Tag Archives: body image

Easier said than done.


Health tips are happening on my Facebook page lately.  It’s just evolving in that direction.  Yesterday’s was the following:

“Eat when you’re hungry.  Don’t eat when you’re not.”

Yeah, groundbreaking stuff, there. I could almost hear the collective muttering, “duh” in a hushed exhale.

I concede that it’s not news.  It’s not avant garde.  It’s not the latest scientific breakthrough.

In my defense, however, chances are mighty, mighty good that you’re not following this old, ratty advice.  Chances are pretty good that you are probably trying to find ways to eat less than you are actually hungry for a lot of the time and eating way past that full signal other times.  How do I know that?  What, am I made of stone?  These things I speak of are things with which I am familiar, my friends.

Of course, in some part of your mind, or maybe a lot of your mind, you think that you can’t follow this little “rule” because there’s something quite wrong with you.  I mean, really, it’s so easy a kid could do it.  And before we cram crazy messages into their tender brains, they all do.

So if you can’t do it, what’s wrong with you?

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  That’s right.  There’s nothing wrong with you.

There is probably something wrong with the nourishment that you are receiving though.  I’ll bet a shiny new quarter on it, actually.

Here are the reasons that I think following this most obvious and simple guideline is so difficult:

1.  We’re told that the body is not to be trusted.  We get this message from early on from everywhere.  So, when it’s 10:30 on a Tuesday morning and you’re still not hungry but stuff down some breakfast because you’ve been told that “it’s the most important meal of the day” or it’s 8:15 on a Monday night and your stomach is growling but you ignore it because “you’re not supposed to eat past 7”, you do this because you don’t trust your body.

2.  You are malnourished.  You will continue to eat until you get the nutrients that you need, not the calories that you need.  This is a crucial distinction.  We’ve shifted in the past 100 years to the caloric model of eating.  You can eat a pint or more of low-fat ice cream during a commercial break.  Just TRY and eat that much liver.  And if liver is gross to you, you can change that to steak.  Your body wants nutrients first and foremost.  You understand this.  A tablespoon of white sugar is not the same thing as a tablespoon of just about anything else.  The calories may be the same but the drive to eat more will not be sated with the sugar.  There are no nutrients.  None.  And worse, foods such as sugar and white flour actually use up your stores of other nutrients to digest.  So, you’re not getting “no nutrition”, you’re getting “negative nutrition”.  And what do you need?  Positive nutrition in order to feel full, good, and healthy.

3.  Malnutrition is not just a matter of food.  If you feel agitated, you may need to go for a walk or punch a pillow.  Cake will not allow the emotion to move through.  Cake will numb it and repress it and that can feel helpful at times, but the agitation is still there, just buried under cake.  The starvation you feel when loneliness overtakes you?  French fries really don’t give a flip about your struggles.  Friends do.  The craving you have for affection will not be met by squirting the whole can of whipped cream in your mouth.  This cycle only creates more agitation, more loneliness, more cravings for human touch.  In the same way negative nutrition creates deeper and deeper deficits, using food to do something it’s not meant to do, creates deeper and deeper emotional deficits.

4.  Portion prescriptions.  Once you are able to connect with your hunger, portions are the stupidest thing EVER.  There are days when I eat 5 snacks a day.  None are big enough to be called a meal.  Others, I eat the traditional 3 squares.  Some, I eat one big meal with a steak so big it can’t fit on the plate.  Once in a long while, I only want a smoothie for the whole day. Portions as mandated from the heavens assume that you are the same, day in, day out.  They assume that your level of activity is identical every day.  They assume that your hormones never fluctuate.  They assume that you at 18 is the same as you at 45.  Yes, I know there are “formulas” that allow for variance, but, really? Formulas?  How hungry are you today?  Well, eat.  If you’re not, don’t.  You don’t have to eat 5 meals a day if you’re not hungry five times a day.

I could probably go on and on but this will dissolve into a rant instead of something useful REAL quick, so I’ll stop there.  In short, eat when you’re hungry.  Don’t eat when you’re not.  Basically, Nourish yourself into Freedom.

