Saturday, September 7, 2013

Weighty Issues

Me, Liking Food (and the Vikings)

Me, Surrounded by Treats
Savoring Food with Family
And I Smoke & Drink
Confidence is Beautiful (Washburn Dancers)
I Know Where Good Food Lives
Celebrating Good Food & Drinks
Know Your Value (It's Not Your Size)
Before I can fully close the door on August 2013, I have some weight to get off my chest. But I’m not here to talk about my body or the number on the back of my underwear. Quite frankly, it’s none of your business. You don’t know my challenges, limitations and issues. Instead, I’m going to stand up for self-acceptance.

No pun intended, but the healthiest place I ever worked was at a natural food co-op. What amazes me is that in the near 12 years that I worked there (and I still write and edit for the business), no one ever whispered to me that I “should lose weight.” Diversity was cultivated; choices were honored. People got to know each other, their stories, passions and favorite foods.

Most of my co-workers had a healthy body dialog, meaning that we could converse about food on many levels without judgment. One fellow manager talked about eating green bananas, while another talked about the low glycemic properties of bananas and yet another advised eating bananas for countering leg cramps. Our deli made the world’s best banana cake.

Some people brought in pizzas and others asked questions, like “What’s good about chia seeds?” Some staff made changes and had dramatic results by committing to lifestyles, such as going gluten-free or only eating raw foods. One deli worker told me that she eliminated all sweets unless she committed to baking them herself. Vegetarians and omnivores sat down at the table together.

Food is complex, especially why we eat what we eat. We are influenced by culture, family, media, religion, friends and impulses we may not fully comprehend. Mixed messages confuse more than educate. Moralizing about food is shaming; ask anybody who is recovering from an eating disorder or a body-obsession.

My recovery was to embrace “good food.” I grew up fearing food and how it like to stick with me, yet feeling shamed by my ability to smell, taste and eat. I breast-fed each of my children to give them the healthiest start I could. It meant I had to eat healthy food. Then I made sure they had variety and access to whole foods. That meant cooking and baking, which I got really good at. Even when I felt so, I never used the f-word to describe my body. I didn’t want my children to grow up hearing that despicable word.

By the time I got to the co-op, my mind was open to learn about organic and natural. But I was also ready to embrace the pleasure of sharing food with others through recipes and restaurant reviews, through farm tours and gardening, through fixing new combinations to lure my kids to the table. My writing career took off as a regular food columnist and regional food writer. Thanksgivings became magnificent feasts. I felt free with food, but still trapped by what others might think of my body.

Then the worst thing that anyone has ever said to me came in August. Sitting down as a guest at a dinner table, I was informed of a “cure” for my body. I was told to “sew my lips shut.” It was an uninvited conversation. I did not start talking about my body; my hosts did. And once the topic was raised, my host assumed I had excuses, which I do not. As he started listing off what he must consider excuses (thyroid, hormones) I simply gave no excuse; I said, “I like to eat.” He then included slurs against Holocaust survivors to drive home the point that starvation overcomes excuses.

Yet, there are positives to take away. He’s a bully and I’m an adult who doesn’t have to hang around for hostile “jokes” at the dinner table. By hearing the worst thing I can think of in regards to my weight, is freeing. The worst has been said. Rejection aside, I have my faith intact. Psalm 27:10 is particularly comforting: “For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.” Shock aside, I know who I am. I may be a woman of size, but I know my value.

To anyone else contending with weighty issues (because we do live in an openly hostile culture and social media has become a platform for misogyny), I’d like to share the following posts and articles. Bullying is not excusable no matter what age. Bullies are not born, but tend to be people without their own life-affirming dreams, empathy or self-acceptance. Don’t let them rob you of your own self-acceptance. And remember, in the light of love we are all beautiful, so focus on that light, spread that light and learn to love your body right here, right now.


  1. Finally read this! I can understand the impetus for writing after learning of the bully at the dinner table incident in August.

    Clear, well-organized, direct. Thanks, Charli!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Susan! It was one of those experiences that I wanted to just shake off and move on, but it required my voice, first. Hope you got to read or view the links, too. I'm heartened to see other writers or media women speaking up, as well. You know that FB group--Birth Without Fear? Well, there needs to be Living as a Woman Without Fear group too!