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March 3, 2011 / Katie

Update: Response to the Full Membership Committee

I got some really fantastic support and advice to my recent entry about the questions I have been asked for the committee which I answer to in my last steps to becoming ordained as a United Methodist Deacon. Here are the answers I settled on, since I am sure some of you were curious:

How often do you engage in physical exercise lasting at least 30 minutes?  What is that routine?

I make it a goal to go to the gym three times per week. I usually spend between 20-40 minutes on the elliptical, based on how much time I have and what my body is telling me I need. In addition, I sometimes add lap-swimming to this routine. I do not hold myself to a rigid exercise regimen, because I believe in trusting my body to let me know if I am getting too much or not enough exercise (it sure does tell me!) Additionally, my husband and I make our home in a densely populated urban neighborhood, where many errands and entertainment trips can be made on foot. I try to walk and/or ride the bus when possible, both for personal and ecological health.

How are your eating habits?  If you are over/under the average weight for your age and body type, do you have a plan in the next year to move toward a more healthy weight?

Personally and professionally I am a Health At Every Size practitioner. My summary of HAES, which was developed by Dr. Linda Bacon, is that it is the radical belief that all people, regardless of size, deserve fundamental human respect and comprehensive, unbiased health care from providers. For me personally, it means that I trust my body to tell me what and how much food and movement I need, and intentionally refrain from the mentally unhealthy practice of trying to control the size and shape of my body (which is not something I can control). For me professionally, it means I do not make assumptions about my clients based on their body size or shape, including assumptions about physical health, mental illness, or emotional sophistication.

As a person who has spent a great deal of time and resources on recovering from disordered eating and the incredibly damaging cultural narrative that a woman’s body size and shape determines her health and worth, I must admit I am disappointed that weight (and eating and exercise, commonly—if problematically—associated with weight) is the primary indicator of physical health that this questionnaire focuses on.  I take many steps that support my physical health, such as protecting sleep; brushing and flossing my teeth; getting regular exams by doctors, dentists, and optometrists (and following their recommendations); wearing my seat belt; investing in psychotherapy; regularly taking all prescribed medications; engaging in stress-reduction practices including stretching and massage; and more. None of these practices has caused—or probably ever will cause—me to lose weight. I am learning to make peace with and love my body for the sacred creation that it is, and it is my deep hope that my ecclesial body will be a support to me in that process, not a hindrance.

February 9, 2011 / Katie

“A more healthy weight”

As many of you may remember, I was commissioned last June as a provisional United Methodist deacon.  Provisional status lasts (at least) two years, the first year of which I am required to “check in” with the provisional committee and update them on my progress in ministry. Next year, I will be requesting this committee’s recommendation for ordination in full connection.

As you can imagine, there are a number of materials I need to prepare for this interview. One of them is a set of questions about my personal and professional habits and wellness.  The “Self-Understanding” section includes the following (emphasis mine):

a.      Do you have friends outside the local churchb.     What recreational activities do you participate in?

c.     How often do you engage in physical exercise lasting at least 30 minutes?  What is that routine?

d.     How are your eating habits?  If you are over/under the average weight for your age and body type, do you have a plan in the next year to move toward a more healthy weight?

e.     Do you meet regularly in an accountability/support group?  How often do you meet?  How has this group helped your spiritual, emotional, and mental outlook?

f.      How many nights per week are reserved for “home life”?

g.     How many days off do you take consistently each week?

h.     Do you take all your vacation?

i.      What are your interests and hobbies outside the church?

Oh, this question is going to be fun to answer. Right off the bat we have not only the assumption that there is “one healthy weight” for all people, but also the conflation of weight with eating.

I am sure I will post my answer here once it is complete. As I am contemplating my answer to this… any insight from my readers about how to go about answering this? Assuming no one on the committee has probably ever heard of FA, or they have, may have wild misconceptions about it?

February 4, 2011 / Katie

Fleshy Fridays: ability to heal

Welcome to Fleshy Fridays, a place I set aside to talk about a specific thing I am grateful for about my body.

So I started Fleshy Fridays two weeks ago and I find it a little ironic that I didn’t even do it the second week.  But, there’s a good reason for it—last week I was sicker than I’ve been in years.

