Each year I take great pleasure in helping to spread the word about the National Organization for Women’s (NOW) Love Your Body Day campaign. (This year it is on October 14). Of course in “Dr. Deah’s Hollywood” every day is Love Your Body Day ! Women and men, girls and boys can live their lives in harmony with their bodies and appreciate them for all of the marvels they accomplish for us each and every day! In “Dr. Deah’s Hollywood” the norm is accepting that variety in our bodies is as magical as the variety we find in the natural shapes and sizes of other creations of Mother Earth. But sadly, that is not yet the reality for most people for a variety of reasons. One of NOW’s primary reason for the toxic body hate that infects so many of us is the media and the visual images they use that dictate not only the importance of physical beauty but a narrow definition for what is considered beautiful. This definition typically does not include people who are “too fat” with the criteria for “too fat” being an impossible standard to attain without engaging in dangerous and unhealthy lifestyle choices regarding food and exercise. And lest we think this is just an American obsession, we don’t have to look very far to find that this mandate of thinness has crossed the borders into other continents as well. But along with the oppression comes the rebellion and in my opinion there appears to be a wonderful trend of size acceptance activism also crossing into other parts of the world.
In my recent post, Oceans Aweigh, for the Fierce Freethinking Fatties website I wrote about the Fat Acceptance Movement in Europe and had the pleasure of introducing the readers to Gisela Enders, founder of the fat acceptance group Dicke e.V. in Germany. Gisela reminded me that although Europe is a single continent each country within Europe is a unique, separate entity and she couldn’t speak for all European organizations that are challenging the cultural pressure on women to be thin. And so, with that in mind I began a project to seek out and interview people throughout the world (starting with Europe) who are involved in promoting a diverse representation of body types as positive whether it be through their artistic expression or political activism. Needless to say what started off as a summer trip to Europe and a speck of curiosity has now snowballed into a treasure hunt for me as I find more and more people who are working at changing paradigms and helping people feel better about themselves. So over the course of the next few weeks, in honor of Love Your Body Day, I will be introducing you to some inspirational women doing wonderful work in the UK and in Holland. Today I would like you to meet Susan Ruiter, an artist in Holland.
Dr. Deah: Hello! I saw your wonderful work in the Galerie van Eijck over the summer. I am fortunate to be able to visit Holland in the summers for the North Sea Jazz Festival but the rest of the year I live in California and write a blog about body image and size and fat acceptance. I was wondering if I could do a short interview with you about your work for my blog? I look forward to hearing from you and hope you say YES! Thanks for your time!
Susan Ruiter: How nice that you come to Holland every year and enjoy it so much! Maybe next year you can visit my studio (near Rotterdam).
Dr. Deah: I appreciate your invitation and would love to! And thank you so much for taking the time and participating in this interview. If you don’t feel like answering all of the questions, I understand. Time is a precious commodity for all of us these days so please feel free to choose which of these questions you would like to answer or if you have something else you would like to say/share with us about your path as an artist please feel free to add it.
Q1: One of the hats I wear is as an Art Therapist. When did you realize that art was important to you as a means of expression. Was there a specific aha moment; or was it a gradual process?
A1: It was a gradual process. I was, from an early age, engaged with creating clothing and art. The style that I am making now was gradually formed. I have been painting these ladies now for 14 years.
Q2: The art work you do is so beautiful, who were some artists who influenced your style?
A2: Thank you! I am most inspired by the world famous artist Ferdinando Botero from Colombia. Only I use round shapes for the colorful ladies and my paintings are always cheerful.
Q3: The shapes and sizes of the women you paint are big and beautiful and feel very positive. Has the subject of body acceptance or size acceptance been a part of your work intentionally? Why do you choose to do paintings of big curvy women?
A3: Why curvy women? My whole life I love to draw and paint people. The preference for women is because they have beautiful curves. A lot of women have beautiful curves somewhere. I like to emphasize them, In a positive way. The women in my paintings are cheerful and positive in life. It is very important to be happy with yourself.
Q4: Do you have any opinions about how the media depicts women’s bodies?
A4: I think it would be good to show more, well-dressed, fuller women in the media.
