Hello there. I’m Chavonne McClay.
Jennifer Jackson (00:00:15):
And I’m Jenn Jackson.
And this is Embodiment for the Rest of Us. A podcast series exploring topics within the intersections that exist in fat liberation.
Jennifer Jackson (00:00:24):
In this show, we interview professionals and those with lived experience alike, to learn how they are affecting radical change and how we can all make this world a safer place for those living in larger bodies and in marginalized spaces.
Captions and content warnings are provided in the show notes for each episode, including specific timestamps so that you can skip triggering content anytime it feels supportive to you.
Jennifer Jackson (00:00:48):
We are always interested in any feedback on this process, if something needs to be addressed. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. And now for today’s episode.
Hi and welcome to Season 1 Episode 2 of Embodiment for the Rest of Us. In this episode, Jenn, pronouns she/her and Chavonne, pronouns she/her discuss their personal journeys of embodiment. This entire episode basically is one big content warning. Here are some highlights of those, just to give you a sense of that. Discussion of privilege, mention of eating disorders and disordered eating, mention of mental health struggles, mention of unintentional weight loss, mention of substance use, and mention of neurodiversity barriers.
Like Jenn said, this whole podcast episode is one big content warning and there’s… It’s really one big trigger warning too. It was pretty intense for us to record and to listen to it again. We talk about Overeaters Anonymous, pregnancy, weight loss, sexual assault, alcohol use, medical fatphobia and sexuality. A few things that I would like to repair that I said during this episode, I don’t see eating as a compulsive behavior. I think it was just kind of some residual stuff coming up as I was talking about Overeaters Anonymous, and I think it sounded like that when I was talking about it. I also really wanted to repair and say that some people do indeed eat to protect themselves after sexual assault or create a barrier in some way after sexual assault. And in the show notes, there’s a link to Hunger by Roxanne Gay, and that includes a really great discussion of someone who did do that intentionally.
Jennifer Jackson (00:02:46):
Thank you for that Chavonne. And for all content warning, trigger warnings, you can look to the show notes and transcripts for the timestamps. And here is our episode.
Hello. Last time we got to know our co-hosts, Chavonne and Jenn. We had an absolute blast.
Jennifer Jackson (00:03:06):
It was just as interesting to share and hear ourselves and what we had to say, as well as getting to listen to each other.
Not to toot our own horns too much, too-toot, but there’s something really special about this space. Talking about challenging topics with a sense of lightness that doesn’t take away from them.
Jennifer Jackson (00:03:24):
I would listen to our podcast.
It’s a really good thing that we can. In editing the last episode I realized that one thing we didn’t talk about was our own embodiment journeys, and I would love to talk about that now. Being vulnerable and transparent in this way is such a great foundation for these conversations. So I’d like to start, if that’s okay.
Jennifer Jackson (00:03:48):
Sure, go ahead.
I’m actually really nervous. I’m just going to be upfront and vulnerable about that. I don’t always share kind of where I came from and how I came to find some ownership and belonging within my body. So it’s a little scary to talk about.
I first realized that my body was unacceptable when I was about eight or nine. I remember my school nurse sending a note home saying that I was overweight. I went on my first diet around then and kind of dieted off and on for most of my life. I felt like… Well, I’ve never been diagnosed with an eating disorder, my eating has been disordered for most of my life. For as long as I can remember food has been used for basically any feeling. I remember first turning to it when I was a kid, when I didn’t know how to express my feelings or wasn’t allowed to express my feelings and kind of morphed along as I became an adult. It’s always been my go-to.
I saw a lot of therapists throughout the years regarding my relationship with food and my body. I believe about seven years ago, I was pretty depressed about my body and with food, and what I hope was a well-meaning coworker told me about Overeaters Anonymous, about OA. I was involved with OA for about three years. So I wouldn’t recommend Overeaters Anonymous to anyone. I have lots of opinions about it. And while I think that the 12 step recovery model can be really helpful with some forms of compulsive behavior, I don’t believe that it is appropriate for someone’s relationship with food or their body or with eating disorders. Go ahead.
Jennifer Jackson (00:05:50):
I was going to say, I also have a lot of opinions about Overeaters Anonymous, including having gone there myself. I actually wasn’t going to include that in my journey today, but I think I’d love to bookmark this and talk about that later. Because structure can be so helpful for someone who feels [inaudible 00:06:09]. And yet when the othering that happens inside of that system, that creates things as an individual’s responsibility. They’re actually about larger systems and about something that’s required to live, therefore we cannot be addicted to is a real challenge about that. I would love to dig into that more later with you. So I was just thinking [inaudible 00:06:31].
I would love that. Let’s definitely talk about that. Yeah, definitely. I don’t agree with it, like I said, I think it’s very problematic. But it gave me what I needed at the time, just like you said, it gave me a sense of structure. It gave me community. I grew up in a very, very strictly Christian home, and so as I grew up, I moved away from the church, but I missed that sense of community of the church and that gave me that sense of community. So it gave me people who understood kind of where it was coming from. At least looking back I can say it gave me what I needed. I don’t think it did everything I needed, but it did at the moment.
Jennifer Jackson (00:07:13):
That’s reminding me of relatedness and witnessing and how important it can be in that program, to have the knowing within yourself that you were perceived in that very particular way. As a form of, not safety, although I think it could feel like that, maybe something else. But just something grounding in that.
Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. So I’d been in OA for about three years at that point. I’m thinking as I go back in my timeline in my head, I actually was first introduced to OA 10 years ag. So I’d been in it about three years, and I remember having this massive freakout because I had an ingredient that I wasn’t allowed to have by mistake. And I remember crying and feeling like I’d lost my “abstinence”. It just sent me to a really low place and lots of guilt, lots of shame around it. But one thing I remembered after that freakout was like, “Am I really going to let it ruin my day that I ate one thing?” That just felt not okay to me. And it led me to finding out about intuitive eating online one night. I read the book quite a few times and it really clicked.
