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extreme measures

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I am pensive today, and have been since reading a Craft sister's post about the effect weight loss surgery has had on her community.

I am pensive for many reasons, because this issue, like all issues of extremism, has deep, convoluted, and far reaching consequences.

Last weekend I was speaking with a couple of people who are trying to come into a healthier relationship with their bodies. One of them remarked that s/he was not doing as well as s/he would like because s/he "still ate chocolate a couple of times a week." I was startled and replied that eating chocolate a couple of times a week was not a problem.

For hir and for most of us, the problems are deep seated emotional hooks snaking back to childhood. The problems are a culture that tells us we can only look one way and be beautiful. The problems are entrenching a deep divide between the cranium and the rest of the physical form. The problems are factory farming instead of locally grown foods. The problems are myriad.

I've written on the importance of being embodied before, but I feel compelled to do so again. And here is the main thing I wish to say:

We need to come into right relationship with our bodies, to not pretend they are not there, to not constantly be in battle with them, to learn to treat them with respect for all they give us, and to learn to treat them well.

The US is a nation of extremists. We have anorexics on one side and people getting gastric bypass surgery on another. We have people on extreme diets on both sides too and it doesn't matter whether they are fat or thin: people eat a steady diet of garbage foods and sodas on one hand and people limit their food choices so severely there is no way to be happy and comfortable on the other. Either case points to a disembodiment, a disconnection from ourselves, a wish to transcend the physical.

I do not wish to transcend the physical. I want to dance joyously, to eat delicious and sustaining food, to drink a glass of good wine, to have great sex. I even want to share an occasional plate of garlic fries.

Celebration of the physical - and our connection with holy Nature - starts with learning to love even one part of ourselves. Give thanks to your beating heart. Give thanks to your lungs that cycle air through you. Aren't their functions amazing? Give thanks to your nose, your skin, your tongue, your ears, your eyes.

Today - whether you are fat, or thin, or in between, whether you are a smoker, athlete, or couch potato - do something nice for your body. Go for a walk or join a local pool. Eat something that tastes good and nourishes the body. Make love. Take a bubble bath or a nap. Do just one thing. One.

And tomorrow, add one more thing, so you are doing two things a day that honor your body. Do two things a day for one month. Then see if you can add one more thing.

Meanwhile, stop buying magazines or watching television that enforces insecurities so you will buy more garbage and send you into a spiral of self loathing that involves more physical abuse of your chosen variety. Get some support to quit smoking, or to cut back on caffeine, or to get more good exercise, or to eat better food. Get some support on working through the deep emotional and mental habits that threaten to drag you back toward hatred, disconnection, and abuse.

We can learn to love ourselves and to be in a good relationship with ourselves. We can learn to be healthier - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - in ways that are sustainable.

No one else can do this for us.

Thanks for listening.
  • i would like to add that "make love" means "to yourself and/or other(s)." a healthy sexuality includes joyous self-pleasuring.

  • Thank you for sharing!
  • Brilliant timing on your post again, Thorn. I needed this today.
    Bless you.
  • Wonderfully well said, and fervent, hopeful blessings in this work, sister. Extreme Dualism is not our friend. Everything is either good OR bad, angelic OR demonic, sacred spirit OR fallen flesh, everyone is urged to find the One True Way, the One True Faith, the One True Diet, to love the unattainable that is without and hate what is within, to yearn for the mythic past or the time to come and despise the here and now. Whether the Rapture or Second Coming or Ascention or Grand World Transformation, we're always told it's about some other world than this one, some other form than our own mortal human flesh, to which we should aspire and for which we should hope and work.