Q4a: When you wrote that you think it is good for people to be happy with themselves and that the media should draw fuller well dressed women, Do you see yourself as defiant or radical because you are challenging the images that are usually shown of women?
Q5: Do you think that Holland has a more accepting attitude towards diversity of body size for women than The United States?
A5: I can not really give my opinion on that. I think that it is becoming more accepted in Holland. There is more attention for it, even in the clothing industry. There is a difference between beautiful shapes and obesity. It is very important to pay attention to your health.
Q6: There is some research that shows that sometimes an obese person can be healthier than a thin person. Have you heard of anything that supports that theory at all?
A6: Of course, heavier persons are not necessarily unhealthy and there are many unhealthy thin people. Think about smoking, alcohol, etc.. For all these risk groups, special attention is important. It is important that in every person, any size whatsoever, there is something beautiful and does not need to be distracted by the image that the media (often) displays. Self-confidence is one of the best things someone can have.
Q7: Where can people find out more about your work?
Q8: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A8: Almost all of my work consists of original paintings and are constructed with high quality acrylic paints and mediums on heavy linen. There are a few screen prints for sale. This makes my paintings quite scarce and is each painting unique. Three weeks ago I opened my own gallery with new studio space! To celebrate this new beginning I created a number of works that acknowledge Breast Cancer Awareness month, my Pink Ribbon Collection! These will be auctioned off through my website.
Thank you so much Susan. Your work is important and adds some much needed joy to the world! I look forward to visiting your new gallery this summer!
I hope you enjoyed my “chat” with Susan Ruiter. I find her paintings absolutely delightful, what do you think? In the upcoming weeks I will be sharing the works of several other Dutch artists and two activists from the UK!
If you know of anyone you would like to let us know about please share!!!
Til next time,
***OTHER NEWS!!! ON OCTOBER 25TH IN OAKLAND CALIFORNIA*** PLEASE JOIN US FOR THIS ONE DAY EVENT:
NEW TOOLS OLD OPPRESSION
I will be presenting along with: Sonya Renee Taylor, Performance Poet
- Keynote on Weight Stigma by Dr. Deb Burgard
- Diverse Experiences of Weight Stigma: A Panel moderated by Jessica Wilson
- Expressive Arts Activities led by Dr. Deah Schwartz
- Embodiment Explorations facilitated by Fall Ferguson
- A Fat Flash Mob Experience with Juicy D. Light
Location: James C. Irvine Foundation Conference Center, 353 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612 *Registration deadline: Monday, Oct. 20, 2014*
Anyone interested in health, weight, and wellness will find value in Lucy Aphramor and Linda Bacon’s new book: Body Respect: What Conventional Health Books Get Wrong, Leave Out, and Just Plain Fail to Understand about Weight. Whether you are already a proponent of the Health at Every Size® approach, on the fence, or convinced it lacks merit, you are doing yourself a disservice not to read this book from cover to cover. The authors manage to combine their separate voices into one as they deliver the latest most up to date research on the efficacy of HAES®, the importance of a weight neutral approach to wellness, and why we need to give up ineffective fad diets in order to change our natural body types. Bacon and Aphramor resist the temptation of weighing their points of view down in too much rhetoric or “preachy” diatribes and opt to share their research and insights in a casual conversational style. After reading the book, I was delighted to be able to pose some questions to Lucy and Linda about Body Respect and I would like to share their responses with you!
Interview with Lucy Aphramor, with support from co-author Linda Bacon
Q: What would you tell someone who knows nothing about what Body Respect is about, and what would you tell someone who is already familiar with HAES and are wondering why they should read this if they already read Linda’s first book, Health at Every Size?
A: People come to HAES through different routes. Those who have come across HAES as an answer to a lifetime of failed dieting often know HAES through the personal rewards of being at peace with food and our bodies. These readers may be familiar with Linda’s first book and the self-care aspects of HAES covered in detail there. Her fan mail attests to this being life-changing and it offers HAES as a turning point to the emotional havoc wreaked by body shame. It’s an invaluable “how to” for people wanting out from the misery of dieting, teaching mindful eating, enjoyable movement and self-acceptance robustly supported with science.
