3 Ways to Deal with the Fat & Body Shamers in Your Family Right Now!

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Most of you reading this right now have been body-shamed at some point in your life. It was likely a relative who first made you feel like shit about your body. The first person who body-shamed me was my father. At age 14, standing 5′-7″ tall and weighing 145 pounds, he thought I needed to go on a diet. And it hurt like hell.

I don’t think most of our family members intend to hurt us with their opinions, but it stings like a motherfucker anyway. And unless you have the unusually high self-esteem of say, Donald Trump, it’s likely to leave an impression on you. In my case, the impression was felt for the better part of 20 years.

Up until the last few years, any comments about my weight from my family cut me deeply. I didn’t understand why my body needed policing, regardless of whether it was thin or fat. I just wanted to be left alone — to just be in my body without having to account for my worth based on its size.

We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.

Today, I am mostly free from the abuse of body-shaming from my family. But it took learning some lessons before I could stand up for myself and realize that I had a lot more control over the situation than I realized. Here are three ways that I’ve found helpful to get through the pain of body-shaming from relatives and friends:

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I know it seems counter intuitive, but having compassion for your body-shamer is very healing. It’s not about you. It’s about them. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the damn truth. After having observed the way my parents had fat-shamed me and others over the years, it occurred to me that they had their own set of insecurities which plagued them. Their insults were just a reflexive response to hating some part about themselves. We’ve all read stories about how a bully was once the object of a bullier. Well, same idea here.

We are exposed to so much pain and judgement in this world. None of us are free from it. We wrongly believe that pointing out so-called imperfections and flaws in others will somehow distract from our own shortcomings. But that’s a lie. The only thing it does is magnify our assholeness.  Yes, I just invented that word. You’re welcome.

When we realize that negative comments are really reflections of how others feel about themselves, it easier to forgive and let go. Don’t get me wrong. It takes a lot of practice. But it does work.

*Side note: they do still fat shame other people, but I call it out when they do it every time!

2

Please stop expecting other people to change. You can’t. You can only change yourself. Once I decided that I was done with dieting and that I was comfortable with the way I looked, the comments completely stopped. I literally stood with my head held high. I wore what wanted and ate whatever I wanted in front of whoever was there. I am still in awe of how powerful self-love is. When we stop giving away our power, life is so much better.

12-Step programs and therapy  were instrumental in helping me to get to this point. For so long I hoped my parents would change their tune and simply stop commenting on my body. But this misguided hope was the very definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. Probably not gonna happen in this lifetime. So stop. Right now! Stop it!!!

Instead, I want you to focus on finding ways to love your body more. If you’re reading this, chances are you are on social media and have access to a myriad of resources that DO celebrate your body. Just search for hashtags like #iamenough#bodypositive, and #effyourbeautystandards,  to fill your feed with inspiring images. It really does work!

3Be willing to create boundaries. You have the right to choose not to be around people who make you feel bad about yourself. And you also don’t need to explain your decision. Self-care and self-preservation are your God(ess) given right. So claim it!

You can still love your family and choose not to be around them. They might not understand. They might get angry. But would you rather be angry, or let them be angry? I know what I would do. And if they do confront you about your absence, it’s okay to tell the truth. Again, they may not get it. In fact, they may get defensive (my family certainly does) Simply go back to tips #1 and #2: have compassion and don’t expect them to behave differently.

And then get the hell out! LOL

Look, I don’t have all the answers. All I can do is share what has worked for me. I hope these tips are useful and that you find more ways to release yourself from the grip of the body-shamers in your life. Until then, I wish you self-love and light!

xo

 

 

I Am #WhatAYogiLooksLike

I’m so pleased to be featured in Yoga International as part of the “This is What a Yogi Looks Like” (#whatayogilookslike) media series collaboration between the Yoga and Body Image Coalition and Yoga International based on the YBIC campaign that launched in 2014 and their continued work in challenging stereotypes, growing community, working collaboratively, and highlighting the diversity of yoga practitioners and yoga practices, as well as their staunch commitment to diversifying yoga media. Also, a special thanks to Melanie Klein for making it possible!