If you haven’t joined us for #30daymove, yet, it’s not too late.  Never too late!


Wabi-sabi and Body Image


“Perfection is poverty.”-Ryan Drum

I have a tea cup that someone I love gave me for Christmas a few years ago.  One day, when I was moving some things around in the cabin, my table fell over and everything on it broke.  The tea cup lost most of its handle.  It’s still the cup I use almost daily.  It is just the right size to have a large cup of tea and I can still cradle it comfortable in one hand.

Even longer ago, during a particularly strong Japanophilic phase I was going through (Kurasowa films, language classes, matcha tea with the little whisk, learning the proper way to wear a kimono) I came across the concept of Wabi-sabi.  It was like all great discoveries.  It seemed new but it just reinforced something I had decided was part of my identity anyway.

Since I was little, I loved old things.  I loved the cracked, the weathered, and the worn.  The patched jean was so much more pleasing to me than the stiff denim of the new.  Clothes that were new to me would sit in my closet to “age” until they took on my smell, relaxed their starchy posture, and felt like they belonged to me.  I preferred dishes that had been used for a long time by others and furniture that knew things.  

My father was 48 when I was born.  His friends with their lines and their graying temples were robust laughers, image-rich story tellers and could walk up and down hills with a sprightliness that I though all people of their age had.  And they were infinitely more interesting than people who had not yet LIVED.

When I was sitting in a classroom at the Southeastern Herbal conference six or seven years ago, Ryan Drum, forager, seaweed collector, white haired wild man, started his lecture with the quote above.  “Perfection is poverty.”  It got me sit ramrod straight as I had somehow lost my way.  Perfection was what I wanted so badly then.  

I had forgotten all that was truly important to me.  And, my body was suffering.  I wasn’t the one who came from a place of ill health or weight problems.  I just thought I did.  It wasn’t until I really devoted myself to perfect health and perfect body that both fell promptly to pieces.

Wabi-sabi is an acceptance and reverence for the impermanence of things, for the imperfection of things.  The hair thin fissures in a pot make it exquisite.  The fraying shoulder of the gray cardigan that I wear is what makes it special.  The new holes that need to be patched in my jeans are what make them mine.  The pot, the cardigan, the jeans…my tea cup: they are not beautiful to me in spite of these things.  They are beautiful to me BECAUSE of those things.

The current constructed cultural idea of beauty is a certain type of perfection.  It is a perfection that 97% of people can never achieve except through starvation, Draconian exercise regimes, and plastic surgery.  Not to mention chemical hair dyes.  It is the denial of age.  The shunning of the body itself.  It is rooted in deception.  It is impossible without deception.  Now that photoshop is used without impunity, even the 3% look more perfect than they already are.  In other words, the examples of the ideal that we uphold don’t even look like that.

But, the thing that I find the most sad is that the stories are all gone.  We are being taught to appreciate the uniform, blank, scar-less, line-less, age-less ideal.  It is nothing more than a blank page.  There is no story.  We have fetishized the absent.

My pinky toe is about half the length of my others.  I get that from my dad.  I have been graying for years, at before the age of 40, I’m about 25% there.  My legs are strong.  My belly is soft.  I just learned that I can carry a tune.  I can dance.  My right shoulder hunches forward a little and my neck needs special care since an auto accident.  I am short and round.  Curvy, low-rise.  I have 4 large tattoos.  I am not beautiful in spite of all these things but beautiful because of them.  

My body holds my story.  You can see what my story is if you look at my with attention.  When I look at you, I see your story, too.  You don’t have to say a word.  

The story is always being told and can be taken in any direction that you want.  Time, nourishment, movement, rest…so many other things are all the contributing characters in your story.  Your body is the story, itself: its beauty, its tragedy, its comedy, its poignancy.  There can be that humbling moment of breath-taking expansion of the incredible chance that that story gets to be told at all.  Tell the story truthfully.  The details matter.  