So I would say for about three years or so, I really learned to enjoy less angst about my body and just ate what felt right. It was a really comfortable time for me in terms of food. I talked about it with therapists, I talked about it with friends. I thought I’d done “the work”. And during this time I divorced my first husband, moved across the country back to the southwest and was just living my life. Then I met my current husband, my second husband, and we got pregnant. And apparently I had not done as much work as I thought when it came to my body. I realized that for years, what I’d really been doing was keeping a super tight hold on food and trying to… Intuitive eating my way through life. Some people really treat it as a diet. I definitely treated it as a diet. In that I was very strict about when I ate, what I ate, how I ate, where I ate, et cetera.
So it was kind of transferring this need for control that I didn’t have as a kid into dieting, then into intuitively eating. So yeah, being pregnant made me realize how little control I had of my body, ever. Because I had this tiny parasite, who I adore, but he was the parasite kind of determining how my body functioned. And I also lost a lot of weight. It was because I was so sick. I had horrible morning sickness with both of my sons. And funnily enough, it was actually really hard for me because I had worked so hard to accept my body in a certain shape and I lost weight so quickly and so uncontrollably that it was the smallest I’ve been in a really long time. And I didn’t know how to relate to my body when it was smaller. It just felt really foreign to me. It was really uncomfortable. And it was the first time in my life that I struggled to eat or I had to remind myself to eat. And that was a very different relationship too.
So yeah, I had two kids within 15 months. So that was a bit of a jolt to the body and the life as well. One thing that I can say that was really nice about it was while I was pregnant was the least I cared about my body. So I struggled with the fact that it was smaller, but I also in the first trimester and a half lost a good amount of weight and then gained the weight to almost get back to where I’d been before. And it was the first time that I didn’t feel any angst, any guilt, any shame about gaining weight because I was growing children in there.
After I gave birth to my second kiddo, I went to therapy and got a lot of support around my postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. And somehow that made me feel like I was ready to go on my last diet. It was my very last diet and I stopped within a week, because I realized this was not healthy for me and this is not going to help me enjoy more of my body more. Since then, I’ve been in pretty regular therapy regarding my food and my body. And I can say in doing this work with my clients, in doing this podcast, in just living, this is the first time that I really feel like I am embodying myself.
So in terms of embodiment, I kind of see this as integrating and accepting all aspects of myself. Some aspects of myself have felt easier than others. Like being black, I love being black. I love my natural hair, I love being dark-skinned. What really felt like a challenge was connecting my body to who I am, which we’ll definitely talk about a lot. I think it’s an ongoing journey. I don’t always love my body. I think that there’s a amount of toxicity around the idea of body positivity and it’s actually really harmful. So I don’t always love my body, but I am at a place where I can always be grateful for it. I can always try to show it grace and I can always be neutral to it. And I think that that is a really big gift.
It’s funny as we’re recording this, I’m actually, I have my face on the screen and that is something that I would not normally do. I normally don’t look at myself, or at least in the past I didn’t look at myself when I was on-screen. So I’m just finding little things here and there to feel embodied. I wore shorts yesterday. I’m looking at myself on the screen. I say nicer things to myself and I’m really open about how I experience this world and what it means for me and how to interact with it. And so this podcast has been an extension of that to help me grow and to help others grow.
Yeah, I mean we’ll talk more about embodiment and how it has played into our lives, but I think that integrating all these aspects of myself is really important. How I interact with the world sexually, physically, emotionally, spiritually, all of those things. So yeah, that’s kind of where I am in terms of embodiment right now.
Jennifer Jackson (00:14:26):
Wow. I felt a lot of warmth while listening to you and a lot of wanting to hug you while listening to you. So for those listening and can’t see us, we are virtually talking and recording this over Zoom so we can’t hug each other right now, even though I’d like to. I think the word resilience can feel really rife with stigma that we must be resilient. And I still feel compelled to say that I could hear your resilience in that. And I don’t mean that you have to grin and bear life, but that I can hear you returning to yourself intentionally over and over again. Which to me is a big piece of embodiment that as life changes, that that can also shift. That you still get to be you in whatever you are in this moment. All of the Chavonnes up until now.
There was an episode of This Is Us, which I have not finished this season and I am so-
Jennifer Jackson (00:15:25):
I’m sorry of this is a spoiler to you, but there’s an episode where, I can’t think of Chrissy Messi’s character name, but her mom says to her-
Jennifer Jackson (00:15:36):
Oh yeah, Kate. So her mom says to her, “I can see every version of you in front of me and I hold them for you all the time.” That even though Kate can’t see herself and see even positive things in herself and feel supportive of herself or she had support in different areas of her life; her mom’s trying to express that she always was holding that for her. Which was a big breakthrough moment for them and their relationship hasn’t been that great as a result. And as I was listening to you, I was thinking, I just flashed there and then back. But I could hear you embracing all of the Chavonnes. Which feels really important. Even things… It’s going to make me misty. It’s going to make Misty.
Yes, it’s coming in.
Jennifer Jackson (00:16:22):
And as you were talking about body love, I was also thinking about body like. A lot like relationships with anyone outside of us that just because we love something doesn’t mean we like it right now, and yet we still honor it. And I was hearing that in what you said, which was making me think of wisdom and trust, and you said neutrality and respect. These beautiful aspects of that. I hope that doesn’t sound like I’m glossing it over with positivity because it’s not my intention.
