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You Have The Right To Remain Fat w/ Virgie Tovar

We are excited to have Virgie Tovar on the pod today! Virgie is the author of You Have the Right to Remain Fat. She is one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image, and the founder of Babecamp, a 4-week online course designed to help women break up with diet culture. She holds a Master’s degree in Sexuality Studies with a focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender. In 2012 Tovar edited the anthology Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love and Fashion, published by Seal Press. She started the hashtag campaign #LoseHateNotWeight and in 2018 gave a TedX talk on the origins of the campaign.

Tovar was the recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism in 2018. She pens a weekly column called Take the Cake and is a contributor for Forbes.com. Virgie has been featured by the New York Times, Tech Insider, BBC, MTV, Al Jazeera, NPR, Yahoo Health and the San Francisco Chronicle. She lives in San Francisco.

 

In this episode, we’ll talk about:

  • Virgie’s experiences with fatphobia 
  • Virgie’s road to radical self acceptance 
  • Intersections between diet culture and sexism, race, and classism
  • How fat people can advocate for themselves in medical settings 
  • & MORE! 

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Female:                         

The following podcast is a Dear Media Production.

Wendy Lopez:              

Hey, it’s Wendy.

Jessica Jones:                  

And it’s Jess, and you’re listening to the Food Heaven Podcast.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Your online resource for delicious and nutritious living.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Hey everyone, thanks so much for tuning into another episode of the Food Heaven Podcast with Wendy and Jess. Today we have a very special guest. We have Virgie Tovar joining us. Virgie is the author of You Have the Right to Remain Fat. She is one of the nation’s leading experts and lecturers on fat discrimination and body image and the founder of Babecamp, a four-week online course designed to help women break up with diet culture. She lives in San Francisco and holds a master’s degree in Sexuality Studies, interesting, with the focus on the intersections of body size, race and gender. She pens a weekly column called Take the Cake, and is a contributor for Forbes.com. Welcome to the podcast, Virgie.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Jessica Jones:                            

We are so thrilled to have you here on the podcast. We both have a copy of your book and love it, I have it up in my office. And I just wanted to learn a little bit more about you in terms of like, tell us what experiences led you to doing education on fat discrimination and body Image. Because I feel like this is something that is growing a little bit in popularity, but I still feel like even the title of your book, I can see some people thinking that that’s revolutionary, or that they haven’t heard that concept before. But yeah, talk about what led you to this path.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Yeah. Well, I have always been a fat person, and I’ve always lived in a fat-hating world. I think that’s the very beginning of the story, in a lot of ways. I essentially was assimilated into a thin world where I was taught that everything that made me special and powerful was a flaw. And so, I’ve always been the biggest kid in my class, and now I know that I had all of these special qualities that made me a thriving fat person. But I was taught that I was a failing thin person, which is again, a major myth.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Fat people are just fat people, they’re not … Fat people aren’t thin people who are bad at being thin or … Well, you know what I’m saying? And so, there’s this idea that there’s a thin person inside every fat person, and people like Oprah and a number of other people have confirmed this idea, there’s an alien thin person living inside of every fat person-

Jessica Jones:                            

Living from within.

Virgie Tovar:                   

… but that’s not a real thing. And so, I was introduced to fatphobia at the age of five when I was in kindergarten, and I was taught that my body was wrong, disgusting, vile, that I was unlovable, and bad, and wrong, and that I deserve to be punished and isolated as a result of my transgression for being fat. And it took me a while to really internalize that education because that’s not the education where … We we’re taught that. We’re not born believing that something’s wrong with us, our culture teaches us those things. And so, I internalized that education and the way that I acted out my understanding of my wrongdoing was through dieting and weight restricting. And so, I spent about 20 years starving myself, not eating enough, going into periodic episodes of obsessive extreme exercise and food restriction and then I was …

Virgie Tovar:                   

Through a series of events, I ultimately was introduced to fat activism. And the particular brand of fat activism that I was introduced to was like a queer, fem-focused activism where there was room to no longer diet and also to live this fabulous, sparkly, unapologetic life, which I’d been taught that you could only have if you were thin. And so, once I met people, fat people who were living like that, I was completely transformed and converted. And along the way … And this happened while I was in graduate school studying fatness and trying to understand the history of dieting and fatness. And at the time, which was 2011 and 2012, there was very, very, very little work on this issue. There was a handful of books and articles altogether over maybe, I don’t know, 50 years of some … or maybe 45 years of people writing here and there about this issue.

