Why I am proud to call myself ‘fat’

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How can three little letters elicit so much emotion? The implicit biases that have been inextricably linked to this adjective are numerous and diverse, but they almost all have one thing in common. The implications conveyed by using the term fat are almost all negative.

Fat began to be an undesirable trait with the most recent set of beauty standards. As thinner and thinner bodies were used for models and actresses, thin became synonymous with beauty and fat with ugly. Media worsened this dichotomy through the creation countless thin protagonists who were smart, funny, a love interest, and strong while large characters were gluttonous, mean, lazy, and pitied.

A common, but largely ignored, phenomenon in medical research followed. Too often, when traits are considered undesirable socially, the medical field turns this implicit bias into a medical problem. (For example, studies on the size of skulls were conducted to ‘prove’ the superiority of the white race.) Being “overweight” was medicalized and studied, their findings correlating higher weights with certain chronic diseases. So these beliefs about being a large person came together in the narrative we have today about fat people: “Overweight” people are too lazy/stupid/careless to eat healthfully and take care of themselves, thus not only are they unattractive, but they are also willfully negligent of their health.

This narrative has led to several forms of discrimination, including fat people being less likely to get hired, having lower salaries, and most counter-intuitively of all, receiving poorer health care. Yet, there is no evidence that larger people are less intelligent, driven, or even inherently unhealthy.

By proudly claiming fat as a description of myself, I’m making a political statement. I’m saying that we can no longer allow fat to be synonymous with those undesirable traits. While I certainly don’t embody every possible positive trait, I am slowly becoming the living proof that fat can’t automatically equate lazy, unintelligent or negligent of health. I hope that as more people join me, society will see that fat people deserve all the same opportunities as thin people to fully enjoy their lives.

References
1. Andreyeva, Tatiana, Rebecca M. Puhl, and Kelly D. Brownell. "Changes in Perceived Weight Discrimination Among Americans, 1995–1996 Through 2004–2006." Obesity 16.5 (2008): 1129-134. Web.
2. Puhl, Rebecca M., and Chelsea A. Heuer. "The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update." Obesity 17.5 (2009): 941-64. Web.
3. Sabin, Janice A., Maddalena Marini, and Brian A. Nosek. "Implicit and Explicit Anti-Fat Bias among a Large Sample of Medical Doctors by BMI, Race/Ethnicity and Gender." PLoS ONE 7.11 (2012): n. pag. Web.


Ani is a fat activist and Health at Every Size promoter. She is currently pursuing a degree in Dietetics and is working towards the creation of a non-profit to support healthy relationships with food. She is also a geek, yogi, knitter, and lives with her partner and two dogs in Minneapolis.

Monday Musings: Valentine Stay

Monday Musings: Valentine Stay

I think it’s great to set aside time to let others know we care about them. I think it’s equally important, especially in these trying times, to show ourselves that same affection. So if you find yourself at home this Valentine's here are a few ways to celebrate yourself at home and it's all free.

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Monday Musings: The Gaga Bowl

So let’s talk about last night. No, not the big game; the big game’s half-time show. There are a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks (that’s a football reference) who want to weigh in on how Gaga’s performance could’ve been more “political.” I feel like those folks weren’t paying attention. These are likely the same folks who have difficulty reading subtext (a certain portion of the Supernatural fandom, I’m looking at you). She didn’t need to hold up a giant RESIST banner to be political. Lemme break it down for you.

USATODAY.com

USATODAY.com

How was this performance political? Let me count the ways: 

1. Lady Gaga is a woman. Simply being a female headliner in this male-dominated space might not be subversive in and of itself. If that woman were quiet and submissive and there primarily for the male gaze. But Gaga is not a quiet, demure woman who takes up no space; she is a bold, loud woman who literally dove off the top of the fucking stadium! She took up space and she owned that space. That shit’s political. 

2. Lady Gaga is a queer icon. Her very presence as a queer woman in a #nohomo space was important. She could’ve toned down the gay, but that isn’t her style. She sang songs focused on the inclusion of queer people as well as general inclusivity. Her dancers are diverse and so very glittery. And she did this at an event attended by VP Mike Pence. That shit’s political.

