Health at Every Size edition!!! February was a very HAES month. Featuring: kickass diverse yoga, another great read on how diets are bullshit, and a fabulous podcast that has been slowly changing my life for the better.
Every Body Yoga
Author: Jessamyn Stanley
Tags: nonfiction, body positive, yoga, how-to, kickass women
I bought this on sale. 2018’s theme for me is FUCK PEOPLE, which has a lot to do with letting go of people pleasing, diet mentality, negative self image, and a bunch of other toxic societal norms.
Not doing it anymore. Nuh uh. Nyet.
So with both body positivity and yoga on my radar, I bought this while it was on a Kindle sale.
The book itself has its uses. The first half of it is her life story/yoga fundamentals/poses, and the second half is life story/poses. The majority is life story both related and unrelated to her journey with yoga.
I found the fundamentals higher level than I’d like, but still useful.
The poses are a little hard to try out in the Kindle format, but I plan on looking more into them.
I had the hardest time with the life story. It didn’t exactly connect with my life experience, and kind of felt like filler. I can see it helping someone with more similar life situations, so whatevs.
I think an all around mismatch of communication techniques was going on here. First of all, a Kindle is not ideal for a yoga instruction manual. No easy browsing. Also, I am the kind of person who is compelled to read from page 1 to The End, so that didn’t help. She’s got a brassy tone that comes through in the story, but would be much more enjoyable via audiobook or in person.
Most importantly, this is the first yoga book I’ve read, and I’m not liking the medium for it. I mean, however often you read the words “forget about what others are doing,” you’re still going to walk to the mat with your same hangups. It’s the behavioral economics of learning something in one location and doing it in another. Doesn’t translate well.
I guess my expectations were what my tripped me up. I think I was expecting a whole book on how to modify the poses for larger bodies. There was very little instruction in that. I was also disappointed when she said “asana (the poses) is a very small part of yoga” and then just told us to read another book for a deeper explanation. I mean, she’s no yogi, so it make sense that she would direct us to experts.
Last weekend, I got to take a yoga class with Jessamyn!
It was total kismet. I was visiting my friend Ilana (who I podcast with) and she belatedly remembered there was something about body positivity going on her college’s campus (where she is a librarian).
Lo and behold, a class by Jessamyn!
Let me tell you, it is exactly what I’ve always wanted in a yoga class.
DIVERSE BODIES KICKING ASS AT YOGA.
A NON-WHITE STICK WOMAN AS A YOGA INSTRUCTOR.
NOT THE LARGEST PERSON IN THE ROOM.
NOT THE LEAST FLEXIBLE IN THE ROOM.
UNAPOLOGETIC SUGGESTIONS FOR MODIFYING POSES.
I CAN’T STOP TYPING IN CAPS IT WAS SO AWESOME.
I’m going to let you in a well held secret in the fat world.
We, the fat people, are expected to act and do like thin people, without exception or complaint.
Carrying 100+ extra pounds on you? Doesn’t matter. It’s your fault you are fat, so when your BMI 10 friend asks you to climb a fucking mountain, you do it, because otherwise you would be The Fat Girl That Complains.
You are pretty much carrying the weight of your friend on your body in excess fat, you are huffing and puffing and falling behind, but you are fucking doing it, DAMMIT. Because the alternative is letting your body win. The alternative is hiding from anything that is only built for straight sized people, which is everything. The alternative is agreeing with a world that says that because you are fat, you are worthless.
I can’t tell you how many times I have:
- Been the fattest person in the room.
- Been the least flexible in the room.
- Been the least physically fit person in the room.
- Been the slowest person in the room.
- Wondered if my butt will fit in the chairs where I’m going.
- Gone shopping with friends to straight-sized only stores.
- Worried about whether I’ll be able to match the fitness level of the group.
- Stood silent while other women talk disparagingly about their (lesser) weight.
- Played into the “you’re not fat!” social construct found in women talking to women.
- Fallen behind, or out of breath, or stretched my limbs as far as they could go and NOT asked for help.
- Asked for help, and felt a need to rush through my rest because I felt like I was ruining the straight sized people’s fun.
I know, intellectually, that my friends and family love me, that they don’t expect me to do something that I don’t want to do or feel forced to do. I know that most people want to be welcoming. Most people wait patiently, say nothing, or only complain minimally. A few instructors even say a word or two about modification.
But REPRESENTATION is so amazing.
~*~REP-RE-SEN-TA-TION!!!!~*~ 😀 😀 😀 😀
I have never felt such synchronicity with a fitness class, from the first moment in middle school when they measured my fat with calipers.
That is a lot of class that has low-key made me feel awful.
Jessamyn kicks serious ass in person. She is super bendy, something I’ve never seen from a larger person IRL. She adds an energy to yoga that you don’t see in other classes I’ve been to. She mentions the modification and talks unapologetically about making room for her belly in certain poses.
“Make room for her belly.” What a great phrase.
Radical acceptance is “making room” for your body, isn’t it?
In other yoga classes (especially the dreaded home video variety) they do a easy, medium, hard scale with the poses, usually with the hard ending as a human pretzel. I’m always huffing and puffing trying to get to easy.
Jessamyn pointed out that yoga was created by men with “with no uterus” and so we need to make room for our differences.
I was doing it. I was with other people of various sizes, and she was telling me not to worry about my size, and I wasn’t. She was funny, inspiring, and real. The whole group, no matter their size, was making mistakes and giggling about it. You could tell that a whole lot of people walked through that door (me included) with some hang ups and anxiety, and were putting them down, one by one.
