no one at all gave me a second glance.

Instead of reading mainstream magazines, I began to read blogs that celebrated larger bodies. Rather than hold onto old jeans that no longer fit me, I embraced the amazing options in plus size clothing and found a style that took into account my fluffy proportions AND my personal style.  I made a conscious choice to surround myself with images, words, and relationships that supported my work towards self-acceptance.

I became part of a revolution to take back my life, my choices, and my dignity. And in the process I became me — a mixed fat chick who fights for justice whilst eating gluten-free donuts. Because I’m allergic to gluten. Not because I give a fuck about carbs.

Ya know, I really want to not be writing about this in five years. I hope there won’t be a need.

In the meantime, bombard yourself  with positive messages with the same energy you were using to beat yourself up. It takes effort and planning to make fundamental changes in your thinking and your behaviors. Don’t worry, there is no race to the finish line. Take all the time you need, and celebrate the victories — big and small — along the way.

Sending much love, light, and healing to you!

xo

 

P.S. I have an amazing E-Course coming later this summer. Stay tuned!!

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired. It’s Time for a Re-Evolution!

I like bodies.

I think bodies are marvelous.

I love their curious creases and billowing bellies.

I adore their freckles, their moles, their rad wrinkles.

I worship their lovely lumps and hefty humps.

I revel in their sacredness.

body-image3

photo by Substantia Jones (Adipositivity)

 

adipositivity

I am so fucking committed to loving the shit out of myself.

I’ve been to the mountaintop and we are in the midst of a re-evolution. And by that I mean change is coming. A strong wind is picking up speed and new ideas are ripe for implementation.

It's time for aRE-EVOLUTION

I believe we are constantly evolving, and that important movements get impeded by greed and the desire to be the in the limelight. But now we are in a time of recognizing that the isms of our society must be addressed in a more holistic and inclusive way. No more 2nd wave feminism that excludes women of color. No more vilifying fat bodies. No more leaving oppressed peoples out of the conversation.

I adore these drawings by Carol Rosetti.

Powerful-Illustrations-Showing-Women-How-To-Fight-Against-Society-Prejudices15__605          enhanced-2151-1413305675-1

Carol-Rossetti-Joanna          9ccbb9f2d1e041a8a5177dd35b6d3b42

fd42681438f5b1673a8e22dbcd1cd448           Jane-Weight-580x800

The universe must evolve beyond stigma and hate. It must evolve past judgment and stereotyping.

Women are prepared to dismantle the patriarchy and all its hideous cousins — misogyny, racism, homophobia, and ableism.

Fat folks are taking back the “F” word, and refashioning in it into a big “FUCK YOU” needlepoint doily for the dieting society.

fuck-you

So you see, it’s inevitable. We’ve tried the white, male, cisgender, abled way of doing things for more centuries than I care to count. And it doesn’t work. Well, it works for them. But it sure as fuck doesn’t work for us.

Now is the time for female led, POC (people of color) led, LGBTQ led, and differently abled led, social movements. We must take up space instead of asking for permission.

The oppressed must stand in solidarity if we are ever going to create sustainable social change. And that happens through a sincere desire to learn from one another, and an awareness of our intersectional privilege. And it also requires action.

Sitting on your sofa, watching reality television ain’t gonna change the world.

activism-alice-walker

I think my colleagues and I are doing a decent job of being inclusive in our activism. It’s not perfect — though it’s a good start. But we need to step up our game. 

When we are inclusive in our activism, we lift everyone up. And that’s the fucking point.

We will encounter struggle and frustration for sure. And the road will be long. But can we at least commit to being collaborative and radical in our approach?

I can.

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired?

I hope to see you on the road to #ReEvolution!

xo

That One Time I Had Liposuction and My Life Still Sucked

This is 12 pounds of fat removed through liposuction.

This is 12 pounds of fat removed through liposuction.

