EFTROU Season 2 Episode 2 is 1 hour, 58 minutes, and 09 seconds long. (1:58:09)
Chavonne (C): Hello there! I’m Chavonne McClay (she/her).
Jenn (J): And I’m Jenn Jackson (she/her).
C: This is Season 2 of Embodiment for the Rest of Us. A podcast series exploring topics within the intersections that exist in fat liberation!
J: 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 and more welcoming place for those living in larger bodies and those historically marginalized who should be centered, listened to, and supported.
C: Captions and content warnings are provided in the show notes for each episode, including specific time stamps, so that you can skip triggering content any time that feels supportive to you!
J: This podcast is a representation of our co-host and guest experiences and may not be reflective of yours. These conversations are not medical advice, and are not a substitute for mental health or nutrition support.
C: In addition, the conversations held here are not exhaustive in scope or depth. These topics, these perspectives are not complete and are always in process. These are just highlights! Just like posts on social media or any other podcast, this is just a glimpse.
J: We are always interested in any feedback on this process if something needs to be addressed. You can email us at email@example.com And now for today’s episode!
J: Welcome to Episode 2 of season 2 of the Embodiment for the Rest of Us podcast. In today’s episode (the first interview of the season!), we interviewed the incredible and generous human being, Lindley Ashline (she/her) about her embodiment journey.
C: Lindley Ashline creates photographs that celebrate the unique beauty of bodies that fall outside conventional “beauty” standards. She fights weight stigma by giving fat people a safe place to explore how their bodies look on camera and by increasing the representation of fat bodies in photography, advertising, fine art and the world at large.
J: Lindley is also the creator of Body Liberation Stock, which is body-positive stock images for commercial use and the Body Love Shop, which is a curated resource for body-friendly products and artwork. Find Lindley’s work and get her free weekly Body Liberation Guide at http://bit.ly/bodyliberationguide.
C: Lindley can be found online and on social media at:
J: Thank you so much for being here, listening, and holding space with us dear listeners! And now for today’s episode!
C: Hello, it’s our first interview of the season!
C: [laughs] And what a way to start with the incredible Lindley Ashline (she/her) joining us from the Pacific Northwest. Someone whose perspectives and visual and written mediums move and inspire us constantly. There’s so much clarity to sit with and we cannot wait to begin. Yay! So let’s start, how are you doing today?
Lindley (L):I’m good, I am speaking from just outside Seattle, WA where it is characteristically gray and chilly, and so I’m, I’m jonesing for some sun a little bit.
J: Oh, I bet. We’ve just finally gotten some. Yeah, there’s still–I have my shades closed, but we’ve finally just gotten some. It’s been very gloomy here for like 3 days. It’s pretty unusual.
C: It has, it’s very strange, but I’m, yeah, I’m very glad you’re doing so well in the darker, darker weather today. [laughs]
J: I love it. I love it! As we embark on a conversation and are present in our bodies together today, I’d love to start with asking a centering question about the themes of our podcast and how they occur to you. Lindley, can you share with us what embodiment means to you and what has your embodiment journey been like if you would like?
L: Yeah, I love this question because of course embodiment is going to mean something a little bit different for everybody. And when I hear that term, I often think of yoga or something physical, or, or a little bit more physical or woo. But for me, embodiment has meant treating my body as a partner. Because as someone who, uh, who grew up in sort of a pretty normative, white, just sort of average-sized child body. I wasn’t fat until I hit puberty. And when I say the word fat, I’m using it as a neutral descriptor for bodies, that’s not an insult or being self deprecating. It’s just like saying that I currently have pink hair or that I’m wearing a gray shirt, it’s just a descriptor. So, so I was not in a fat body until I hit puberty and so, so suddenly I was subject to a lot of social disapproval. And as someone who then existed in a body that is quite marginalized for its body size and also a body that doesn’t, that isn’t always what we might think of as healthy, uhm, or neurotypical. [laughs] Umm, it is, it’s so easy when you live in a body that is, that you don’t see represented and that you don’t see respected. To think of your body as, as something that you just have to drag along with you, or that you don’t feel, like, you feel it’s a hindrance to the rest of you. Your mind and your spirit and your heart as opposed to being equal to those other things. And so, so for me, embodiment has become the practice of treating my body like a partner in this team as opposed to, as opposed to something that just drags me down. Uhm, because I would not, you know, if I don’t think of my body as a partner, I, I am less likely to take care of that body. And by taking care, I don’t mean eating broccoli. Although for the record I adore broccoli, [laughs] but I don’t mean even broccoli.
C: Love broccoli.
J: Yeah, yeah.
L: I don’t mean eating kale. [laughs] I, you know, I mean taking care of it by doing radical self care, going to the doctor when I need to. Umm, getting, getting–right now I’m in physical therapy for something that has popped up as I hit middle age and so it’s, it’s taking care of it the way that it needs to be cared for. In the same way that I would care for a child or a friend. You know, I, I wouldn’t tell my best friend, oh, you know, if you, I don’t know, say my best friend is depressed, I wouldn’t be like, oh, you’re the worst. I would be, like, how can I support you? Can I, you know, do you need somebody to go with you to, to the doctor’s office to talk about meds? Do you need reminders that somebody cares about you? What do you need to be supported? And treating my body as a partner means treating it the same way. Hey, you know if even, even my cat, if my cat starts going outside the litter box. I don’t go, oh, you’re a disgusting creature who just wants to be bad. I say I’m gonna take you to the vet because something is wrong. So, so with it being a partner, it is serving me to the best of its ability. It wants to keep me alive and functioning and it wants to do its best for me, but in return I have to help it out and give it what it needs. So, so for me, embodiment has really become that, that practice of making choices to treat it as a partner, which also involves being aware of it, listening to what it needs, listening to what it’s telling me, because again, particularly when you’re in a marginalized body, it’s so easy to ignore that because you don’t think it should be saying those things.
C: That is, that, that answer is really sitting with me already because I, I love the idea of treating your body as a partner. I…when you hear all these things…I, I’m thinking about this because as we’re recording, it’s December 2021, which means all the new year new you bullshit is about to pop up. And we don’t talk…when you hear all those things coming up, you don’t hear about, like, take care of yourself and, like, beat your body into submission or train yourself up and slim down and all these bullshit things to get thrown at you. But if I’m thinking of my body as a partner, if I’m thinking…all three of us are partnered in some, you know, we’re all partnered. But if I think about my husband, I don’t think about how I need to train him or whatever to him, it’s caring for him and he cares for me. He’s not trying to. I like that there’s no change involved in the way that you described it. OK, our bodies change, obviously. Middle age happens, all the things can happen to your bodies or whatever, but there’s no intentional, like, carving it is the word that keeps coming to mind into a specific thing that’s really helpful. I really like that.
L: Yeah, and, and change is such an interesting word here, too, because it is possible that by treating my body like a partner, I do need to change something that I’m doing to support it. Say I, I in particular, I am not diabetic but say that I was, uh, diagnosed with diabetes. Uhm, I might need to change some of the input that I’m giving my body, and that might mean that might mean giving it a different medication. It might mean giving it different, uh, different types of food at a different time of day. It might mean adding in some foods, but again it is coming from that place of support rather than punishment or, or submission to an ideal outside myself, or or, you know, some desire to make it, to make it more compliant with beauty standards or, or with “healthy” standards. It’s again, it’s about going, how can I support you to do your best as opposed to oh, you’re so bad you don’t even function. Right, I guess I have to do this to, to you know, make you happy.
C: Mm-hmm, absolutely.
J: Yeah, I was busy thinking wow wow wow wow wow wow in my head and I circled something. I’m just listening to you, Lindley, and to you, Chavonne, and just really sitting with something. First of all, that partnership is a practice, that’s such a valuable thing to be connected with. And to think of our bodies as our partner, that’s even more than nondualism, right? Like our brain is our body and our body is our brain. It’s all one thing, but to think of it as something that needs something that me and when you were talking about radical self care, Lindley, I was really thinking of how self care is often said as the thing to do and it really is just the basics of caring for a human body. Self care is the basics. What I was hearing from you is what helps you thrive. What helps you move and be and sit in the ways in which you would like to be and are right, like, really, like, connecting with yourself. And as a person with diabetes, I was so moved by what you said that when we…the partnership is not severed. It’s enhanced by understanding of our body, but that’s not how it feels in the beginning. I can say that for sure, it does not feel like that at the beginning, even with all my knowledge as a dietitian. [laughs] It does not feel that way. Even thinking, like, oh, inclusion is where it’s at. Lab values tell you what to include, not what to take away from yourself. When you talked about submitting to an ideal outside of ourselves, I’m, I’m really connecting that with being embodied with my diabetes and with my body itself, but it is something that, that never…I am privileged enough in body privilege and also healthwise and other things that I never really had to consider an ideal outside of myself. Not truly about my body, like, such a big thing like that. And so just sitting in a space of partnership and you said choice and practice. Uhm, that, it’s really centering me right now in this conversation around the choices that I have because sometimes it feels like a vacuum and I think a lot of people can really, it feels like a vacuum of choices being gone, but actually in that partnership and that intention. That connection and awareness that you mentioned I can hear that it actually enhances the partnership. We just might need some space or some time or some adjustment in some way for the partnership to be new, as we might feel new. It was, that was pretty moving from both of you. So thank you both for that.
L: Yeah, and when we, when we talk about, yeah, that, that partnership being new and, and, and it being uh, you know our practices is a series of choices and we’re not always going to make…You know there, there’s so much from what diet culture and mainstream pop culture want us to think is that if we really care about our bodies then we will always make perfect choices. And by perfect choices, diet culture also wants us to think that those are the choices that will make us in the smallest possible body and, and, and the most compliant with beauty standards. And, and, and so putting that aside, it, you know we’re not always going to make choices that are, that live up to even our own ideals. Nonetheless, you know, pop culture and diet culture and, of course, we don’t have to, because every time we make a choice, it’s OK if that choice is serving us in a different way. Uhm, say, you know, coming back to the diabetes example, I, I like talking about diabetes because it’s so important that we stop attaching too much shame to it.
C: So I like, I like talking about that, but, but say, say if I were diabetic and I knew that in general I wanted to keep my numbers low, uh, my, my, my blood glucose numbers low but I choose to have a sugary dessert one night and maybe I have it without without ideally pairing it with protein or whatever, but that is serving me in a different way in that moment and that is a valid choice that I’m making because it was delicious. That I wanted it and it served an emotional need. And then next time I might make a different choice. So, so I, I want to be very clear when I’m talking about these, this practice in these choices, that I’m not talking about once you really care about your body, you’ll start making the right choices. You know it’s not, that’s not what it’s about. It’s not, it’s not loving your body into perfection at all, it’s just recognizing that every, every choice is a choice. And that, that whatever choice you’re making, you’re probably doing the best you can with whatever you’ve got at that moment and your choices, your choices may be different than somebody else’s would be in the same position, and that’s OK.