The only (minor) thing I had a problem with was that she didn’t use props. I would have loved to use some yoga bricks while I was doing some of those poses. I guess it’s personal preference. And it’s actually cool to see that she doesn’t used props, which just enforces the radical acceptance of any body working on it.
Man, what a treat. I wish that I could take another class like that.
The book doesn’t do justice to the experience of being there.
Also, PSA: you don’t go to yoga classes to learn modifications/correct posture of poses. They don’t teach you that, and guess what? You can modify it any way you’d like. Because it’s your body, and you are the expert on your body. No one else.
Body of Truth: Change Your Life by Changing the Way You Think about Weight and Health
Author: Harriet Brown
Tags: nonfiction, body positive, health at every size, anti-diet
This has been a very body positive week for me, so all of the media I’ve been consuming has been blending together.
On my way up and back to see my friend in Indiana (a ten hour drive), I traded off listening to this book, a podcast called Food Psych, and the My Brother My Brother and Me podcast. MBMBaM is just for fun, but Food Psych and this book are so similar that I can’t really remember what information I got from where.
Body of Truth is written by a journalist and journalism professor, so it’s more accessible than the book I reviewed previously What is Wrong With Fat?. This book opens with a memory of her crying to therapist about how she needs to lose weight and can’t seem to do it. Her therapist says to her,
“What if you were okay with your body as it is right now?”
WHAT IF. Right????
What would you do? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?
Going running in the streets naked, probably.
Really, truly, unequivocally okay with my body, without the “for now” caveat, without “because I worked really hard for it,” without “even my [insert disparaging remark about body part]” is outside of my realm of imagination.
I said before that dieting is a religion. Have you ever lost your religion and been like, “what now?”
That’s how it feels like when you lose your faith in dieting.
In religion, there is good and evil, and good is contingent on believing, so when you stop believing…you are…bad? right?
In dieting, there is watching your food and chaos, and when you stop believing that watching your food will lead to some thin-person paradise, the only thing left is everything you have fought so hard against…food chaos.
Would you rather believe in a thin-person paradise that has been proven to not exist, or would you rather look into the face of chaos?
Brown’s is coming from the perspective of an average sized, but medically mildly overweight, mother who’s child has recovered from anorexia. So, she follows and talks about not just the medically obese experience of diet culture, but EVERYONE’s experience.
No one is safe from diet culture, no matter your size.
In between the examination of diet culture that is contradictory to science-based health and wellness research, there are little personal recountings of real people’s food and body acceptance journey. Chances are you will read your story somewhere in there.
It will make you mad, make you rethink, make you want to burn the world down. Included are topics such as:
- Dieting doesn’t work, and bariatric surgery is a mixed bag at best
- Medical professionals are trained on severely outdated and debunked diet myths
- Some medical professionals are real dicks about it
- Societal prejudice against fat on bodies is mostly what’s driving everyone
- Obesity Epidemic is a myth.
- A jump in obesity came when they made the BMI stricter, increasing the numbers simply because more people fit in those categories.
- The BMI scale is still based on white body ratios from the 1960’s.
- There’s no way to tell if there is a “childhood obesity epidemic” because obesity in children is a recent addition.
- The diet industry is a money sucking megamonster
- Diet culture hurts everyone, no matter their size
- Obesity is also racist, sexist, and socioeconomically biased.
- Stress from being stigmatized in society as a fat person could be more of what is killing people than the actual weight.
- Intuitive eating, fat acceptance, and health at every size are new movements combating weight culture.
Also that super pissed tone that you are hearing from this review is all me. Brown actually writes without sounding bitter about it (a miracle, if you ask me).
Author: Christy Harrison
Tags: health at every size, anti-diet, fat positive, body positive
Rating: SUPER YAY!
This is highly irregular, but I’ve been devouring (heh. food pun.) these podcast episodes for the past couple weeks and I can’t get over how awesome they are.
Christy Harrison is anti-diet dietician and certified intuitive eating counselor. She spends an hour every episode talking to a major player in the Health At Every Size, Body Positive, Fat Positive, Intuitive Eating movements, and covers a wide range of topics. She really looks at the world of dieting through a socio-political lens, and chips away at every long held belief that survives despite research to the contrary.
Favorite quote so far:
“Diets are the only industry that can consistently fail and blame the consumer rather than the producer. Imagine buying an iPad that has a 97% chance of being broken, and if it is, it’s just because you didn’t try hard enough.”
Here are some other gems:
“Your weight isn’t an individual problem, it’s a systemic problem.”
“One of the best ways to reliably gain weight is to diet.”
“As a physician, you can’t counsel people on intuitive eating while still having one foot in the diet world. ‘We want you to gain weight, just not TOO MUCH,’ is the wrong thing to say to a person with an eating disorder.”
Diet culture is inherently classist, racist, and sexist.
Intuitive eating goal: to eat food for sustenance AND PLEASURE.
Diets are insidious and can often take the guise of “lifestyle changes,” cleanses, or cutting out a food group.
Interview your doctor: “are you willing” to not say triggering things, or bring up weight loss unnecessarily, etc.?
Challenge your doctor: “okay, so what would you say to me if I were thin?” Ask for a straight sized person’s treatment.
If the weight loss benefits are overblown, and weight loss itself is generally unreachable, aren’t we all just running on the fear of becoming fat (or fatter)?
Fatphobia among #woke spaces exists. Intersectionality spans to size diversity, as well.