Fat talk

There’s a really rich and wide-ranging conversation about bodies, food, culture, power, gender, and anti-fat bias over at Ten Percent Happier thanks to Virginia Sole-Smith and her new book, Fat Talk: Parenting In The Age Of Diet Culture

Don’t miss it if you have a body or feed a body or even more importantly, want the small humans in your life to grow up with a good relationship to food and their bodies.

There are so many smart moments to shout out, but highlights for me included:

🍳 The wonderful work of Evelyn Tribole on intuitive eating

🍿 A sociological and historical look at how body size (and race and gender) correlates to power 

🌮 Why you shouldn’t force your kid to eat five more bites of cucumber (aka teaching consent and a sense of internalized bodily trust!)

🥗 Why finding a way to move your body that gives you joy (and that you don’t dread) is way more sustainable than forcing yourself to do a workout you hate

🍝 Why the word “fat” shouldn’t be a slur — and how it can/should be reclaimed in the same way “queer” has been

I’ve been following and appreciating Sole-Smith’s work for years. Her 2018 book, The Eating Instinct: Food Culture, Body Image, and Guilt In America was a smart, thoughtful read (although I admittedly didn’t agree with her on everything), and it’s definitely worth adding to your list.

While you’re at it, check out Aubrey Gordon’s 2020 book, too: What We Don’t Talk About When We Talk About Fat. I love listening to Aubrey’s podcast Maintenance Phase and super appreciate her voice on social justice as related to anti-fatness, bodies of all sizes, health, power, and calling bullshit on much of “wellness culture.” 

January can be such a shitty time for cultivating body acceptance and/or body neutrality, as there’s so much cultural noise out there telling people to control, regulate, Botox, manipulate, and shrink their bodies in service of the new year.

So it’s a great chance to counter the narrative. Just borrowed both of these from the library on my Libby app.

Your turn! 

Kale Chip meditation

I’ve been making kale chips like it’s my job. 🥬

It’s a super high-maintenance pain in the ass and a totally wonderful moving meditation.

Kale is weirdly impossible to find at supermarkets in Switzerland. You can’t get it anywhere. (What I would give for those cheesy kale chips they used to sell at Trader Joe’s.)

So when the community garden up the street set out a few bunches of Federkohl at the little roadside veggie stand, you’d better believe we jumped on that shit. I grabbed both for 2 CHF each, put my little coins in the Kasse, and triumphantly marched home to show my family.

Kale chips take forever to make and you eat the whole batch in like five minutes. They are such an investment. But a worthy one.

🥬 Wash the kale. (Right away, so you don’t get cute garden bugs all over your kitchen.)

🥬 One by one, tear the kale off the thick stems into small chip-size pieces. Put them in a bowl.

🥬 Salad-spin those puppies to get all the water off. They’re still not dry, so you have to lay them out one by one on a towel on your kitchen counter. Because wet kale = soggy chips.

🥬 Leave them out to dry for literally hours.

🥬 Come back later and drizzle a little avocado oil over them. Massage it all over the leaves. Every last bit. (This is where it starts to feel really meditative. Well, the tearing part too.)

🥬 Spread them out on baking trays. Sprinkle liberally with salt and garlic.

🥬 Bake at 150° C (sorry fellow Americans, I’ve gone to the dark side and don’t know what that would be in F. Google it.) You have to check them every minute after about 7 minutes. And then every 30 seconds. Because they go from soggy to burned in a flash.

🥬 Rotate the trays in the oven constantly. Like you would watch your toddler in Venice. Never looking away.

🥬 Finally take them out. Check that they’re crispy. Sprinkle on nutritional yeast to get that cheesy flavor.

🥬 Eat half of them stealthily as you call your family over. Then proudly watch your kid inhale three trays’ worth and bask in the knowledge that for one shining moment you are a superior parent because he is eating something green.

A quiet corner of Chicago O’Hare

I had a six-hour layover in Chicago, so did what any yoga teacher would do: wandered the terminal until I found a deserted corner and then plopped my ass on the floor for a few surreptitious stretches. Ahhh. A necessary balm for the 21-hour journey.

Des Moines International was quieter. The tiny airport felt like all sky, and old carpet, and silence.