    No. For me, it's about right here and right now, and this body, and it's all as holy as it can be, each and every bit of it, every single one of us. It's not about choosing one of the poles, one of the extremes and aspiring to sit there forever, it's about learning to find that point of personal balance-in-motion that feels right, and is right, for oneself, at this moment in time. Ken Wilber talks about transcendence as being not about leaving something behind, not as losing or discarding something, but as wrapping that thing up and raising it up to its highest form. Almost like an act of worship, in fact... ;> I truly transcend my physical form by experiencing joy in that part of me, by worshipping it, not by denying it. And even as I say that, I see dualism in how I express myself. My body is *not* an "it," a mere shell or a vessel. Just as holy as any of my parts, "it" is me, and I am it.

    I do deeply believe that we humans are totally capable of working out these shades of grey, of grappling with ambiguity, diversity, of making our own good choices. I do deeply believe that we can, and we will, if we can break out of the world of one-size-fits-all easy answers (available from your local Authority Figure or Spiritual Guru on an easy payment plan!), and if we can learn and try to genuinely love ourselves in all our parts, even (especially) our physical parts.

    The strongest demons are always those which have been strengthened by denial, repression and neglect. Neopuritanism feeds binge drinking and unhealthy sex lives, seeing our bodies as somehow impure or unholy feeds a whole range of self-abusive and self-neglectful practices, but people who can learn to honor and love their bodies can avoid the extremes and find their own healthy place of balance.

    Thanks for speaking, teaching, conversing, loving and sharing.
  • I want to dance joyously, to eat delicious and sustaining food, to drink a glass of good wine, to have great sex. I even want to share an occasional plate of garlic fries.

    I do all of the above. And I had WLS 18 month's ago. I did it to do something nice for my body! While it isn't the way for everyone, it was the way for me. Thank you for the food for thought in your post though...it is some great advice!
    • Thanks for posting. I know weight loss surgery is a mixed bag that works for some people (which is why I said it was convoluted). I also am aware that for many others it is a road toward even greater ill health - partially because we live in a culture that supports ill health
      • partially because we live in a culture that supports ill health

        Sadly, I fully agree with you! We have lost the balance in so many things ~ health wise, economy wise, socially, and environmentally.
    • (no subject) - otterkin
      • Is it bad, under some circumstances, to accept yourself 100% as you are?

        I think we can accept ourselves as we are and still want to change. Acceptance doesn't equal enjoyment or celebration: it's a realistic acknowledgement. I could say "I accept that I have X flaw, it doesn't make me a bad person, but I would prefer to change myself so that I do Y instead."

        It is indeed difficult, because as Thorn said, we live in a culture of extremes- it's all love or hate.
  • I am really shocked that so many people in her community are having bad outcomes from their surgeries- it really makes me think something more is going on there.

    There are so many different roads that lead to obesity, that I don't think it can even really be regarded, confronted, as only one problem- which in turn is part of the problem.

    Have you ever been fat?
    • "Have you ever been fat?"

      No. The most I've ever weighed is only around 25 pounds more than I do now, which could't be considered fat by any stretch of the imagination. This is why I tread carefully around this subject, yet try to address it as best as I can - as a complex issue. And it is why I don't just talk about being fat here, because that is not the only issue at hand. Body hatred is not the province of fat people, nor is ill health and extremism.
      • I don't think body hatred and ill health are only the province of fat people. I just think that the social issues surrounding fat make it really messy psychologically, and it's hard for someone who is not fat to understand that.

        I have not been fat all my life, but for most of my life I thought I was fat, even when I wasn't. Now that I really am a fat person, it's even worse.
    • as fat activists, (seyewailo and fattest and i live together) we need to hear more stories about what does happen to people who've had weight loss surgery-- the media wax poetic over celebrity success stories, but so many of the folks we actually know are suffering from the complications resulting from it.

      thanks to yezida for the deeply nuancede and thoughtful words.
      • I think the questions are:

        1- are those people's problems a result of the surgery, or a result of being obese beforehand?

        2- are more people having poor outcomes, or are more people having good outcomes?

        3- what kind of "weight loss surgery" has the highest number of poor outcomes?

        I know two people who have had WLS (two different kinds of surgery) and they are both very happy and doing great.