3. Lady Gaga has a body. In the final act of her performance, Gaga switched into a crop top outfit that showed off her bare belly. This exposed a soft stomach rather than chiseled six-pack abs. As I watched this with my husband, I remarked aloud that I hoped she didn’t get a ton of haters. But of course she has. How dare this woman have a body and use that body however she wants. Showing up and showing off the body that is hers right now, unapologetically, and absolutely slaying. That’s fucking political.

You, the way you live your life, the way you show up in the world, are political. Let’s slay this week Mat Monsters.

Nerdmaste.

Mindfulness For the Full-Minded

I guess to begin looking at mindfulness, I need to figure out what mindfulness actually IS, outside of slick packaging. So, I asked a bunch of folks some questions about what mindfulness means to them, if they practice it and what that looks like, what is appealing and challenging, etc. Shockingly enough, everyone had different answers about what it means, what it looks like for them in their daily lives, etc.  

Many people had variations on mindfulness being the act of being present in the now, taking time to experience this moment and not let our thoughts be pulled to the past or the future. Rather than frantically planning out my week, thinking about what I am going to be doing this weekend, or making for dinner tonight, or that conversation I have to have with my boss this afternoon (eep!), simply experiencing the moment I’m in. Some people I asked, mentioned how calming this is, how it makes them happier to be able to just have an experience without needing to quantify or qualify it.  

Several folks said that the concept of being present in the moment just doesn’t work for them. One person said it means “knowing the reason and purpose for my actions.” People expressed frustration with the need to stop what they were doing to just check in and be more aware, before moving on to the next thing, and mindfulness felt like another chore they needed to get through, something they weren’t “doing well enough.” Some people said they just didn’t want to take the time to be mindful because taking time to be mindful was using more time from something else they needed or wanted to do more.  

A common thread from people who do currently practice mindfulness was the idea that mindfulness is an ongoing practice – not something that is ever Accomplished. Rather, like yoga or meditation, or any activity we take on in our lives, it is something to be constantly learned about, strived for, practiced, and never something that is achieved and done.

As I have stated in previous posts, I like the IDEA of mindfulness. I like the concept of being able to just experience a moment. I have with fairly intense, high functioning anxiety, and one of the (many) ways I cope with that is to constantly be thinking about future situations and figuring out how I can handle them, as well as analyzing past interactions to see if I want to do something different in the future (my brain is … fun). While I like the idea of being able to be in a moment, to just simply enjoy something for what it is, or feel angry about a situation without having to place it in a greater context and analyze that for anything else that could go wrong, it feels … scary to let that go. And, honestly, I don’t know if I’m ready to do that.  

 

Mindfulness For the Full-Minded is an ongoing exploration by Kat Gordon. She invites you to follow her journey toward mindfulness here. 

Monday Musings: Mosquitoes Rise

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. A day when we celebrate a man who was so committed to equality that he died for it. Set that against the juxtaposition of a new Presidential inauguration later this week of someone who ran on a platform of building walls instead of bridges. I have seen the pain and frustration from so many members of our community and there’s little that I can say to ease that, nor is it my right to try and take away your feelings. Today I come to you to remind you that you are not alone. As scary or lonely as this moment may feel - I assure you that you are not alone in this. So let’s support each other. And if you don’t like the state of things as they are, let your voice be heard - you can do this in small or large ways. Please remember that micro-activism - having one conversation with one person - is more meaningful than you can possibly imagine. Each conversation, each word, each moment has ripples that travel ever outward.

As I sat down to write this, I couldn’t help but think of a blog post that I wrote several years ago. It just felt relevant now. Here is a portion of that post, Mosquitoes Rise:

‘If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.’ - The Dalai Lama

...The concept that those who are different from ourselves, or “other,” are frightening and unwelcome is an ancient idea, and I say that it’s time has come - it is time for revolution. I am inspired to see that people have started to speak out positively about their difference - about their body-positivity, about their geek pride, about their sexuality, and their mental health struggles - they’re finding joy in being an “other.”