J: And we even might have the same or I’m sorry, different choices than we would have had as a former version of ourselves. Also, and that, that’s also OK. I was hearing that space and what you were saying if I was to summarize for myself what you were saying, like really, like, sit in what you were saying, uhm, I was hearing that embodiment is also about learning and transformation. It’s not just about stagnation or anything, feeling just static in general, that it’s immovable like we’re not just this is my embodiment, here are all the descriptions, now I’m embodied, right? It’s not so mechanical like that, there’s context that’s really important. I was hearing in what you said, which was just, was just really lovely. I’m, I’m newly diagnosed with ADHD in this calendar year as well as the diabetes. These are my new pandemic experiences and, and something that I’ve come to realize about my interaction with the world as a human being is I need context. Actually we all do. I don’t think that’s just a neurodivergent thing, but it’s really made me connect with that and really notice when I don’t have it or what I need and in terms of embodiment, sometimes that may have me realize that I am. Oh wow, I’m just really not that embodied in this particular way or about this topic, ’cause I never had the context and to also, not rush myself into the process of feeling embodied about it feels really important, and I was also hearing that kind of in the undercurrent of what you’re saying. There’s not just one way, and there’s not just one pace. There’s so many ways to be, uhm, that those things like perfectionism, which are inherent in those cultures you were talking about. I also thought of purity culture when you were talking about that sort of a fundamentalist way of saying this is how we are and that there is no change from that but embodiment, not necessarily the opposite, it could even include moments of that. Actually, but just sitting in a space of embodiment can be flexible and can match our rhythm is, I think, what I’m really getting from that. It’s really just sitting with me. I have so many questions and so many you know it’s like I am.
C: I just need to fangirl for a second [laughs]. So we do…so we listen to…in general, we listen to podcast episodes of our interviewees before we meet, and so I’ve been like, as I told my husband, balls deep in Lindley Ashline for like 2 weeks.
C: Because you are prolific when it comes–that’s so inappropriate, I’m sorry.
J: It’s not! I totally got exactly what you meant.
C: Like nonstop Lindley Ashline for the last two weeks, and I’m excited.
L: I’m trying not to scream with laughter. That’s why, that’s why there’s silence right now.
J: Whereas I can’t help myself. [laughs]
C: So inappropriate.
L: I feel like I need to put that on my testimonials.
C: Balls deep in Lindley Ashline. So I was excited because I knew there was, because I’ve listened to you, like nonstop, it feels like…and so I was, like, I am excited to see what new things I’m going to learn from you. So, so I just had to say that was my fangirling and I’ll be fangirling more as we go through. I use balls all the time. Like it’s cold as balls, it’s hot as balls, balls deep like there’s so many.
J: Yeah, yeah. Balls to the wall, whatever, yeah,
C: Balls to the wall. All the balls. Yeah, not a ball in sight, but…
[J and C laugh]
C: So many balls.
J: It’s still very, like, experiential what you’re describing. I got exactly what you meant.
C: Sweating my balls off, like, it’s just so many things.
L: I love it, I love it.
C: OK, OK. But what was coming to mind–we’re going to talk about this a little more, but one thing that was really coming up in what you said about, we make choices that serve us in the moment, that has been really important. I think in the last, ugh, two years of the pandemic and that… And we’re going to talk a little more about this in a few minutes, but, like, what served us two years ago doesn’t serve us now, and I think that’s embodiment. Like, being able to say this choice served me last night, it might not today, but it served me in the moment last night so I really appreciate your bringing that, bringing that point to the forefront. I really liked it.
L: Yeah, and, and yeah, talking about the last few years as we record this, I’m preparing to reopen my calendar for the first time in, in two years for client photography sessions. And it’s been such a fantastic time for me to think what served me two years ago in working with clients does that still serve me both from a both from a peer, like, business process standpoint and, and, and thinking of all the things that I want to revamp. Like I want to, you know, redo my client guide and things like that. But, but also I’m physically a little different than I was two years ago and making sure that I built in the self care and the space that I need. Umm, I’m struggling with a little bit of back pain right now because middle age [laughs] So, so, when I plan a session, I need to either take my folding stool or make sure that I’m going to have, you know, a chair so I can sit down if I need to. Just so making those choices as well, you know. And, and thinking, what serves me, what serves me today? What’s going to serve me in six months? And making sure that I build that into my life and into my processes and also going to the freaking physical therapist and doing my freaking exercises so I can not have back pain.
[L and C laugh]
C: Yeah, absolutely.
L: You know which is a process, a set of choices that I’m making right now, and I don’t always make the choice to do those exercises, but then my body says you made that choice, right? Yeah, OK.
C: Here we are.
L: Here we are.
C: It’s a conversation I’ve been having with my oldest son, like, this is not a punishment, but this is what the consequences are of blank [laughs] It’s not a bad thing, we’re not judging, but here’s a consequence and you just have to decide it’s harm reduction. Is it worth it to do blank knowing that blank will be the result. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.
L: Yeah. Exactly, exactly and it’s, and it’s OK for us to make those choices.
C and J: Yeah. Mmm.
L: You know, if, if I, umm, I had a migraine the other day and I was, like, I’m not getting down on the floor and getting out my, getting out my physical therapy stretches. Stretching, making my hamstrings unhappy when I have a headache, and, and so the consequence of that was that I hurt more the next day, and that was OK. Because I made that choice.
L: Umm, feeling, rather than feeling guilty about, Oh no, I’m so bad, I didn’t do my exercises and now I hurt and it’s because I’m a bad person, because we do. We internalize those things as judgments of ourselves because we have that perfection, and like Jenn was saying, you know, purity culture, and diet culture, and, and, and authoritarian power and privilege structures. They all say that we need to meet these impossible standards, and that if we don’t, it’s because we’re bad or our bodies are bad or our brains are bad. For those of us who are neurodivergent, you know our brains are bad, and none of those things are true. We’re just, we’re all part of the spectrum of humanity and we cannot by definition, umm, you know, be bad people just for having a human body with needs or a brain with needs, you know? It’s just, it’s just as valid as, you know, my needs are just as valid as Jenn’s or Chavonne’s, or you, the listener, or, I don’t know, the president or, you know, or, or a supermodel, like none of that. None of our bodies are more valid in their existence than any other. Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.
C: Yeah, I love it.
J: Wow! Not only is..our body compared to other people’s bodies any less or more valid. Our body compared to past bodies or future bodies is also not any more or less valid. That’s umm, I just really like that. I have chills. I’ve got like some palpitations or something going on like it actually really cooled me off with some chills like I don’t actually feel sweaty in this moment even though I know I’m very much am. Umm, that in, in umm, there is a harshness which I am happy to admit that I treat myself in my brain, in my body, uhm, which I’m very kind afterwards, right? But I, like, getting ahead of those unkind comments is hard ’cause they happen so fast in my brain. It’s so, so fast. I have a fast neurodivergent brain. It’s too fast for me to keep up with in fact. I say phrases like OK bringing my brain online. What I mean is like I’m going to have control of this thing now like I’m actually going to steer this, the ship that is me versus just going with every impulse or whim and and really, I actually wrote down the potential of the intentional as you were talking that I could hear. Or that letting bodies and ourselves as whole people being who we are, has the potential for intention to be throughout. When I hear choice, I hear intention. When I hear practice I hear intention. It’s a different thing for intention to equal the impact that we want and in that space between is being a person. Like what choice did I make last night? How can it not take away from today? How can I just make choices today also? Like sitting in that kind of space. Uhm, you used the word earlier, Lindley, expectation and I was really thinking about that in terms of embodiment and just having a body that would get really attached to our expectations and sometimes we need to create new space. Chavonne and I just had a conversation this morning. Just sometimes we need to create new space so that the potential can be back in. The intention is, I think, what I’m like there’s it’s OK to readjust with yourself. It’s OK to check in. It’s OK. So practice can sound like a dirty word that it’s not OK to practice, that we should already be a master and these other, I find that word so stigmatizing. That they’re like that we might be, umm, like the champion. I mean any of these kind of words, like, I have arrived kind of feeling or expression of language, that the word practice is really about it being in process, like it’s still happening. We’re still human beings who are alive, so it’s still happening, though, it’s just really important.
L: Yeah. And this concept of practice, this is so interesting to me because when we think of practice, we often think of getting better by some standard, whether that is the standard we have set for ourselves or a standard, uh, like a competitive standard. We, you know, you think of athletes as practicing. You think of, you think of yoga as a practice, but often that they, like, to take yoga, that practice might mean practicing so you can get more flexible. But that you can get stronger, so that you can, so that you can improve in some way, and often those improvements are, is the fact that it’s an improvement is, is s standard that has been set if that makes sense. So if I decide to start lifting weights and I want to become stronger, obviously that means I can pick up heavier weights. You know, that is an objective, you can measure that. But when I’m talking about embodiment as a practice, I think what I’m really, the aspect of practicing that I’m really talking about is becoming more coherent with yourself. Uh, as a standard as opposed to a, you know, maybe to be more in line with your own values and your own something. So when I, umm, let’s go back to the physical therapy for my back that I’m doing right now. When I am practicing, getting down and doing my stretches every night, that’s a practice in that my body will gradually change as I do that and and the goal, even though there are other changes, I am becoming, you know, slightly more flexible because I’m stretching my hamstrings and. And of course, there is a measurable goal there. The goal is not to have back pain. But that is, that is a goal that I have set that is, makes me more coherent with my own values. And of course, like many people, one of my values is not being in pain. But, but if I’m making a choice, face that again, I make the choice one day not to do those stretches. I’m still that, it’s still part of that practice because maybe, maybe my values are also included. Being gentle with myself, maybe my values, also include respecting when other parts of my body or my brain are saying we need to make a different choice. So, so embodiment as a practice is about becoming more ourselves as opposed to again meeting some standard that is outside ourselves. When…I am also autistic and, and that is something that I have really been coming to terms with over the last couple of years. And so when I make a practice of if I get overwhelmed from a sensory standpoint of destimulating and for me, that meant me going into a quiet, dark room and playing a phone game for 10 minutes. By external standards, the standards of the world, that might, that might look like a poor choice because I’m goofing off, I’m not being productive. I’m, whatever, you know, dicking around on my phone instead of working, but for me it’s a practice of being in line with my values which include not being overwhelmed and cranky. And so, so when we talk about this practice and embodiment I want to be really, really careful about what I mean by practice and, and, and choices, because we think. Oh, you know, make better choices but, but it’s, it’s really about the choices that are in line with both what we need in that moment and what we, what puts us in line with our values long-term. I might be, I might be at some kind of social gathering and I’ve gotten overwhelmed and I might choose to remain in that overwhelm because it is important to my long term values to accomplish something at that gathering. You know, maybe I’m speaking, or maybe, maybe there’s somebody I really want to meet, and I, and I am choosing to make a different choice in that moment because it is in line with my long term values and that is also a valid choice. And so is going home. [laughs]
J: Mmm. Mmm.