        Then there's the matter of suffering: the people in question were probably suffering from obesity, if they felt the surgery was necessary. Did they make an informed choice?

        Also, I wonder: why is this information important to you as fat activists? Why not just as people? The problem I have noticed with fat activism is that it goes to far in the other direction, insisting that fat is always good, obesity is never unhealthy, and shaming fat people who want to change their bodies.
    • You should check out the report on recent studies in the NY Times. The study cites complications in 1 in 50 people. These are major, disabling complications. And it doesn't count the people who die on the table.

      By the way, John Muir hospital just decided to fine its doctors if they recommend routine colonoscopies for their fat patients. Why? Fat people are going to die anyway, so preventative diagnostics are not cost effective.

      *that* is why fat is correlated with cancer fatalities, my friends.
      • John Muir hospital just decided to fine its doctors if they recommend routine colonoscopies for their fat patients. Why? Fat people are going to die anyway, so preventative diagnostics are not cost effective.

        Ugh, that's terrible.

        *that* is why fat is correlated with cancer fatalities, my friends.

        I think you're exaggerating a bit, there- there are lots of reasons fat is correlated with cancer fatalities.

        But, I have experienced that when I got sick, it was very hard to get a doctor to take me seriously, because I was overweight. Even though I explained again and again that I got fat AFTER I got sick, not before, doctors still focused on the weight thing. And this was a decade ago.
  • (no subject) - moonmelody
  • blessed are my feet, that have brought me in these ways.
    blessed are my knees, that will kneel at the sacred altars.
    blessed is my sex, without which we would not be.
    blessed are my breasts, formed in strength and beauty.
    blessed are my lips, which will speak the sacred Names.

    blessed is my skin, that contains and protects me.
    blessed is my blood, that nourishes me.
    blessed are my bones, that support me.
    blessed are my internal organs, so beautifully fitting in form and function.

    blessed are my hands, that will do the work of the gods.
    blessed are my senses, that taste the world and its Magick.
    blessed is my head, which directs me in my movements.
    blessed is my heart, which beats so faithfully.

    blessed is my flesh in all its ages and stages.
    blessed am i in whatever size and shape i manifest my life.
    i am Her child. i am Her self.
    • Thank you Veeedub.

      What powerful words and images.

    • Wow! I found that incredibly moving. I've always been fond of the 5 fold kiss, but I never imagined going a step or two more.

      Is this your writing? I'm wondering if it would be OK for me to make note of it and if that is the case I would like to credit it properly.
  • do something nice for your body

    Or for someone else's. Fingerpaint your girlfriend, adoring every curve!
  • Thank you for this wonderful post.

    Celebration of the physical - and our connection with holy Nature - starts with learning to love even one part of ourselves...

    These are beautiful words for people with physical "problems" apart from weight or addiction.
  • Whoops. I started rambling again. Ah well, maybe someone will find it valuable.

    Oh yeah.

    I recently realised that I'm not really trying to love my body. Or rather, that I hadn't been. I kept saying "Yeah, okay, well, my body's okay." And then telling myself it would be easier to really love my body when I started finally consistently actually going to the gym 4 times a week and running. That then, suddenly, I would lose my nominal love handles and have some "definition" (as though I just sort of fade amorphously into space) and THEN my body would be loveable.

    Then I realised that, dagnabbit, I've been trying to be good about doing those things for years (and still want to), but that I can love my body now, for what it is now and for what it can do now. I used to be really chunky... now, whenever I have an attack of insecurity and say something about losing weight people generally (justifiably) think I'm crazy. It's even more bizarre that I am consistently attracted to guys with almost exactly the same body composition to my own. (And skinnier guys, and sometimes heavier.) I have to remind myself that, if I want to treat everyone equally, and with compassion, I have to include myself.

    I have to remember that when I dance regularly, when I work out and ride my bike and eat well and avoid eating pounds of refined sugar (But, Gods, I'm back in a land with Dr. Pepper again!!!) I feel massively better. I wonder if I still want to do these things under the rubric of "feeling better" when I really want to look better, but at least I am keeping an eye on that possibility.