For others, the appeal of HAES is that it offers a way to bridge this compassionate self-care with attention to social justice. This framing of HAES puts our relationships – with self, other, society and environment – to the forefront when talking health. Now we can help people make sense of how life circumstances influence health outcomes. These readers may be familiar with Lucy’s Well Now course that constructs HAES as a deep movement and will recognize concepts such as allostasis, relational nutrition, active embodiment and binary thinking. In short, Body Respect embraces the three pillars of HAES that support personal change around food, fitness and size acceptance and shows how these apply within a framework that has equity and respect as cornerstones.
Another key difference between the books is their length. Body Respect is intended to be a short, accessible guide, great for quickly getting people on board with HAES. Turn to Linda’s first book for more background storytelling.
Q: Do you have a favorite part of the book?
A: Skip right through to the end section and the story of Janet going to see her HAES nurse practitioner, Billie. You really get a sense for the combined power of compassion and good science in action. The capacity of compassion to move people towards self-care speaks for itself in this vignette. Moreover, we get a feel for how the ethos of non-judgment is fostered by Billie’s approach. First, she helps Janet take her emotional knowing and her other embodied, and everyday life experiences seriously. Second, she draws on the science to arrive at a more accurate, and holistic, explanation of high blood pressure which allows her to offer a response that is more relevant. This response surfaces oppression as a health variable, leading Janet to new insights that help her make sense of her condition and potentially impact her friends and family. This is empowering in the true sense of the word; it offers hope and vision for political action to address inequity. By contrast, the nurse practitioner who treats Janet from a weight-centric view, while just as committed to patient welfare and professional integrity, ends up along a trajectory of blame and shame as the only explanation she can imagine for Janet’s continued raised blood pressure is non-compliance with lifestyle change recommendations. The frustration on both sides is palpable, and the harm occurs directly, through missed opportunity and in the terrible sequelae of silencing and disempowerment that maintain the status quo.
Q: Are you working on any other publications that you would like to let people know about?
A. We’re glad you asked and yes, we’re excited to be working on two further collaborations. One is a revised version of Linda’s first book, updated with new data and behind-the-scenes stories, and presented more as a step-by-step how-to. The book will be easily adaptable for therapy or support groups.
The second is tentatively called, Eat Well: For Yourself and for the World, which delves deeply into nutritional science with chapter headings much along the lines of a typical undergraduate dietetic textbook. No prizes for guessing for some of the things that make it different from comparable mainstream books are a weight science chapter from a HAES perspective, plus attention to sustainability. We’re also concerned with how oppression directly affects individual metabolism and therefore contributes to avoidable discrepancies in health outcomes from conditions misleadingly referred to as “lifestyle” diseases. And it also moves more consciously to use a relational and embodied framework to talk about nutrients and bodies and how we make food choices rather than the reductionist and prescriptive framework commonly adopted in nutrition and dietetic books.
Q: Where and when can people purchase Body Respect?
A. First try your independent local book seller … Failing that, it’s now available in all the “usual places” including Amazon. Our website provides links to the various vendors. There’s also a link for educators considering it as a textbook supplement for adoption. The link for ordering a review copy can be found on Lucy and Linda’s website.
If anyone would like to share their impressions of Body Respect, please feel free to do so in the comments section.
Weight Stigma Awareness Week is coming up on September 22nd. To find out more about it CLICK HERE. In honor of WSAW, anyone who orders Dr. Deah’s Calmanac during that week from my website will receive a free refrigerator magnet with the Sassy Size Acceptance Slogan: “My only weight problem is YOUR problem with my weight!
Til next time,
I originally wrote this post in 2012 and have decided to post it again for two reasons. The first is that I have recently been managing a series of difficult and time consuming family challenges and have not had time to devote to blogging. The second is I am about to have a book reading/ book signing event at A Great Good Place for Books in Oakland, California on July 31st and thought I would give some of my more recent blog subscribers a sample of what I may be reading from the August chapter of The Calmanac. So if you are experiencing a Deah ja Vu fear not…you may have read this post before!