Virgie Tovar:                   

But anyway, I used the resources I had access to to understand the history of diet culture and I discovered that it was deeply disgusting, deeply based in mythology, racism, classism, and definitely sexism, and that as a person who is politically-minded, compassionate and intelligent, I wanted to have nothing to do with that, and that I was very focused on eradicating it and helping people understand what I had learned.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Did you find that some of the fatphobia was also coming from people within your family and community? Because I think with body size, it’s just seen so differently depending on the culture that you’re from. For me, for example, being Dominican, having a larger body is something that can be celebrated depending on what kind of curvy body you have, which is a whole another episode. But can you talk a little bit about your experience with your family and what they think about the work that you’re doing now?

Virgie Tovar:                   

Well, it’s interesting, there was these dual realities happening. On the one hand, I think it’s important to name the fact that my family is deeply assimilationist. I come from a Mexican-Iranian heritage, but I was raised by my mother’s family. I was raised in a Mexican household, and yeah, my family was not a group of proud Mexicans, they were very much like, “Keep your head down. You’re always going to have to work twice as hard to get half as much. Be nice to white people and try and talk like that,” kind of a thing. And so, I think that’s an important background to name. Interestingly, however, there’s this … Yeah, that’s a one part of it.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Another part of it is, I grew up in a deeply Mexican tradition of parenting, which is that your children are sacred. I think that Mexican parents and Latin history, Latin culture, and probably in most places I would say, there’s this real understanding of children as like this blessing. And often, children, at least in Mexico, their nicknames are like King and Queen, like little King and little Queen. And my nickname growing up was Reyna, which was queen in Spanish. And so, it was an interesting meld of things where they absolutely adored me. I grew up with a family of people who desperately wanted to have a baby girl, and loved having a baby in the house, and I had everything I wanted, and I was spoiled, and all these kinds of things. And I was the most beautiful girl in the world, and the smartest girl in the world, and all these kinds of things.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And so, I was not introduced to fatphobia in my household growing up. I was introduced to it in school, primarily by boys who are my peers. However, once I began engaging in dieting behavior, I uncovered a secret well of dieting behavior and that phobic attitudes that my mother and grandmother had towards themselves. And so, my grandmother still wears a girdle every day. She’s in her 70s now, but she’s worn a girdle since she was maybe 15, 16, and she wears it every day. And then my mother, I found out, had slightly more acute eating disorder behavior than I did. My grandmother has always been a restrictor and believes that eating as little as possible as a sign of femininity and a sign of good health. My mother was one of the first people who ever taught me in my deepest, darkest moments of desperation about wanting to not be a fat person because I was treated so poorly. She is a fat person, also had developed tools, and one of them was purging and binging.

Virgie Tovar:                   

She was the first person who ever introduced me to the concept that one of the things that you could do to not be fat was to eat too much of the things that you love, just create a list of the things that you love to eat the most and then ruin them systematically by eating too much and throwing up, so that in your mind, the memory of that food is associated with a negative physical outcome, which is eating disorder behavior.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Again, the context is not malicious. They weren’t interested in maintaining my historical oppression and the way that they had been oppressed, they were at their wits end and trying to help me navigate fatphobia. And these were the tools that they had developed. And so, they taught me once I was in that same place as them. But in general, it’s complicated in terms … I feel like my mother very much supports my work and is touched by my work. I think my grandmother is impressed by my publications and being on TV and stuff like that, but I think she largely is like, “No, a woman’s job is to be small, and to be at home, and to have babies. And it’s great that you’re independent but it’s not going to last as the childhood naive dream that you have of changing the world.” And so, it’s an interesting combination.