I hereby propose that all body-positive, mental-health-positive, queer-positive, whatever-the-fuck-is-important-to-you-about-being-a-human-being-positive people start letting their revolutionary banners wave under the same flag. And because this is the internet and not Les Miserables, I propose that this “flag” be a hashtag - #mosquitoesrise. Let others know you’re out there, so that we can find each other, support each other, and show solidarity that we - these tiny mosquitoes, these “others” - are strong. Together we can change the status quo.

I consider myself astoundingly fortunate to have found an incomparable group of people with whom to surround myself. People who think like I think about accepting each other; loving each other, not in spite of our quirks, but truly because of them. I love my life now, but I didn’t always. Let’s make it easier on the young “others” coming up in the world. They don’t have to suffer like we did. Let’s create a world where they can figure out how to be who they are without fear of rejection and reprisal. It starts with you and me right now - a hashtag won’t change the world, but it’s a start.

Who’s ready to be a fucking mosquito?

Viva la revolution.

- Justini

Monday Musings: Compassion

“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.”

How many of you have heard this quote? And how many of you follow it? It’s so much easier for us to find compassion for others than it is to find compassion for ourselves. We tend to hold ourselves to impossible standards that we would never hold another person to.

Just for a moment imagine how might it be to start to show yourself the level of compassion that you show others. Perhaps in the spirit of new beginnings this year you could open yourself up to the possibility that you are worthy of the same compassion that you show to others.

How does this look in practice? Well, when you find that you are saying something to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else, simply (it’s simple, not easy) stop and notice - without judgement - and ask yourself what you would say to someone you care about in the same situation. For example, let’s say that you didn’t do as well on an assignment as you’d hoped to and you realize that you’re starting to say thing to yourself like “I’m stupid” or “I never do anything right,” pause for a moment. Would you ever call a friend stupid or say that they never do anything right? Of course not! You would tell them that they did their best and that it sucks that it didn’t work out as they’d hoped. You can say the same to yourself. You really can. If it still feels impossible, ask yourself what that’s about - what makes you believe that you are less worthy of compassion than anyone else.

Remember that this is a practice, and doing so once won’t stop the negative thoughts from coming. But the more that you do it over time, the less often and less loudly the negative voices will arise and your mind will be a quieter and more caring place for you. Give yourself the gift of compassion. It matters and you deserve it!

-- Justini

 

Keep Calm and Yoga On!

A few months ago I shared some of my favorite yoga poses for coping with depression. Like many people diagnosed with depression, I also have an anxiety disorder. Thankfully, yoga helps with that too! But just like depression and anxiety are different animals, so are the yoga poses that can help with them. So without further ado, here are three things I use when working through a rough patch of anxiety. 

  1. Breathing. Yeah, really! When we experience anxiety we often develop a pattern of shallow, rapid breath, which can lead to cold or numb hands and feet--even dizziness. Taking deep, steady breaths is a great way to begin feeling calm and grounded again. You can do this practice anywhere--standing, seated in a chair, or lying in a comfortable position. Bring one hand to your chest and one hand to your stomach. If it feels relaxing to do so you can close your eyes, or find an object in the room to bring your focus to. Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose and feel your belly expand. Pause here briefly, for as long as feels comfortable. Three seconds works great for me, but your mileage may vary. Next, exhale through your mouth and notice your belly contracting as the breath is released. Repeat as many times as you like.
     
  2. Wide-legged forward fold. When anxiety hits, I prefer to do this pose while seated in a chair. Doing so gives me a stable, safe place for me to focus on continuing my deep breathing without worrying about feeling wobbly or dizzy. Find a seat in a comfortable chair (if it has wheels, make sure they’re locked!) and firmly plant your feet on the floor slightly wider than hip-width distance apart. Inhale, lift your chest, and extend your spine--imagine an invisible thread on the top of your head gently pulling it up toward the ceiling. Exhale and bend forward from your hips, bringing hands to a yoga block or to the floor. If you don’t have a yoga block, a few stacked books or a small cardboard box works great here. Continue breathing in this pose for a few moments, with every inhale lengthening your spine, and every exhale allowing yourself to deepen your forward fold slightly. When you’re ready to come out of your forward fold, do so on an inhale, coming up about half the distance first, then slowing coming all the way up to a seated position. Allow yourself a few moments before moving into a standing position to avoid dizziness. 
     
