White World, Black Body

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This week we’re talking about diets, separating weight from health and navigating white spaces as a big woman of color. “White World, Black Body” brings our host, Tonya Mosley, in conversation with two Wise Ones, Virgie Tovar and Chloe Hilliard, who have each bridged personal journeys with body image and food with their professional work. Tovar is the host of the new podcast Rebel Eaters Club and author of the upcoming book, "The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color." Hilliard is a journalist-turned-comedian, spinning her unique experiences into laughs and a new book called, "F*ck Your Diet: And Other Things My Thighs Tell Me." All three women come together to help a Truth Be Told listener with her quandary:

Being both overweight and black makes me feel invisible. And that I'm occupying too much space at the same time. The goal, of course, is to lose weight. But, until then, how can I maneuver in the non-black world, in my body?

This idea that body image and weight is a lifelong project is why this conversation transcends time. As we live through the COVID-19 pandemic, push-up challenges are being circulated alongside memes about gaining weight while physically distancing, dubbed the “Quarantine 15.” Amidst a global health crisis, we are still worrying about our bodies and weight.

“It's important to understand that diet culture primes us to accept discomfort, shame, self-denial, a sense of failure, gaslighting and financial exploitation,” said Tovar. “These are things that share characteristics with racism, sexism and misogyny.”

Hilliard agrees. “Dieting — I don't do that anymore,” she said. “It felt like I was suffering and punishing myself for something I didn’t know I did.”

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The Wise Ones suggest that instead of spending brainpower on worrying about the scale or meticulously planning meals, instead redirect that energy to activities that bring you joy or peace. They suggest writing, going outside, doing yoga in front of a mirror or simply drinking tea. It’s about finding your own happiness rather than trying to identify with other folks' version of happiness.

“I think it's really hard trying to be a strong black woman and at every turn in society, someone's attacking you because they feel that you are this impenetrable human being. It is taxing,” Hilliard said. “Because of that, you start to emotionally eat. And so it is a cycle [that] needs to be broken. I have stopped trying to appease a society that doesn't acknowledge me.”

The message both Tovar and Hilliard drive home is one that takes practice and constant reminding: Nothing is wrong with you and it’s not your responsibility to appease others' insecurities.

Episode transcript can be found here.

Episode Guests:
Chloe Hilliard, Author of F*ck Your Diet: And Other Things My Thighs Tell Me
Virgie Tovar, Author and host of the podcast Rebel Eaters Club

Recommended Articles:
Meet The Woman Who’s ‘Decolonizing’ Body Positivity For Women Of Color from HuffPost
Jessamyn Stanley on Why Yoga Isn't All Peace, Love, and Rainbows from KQED
The Fierceness of ‘Femme, Fat, and Asian’ from The Atlantic
Your Fat Stigma Is Racist – Here Are 6 Ways to Shift That from everyday feminism
BITCHES GOTTA EAT blog by Samantha Irby

Recommended Books:
F*ck Your Diet: And Other Things My Thighs Tell Me by Chloe Hilliard
The Self-Love Revolution: Radical Body Positivity for Girls of Color by Virgie Tovar
You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar
Fearing the Black Body by Sabrina Strings
Hunger: A Memoir of (my) Body by Roxane Gay
Every Body Yoga by Jessamyn Stanley
Unashamed by Leah Vernon

Recommended Listening:
Rebel Eaters Club from Transmitter Media, hosted by Virgie Tovar
Pretty Hurts from NPR’s Code Switch
Nalgona Positivity Pride Talks Body Positivity & Disordered Eating from Latinx Therapy