I have vaguely mentioned my liposuction surgery in other posts, but I’ve never really delved into it until now. When I was 23 I had 11 pounds of fat removed from my stomach, hips, and thighs. I had the surgery done in the Philippines, where my parents were working for two years.

It was the summer of 1998, and I recall my father first mentioning to me how inexpensive it was to have plastic surgery done in Manila, and my heart skipped a beat at the thought of thin thighs. He kept hinting at it until I pressed him for more information on the procedure. I probably weighed around 230 pounds at that time, and my self-esteem was in the crapper (I weigh about the same now). I had zero self-love and I was desperate. I really just wanted to feel desirable and beautiful. And thin, of course.

Why I want to lose weight

I believed this would make me happy. It never did.

I had no idea I was already magnificent.

I met with the surgeon and finalized a date for the surgery. In the days leading up to it, my father threatened to not pay for the liposuction. He wanted to make sure I was going to commit to losing more weight afterwards.  His intentions were good (tough love and all that), but it really just broke my heart. All my hopes in this life-changing surgery were about to be dashed. How could he threaten to take away the very thing I’d always hoped would make me happy?

Me before the surgery near my top weight of about 230 pounds.

Me before the surgery near my top weight of about 230 pounds.

In the end, he paid for the surgery. I remember waking up in the hospital bed wrapped in layers of gauze, alarmed at the amount of pain I was in. My father stood at my bedside, gleaming, and telling me they’d sucked 11 pounds of fat out of my body. All I could think was, I wished they’d sucked more out.

It took my body many weeks to heal. Plastic surgery is real surgery. My body was altered permanently, which at the time, seemed like a good thing. But it would catch up with me years later.

This is the cannula being inserted into a woman's stomach. They basically jam this violent instrument into your body.

This is the cannula being inserted into a woman’s stomach. They basically jam this violent instrument into your body.

In the months following the surgery, I moved to NYC to study interior design at FIT. I walked. A lot. And the weight came off quickly. I went down to about 160 pounds, 60 pounds down from my pre-surgery weight. And although I enjoyed shopping for clothes in mainstream stores, my self-esteem was not improved.

post surgery 1

Probably weighed around 165 or so here.

post surgery 2

Started to gain a little bit of weight, but still quite slender.

 

You see, I thought I was taking a shortcut to self-love by having liposuction. I honestly believed that having a smaller body would magically make me a happy and fulfilled person. So when it didn’t happen, I was devastated.

NY was a lonely place for me, and I ate to numb the pain. When I left with my design degree in hand two years later to head back to my hometown of D.C., I had put on some of the weight I’d lost.

My struggle with body image only got worse in the years following my surgery. I hadn’t dealt with the real reason I wasn’t happy with myself. I could not fathom the idea that I could be fat and still be worthy. The crazy dieting went on for years and years, well into my thirties. It wasn’t until I found 12-step programs, that I learned to find acceptance in my body. That, and lots of therapy and self-reflection.

therapy

I think plastic surgery is a personal decision that people make for various reasons.  And if you’re considering it, please do your research and think about why you’re doing it. There are many days that I regret having had it because I still have scars and a lower stomach that is uneven because my surgeon didn’t do a great job (I might qualify for the show Botched. Ok, not really). But then I remember that all these life decisions are what make us who we are. Perhaps if I hadn’t had the surgery, and the experience of being thin and unhappy, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

This E! show depicts people who have had plastic surgery gone bad.

This E! show depicts people who have had plastic surgery gone bad.

Life is full of lessons, some more painful and persistent than others. When I look at my scars and my oddly-shaped tummy, I am witness to the many years of self-hatred that I’ve had to let go.

body positive affirmation - mixed fat chick

Today I am stronger, wiser, kinder, and more compassionate with myself. I am learning everyday the perils of perfectionism, and moving courageously forward, sharing my story with the world. I urge you to the lift the veil of  your own past pains and to face them head on. It’s hard fucking work, but freedom is on the other side of fear. Be bold.

xo