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Photo by Sarit Z. Rogers

As published in Yoga International on June 29, 2016

For so many years, as my weight fluctuated up and down in multiples of 20, I was rarely present in my body. In fact, I spent most of my time researching new diets and abhorring my reflection in the mirror. No matter what the number on the scale, it was never the right one. And so I spent the better part of 25 years feeling like a stranger in my own skin, punishing myself for my “imperfections.”

It was yoga that finally allowed me to experience my large body in a positive way. But it wasn’t love at first sight.

My first experience with yoga was in 1999, and I really didn’t get it. That, and I felt like a bull in a china shop. Seriously, I was less than graceful, and I always felt rather awkward posing alongside people who looked nothing like me. So I said goodbye to yoga without a regret in the world.

It was yoga that finally allowed me to experience my large body in a positive way. But it wasn’t love at first sight.

Because of my poor body image and low self-esteem, I missed out on too many experiences: swimming in the ocean with my family, dating in high school because of my shy demeanor and insecurities about the size of my jeans, and positive sexual experiences because I was too busy trying to sleep my way to high self-esteem. It was a journey toward external affirmation that never ceased. I could not find peace.

In 2011 I became fed up. I was tired of obsessing about my body and weight. It was then that I began authoring my blog, Chronicles of a Mixed Fat Chick. I conducted lots of research on large bodies, plus fashion, body image, and self-acceptance. It became my mission to try to understand and move beyond my long-held negative body image. Well, I needed some support and inspiration along the way. In my research I came across so many amazing websites that featured women like me thriving proudly in their plump bodies. All along I’d been focused on attaining thinness so I could be happy, perfect, and free. But the ample women on those brilliant sites looked thoroughly content. They were smiling and laughing and basking in their fatness. It was the first time I ever really considered quitting dieting altogether.

Then, a few years ago I began to see pictures all over social media of fat women doing yoga. It was really a magical time for me—I was so attracted to the confidence of these women who were doing something I had always associated with being young, thin, white, and cisgender. And here were women like Dianne Bondy and Jessamyn Stanley, who were breaking all the “rules.” I thought, I’m black and fat, too. And maybe I can do this yoga thing.

Fast forward to 2014, when I finally found the courage to try my first yoga class in 15 years. I went to a sweet studio a few blocks from my house called Crenshaw Yoga and Dance. I showed up early, knots in my stomach. An lovely lady in a green leotard and dark tights greeted me at the door with the kind of warmth only old Black folks from the South can deliver. I adored her instantly. I explained to 70-something Adrienne that this was my first class in a long time—and that I was nervous. I also informed her that I had fibromyalgia and was hoping yoga could improve my symptoms. She smiled her wide smile, nodded, and the rest is history.

When I got on the mat—and finally let myself relax—I was astounded at what my body could do and how it could feel.

Adrienne’s class was life changing for me. There were mostly women of color, including some with large bodies (some smaller and some bigger than mine). The age range was 21 to 75, and there were various levels of experience represented in the room. When I got on the mat—and finally let myself relax—I was astounded at what my body could do and how it could feel. It was the opposite of an out-of-body experience—it was an in-body experience. A first for me.

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In the weeks and months that followed, my poses got deeper and the reflection in the studio mirror became less and less important. I realized that what allowed me to really love yoga was having a safe space to practice, a space in which I never felt judged. I discovered that yoga is not a competition; it’s a way of being in the world. Yoga also helped me to see how my limiting thoughts and behaviors were keeping me from thriving in other areas of my life. And it absolutely proved to me that being in a large body does not determine my worth, my beauty, or my health. Only my opinion can do that.

xo

How the Body Positive Movement Unintentionally Shames People Who Choose to Lose Weight

I began my journey to body positivity (BP) and self-acceptance almost six years ago. It’s been a wild ride, with lots of bumps and bruises. But mostly it’s been an amazing experience resulting in the formation of a wonderful community of advocates and friends. And I’m proud to say that I’ve allowed my views to change and grow as I’ve learned more about inclusivity and the importance of hearing one another with an open heart and mind.

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Admittedly, I’ve also witnessed and been a part of shaming people in the BP community who openly express their desire to lose weight. The pervading thought seems to be that BP folks who want to lose weight are inherently self-hating and thus negate all the strides the movement has made to be seen and heard. That, and we tend to internalize the choices of others as an attack on us. I get that the space we’ve created is so special and hard-won, that we’ve become very protective of it. But we must remember that this movement is based on the idea that ALL bodies are GOOD bodies. The BP movement is about learning to love and accept our bodies and those of others without judgment. So, if we shun people who make a personal decision to lose weight (for whatever reason), then we are hypocrites. Me included.