Jessica Jones:                 

Wow. I feel like there’s so much that you said that I want to unpack. And one of the things I’m so glad you touched on was just the idea of the disordered eating and eating disorders that we tend to not understand, or acknowledge, or realize that those affect people of color as well. I work now a lot with patients who have eating disorders and disordered eating and I would say at least 60% of them are women of color and even some men of color, too. I think it does a disservice to not acknowledge that that can be going on within some of our communities.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Yeah, I think also it’s in the … I think it might even be formally in the diagnosis, but it’s certainly informally and in the grander cultural mindset, an eating disordered person is a white girl who’s very, very small and that’s often … There are lots, and lots, and lots of fat people and people of color. People who are not thin, white women, who have eating disorders and don’t even know it because they don’t have the body that’s associated with eating disorder. There are so many fat people who are essentially engaging in anorexia, but if a fat person goes into a doctor and says, “I’m going to have anorexia,” they will literally be laughed out of the room in most cases. And so, I think obviously our framework around what EDs are and how they manifest, these things are deeply flawed.

Jessica Jones:                 

I agree, 100%. And I think even, too, you’re right because people who may be in larger bodies, they are dismissed, is not like … They don’t even look for an eating disorder within those folks and they don’t even know the questions to ask to see what is really going on. I want to put that out there that it is something that affects all of us across the spectrum.

Jessica Jones:                 

Now, before you came to a place of body acceptance, were there any fatphobic experiences you encountered in your younger years that you felt like really marked you?

Virgie Tovar:                   

Yes, for sure. Yeah. One of the things that I talk a lot about, especially in my new book and … But in general, when I do lectures and all kinds of things, I talk a lot about the way that the boys I grew up with really shaped how I saw myself and how, as I’ve looked through the history of this issue and I’ve looked at the history of gender, and food, and body size, and whatnot, it’s no accident that I got the education in myself … my worthlessness from boys who are my age. This is not uncommon. And so, I think my education around fatphobia really came around the idea that no one would ever love me if I stayed fat. And that was the thing that kept getting drilled into me over, and over, and over, and over again by boys in my class at my school.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And that was the thing that really left the biggest impression on me. Because I grew up in a culture, in the US, where I’m surrounded by images of what it means to be a successful, worthwhile girl, and that is when a man is by your side. That was every movie I was watching, every ad, every single thing that was targeted at me as a child, was about the idea that I would achieve adulthood and complete humanity through marriage with a man. And so, what these boys were teaching me was that if I stayed the size that I was, I would essentially not matter to my culture, that I would not have access to the most important kind of love that my culture saw. And so, I deemed it as such, and that’s major.

Virgie Tovar:                   

What fatphobia does is that it comes into the fat person’s life and says, “You can’t be a full citizen, you can’t be a full person, and you cannot be a full adult in this culture until you are thin.” This is a horrifying prospect. I can talk about a million moments, where weird, awful, horrendous things happen. It was wild because the other night … Actually, I’ll tell you one story that was specific, that was … It was so moving, and wild, and gross, and horrifying. And the other day, I was doing a photo shoot with a bunch of fat babes and one of the things we did was we had to do a costume change. And so, we ended up all going into this little guest house that the photographer had, and we’re all changing our clothes, and we’re sitting around, and we’re eating chips, and eating Cheetos, and chatting and drinking hard cider.

Virgie Tovar:                   

What ends up happening is we’re talking about like, “Oh my God, this is the fat sleepover that we always wanted and that we never had.” And then someone started talking about the awful things that had happened to them at sleepovers. And then we all have these horrible stories, and it was always about being fat. It was like one girl talked about … I don’t want to share her story, but I certainly talked about, I went to a slumber party with all thin girls and me and they waited until I fell asleep and a couple of them put milk and soy sauce all over my hair and my eyebrows. And then the next morning, I woke up and I was gross and I wanted to take a shower, but I was so afraid that they would burst into the bathroom and shame my body that I didn’t take a shower and then they shamed me for being dirty and disgusting.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Essentially, all the people in the group had terrible stories. Like that one woman, one now woman, that as a child was at a slumber party and she said that some of the thin girls filled up the sink with water and then enticed her to go look at it and then pushed her head down into the water.

Wendy Lopez:                            

Oh, my God.

Jessica Jones:                            

Wow.

Virgie Tovar:                   

It was story, after story, after … A room full of fat girls talking about what it’s like being fat in this world, in this culture, where we’re essentially viewed as less than human. And so, I think that there are just thousands, hundreds of stories that are in my life as well as the history of other fat people.