  3. Tree pose. One of the most easily recognizable yoga poses, Tree is my favorite way to get grounded and focus on breath. I like practicing this one with a wall behind me and a chair in front of me to assist with balance. Start with your feet a comfortable distance apart. Begin to shift your weight into your left foot, placing a hand on the back of a chair to help with balance if you’d like. Bend your right knee and turn it outward, bringing heel to rest inside left ankle and toes to the mat (or a block). Engage your core. Breathe. If you feel stable here and would like more of a balance challenge, bring the sole of your right foot to press gently inside your left calf. Resist with your left leg. Breathe here. To come out of Tree, turn bent knee back to center, straighten your leg, and bring your foot back down to the mat. Don’t forget to do the other side! 

These strategies are my definite go-to when I'm struggling with anxiety, but they might not be right for everyone. If these don't work for you, don't be discouraged--experiment with different breathing exercises and gentle stretches until you find something that does. And remember to treat yourself with kindness and compassion in all things! 


Kris Anne is a registered yoga teacher and has been part of the YogaQuest community since 2012. She loves that YogaQuest provides a safe space for geeks to practice yoga, and an accepting environment in which she can move her body and feel free to be a weirdsmobile. Because it has meant so much to her, she is dedicated to bringing YogaQuest to more people, and sharing its message of non-compliant self care.

Monday Musings: YQTT!

Greetings, YoGeeks! JustiniYogini here with our very first Monday Musings blog post!

With the start of the new year comes the desire for new beginnings. Perhaps you’ve been considering deepening your own yoga practice or even wanting to teach others. Taking part in a yoga teacher training program is no small decision. It is a significant investment in both a time and money. If you’re interested but fearful, you’re certainly not alone. We are very proud of the YogaQuest Teacher Training (YQTT) that we’ve created, which now includes our Yogiography™ training/certification focusing on the use of narratives with yoga. I wanted to take a moment to talk to you about our training program so that you can decide if it might be the next step that you’re looking for in your self care journey.

As featured in Yoga International, our 2017 YQTT offers you the following:

  • Four 5-day modules to allow for out-of-town trainees to attend (some accommodations may be arranged with local yogis)
  • A body-positive and culturally-sensitive environment where you will learn how to adapt poses for the practitioner, not the other way around
  • Trauma-sensitive instruction taught by our lead trainer who is both a yogi and a psychotherapist (that’s me)
  • In-depth discussions around the power of language used in yoga to create a welcoming, rather than an exclusionary environment for your students
  • Extensive time spent on the ethics of yoga teaching and meaningful discourse around the responsibilities of yoga teachers

And that’s really just the beginning.

 

But Justini, I still have questions! Of course you do. Let me see if I can address at least two of them. The two biggest questions that I am asked by prospective trainees is:

  1. Why is it so expensive?
  2. Why do I need 200 hours of training to teach yoga?!

The answer to the first question, is that yes, it is expensive, but also, you are getting a lot out of that investment. Let me explain. It’s a 200 hour training, so at $3000, that is $15/hour to work with highly trained and respected professionals (again, that’s me and my band of yogic helpers). In our 2017 training, the Yogiography™ certification is included in that amount and we also offer a discount for the full amount to be paid up-front. If paying up front isn’t feasible, we will work with you to find a payment plan that fits your life - seriously. So yes, it is a lot of money, and yes you are getting an awful lot out of it!

Why 200 hour trainings? People sometimes tell me that they've taken yoga classes from someone who hasn't been through a 200 hour training; not all facilities require it. But I firmly believe that 200 hour trainings are a minimum requirement for teaching yoga. There is so much to know and understand, both about the practice and about ourselves that this training is only just the beginning of a lifetime of learning. And training with a school registered with the Yoga Alliance (the credentialing organization for yoga teachers/schools) allows you to become registered yourself (you get to add that RYT designation after your name). It is my opinion that it is vital to work with instructors who are registered with the Yoga Alliance, proving that they have had the minimum of 200 hours of training.