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I know plenty of women who have learned to love themselves because of the movement, and still want to lose weight and do what feels right for their bodies — and it’s OK!  I’m a firm believer in health being something you define for yourself. As I’ve said before, there are people who are fat and healthy, and fat and unhealthy. The same goes for thin people. So if you are fat (or thin), and you don’t feel good in your body, then do whatever you need to do to feel good. Don’t let anyone, not even the BP movement, shame you into staying where you don’t want to be. By the same token, abstain from judging those folks who choose not to lose weight.

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I’m bringing this divisive topic up because I’ve had conversations with many women in the movement who are expressing a desire to lose weight for their own personal reasons, but feel afraid to share it for fear of banishment from a movement that purports to be inclusive.

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Let me remind you that people have all sorts of reasons for why they want to lose weight, and frankly, it’s their business. Hell, I’m thinking about losing weight because my plantar fascitis is getting increasingly worse (I’ve tried everything, including orthotics and special shoes, but to no avail). And 30 pounds ago, I didn’t experience this problem (for someone who loves to dance, it’s a real bummer). Let me also say that at my current weight I can do yoga,  have great cholesterol levels, and my blood pressure is normal. So yes, I have health in many areas, but not in others (my feet hurt!!!). And I want to feel fully vibrant: physically, mentally, and spiritually. It’s my God-given right, and it’s no ones’ business but my own.

Side note: For those of you who do want to lose weight, I hope you’ll do it sanely and healthily.

My ultimate desire is that the body-positivity movement embrace all forms of self-love and wellness. It may look different for each of us, but at the end of the day, all most of us really want is to feel our best and to be accepted without fear of judgement. Your thin body is no better than mine. My fat body is not more worthy than yours. And my desire to lose a few pounds so I can dance without achy feet is no reflection of your personal choices.

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Being inclusive can only strengthen our cause. So, can we just open our hearts and mind a little more and make space for everyone to feel supported and seen? I sure hope so.

xo

Blue, Orange, & Checked All Over

Lately I’ve been feeling a bit preppy, and it’s been really fun to explore this side of my fashion personality. I used to think I could only wear things that hugged my curves or showed skin, in order to feel sexy and confident. But I’m discovering that sexy is an attitude, and that the fashion possibilities are endless if I’m willing to take chances.

I’m finding that wearing pieces that are oversized, or even a bit shapeless, can be very cool! In many ways, I feel more confident when I’m all buttoned up in something unexpectedly funky. I push myself to try new ideas because it’s a fantastic creative outlet, and well, it’s really fun.

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This bold orange, navy blue, and grey Old Navy sweater got so many compliments when I wore it. I usually wear a 2x, but this was an XL and fit just the way I wanted it to. I bought it an Old Navy outlet store recently, so I don’t know if it’s still available. But you should check anyway, just in case.

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The white button-down oxford shirt is by Van Heusen in a 2x, which I bought from Amazon, of all places. It’s so crisp, and I love the pointed collar. I plan to pair this shirt with lots of things! Watch is Fossil, and earrings and bracelet are Stella & Dot, which has such great jewelry. Admittedly, I’m addicted.

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My jeans are thrifted, and the booties are Sam Edelman (last season), which I bought from Ross for $35 –STEAL!!. They’ve been a favorite of mine since I got them. You’ll see them in the rotation a lot. I think the photo before this one shows them better.

My orangey lip color is a blend of Milani Sweet Nectar and Ruby Woo by MAC (which, by the way, looks great on EVERYONE!). I love mixing lipstick colors together — it’s a great way to expand your color options on a budget too!

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It’s a little tough to see in this shabby photo, but I added a pair of small earrings to the button holes in the collar for a little extra sparkle. I have lots earrings in different shapes, sizes, and colors that will make this basic oxford shirt POP!

Well, if I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that I need to take better pictures. Outside. During the day. I’m still getting the hang of this thing, people.