C: Ooh. That’s really, really sitting really in a good way. Heavily, but in a good way. I really, I really appreciate that.
J: Yeah, I’m not sure I have words yet for how I feel, I like felt that in my body.
C: Yeah, you just said the idea of embodiment as a practice is meeting your values and not comparing them to the societal norms, the moral norms, whatever norms that is true embodiment. Like, that’s really…wow. like that?
L: And, and I wanna, I also want to be clear that, you know, beauty standards and purity standards and financial standards, and you know, body size standards and ability standards, all of these. You know, I, I once dated a guy who was, like, I don’t like it when you wear makeup, like, I, I can’t even. I can’t even tell when, when women are making, wearing makeup, so you don’t need to wear it. And, and I grew up in a culture, or, you know, in, in the American South, where you wear makeup to the grocery store. And, so what was actually happening was this dude, this dude was seeing women wearing full face of makeup every day of his life and he thought that was her actual skin.
C: No no no.
L: Bless his heart. [laughs]
C: Bless your heart. Yeah, I’m from Texas, yeah, I grew up in Texas. Bless your heart.
L: So, at any rate.
C: Bless your whole heart.
L: Uhm, as far as he was concerned, he was the type of person who would have, who would have been like, well, I don’t care about, I don’t care about apparent standards, you know. Just ignore ‘em. Just ignore ‘em. And of course, there’s, there’s also, you know, there’s a very gendered aspect to that too. And, and, and, a racial aspect. This was, you know, a white man talking to a white woman. So, so the dynamics are different than they might have been otherwise. [laughs] But, but, but these standards do affect our lives and, and it’s important to know that there are. It’s also really easy to say, well, just be true to, just be in love with yourself and don’t care what anybody else says. But the thing is that if what is comfortable for me to wear is yoga pants and a sweatshirt and I wear that to the office, there are going to be professional ramifications of that. My fat body, even if I love my fat body and I, and I, you know, honor it, that doesn’t mean that I’m going to be able to fit in an airplane seat. And so, so you know, if I present in certain ways or I act in certain ways, you know, if I,, if I’m at some kind of professional gathering, and I announce that I’m overwhelmed and I’m going home, there may be professional ramifications for that, right, or social verifications. So, so I, you know, when we talk about the practice of being embodied, some of the choices that we are going to be making are survival choices that are not necessarily in tune with what feels good to us, or is in line with our values in that moment, and that is also OK. If I’m making a choice to put on a full face of makeup, even though I don’t particularly want to because I’m doing some kind of event, or I have to go into an office or whatever, that is a survival choice for me, and that is also equally valid.
J: Mmm. Mmm.
C: Totally agree.
L: Yeah, because we don’t need to be setting up more standards.
C: [laughs] Yeah, we have enough.
L: Yeah, we don’t need, just be true to yourself. Another impossible standard.
C: [laughs] We don’t need any more of those. Yeah, that feels like toxic positivity to me. It’s like, just, you know, just think positively through it or just love yourself, and I’m like, I can’t love myself into an airplane seat, like, that’s not how this works. Like my hips are not going to love themselves to not be comfortable at an airplane seat. So it feels very, like, that toxic positivity thing that’s everywhere, unfortunately, yeah.
J: Umm, there’s something here, let me see if I can find words for what my brain is doing. Yes, I can, let me look back. I, I, I can’t, uhm there, uhm…when you were talking about radical self care when you first started answering this question, how can I support you, to your body. What do you need to be supported, body? What I’m really getting is that that’s like an embodied inquiry. Like hey, checking in, what’s going on? What do you need now? Our plan, how I might think of that as sometimes to make myself feel comfortable about the things that my brain has fast forwarded about. I create a plan, like, this is what I’ll do. And embodied inquiry for me about that and kind of sitting in that space might be, do I agree with the plan I made with myself yesterday or earlier in the year or whatever? And how do I feel today about it? Do I need an adjustment like it’s not a very, uh, long winded inquiry. It’s just, you know, what do I need or to ask myself newly. Do I need to just throw this whole thing out and ask, like, really just get present with something else. I, I was hearing that in what you said, I actually hadn’t really considered that about embodiment and I really, I’m glad to be considering it now. I almost, almost poo-pooed all over myself. I had to stop my inner dialogue anyway. So sitting, sitting in a space of, it’s OK to be how I am today. Like with that intentional potential, I like that, too, the, the potential intention and also intentional potential, that there’s this sort of, uhm, it’s kind of like this all or nothing, like, talking about black and white, thinking all or nothing. Thinking there actually isn’t, uh, nothing for the human body. There’s actually only something, also for the human mind, there’s something, there is no blankness there. That’s not really something that exists there. So to think about, like, what is this something that I need in that inquiry? Like the support, the, what are my specific needs? Just feels, yeah, like a lot of value. This is an incredible exploration in this answer and in this conversation, because this is like something that I really want to think about. Chavonne and I, we’ll talk a lot about, like, this is going to be a journal entry.
C: It just became one. [laughs] Yeah, what is embodied inquiry, like how can I? Yeah I love that. That’s great.
J: I also love shared embodiment, shared conversation like the three of us are having to also notice something in real time, like how it feels in my body, how it feels when you say it, how it feels for me to reflect it, how it feels for Chavonne to reflect it. That we’re just kind of sitting in this space. I’m feeling a lot in this space. I actually don’t think I have words for almost everything that I’m experiencing right now, but those are, that’s what I do have words for, which is a great thing.
C: That’s a great thing sitting really nicely. I think it’s a good transition into the next question, which I’ve kind of touched on, but I think if we could talk a little bit further that would be awesome as a human being, how has being in this pandemic affected your embodiment practices? What lights you up and when are you feeling most embodied?
L: Uhm, you know as someone who has been very privileged, umm, for me, uh, from a sensory standpoint it was very difficult in my corporate career to work in offices. There’s always, the lighting is weird. There’s lots of noise, lots of voices. I was always freezing. And you know, even with noise canceling headphones, couldn’t block out the noise enough to concentrate. And so, uhm, I worked very hard in, in my corporate career to be able to work remotely and, and then in my, in my small business career that I have now. Well, I’m, I’m also able to do that and so I have been able to set up my home and my workspace that in a way, that are very supportive of my embodiment and, and the pandemic has been, you know at this point, it’s been almost two years and, uh, I will say that for me, being at home and having everything on zoom has been fantastic. Like that’s, that is my jam. I don’t have to drive an hour across the city and find parking and walk in the rain to see my doctor. I can, unless I actually need to be there in person for something, and I can just talk to her on Zoom. It’s, it’s incredible. Uh, my, my therapist moved to Mexico.
L: I’ve never met her in person and one day, one day her surroundings changed and I just assumed she’d moved to another room in her house. Yeah, no. It turned out she moved out of the country. So, so you know, it’s, it’s been incredible because I can, I can be in my surroundings that are very physically comfortable for me. Uhm, but I think I think it’s been really cool for my own embodiment and other people’s to watch everyone around me, metaphorically, everyone I know grapple with. Especially in this period of slow return to offices and things to watch, people grapple with their, like, what supports them, and it forces me to think even more about what supports myself, because some things I resonate with and some things I don’t and and to watch some people really need the physical energy of working outside the home and having, you know, and having other people around them, that’s how they get some of their physical energy is having you know other people around them. And then some people who have discovered that they, they really, you know, that they would rather stay home. And of course many, many people who don’t have the choice, you know, umm, you know who have, who have been making choices all along about trying to protect themselves in a world where they’re forced to be outside the home so that they can eat. Uh, well, but we, we’ve had so many questions come up about bodies and and the risks of, of taking certain actions within certain bodies, and, and, you know, having these conversations and seeing them take place has been really, really interesting. And really, uhm, it’s encouraging to watch people making choices about their bodies that resonate with them that they might not have made in the past. Uhm, and you know, and then personally, I, I feel like realizing that I’m autistic and and exploring. You know, I’ve mentioned here in Seattle it’s very dark and exploring what makes me feel better in these dark days and, and what it feels good from a sensory standpoint. I think it was particularly slowed down during the first part of the pandemic with the, with the lockdowns and things gave me a lot of space to explore those things. And so I’ve discovered that my pandemic hobby has been collecting house plants.
L: And it’s been, it’s been a great joy. And I have, I don’t know, 80 or 100 house plants now, I’ve stopped counting.
L: And so, so my house, but, but it’s wonderful because my house is full of green things and I’ve discovered that it is very embodying for me not only to have full spectrum lights around, because here in Seattle you can’t grow tropical plants indoors without supplemental light. You just can’t. And so I have all these full spectrum lights around and it makes me feel better in the winter. But also I can get my hands into dirt anytime I can touch fresh green things anytime, I can harass my cat anytime and, and all these things, these sensory experiences. Touching things, experiencing these things has connected me to my body and in a really surprising way.
J: My goodness, there’s something happening so far in this conversation where I feel something so strongly in my body, and I’m very aware of the sensations, but not necessarily of words. It’s a very interesting experience. It’s a beautiful experience. As you were talking, and as I was just, like, imagining, being surrounded by all of these plants, touching dirt whenever you want, like surrounding yourself with what you need. I think that what’s happening is something that doesn’t normally happen. My brain is like summarizing, and that’s unusual for me. I’m usually on the other side of, like, please summarize for me.
[L and J laugh]
J: There’s something really beautiful in the way that this is integrating as you’re sharing. Uhm, I heard in what you said, like what is spaciousness to me? A question I never asked myself before the pandemic, never. And I haven’t even quite used that language with myself yet, but I’d like to. And what I was hearing and, like, so I hear full spectrum light is spaciousness, house plants being able to snuggle with an animal that gives you oxytocin and whatever kind of love connection you have. That, that, those are all spacious things and not just things to do, right? Even if you’re not doing anything with them, in that moment, I can hear the spaciousness in what you’re saying, like their presence is spacious for you. And I think that’s really beautiful and really important. I was also thinking of people going back to work if they take public transportation, if their bodies, if it’s made for their bodies, right? If it, if it’s comfortable or not coming back in contact with those kinds of conversation is, is probably going to feel really abrupt. I don’t have to do that. I’m going to be sitting at home. And I was also sitting, having that conversation, like, kind of thinking that through like what does it feel like when spaciousness is gone? How can we cope in that time? How do we return to that? Do we want to return to that? Do we have to return to that, you know, really talking about, like putting food on the table? But if that is going back to public transportation and a shared office like, what can, what space can be found there? ‘Cause I really get that it may not feel spacious, but what space might be there? I’ll feel really important. I’m just kind of sitting with that. That’s funny. I talked about summarizing and then I said all that.
