Beyond the Filters of Human Decency

Back during JALC’s first lifespan, I took some small enjoyment from watching my WordPress dashboard to see what sorts of google searches brought readers to my posts. (I even used that as an excuse for a quick one-liner-type post way back when.) Google has since redone its programming, so there’s much less of that possible on JALC’s current life cycle.

Nowadays, most everything is hidden behind an “unknown search terms” privacy curtain. I haven’t the slightest level of understanding as to why certain terms making it out from behind the curtain to appear on my dashboard, but since I know the dashboard list is a mysteriously reduced and redacted version of the “real” list, I just haven’t really paid that dashboard feature much attention this time around.

Until I got back form my trip Sunday night and saw a new phrase in that screen field:

we hate ragen chastain

In case you don’t know, Ragen Chastain is a fat activist, someone I would say is out helping lead the movement. She has a book, an active speaking calendar and is currently co-organizing an online Fat Activism Conference that will take place from August 22-24. And she has a blog, a blog that is one of my go-to sources to continue expanding my awareness and evolving my thinking around fat acceptance and health at every size.

I would wager that Chastain and I wouldn’t see eye to eye on everything. For example, my guess is that she would consider my recent HCG journey simply to be a capitulation to diet culture, even though I contextualized it for myself as a detox experience. And, you know what? If she did have some questions about my motivations, and how mixed they might have been, I can respect that. ‘Cos Gaia knows, I had to do a lot of my own inner discernment to keep unwinding my old weight loss programming so that I could keep the goals of my HCG journey distinct from losing weight. And the uncomfortable reality is that no matter how hard I worked to keep my own focus in the detox lens, my decision to do HCG meant that I financially supported a company that makes its living off of diet culture, women’s insecurity, and size policing. (Ugh.)

So yeah, I can respect how Chastain and I might have differing opinions on some things. But the level of puzzlement and shock I felt about that search term being used to find this blog is largely driven by the great level of respect I feel for Chastain, her work, her voice. (My best guess, looking back at my old posts, is that the phrase must have made contact with one of my own FA/HAES rants where I quoted one of Chastain’s posts and then talked about “hating” some fat-shaming shenanigan-or-other.)

SPmobThe other piece of my upset about having been, even ever-so-peripherally, connected to that phrase is the general sense of despair and discouragement I feel about the ugly way that people treat each other, out here on the Interweb.

Often, I see the most virulent, soul-staining ugliness in misogynist response to feminist writing of some sort or other. For further commentary on this subject, see Chastain’s blog, Shakesville, Jezebel, Pacific Standard, Forbes, and the Washington Post.* To quote Shakesville:

Every time, the people with whom I share this experience express shock. It is always, always, a surprise that a woman who does public advocacy is subjected to this sort of abuse.

And it shouldn’t be. Because every single woman I know who does public advocacy is subjected to it. . . .

And then we are told not to talk about it. We are told that we empower the people who do this to us. No. NO. Victims do not empower abusers. People who refuse to acknowledge that abuse do. People who tell victims to be silent do.

I am not going to be silent. I am tired of people being surprised. I am tired of hearing “I’m sorry this happens to you.” I don’t want shock and I don’t want pity.

I want your fucking awareness and I want your fucking anger.

I want us to talk about the real costs of being a woman who does public advocacy. I want us to acknowledge how the costs of providing a safe space is that we stand on the line and absorb massive amounts of abuse. I want us to make noise about the people who create an atmosphere in which women are discouraged from participation.

And I want people to stop telling me to be quiet about it.

In addition to the politicized, misogynist harassment, there’s the general garden-variety flavors of awfulness.

Actress Zelda Williams, daughter of comedy great Robin Williams who died Monday from an apparent suicide, has quit social media after receiving taunts from Internet trolls.

Williams abandoned her Twitter and Instagram accounts Tuesday after saying at least two people were sending her Photoshopped images of her father’s dead body and other disturbing messages.

“I’m sorry. I should’ve risen above,” she wrote in her final tweet. “Deleting this from my devices for a good long time, maybe forever. Time will tell. Goodbye.”