Until next time, I hope all your fashion choices make YOU feel good!

xo

Things You Should Know and Other Stuff, Too

I’ve read some really good articles this week and thought I’d share with you those really resonated with me. As always, I want to hear your thoughts!

Catching Up With Gloria Lucas and Nalgona Positivity Pride    By NATALIE MISCOLTA-CAMERON

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Nalgona Positivity Pride is a community-based effort to increase body positivity in the Xicana/Brown*/Indigenous community. Started in Los Angeles in 2014 by Gloria Lucas, the organization relies on community outreach, support groups, social media, and even an Etsy store to spread its message.

I recently sat down with Gloria for a Q&A to find out more about NPP and the person behind it.

You’re personally recovering from an eating disorder. Can you talk a little bit about this?

I recall secretly hiding food, sneaking to the kitchen in the middle of the night and overeating as young as 11 years old. I started inducing purging in my late teens.

It took me some time to find out why I had an eating disorder (ED). Most of the current information that explains the causes of eating disorders never mentioned racism and classism, so I didn’t feel like those theories didn’t quite fit me. It was not until I read up on historical trauma that I realized that my unhealthy relationship with food is a deeper issue caused by colonialism, poverty, systemic racism, and cultural sexism. Historical trauma is a theory by Dr. Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart which explains trauma as a transgenerational occurrence. In other words… READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

 


Gabourey Sidibe Has the perfect Response to Love Scene Fat-Shamers      By ZEBA BLAY

BEVERLY HILLS, CA - NOVEMBER 05: Actress Gabourey Sidibe attends the Screen Actors Guild Foundation 30th Anniversary Celebration at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on November 5, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

On Wednesday night, the writers of “Empire” made a bold move when they included a scene of Gabourey Sidibe’s character Becky having sex with her boyfriend, MC J Poppa. The scene was refreshing because it reminded us that, yes, fat women like and have sex, and it shouldn’t be a big deal.

Unfortunately, the scene generated a few mean-spirited memes fat-shaming the actress. But, like the queen she is, the 32-year-old actress isn’t bothered.

In a blog post for EW published on Thursday, Sidibe wrote: “I, a plus sized, dark-skinned woman, had a love scene on primetime television. I had the most fun ever filming that scene even though I was nervous. But I felt sexy and beautiful and I felt like…” READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.

 


Looking Back: Our Fave Ashley Nell Tipton Instagram Moments Before Project Runway     By MARCY CRUZ

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Project Runway Season 14 winner Ashley Nell Tipton may be new to the mainstream fashion industry with her appearance on the show but to the plus size community, she is already well known as an amazing designer who creates clothing for women in sizes 1X to 6X. While many plus size designers only stop at a 3X, Ashley is one of those designers who truly embraces women of all sizes.

Many of us have loved Ashley before Project Runway and it is exciting to see her progress on the show and in her career. In honor of her win, we took a look back and here’s our favorite Instagram moments from… READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE.


I hope you enjoyed my picks. I really wanted to highlight all the awesome things that fat women everywhere are doing. They are healing, they are thriving, they are succeeding!

xo

3 Reasons to Stop Body Shaming Celebrities

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Jessica Simpson being body- policed by the media.  Photo courtesy of Hollyzood.com

I occasionally find myself silently, and sometimes not to silently,  judging and policing the bodies of celebrities. Perhaps the barrage of perfectly polished images of celebs in the media has brainwashed me successfully. But I bear some of the responsibility too.  I can consciously choose not read rag mags and look for cellulite on Jessica Simpson’s upper thighs.  I can walk away when my co-worker wants to gossip about Beyonce’s boobs. And sometimes I do. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I want to judge the way I’ve been judged. I want to inflict pain where I’ve been injured.  I just for once, want a pretty, thin woman to feel the shame  and insecurity I’ve felt. And so, on occasion, I indulge in the kind of exchanges that afterwards make me feel dirty.

I admit it. This body-positive activist and speaker fucks up now and again.