[J and C laugh]
L: Well, I, I think I think what you’re the heart of, what you’re driving at is really balancing, balancing embodiment with survival and simple, and you know, it’s really easy. You know I, I always, I always talk every single time I try, I try to talk about privilege because, you know, it’s very easy for me to sit here in my nice little warm home office in my nice house that is also my photo studio so I don’t even have to leave to have clients, you know, come in. [laughs] Umm, you know I, I don’t have to leave the house and put myself at risk just to, to survive and you know, and I, I’m always very, trying to be very clear about the privilege of that because it’s really easy for me to say, make the choices that are coherent to you in the moment. Uhm, you know, and again, I talked earlier about not wanting to set that up as yet another standard for people to meet, but it’s really easy for me to sit here and talk about that when you know I’m not the one who’s having to balance: I don’t feel safe physically or mentally going to an office where people are breathing on me that I need to pay my mortgage this month, or I don’t feel safe going to my fast food job or my factory job or whatever because again, it’s important to remember that not everybody is in a white collar office worker. But, but that, that’s always in, in a capitalist society like the one that we have that is always going to be one of, one of the central conflicts of embodiment versus survival and and you know it may feel and I think, I think this also comes back to Health At Every Size and Intuitive Eating as well. Uhm, you know from an Intuitive Eating standpoint, maybe my body wants the salad, but I’m not able to get fresh produce. You know, maybe my body, maybe my body wants a delicious chocolate cake and, and I can’t afford it or, or whatever. There’s so many factors, but maybe my body would really rather prefer to be in my nice, warm bed having a wonderful sensory experience with a soft blanket. But I gotta get up and feed my kids. I gotta get up and I gotta get up and go to work. And maybe that’s a really unpleasant part of embodiment. And, you know, and, and I’m going to be really honest, I don’t think I’m the right person to advise on strategies for that because I had the privilege and the luck and the hard work to arrange my life so that I didn’t have to make as many of those choices. So I don’t, you know, I don’t know that I really have a lot of advice there other than, than just be aware that that is a central conflict and it’s still OK to make whatever decisions you need to make.
L: To get through the day.
C: I absolutely agree.
J: Umm, honestly, if I was to put words to what I’m feeling, I’m like wow. This one sentence that you’ve just said I would love to be an entire podcast episode.
C: Yeah, yeah exactly.
J: That’s actually a serious constant feeling that I’m sitting with, which is an incredible feeling.
C: Lindley, I was going to ask ’cause you both, you and Jenn have had this experience. I was a fat kid, like I was a fat tiny kid. I was wondering and I feel like this is too long of a question so it doesn’t need to be a thing right now. But like what you think if, how you think it might have affected you to have that bodily transition during puberty when we’re already super impressionable and like all the hormones are doing all of the things versus kids who were fat at a young age versus adults who came into it versus, you know, I just I just wonder. I feel like that’s an entire long, long conversation, but I was just, it’s been sitting in my head since you mentioned Lindley, but I’m, like, this was, like, an hour long conversation, [laughs] but it’s also really like interesting to me.
J: I think it’s a nuance, a really important nuance to consider that even not all experiences of being fat, becoming fat, sitting in fatness, transitions, anything like that. There’s no two experiences that are the same. I love your question.
L: Yeah, no, that I think that’s a fantastic question and I can, I can only speak for myself here, of course, but I honestly think that you know honestly, it was a huge advantage and privilege not to be a fat child. My best friend growing up was a very, very fat child and I saw the way that she was treated. And you know, and of course I was, I was steeped in diet culture myself, so you know, I, I had that same vaguely pitying attitude towards her that I saw everybody else have. And, and but the thing is that we were, we were besties. We more or less, we lived near, near each other. We ate more or less the same foods. We had about the same amount of physical activity and I was an average sized kid and she was very, very fat. The thing is that, uhm, she was put on diets from a very young age. I was not. She was constantly treated poorly for her size. I was not and so I did not spend those formative years constantly feeling bad about myself. I could get, I could go outside and get on my bike and ride around. We lived out in the country. Uh, without people staring or mocking me or or, you know, lecturing my parents about me or, or giving me condescending advice at 7 years old and her experience was totally different. Even though you know our lives were very similar and so, I think not being a fat person until later saved me from a lot of those. I call them fish hooks in, in sorry, it’s kind of a gross analogy, but they’re like fish hooks in your skin.
C: It makes sense though.
L: Uhh, of these, these things that you’re taught about your body and other people’s bodies, I didn’t get that until later. And I also, I also had a very unusual experience that, that, I think, you know, it’s just unusual for, for this day and age, I grew up without a TV. And I mean we physically had a TV in the living room, but we grew up without., I grew up without cable, which in that time in place was essentially not having TV. And we had, like, PBS and then whatever the, whatever the local channel is where people get on at 3:00 AM and do their own little jokes. But that was it, and so, so I was also not absorbing. I was also a very isolated child. I didn’t have a lot of friends and I didn’t, I didn’t have access to, like, magazines or pop culture really, so I was not absorbing those messages. And so when my body suddenly looked like every other woman in my family. You know we all have large breasts and big child birthing hips and blonde hair. We’re Germanic peasants. That’s our heritage and you can tell, you know, in very pale skin we all look alike except for my 1 poor aunt who married in. [laughs] Yeah, that’s completely different, but on my mother’s side we all look alike and, and so it’s very clear where the genetics are. My, my grandmother on my other side was also fat, so like I got it from both sides, but it’s very clear. That, that genetic heritage, like, the second I hit puberty, it just took effect. And, and again I was very sheltered from a lot of these diet culture influences, but I still started to get those messages. That my body was unruly, my body was bad, and even though I was still a pretty active child, I started getting lectures on exercise. You know, even though my habits hadn’t changed. Except for, you know when it as in our society, when you hit puberty and you start becoming a young woman the message has changed very drastically about what it’s acceptable for you to do you, know you? Don’t run around and play hide and seek anymore, because that’s childish and so, so a lot of that kind of physical activity like running around and playing, I stopped doing because it, it…I, I got the message that that wasn’t appropriate, but I was still quite active and so my habits, my level of activity hadn’t really changed. It’s just that all of a sudden I was fatter. And when I talk about being a fat teenager, umm, it’s a really strange thing because there are lots of fat folks in the American South and it was a little easier to find clothing there. But even at, I’m going to name clothing sizes, if that is, if that is something that you’d rather not hear, listening to this, skip the next 10 seconds. Uhm, but, but I was in high school I was like–*beep*. And so I was not., I was actually just over average size. I was not actually really fat. But I was treated as if I was and I looked back at my prom photos now and I’m, like, I was not particularly large and yet one, one of the years that I went to the prom, my mother made my prom dress because there were simply no dresses in that size. This was, this was pre Internet shopping. And, and, and the next year we managed to find one store a county over that had a few things in my size. And that, and that was my prom dress the next year. So, so I was not actually all that large. And now that I look back on it, I think where on earth did fat adults, where were they finding clothing? Like literally what were they putting on their body that I don’t, I don’t know, but, but there just weren’t resources. And again, there wasn’t online shopping, so if you couldn’t find it at Dillard’s, you were out of luck. But, but, but I think that, that experience then, too, is very different from people who become fat as adults. And I, and this is just based on my anecdotal impressions of being on the Internet, but I think the folks who become fat as adults have the hardest time with, not internalized fatphobia because we all have that to some extent. But I think they had the hardest time with, umm, having a lot of feelings about losing the privileges of fitness. You know, when I was, when I was an average size child, I wasn’t. I wasn’t flying in airplanes, I wasn’t working. I wasn’t doing all these things but that adults do where the privileges of fitness are very apparent. And so in my adolescent and adult life, I’ve always dealt with that. But someone who doesn’t become a fat person until they’re say in their 40s, they have a lot of years of thin privilege to look back on and, and be angry at losing. And so, so I think all those experiences are very, very different.
C: Mmm. I haven’t even thought of…so I asked this question ’cause it’s just sitting with me as we were sitting here and I, it, it, yeah, I don’t, I don’t know exactly what I was going to say. It’s just really interesting to think about. Absolutely. I definitely have had that experience of, of which, like, I’ve been really grateful that I was fat before I got pregnant, because there’s so much pressure to lose the baby weight and like snap back and blah blah blah blah blah. But I was like, I, I was, I was fat before this started. Like I’m not, I don’t know what I’m snapping back to [laughs] And if anything I lose weight when I’m pregnant so that’s not it, like, ’cause my kids ruin my insides. [laughs] They just, like, jump on my stomach for like nine months straight and I can’t eat anything. Umm, so it was, I was lucky and having that experience I just was wondering how it felt to have been, yeah, to have had that experience in puberty. I, I was a fat kid and looking back at my pictures, I’m like, no, [laughs] whatever, but I was also a really tall kid. So I am 5’10” so I’ve been tall, and I’ve been tall forever, like I’ve had the same length of legs and at, at like 10 and, like a torso that was like an inch long. And then I grew an inch until I was 20 [laughs]
J: So, I think, I think what I heard highlighted…so I’m a person who became fat as an adult. I’m finding this conversation incredibly interesting. Yeah, I never had to find words for things like cognitive dissonance, thin privilege. Consider my relationship with the word fat or fatness until I was an adult. And I started adulthood very steeped in diet culture, the second weight came on, I was figuring out how to take it off, right? It was, like, this immediate knee jerk reaction because that’s the, the–what I had internalized is what was all around me. And, and sort of sitting in this space and thinking about that has always felt like a privilege. But it has a–maybe not but–but and it has always felt like, uhm, it’s hard to hit… It, I don’t feel this way in this present moment, but I’m relating a little bit to a former version of myself who was still, like, had some toes in diet culture, and was really convinced that, I didn’t, umm, that I would not give myself the same benefit of the doubt as I would for someone who had been fat from a younger age, fat their entire life, like I should know better. Like, I’ve had a lot of privilege in this situation, umm, even though I was experiencing that sucking sound of those things being taken away. Like the first time I didn’t fit in a plane seat, for example, is a really visceral experience. Umm, and then being diagnosed with diabetes this year, I was, like, oh so the first thoughts that come. And, again, content warning, trigger warning for, like, my internal dialogue when first being diagnosed with diabetes. These, that it was like, oh look how you got yourself here. If we were to track your adulthood, it’s the classic picture of what they say in weight-stigmatizing research centered around thin male bodies who are of, who are middle class, who have time to go do studies and research, right? It takes time and a lot of privilege to do that. Just sitting in this space. So, I’m just going to point this all at myself because that’s already what I’ve been doing, even though I’d been unlearning. So, somewhat like I was just sitting here, like, really sitting in the newness of how it’s feeling to be embodied as my fat self. As you were saying, I look like people in my family, this is just how we look, this is, like, I’m just finally in that space. Uhm, and I, something that I’m considering and thinking about as we’re having this very embodied conversation and I’m really feeling things in my body is I wish there had been more than just ideals in my family. You’re talking about standards, and whenever I think of standards and norms, I go straight to thinking about ideals because that’s how they begin. What’s the supreme of this? What’s the ideal of this? And then it sort of becomes in the noise of normal, but it’s still very, very high up there, elevated. I was just sitting in oh, I wish I could have had a different conversation like this is how we are in this family and welcome! [laughs] You know, like those kinds of conversations, things versus here’s how I’ve been mistreating my body for the last however many years. Would you like to be invited into mistreating our bodies, which is like the conversation that was actually happening. So, sort of sitting in that. I’m realizing I have some grief work to do. That’s something I’m sitting with and. And, umm, I’m also sitting in a place in which it felt like I was between things, but I never really let myself learn or experience or sit in either place. Like I was, just, it’s telling myself that I was in between. I think part of this is I didn’t really get that I was neurodivergent before. I’m like, why don’t I understand what they’re talking about? What’s going on? Why am I the loud one? Why am I the fast one? I just sound like me. What’s going on? It’s always felt rather in between. Things that aren’t privileged feel very in between. And it’s, I am, I have a lot of journal entries that I’m thinking, but, like, I love something that reminds me to write to an inner child or like I’m just considering now, like, what if I wrote to myself in my 20s? Yeah, I’m almost out of my 30s. What if I wrote to myself five years ago before I’d ever heard the word diet culture? Like what if I was to actually, like consider those versions of me? And not just a child who didn’t even experience those things. I’m just sort of getting clarity and some distinctions around that. So really appreciating and like super into this part of the conversation. Great question.
