May 6th is International No Diet Day. Amen.

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I took this straight from Wikipedia because I’m feeling lazy:

International No Diet Day (INDD) is an annual celebration of body acceptance, including fat acceptance and body shape diversity. This day is also dedicated to promoting a healthy life style with a focus on health at any size and in raising awareness of the potential dangers of dieting and the unlikelihood of success. The first International No Diet Day was celebrated in the UK in 1992. Feminist groups in other countries around the globe have started to celebrate International No Diet Day, especially in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Israel, Denmark and Brazil.

Since 1998 both the International Size Acceptance Association (ISAA) and the National Organisation for Women (NOW) have sponsored similar days. ISAA’s day is the International Size Acceptance Day which is celebrated on 24 April. NOW organises a Love Your Body campaign, with its own annual Love Your Body Day in the fall, which critiques what it defines as “fake Images” of the fashion, beauty and diet industries demanding that images of women with diverse body sizes and shapes are used instead.

International No Diet Day is observed on May 6, and its symbol is a light blue ribbon.

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Let everyday of your life be a no diet day. You deserve to be free!

pia schiavo-campo

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!

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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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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

Fat Girl in a Yoga Magazine: It Happened to Me

Pia Mantra Yoga

I am so honored to have been a part of an amazing photo shoot for Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine. I’m grateful to Melanie Klein and the Yoga and Body Image Coalition for allowing me to be part of the #whatayogilookslike campaign. This wonderful group is dedicated to creating safe yoga spaces for all body types. And a shout out to fabulous photographer Tani Ikeda, who was so patient with me as I tried to hold my poses through crashing waves and sinking sand! I also want to lift up yoga instructor Chelsea Jackson, who was my fellow model for the photo shoot. We arrived at the beach at 5 am and braved the chilly water for the perfect photos. And it was totally worth it. It was definitely a spiritual experience and one that I’ll never forget.

Remember, ALL BODIES ARE GOOD BODIES, and your body can do so much. Don’t be afraid to try something new and get outside your comfort zone. Yoga isn’t about being thin and bendy — it’s about listening to your body and learning what feels right to you while honoring your own amazingness. Sending you so much love and light!

Namaste!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

Black & White: The Exociticization of Mixed Race Women in Western Culture

As published in Volup2 Magazine, April 2015

dont_touch_my_hair_by_curlsclub-d77uqlcHas a White woman ever touched your hair without permission? It happens to me more often than not. They want to know, “Is it real? Is that all your hair?” Yes, and please stop petting me like an exotic animal. “Ohhh, mixed people are the most beautiful. Don’t you think?” No. I don’t. I think beauty is a social construct. I actually don’t say that, but I sure as hell am thinking it. The thing is, I’m being paid a compliment, and the person paying the compliment doesn’t know they are fetishizing me. But how do you explain to someone who subscribes to mainstream ideals of beauty, all the racialized nuances of what they are saying?

The mulatta has historically been the subject of much fascination for centuries. The iconic female figure of racial ambiguity has represented the exotic “Other” – an object of male fantasy in which mixed race women are reduced to their body parts. And the danger in exoticizing us, is that we are reduced to objects to be admired, or even conquered. It is in this way we dehumanize and further oppress mixed race folks, which only adds to the complexities of racism. All women of color have been exoticized and fetishized in various ways, but this story is mine, and so what you read below does not exclude others from having had similar experiences.

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I am half Black and half Italian. My honey-colored skin and curly hair give me a certain kind of privilege in the world. I am perceived as being more attractive than my darker sisters because our society has engrained in us the insufferable idea that lighter is beautiful, and somehow more valuable. This prevailing hegemonic cultural attitude has perpetuated competition amongst Black women for centuries, with dark skinned women getting the short end of stick. I have been praised, exalted, and envied for something I was born with, rather than something I earned, and I struggle with it daily.

My mixed race identity has always been a bit complicated. Having been called an Oreo by Black classmates in grade school made me insecure. I struggled with what it meant to be described as Black on the outside and White on the inside. I quickly discovered that I was perceived as thinking I was better than they were because I talked like a White girl, and that made me the enemy. My acute sensitivity and inherent shyness were no help to me. I was not quite sure where I fit in.

you ain't nothin but a damn oreo!

