Category Archives: Culture

What does fat mean to you?

I was asked this exact question in therapy once. The fear I had around “being fat” was consuming my thoughts and behaviors; I was doing everything I could think of to “not be fat.”

My therapist asked “What does fat mean to you?” The only answer I could come up with was “big.” I didn’t want to be big. Over the course of many weeks we unpacked my fear of fat, and in that process I discovered an uncomfortable truth:

I judged fat people.

Culture is good at communicating that a large body is a bad body. If you are fat then you are lazy, unhealthy, gross, unreliable, undesirable, not disciplined in your eating habits, shouldn’t wear certain clothing, and should change your lifestyle in order lose weight.

I didn’t want to be gross and undesirable; I didn’t want to be thought of lazy and undisciplined. This is what fat actually meant to me.

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Those who know me well wouldn’t describe me as a judgmental person, and I try hard not to be. Yet in this area I was judging harshly without even realizing I was doing it. I was judging strangers, friends, and family as unhealthy, unhappy, and undisciplined. It was a humbling and healing truth to learn about myself.  Now that I had this understanding, I could see a little deeper into my eating disorder and the anxiety around my food and clothing choices, my social interactions, and my strict exercise regimens. I was seeing myself and fearing myself as that which I was judging harshly about others, and I was starving myself to death to avoid being what I had so irrationally feared.

For example, I would have changed my mind about an outfit believing that I looked fat in it…maybe my arms looked big or my stomach didn’t look flat. I would change simply because I judged myself as looking terrible because I had seen someone else in an outfit where her arms looked big or her stomach swelled out, thus judging her as needing to change her outfit. Body checking others led me to body check myself.  All I was seeing was bodies and body parts rather than knowing the people who lived inside the body shapes.

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We do this kind of judging as a culture, don’t we? There’s an expectation that larger bodies shouldn’t be in bikinis because what? It’s gross? No one wants to see exposed fat? Several brands of jeans have pants that “slim you down” because what? It’s not okay to show off the shape of your booty and thighs? Folks who live in larger bodies shouldn’t be eating “that cheeseburger.” Why? Because those people are fat and cheeseburgers are fattening and they should be eating a salad instead? Larger bodied people should be on diets to slim down because why? They’d be so much healthier?  (Note: Many folks in larger bodies are healthier than many of us in smaller ones. Health isn’t determined body size!)

Over time we believe the judgements about “fat people” and the expectations of what their lifestyles should be; we begin to apply those judgements and expectations to ourselves.

  • Summer’s coming and my body is so gross right now. I need to lose weight so I can wear a swimsuit.
  • I was so bad today eating those fries. I should have had the salad. I need to lose like 10 pounds. I should do a boot camp.
  • Oh my gosh I can see my rolls in this shirt. Ugh. I can’t wear this.
  • I gained six pounds this month. I am SO addicted to sugar. I need to cleanse and drop some weight.

These feelings suck, but instead of processing why we feel bad, we just avoid the feelings by going on diets, changing our clothes, regimenting exercise. We agonize over menus, ignore hunger signals, dread shopping, and become hyper-aware and anxious about calories, fats, and sugar. The bad feelings don’t actually go away. Anxiety, guilt, and shame around our bodies are constant because the messaging about “fat bodies” is constant. Our sucky feelings just grow because it’s impossible to achieve cultural expectations, thus leaving us constantly unsatisfied with ourselves.

The first step toward body satisfaction is to deeply understand what fat means to you and to notice (honestly) how culture’s messaging about fat is affecting how you view others in larger bodies and thus judging yourself in your own body. This is not an easy, quick, or comfortable step because it requires deep inner work. Body satisfaction doesn’t come from diets; it comes from deep inner work.

So, what does fat mean to you?

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The Painful Truth of America

Donald Trump revealed a painful and dark truth about America. Racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, are a big problem in our seemingly modern country. The problem isn’t Trump. It’s the distorted and dangerous beliefs deeply rooted in our nation’s heart–our cultural heart.

Through out Trump’s campaign I continually described Trump as “our entire culture wrapped up into one person.” Broken down into the simplest and crudest of terms, American culture as a generalized whole:

  • treats women as ornaments
  • regards non-Caucasian races as scary
  • regards all religions, including Christianity, as extreme
  • thinks gay people are dirty, sinful, and wrong.*

Does everyone in America believe these things? Of course not! But President-elect Trump’s campaign messaging plugged right into these generalized truths and lit up the hearts of over half of America. This is where the shock and grief stab me. If the above truth’s are what live at the heart of our culture, then Trump’s win isn’t a surprise at all. And rather than singly pegging Trump as racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic, and calling for his ousting, we need to be humbly looking in the mirror as a nation.