Whatever crud my husband so generously brought home for me had me coughing, sniffling, and exhausted for about a week and a half.  As a therapist, the worst part about it was that my voice was all but gone, forcing me to cancel several of my clients and only just barely get through the sessions I did keep, with the help of hot tea and cough drops.

And so yeah, I didn’t get around to blogging last Friday, as I was feeling pretty rough. I’m getting better now, slowly but surely (this cold is a doozy).

And so what I’m so very grateful for this week is my body’s amazing ability to heal itself.  I took no prescribed meds; just over-the-counter meds on the worst days and a few home aids (like my neti pot and the aforementioned tea and lozenges) to ease symptoms.  But other than that, my body its healing itself quite nicely given the time and space and rest to do so.

And that is amazing.

February 2, 2011 / Katie

Ask Katie

Hey folks!

I am putting together a quarterly newsletter as a pastoral counselor, and one of the things I want to do in it is have an “advice column” section.

It’s very open-ended.  Anything at all that you are curious about that a psychotherapist/United Methodist minister might be able to answer is fair game.

So if you have a question about a relationship, mental health, theology, religion, church stuff, etc. please ask away!

To allow for anonymous questions, I have set up a formspring.

Or feel free to comment here.

February 1, 2011 / Katie

Improv Everywhere’s “Worst Skater Ever”

Check out this awesome video from Improv Everywhere:

What I love about this is that this guy is neither thin nor “athletic.”*  It’s a bit hard to tell with thick winter clothes but he’s probably at least in the “overweight” category of the BMI, if not “obese.”  It’s very cool to see people of all sizes developing physical skills and having fun in their bodies!

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* in scare quotes because plenty of fat athletes prove that there is no one “athletic” body type and yet society does have particular connotations for that.

January 29, 2011 / Katie

Hatchets, AIDS, and popcicles… one of these things is not like the others

On Wednesday I was flipping through Real Change and found myself generally impressed with Judy Lightfoot’s article, “Don’t overlook dangerous stereotypes of the mentally ill.” It did a pretty good job making a case for why we need to be very careful with stereotypes of folks who have mental illness as being dangerous. It was primarily in response to the media’s portrayal of Jared Loughner. I was reading along, nodding along, until I came to the following quote (which references The Stranger, a local Seattle weekly):

Later, The Stranger explained “How a decimated state budget equals more unmedicated loons with hatchets.” (Proof, if you needed it, that people with mental illnesses may be the only group of human beings the media feel perfectly free to call names. Would a Stranger headline warning about STDs and male-male sex without condoms contain the phrase “unprotected fairies with AIDS”? How about an obesity epidemic story concerning “unrestrained fatties with popsicles”?)

Um, okay, NO.

First, the Oppression Olympics are not cool. Please, can we all just stop comparing oppressions already? There is no good reason to say, “this group has it better/worse than that group!” The reason why this is problematic have been explained ad nauseam, so I will not get into it here. But just, no.

Second, The Stranger regularly uses slurs to discuss minorities, including “fairies” and “fatties.” Dan Savage, Stranger columnist, has been well documented in the fatosphere as a fatphobic asshole, using his platform in the Stranger to do so. Savage has contributed many a blog to name-calling and shaming we corpulent, including the following shining examples of journalistic integrity: Two for the price of one, Not what it seems, and Big lies. In fact a search for the term “fatties” turns up over ten pages of results. A search for “fairies” also turns up 10 pages but some of them are about actual mythical creatures, and admittedly the ones that do reference homosexual men are typically doing so in an affectionate way. Other searches turned up plenty of results for words like “moos” (derogatory term for mothers), “sluts,” “fags,” and even the N-word (first result is part of an article’s headline).

So yeah. The Stranger is one of those oh-so-“edgy” publications that says a big FUCK YOU to the PC Police! It’s one of those snark-tastic Seattle publications that says, “we don’t need no stinking compassion!”