The episode proves that, with the anonymity of the Internet, some people will be horrible no matter the situation. (CNN)

buffy_hush1Though I don’t know enough of the facts to say this for sure, I can’t help wondering whether Williams’s daughter was receiving more online harassment than his two sons, and whether she was targeted for that higher level of harassment because — well, because we live in a fucking kyriarchy, that’s because. And if my vague suspicions are true, well then there’s a very fine line indeed between “garden-variety” Internet awfulness and the misogynist endeavor to silence women’s voices.

I don’t often use the word “hate” to describe my feelings for people. Cultural trends, political positions, social patterns, even individual actions — those I’ll use the term for often enough, but not so much for referencing an individual person, in their entirety. So suffice it to say that I’m really kinda hating the way that JALC was connected (however temporarily, however peripherally) to someone on just that sort of hate-filled trip.

* PS– Am I the only one who found it odd that the WaPo’s main angle was to talk about how online harassment was viewed by or affecting the female writer’s male partner? I’m not saying, I’m just saying…

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Image credits: 

South Park: http://designaterobertson.blogspot.com/2012/05/your-south-park-tigers.html

Buffy: http://mentalunlockdown.com/2014/04/19/hush-ed-or-hearthstones-positive-result-from-the-gentlemens-visit/

Cruise Control

So one of the things that cruises are notorious for —

Wait, did I ever mention that The Trip was a cruise? I can’t recall and I’m too damn lazy to go look it up. In case this is new news, and just to get this down on the record: The Trip was a cruise.

Display on the first cruise day, in the Windjammer (the buffet restaurant)So anyhow, one of the things that cruises are notorious for is the quantity and quality of the food you’re served. Actually, I’m not enough of a hard-cross cruise traveler to know whether all cruises are known for having good food, or if it’s more like the same rep an all-you-can-eat Vegas buffet has: food that’s notable  more for the available amount than for the flavor profile. (Even if most cruise ships have food that’s more adequate than exceptional, the ship we were on is on this list of the “best cruise ships for foodies,” so trust me when I say that not only was there tons of food available, it was tasty, tasty stuff.)

Now, there’s a whole lot of rhetoric out there about how it’s inevitable to gain weight on a cruise, with various fat-panic/fat-shaming suggestions on how to approach that “problem.” For example:

  1. controlling your on-ship behavior to minimize weight gain
  2. doing a little prophylactic weight loss ahead of time to build your “buffer zone”
  3. going on x, y, or z post-vacation diet plan
  4. deliberately infecting yourself with a parasite or the norovirus in order to stay skinny

(Okay, maybe I made that last one up. And, for once, no, I won’t be providing links to sources. I don’t feel like actively participating in Diest Culture, and you can find this kind of shit so easily with the simplest of google searches.)

It was an interesting comparison across the years, thinking back to the first-ever cruise Mr. Mezzo and I took back in 2007, right when I was at the verge of learning about fat acceptance and adopting that perspective for myself and my worldview. That first cruise also had lots of good food. I indulged, and I know I gained weight — though at this distance, I can’t recall what the number was. And I felt so ashamed for all of it. For my lack of dietary discipline, for my laziness in not becoming a cruise-ship gym-rat, and then for my inability to diet and lose the weight after I got back on land.

martinisThis time around, I decided adamantly against imbibing a guilt-and-shame chaser with any of the meals, martinis, or desserts I had while vacationing. I have no idea if my food was any less rich or sugar-laden this time around as in ’07. (I’d guess not much appreciable difference, then and now.) But I do know I’m feeling lots better than I did 7 years ago — if for no other reason than the fact that I’m not mired deep in a self-shaming and self-punishment cycle. ‘Cos honestly, when I let those voices loose in my head, it’s never to my benefit. Spiritually, emotionally, or physically.