Power vs Authority


TThere has been a lot going on in the Nourishing Freedom world.  A lot of things that I’m getting more and more excited about.  (Excited and terrified often feel similar in the body, by the way, so I’m choosing to label it excitement.  Is anything scarier than having dreams become reality?)

One of those things has been doing some interviews, very casually right now as practice for the formal “real” ones that are coming quickly my way.  Listening back to them, I have noticed that I use the word authority like Madonna used to use trashy lace in the 80s.  I don’t use the word power.

I was born and raised under a dictatorship.  I grew up in that same dictatorship until I was 13 years old. (It’s no coincidence to me that we use the word regime to describe a dictatorship and it is the french word for diet.) After that, the country’s leadership changed as frequently as the aforementioned Diva.  Power is easily gained through manipulation, intimidation, bullying, money changing hands, bulk, strength, and so many other avenues.  I am sensitive to using power as a decent health model.

I am a post-wellness coach.  Wellness and the current health model is all about power.  Power over the body.  Trick it.  Hack it.  Bully it.  Buy it out.  Intimidate it.  Make it do what you want it to do through whatever means necessary.  Impose standards of perfection upon it that it can’t meet and then punish it when it can’t (and it can’t) meet those standards.  Purify it.  Clean it out.  Cleanse it.  Cleanse it.  Cleanse it.  It becomes a microcosm of the atrocities of ethnic cleansing.  Exert the power of an idealized, impossible purity onto the body and cleanse it of all hints of filth.

In short, we are living in an age where “health” is something of a totalitarian regime inflicted onto the body.  Health is a power that we try to control that winds up controlling us.

Authority, however, has always rung a little different to my ears.  I have known many, many people with very little power but with great authority.  I grant someone authority because they have earned my respect.  I acknowledge someone’s authority on a subject because they’ve done the work.  Authority is grounded in knowledge and in admiration.

When someone speaks from a position of authority, I listen and learn.  When someone speaks from their power, I listen but don’t trust a word.  With authority comes a knowing, deep and steady, that recognizes humility as valuable.  With power also comes a knowing: that power is fragile and can disappear in an instant and must be gripped through any means necessary.

There is a shift that happens when you start nourishing yourself, start nourishing your body.  It is a recognition of fragility.  It is the acceptance that our minds change, our thoughts flitter, that ideas are malleable.  These are the playthings of power.

The shift from power over the body to the recognition of the authority OF the body is one of the most radical paradigm shifts that one can undertake in their lifetime.  You will not have authority OVER the body.  This is difficult for us to accept, this humility before the body.  It is not comfortable to know that when my body says something loud and clear, it KNOWS.  It has the knowledge.  Your thoughts and perceptions about your body have been used to exert power over you by getting you to impose that power over it yourself.  The transformation that can be experienced by rebelling against this power structure and returning the authority to your body is something I could write pages and pages about but unless you go through it, it’s nearly impossible to get you to understand the depth, height, width of it.

In practical terms, health is sleeping when your body is tired.  It is eating in the way your body needs.  It is moving when your muscles beg for it and being still when you need to rest.  But, this is not on a schedule that someone decides on molding you to, it is by learning to respect the authority of your body.  What this means is that each of us will have a life that is unique to us but also just the same as everyone else that has a human body.  The details will glitter.  The particulars will dance in a one of a kind light but we will share all the joy and abundance that it really means to be a human animal.

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body love 2, or quotation marks gone wild


“The body, the flesh, is the source of all that it means to be human.” 

 -J. Martineau, 2012

I started talking last week about the issues that I see with the “body love” assumptions that the “movement” have.  (Let’s see what else I can “put in quotation marks”.)