    Thank you. I try to remind myself, and others, that the question of health is not related to how you look, but to how you feel--do you consistently have the energy to do what you want to do, to engage with your friends and lovers and enjoy life? Or are you always in such a rush that you eat poison and get home to spend four hours in front of the telly with a beer? (The last should not be interpreted as an anti-beer comment by any stretch of the imagination.)

    And, amazingly, a lot of the issue comes down to a choice. Learning to love yourself is, in part, a choice. We can choose to love--even ourselves. This is a much better guide than relying on "improving" ourselves to become worthy of our own love. It is a question of will and of choice--it's looking in that mirror, seeing everything, and then choosing, truly choosing to love.

    Thank you, Thorn. Your work inspires healing. It is my will to be a fit Priest, to help midwife a fit world.
    • Re: Whoops. I started rambling again. Ah well, maybe someone will find it valuable.

      This is so incredibly insightful and generous. Thank you.
      • Re: Whoops. I started rambling again. Ah well, maybe someone will find it valuable.

        Thank you. :-) I am glad you shared, as well. (He says more than a week later...)
  • Hi! I've added you to my Friend's list a while back. This is my first time posting...

    RE: Love your body
    I'm all for that. I'm all for health and fitness too.
    I have noticed, though, that whenever I have attempted and succeeded in loosing weight, for my health of course, I would always get crap from other people, some of whom I would otherwise consider friends. It's like I'm a traitor or something among chubby people.

    Talk about projection issues! Some people hate their bodies so much that they make others feel bad for doing something good for themselves.

    That is especially the case in the Pagan Community, unfortunately.


    Take care.

    • I've seen the same thing in the pagan community and just about everywhere else. People turn their body issues outward. My ex-GF used to call any woman who wasn't severely obese "anorexic"; at the same time, thin women with body issues call women larger than themselves cows and fatties. It goes both ways.

      I also don't like the fact that it's become politically incorrect to say "I want to lose weight to look different." We are only allowed to say "I want to lose weight for my health." Yet, it's socially acceptable to hate fat people.
      • I always notice when there are jokes and slams towards fat people in movies. I am not fat as you know, but it still hurts me when I hear those things.
  • Thanks for posting this. I do weight loss hypnosis and a lot of the work I do is around self-image and re-learning pleasure and satisfaction not centered around food. It's a hard one because humans love feasts and celebrations. To be social is to eat!

    I have seen clients who have gained weight back after gastric bypass. It's sad. It's like a bandaid. Everyone wants a quick fix with no real work.

    A great book is Dr. Walter Willett's, "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy." He is my hero.
    • a lot of the work I do is around self-image and re-learning pleasure and satisfaction not centered around food.

      This is a really hard one for me, because I have had a tendency to reward myself with food. Several months ago I posted in my journal about that and asked people for ideas of other ways to reward myself, so I could change my behavior. Almost every response was a diet or weight loss "tip"; I have to conclude that no one actually knew of other ways to be. Very sad.
    • That is so sad. There are so many ways not just to reward yourself but to cherish your body that aren't to do with food. My closest friend is obese; most of her relatives are quite fat, and she put on a lot more weight after she was raped. She's been losing weight steadily for the past year, after doing enough deep work to allow her to love herself again. And for me it's been a wonderful experience to watch her learning to take joy in her body again - she is more confident about how she looks, but it's even more rewarding watching her keep up with me when I walk, hearing her stories of new physical achievements, seeing her get sick less often. She's still obese, but she's fit, and eats well, and takes pleasure all aspects of her body - working it as well as relaxing it. I'm finding her journey an inspiration; her work is fuelled by love and compassion and acceptance and hope and joy. Now that she no longer hates herself, she can change the aspects of herself that are harmful.
    • That's so sad. There are so many things we can do to be happy in our bodies. I loved Yezida's suggestions- to dance, to move.