Wendy Lopez:                            

Wow, that’s terrible. And thank you for sharing because I think when talking about fatphobia, especially for people that aren’t fat, it’s something that you hear about or that comes into the conversation, but these examples and these stories aren’t really discussed. And so, I think that there’s a disconnection there. I think it’s really powerful that you are all able to talk about it. And did you feel some healing through talking about these stories with other people that have been through similar experiences?

Virgie Tovar:                   

It’s interesting. I don’t know that I would call it healing. I think it was more intimacy and I guess so, maybe intimacy. For me, yeah, I guess it was healing via intimacy, it’s very important for me to be close to other fat people. That’s one of the biggest things that has really changed my life. As a fat person, you’re taught to stay away from other fat people because somehow they’ll make you look fatter, or look worse or … And I think that it’s just self hatred, is what it is. But I was one of those fat people who used to be terrified of being friends with fat people. I thought that it was important for me to be friends with thin people because it would not only help me want to be thinner, but it would make me look less bad or less like a loser.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And so, now that I’m in this acceptance and self-love space, one of the most important things for me is to be close to fat people. And so, absolutely, there was this intimacy building and the power of witnessing and the power of knowing that someone understands what you’ve been through. And I think that there’s a way in which when fat people are together, at least as far as I’ve noticed, there is a silent language that we share. We understand certain things and we gesture at certain things, and we have a … There’s a way that our bodies indicate a shared experience in this really special way. And I think what’s interesting about that night is we rendered a lot of that silent language into actual language and talked about these things.

Wendy Lopez:                            

Switching gears a little bit because I know we mentioned that you have a background with Sexuality Studies, and so I’m interested in how your experiences have affected your love life. You can share as much as you like. You don’t need to share your boo’s or who you … or what’s happening in your love life right now. But just generally, how do you feel all this information that you have now has affected your love life?

Virgie Tovar:                   

I think as with many things, there’s these incredible layers of complexity. On the one hand having to grow up, dealing with fatphobia, feeling like an outsider, it created this extraordinary path out of the mainstream and that path has been beautiful. And I don’t know, I don’t … like sparkly, I’m tearing up just even thinking about it. What’s happened is I’ve met all these people who are weirdos, who don’t fit, who don’t like the way that our culture works. And those are the people in my world, the people who have by virtue of living in this horrifically violent culture have had to learn how to heal, and love, and speak, and exist, and dress differently than what they’ve been taught. I don’t know, it’s like this extraordinarily rich sort of subcultural reality that I’ve had access to by virtue of being a fat person.

Virgie Tovar:                   

It’s interesting in that way, where my fatness has acted as this vetting tool. I get to see people as they really are because they don’t think that I’m someone who they have to hide their mask freely. They don’t have to hide behind their mask because in this culture, I don’t matter enough for them to hide. And so, I get to see who they really are, and I get to decide right away if I want to be around that or not. I can’t tell you … I’m somebody who dates men, I can’t tell you how many men have showed me who they are, and I know that if I had been thin they would have hidden that from me because they would have tried to enlist me in becoming part of their social capital. Because men are taught in this culture to gain social capital between and among other men by accumulating thin-bodied women and showing them off as capital, right?

Virgie Tovar:                   

And so, that’s obviously very dehumanizing in the same way that … and him not thinking that I matter enough to put on artifice is also dehumanizing. But we’re in this similar boat in that way I feel. But all that to say, I’ve gotten to see them in their truest form immediately and I’m like, “Oh, you’re a horrible person. I don’t want to have anything to do with you. I can move on to someone who isn’t a horrible person.” And that’s fantastic.