Having said that, I am feeling a bit logy after-the-fact. I’m guessing, based on my HCG experience from the spring, that I’m mostly feeling the after-effects of the dramatic uptick in added sugar during those two weeks (read: desserts, martinis and Belgian chocolate). And I’m kind of fascinated by the way, as far as I can tell, that my spring detox journey helped me more attuned to my body so I could notice this change, but my history of fat acceptance work and my ongoing growth around overall self-acceptance has in a place where I’m not upset or blaming myself about it.

belgian-chocolateInstead, I’m just quietly moving back to some of the cooking routines and rituals I used during the spring, adopting something that’s closer to “clean eating” than I was doing recently. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not on some extreme ascetic kick. Beyond my own natural sense of fullness, I am setting zero limits on the quantity of food I’m eating.  I’m even having a little taste of “added sugar” each night after dinner (I say again: Belgian chocolate. You don’t think we were coming home without a small stash of that to enjoy, did you?)

I’m just trying to listen to my body. And if my body is craving greens and chicken rather than my cruise staples of pasta and red meat, I’ma good with that.

Plus a little of that Belgian chocolate. Yummy and absolutely guilt-free.

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Image credits:

Fruit buffet: http://forsythfamily.com/caribbeancruise.htm

Martinis: http://zynkah.hubpages.com/hub/10-Best-Flavored-Martini-Recipies

Chocolate: http://www.moonlight-mile.com/belgian-chocolate/

 

 

 

 

Tempted by Convention

Mr. Mezzo and I spent the weekend up at the lake house with my Mom. One of the benefits of moving to Boston was the fact that we can have more regular weekend access to the place, so the promising weather forecast made it seem like a great time for the first visit of the season. Besides, what with yesterday being the fifth anniversary of my father’s way-sudden passing, it just felt best for Mom to have company rather than to be left alone with possibly-gloomy thoughts.

feelings-pieNot that we talked about any of that. Not the anniversary, not about my motivations for coming up this weekend, not about what she might be feeling/remembering, not about my own feelings and memories. None of that was discussed.

Though truth be told, I didn’t expect anything different on that score. There’s a reason for all those cliches about emotionally reticent, laconic New Englanders. And the superficiality of conversation among families in the corporate/country club set.

But I did tell Mr. Mezzo, as we were breezing through the Hampton Tolls Friday night, that I was wondering whether Mom would say anything about my weight loss. After all, if my body looks different enough for hairdressers and co-workers to notice, one would think that the change would be obvious enough for one’s own flesh and blood to be aware.

Mr. Mezzo predicted that she wouldn’t say anything. At least, he figured she wasn’t going to bring up the topic independently. As he explained it to me when I asked, he thought she might say something if the subject came up organically, but he knew he wasn’t gonna bring it up, and he knew for damn sure I wasn’t gonna bring it up. So, he concluded, silence was likely to rule.

I wasn’t so sure. Yes, she’s been nice and polite about not nagging me for becoming fat, but it felt like there might be a chance of her going to the super-enthusiastic place about how much better I look now, how great it is that I’ve finally gotten thinner — the kind of compliments I wrote about previously, and the kind which would inspire an internal wry smile and a silent monologue about “Oh, so there’s the judgement about my body type she’s been polite enough to keep hidden all this time.”

So I just wasn’t sure whether or not the topic would come up, and then I wasn’t entirely sure how explicitly I was going to talk about my detox journey if the topic arose. (Somehow, I don’t imagine my mother being all that open to the subject. I rather imagine her being in the whole narrow-minded Industrial Age “quackwatch” kind of place.)

But when all was said and done, I needn’t have wasted any time wondering or rehearsing what I might say. Because Mr. Mezzo’s prognostication won out and the topic of my body shrinkage remained as subterranean as any consideration of my father’s passing.

I am mostly deeply relieved at that turn of events.

But I am aware of a small part in me that is disappointed.

I get it. I know I still carry a small kernel of my younger self with me, that little girl who naturally wishes for her parents to show their affection and approval.* And even if there’s lots of reasons that I find compliments about weight loss to be deeply problematic, I know my mom’s not even remotely aware of FA/HAES, and she’s really not likely to be agreeing with that perspective. So, that part of me which yearns for acknowledgement would kinda sorta be okay with taking in a problematic compliment, because sometimes that feels better than no compliment at all.