C: Thanks. I don’t actually have an answer, I just think of when I was most, like, everything felt like an upheaval every second of every minute of my life, it was puberty, right? Like ’cause that’s just at that age, that’s what everyone is going through. Your hormones that are, are everywhere, your body is doing things you don’t know what the heck they’re doing. I just wonder, I wondered what your experience, Lindley, coming into that, you know?
When, when well, it’s a typical thing for everyone to be having an experience, when life is just like what? And then also having your body change in a, in a way that leads to marginalization.
L: Yeah, and, and, and something that came up, Jenn, as you were talking about becoming, you know, a larger bodied person as an adult. You know, I don’t want to speak for your experience, so you know, feel free to let me know that like yeah, that doesn’t resonate at all. But I think when we talk about losing privileges, that’s one aspect of becoming a fat, a person who lives in a fat body. But another aspect is the way we think about and treat people in fat bodies, the way we think about those bodies is a reflection of the person inside them. And again quick trigger warning, I’m going to list, I’m going to be listing a couple of things. Skip the next 10 seconds if you don’t want to hear some negative things.
C: I love that you put this in here, thank you.
J: Yeah, yeah.
L: ’cause when, when we think about fat bodies we think about fat, fat people is being slobbish, lazy, disgusting, sweaty, gross, red faced, lazy, unambitious, unintelligent. I’m done.
L: You, you there are more. I mean, you, you know what they are.
C: So many. with.
L: But the point is that we think of fat people as bad people in a lot of different ways, and so some of the fear that we have, that the particular people in our bodies have of becoming fat is of becoming a bad person. And so if you become fat as an adult and you have not examined this within yourself. You’re becoming a bad person, and not only are you becoming, and again, I’m not saying that this is true, but this is the way that, that we are taught to think about it. Not only are you becoming a bad person, the evidence of your badness is becoming visible upon your body and now everybody else knows how bad you are. And now you’re going to be treated the way you’ve treated people who are bad who are in bad bodies. That’s terrifying. I mean, it’s also totally untrue. All of this is, is, you know, a capitalist racist mythology that has been built up over time to keep certain people in power and make a crap ton of profit. None of this is true. This is all mythology. This is, these are, these are stories that we tell ourselves around the campfire to, to justify the way that we treat fat people. And, and, and this is reinforced in every aspect of our lives and breaking out of that framework is really scary, too. But, but that means that becoming fat as an adult is even more terrifying, because now you know, you know how fat people are treated. And so not only are you now going to be subject to that, but it is because the evidence of your sins have been made clear in your flesh. And yes, I am using religious language because it absolutely ties back into religion and religious purity as well.
C: Absolutely yes.
L: There is an author named Alan Levinovitz. If it’s, I’m not, I’m not entirely sure how to pronounce that, we can put it in there. He has written quite a bit about religion and food, and it’s fascinating. And when I talk about diet culture being a racist construction, there is a book called Fearing the Black Body by Doctor Sabrina Strings. That is absolute core reading if you want to understand why diet culture is racist, because this is a relatively new concept for me and and I know for a lot of folks who are listening, it’ll be like what, how is that racist? That doesn’t make any sense, but that is if you don’t have time to read a whole book, seek out some of Doctor Strings’ talks there. There’s probably some things on YouTube talking about this, but it is absolutely the origin of diet culture and fat phobia is absolutely rooted in racism. So, so, so when we, when we talk about becoming fat or fat bodied, there’s so much tied into you or personal worth. And so, so again, Jenn, you can tell me whether this was resonant with you or not, but, but I think becoming a fat person and not only losing those privileges, but maybe even feeling like you’ve been exposed as a bad person.
J: Umm, first of all, every single word of that resonated. Uh, my, my dietitian, at first I was thinking like some, uhh, person, but I’m also a dietitian in my profession. Our bodies are supposed to be our business cards. It’s never, it’s the subtext. It’s never said out loud. Uhm, Speaking of racist professions and oppressive structures, right? That was my educational standard and I, I did not want to be visible at the beginning. I actually felt very comfortable, like my body’s in charge of this. My body is doing something. This feels OK. That part felt right. It was the visibility piece. Umm, and something I say really, I, I say it on social media. I say it intentionally to myself and to clients. Our bodies actually are not our business cards. It is also from the shame that I have felt as an adult, actually, like what I was really resonating with and what you’re saying. Like yes, I have to deal with all of these things in our society that don’t allow space for me at a time when I’m trying to learn how to take up as much space as possible, literally, metaphorically. But really the shame I felt for how I talked to clients in larger bodies before I became fat, the way that in my program, the way that we treated each other about each other’s bodies and what we subjected ourselves to was really disordered and problematic. And, and I mean, that’s shifting. I mean, I’ve been very open with people that I went to school with or other dietitians that I’m close with, and I’m like, listen, we should not have done that. Already, like what, how we’re talking to people like even, you know, Lindley, I love something that you do in conversation and thinking about language as you’re always making distinctions in language. You’ve had some great analogies and distinctions already in this conversation so far, and I’m just sitting with, like, even that we are not fat, we have, fat, we are not fingernails, we have fingernails, which took–that was one of the hardest things for me to unlearn because the logic part of my brain is like but it does make sense logically, but I wasn’t seeing the–what that allows. I wasn’t seeing what it makes space for and room for and to let people get away with who are doing considerable amounts of harm and marginalizing and oppressing and, and allowing myself to be in process and allowing myself to make mistakes actually very much feels linked to a pandemic sort of period of time. There is space in my life to learn from my own mistakes, if that makes sense, and so I can make space for myself for other people learning from their mistakes and also like that it doesn’t ever have to stop ’cause I really did think there was a stop before. Like I say it now, like, it’s casual, like, I’ve always known that but I did not. So, it really, really resonated and I can’t wait to listen back to that actually, because it felt like with each sentence that you said, and I was like, there’s something in there for me was this feeling I was getting while you were talking and I just can’t wait to explore it. You know, we do this podcast for ourselves, too. I listen to this podcast just like we make this podcast. I love listening to it. It’s, it’s the conversation I want to be having because of moments like this where I’m realizing there is so much unpacking left to do about a very specific target topic and also I can’t wait. Hardness, scary, necess-scary.
C: I’m feeling really emotional as we’re talking about it. And I didn’t understand why that was coming up until you just said that, Jenn. So, these–I feel like there’s a lot of grief work. And like I said, I’ve been fat most of my life, but also treating clients like well, I, I, obviously, I’m fat because of something I did wrong, you must be wrong, too. And like all the harm that I’ve done without even realizing that I was doing it, doing it to myself at the same time, I was doing it to clients. It feels really painful to think because I love the people that I’ve worked with, but, it’s diet culture. Like I don’t, I don’t, and, I don’t think there’s any…I was asking this question, not that there’s a hierarchy of, like, it would be great if you were fat this time vs that time. I think there’s grief associated with whenever this became a part of your identities, I think there’s just some grief work overall that is coming up for me right now.
L: And a really important resource for that, that body grieving is Brianna Campos at Body Image with Bri on Instagram, and who has a whole body griever series. We do, we do have grief to work through and that might be the grief of being put on diets as a child because that is not only traumatic, it’s also malnourishment. You’re being malnourished. You know, there’s grief. You know, I had to work through a little bit of grief over getting diet books for Christmas once I hit puberty, you know, and that was and that was my parents trying to protect me in a world that was going to mistreat me, right? Uhm, the intent, it does not equal the impact there, but you know it was kindly meant. We have grief over accepting our bodies that our bodies are, unless you’re in the, the 0.2%, are never going to look like a supermodel? It doesn’t, it doesn’t matter how *beep*, whatever, you know, that you go on. You’re not gonna look like Brooke Shields, you know? You’re not gonna look like Brooke Shields, as Brooke Shields looked like 30 years ago or today.
J: Yeah, you know, she’s not going to look like herself 30 years ago either.
L: Yeah, she doesn’t look like she did 30 years ago. And this is always where I have to throw in everybody is photoshopped. Those models don’t look like those models either. Oh I, I have a whole piece on Medium that I did a few years ago where I broke down, like, I took a heavily photoshopped photo of a model and I broke down all the ways you can tell it’s photoshopped, and, and what it, you know, and how it changes how she appears. [laughs] But, but you just, you know, you just–when you divest yourself from diet culture, when you start making different choices, choices in how you think about bodies, choices in doing the research about whether diets actually work, choices about, you know, making make the choice to learn about genetics and the social determinants of health and, and about loving your existing body or at least accepting it and in treating your body as a partner, blah blah blah. All these things mean that you, you are probably going to grieve loss of privileges. Because if you accept that you’re probably never going to look like Brooke Shields you are also accepting that you’re probably never going to be treated like, like Brooke Shields.