Virgie Tovar:                   

I think there’s also these weird weight … One of the things I wrote about in the book, which I was not sure if I wanted to include it because it’s a little bit complicated and nuanced and maybe even … I don’t know, it’s a weird thing to share, but one of the things that really blew my mind was how, because I am fat and was fat, one of the benefits was that boys in my … It was a drawback at the time, but now as an adult, one of the benefits of being fat was that boys didn’t want to date or marry me, the boys in my neighborhood. And I noticed with my thinner classmates, they immediately descended upon the thinnest women in my peer group and attempted to claim them and a lot of them ended up staying in my small town that I don’t really like that much and don’t think that’s awesome. And they got married really young and they had children very, very young because I think because the men in their lives were pressuring them to … They wanted to lay claim to these women.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And one of the ways that you do that is you marry one and you impregnate one as quickly as possible before she can learn who she is or what the world has to offer her, she’s already sidled down with this man’s world that he wants to create for her. And because I was not desirable in that way, I had this clear passage out of my tiny stifling conservative town. I’ve got to sexually experiment, I’ve got to travel the world, I got to get an education, because no man wanted to lay claim to my failed woman’s body. And so, it’s this interesting thing where … I don’t know, and I think the last thing I’m going to share is … Let me think what blows my mind the most. Again, nobody wanted to date me in high school. I was a horny, nerdy Mexican girl. Huge glasses, like Mexican Tina Belcher, and I was obsessed with having a boyfriend, I love butts and all this stuff.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And so, no one in my class will date me because I’m fat. And so, I end up finding this telephone personal service that’s free for women. And I didn’t know this at the time, but all the men on there A, had to pay and as a result, B, were older businessmen. My first experience as dating, I was a fat girl, 17-year-old, were dating businessmen who were feeding me foie gras and filet mignon in amazing restaurants in San Francisco. And again, my friends who I was growing up with who were much more conventionally attractive or maybe my peers more than my friends, they were not having those experiences. Because they were having these normal dates for a 16-year-old, which is going to Carl’s Jr., or whatever.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And so, I just find it fascinating that absolutely, there were all of these heartbreaks, and the sense of rejection, and the sense that I was wrong, I’ve had to navigate and wade through a lot. But I think at the end of the day, succeeding on this culture’s terms are not something that I’m interested in, and I was forced into that realization through my fat body. But ultimately, I think that it entirely benefited me, if that makes sense. Not to downgrade the horribleness of fatphobia, but to give context of how it landed for me.

Wendy Lopez:                            

Yeah. That’s a very unique perspective. I don’t think I’ve ever heard it, talked about through this lens, how you saw this as a opportunity to really explore your sexuality and your womanhood in a very independent way. That’s so dope.

Wendy Lopez:                            

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Wendy Lopez:                            

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Wendy Lopez:                            

Okay, so let’s talk about healthcare because we both work in clinics, and we have seen from healthcare providers the many ways that providers can discriminate against fat people. And so, can you talk to us a little bit about your experience seeking medical care and maybe if there’s been ways that you’ve been able to advocate in healthcare settings, if you could share that, too, for listeners who have challenges with this?

Virgie Tovar:                   

Yeah. I think I want to lead by saying doctors have some of the most … at least in terms of professions that have been studied and have been given questionnaires and whatnot, doctors have some of the demonstrated consistent high levels of fatphobia than any profession. And it’s important to really, I think, lead with that. I also want to say my relationship with the medical industry was radically transformed when I was introduced to feminism in my very early 20s. I think I was 21 or maybe even 20 when I was lucky enough to meet a bunch of militant feminists in college. And one of the first things they taught me was the history of the medical industry, which if you’re horrified by the diet culture history, the medical industry history is just much, I think borders of magnitude more horrifying when we’re talking about people of color or women, I think certainly in the contemporary world around fatness.

Virgie Tovar:                   

But yeah, they taught me that I needed to have a much more guarded and boundaried relationship to the medical industry than I’d been taught. Similar to the police, we’re taught that doctors are our friends and they’re there to help us. The truth is, most doctors are trained to be very quite hostile towards women, towards queer people, towards fat people, towards disabled people, towards people of color. I don’t know that it’s in our … Certainly on fatness, it is an overt bigotry that is, I think, taught in medical environments among the other categories that might be a little bit more subtle. But certainly, evidence shows that people of color are less likely to be given anti-depressants, queer people are less likely to be given anti-depressants when they express symptoms of depression than their straight counterparts. And I think overall, the medical industry is not a friend to fat people.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Again, my introduction to all medical self-advocacy was around gynecological care. And these feminists … we would sit down and we would do roleplays where there’d be scripts, and essentially, we would have to deal with being patronized, or how do we deal with a doctor who is telling us that we don’t know what’s going on with our body? How do we deal with a medical examination that has become rude and uncomfortable for us? How do we walk out of an appointment? How do we find a new doctor if we don’t feel comfortable with the one that we have?