The August Effect
For a month that starts off with National Clown Week, followed by National Smile Week and culminating with American Dance Week (I am not making this up!) one may think the August Effect would be one of laughter, grins, and celebration. And for many it is. But August is also a month of transition. Depending on chronological age and developmental stage, some of us are finally feeling that summer has taken root and are allowing ourselves to relax and embrace the different pace that summer brings. For others, the clock indicating summer’s end is ticking louder and louder. In the past, Labor Day marked the end of summer and the return to school predictably occurred after that final holiday weekend. But now many schools re-open the second or third week of August. Depending on the individual, this may elicit a range of reactions including: excitement, anxiety, relief and or loss. One thing is true for most everyone…at some point in August, for you or someone you know, change is in the air! And change, is not easy for everyone. Whether it entails moving off to college for the first time, starting a new grade, or re-negotiating your daily schedule back to non-summer mode, it can create challenges for those with body image issues and/or eating disorders. Insecurities about fitting in to a new environment may trigger feelings of being out of control. And it is not uncommon that some people feel anxious when confronted with transitions. One way some of us attempt to manage this disequilibrium is to focus more on body dissatisfaction and/or use food as a way to self-soothe and gain a sense of control.
A TIP FROM TURTLES AND SNAILS
Turtles and snails are just two creatures that carry their homes with them where ever they go. They don’t change who they are, based on where they are or what others expect of them. They are symbols of moving slowly and methodically. One helpful strategy to successfully negotiate the August Effect is predicting the feelings associated with the upcoming changes by asking the following questions: What stays the same no matter where you go? What can remind you what your strengths are? What proactive steps will help you manage your anxiety?
In my opinion, let’s take some advice from the turtles and the snails…we are NEVER too old for a transitional object.
In my latest book, Dr. Deah’s Calmanac, I offer a step by step description for creating your own “grown-up” transitional object for times when we feel we are losing our center or our “home” due to changes in our environment or routine. But you may already have something that you just haven’t identified. Is there a word or a phrase that keeps you centered when you feel you are losing your sense of self? Is there a photo, figurine, or piece of jewelry that reminds you to breathe, focus on the positive, and stay present when you are in stressful or unfamiliar situations? Of course human support systems are invaluable and having someone you can call or write to is a great way to manage overwhelming feelings; but having something that is not impacted by cell phone reception or internet connection is much more reliable and helps to build self-sufficiency.
The upcoming changes that late summer and early fall often bring does not have to mean an inevitable relapse, resorting to old habits, or re-introducing negative thought processes especially if you have a strategy to address the situation. One plan that can be helpful is when you are making your check list for school supplies, or returning to work task list etc., is to take a moment and add these two items:
- Predict potential challenges that may be triggered by upcoming transitions.
- Identify your personal transitional object and channel your inner turtle snail…Not to avoid the situations by retreating into your shell, but by knowing you are home where ever you are.
Til next time,
Please SAVE THE DATE!!! On July 31 at 7:00 p.m. I will be doing a reading and book-signing at A Great Good Place for Books, 1620 La Salle Ave. Oakland, CA. Please come join me for laughter, refreshments, and support independent bookstores! Seats are limited so email me at email@example.com and I’ll reserve a space for you!
Trigger warning! Talk about Trigger Warnings!
I was seven years old and playing in the Atlantic Ocean. It was one of those perfect New York summer days, not too humid, not too hot and with the entire summer stretching out in front of me. My mom and sister were on the beach and I was reveling in my newly earned independence having proven that I could be trusted in the waves up to waist. I was so happy that even my goofy sun hat and white zinc Noxema™ covered nose wasn’t making me feel like being a redhead was the worst thing that could have happened to a person EVER! I was watching the waves billowing up the skirt of my bathing suit. Yes I was wearing one of those bathing suits with a skirt that covered my thighs but it was because it was frilly and twirly. Years later I would choose to wear the grown up version of the skirted suit because I was taught it was my job to protect the world from being subjected to my “unsightly” body parts. But that day in 1963 everything was perfect. And then it got better! I looked down and just under the surface of the water I saw a seahorse! I couldn’t believe it! The only other place I had ever seen one was on Jacques Cousteau TV shows or maybe Captain Kangaroo or Diver Dan! I scooped it up in the skirt of my suit with plenty of water and seaweed and ran to our blanket on the beach!
My mom was very supportive, she emptied out a jar of her “iced cawfee” filled it with ocean water and put the seahorse inside with a sprig or two of seaweed. I promptly named it Trigger after Roy Rogers’ horse and Trigger came home with me.