Jennifer Jackson (00:16:53):
It was resonating with me and these words were the resonance. Yeah, I loved listening to it as always. So I wanted to share with you what I got from that, which was powerful.
Thank you. That means a lot. Yeah, it was really emotional to write it. I feel like I could have just talked forever. I kind of condensed it down. There were a lot of experiences that played into this. But yeah, I feel the same way about resilience. I think sometimes it’s often used like, just buck up, you’re fine. Buck it up. [inaudible 00:17:27].
Jennifer Jackson (00:17:26):
Boot straps, [inaudible 00:17:29] it’s very boot straps.
Boot straps, yes. And I love the [inaudible 00:17:33]. Yeah. When I think about resilience, it also makes me think of, it’s not always as accessible for everyone. So it makes me think of my privilege. I was lucky that I could always afford therapy, that I always was employed by an employer that offered insurance and I could afford those copays. And I was lucky that when I think about my journey in terms of learning to respect my body, that I had good role models and that I grew up in a family that was larger bodied but had people who loved their larger bodies. That I grew up in a family where dark skin is glorified and never really had that experience of colorism. And that’s not something that a lot of dark skinned black women can say.
So there were a few things that just made it easier to be resilient and the fact that I was willing to acknowledge that I had mental health struggles. I think in the black community, in many ethnic communities it’s really found upon to admit that you’re struggling.
So yeah, lots of things played into my resilience. So thank you. Thank you for hearing me and thank you always being present for me and always holding space for me.
Jennifer Jackson (00:19:03):
I appreciate it. Love you. What about you though, Jenn, why don’t you tell me about your embodiment journey?
Jennifer Jackson (00:19:13):
Thank you. So just like you said there at the end of that that I thought of just about everything, which really reminded me of how we and our bodies are one and the same. We’re always traveling together. And how we don’t always feel like we’re friends with that or with ourselves or that we’re allowed to do that, right?
Jennifer Jackson (00:19:33):
By oppressive structures, by powerful people, by “requirements”. Which I often tell other people’s check boxes, they definitely don’t feel like mine. So I think I’m going to book end mine with two things that feel really warm to me. The first is a warm moment of embodiment from childhood, although it was literally cold. And then one that feels pretty recent to ground myself in this. Because I just know my brain, and if I start talking about embodiment and the challenges of it, then I’m going to go and just never stop. I’d just never stop. The childhood moment is we used to go camping and fishing with my grandfather, Papa Q, it’s my mom’s dad. His last name’s [inaudible 00:20:19]. So he was Papa Q.
I love it.
Jennifer Jackson (00:20:22):
But while I was too young to fish, even though I had kitty fishing pole I could play with them, I could play with the adults’ fishing poles. And while the adults were fishing, the kids, we would play in the river, right down river so we didn’t mess with anyone’s fishing experience. And all the rivers we played in were downstream from mountains. So it was all snow melt and runoff from the mountains. It was very, very cold. And some people would wear those water socks or water shoes or flip-flops or anything in this [inaudible 00:20:54], we always went barefoot. The smooth rocks were just a really interesting experience and I have a lot of distinct memories of being in this really cold water and just feeling the different rocks under my feet as I walked around. And I would just get really lost in the experience of my body in that river. I think about it a lot actually. Especially on a really hot day. Because I don’t really like the heat very much. Even right now I can feel myself cooling down thinking about it. It’s definitely a place I’d go to for that.
I am a white woman and I had body privilege growing up. I was not in a larger body and I was a very active child and I didn’t have to think about these things because no one asked me to. No one presented me with questions that made me ask myself that. I didn’t see it a lot around my family because there were other people with body privilege and those who don’t in my family, who are in larger bodies, I don’t remember ever thinking about it or even pondering it. Which again just speaks to my privileges of not having to have that awareness and just not even having to have thought about it.
My embodiment journey, noticing that I was embodied actually started when I was in college. So the first time I lived on my own. And what I noticed is that before I was about 18, that things would “happen to me”, but I wouldn’t really have any kind awareness of it happening until it was over. Where I’m like, that didn’t feel good in that situation. But I had no real way to reflect on it, I had no details for myself.
Even though I was molested when I was 13 years old and a way that I compensated for that instead of telling anyone at first was to change my relationship with food, to find comfort from food which involved binging. It didn’t change my body, so I didn’t really feel that I had to have a conversation with my body. But it definitely changed how I was in my body every afternoon. I would do it after school, before swim practice. There was this very specific time, no one was home, it was just me, as a way of comforting myself and getting ready to be with people again. But I didn’t really think about it like that. It was just a new thing that I did. Again, speaking to my privilege. Even with something so difficult and traumatic happening to me, I just still didn’t have to think about it.
When I turned 18 and the comforts of home were gone, because I was in a dorm and I was at college and I was three hours away from home, I went to school in Las Cruces, which is three hours away from Albuquerque. Where we’re recording this podcast. And in that time my body started to change. So what I actually noticed was not any of the things within the conversation that did not come within. People perceived me differently, commented to me differently, that they noticed me differently, that I could feel my presence in a room in a different way.
So I guess before that my privilege was of not being perceived, which I think is a real aspect of whiteness that I can deny that I’m in the room. I can be there, but I don’t have to be there. It’s not the same. So there was a lot of growth happening about this. There’s a lot of growth happening in my body and I did not like the attention. Change. So I again turned to food to be my support in that, which was again, binging. I actually tried to receive treatment in college, but I still had a BMI that was in an okay range so I could not receive any treatment, not even counseling.
So that made me think it wasn’t a problem. It’s actually the conclusion that I took from that at that time. I’ve done a lot of therapy about this. So I know what my conclusions were at these different times. Then I started on a process of realizing I wanted to do research as a career or human bodies as a career or just learning how things worked as a career. It was very interesting to me.