I was in Iowa last weekend, unexpectedly, for a heartbreaking family funeral. There is immeasurable suffering in the world right now — Gaza, Israel, Maine — but this slice of heartbreak was particularly tragic, for its youth. I was so grateful to be able to make the trip, and to spend hours in community and conversation with my family — in the same time zone, for once.

Distance from loved ones is one of the hardest parts about living abroad. I think there’s a perception that expat life is all roses, all the time; so many people have casually remarked about our “life in paradise” over the years. It is often wonderful, yes. And I know I’ve subconsciously not shared a lot about our life here in Switzerland out of fear of people resenting me, especially in those first few years when Trump was still President and we had managed to escape, when so many others wished for the same and couldn’t.

But this is one hard thing. Wanting to be with your people when they’re suffering, and being so damn far away. I was fortunate to be able to return this time around. But I feel increasingly aware of those inevitable realities of life that Buddhist teachings highlight so clearly: illness, aging, and death. They come for all of us. And they are as much a part of life as the highlight-reel moments.

Yoga and meditation are practices designed to work with suffering, both in body and mind. They’ve been largely co-opted by Shiny Happy People wearing stretchy workout gear and spouting bullshit about abundance and manifestation. But thankfully, these practices go so much deeper than that.

I love how portable they are. A towel on the hotel room floor for a yoga mat. Legs up the wall in Terminal 5. Box breathing on the plane.

Atha yoga anusasanam. Now is (always) the time for the yoga to begin.

Prana

In yoga philosophy, the Sanskrit word prana means “life force.” It’s the spirit that drives you. Energy moving through. 

Sometimes it’s just not there, right? Last week Switzerland roasted under a massive heat wave. We all felt drained and sweaty and blah after endless days of 95° heat and humidity.

When cooling rain finally set in Friday night, it was like the whole country went “Ahhhhhh!!” And now, as the mist continues, our garden looks lush and green and renewed — and my body feels the same way.

PRANA.

We all do things, consciously and not, in our daily lives to feel more awake (or, in yogic terms, to increase our prana). We sing, or eat nourishing food, or dance, or play drums in an 80s band, or hang out with babies, or garden, or paint. And that’s great, because ultimately, we all want to feel more alive. 

Especially if you are currently spending 8 or 10 or 12 hours in front of a computer in a cubicle in some measly office building off a concrete highway.

For me, a regular yoga asana practice makes all the difference — even if that’s just five minutes a day. Paired with walks in the forest near our home, I feel rejuvenated and connected and alive. That time is nature is essential. 

What can you do today to increase your prana? It doesn’t have to be fancy. A quick puddle walk just might do the trick. 

You Are Your Own Best Teacher

I’ve been re-reading Tricia Hersey’s recent book Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto, and loving her emphasis on Womanist and Black liberation theologies.

This line jumped out at me today. ✨

It’s a version of something I often say in yoga class: Remember that you are your own best teacher, and you know your body better than anyone else. So take what I say with a grain of salt, and trust your own deep knowing as you move through your practice.

Did you grow up learning this sense of embodied trust in your own faith tradition? 🥴 Reclaiming it can be super hard for those of us who didn’t. (Ahem, Christianity.)

But that’s why I love the yogic (and Black Womanist, and ecofeminist) traditions. They cultivate that sense of inherent bodily goodness; of radical wholeness; of the fact that our bodies are wise and holy and strong, just as they are.

Grateful for theologians like Hersey who are spreading this powerful wisdom on a global scale. 🪷

Ruhezeit

In Switzerland, you can’t vacuum on a Sunday. You can’t mow your lawn or wash your car. (Unless you want to risk a hefty fine, or a cranky neighbor.)

The grocery stores are all closed, so you’d better stock up on Saturday, because you won’t be picking up any last-minute burger buns or an extra six-pack for your barbecue.

It’s Ruhezeit.

That’s German for rest period. Off-season. Quiet time.

The same rules apply from 10pm-6am. (Don’t shower or flush your toilet overnight.)

And from 12-1pm on weekdays. Craftspeople stop working. Children nap. Shops close. Put your brass instruments away and chill out for an hour over lunch.

We are loud Americans, and so of course we often forget this. Especially when we first moved here. We felt so. damn. loud.

After nearly five years, though, Ruhezeit feels pretty damn good. It’s like a collective cultural savasana.