      I used to be a massage therapist. It was so hard to see people struggle to come in to get their first massage. And it was such a revelation to them. Do what feels good to you, in your core. Eating a perfect peach feels good to me in a different way than eating french fries. Although there is a time for both.
      • I think part of it is that, for me, things like dancing and moving feel necessary. They aren't rewards, they are things I do whenever I can, because I can't always do them, due to my health. I do as much as I can to be happy in my body (and right now, that includes losing weight) but I have a tendency to say "I did well today, I deserve some ice cream," or even "I've had a bad day, I deserve some ice cream." I am slowly reframing my thought processes to say "I did well today, so I don't need any sweets!" and "I've had a bad day, I'm not going to make it worse with sugar."

  • Thank you for this. Having a good relationship with our bodies is a vital part of having a good relationship with the world around us.

    I find that as I work with my key for rememberance each day and spend more time actually in my body, I am more comfortable in it. As one of those who often spend 10+ hours a day in front of computers, it's easy to see my body as a prison or as a container for holding my consciousness when I'm not online. But each time I pull my attention back to the moment, back into my body, I feel a little more comfortable. So thank you for that, too.
  • The book I listened to on the drive to Eugene yesterday involved the Zen use of "attention." It strikes me that as bodied-people, we are not encouraged to pay attention to our bodies. Instead, we are ordered to pay attention to someone else's body, buy this product, eat this food (and this last one is on my mind because of a program I watched on marketing junk food to toddlers--ouch!).

    It isn't just the advertising and TV/movies. It also comes from living in a culture where doing things for yourself is still seen as "selfish" and therefore "bad." It comes from living around multiple religious belief systems that shun the body, tell you to ignore earth and put your eyes on heaven, or encourage/tolerate total escapism. It comes from working jobs where taking lunch time to eat a healthy lunch results in a guilt trip, but eating a fast-food combo meal while still working earns admiration and praise. It's more than body-hatred we have to deal with, it is also being out of touch with self.
  • Once again this comes at a timely moment for me.

    For the past couple days I've been approaching this subject from a couple different angles. Night before last I was discussing the concept of "being grounded in Malcuth" and realizing that I wasn't entirely sure what that meant practically speaking. So that night was spent discussing the importance of things like taking care of your environment and body and physical world, and realising that I often find these things overwheming and neglect them.

    The next day we were discussing relationships, and the unfairness of the wish to be someone's "first, best, and favorate" because it's asking them to constantly prove your worth. We decided that the ideal situation would be to be your own "first, best, and favorate" so that you were reinforcing your worth to yourself. We also decided that the way to do this would be to treat yourself as you would want an ideal lover/partner to treat you. Again this looked like a distant lofty goal.

    And then here is your simple suggestion of doing something to honor your body each day, and it's a perfect first step to both ends. It is of course not the whole of it, but it's the right direction, and sometimes I tend to need a point in the right direction. Thank you.
  • right on!

    Or should I say "write On"?

    Your post makes me think of two sayings;
    "...Its like ripping out the dashboard light to fix the engine"
    "The binge society is the same as the purge society"
    Hakim Bey
    • Re: right on!

      Hey, which book is the Bey quote from? Is it TAZ or something else?
  • This post - and its comments - hit me really hard today. I've been too busy dealing with family stuff in the past month to really worry about my body, but most of the time I find myself in a catch-22: I hate myself for how I look and the health problems that have come from my weight (and for re-gaining after losing and feeling better about myself for awhile) but I recognize I'll never really look and feel good until I exercise and eat right out of love for myself but I can't love myself because of what I've done to myself and... yaddayaddayadda

    Thank you for the suggestion of doing ONE thing nice for my body and gradually moving from there. Thank you veedub for the amazing body blessing (which I shall be swiping - with credit).

    Of all the things I've done in my Work, learning to love myself in all my parts is the hardest. I guess that makes it the most important, huh? ;->
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