I worked in plants at first, so it didn’t really reflect on me. But something that started happening as I considered what my job might be after college. Because I wanted to work with people, I applied to National Institutes of Health and I got a research fellowship and I think it was cancer research training fellowship, CRTA, I can’t even remember what it stands for. But I started working, I was working in pediatric oncology. Aside from college, which was my first experience without the protections of home and all the privileges that came with that, [inaudible 00:25:48] some being stripped away, but still many present.
This was my first chance at being a woman in a male dominated field. I didn’t really feel that before. And my boss very much felt this and was trying to compensate for it. She very explicitly said it very much out loud. And I really sort of went along with that and had these new feelings of being perceived as a professional, not just as a person. It was very stressful. And binging didn’t work actually for the first time in my life. So I trained for a marathon. That was my solution. And oh wow did that help with the stress and anxiety. I also decided to go on a diet at the same time. I actually did it at the end of college. I went on a diet with my family. I had just learned about a diet. My family was interested too, we did it together. But I was the person who was in charge of how we would do it and what are the rules and that kind of thing, which gave me a sense of control. That felt really great.
So flashing back forward to working at National Institute of Health or being in this marathon training. This is a distinct memory I have about how not embodied and how not caring for myself I was at the same time, those two things might go together. It was someone’s birthday in the lab and I made cupcakes and I did not lick the batter off of any implement, any utensil that I was using, the bowl. I did not lick any icing when I iced them. And I let everyone in the lab eat them in front of me and I ate nothing.
Jennifer Jackson (00:27:26):
Which at the time was the most sense of control in this lab environment that had no control. It’s actually one of the days I felt like I had control in that environment. I was like, “Oh yeah, you want to perceive me? Well, I’m going to be doing the thing that works for me right now, to be perceived exactly how I’d like.” And as one can imagine through this process, I injured my body while training for a marathon and treating my body like this, that I would deprive myself in public as some kind of show. I hurt my knee. I actually will never be able to run the way that I ever did before that because of what happened during that time.
I also, my relationship with alcohol changed around this time because binging didn’t feel like it worked. Alcohol sure did. So that’s the first time I entered Overeaters Anonymous to try to find some balance there. This was in Washington DC or well, Maryland outside of Washington DC. And it was not a great environment there for me. I did not feel witnessed or resonance, like we were describing. I actually didn’t feel like I had that.
So doing research, all this environment, I thought that I could “fix this”. And I think this is something about embodiment that I actually think about a lot now, is that I, instead of fixing any… Okay, let me… How would I say this? Outside of embodiment, not being embodied, everything feels like a fix. Like magical thinking, like a magical pill. Everything’s a fix, fix, fix.
So I can really tell when I wasn’t embodied because I still would have these moments of, and mostly looking back, of why did this happen? Why do I feel frustrated at work? Why do I feel unheard at work? Why do I feel like I can’t be at work as my full self? All these kinds of conversations were happening after, never before I went to work, never at work, never asking myself, what do I need? It’s a very embodied question, what do I need right now? And I thought the fix was to change the kind of research that I was doing. What was really happening is I didn’t want to do what’s called wet lab research, which was working with cells. So I enrolled in a master’s program for public health. I knew it was still people, I knew I wanted to help people, I knew I had this drive to do that. And there was something that was just missing. So public health. Which we’ll probably talk about a lot in this podcast is-
I can’t wait.
Jennifer Jackson (00:29:56):
Cool of people making decisions for other people and othering them. Not seeing them as people. Seeing them as samples, seeing them as population, seeing them as outliers, words like that. And also not talking about individuals or even groups of people and that they need help. Although there are some exceptions to this, which we could name. But it’s also, “Here’s our intervention. Something needs to be fixed on such a big level that we’re going to intervene now.” It’s like the literal language of that.
I began to study myself as part… I thought that was the way to connect to myself. Whatever I learned. And I had a public nutrition focus, so whenever we learned about something that happens, like groups of people not eating fruits and vegetables and what can help, it was like, “Well, can that also apply to me?” This mindset of how I could really not be embodied is something I’m even realizing now while talking about it. How can I be researched so that I’m not a problem kind of thought.
Or also how can I get more connected to myself? Is something I think was happening at the same time. But the fixing part is very confusing, very cognitively dissonance oriented that my actions and myself cannot be the same thing. It’s a very separating feeling.
And it really felt at that time… I was very stressed out, that degree it’s… A lot of people do accelerated degrees. So there’s this environment of a lot of stress and anxiety, glossing things over, not a lot of depth, which doesn’t make a lot of sense for a public health degree. It feels like something to really go into.
Let’s dig into this, yeah.
Jennifer Jackson (00:31:35):
I lived very much at the surface at that time. So a lot of what I’m saying now is a realization I had later where I was just going through it. And the environment of public health is one where you have a class where you talk about intersections that might exist in public health for one semester only. And you talk about… I’m snapping right now. You talk about each of them very, very quickly. In one day we cover the Tuskegee syphilis experiments. We also covered the Pima Indians in the… I don’t think that’s what they’d like to be called. That’s what they called it in my course. All of these ways in which public health can harm people. And the solution, even though I loved this professor and I loved this course and I loved the information, was all about how problems were of the past and how we’re doing things differently now. A real ignorance about what’s really happening, which feels like an analogy for how I was not embodied during all of my life, truly up until this moment.