[SIDEBAR] There’s also a whole other angle in contemplating how deep the cultural programming around body size goes. Kate Harding once wrote about the “cognitive dissonance” phase of the fat acceptance journey, “thinking it made perfect sense that the OBESITY CRISIS hype was way overblown, and even if it weren’t, dieting doesn’t work anyway — but still wanting to lose weight.” And Cat observes that for a fat person to want to lose weight “is the sane choice when you live in a world that finds you disgusting.” So, I also wonder if there’s a piece of me that would kinda sorta be okay with weight loss compliments on account of the residual weight of all that cultural baggage. [/SIDEBAR]

So whichever way you slice it, there’s lots of feels, some of it self-contradictory. ‘Twas ever thus.

* I’m guessing I’m not the only one, but I’m not going to assume I know about anyone’s soul but my own.

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Image credit: http://static.someecards.com/someecards/usercards/MjAxMy1jYzgzZjk3NDA2YWRiODA1.png

Completion

Celebrating a Finish Line

I’ve talked before about how I’m not thinking of the end of my HCG journey as some sort of arrival at a mythical “I never need to think about detoxing again” kind of place. Nonetheless, a former co-worker of mine always talked about how necessary it is to celebrate the finish lines you achieve. Yes, there’s always a next thing, next task, next project right around the corner, and that deserves attention and energy. But it’s also essential to honor the tasks/things/projects you’re able to complete, and honor yourself for being able to complete them.

Completion
http://www.learntarot.com/todesc.htm

And tonight is a moment where I may not have reached the finish line on my detox journey, but it certainly have reached a finish line. Because today was my last day under the post-HCG dietary restrictions, meaning that I have successfully navigated through and to the end of this nine-week experience.

So: yay.

Though no exclamation point on that, because I am decidedly of mixed feelings.

I am truly proud to have accomplished this, to have found the self-care and discipline to live within the rules of the protocol. I am also looking forward to releasing the strictness of these rules — to being able to start weaving grains, legumes, and carbohydrates back into my diet. (In fact, I think there may be a batch of my famous three-bean “chili” to cook up some time soon…)

I am grateful for the opportunity to get a clearer sense of the distinction between physical and emotional hungers, though there’s another post to write about how I don’t actually think “emotional hunger” or “emotional eating” are necessarily a bad thing. Even though I’d sort of known about this already, it was truly shocking for me to really see and understand the quantity of foods that have added sugar in them, and I’m going to try and limit my intake of added sugars as I move forward.

From an energetic perspective, I am also glad to have taken this HCG journey. Obviously, as last night’s post revealed, I still have many ways in which I am limited and lots of places to keep learning and growing. But it does sense as if the nurturance in this experience — the role of HCG as a sort of “mother vitamin,” allowing myself to be supported by the center and my coaches, practicing maturity and self-care — has really helped take my victim identity off-line. Some significant piece of chronic resentment and suppressed rage that I’ve been carrying with me for rather a while seems to have resolved itself.

Ultimately, though, I also feel slightly embarrassed at the notion of being too proud about this “accomplishment.” Because, honestly, it wasn’t that difficult an experience to go through for these months.

Still: there were some moments of difficulty here and there, and I did manage to weather them. So, honor the finish line, honor myself for getting there, and much honor to Spirit and to my teachers for aiding my way on the path.

water well

The Well of Intuition

This great power, intuition, is composed of lightning-fast inner seeing, inner hearing, inner sensing, and inner knowing.

Over generations, these intuitive powers became as buried streams within women, buried by disuse and unfounded charges of disrepute. . . . I think we can be confident that things lost in the psyche are all still there. So, too, this well of women’s instinctual intuition has never been lost, and whatever is covered over can be brought back out again.

~~ Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves, 76

Although my focus with the HCG journey was on detoxing rather than the usually-marketed weight loss routine, I will admit that I wondered whether the experience would support me in being able to move more fully towards intuitive eating. After all, the dietary regimen has given me a chance to get out of the habit of processed food, and I also had lots of opportunity to study the ways that my hungers are sometimes more about emotional needs than actual physical sustenance.