If you are curious, but still feeling fearful, please reach out to me; I would love to walk you through what teacher training looks like or connect you with one of our graduates who can tell you first-hand what the experience is like. And as I mentioned, I’m more than happy to arrange payment plans.

We are obviously biased in loving our training, so don’t take our word for it. We asked some of our previous graduates what they had to say about our training.

“I would not have wanted to get my teacher training anywhere else. YogaQuest Mpls is the most inclusive, non-judgmental, and accepting yoga studio at which I have ever practiced. I am so grateful for my experience there.”
“There is a strong focus on body positivity, inclusive language, ethics, and finding your own authentic teaching voice, rather than attempting to fit any rigid external image of what a yoga teacher should be... I could not imagine completing my RYT-200 with any other studio!”
“YogaQuest YTT delivered a training beyond my expectations.”
“As more time passes since YogaQuest YTT I can see how it helps guide my future decisions in a positive way. It has been empowering personally and professionally.”

Thank you for taking the time to learn more about our YogaQuest Teacher Training! Nerdmaste!

Setting Body-Positive Health-related Goals for the New Year

The passing of another year (like birthdays, changes of the season), is naturally a time for reflection and thinking about coming year. While there is most definitely an inordinate amount of societal pressure to make health-related New Year’s resolutions, many people value health and want to make choices that support health. If that’s something you’re interested in, here’s a few pointers to creating a resolution that supports your body, instead of punishing or controlling it.

Formulate a balanced approach toward heath and well-being

Formulate a balanced approach toward heath and well-being

  1. Recognize goals that don’t honor your body’s wisdom or needs. The fitness industry is notorious for helping people quantify their goals. While specific and measurable goals are great for career goals or saving money, when it comes to your body, these usually aren’t realistic. What a healthy body looks like, measures or weighs needs to be up to your body. The health industry makes a lot of money convincing you to do things in the name of your health and that once you’re healthy you’ll look a certain way. That just isn’t true. Health looks different on every body, just take a quick scan from the last Olympics: these folks are at peak physical health and yet, there is a huge range of how that looks. So, first thing to do is ditch any goal that dictates body composition or how your body responds to new habits.
  2. Take time to reflect on what health means to you. When people say health, often they are talking about strictly physical health. Yet health is multifaceted: social, spiritual and emotional/mental health are all equally important to our well-being. Prioritizing physical health over other facets of health is the misleading prerogative of companies that can make money off promises to improve your physical health. However, caring for all components of health is key to well-being. It might be trendy to cut carbs, start juicing or try CrossFit, but take a moment to examine whether those choices feed you mentally, socially, spiritually. Juicing everyday for breakfast sounds glamorous as a Facebook post, but in practice might mean missing out on brunches with friends or is so mentally exhausting to plan for that your overall well being will suffer.
  3. Formulate a balanced approach. For every way you want to challenge yourself, also have a plan for self-care. Where I most often see resolutions go wrong is in the quantification or measurement of their goal. So you want to be more active? Wonderful! Measuring that goals by number of steps, days of the week you’re active, or by becoming a certain size, however, dishonors your body. Instead, try checking in with yourself before and after each activity. Your body is going to need different things depending on a huge host of factors, like how active have you been recently? Do you have any injuries, even small stress injuries? Have you had enough family and friend time? For those with periods, is the current point in your cycle making certain activities uncomfortable? Taking the time to ask what you really need will ensure that an arbitrary resolution doesn’t get in the way of true wellness. Now, that’s a truly body positive approach!

I wish all of you, resolution-setting or not, a happy new year!!


Ani is a fat activist and Health at Every Size promoter. She is currently pursuing a degree in Dietetics and is working towards the creation of a non-profit to support healthy relationships with food. She is also a geek, yogi, knitter, and lives with her partner and two dogs in Minneapolis.