As a college student I tried to fit in with my Black peers, who I wanted to connect with, especially living on a small, mostly White campus. And I began to make friends until Black guys started asking me out instead of my dark skinned sisters. And I was not any smarter or more charming than my counterparts. Rest assured, I was made to feel special because of my light skin and “good hair.” I felt a lot of guilt about this, but also reveled in having the male attention I’d been denied as an awkward high-school student. I yearned for those friendships, but valued being attractive to men much more at that time in my life. And I didn’t fully understand the implications of my choice until later in life.

I remained angry and confused about why I held privilege over women with darker skin and kinkier hair than mine. And despite the fact that I am half Black, to voice my frustration to Black women who were darker than I, felt dangerous and patronizing. I feared sounding like a White person who says, “I have lots of Black friends!” Which of course, is incredibly racist, because it implies that someone who has tremendous privilege (White people) can understand the oppression of others (people of color). And they never will. Just as I will never know what it’s like to live in a world that sees dark skin and kinky hair as third rate – undesirable even.

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And so when people pay me a compliment that alludes to my mixed race, I am polite, but indifferent. Because what they are really saying is that I’m beautiful because I’m just different enough. I’m Other. Though it may not be intentional, this type of fetishizing feeds into racism by reinforcing western beauty ideals that say to be too brown is overly exotic, and to be too pale isn’t exotic enough. And thus I am left with the feeling that I am somehow racially superior in many ways, yet I belong nowhere. I have been systematically reduced to an object of societal fascination.

I have also had the experience of White folks not seeing me as a Black woman. They have “otherized” me, which somehow gives them license to test out their racist theories about people of color on me. I am often shocked at how bold they are. It’s as though my light skin blinds them to the fact that I am a woman of color who has experienced oppression. And so it falls upon me to school them. To tell them that I am a Black woman – that Black women are as diverse in skin color as we are in culture, and that all of us are valuable.

Recently a co-worker made a comment about how nice my skin is. She asked what I do to take care of it. I told her, and no sooner did another co-worker come up and say, “It’s that Italian genetics working for you.” I said, “Actually it’s my African genetics. Haven’t you ever heard the saying good black don’t crack?” I said it jokingly, but really I meant it. My point is that people are so reluctant to ascribe any value or beauty to my Black side that I have to check them. It’s as though being half Italian (White) has won me a VIP pass. And I love my Italian culture very deeply. But it doesn’t require defending.

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The problem is that many folks are not as interested in celebrating my Black side. They don’t want to know that my mother is a Ph.D. and tenured professor who grew up in the projects of Boston, being called Black and ugly. They are not interested in knowing how intentional she was about making sure I understood the implications of the unearned privilege I was born with as light-skinned child in a highly-educated, middle-class family. They do not understand how I struggled to find my identity in a culture that demands we choose sides. I’m lucky. I’m not too brown and not too white. I’m just right. I’m exotic.

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But, who am I really? I’m the daughter of a socially conscious interracial couple who have been married 43 years. I’m a writer, a feminist, and an activist. At age 39, I’ve settled into a life that includes a progressive White husband from South Dakota, and a diverse group of friends who are committed to having discussions about race, oppression, and sexism. I am a lover of food—everything from the collard greens and spaghetti I grew up eating, to the tasty concoctions I prepare in my South Los Angeles kitchen. Phrases like, “Chile, please” and “Andiamo,–dai!” roll off my tongue in equal measure. I have found peace and purpose in my life as a Black woman who speaks Italian, wears her hair natural, and challenges the status quo. I have the kind of balance that I’ve always wanted, finding strength in my mixed heritage, and making sure to use my privilege to highlight injustice in the world. I’m not an object after all. I’m just one human being trying to make a difference.

xo

You Asked, I Answered: 3 Big Reasons I Write My Blog

This post is inspired by one of my followers, Becky B. Thanks for the inspiration!

I began blogging about four and a half years ago under the name Curvy, Sexy, Chic. At the time, I was eager and excited to get my ideas out into the world. I was pissed off that curvy girls were getting little to no attention, and I wanted to be part of the solution. One of my missteps was that I subscribed to the idea that curvy bodies were better than thin bodies. I had no idea that this was exactly the wrong way to go about creating real change, and this type of thinking was harmful for all women. I also wrote about plus fashion and loving yourself, but not with the same unapologetic, in-your-face approach I use today. Still, it was great to be writing. There are many reasons why I write Chronicles of a Mixed Fat Chick. These are just a few:

1I HAVE A GIFT. I haven’t always been able to say that with confidence, but now I believe it’s true. For the most part, when I write, I come alive! I am always eager to ignite something in you so that you begin to have dialogue with yourself and others about issues that I think are relevant and pressing. I can recall being inspired by professors in college who spoke my language and said things in such a way that I had to know more. I was completely engaged and totally on fire! To have a gift and not use it is to sell yourself, and the world, short. And so, I use my gift and am grateful for those who read my shit and either get it, or challenge me. I’m up for all of it!