However, having been out of my dietary/cooking routines during the four days of the retreat, I’m not sure that intuitive eating thing has really kicked in. Instead, I can recall several moments when I kept eating — taking cashew after cashew out of the bag for a snack, or going back for that extra little bit of egg salad at lunchtime — well past the point of physical hunger. Responding instead to emotional tension or anxiety.

I don’t say this out of some self-flagellating, confessional instinct. After all, as I’ve said before (and will surely say again and again): I am not striving for a perfection movement.

What instead interests me is the awareness that I don’t yet have a lot of faith in my ability to eat intuitively.

Or, quite honestly, in any level of my intuition.

water well
http://brianmercerbooks.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/when-the-well-runs-dry-part-1/

The concluding movement from the weekend was a highly creative and individualized one, a movement that very much asked us to tune into our intuition. And although I have enough admiration for Clarissa Pinkola Estes that I will not choose to argue with her when she suggests that the well of intuition can always be mined and revived, I still gotta say that my intuition is feeling pretty far underwater.

I’m still too much trapped in my brain, caught up in the fear of “getting it wrong” to have the kind of surrender, the clear channel that allows my intuitive wisdom to come to the fore. And, as with my witnessing around those “extra” cashews, I am trying to name this in the spirit of honest self-examination rather than in a blaming/shaming tone. ‘Cos that sort of beat-up is the same kind of mind voice and ego eruption as the ones that kept me bottled up during the weekend.

Now I know, even in my self-imposed containment, I had some small offerings of intuition to make. And I also take some comfort in trusting that my faith and believing were contributions of their own flavor — perhaps an energetic support to those individuals who were more able to open up their creativity and intuitive insights.*

Still, it’s an area where I can keep studying, an area I can look to grow and express more fully. Which is why I started listening to the audiobook of Women Who Run With the Wolves during this morning’s commute. It’s probably well past time for me to become acquainted with this classic of feminist spirituality.

* Yeah, I know: coming up with this kind of justification to feel better about my contribution does serve also as a between-the-lines admission that, however much I’m trying to stay in witnessing rather than in self-castigation, there’s a little bit of that “mad at myself” piece going on. So, yeah: that happened.

The Value of a Wasted Day

Yesterday was somewhat rich with errands — Mr. Mezzo has a quick trip for family business today and tomorrow, so we were trying to get a full weekend’s amount of usefulness crammed into the single day. Then in the evening, I went into the final, most intense steps for the gall bladder flush, which consist of a couple of doses of Epsom salts to help “clear out” the system (as it were), and then a grapefruit juice/olive oil cocktail to encourage the gall bladder to release any accumulated stones in there.*

I had a fair amount of discomfort during the overnight hours, and thus far, there hasn’t been much in the way of internal “movement,” if you get my drift. (I had kinda hoped this particular issue would complete itself once I finished the damn HCG shots, but oh well.) So that’s been my excuse to take it kind of easy today.

There’s certainly things I could (should) be doing. I have a retreat weekend coming up starting early morning Thursday, and supposed appointments Tuesday and Wednesday nights, so I could very well be packing and getting organized. Alternately, I could be doing some UNpacking down in the basement, since I’ve lost some momentum there with last weekend’s concert and next weekend’s out-of-townness. And then there’s always the usual rounds of grocery shopping, cleaning and decluttering, checkbook-balancing, and so on and so forth.

I dare say those laundry lists of things are remaining undone. After all, if at 7 PM the most ambitious things you’ve managed with your day is to take a shower and start a load of laundry, there’s not a whole lot else that can happen at this point.**

Make-A-Deal-Doors
http://mathfest.blogspot.com/2008/04/monty-hall-probability-problem-in-news.html

I’ve had wasted days like this before. More than I’d like to admit. But tonight, rather than sliding into my usual funk of self-flagellation, I’m trying to be more at peace with my inaction. My choices at the moment seem to be either (1) stew in guilt and self-castigation for the next few hours, making my evening pretty darn miserable and undoing whatever self-care has been accomplished by such a relaxing day; OR (2) show myself some self-acceptance, trust in the rightness of my system needing/wanting rest today, and enjoying what few hours of awake time I have remaining for my Sunday.