And then I started to work in public health and I realized what I actually wanted to be talking about. And also the area in which I felt I needed fixed that remained to be seen, was nutrition and diet. So I went back school to be a dietician. It’s called a didactic program in dietetics. So it’s like the standardized courses that everyone in the country takes to be a dietician. The examples used both in my public health, public nutrition classes and also in this program you experiment on yourself a lot. Trying to think of the phrase, “I am both the researcher and the lab rep.” That’s like this phrase where it’s like we’re going to do everything on ourselves. And a lot of that stuff is very harmful, full of microaggressions, full of stigma and a credible amount of bias and is asking us to do something, a very particular “right way”.
So I took on this challenge and I experimented with everything on myself and put myself through a lot of things that I really now wish that I had not done, but felt like it was in the name of science, was in the name of my degree. And also would teach me what to do with people in the future and really help them. And it was very harmful. First of all, the eating behavior of everyone around me, including myself, changes when we begin to experiment on ourselves. People begin to rationalize that they can tell what’s going on. There’s actually a name for this, it’s called the illusory truth effect. The illusion that I now know what’s going on because I know how to research this. That I can use myself as the subject as if I’m not going to be subjective. Which whether or not research is subjective or public health is a whole other conversation. It tends to be objective.
Jennifer Jackson (00:34:34):
It was alarming to be around other people who were going through something that had been internalized in me and that I had not dealt with the whole time. And I started trying to seek support again because it felt not okay to me. And again, I just had one blood sugar that was just barely above normal that corrected itself the next time my lab work was taken and I received no support. I tried to even get counseling in this time and my body had changed. I no longer had a body of privilege anymore. And so I was just told to “lose weight”. That was the solution to what was going on.
So I tried to, and so did everyone in my program because anyone with a larger body got the same answer from the same student health center. The only place we all had access to for time and money reasons. A lot of had to go to go on food stamps because of the requirements of paying for school. I feel like it was just dipping my toes into a life with less privilege than I had before. And it was temporary, which also speaks to my privilege. This experience made me want to run from my program. I didn’t get that I wanted to be more embodied. I didn’t get that I wanted to have different experiences, be around different ways of thinking. It felt like there was only one way of thinking. So it made me want to run.
So I applied to an internship in another state, which is my home state of New Mexico. And that is when I became not a body in that internship. It’s very stressful. You’ve worked very, very long hours. You have to pay for the right to be there. I moved back in with my parents, where it’s a lot of things at once and I basically put my head down and saw it as a learning experience and went through. But I got very, very sick during this time. Had to miss some days of my internship, which is a pretty big no-no in those kinds of programs. I had to make up for those days. I didn’t really get to miss them. And I asked for support from my program that I would not be triggered by these things and they not comply because it’s again standardized. I had to complete the competencies.
I did have a counselor at the time who listened to me and doctors who also listened to me, which felt very supportive. But they were also about fixing, making my symptoms disappear, not dealing with things outside of my body or that I would want to be embodied in order to see these things in advance.
So the pattern really was, I only noticed things after they got bad. I only noticed after I got really sick. I only noticed after moving to a new place. All these things I’ve described, each of them is a move to another city or another state. I’m moving, moving, moving. That if I never stop, that I never have to deal with loss. I never have to deal with grief work related to my body. It’s really tough stuff. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing at the time, and maybe neither did I anywhere within myself. But I really see that now.
And that internship really solidified for me that I wanted to do things differently. That I had never taken a break in my life and that I wanted to get more connected with myself. So as soon as I got my credentials to be a dietician, I took a year off.
Jennifer Jackson (00:37:39):
It was the first break I ever had. And I was 31. In my whole life. So I’m almost 39 now. It’s so interesting that you and I have this seven year mark that we both brought up today.
Yeah. Something about seven.
Jennifer Jackson (00:37:50):
As I went into being a dietician in New York, I worked in a cafe to see if I wanted to run one as a waitress. I worked as a concierge dietician where I was basically at the beck and call of whoever was my client. I went wherever they asked me to go. It was exhausting. New York is… I was in New York. So as again after my internship, I again moved somewhere. It was exhausting because New York is exhausting. It’s really loud. I love New York. I love it so much. And also to put myself at the beck and call of other people means that I have to run at the speed of New York.
If I never really took any breaks again, it would be after I got really sick that I took notice of things and I began to not like any of the work that I was doing, and realized how much I self-identified with my job and not as a person anymore. And that I wasn’t getting the New York experience that I was there for, which was to enjoy… Whatever I was doing, I wanted to be enjoying the city. I wasn’t paying attention while I was walking really fast, which between clients. I wasn’t paying attention to my own needs in terms of rest or what I needed to eat or anything like that. Any kind of self-care.
And I just, I don’t know. Something happened, I wanted to call it an epiphany just now, but that doesn’t feel right. I had a moment of utter despair, is actually how I think I want to phrase it. Where I’m like, what am I doing? I just realized that everything I’d done until that moment felt like a reaction outside of myself, and I wasn’t checking in with myself or my adult life. I didn’t regret anywhere that I was. But it was missing an element of me and me as the person felt so distinct and separate for me at work that it felt like I could not be both. That I had to choose at any one time, and I wanted them to be the same.
So I started to go on an exploration of, well what else can I do? Do I need a new career? What’s going on? And I came across body image work, which just as a concept, including things like body positivity felt strange to me that I would be working on my image. Just that word, just doesn’t quite fit right for me. And so I was already at someone’s wedding in Europe. Again, speaking about privilege. It feels like I’m very privileged to say I was in Europe. So I went to the last body image workshop in London that was held by Marcy Evans and Fiona Sutherland. It felt interesting to be in a room that was not my own culture, even though it’s very similar. And to just hear what people had to say and to explore how we might explore this with other people by first exploring it with ourselves. And what I got in that room is that I had never explored this with myself.