Finally, seriously Ms. Lightfoot, one of these things is not like the others. Popcicles are not comparable to hatches and AIDS. Obviously it is ridiculous to  stereotype gay men as deliberately (or at least irresponsibly) spreading HIV and to stereotype mentally ill people as all carrying concealed weapons, ready to attack at any time. But are you really telling me the best you could come up with for the fatties is popcicles?

Well, come to think of it, maybe that is the best they have. I mean, that’s the thing with this whole obesity epidemic boogeyman thing. Food somehow becomes a weapon of mass destruction. Fatties offering someone tasty frozen juice on a stick* is literally seen as just as dangerous as wielding a hatchet with the intent to harm or deliberately having unprotected sex with someone when we have an incurable, fatal disease.

This is the level of ridiculousness our society has reached. Food has become a deadly weapon, at least, when it’s in the hands of the wrong people (fatties). It’s pretty obvious that Ms. Lightfoot, erm, shirked her duty as a responsible journalist when she wrote the paragraph above. And if she was the only one saying this, I would have just let it go. But the thing is, she’s not. This is all over the place. People really believe that having fat friends makes you fat. People really believe that doughnuts kill, and fat people sit around eating doughnuts all day, and so a fatty offering someone a doughnut or a popcicle or whatever is literally just as dangerous as going after someone with a hatchet.

We have truly gone off the rails.

So, to summarize: Stop playing oppression olympics; it makes you sound unoriginal, boring, and ignorant. Get your facts right when you make broad generalizations about the word choices of a widely-read local newspaper. And maybe just stop making an example out of a ridiculous, tired, and tangibly harmful stereotype about fat people. Your article would be so much better for it.

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* whether it contains high fructose corn syrup the boogeyman or not!

January 21, 2011 / Katie

Fleshy Fridays: Singing Voice

Welcome to Fleshy Fridays, a place I set aside to talk about a specific thing I am grateful for about my body.

This week I am particularly grateful for my singing voice.  I have had the blessing of many opportunities over my life to use my voice to sing publicly in a variety of settings.  I have sung with choirs, led Christmas Carol Sings, been a worship leader for Sunday morning services, led Taizé-style prayer services both on a regular basis at church and in one-time special engagements, led singing on retreats and camps, and sung to congregations as part of a sermon.  That’s not even to mention singing babies to sleep or teaching toddlers “The Wheels on the Bus.”

I have received feedback from others that I have a pleasing vocal tone that is clear and resonant.  I personally happen to agree; I love the sound of my voice when I am singing.  And I find it really neat that something that blesses me so much can bless others too.

January 20, 2011 / Katie

Baby’s hilarious reaction to grapefruit

So I ran across this animated gif on teh intarwebz recently and I can’t stop laughing at it:

The look on her face and the way she falls over just cracks me up!

And I totally know that look, too.

I personally happen to like grapefruit, but there are other foods to which I have a strong negative reaction.  Raw tomatoes.  Mushrooms (unless they are chopped up very finely and mixed with something), ketchup, yellow mustard.  Yams and sweet potatoes.  English cheddar.

Vinegar.  Anything with a strong vinegar flavor.  Heck, anything with a strong vinegar smell.  That one gives me the same face that baby has.

What foods give you this reaction?

January 18, 2011 / Katie

Healthy Weight Week: I’m not sure we all agree on what that means

Like many of you probably do, I receive NAAFA’s email newsletter, and I was interested to read in this week’s that January 16th-21st is Healthy Weight Week.

The phrase “healthy weight” has been used so often in my life as a synonym for “thin” that I was really leery when I first saw this.  In fact, to be honest, even after finding out that this is a body-positive event, I’m still a bit confused as to why they chose a title that is so fraught with body-obsession and diet mentality.

Here’s what the week is technically about (according to NAAFA’s email):

The 18th annual Healthy Weight Week is a time to celebrate healthy diet-free living habits that last a lifetime and prevent eating problems.  Our bodies cannot be shaped at will. But we can all be accepting, healthy and happy at our natural weights.

Respecting size diversity makes sound scientific sense. Research at the CDC shows the “healthiest” weight (the weight at which people live the longest) is in a broad range from a body mass index of 22 up to 40.

