media consumption for a better world

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 2.58.39 PM

as humans trying to live, love, heal, learn, enjoy, survive, and figure out how to be part of a complex world, we make choices CONSTANTLY. and a lot of what we’re choosing is what to consume: food, fashion, media, news, even the conversations in which we choose to participate.

just like what we buy & where we buy it is a vote with our dollar, what we watch, read, & listen to is a vote for the voices & stories we want to see represented and amplified. it’s important to be aware of/examine how we make these choices and how these choices impact our communities — particularly if you’re a person of privilege like i am.

so, i invite you to consider the following questions about the articles, books, movies, tv shows and other media you consume and/or share:

– whose stories are being told? who’s telling the stories? (is it mostly white people? men? or marginalized folks?) whose stories are being left out?

– if you find that a lot of the media you’re consuming and sharing is created by white folks and/or men, is it from creators whose work you’ve sought out? or is it stuff that’s crossed your path, like an article that was trending on twitter or a book recommended by a friend?

– consider the privilege and opportunity that may have been a factor in the visibility of these works and creators, or in the resonance of their work with your experience. think about what informed what you were exposed to and taught in childhood and in school, and how that subsequently informed what you gravitated toward or sought out throughout your life.

why does asking these questions & developing this awareness matter? why does what we choose matter?

if we’re not seeing diversity of gender, race, sexual orientation, body type and beauty standards, and folks with disabilities — whether in front of the camera or in the pages of a paperback — we’re not seeing & hearing the stories of underrepresented (and often underserved) groups. (and that means they may not be seeing themselves, either; google “symbolic annihilation.”)

representation matters; visibility matters. we need systemic shifts when it comes to the many things that impact physical & mental health, and those changes start with our individual choices 💛

learning to shift gears: bullying is not a motivator

Screen Shot 2020-03-03 at 2.54.40 PM

 

in the week since the superbowl i’ve seen so many women online comparing their bodies to jlo & shakira’s. truly–so many. most were beating themselves up about their bodies, which they felt were “bad” in comparison, or shame-talking their fitness and food habits.

heartbreakingly, we’ve been taught that bullying, whether ourselves or others, is a motivator. think hazing on sports teams or in the military — it was normalized because it was believed to foster achievement & excellence. so no wonder bullying is embedded in diet culture–which relies entirely on external cues–and shows up in how we speak to and treat ourselves.

when we use a diet culture lens we are more likely to be motivating from a place of fear & shame than from one of acceptance & hope. energy that could be dedicated to discovering and working toward our most authentic aspirations for ourselves first has to push through negative self-talk.

what if instead of starting with this energy deficit we were committed to giving ourselves a leg up? what if we spent this extra energy *encouraging* ourselves to explore & pursue our goals?

what if what women said to themselves after seeing these celebrity bodies wasn’t “i suck” or “i have to do better” or “it’s hopeless” or “it’s not fair”? what if they said “wow, jlo looks strong! and she moves with ease! and i think shakira’s really enjoying what she’s doing! i’d like to feel that way, and i’d like to explore how i can move my body & nourish it in ways that will support that goal.”

an invitation to reject diet culture is not a condemnation of wanting to feel fit & strong — it is an opportunity to find & align with a compassionate, sustainable “why” and “how” of doing so. with an awareness of how diet culture has framed your approach to food & fitness, it’s absolutely possible to shift gears from a lens of judgement to one of inspiration!

amazing fitness professionals like @barbellblondie (whose photo you see above!) have been doing this work and are changing the field. follow her and other body-positive fitness accounts for inspiration, education and motivation 💛

what we tell ourselves about our bodies

when you’re 18 and the jeans that fit your friends don’t fit you the same way you don’t think, “different people have different bodies and there’s a pair of equally good jeans out there for me”–because no one ever told you that, and it’s 2003 so you’ve never seen a fashion ad with a body like yours.

instead, you think, “i have a bad body.”

 

when you’re 15 and your friends are getting cute little bralettes and pretty things from victoria’s secret but those don’t fit you you don’t think, “breasts come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and there’s an equally attractive bra out there for me”–because it’s 1999 and there isn’t.

instead, you think, “i have the wrong body.”

 

when you’re 21 and it’s fashionable to wear heels so you do but they make your feet achy and numb, you don’t think, “i shouldn’t do or wear things that cause me pain, there are alternatives to this”–because it’s been modeled for you that this is how women live.

instead, you think, “i’m too sensitive.”