J and C: [laughs]
L: Yeah, and that is, I don’t know why I have a weird Brooke Shields obsession. [laughs]
C: There was an article out a few days ago about how Barbara Walters like, was super abusive to her in an interview. I wonder if that popped up on your feed somewhere.
L: That’s probably it, subconsciously.
C: That’s how–she’s been on my mind all week.
L and C: [laughs]
L: You know, but, but there’s, there’s, there’s grief involved because there’s loss involved.
L: And it can feel like the loss of hope. And the loss of, of, of anticipation because when we start that new diet that you anticipate the, the privileges of being thinner and, and, and what you think, what you think of is healthier and so on. And so there, there’s grief because there’s loss, and that’s OK. You can choose to grieve that when we talk about practices and choices. You know, you can choose to say this sucks. And you can choose to, you can choose to allow yourself to be angry about that, to be a little sad about that, to feel despair about that. And if that is something that is really coming up for you right now, I do, I do advise working through that with a professional because these are, yeah, big feelings. These are big emotions and, you know, and often to be a little salty for a second. Often what happens is people, particularly people who happen to be on the Internet at that time, like, to turn around and take out those feelings on the nearest fat person because they’re scared and first off, please don’t do that.
J and C: Yeah.
L: You know, fat folks aren’t your free therapists, and we’re not, we’re not punching bags, so please don’t do that. Uhm, but it is, you know. We don’t, there’s so much of, particularly in the body positivity realm, all this love your body, accept your body. But we don’t talk about the darker side of that, that loving your body as it is means giving up diet culture and that is giving up something that we grew up with that all of our relatives. We’re invested in that all of our culture is invested in. And giving that up, I mean when I gave up diet culture, it meant that the next time my mother and my sister did *beep* together as a bonding exercise, I couldn’t participate, yeah? And it meant that we had some really uncomfortable conversations around that and that is, that causes grief because that is–you are losing, umm, and it can cause you to lose community. It can cause you to lose bonding experiences. It can cost you fitting in then, and you know, and the thing is that, I’m making it sound like loving your body really sucks. [laughs] But, but the thing is that, that opens the way for you to be able to feel neutral about your body or to appreciate your body or treat it as a partner or even love it. Although you don’t have to, there’s no moral imperative. But not only does it open that up, but it opens you up to healthier communities. Yes, healthier experiences and by healthy I mean healthy for your body and soul and spirit and mind you, you know when you’re not punishing yourself and everyone around you. You can have real relationships with people that aren’t based on just trashing your body in front of them and, and having them do the same, but also it’s a big change and it’s OK to grieve that, you know. And it’s OK to get mad, but remember that you have to turn that, you have to turn that outward onto the systems where it belongs, yeah? The fault is not your body and I say that whether your body functions the way you want it to or not, you know? But, but the, the, the things that make you feel bad about your body are systems. They’re big, and they’re entrenched and they’re scary and they’re powerful and profitable. But the fault is not ever within your body, and so as you start going through that process of getting rid of that culture within yourself, it’s really helpful if you can consistently make the choice to turn that anger and that grief outward. You know the fact that my body doesn’t fit in an airplane seat is not my fault. Somebody chose to make that seat in a way that didn’t accommodate me, and so the problem was with the person who designed that seat, not my body. And so, so again, this embodiment practice and making these choices can also be about choosing to do, to externalize those feelings rather than turn them in on your body, because that will, that will rot you from the inside.
C: Hmm hmm.
L: This is reminding me of shadow work. The things that are repressed and suppressed, marginalized within us, and how we internalize that as well, sitting in that same kind of space and, but it feels like embodiment is often described, even, like the theory of embodiment refers to it as positive embodiment. That it’s always, even the language is one that leans towards it’s going to be a positive experience. It’s going to be a warm experience. That’s not my experience of embodiment. It’s not my experience of partnership either to go back to what you were saying at the beginning. It doesn’t always feel like, oh, this is the most perfect thing that ever happened to me. Sometimes part of the connection, and in fact deepening of the connection, is to go through something challenging together, including what we’re going through with our bodies. I’m just really sitting with that from what you’re saying. Uhm, I am a person who leans towards the positive because it makes me feel better in the moment, but it does make me feel better long term and part of my ongoing embodiment journey is to lean into the parts that feel sticky and edgy and pokey and tough and kind of sit in that space of, of, how can I find support here also? Like not changing that, it’s sticky ’cause that just points me to the positive direction. Again, I don’t really do anything, it’s just pointing in another direction. But really sitting in it.
L: Yeah, and it’s not always going to be like you just said positive feelings and you know. And of course, you know each of us as individuals get to process that in the way that makes sense.
For us and for me, I talk a lot about anger because again, as a sweet Southern girl. I wasn’t, you know, we didn’t…southern women, white women, again, I’m only speaking from my own experience here and, and the, the immediate culture surrounding me. We didn’t talk, about we didn’t talk about feeling angry, we didn’t display feeling angry, a good southern woman was never angry. And, and you know if that was something that I had to give up, too, was that decorum, that, that graciousness because first off it wasn’t a good fit for me. ‘Cause I’m a salty girl, it turns out.
L: Umm, but, but also I, that was one of the things that I had to give up in order to become coherent with myself. I had to get in touch with my inner salt, salt shaker.
J: Oh my gosh, I love, I love that so much.
L: And it, you know, and that was not something I had experienced until my 30s and, and I just consistently found myself getting mad, and, and, and when you are treating your body like a partner and you get mad at the way it’s being treated. For me it was like getting mad on behalf of my body. If somebody is mean to my best friend, I don’t turn in my best friend and say well, why did you deserve that? I turn to the person who’s being mean to them and say how dare you? And so, so, yeah.
L: I, I start for what for me was coherent. I’m starting to talk really fast because I’m just, I’m so passionate about this discovery of, you know, what is coherent for us? What is coherent from me? It turned out to be how dare you treat my body like it’s bad? How dare you treat my body like it is some evidence that I am a bad person? You know, like how dare you treat my partner that way, you know? And, and that, right? Fire and indignation. Treating my body as a partner helped me keep from internalizing that. Yeah, because if my body is my partner. That is just as valuable a presence as my husband or my best friend or my cat or whoever, you know. [laughs] My cat is sleeping here beside me, so she’s, she’s making her presence known. She’s been snoring through about half of this episode. So if you hear dinky little cat snores in the background, you’re welcome.
J and C: [laugh] So cute.
L: Yeah, but, but yeah, just this, you know, for me, it has been about the anger and for you it might be about the grief or, or maybe some dawning delight in your body. It, it may, it might not be, be, you know, it might not be, be all about the shadows, but having that anger has burned away, so much of the internalized crap that I had. Not all of it. You know, it’s a journey. We all, we’re all going to be on it for the rest of our lives. But that anger is also what led me to start speaking out because once I got really mad that I was being treated this way, I started to get mad that everybody else was being treated that way. And I couldn’t just stay silent when it was so important to me for people to know they were being scammed. It’s so, it feels so much easier to advocate for myself if I think of my body as my partner.
J: Hmm. Oh my gosh.
C: Hmm. It’s so…if somebody mistreats my husband or the people that I love, like, I’m ready to set some shit on fire so it really makes me feel really intentional about advocating for my body, too. That’s really powerful.
J: It really is.
L: Yeah, yeah, and, and my, my spouse is also, he’s a fat man and, you know, if I see him being, if I see him go to the doctor and get treated badly. Like, you know, well if you want to see me get mad.
L: That’s when I really get mad is when somebody I love gets treated poorly, but like, you know, when I’m treating my body like a partner, it’s, it’s essentially the exact same thing. And that doesn’t mean that I always choose to advocate for my body either. I had a telehealth appointment earlier this week with a specialist who I only see every year or so, and who was deeply invested in diet culture and who was deeply invested in blaming that particular health issue I have on my body size despite all, despite a complete lack of peer reviewed evidence. It’s linking those things but, but you know what? Every time I have to see her, I smile and nod. We, we, we get the thing done and we and, we get it out of the way and then we don’t have to see each other for another year. Because when, again coming back to choices, in survival, you know, and I am choosing in that moment. It’s a 15 minute appointment, I’m getting what I need out of it, I’m gonna smile and nod. [laughs] You know, it is not my duty to, uh, you know, to, ’cause it’s not my duty to take the hardest path possible. You know, I’m also allowed to make choices that just are easy.
J: Of course.
C: Yeah, and I think embodiment is acknowledging and recognizing and moving forward with the knowledge of what feels worth your emotional labor. Sometimes it just does not feel like it’s worth it to go that extra mile and that’s OK. That’s absolutely OK, and that can be embodied, too.
J: I have to tell you both something that’s happening to me and this experience together and this time we’ve already had together. I was just like looking at both of you and just like basking in your beauty, the beauty of what you’re saying, the beauty of how you were, like, looking, you know, like in Zoom how you, like, look at in weird spots ’cause you’re trying to find each other. I was just like looking in the beauty of how you were. I could tell you were still finding something, like I’m just sitting in a really, a really interesting spot that feels very full in this conversation with the both of you. Uhm, there’s something really special here, and that’s what I have the word for it I have right now, it’s beauty. It’s sitting in this beautiful spot and I’m actually really not leaning on beauty standards as my definition of beauty. It’s like a feeling that I’m having right now. It’s a shared experience. Uhm, it’s just the word that I have for that. Like I was going to go with lovely, but that was not strong enough, so I’m going with beauty, right? And I can already see that it’s being reflected right now too. I’m glad I said it, it, it’s just really, really lovely to sit, to sit with both of you in conversation.
J: In, in enjoying this conversation and sitting with this conversation, we’ve talked about the embodiment part of this podcast title and I’m really sitting with the second part of that. The rest of us. Uhm, in a chance for us to get to know you and also your perspective, I’d love to ask some questions. First, how do you currently identify and what are your pronouns?
L: I use she/her pronouns, and I am a cisgender white woman. I identify as a large fat or super fat kind of depending on the situation, I’m right on the edge. And if you haven’t heard those words before in the fat positive community, we’ve kind of come up with a set of heavily debated, the sort of categories for body size that make it a little easier to talk about, the types of marginalization we might experience. For example, someone who is average size or maybe small fat experiences a lot less systemic oppression than someone who is super fat or infinite fat. If, if you Google you will find articles that sort of go through these categories and they are very much like I said, debated and controversial within the sphere of people who talk about this sort of thing, but it’s a very general guide. Uhm, I live outside Seattle, WA and I have, umm, I am autistic and I have some chronic illnesses. I also live with an anxiety disorder, but I also have the privileges of, beyond being white, I have a financial safety net and, and my husband has a traditional day job and helps support us, he’s our primary supporter. So I do have that privilege as well.