I had ideas about clients, I really related to what other people were saying, but I didn’t have a lot of experiential things to go over in my head because I had not processed this. And I also learned terms cognitive dissonance and realized that’s why I felt like I had to be two different people and that they felt like it wasn’t okay that I was two different people.
So that was 2018 in the Labor Day weekend when I attended that. And I have been on an adventurous journey ever since unlearn the shit out of all the things that I learned that kept me continuously from connecting with myself. And it’s been a process. It still is a process. I don’t think there’s really a possibility of perfect or good embodiment or body image ever.
Jennifer Jackson (00:41:35):
Because life is always going to happen. We’re always going to be a different person we woke up because it’s literally in new day. Something I loved about when you were talking about your embodiment journey, is you were really talking about now, where you feel now. And something I really resonated with when you were talking is about how it’s a journey. It’s not a landing path. And now, right now in this conversation as I’m talking to you, I’m realizing how embodied I am and I was really relating actually to something you said at the beginning, which is like how nervous you could tell you felt. I am looking at my face in this Zoom and how glossy and sweaty I am because I’m nervous about talking about this. To share this feels really important, and it also feels very vulnerable. I feel really hot. I tucked my shirt into my bra just now so that I can have some kind of a fan, I can actually feel it.
Jennifer Jackson (00:42:25):
Yeah. Which feels great, it’s bringing a sense of relief. Because I’m listening to myself. So if I was talking about now, where is my journey now? I pay attention to things like that. I have been diagnosed with ADHD in the last few months. Again, because of privilege I was able to continue kind of strong arming my way through life and being productive. And also women are underdiagnosed because it doesn’t appear the same. Or anyone identifying with being fem in any way.
There is this perception that things are different for us in a way that we can manage it or we’re doing good enough. I’m putting these in air quotes by the way, to everyone listening. And that we aren’t sick enough. Which is kind of a thing about embodiment as well, that there should just be an embodiment, is the way that I hear it talked about. I don’t resonate with that. I have all kinds of embodiments, all the ways in which I have related to myself and the world around me. And I embrace them now. Just like I was saying to you, all the Chavonnes. That sure also made me think about all of the Jenns that came before.
All the Jenns, yeah.
Jennifer Jackson (00:43:39):
When I was a kid, I was Jenny Kay, this is what my mom called me. I’ve been a Jen Jen, I’ve been a Jenny, I’ve been a lot of things. So when I say you can call me anything, it’s because there are these versions of me that were each of those names that I love and will stay connected to. And that feels also embodiment to me. That I can live within myself and know myself now, but also do the repair work. Trauma informed work, release, repair, or restoration is what I’m meant to say, of feeling like I can be in my body because I can tell myself in the past what I would’ve liked to have noticed. That’s very healing for me.
What I would like to have been told that would’ve been a form of safety. How I would’ve liked to have been validated in my life. And also how I would’ve liked to identify that felt more true to me than just what feels like a life of rebelling against something and moving towards something else because I didn’t know how to connect with myself. So I connected with the next thing to do.
So I feel a lot of peace now. And when I say a lot, I mean moments of peace. I still am susceptible to all the other things, just like we all are.
Jennifer Jackson (00:44:53):
There is just some sense of presence and connection. In the last episode I was talking about, it might surprise you that I’m a good listener. But that’s because I didn’t truly know that I was a good listener because I wasn’t paying attention to my own listening that whole time. I paid attention to my talking because that was part of, I don’t like being perceived right now. “Oh, you’re perceiving I’m talking too much or I’m too loud.” The too much club. I’m too loud. I’m talking too much. I’m listening too much. In other words, I’m not productive enough. All these kinds of things.
And just as I was saying to you, just really feeling the wisdom of my body that’s available for me to notice when I’m present and embodied. You used the word belonging or the phrase belonging to yourself earlier. And I’ve actually been thinking about it in the back of my head the entire time we’ve been talking so far. Because I want to belong to myself and I want all the past versions of me to belong to me also, which is going to require work and the privilege of being able to go to therapy and all of that stuff. It also feels really important that there’s people in the world doing that. That feels like it changes something collectively, which we’re going to talk more about later. But that is my very long-winded, I feel like way of saying that. But maybe that’s just me thinking too much immediately after bringing it up.
Yeah. I could listen to you talk even longer if you want to. It is such a gift and such an honor to hear your story. I’m sending you air hugs across the interwebs and yeah, I think it’s really beautiful. We talk all the time. We are pretty much in constant contact on almost daily basis and somehow we never had this discussion and it’s really a gift to know this about you. And I feel closer to you. I feel like I understand you better. I feel like I’m even more connected than we were before. It’s really a gift.
Jennifer Jackson (00:46:51):
Thank you for saying that. And that reminds me that as you were talking, I was going, “I don’t know this part. Me too.” Which [inaudible 00:47:01] we talk so often it gives that impression that we know everything. And I love the chance to have some structure here on our podcast that is about uncovering and kind digging deeper so that it kind of pushes my assumptions to the side. So I can really hear and see you, it feels like it adds a level of authenticity. So I’m also honored and thank you so much for saying that.
Thank you. Thank you for telling me about it. A few things you said raise some thoughts for me, raise some questions for me. I also had the same experience in that I had family members and I never saw them as different or less than or anything like that. I hear that experience so often when people talk about their own embodiment journey and that they were surrounded by these people who… In my life, mostly women who were bigger and lovely and wonderful and warm. And so it never even stood out to me that they were differently bodied, honestly.
So yeah, I thought of that when you said that. And I really appreciate your vulnerability about talking about being molested when you were younger and how it affected eating in the future. It made me think about this very uncomfortable and very… I think it’s bullshit. Yay, we both finally swore during this thing. I think it’s bullshit.