For two days I fed Trigger goldfish food (our goldfish had recently been eaten by our cat…it was an interesting house to grow up in) and then I had to go to the hospital.
It was nothing serious, just a tonsillectomy. But when I came home, my mom had great news and awful news for me. On the upside, I could eat ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner! The bad news was Trigger had died. We buried him next to Cleo (named after Pinocchio’s goldfish…I watched a lot of TV back then) and life went on. I didn’t think about Trigger very often over the years but when I did, it was fondly. One day, however, in my late 30’s, I was at a family gathering. For some reason we were reminiscing about all of the pets we had while I was growing up. We talked about Bootsie, Cleo, Choo Choo, and Shirley Roiter’s boxer that we took care of for a summer whose name escaped all of us. Then I blurted out,
“Do you guys remember Trigger?”
There was a moment of silence and then as if rehearsed, everyone burst into simultaneous laughter. I was a bit confused. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out why Trigger was so funny?
When my sister finally composed herself, she patted my shoulder and said,
“Trigger was dead when you found him.”
I allowed the news to sink in…I had taken care of a dead seahorse for two days! Everyone else knew and they allowed me to still have my fun despite the reality that the only reason Trigger appeared to be alive and joyfully bobbing around his cawfee jar was because of the saline buoyancy in the water and the narrowness of the jar!!!
The sweetness and hilarity ignited my giggle reflex and howling with laughter I thanked them for letting me have my fun. I glanced over towards my two year old son playing with his cousins oblivious to the commotion and said,
“Wow, we spend the first half of our lives hiding things from our kids, and the second half hiding things from our parents!”
Wine was poured and we toasted all of our pets we had loved so dearly that had brought us so much laughter and love over the years.
But why am I reminiscing about Trigger in a body positive self acceptance blog? Because I just read a book that I wanted to review and recommend to people. I really enjoyed the book, but when I thought about what I would write, the whole topic of triggers came up. I grew up in a time when the only trigger I knew about was either on a gun, Roy’s stallion, or my floating dead seahorse…but times have changed and now we live in a culture of trigger warnings. I am a bit conflicted about trigger warnings. I always thought that if something I was reading was upsetting to me I would put it down and find something else to look at. If I happened to be in therapy at the time, I would talk to my therapist about why it upset me so…and use my reaction as material to process to gain insight. I never would have thought it was the author’s job to warn me that their book or article may be triggering. They wrote, I read, I decided to keep reading or not.
On the other hand, I really like the idea of trigger warnings because they feel so caring! Look at how the author wants to protect and take care of the reader! It makes for a real two way communication between writer and reader and provides a safety net that may result in a reader returning to the author’s work knowing that they are protected. But how do i know what to label as triggering? Is there a manual out there? Are there formulas for writers, like film ratings, with criteria for labeling something PG-13 or X rated? Is there an online class in Trigger Theory?
All jokes aside, I am really struggling about how to write this book review. Will I do more harm than good if I write about the book and let people know it may be triggering? After all, I loved the book, triggers and all, and don’t want to hinder sales by writing a review that may deter folks from reading something that I found so relate-able. On the other hand, am I shirking my Trigger Patrol responsibility if I don’t let folks know that the book contains very detailed descriptions of binges and restrictive dieting behaviors as the author shares her journey to recovery from an eating disorder? My mind is going around in circles on this one and I could really use some advice! In the meantime, I am opting to follow the Noodle Theory and “noodle” on this a little longer before writing the review. I am hoping that some of you will share your thoughts about the practice of trigger warnings and any advice you have would be greatly appreciated!
And I am also bracing myself for any comments that come my way about having had a dead pet seahorse for two days and being absolutely clueless. I can handle it!!
Til next time,
Remember that May 6th is International No Diet Day! If you order a copy of the Calmanac from my website I will send you a free refrigerator magnet with the sassy slogan: My only weight problem is YOUR problem with MY weight! If you purchase your copy of the Calmanac from Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, FFF, or MOMTL just send me your order confirmation and I will send you a magnet as well!
If you visit any of the following California Bookstores and purchase a copy of the Calmanac, send me a selfie of you and the book with your mailing address and I will send you a magnet right away! Offer is good until May 20th! (firstname.lastname@example.org)