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2SILENCE IS NOT GOLDEN. I am lucky enough to live in a society that allows free speech. I can pretty much say whatever the fuck I want to say, and not worry that my government is going imprison me. That said, I cannot keep silent. Not when there is injustice and pain and fuckery abounding. For so many years of my life, I was silent. I never said no, and the thought of saying anything that would ruffle feathers was out of the question. I think that years of people pleasing and self-doubt finally caught up with me and I exploded!

I realized it was time to speak my truth without fear of consequence. And as cliche as it sounds, the truth has set me free in so many ways. It has allowed me to appreciate my gifts and to trust my intuition. The gift of my voice has blessed me with all kinds of amazing experiences and people. I think back and wonder who I would be if I had remained safely tucked away in silence, and it’s not a pretty picture. Today, I can say with gusto that I am a funny, kind, intelligent, curious, creative, fat woman of color who loves herself and her life. YAYMEN!!

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WE NEED EACH OTHER. I am clear that my purpose is to spread love and light. I am clear that my honesty is appealing. I write about uncomfortable shit so that both you AND I can get more comfortable with it. My readers are very much my inspiration. The emails I get from you touch me so deeply and remind me of all the reasons I do this work. Seriously, THANK YOU! When I’m feeling crappy, you lift me up. And when you’re feeling crappy, I try to do the same. We’re basically in an intimate relationship, where we both take risks and hope for the best. And our relationship has been one of the most marvelous of my life. It is because you give, that I find the courage to give. People sometimes tell me that I’m helping to change the world. But I think it’s all of us doing it. We are both ready for the day when our bodies are no longer a question of public opinion and we can make peace with our wrinkles and cellulite. 

together we can make a difference

To answer Becky’s question, “when you started blogging, what were you wanting to accomplish, what are you thinking, and have you accomplished what you set out to do? Has your thought process changed regarding what you want to accomplish with your blog?” 

I think my journey is about being open to experiences and knowing that as I grow and learn, that my thought process will inevitably change. And I try to not judge that. At times I’ve felt I was leaving people behind because my opinions were changing. But I realize that it’s simply part of my own evolution as a writer, an activist, and a human being. Ultimately, what I hope to accomplish is the creation of a space where we can all experience unfettered self-acceptance.

xo

I Hold My Stomach in Sometimes

Am I body love failure? No.

What I am is brainwashed from years of exposure to advertisements that promise a flat stomach in 10 days. It is so ingrained in my subconscious that I often hold my stomach in without realizing it.

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I HATE these ads!!!

Today, as I walked back to my office from my lunch break, I caught a glimpse of myself in a storefront window and noticed the top roll of my stomach protruding under my t-shirt. Suddenly I stood up straighter and did my best to tuck in my tummy. In that moment I was aware of my embarrassment about my by body being so big and so exposed. And then I was embarrassed that I was embarrassed, because duh, I’m a body-positive activist!

I think about this shit all day — what Melinda Alexander calls “Getting Free.” So, when stuff like the tummy incident happens I feel like I’ve been set way back. It feels like being punched in the face after having trained in the ring for years.

The truth is, I have not come to terms with the size and shape of my stomach. It’s the biggest it’s ever been. For the most part, I almost always had a pretty small waist and stomach, giving me an hourglass figure that made my body acceptable by mainstream standards. But not anymore. It’s big enough that I just can’t hide it, or disguise it, or manipulate it. And though I’ve made peace with many of my body parts, this one is especially hard for me.

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This is me 3.5 years and 45 pounds ago.

Anyone feel me?

I know so many fat women who own their big bellies and wear clothes that accentuate them. I am not one of those women. Part of me wants to be at peace, and the other part of me just wants to have a small tummy again so I don’t have to overcome another hurdle.

The reason I share this with you is because I promised myself I would be honest and upfront about my own body image struggles. My friend Jen at Plus Size Birth just posted something I resonate with on this topic too.

Thank you for seeing me and accepting me the way I see and accept you.

Perhaps I need a pair of high waisted Spanx.

Or an affirmation…

Or to surround myself with images of large bellied women reveling in their gorgeous glory…

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Photo by Substantia Jones

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Photo by Substantia Jones

Or maybe some combination of all those ideas until I start feeling better.

xo