Jennifer Jackson (00:48:38):
I was like, “Yes, here I come.”
Yes, profanity. It’s time.
Jennifer Jackson (00:48:39):
We love profanity.
We love profanity. But it made me think… First of all, I appreciated your vulnerability in talking about it. And I have a history of sexual assault too. I was raped, I would say eight years ago. And I don’t often talk about it because my eating definitely shifted after that. But I often don’t bring that up because I hate if it plays into this bullshit idea that larger people eat to protect themselves from being assaulted again. And I think that’s bullshit. I mean, maybe that’s true for some people. I’ve had clients very clearly say, “No, that is not what happened.”
For me, it was not a reaction to keep people away. I feel like I’ve been most embodied sexually when I am embracing my larger body, when I have been larger. So that definitely wasn’t a part of it. But I didn’t eat as a way to do that. I ate because I felt out of control, because something… I had been violated. So I really appreciated your expressing that. Thank you.
Jennifer Jackson (00:49:57):
Thank you. I got misty while you were talking because I was just thinking about one of the Jennifers that lives inside of me. I talked about how alcohol helped me when binging didn’t. I didn’t really share, although I feel like I really want to now that I listened to your reflection. I stopped drinking alcohol almost eight years ago, about seven and half years ago. This parallel time periods that keep showing up-
Isn’t it something.
Jennifer Jackson (00:50:28):
… are really interesting to me. I am a person who believes in signs even though I love science. I’ll just leave that there. So I stopped drinking because I did not… And I just maybe put this together right now while listening to you because this feels like a new thought and it’s probably going to be really emotional.
Take your time.
Jennifer Jackson (00:50:57):
There was the last night that I drank alcohol in the process of drinking alcohol, being with other people, I felt really alone. And I was with people I really liked. One of them is my partner. I really liked these people. I love these people. And I just felt alone in the room, and it’s because I felt detached from myself. It was like… I hope people can hear me through my cry voice. But I realized that I’m disconnected from myself while I was disconnected from myself. Because that’s what alcohol does. And the next day, the next morning actually afternoon when I woke up, when I had a whole day’s worth of work to do, I felt horrible in my body. I remembered what I had thought the night before, that I’m not connected to myself. I realized how connected I felt about things that felt awful. How sick I felt, how awful I felt.
And I did not want to have the thought the night before again, followed by what happened the next day anymore. I just wanted what happened the next day. That’s it. That’s all I wanted. I’m just realizing now that was a really embodied thought, but I didn’t see it then.
Jennifer Jackson (00:52:09):
It’s really powerful to realize this right now with you, because you’re an important for me to realize things with.
Jennifer Jackson (00:52:16):
To me. It became really hard to have sex because I wasn’t doing it while drinking anymore, which I didn’t realize were connected. It was hard to notice all the things about my body. They just felt very present all of a sudden. I kind of said it earlier, body image is how I found this, and I’m like, that’s where the cognitive dissonance came from. But I’m usually sitting with right now, that it’s when I just woke up in the world and wasn’t drinking anymore and everything felt fresh and new. Like I was 17-ish in my relationship with myself because that’s actually when I started drinking.
So what I’m realizing right now, something that’s really important to say, not that I’m realizing this part newly, but just like to say it. Embodiment is a journey and I realize that I’m refreshingly new to it all the time.
Jennifer Jackson (00:53:13):
Where it’s like, “Wow. I’ve never…” Some of this I’m saying right now I’ve actually never said out loud. Definitely not together. Because I’ve never had this context in this space to talk about something like this or didn’t feel that way. And to be now, in a fat body and almost 39 years old and to think about the younger privileged version, more privileged, I am more privileged versions of myself, especially related to being perceived in my body. That the gift of being in this larger body, that I have been sitting in but not saying out loud to myself is that taking up space physically allows me to take up space in my embodiment as well. The mental journey, philosophical journey, the psychological journey, that I get to… The non-dualism. Because what I’m saying about that, I’m talking about my mind, but that’s still part of my body. So it’s one and the same.
That I can have that in real time with you. I can have it in talking about my story and what feels beginning to end for the first time. Well now, it’s not the end, but up until now. And it just feels very powerful. I’m trying to think of a word that describes this feeling I feel in my body. Sometimes I cannot come up with a word. Let me see if I can. There’s something, it’s not just vulnerable. There’s also something very flexible about this conversation. I don’t feel rigid, I just feel free. Maybe freedom is the right word. Flexibly free. It doesn’t… Not traditionally free. I’m flexibly free. I’m the one who gets to discern, I don’t have to expose everything to the world. But I get to be the one to discern. Feels like a really important part of embodiment in all of its context and versions. So I’m just really realizing that. Okay. So I guess I’m done now. Because that reminded me of a lot.
So I really want to thank you back to you about this, because sharing something in a space where I know other people are going to listen to us, but also just feeling held by you is really important to me.
Yes. It’s really important. Yeah.
Jennifer Jackson (00:55:12):
It’s really supportive, and I feel it in my bones. Like deep… Well, whatever the deepest parts of our bodies are that I can’t really [inaudible 00:55:20].
Jennifer Jackson (00:55:18):
My cell, I don’t know.
Jennifer Jackson (00:55:24):
Even [inaudible 00:55:24], who knows.
Something that you just said when you were trying to figure out the word, what came to me was the word witnessing. I feel like I can, through lots of years of therapy and being open and honest with the people that I love, I have shared who I am. But that doesn’t mean that I always witness some of myself who I am. I feel like I’m just holding space for my… And I’ve said I’ve held space for myself before, but it feels like I am witnessing. That’s what embodiment for me is often, just witnessing who I am, what I am, where I am. Not to share it with other people, but to just witness it. And that just feels really powerful for me.