The 18th annual celebration is January 16-22, 2011, and includes the following highlights:

Tuesday, January 18: Rid the world of Fad Diets & Gimmicks Day (22nd annual)

Thursday, January 20: Women’s Healthy Weight Day (18th annual)

Healthy Weight Week promotes a lasting, healthy, diet-free lifestyle for people of all sizes.

So some of this language is a little concerning to me.  For one thing, I think it is important for people to know that the BMI range with the lowest mortality rate is wider (and heavier) than what most of us think.  But, highlighting 22-40 seems to do a disservice to folks who are above that.  I say this as someone with a BMI of 39.9 (I just checked it, to see where I fit on that range).  What happens if I gain 10 pounds, putting me at 40.5?  Am I somehow magically way less healthy?  The truth is, from what I’ve read by Campos and others, there is a range with the lowest mortality, but it still hardly differs from those with BMI’s lower and higher than that range.  In fact, there is a bigger difference in mortality rate based on handedness (with right-handed folks having lower mortality) than between any weights!  So I guess I’m just worried that this line of thinking—talking about the “healthiest” range without mentioning that there’s very little difference beyond that range—will still stigmatize those whose BMI’s are higher than the magic number.   What they are doing is raising the magic number.  What I am saying is there shouldn’t be a magic number.

The second thing that worries me is the focus of the two days.  One is to get rid of fad diets.  Well, the thing with that is that most people, even ardent dieters, will agree with that.  Companies like Weight Watchers have so thoroughly co-opted the language of “it’s not a diet” and “it’s a lifestyle change” that unsavvy consumers literally can’t tell the difference anymore between a fad diet* and healthy diet**.  So the most fatphobic, body-hating person can still agree that “fad diets” need to go, but still be totally cool with unhealthy and miserable restrictive dieting with a goal of weight loss.  And the second day comes right back to the problematic “healthy weight” phrase.  Again, the most ardent dieter can get right on board with a “women’s healthy weight day.”  She doesn’t mean it the way the people running the event do, because for her, “healthy weight” equals “being thin” and therefore healthy weight day is about identifying what her healthy weight “should” be and figuring out a program of food, exercise, pills, and/or surgery to get there.  So what does it even mean if a fatphobic person can get on board with this, and we just mean different things by the same phrase?

Can we really use the language of fatphobia to effect cultural change?  Is it enough for us to claim that all it takes is giving new meaning to these familiar phrases?  That even if everyone else means “thin” by “healthy weight” it doesn’t matter, we can have a “healthy weight week” and we can make it what we want it to mean, dammit!  Like all it takes is sheer willpower***, or something?

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* here I define “fad diet” synonymously with “diet” in the sense of an external eating plan that restricts calories and/or types of food.  I believe all diets of this type are “fads” in the sense that none of them represent the way that any cultural group have typically eaten for any extended period of time.  Their popularity always ebbs and flows with whatever the latest trend it (often supported by shoddy research) and because the diet industry itself is designed to keep us trying new and different diets periodically throughout our life since none of these diets actually work (i.e. make us thin).

** here I’m defining “diet” as just the description of what we eat.  “Healthy diet,” then, is a diet that is body-trusting, food-positive, enjoyable, filling, nutritious, and whatever else YOU, the eater, determine that to be.

*** “willpower,” another favorite buzzword of the dieters in my life.

January 17, 2011 / Katie

New weekly feature: Fleshy Fridays

I have been thinking about how I don’t update this blog very regularly.  It seems to go in spurts, where I write a lot for a while and then go quiet for awhile.  Some of my favorite bloggers to regular weekly features and I was thinking that would be one way to motivate myself to write more regularly.

My inspiration for this is Living~400lbs‘ Thankful Thursdays, but I want to twist it a bit and make it specifically about my body.  For all the FA and HAES beliefs that I hold, sometimes I still have trouble looking in the mirror after a shower.  So I decided I want to be more intentional about thinking positively about my body.  So each Friday I will talk about one thing that I am grateful for about my body.  It may be a particular part I find aesthetically pleasing, it may be something that I love that my body can do, or it may be something that my body has taught me.

I’ll start this Friday, and hopefully I’ll manage to keep it up most weeks!