 

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It’s important for me have this awareness and to expose it. When we hide behind our dirty secrets, we live in fear and resentment. And then it becomes easier and easier to be complacent. We get comfortable in our negativity and reproach for others. And we think to ourselves, everyone else is doing it, so it’s no big deal. As much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news: IT’S A BIG FUCKING DEAL. And here’s why:

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Celebrities are people too. We think that money and fame dilute a person’s humanness, making them immune to hurt feeling and humiliation. But it doesn’t. It does the opposite. It tests humanness and then sells it for public consumption. And boy do we eat it up. As someone who has the tiniest bit of visibility in the body-positive movement, I’ve experienced my fair share of push back from internet trolls. As much as we know that a 16-year old bored teenager is behind most of the fanfare, it still stings. Because it triggers something painful that happened to us in the past. It may have been your brother calling you ‘thunder thighs,’ or your dad offering helpful diet tips when you were 12. It doesn’t matter. The point is, if we want things to be really different, if we want to raise our daughters to not worry about their pot bellies, then the buck stops with us. Gossip magazines exist because you buy them. Stop buying them. Please. It takes action to create change. Be a warrior.

 

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Pot bellies are beautiful!

2

We need more diversity in the media. This is not new information, and yet it needs to be said. People of size are rarely depicted in positive ways in film and television. They are often the butt of stupid jokes, the fat best friend, or perhaps even the pretty chubby girl who loses weight and gets the guy. BORING! We must take some radical action to make sure that fat folks, and even non-thin folks, have the opportunity to take roles that don’t revolve around their body size. Because guess what? We have talent too. And the world is missing out on some seriously gifted people because of our obsession with thinness as perfection. Let us be bold and try something new. Let’s put big bodies on screen and watch the world change.

 

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3

Celebrities have power. They do. They have influence, which is the stuff of revolution. Imagine if a fat actress had the support of millions of viewers. They wrote letters letting the network know just how much they love her. They create fan pages and create buzz. Imagine her dimpled arms highlighted on the cover of Vogue. All of a sudden she’s breaking down barriers and is the star of her own show, where she wears crop tops and body hugging dresses in bright shades. She begins to normalize large bodies on TV. We see her over and over, and after a while, we forget she is fat. We see a talented actress, who moves us. We see her inner beauty AND her outer beauty. We see ourselves in her. And then…who knows?

 

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Photo courtesy of Daily Venus Diva.

 

In solidarity,

xo

Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel Campaign Misses the (Stretch) Mark

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Lane Bryant‘s #ImNoAngel campaign has gotten lots of attention for its recent diss on Victoria’s Secret’s long-time angels ads. But is it really that different from it’s straight size counterpart? Um, not really.

Why are we so damn excited that six flawless plus models who have been photoshopped to death are representing the plus size woman?

The bodies in that advertisement are young, have round butts, smooth thighs and not a stretch mark in sight. The message it sends is that there is a very specific non-thin body that is ok to have. It has all the markings of the Dove’s Real Beauty ad from 8 years ago, which in my opinion lacked body diversity too.

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Haven’t we come further than that? I hoped we had.

It still remains in the hands of grassroots body positive advocates to push the envelope and fight for inclusivity in the real sense of the word.

The #ImNoAngel campaign is a watered down attempt to make big girls feel good about themselves. But no one in that ad could have been bigger than a size 18. That leaves out a very important cross-section of Lane Bryant’s customer base. They carry sizes 14-28. Why aren’t the models in the campaign representative of that diversity?

In a news release, Lane Bryant says its campaign aims to “celebrate women of all shapes and sizes by redefining society’s traditional notion of sexy with a powerful core message: ALL women are sexy.”  Sorry LB, the message did NOT come across that way. You forgot to include women who wear a size 18 or bigger, or who have stretch marks, or cellulite, or any number of so called imperfections.

I can’t be the only woman of size who yearns to see herself reflected in a lingerie ad with fat, dimpled models. I give credit to companies like Curvy Girl Lingerie, who use models of different sizes on their website. It is seeing those images over and over that will really help us to get over our society’s hatred of fat bodies.

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So excuse me for not being grateful to Lane Bryant for this mediocre attempt to be inclusive. As a company that has served plus size women since 1923, I expected more.

People may accuse me of being harsh, but we are in a time of great change, and I think companies like Lane Bryant often get credit for the work that body positive activists have been doing for years. And frankly, their version lacks the kind of progress we so desperately need.

I challenge Lane Bryant and other mainstream plus size clothing brands to really think outside the box. They can be agents of real change if they so choose. The time is now. The only question is, will they take the leap?

xo