Virgie Tovar:                   

It was extraordinarily empowering. And ever since I was 20 or 21, I’ve always brought that kind of no bullshit, militant feminist attitude to medical care, and it has served me very well. Even with that in mind, I think that obviously … I think that it’s important to look at medical care in a few different dimensions. And I’m going to talk about two because I think they’re the most important. The first one is the interpersonal, the face to face, your doctor’s being a fatphobe and you’re dealing with him trying to blame your weight on literally everything. That’s a very common thing, where we’ll come in with one symptom and we’re being told that our weight is to blame, whether it’s strep throat, or back pain, or hair is falling out, or literally anything.

Virgie Tovar:                   

If you’re a fat person, you’re likely going to get … the first response you’re going to get is that you need to lose weight, and this is essentially negligence and it’s bigotry just pretty much. And so, there’s that reality that fat people are denied good medical care from doctors all the time. The second dimension is more of the institutional dimension, which is not like a doctor is not giving me care, it’s more like the way that the medical infrastructure exists. For instance, birth control is not test … The efficacy of birth control is not tested above a certain weight. They found out in the UK, and I don’t have this finding for the US, but they found out in the UK that the morning after pill was not effective after 167 pounds, I believe it was, and that it had mediated effectiveness at 169 pounds, and was completely ineffective after 180 pounds. A lot of American women are above 180 or 165 pounds.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And the truth is, if you’re a fat person who’s taking birth control, it is entirely likely that the doctors have no idea how efficacious that birth control is, if you’re above 200 pounds, let’s say, like I am. And then things like medical equipment not feeling sturdy or not being wide enough for fat patients. Again, this is not interpersonal, this is institutional. I guess I will add the third dimension, which is the intrapersonal. And I always look at fatphobia along these three dimensions, inter, intra, and institutional. Intra-personally, fat people often opt out of medical care because they’re anticipating shaming.

Virgie Tovar:                   

What we’ve learned is after a doctor tells a fat person to lose weight, this often leads to binging immediately thereafter. I guess what I’m trying to share with you is like, if we’re in a dire situation with medical care, it is not the fault of fat people. But unfortunately, the advocacy is very effective, I found. I guess my tips would be A, be very clear going in what you do and do not want to do. I would say also two, you do not have to be weighed, you can say no to a weigh in. Three, you can always end an appointment at anytime if you feel uncomfortable or you’re being disrespected. Four, I say right off the bat with a new doctor, “I am interested in a weight neutral approach, I have no interest in weight loss whatsoever. And if you bring up any weight loss measures, I will end the appointment.”

Virgie Tovar:                   

And I think that what’s really complicated about all of this is, it feels terrifying to a person who maybe isn’t used to solve advocating, but it’s actually much easier than you think. And I think the last thing I want to say is, go into the doctor … Okay, and this might be a little bit harshypoo, but I’m just going to say it. I think it’s important to approach the medical industry as a sleazy salesman, not really your brother, your dad’s friend, and you’re like, “Oh, he’s going to take care of me.” More like, “What is this person trying to sell me?” I should have an appropriate amount of suspicion and guardedness around this. And then if they prove that they’re awesome and rad, great, you can create a beautiful relationship with that person or that, whatever, that medical care group or something. But until, I would say guilty until proven innocent rather than the other way around.

Jessica Jones:                 

Oh, my God. You said so many amazing things. I loved all of your tips because I do get that from books I work with where they … Yeah, they’ve had bad experiences with medical providers and the work that we do sometimes can feel a little bit derailed once, if they’re going to see a doctor who doesn’t support the weight inclusive approach. Thank you so much for all those tips.

Jessica Jones:                  

Okay, hold that thought really quickly. I just want to take a minute to talk about one of our sponsors for this week’s episode. A couple of years ago, Wendy and I wrote an article for Buzzfeed called Here’s How Dietitians Actually Eat Healthy Without Going Broke. And one of the strategies that we mentioned was to sign up for a discount delivery service like Thrive Market. Now, if you haven’t heard about Thrive before, allow me to fill you in.