Now, some true truth.  It is not love of your body/self that will get you to take care of your body/self, it is taking care your body/self that will get you to love your body/self.  I see this confused in a lot of people.  They want to put the emotion before the work.  Like I said before, if you’ve been raised not to love your body (and if you were raised on this planet in the last couple thousand years, you were), you are not going to just wake up one morning after being told that you should love your body and just love it.  (It is only for ease of expression that I call the body “it”.  “It” is you, but we’ve so long created a chasm between our “self” and our “body” that  we have a hard time understanding that “they” are the same “thing”.)  From now on, “it” and “you”, “your body” and “you” are interchangeable, okey dokey?

Back to the truthiness with a little story to illustrate:

When my son was born, I looked at him for the first time and felt something akin to shock that that little squirming thing was inside me and was now another person.    I felt protective, I felt attached, I felt a need to nurse him…you know instinctive things.  But, I can’t really say that love was one of them.  The great myth of motherhood (and body love) is that a parent instantly loves the squalling little bundle.  This isn’t true for everyone.  Then, I took that sweet thing home.  I washed him.  I nursed him.  I dressed him.  I watched him sleep.  I held him to me all day as I did things around the house.  I took him with me to work so I could hear him breathe.  I picked him up when he screamed for comfort.  Even in the very middle of the night…over and over.  Day in, day out.  I started to love him…I moved from practicing the role of caretaker to motherhood.  He’s taller than me, now, but I can tell you what every move of his eyebrows means, what he likes to eat, what he dreams of becoming one day.

To love yourself takes devotion.  It takes time and practice. .  It takes dedication and commitment.   It takes forming a relationship to yourself.  Your body, you…it is the longest relationship that you will ever have.  It really isn’t always easy.  There are nights when you have to decide between working late or getting yourself to bed so that your needs are met.  There are days when you are messy and covered in something weird, but you have to take care of it and that is how love happens with your body/self.  It is the day in/day out constancy of self care that will pay off in one day being able to tell just from the sound of your own breathing if you need a nap or a run or a square of chocolate.

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body love, part 1


 There seem to be two basic approaches to health:

1. Discipline the body into obedience to one’s goals.

2. Love the body with complete abandon.

I will be writing about the first in a couple weeks.  But, I wanted to take some time and address the second in a two part series.  I will be touching on some ways in which I resolve my own frustrations with each.

I am a Holistic Lifestyle Coach and have a degree in Health Arts and Sciences from something of an alternative college. I was a massage therapist and yoga teacher and also walk the Wise Woman path and I love me some wheel of the year celebrations.  This information should lead you to believe that I stereotypically fall firmly in the camp of “body love”.  (Spoiler alert: I do…well, mostly.)  However, there is so much that annoys intrigues me about this approach.

One:  It is announced as a prescription.  Morbidly obese?  You just need to love your body.  Fibromyalgia?  Love your body.  Feel breathless after walking up a flight of stairs?  Love your body.  Wow, that’s frustratingly useless advice, isn’t it?

Two:  It is assumed that you know your body.  Do you love anyone that you don’t know?  Other than Robert Downey, Jr., I don’t either.

Three:  Love has lost a lot of meaning in our modern world.  I say that I love chocolate.  I say that I love my son.  I say that I love the sound of the Kardashian empire starting to crumble.  But, love is only truly appropriate vocabulary in one of those sentences.

Four:  Love is not only qualitative on the spectrum, but it also differs in degree.  The love that I have when I first fall in love and the love that I have after being in a relationship for a while.  It is qualitatively the same romantic love, but it has increased in depth.

Five:  Love is a process.  You will not wake up tomorrow morning loving your body if you’ve spent a lifetime (or even a few years) not loving it.

Six: Your body is not just one thing.  Since you are your body and you are so many things, so is it. (From here on out, I will not distinguish between the two, so firm is my belief that you are your body.)  You are the actual anatomy: muscles, kidneys, liver, bone, lungs.  You are the reflection of cultural values.  You are hormones and neurological information.  You are contextual.  (You are your environment.)  So, do you love it all in this model or just the width and breadth of yourself as summed up with a scale and tape measure?

I would love to hear from you, no matter where you are on this range of viewpoints.  Through discussion is knowledge pushed forward.  And, now, it’s time to dance.