 

eventually you’re 35. you see representation almost every day for all kinds of bodies. you see clothes being made to fit these bodies, and you see this accessibility being talked about. you’ve realized that folks have been fighting for decades for the right to live freely in their bodies and to have their bodies exist and be seen without judgement & vitriol.

it breaks your heart that while others were doing this work you spent twenty years perfecting starving and bullying yourself, trying to harden, trying to need less. but you can use what you’ve learned to help someone else feel ok in their body, to nourish instead of starve, to love instead of hate, to stay soft, to need as much as they need. you see the world changing and you’re sad that you missed so much of it but you’re grateful you get to help now.

 

and it’s still hard to find a great pair of jeans 😂

on “work” and the power of language

let’s talk about the term work.

we use it in lots of different contexts:
– a job
– something that feels challenging or hard
– to indicate whether or not something is functioning as expected or needed
– to describe something that is produced or accomplished

we have a range of perceptions about its various meanings and reactions to its role in our lives, both positive associations (like fulfilling, motivating, or safe) & negative ones (like stressful, overwhelming, or boring).

we also tend toward dichotomies to describe it: incomplete vs complete, broken vs fixed, well vs badly done.

it’s common in a therapeutic setting to refer to healing as “the work”–whether you’re addressing injury, illness or psychic pain, healing can take a lot of effort & dedication–and it’s something i hadn’t questioned until my therapist recently invited me to explore my use of the term.

while for many folks the term “work” is unencumbered, my therapist wanted to make sure that my use wasn’t unintentionally activating old neural pathways of stress & compulsion rather than newer ones of compassion. (you may similarly find that exploring the meaning certain terms hold & using more precise language can allow for more authenticity & self-compassion.)

i clarified that in this context i was referring to:
– the CHALLENGE of doing the work
– the GIFT of the opportunity to heal
– the ALIGNMENT WITH MY PURPOSE that i feel in learning about myself & the world
–and this clarification actually brought me to the term that more accurately encompasses my intent: the PRACTICE of healing.

just like work, a practice can be challenging & requires dedication–but is done from a place of opportunity rather than obligation. It is an invitation that we extend to ourselves rather than an expectation we impose, a gift we give ourselves each time we engage with it. there is no right or wrong way to do it & it’s not about fixing anything, only about showing up for ourselves with care.

a practice creates space for me as i am and for what i need–diffusing the instinct i sometimes still have to make myself smaller to fit a situation. and as @alpinenutrition recently posted, “the world needs more of you, not less.”

“banish the bloat”: how diet culture language keeps us from integrating

Screen Shot 2020-02-08 at 4.36.07 PM

our goal as humans, whether we’re talking about our health & wellness or living a fulfilling life, is to be integrated.

“integrated” means that all aspects of our experiences have a seat at the table–including what we don’t like or understand about ourselves. rather than getting left out of the room or shoved into a corner, these things are invited to be part of the conversation because our bodies, minds and spirits work as a whole.

there are things we’ve been taught to dislike about ourselves, or to worry are wrong, and we tend to react with fear and frustration rather than curiosity. terms like “banish” or “beat” serve to “other”–isolate or blame–our bodies & experiences, pitting us against ourselves.

i recently got a “banish the bloat” email from a wellness company and posted a poll in my instagram stories, asking if folks thought this was diet culture language.

for context: bloating is one of the ways our bodies communicate with us about their experiences and needs. while uncomfortable, bloating is not *the* problem, but rather a *symptom* of a problem. to say that bloat needs to be banished is to assign fault & blame to our bodies for not “working right,” for having needs that aren’t being met, or for communicating those needs to us.

i was thrilled to see that most of you were able to call out this language. for those who weren’t, i hope it gave you a moment of pause and curiosity.

why do i call out these seemingly innocuous instances of diet culture? because just like other systems of oppression (racism and misogyny, for example) diet culture is meant to keep us in shame, fear & hate. it is not a structure intended to make us more vibrant & fulfilled, and because it’s been in place for so long many of us can’t identify when it’s at play.

diet culture carves our experience into what’s working well & what’s going wrong, rather than encouraging us to be holistically present & curious. diet culture discourages our systems from striving for integration. but you have agency over how you want to experience your body & your life, and when you say no to diet culture you help shape a world in which we trust, honor & love our bodies–which is the fertile soil for health.