Our culture is infected with racism, misogyny, and xenophobia– all Trump did was lacerate our nation’s infection and now it’s oozing all over the damn place. If we got rid of Trump, the darkness–the infection–living in the heart of our culture will still remain. To give Trump all the credit for the post-election damage that’s being done right now is giving one man way too much power and control. The problem is us, you guys.

Here’s how I see it:

I think we experienced divine intervention in America this week. We have serious problems with hate, intolerance, and fear, and we have a massive deficit of love in this country. It was that way before Trump ever conceived the thought of running for president and it’s still the case now 72 hours after his election. From the protesting to the venomous poison being spit between family members and so-called friends, our problem is nationally systemic and not a localized, rashy Trump-lump. Our entire body is sick.

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For those of us who stand up for justice, advocating for love, rights, and action for the marginalized, abused, and hurting, Trump did us a favor by showing us where serious hard work needs to be done. Trump addressed those of us who didn’t vote for him; he said:

For those who have chosen not to support me in the past, of which there were a few people, I’m reaching out to you for your guidance and your help so that we can work together and unify our great country.

I say, let’s take him up on it. Instead of fighting and protesting, which by the way is taking away resources from other vulnerable people, such as the homeless in Oregon right now,  we need to get to work. We need to reach and teach. To reduce fears, we need events, classes, performances, and presentations that share the stories of folks from other races and religions to educate and light up the hearts of folks who don’t understand. To reduce inequality, we need activists, lobbyists, and passionate people to stand up for those who can’t and/or are refused to be heard. We need brave leaders–from the youngest of our young to the eldest of our elderly to advocate for and build up those who live in the margins.

I didn’t vote for Trump; however, I have a deep suspicion that we’re going to be surprised by what happens with him in office, with or without Trump’s efforts. I have high hopes for the United States and little trust in the media. The media is notorious for blowing up that bad and ignoring the good, strong, and positive.  Did you even know the first Somali-American lawmaker was elected into the House? And she’s a WOMAN!? How amazing is that!? What else are we missing?

We’re going to be okay if we work together for each other. If Trump proves himself to be the ass he represented himself to be in his campaign, that will be unfortunate but it won’t be the demise of our country. The rise or demise of our country falls on us as a people, not on one man.

*I never personally heard Trump attack the LGBTQ community; however, the prejudice against and the hurt within this population is deeply real in our culture.

Rendered Silent

The world suffers loudly, enduring violence, injustice, fear, ridicule. People with names, faces, families–with purposes and reasons for living–suffer. There is injustice afflicted on black lives, Christian lives, LGBTQ lives, mentally ill lives, women’s lives, children’s lives… The discrimination, persecution, and exploitation of particular groups of humans is undeniable.

In the midst of the madness and loss, loathing arguments fling across social media, pelting the intelligence and opinions of well-intentioned people who try to speak up for what feels right in their hearts.

Me? I am rendered silent. Silence isn’t safe in our culture; is is almost as unsafe, or even more so, as shouting the wrong opinion. I see/hear the judgement from many who shake their cyber-fists at those of us who choose not to speak up.

I cannot stand up for all the issues and all the people. I cannot feel the hurt and advocate for the safety, recovery, equality of all who suffer. You see, when I think about all the people and all the issues and all the injustice and all the pain and all the inequality, I freeze. There is too much, and it all sits on my chest like a boulder. No injustice or forced pain is greater or less than another in my heart. The loss of black brothers is just as tragic as the thousands of children lost in the sex industry– is just as tragic as the thousands of Christians massacred across the world– is just as tragic as the transgender teen who dies by suicide– is just as tragic as the police shot during a protest– is just as tragic the father so weighed down by depression he can’t get out of bed– is just as tragic as the young girl who is blamed for her own rape…The list goes on dear reader.

I am rendered silent because screaming into a raging storm is hopeless. But reaching out my hand for someone seeking shelter from the storm–I am rendered empowered. Staying alert and sensitive and curious to the people and situations around me, that’s helpful. Teaching my children to be curious, compassionate, inclusive, sensitive, and loving toward all people–that’s helpful.  And when the Spirit leads me to take action, to get involved, to speak up and to stand up for someone who’s hurting, I do. And that is good. It is enough. The cyber-fist shakers won’t agree and that’s okay. I don’t answer to them. And if I did, I’d only be contributing to the widening chasm that keeps us from connecting in a way that makes a genuine difference to those who suffer. I answer to Love–to those who seek love in their suffering and the One who is Love.