J: Thank you for sharing that and I was curious about what the phrase the rest of us means to you and how do you identify within the rest of us in what you described?
L: You know, the the rest of us, I feel like intuitively, I just sort of, I really resonated with that term because, because it feels like there is a very, very small population with some notable exceptions, but a very small population of people, specific people, and types of bodies that are represented in, in, particularly in mainstream media. Even on Instagram and on in, in magazines and advertisements on billboards, in perfume ads, and, and you know, or say, a Nike ad. Think about a Nike ad and think about the bodies that would be represented there. The rest of us is everybody else. Everyone who is not in the type of body or the color of body or the level of able bodiedness that is represented. And so, so the rest of this is, really, most of us. But it is the types of people who get represented and the types of people who don’t.
J: Hmm, isn’t that interesting?
L: And where I’ve lived within that, I mean basically comes back to my own, you know, privileges and marginalizations.
J: Thank you for sharing all that. Thank you for sharing your identities in context, privileged and marginalized, as a way to get to know you and also how you identify right now, what resonates with you and where you are, that’s appreciated. Thank you.
C: Thank you.
C: You have such a gift for making concepts and perspectives feel accessible, especially in shifting the framing of the experience of being in a fat body. What would you define as liberation? What about body liberation or fat liberation? How do these language distinctions show up in your photography work?
L: Oh, I feel like this is the biggest question. Well, first off, to start off, I’m actually going to, to read a definition of body liberation because I don’t think I could say it any better myself, and we’ll put the source in, in the show notes, but body liberation is the freedom from social and political systems of oppression. To designate certain bodies as more worthy, healthy, and desirable than others. So it’s really about whereas something like body positivity or body love is about the individual and it’s a little bit bootstrapping, you know, you do it, it is something that you were doing to yourself. Body liberation is about the systems and, and body liberation is what gives us the space to then, you know, influence our feelings about our personal bodies when, when we are…by working on ending the systems that make us feel a certain way about our bodies, it’s going to be way easier to feel good about our bodies and so it’s really about those systems. And fat liberation, umm, to me is very similar, but it really is, to use sort of a social justice term, centering fat people in, in body liberation because every human who has a body, which is all of us, umm, is subject to, to the experiences of feeling certain ways about our bodies, but not all bodies are treated the same. So it’s very important that fat and particularly fat bodies of color are centered in this work because they are the most oppressed for their body. And when we, when we look at that in relation to photography, it gets so complicated because we talk about systems of oppression. Those are systems of power. And so I do a lot of thinking about systems of power and how I am potentially representing or perpetuating those as a photographer, because when you come work with me, uhm, you know, I do boudoir portrait and small business photography, and particularly with boudoir photography, which is very vulnerable. You might be laying there naked on a bed and I’m standing over you, fully clothed with a camera. That is 100% of power differential and I have, I have a frightening amount of power in that situation. And I’m not talking about, you know, uhm, like your physical safety. Uhm, you know, obviously if you feel physically unsafe with a photographer you, you need to get dressed and get out of there, because that is not OK. But the way that I think about your body, the way that I choose to portray your body and the way that I talk and even my body language around your body when you were being that vulnerable, I have a tremendous amount of power to build you up or tear you down probably without meaning to. And so I have to be so intentional and I am making, in addition to when you’re the photographer, you’re making hundreds o f micro choices about lighting and posture, and you know, pose, focus, depth of field, all these things. But I’m also making many, many choices in that moment during a session with how I am working with you. And it is very, it is very obvious in, in that situation, where there’s such a differential in power. You can tell when somebody isn’t comfortable with your body. And so I had, when I became a photographer, I had to do my own work really fast. Because I can’t sit there for, for two hours and look at your body and tell you genuinely that your body is amazing if I don’t feel that way about my own, if I don’t feel that way about yours because it’s going to be really obvious that I’m not telling you the truth. And so, so photography is…so I call it both prescriptive and descriptive. Like it’s prescriptive in that we as photographers, uh, control how the world sees bodies. We, we are the ones who can perpetuate or tear down systems of oppression, uhm, visually, but it’s also descriptive in that we also describe, we also depict, that’s the word I’m looking for. We also depict cultural standards as they are right now. Think about glamour shots.
L: And you laughed, didn’t you?
J: ‘Cause I have them.
J and C: [laugh]
L: But like everybody laughs because our, our image standards have changed so much just since the 1980s. But if you look at, if you look at current boudoir sessions, some of the poses are the same, because there are only so many ways that you can twist around human bodies. I mean, a body if the body.
L: That, that shows you how powerful image standards are, that glamour shots were considered, you know, taken pretty seriously and you know, considered to be beautiful and glamorous in 1985 and in 2021 they’re laughable, you know. And, and, and, and they’re not, they’re sort of considered cheesy. And so, so it’s not really…
J: And it was the highlight of my sophomore year of high school, it was the highlight.
L: Right? Right, yeah, and you know…
J: I wore the hair around the rest of the day. I was so proud.
L: I, I always tell people to like, plan a nice, plan a nice dinner, or like a night out after their session if they’ve got their, like, their, their big hair makeup.
C: Yeah, yeah I had boudoir pictures and I’ve never looked that hot in my entire life.
L and J: [laugh]
C: I, like, even hotter than my wedding. I could not handle how cute I was, like, it was ridiculous. I took so many selfies
L: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, and people always want to take selfies and they’ll ask me, like is that OK? I’m, like, yeah, OK.
C: Yeah, yeah. [laughs]
L: And, and I have a whole different, this is a different, different conversation, but I have a whole, I have a whole thing I like to talk about. About taking the power back into our own hands with self portraiture, too, with selfies.
C: Ooh, okay.
L: Because when you’re holding that phone or that camera and you’re depicting yourself, you have that power. And so when you come into a photo session, you’re giving me a lot of power and again I have to be so intentional with how I use that and so, but it’s also really complicated. And I just want to ramble for the next few hours about this because there are so many things coming into play when you think about body liberation and photography because my job is to depict you as you are right now rather than like an idealized version of yourself. If you want that, go work with somebody else.
L: But, but at the same time if you are not ready to see yourself with complete honesty it may be very difficult for you to look at those photos afterward and people do use them as a type of exposure therapy. So people will use it as a body image tool. Uhm, but, and some people and now some people come in and they are ready for it. But like most of the people who can work with me or somewhere in the middle, you know that they’re, they’re willing to show up for it, but they may need a little bit of support to really feel, uhm, ready to see themselves and so a lot of what I do is coaching. Honestly about half hour sessions or or you know coaching and making sure that you’re comfortable. But, but so the liberation part is that I have spent a lot of time picking apart, umm, why I opposing people in this particular way. Is that a way, that, that shores up beauty standards and perpetuates them or a way that tears them down? And if it’s a way that, that continues to perpetuate beauty standards, am I doing that intentionally? Because also, if I photograph you too far out of your comfort zone, you may not be able to look at those photos. And so it’s my job to find the compromises to figure out exactly where that person is at in their journey, and photograph them in a way that maybe pushes them towards liberation for themselves, but also isn’t so raw that they, that they can’t interact with those images. Does that make sense?
J and C: It does.
L: Yeah, so, so am I, am I always like a paragon of body liberation perfection in my work? No, but that’s not my, my job is to help people get there.
C: You know, as you’re talking about power, it’s like, and it being descriptive and prescriptive, which I’ve never thought about, that is so powerful. It’s like with great power comes great responsibility, and I think you’re doing such important work to get–with your stock photos, with your boudoir photography, with everything you do. With getting these bodies that clearly exist like everywhere out into the forefront are out into the universe, so people know that there are different beauty standards. And not even, I don’t want to say beauty standards, ’cause I, I don’t want to say that you’re creating a different beauty standard. You’re creating more of a universality.
L: A validity.
C: . Yes! Like it’s just a more universal look at this is what bodies are and bodies are beautiful. All bodies are worthy bodies. You know, like I think that’s really powerful, really, really powerful.
L: Yeah, every person who, who comes and works with me is one more person who has been seen as valid. Every person who, who sees one of my stock photos used in the world and says, Oh my God that looks like me. I’ve never seen that before and used in a, in a respectful way.
J and C: Yes.
L: You know, where that body’s represented as a good body as opposed to like the scary news photos of like the *BEEP* epidemic.
J: The headless bodies.
C: Headless fatties, yeah.
L: You know, you know the difference, you know, that’s one more person who has been, that has been seen as valid and now can see themselves as valid, and that is literally how we change the world one person at a time.
J: It is and I’m hearing that they get to be part of the default, right? We’re talking about ideals and norms and standards, and this really trickle down from the most powerful place sort of dynamic. With what I’m hearing in the validity, as a baseline is that each of us can be represented, like, I’m thinking about these photos, like representing ourselves in our own photographs, that that’s actually a rebellious act is pretty incredible for my mind, right now. [laughs] And, and I really get what you’re saying. Glamour shots, high school graduation photos, I forgot what the ones were that they did in Walmart in places like that. But they were, like it was like one person above, they weren’t glamour shots, but it was like heads floating in things.
L: Oh, yeah.
J: There was this other sort of element, but all of it is not looking like ourselves and really the, the now moment. This kind of collective time that we’re in is something I actually think of. Even though I am not trying to minimize the really hard and awful aspects of the pandemic and people who are the opposite of surviving right now. Still sitting in a place of connectedness in a new way, almost because we’re forced to to survive together, we have to learn together and really quickly, that what I’m getting is a new default can emerge. Like that it’s anything we want, or it’s however we feel right now or whatever is that authentic related truth, which feels, umm, it feels really interesting. Like, you know, default. We think of often like a button like we press a default button and everything goes back to default. That’s what I think of when it comes from the ideals/norms place, and we’re talking about default as like who you are and how you are, what you are, what you are not. Well, you have to grieve all of these things. This like complex and beautiful web that we’ve been describing that default is like I don’t know, let me pause and explore. It needs a whole different, like, it’s not this quick thing. It’s a, it’s a real exploration. And it’s reminding me of spaciousness which I’ve, I’ve been getting this whole conversation, but the way you were describing them, like wow, what space to be able to get and then to see that captured in an image that you can now take that space with you, reflect and look at it. It’s just very interesting and really beautiful. I was hearing everyone’s beautiful, just like I always hear everyone’s weird. People are, like, that’s so weird. Like everyone’s weird. We’re all different.
J: So everything is weird. Everything, everything’s OK is also something I think I was sitting within what you’re saying.
