May 2016

Being hungry for me is the palpable, lived expression of my emotional vulnerability: it is the wholehearted opening of myself to others, it is the allowing of myself to have needs that require others to fill. That is a leap that feels daunting.

My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Five of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

In my mid-twenties I came across the books Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach and When Food is Love by Geneen Roth. They were part of my discovery of feminism and the proposition ‘the personal is political.’ Through them I realized that I wasn’t alone in my struggles with my body, and they weren’t all my fault. I began to understand that the challenges people, especially women, have with food are substitutes or masks for other struggles that we don’t have the emotional space or safety in our lives to confront. We don’t have the social will in our culture to take on. Intellectually, I connected many dots within myself. Academically, I did a master’s degree on why women use food and their relationship to their bodies to have autonomy and give meaning to their lives. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, I am still finding my way.

Read More

Some of the most destructive covert shame messages that we send our children stem from feminine and masculine norms. – Brené Brown

My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Four of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

Suddenly, my English mind and my French mouth came together effortlessly. I was able to speak to my young interviewer passionately and forcefully (although certainly not perfectly) about my convictions: that we women use fat for protection, dieting for control and distraction; that weighing ourselves on a scale belies our desire for social approval in spite of protests to the contrary; that our physical hunger is trustworthy and our spiritual hungers are important; that the reasons we eat when we’re not hungry (or we don’t eat when we are) are the jewels that can give us insight into the most precious parts of ourselves.

 

Our personal stories of pain are planted as seeds that take root in the fertile soil of a patriarchal, fat-phobic society. And the patriarchal, fat-shaming society creates personal stories of pain. So it goes. This version of patriarchal society limits women by equating our worth with our size, and then shames us when we dare to step out of that equation. Just look at gossip magazine images and their finger-pointing headlines. We get called out both for being too big and too small, too sexy and too plain, wearing clothes that cover too little and wearing clothes that cover too much. It is a contradictory, confusing, confining and crazy-making world in which to have a female body. It creates the situation where we want to run for the cover of fat and the numbing power of food. Sometimes we eat just to get out of the line of fire. We rebel through fat; we conform through dieting. Either way, we sacrifice ourselves by sacrificing the wisdom of our hunger.

Read More

We need to address shame because shame is what is stopping us from being vulnerable. It is corrosive. It stops us dead in our tracks. It stops us by telling us we are inadequate, flawed or unworthy.

My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Three of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

There in front of me, interviewing me, was this pretty, young Parisian student maybe in her twenties, blue eyes, long light wavy hair, with what society would call an ideal body. Someone with a breathtaking air of innocence, who if you saw on the street you might assume didn’t have a care in the world. Everything about her seemed perfect.

Read More

Are you letting your body determine the parameters of your eating experience? Or does that prospect scare you? Your answer is an existential, spiritual litmus test.

My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Two of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

My mum had had a handful of boyfriends since her divorce. Not a high number for a single woman, but for a girl who missed her dad, who liked the men her mum was with, and who was devastated every time one of her relationships ended, it was too many. It was like having my already tentative heart opened only to have to close it again—hardened with a new layer of scar tissue each time.

 

To make matters worse, my dad was not someone I could rely on emotionally. I have learned in adulthood that I am Métis through him, and that he spent grade five and grade eight in care with the Catholic Church in Moose Jaw and in Edmonton. I have heard stories that my grandparents drank a lot and partied a lot, and were desperately poor. My dad won’t say much about that time except “you knew which priests to stay away from.” But his elder sister recounts memories of neglect at home and being left for long periods of time in the convent. On the occasions when she was finally picked up by her parents, she would arrive home only to meet new siblings.

 

My dad is a much better parent to adult children. I get that. And in my youth, when I needed him most, he was carrying a lot of shame from my mum’s leaving him. That likely only exacerbated the scars from his own parents’ eventual divorce. One thing I knew then, my mum was all I had.

Read More

Vulnerability is the willingness to keep going knowing there are no guarantees. You try. You fall. You get up. You try again. You may fall again. Then you get up again. And you get up as tall as you did the first time.

My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part One of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

I was in the middle of getting my hair done at a salon (a luxury I treat myself to every week) when my phone rang. I wasn’t surprised as it was the opening night of the film festival I was mounting in honour of International Women’s Day—a huge event I’d created on my own for a cause I am passionate about. The caller identified herself as being from the CBC, Canada’s national broadcaster, and asked if she was speaking to the Michelle Brewer who was responsible for the event. I replied that she was. She then asked me if I spoke French. I paused. I have worked hard at my French—including having lived two and a half years in immersion in Québec City. In fact, I can usually even pass as francophone for the first few sentences—that is, until my lack of vocabulary, my English mind moving faster than my French mouth and the letter R betray me. Still, out of love for the film festival and being a proud Canadian, I took a deep breath and responded oui.

 

Read More