Jessica Jones:                  

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Jessica Jones:                  

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Jessica Jones:                 

Now can you talk a little bit about your journey when it comes to body acceptance and appreciation, or not even necessarily journey but just like, what are some things that have really helped you come to that place of body appreciation? And then also, is this an ongoing process that you work through? Because I have people where you may be … I may have worked with them for let’s say a year and they have come a long way, but then they get really discouraged because they’re always triggered by this thin ideal anywhere they go, and so they sometimes end up feeling like, “Oh man, I’m not where I feel I “should be.” They feel bad about themselves and that can even trigger them. For you, yeah, is it ongoing?

Virgie Tovar:                   

Yeah. To answer the second part, first, it is ongoing. If you think about fatphobia as a form of cultural abuse and you scale it down to this micro-scale where you take a grand scale thing like fatphobia and you distill it down to, let’s say you live with someone who hit you, it’s one of those things where you can go to therapy every day. But if you come home every night and get smacked around, you’re not going to make a whole lot of progress, or your progress is going to be slowed intensely by the fact that you have ongoing abuse. I think unlike other forms of abuse that people are dealing with, there’s many people who are dealing with abuse that’s safely in their past.

Virgie Tovar:                   

If you were abused as a child, there are obviously ripple effects of that, but the truth is you are never going to be three years old again, you are never going to have complete powerlessness the way that a three-year-old does ever again. And as a survivor, you can begin to heal when you recognize that that is never going to happen again. When you’re dealing with cultural abuse like fatphobia, you’re trying to heal in the midst of being smacked down wherever you go. And so, I think that it’s important to cut yourself some slack and be compassionate about the fact that you’re still living in the environment that actually caused you this harm and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Virgie Tovar:                   

I often tell people, “Don’t bring the dieting mind into your healing process where we bring numbers, and achievement, and these false notions of success and happiness to our healing process because that’s just not useful.” And it’s very hard, because diet brain or diet culture mind, whatever you want to call it, is highly supported by our culture. Capitalism is the same as diet mind. This idea that you can work really, really, really, really, really hard and have anything that you want, and if you don’t have it, it’s you personally failed, not wanting it badly enough. Diet mind does the same thing. And so, there’s a lot of culturally sanctioned ideologies that promote this idea that even when you’re healing, you’re not healing hard enough, you’re not being great, you’re not being fat positive enough. And so, I think that I want to put that into the domain of myth, mythology. Healing is complex. For me, absolutely, it’s an ongoing process.

Virgie Tovar:                   

I think to return to the things that really brought me to body acceptance and fat liberation, there are a lot of stories. I don’t know. I guess I’ll tell a couple stories. One of them was for the first time really meeting a community of fat women who were totally fabulous. And I tell the story in the book where I’m at a conference for fat people, I’ve never been in a gathering of fat people in my life, and I walk into the hotel, in the pool area and there’s just all these babes everywhere, and they’re wearing amazing bathing suits and they’re just looking fierce and they’re laughing, and tanning, and floating in the pool. And then this one woman comes out of stage left and she’s sauntering out and wearing these cat eye sunglasses and this red and white polka dot bathing suit. And she’s just sauntering. She’s big arms, and big belly, and big thighs, and big boobs.

Virgie Tovar:                   

And then there’s a boy trailing behind her with a parasol over her head so that she won’t get a sunburn. I ended up becoming acquaintances with that person later on. We were never very close friends, but she really changed my life. And I think one other person who really changed my life was somebody I dated. I met him in my mid-20s, and he was a feminist, and he was fat positive and he did this … In my opinion, he was like a guardian angel. If someone told me, “Oh, he never existed, who is that person? He was born in 1799.” I’d be like, “That’s not surprising to me.”

Virgie Tovar:                   

He was this serial magical unicorn of a human who came into my life, and was just like, “There’s nothing wrong with you.” And a man doesn’t tell you what your body looks like, a man who doesn’t tell you what you do with your life, or with your body, or what you eat. Nobody does. He recuperated my relationship to food in this incredible way. He would just stand near me while I was cooking and he would gently coax me into putting delicious stuff into the food. Because I was still grappling with dieting when I met him and I could not imagine a world where I wasn’t dieting and restricting. And so, I was terrified of food like bacon, or cheese, or mayonnaise, or butter, those kinds of things are terrifying when you’re weight-restricting. And he demystified them and he was just so loving.