On Sundays, instead of shopping or working, Swiss folks go hiking — in stark contrast to Americans’ Costco runs. They ramble along village streets for family walks, toddlers wheeling by on balance bikes. They sit on their terraces and watch the neighbors stroll past.

Something about this all feels so healthy, and balanced, and SANE. Simple. Conscious. (Especially the part about not shopping.) Being together, in their bodies, out in nature.

This Sabbath practice originated in Jewish and Christian traditions, but it continues, even as Swiss culture grows ever more agnostic.

There’s a lot of buzz lately about the idea that in white supremacist capitalist culture, rest is resistance. This is so true. (Thanks, @thenapministry.)

Ruhezeit reminds me that, quite simply, rest is also just HUMAN. And I’m grateful for this enforced weekly quiet, even as we still sometimes blow it using the blender for smoothies at 7am or hollering too loudly over a FIFA23 victory goal.

Find your off-season. Your Ruhezeit.

Take your savasana. Whatever that looks like. 🪷

Belly

I use this word a lot in my yoga classes — purposely.

BELLY. 🪷

Because it’s a great one to make friends with. Normalize. Welcome.

“Soften your belly like a nice loose Buddha belly.”

“Bend your knees so much you can press your belly into your thighs.”

“Hug your belly toward your spine to stabilize.”

“I like to move my foot to the right a few centimeters in this pose to make room for my belly.”

And so on.

BELLY. 🪷

Say it. Love it. Embrace it.

Twice a week I teach yoga to my kid’s soccer team. The other night I had them lie back on the turf in Supta Baddha Konasana and place both hands on their bellies, and say “Thank you, belly.”

They giggled. A lot.

It was so sweet and silly. And gentle.

Can you be a little more sweet, and silly, and gentle with yours? ✨

Queer theory meets yoga philosophy

June #pridemonth always has me marveling at the incredible overlaps between queer theory and yoga philosophy. 🏳️‍🌈✨🏳️‍⚧️

Take these, for starters:

🌈 An emphasis on fluidity and non-essentialism

🌈 The sense that our identities are always and ever unfolding

🌈 A deep valuing of embodied experience as a source of wisdom

🌈 The notion that your body and your desires are inherently GOOD

🌈 A spirit of playfulness and camp. In Sanskrit, this looks like the word “leela”, meaning “divine play”

🌈 A history of folks who’ve consciously lived on the margins, outside of heteronormative nuclear family models

🌈 A countercultural spirit

🌈 A celebration of individuality

🌈 The value of relaxing into authenticity; dropping all masks

🌈 A rejection of dualistic binaries (though yoga still has much to unpack in this regard: the tired sun/moon, ida/pingala categories we use in hatha yoga desperately need to be queered)

If you want to check out some examples of queer theorists’ work, dig into:

✨ Judith Butler

✨ Adrienne Rich

✨ E. Patrick Johnson

✨ Angela Davis

✨ David Halperin

✨ Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

✨ Audre Lorde

✨ and so many more I haven’t mentioned here

Who are your latest favorites? Love to hear.

Let’s weave it together, breath by breath, pose by pose

I hope my yoga and meditation classes might bring you back home to the truth that your childhood religious experiences may have taken from you: that, at heart,

🪷 You are whole.

🪷 Your body is good.

🪷 You can trust it.

🪷 Your spirit is wise.

🪷 Your heart is vast and spacious, far beyond any particular tradition.

🪷 Our lives are impermanent and fleeting, and we’re all gonna die, so we might as well cut the crap and learn how to really do this thing well while we’re here.

🪷 You and I and all of us are caught up in an interconnected interfaith web of being that no toxic patriarchal theology can take away.

Let’s weave it together, breath by breath, pose by pose.

Chop wood, carry water

Wash the dishes, fold the laundry, clean the toilets, make the bed: all of those unsexy, stereotypically “women’s work” kinds of household chores. Ugh, right?

Well, Zen Buddhism says: f*ck yeah!! Scrub the toilets! That’s what it’s all about!! Enlightenment is never anywhere but right here, in our breathing, heaving, sweating, scrubbing bodies.

These menial tasks can be a pain in the ass, or they can be moving meditations. You decide.

Most importantly: our bodies are central to the whole deal. White patriarchal Christianity encourages us to leave them by the wayside. Don’t.

Let these Zen perspectives remind you that embodiment resides at the heart of everything holy — where everything sacred begins.