L: My job as a photographer is to see you as beautiful and worthy of being captured. And, and that is, you know part of the joy of my work, but, but there’s, I also really agree with, there’s a new movement coming up, that, that is embracing ugliness. That you don’t have to be, you don’t have to think of yourself as beautiful, and you don’t have to be beautiful to be worthy. So I mean to be really blunt my job isn’t to make you look beautiful in your photos. Although people often do, but, and my job isn’t to convince you that you’re beautiful. Like I think you are because I think bodies are cool. Bodies are amazing, but, you know, all those stories that live on our skin like that scar, that scar’s beautiful. That, this scar has a story, but, but I don’t have to convince you of that, and it’s not my job to convince you of that. My job is just to record what’s there. And if that, if it gives you the ability to access it, if it is presented in a little more of a traditional format, boudoir is very much invested in that, because boudoir has very scripted poses and things, and if, if that makes it easier for you to access your own body, you know, awesome, we’re going to do that, but my job isn’t really to convince you that you’re beautiful, even though I think you are. It’s just, it’s to make you, to give you that space, I love that. To give you that, that spaciousness, to give me that, that time and place when you are entirely valid and give you the ability to take that with you. So why aren’t you the photographer, ’cause that was a perfect answer, Jenn.
C: I love it.
L: You know, I need to hire you for my marketing.
C: There you go.
J: Uh, feel free to use it and, and also balls deep, you know whatever you need. Sorry, Chavonne.
C: Absolutely, say balls deep. Oh, I wholeheartedly agree.
J: I know that she can handle me digging a joke into the ground. You know, I just keep digging and digging.
J: Uhm, thank you, and I have felt this entire description that I would like, I’m like, how do I get Lindley to photograph me?
J: How am I going to make this happen in my future is something that I’m, I’m sitting with this. And I’m serious. I’m gonna figure it out, I’m gonna figure it out.
C: Are you gonna get up that way?
L and C: [laugh]
J: I, I have never been to the Pacific Northwest, so it’s already, iIt’s already rolling in. I know! I know!
J: My sister lives in Alaska. My partner and I would like to drive up the entire West Coast there, so it’s going to happen, it’s happening.
C: That sounds lovely.
L: I’m happy to give you itineraries.
J: Well, I wouldn’t–oh, there goes my hands! [laughs] Umm, I–
C: [laughs] Oh, this is good.
J and C: [laugh][1:46:22]
J: So today in this incredibly far reaching, ever present beautiful conversation, we’ve talked a lot about big and small picture perspectives, things, etc in this conversation. Lindley, what do you think we can all do to make a difference with what we’ve learned today?
L: Well, we’ve already talked so much about, about intention and choices and practices that, it really, we’ve really led into this question beautifully because it, the awareness is, the awareness and the choices that we are making individually, uhm, are some of the most powerful things that we can do because the more that we are aware of why we feel the way we do about our bodies, why we feel the way we do about other people’s bodies, and, and the systems and, and who is profiting and who is getting power from us thinking that way? The more we can take the profit and the power out of those systems if we all stopped buying diet foods and diet books and diet products tomorrow, the diet industry would disappear because it wouldn’t, there wouldn’t be any profit in it. And the diet industry isn’t the only one that drives these systems, but that’s, that would be a really easy one to destroy. We just, we just have to stop giving them money. And yes, it’s not it…I realize it’s not that simple. However, just being aware the next time that you see a fat person, let’s say a very, very fat person and you have a visceral reaction. Why are you having that reaction? And I’m not saying that you need to be a, I don’t want to bring shame into this, because when we are ashamed, thanks Brené Brown. [laughs] When we’re ashamed we cannot make change because we, we sink our energy into being ashamed rather than making different choices. But being aware of that reaction and then being aware of why we have that reaction, that way the next time we can choose to feel differently. When we start being aware, when we, when we are aware of why we have conversations in, in the office break room about, oh I’m so bad. I can only have 1/3 of that donut. Oh no, I can only have a quarter ’cause I was so bad this week. Once we’re aware of those conversations we can start being aware of why we have them and then we can start choosing differently. And so, and we can choose where to start integrating those changes into our lives in a way that, you know, in the same way that the…You know, I grew up in a Christian background and we would read in the Bible about all these people who you know, give up everything and follow me. It’s this very common theme. Umm, but that is not an expectation in, you know, I’m not in a Christian community these days, but, but growing up that certainly was not an expectation that we put on each other. Like you know, we all had houses and cars don’t don’t get me wrong. [laughs] And the, and the point of this is that, umm, no one is expected, you know, to become an anti diet warrior overnight. And again, because you get to make the choices that resonate for you in your life. Just being aware of what choices you’re making lets you change just one thing. Maybe you don’t trash talk your body. Maybe you don’t do body checking in front of the mirror next week. Maybe you have the freaking candy bar and just, and don’t let it have power over you because you just eat it and then, then you’re done rather than agonizing. Just being aware means that you can then make the choices that feel more coherent to you to come back to our theme of this whole episode and that’s it’s, it’s not a simple thing to do, and it may take a while of just trying to be aware, I know that sometimes I’ll make choices in my life or have certain feelings about things and then three hours later I’m like, oh, you know, it’s like that. That, after you know, or I, I will get very up in my anxiety about something and then realize, oh, that there was no need to be anxious about that. So, so this is not, it’s, it’s a practice just like we talked about. This is not something you’re going to be good at to start, and that’s OK. It is a practice, a series of choices. And that is the most powerful thing you can do because, like, I personally have no influence over– insert the latest diet company trend here. But I do have influence over whether I, whether I talk to my friends in, in terms that are negative about my body or there’s you know, and, and the, the choices that we all make influence the world.
J: Awareness without shame. I love that. I love the reminder that shame, whether it’s from us or bias and stigma pointed at us from other people gets in the way and becomes the focus. Uhm, and how can we find spaces with that? I was hearing like how can we find any ease in this moment? Whether it’s pointed from outside or even from within us,? Uhm, realization it’s like almost multilayered. Like, uhm, realizing that, realizing it’s OK is what might feel easeful. It’s not just the realizing it, but it’s really sitting in it and letting it be there. If that made any sense outside of my head.
C: It did.
J: OK, good.
[J and C laugh]
C: No, it definitely does.
J: I’m like. I can see the layers, but I don’t know if it makes sense. [laughs][1:54:14]
C: [laughs] Thank you so much for being here with us. As we finish up this episode today, what would you like everyone listening to know about what you’re up to and how they can find you?And additionally, what direction do you see your career and or work taking in the future?
L: Well, this is a pretty exciting time. To answer the last thing first, it’s a pretty exciting time because, as I mentioned earlier. Did I mentioned earlier? This is a really exciting time for me to answer the last question first, because I’m about to reopen for client photography sessions, post pandemic and figure out a way to do that, you know safely for everyone and, but that is the first time in two years that I’ve consistently gotten to photograph people. And so I’m hoping that, that what life looks like for me in the next, you know, two or three years is just getting in all the folks who have wanted to come and haven’t been able to, so that’s just, it’s super exciting and I cannot wait. I’ve just been jonesing for it. And so has, so has my wait list, which makes me really happy.
J and C: Yes!
L: But I have my fingers in a lot of different pies. Overall I do the client photography sessions that we’ve talked about. I also do stock photography and if you haven’t picked it up from the episode that is the photographs that people use in their marketing and, and magazines and advertisements and social media and billboards. I do Health At Every Size consulting and content creation and some marketing coaching. I have the Body Love Shop which is a curated collection of body positive and fat positive artwork and products. And, and I, I’m sure I have things that I’m forgetting, but the best way, you can find all my work at bodyliberationphotos.com, but the best way to sort of get into my world and hear from me regularly is my newsletter, which is called the Body Liberation Guide. It comes out every Monday and I’m so proud of it, it has every issue has news and resources for body liberation and HEalth At Every Size. It has some kind of meaningful letter from me on body liberation and it also has you know, I mean, I have a business so it also has advertisements for my newest products and services and that sort of thing. And every issue has a resource, a set of resources on a particular topic and that can be anywhere from LGBT+ safe sex resources to, to dealing with fatphobic relatives at the holidays to, to anything, you know, anything related to body liberation. So, so I’m really proud of it and you can sign up for it at bit dot ly, that’s bit.ly/bodyliberationguide. And it, and everything else is all at bodyliberationphotos.com.
J: And can I plug your Patreon because I love your Patreon?
L: Oh please do.
J: Umm, really thoughtful. I, I love when you share things on there. I know it’s really important to you when you do. It’s a, it’s really incredible to read what you write on there and you get a discount for the stock photos, if you remember, if you–which I haven’t used yet. Thank you for reminding me.
L and C: [laugh]
J: I, I don’t, I’m not, I’m not there for the discount anyway, but I’m just like, oh, I actually need some stock photos, so thank you for the reminder. And it’s just lovely to be able to follow you each and every way that we can because you’re awesome, you’re such a multifaceted person. I love all of these ways that we can engage with all the ways in which you’re sharing things because it’s such a unique way of sharing. It’s so awesome.
C: Yeah, mm-hm, it’s really wonderful.
L: Thank you. It’s, it’s mostly just that I have a really short attention span.
L: So, so, so it is such a joy to be able to do my work in a way that lets me sort of jump from thing to thing to thing, umm, topic to topic. Uh, But yeah, I also, I also…speaking of plugging the Patreon. I just added a Discord community chat to it.
C: That’s awesome.
J: That’s right!
L: If you, if you’ve never used Discord, there is, on my YouTube, there is actually a 101 level guide on how to use Discord. It’s, it’s, it’s kind of like Facebook and kind of not, but it is a closed community base. It is open to people of all body sizes and, and everyone is welcome, but it is a fat centric space, which means that we, again we center people in, in fat bodies and their experiences and opinions.
L: But it is, it is, we have almost 60 people, and it’s thriving and it’s just something I’m currently really, really enjoying.
C: Oh, this is, this has been amazing, like I feel like we could talk even longer than we’ve been talking, like I could just go on for the rest of the day. This has just been wonderful, and it’s such a gift to have opened Season 2 with you as our first interviewee and it just flowed so well. Like I just love hearing what you have to say about anything and everything.
C: So, thank you so much.
L: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been just a wonderful experience talking with both of you.
J: OK, I don’t want it to end. [laughs] I don’t want it to end but thank you, we love you.
L: Thank you.
J: Thank you for listening to season 2 of the Embodiment for the Rest of Us podcast. Episodes will be published every two weeks-ish (because let’s be real here) wherever you listen to podcasts.
C: You can also find the podcast at our website, embodimentfortherestofus.com and follow us on social media, on both Twitter @embodimentus
J: And on Instagram @embodimentfortherestofus We look forward to being with you again next time in conversation.