Jennifer Jackson (00:56:11):
Okay, I’m going to do another, I thought of, then I’ll be done. So I…
We just do this back and forth the whole time.
Jennifer Jackson (00:56:19):
We always do this. Which tells me that you’ve witnessed me. It’s a really important part of our conversation to me. I use the word important a lot as well. I actually want to use, oh man, I don’t know another word to describe the feeling that I feel from that. It reminds me of agency and autonomy and using other words for that like self-determination and a place in which we get to determine what we are allowed to do, and then no one else gets to determine what we’re allowed to do. That it comes from ourselves. Whatever words we’d like to use for that is a really vulnerable space. It’s a really authentic space. It’s like a within and without match at the same time, so it’s like everybody can see our inside, our thoughts, that’s how it feels anyway. And that can feel like really raw. I can feel, I use the word tough and tender a lot, but it feels like both sides of things. Things that feel warm and supportive and nourishing. And the other side that feels really challenging, triggering, stigmatizing.
They actually can both exist and that’s part of resilience like we used earlier. But I mean a way in which it serves me and is important to me. Not about the world, but about me.
Jennifer Jackson (00:57:31):
And also the word tolerance because I’m just realizing as we’re talking, first the window of tolerance came to mind. Because I always think about that when I feel like both the extra hot and extra cold are in balance and I can handle all of it. But also tolerance of myself is something that I have to be embodied to do.
Jennifer Jackson (00:57:51):
A lot of what I described earlier in my journey, it’s wild to me that I didn’t… As I’m talking about my embodiment journey, you talking about yours, that I realized all of my escaping, running, doing things for other people’s reasons, whatever I’ve called it. A lot of it was also being oppressed in male dominated professions and things like that. But that I couldn’t tolerate myself in these situations because I wasn’t looking in or addressing or owning any of that. The responsibility that is mine in these sorts of moments and conversations. I was just running.
I actually have mixed type of ADHD. Which makes a lot of sense about why it wasn’t perceived from the outside. Part of it is impulsivity. So in moments of anxiety and stress and not wanting to look in and thinking about how challenging that might be in all of that, it’s easier to be impulsive. It feels good. It gives me access to dopamine. I can go run with that for a long… I literally run [inaudible 00:58:56] with that. And I have an understanding, right? A diagnosis is just a perspective. So I have an understanding of why I might have done that all this time.
Also, in thinking about what you were saying earlier, that just because we’re in larger bodies doesn’t mean we eat to cope, as our predominant coping skill. There are so many parts of me that I am beginning to notice or have been noticing for a couple of years that help me be more embodied because I’m present to them. That witnessing of myself that you described. And that feels, what word would I use here, that feels like not just an unlearning, but a radical action in my life. Like a revolution of one, me and my life.
Embodiment is a revolution for me that I would not just be impulsive to avoid because I can’t find embodiment there, but that I might ask myself the question of something like, “What if I can’t be embodied here?” I was never even asking that question. I didn’t know to ask it first of all, and second of all, I never asked.
Jennifer Jackson (01:00:11):
So I was hearing what you were saying also, which I have a feeling I’m going to love listening to this.
Yeah, I can’t wait.
Jennifer Jackson (01:00:21):
Because I’m getting so much out of it in real-time. I really can’t wait to witness myself embody while listening to myself on a podcast, which I never thought I’d say. That feels really pretty-
Powerful. It’s pretty expansive, yeah.
Jennifer Jackson (01:00:34):
It feels like reclaiming something.
Jennifer Jackson (01:00:38):
I don’t quite have words for that right now but something.
It’s good. Had to dance for a second. Give me a second.
Jennifer Jackson (01:00:43):
Okay. It’s just wow, this has been such a rich and nuanced and emotional conversation for me. I did not expect this when we were coming in. I mean, I wrote-
Jennifer Jackson (01:00:59):
I wrote what I was going to say. I cried a lot. But I cry a lot anyway, so that doesn’t surprise me. I just like to cry. So I knew it would be emotional on my part. I don’t know why it would be even more emotional to say it out loud than it was writing, but it’s just been such a gift. And I think, like I said, when we first started, I think it’s really important that we share who we are and where we come from, because we’ll be having really vulnerable conversations with other people too. I want our listeners to know, you all who are listening or reading the transcript to know us, because it’s really important that we are… I think it’s a part of embodiment for me. I can’t say it for you, Jenn, but part of this embodiment process for me is just owning who I am and where I’m coming from.
Jennifer Jackson (01:01:47):
Ooh, I like that very much. And I agree, you can speak for me on that because I agree. And yeah, it’s just been a really beautiful time here with you. Also, unexpected for me in ways that I would use words like healing for, to say things out loud and have them not just live in my body. The release of that very much feels like a chance for embodiment to grow, elevate, transform, evolve, whatever words you’d like to use for that. And that’s what I’m here for.
Jennifer Jackson (01:02:19):
That kind of experience and so woo, yeah.
Oh my goodness.
Jennifer Jackson (01:02:22):
This is the same place. I love it.
Jennifer Jackson (01:02:26):
This is so good.
Jennifer Jackson (01:02:26):
So, thank you for joining us.
Yeah, thank you for joining us.
Jennifer Jackson (01:02:32):
Thank you for listening to Season 1 of The Embodiment for the Rest of Us podcast. Episodes will be publish every two weeks wherever you listen to podcasts.
You can also find the podcast on our website, embodimentfortherestofus.com. And follow us on social media, on Twitter @EmbodimentUs.
Jennifer Jackson (01:02:51):
And on Instagram @embodimentfortherestofus. We look forward to being with you again next time in conversation.