So, as a change of pace, I’m going to try for Door #2. Perhaps I’ll get a little bit more done. Perhaps — probably — I won’t. Either way, that’s going to be okay.

(There’s also a whole side conversation that could be had about the types of hard work I am doing these days — between the HCG journey and this gall-stones cleanse, I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into detoxing and that level of growth. Never mind the preparations going on for this upcoming retreat weekend. Perhaps it’s okay that some more “traditional” modes of self-care are being underplayed while I put my energy towards some things that are less readily observed but nonetheless crucially important.)

* No, it wasn’t quite as disgusting as you’d imagine. Close, but not quite.

** Especially if one is a Game of Thrones watcher and needs to be ready for that come 9’o’clock.

Plate of hummus with veggies and pita chips

Transitional Thoughts

So the shots are done, the super-low-calorie transition days are behind me, and I’m now officially into the next (final?) phase of the HCG experience.

A few vignettes, mostly food-related:

———-

Plate of hummus with veggies and pita chipsI had understood that sugars, grains, breads, and starchy veggies (corn, carrot, potatoes) were all still forbidden during this phase. What I didn’t wake up to until yesterday was that things like beans, lentils, and chickpeas are also verboten. So my fantasies of enjoying celery sticks with hummus or making a batch of my three-bean chili are on hold for another few weeks.

———-

I’m trying to get a bit more understanding of the body sensations around hunger and satiation. At this stage of the protocol, there’s no limits on the amount of food you can have — just a strong recommendation to be conscious of eating only till you’re full, rather than going into any addictive eating patterns.

Being aware of actual hunger and stopping points is something I haven’t always (often?) been paying attention to in the last couple years, so it’s kind of a new sensation.

———-

Now that I don’t have to monitor my portions so obsessively, Mr. Mezzo and I can go back to doing some cooking together. Which is a nice return to form.

We’re probably going to use my HCG cookbook for a good stretch of these weeks. The flavors are good, we can figure out how to adjust the portions to make things with a full package of chicken or beef, and that way we’ll know that I’m avoiding sugars and starches like I’m supposed to.

———-

I’ll be doing a gall bladder/liver cleanse late next week into the weekend. The first step of that? Cutting all oils and fats out of your diet for a few days.  Just a few days after I was allowed to bring them back into my diet after a six-week break.

Yeah, there’s some flavor of irony to that.

———-

The first use of Chapstick was every bit as blissful as I had hoped it would be.

———-

I am astonished to see the sheer quantity of foods that have added sugar in them. It took me a LONG time reading labels at Whole Foods to find mustard, spaghetti sauce, salad dressing and almond butter that don’t have added sugars and are thus permissible to me right now.

I still haven’t found any ketchup or flavored yogurt that would work.

Even though I haven’t been strongly focused on this detox movement as a way to “create healthier eating habits” for myself, I had been quietly toying in the back of my mind with the notion of making this experience the starting point for a longer-term reduction in the quantity of added sugar in my life.

On the one hand, my recent label-reading has me thinking that could be a really important step, considering all the hidden ways sugar’s been pushed into the cultural system. On the other hand, there’s a whiny child part of me that’s feeling annoyed with how hard it’s going to be if I do keep moving towards sugar reduction, because of all the ways it’s hidden in the food supply.

———-

I have not succumbed to old addictions by coating myself with cheese sauce. Yet.

But I am so making some form of cheese omelette for myself this weekend.

I also have fantasies of getting a Dunkin’ Donuts iced coffee — no flavor, no sweetener, just ice coffee and cream. If I add my own Stevia drops, I think that might just be within my new set of restrictions.

———-

Image credit: http://naturalnoshing.wordpress.com/2012/01/01/black-eyed-pea-hummus/