Virgie Tovar:                   

From a sexuality standpoint, he would ask to watch me shower, he loved it when I would wake up in the morning first thing, and what I looked like the first thing in the morning was his favorite image of me. And he proudly stood by my side and helped me advocate. One of the things that happened in grad school was, my advisor told me not to research fatness and said that it was career suicide and said that no one cared about this issue and that everything about fatness had already been written. And this was in 20 … again, 2011, 2012. And he happened to be sitting outside of that meeting and when I stepped out of that meeting, he jumped up and was so angry. He was so angry at this person, my advisor, and just really called her out for what she was, which was “a fatphobe.” And he’s a thin white guy with a New Zealand accent.

Virgie Tovar:                   

It just sounds like this extraordinary experience of like, “Oh, my God, this person is putting all of his privileges into service to lifting me up,” which as I’m sure you know, is not the normal heterosexual game. In normal heterosexual relationships, the man is trying to get as much as he can, extract as much as he can from his woman partner in order to lift himself up, and it happens in subtle and sometimes overt ways, but this was not that at all. Anyway, those are just two little stories, little vignettes of moments along my journey.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Yeah, he definitely sounds like a unicorn. And he sounds like he needs to do a workshop around the world for other men.

Jessica Jones:                  

Right. Every man.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Get every guy on board with this. That sounds amazing. That’s so beautiful. Are you still in touch with him?

Virgie Tovar:                   

We lost touch. We were briefly engaged and I wasn’t ready to get married and I don’t know. And then I think I did a bunch of stupid things as a way to deal with it and I think he got really mad, which is understandable.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Yeah. Damn. All right. Well, hopefully he’ll shout out to you, whoever you are, wherever you are. Thanks for being awesome.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Well, Virgie, I want you to tell us about your book and where people can learn more about your work. This has been so amazing. We’ve had such a great time talking with you and hearing about all of your experiences. Give us all the plugs.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Yes. My new book is called You Have the Right to Remain Fat. It’s out from the Feminist Press. You can get it on Amazon, pretty much wherever books are sold, and indie bookstores particularly. You can find me online at virgietovar.com, V-I-R-G-I-E T-O-V-A-R.com. I’m also very active on Instagram @virgietovar.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Three more quick things. Please consider reading my column @ravishly.com. I’m a contributor to forbes.com, so Women at Forbes or Forbes Women. I do work on fatphobia in the workplace, and then also I teach a course multiple times a year called Babecamp, which is a fat feminist framework and understanding how to navigate diet culture with power.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Amazing. And we’ll make sure that we include links for all of this so people can look it up.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Thank you.

Wendy Lopez:                 

All right. Well, thank you for hopping on with us. This was so great, and yeah, we’ll catch you on the flip side.

Jessica Jones:                  

Bye, Virgie.

Virgie Tovar:                   

Love it!

Wendy Lopez:                 

All right. Bye, Virgie.

Jessica Jones:                  

Thank you so much for tuning in to another episode of the Food Heaven Podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, please do us a huge favor and leave us a review in iTunes right now. The more reviews we get, the higher we’re ranked, which means that we reach more people. Listen up to this listener review.

Jessica Jones:                  

“As a mom, we’re always hearing, “What do you do to take care of yourself?” Well, being two and a half years into motherhood and still dealing with a birthing injury, I now take 20 minutes a day to care for my injury and listened to the Food Heaven Podcast while doing so. It’s like I’m back in school, but even better. Thank you for this slice of heaven.”

Jessica Jones:                  

Aw, thank you so much for those of you who take the time to leave those heartfelt reviews like these. And if you haven’t already, please drop us some stars and some love.

Wendy Lopez:                 

Yes, and you can also connect with us online, we’re at Food Heaven Show, our podcast is released every Wednesday. In each episode, we cover tips and tricks for making lifelong sustainable living changes to upgrade your diet and health. We also interview leading experts in the field of health and nutrition to pick their brains on how to cultivate healthy life that you love. We hope you enjoyed this episode and we will catch you next time. Bye.

Jessica Jones:                  

Bye.

 

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