Once upon a time when I was 21, I had just moved from California to Manhattan with my future ex-husband. One day I went to the doctor for a checkup. As I walked out the door of our apartment, he said, “Be sure to ask the doctor if you should go on a diet.”
“Sure,” I said. After all, my weight had gone up a bit since college.
The first thing the nurse did was weigh me. I was 114 pounds that day. And when I asked the doctor whether I should go on a diet he said, “No, I don’t think you need to gain weight.”
And that, my friends, is just how bizarre Diet Culture is: That a 5' 6" woman would even consider dieting at 114 pounds.
I was thrilled to be asked to interview Dr. Alexis Conason this month about her new book, The No-Diet Revolution. Reading the book and preparing for the interview reminded me just how much time and energy I’ve wasted on fruitless dieting attempts. In my family, and perhaps in yours too, this behavior goes back generations. One of the artifacts my Great-Aunt Florence left behind was a wistful poem she wrote about decades of doomed efforts to make her body smaller. My own mother was hounded by her mother, a thin woman who told mom that being fat would cut her life short. As it turned out, the two of them died at almost exactly the same age - in their mid-90s.
When we consider the wisdom we want to pass down to our children and grandchildren, and to other young people as well, one of the main lessons is that our bodies are an excellent gift — no matter our age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mobility, or body size. It is a blessing to be here, and it does not serve us well to limit the enjoyment of our bodies through shame. We are here to enjoy life, and that includes food along with sex, movement, the appreciation of the natural world, and the fulfillment of our creativity. As the saying goes, “If the Goddess didn’t love flesh, She wouldn’t have made so much of it.”
I will be 68 soon and am blessed to enjoy swimming, weightlifting and hiking—and I weigh a hundred pounds more than I did in college. I’ve been a proponent of Fat Liberation since the 1980s, and yet there are still days when I shame myself for how I look. A very wealthy industry makes money on our shame and even influences public policy for its own benefit. Dr. Conason rightly calls this “the Diet Industrial Complex.” The primary antidote for the shame the Complex preys upon is self-compassion. I hope you will read Conason’s interview, which is one of this month’s blogs, and consider buying her well-researched and compassionate book. I’ve already sent a copy to a young friend of my daughter who is struggling with these issues. And please let me know how the Health at Every Size paradigm resonates in your life.
Many thanks also to Doriana Chase for her guest blog this month. It’s a wonderful reflection on her erotic writing history. Doriana discovered sensual writing as a young girl and has kept at it ever since. I’m inspired by her enjoyment of sexy writing and her persistence through all the seasons of life. Her writing has been featured in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year and I am sure much more publishing success will come her way. Doriana was a natural to join one of our online Elderotica writing groups during the pandemic, and shared her creativity and leadership with us there. I hope to see her—and you—at future workshops and events.
The health issues that had slowed my productivity have abated and my first novel (but not my first book!), Brilliant Charming Bastard, is in the last stages of final edits. And just in time, because real life is catching up with the premise of my book. This month the Washington Post
published an article about three young women who discovered they were all dating the same man, who had promised fidelity to each of them.
The three women became fast friends, restored a camper together and went on an extended road trip. In my novel, three women scientists discover they are dating the same lying dilletante who is stealing their ideas for his research. They decide the best revenge is getting rich and found a biotech startup, so it’s not the same story, but still… is truth stranger than fiction? Let’s call it a draw.
Once the novel is done and dusted, other projects beckon: A periodical that will publish your Elderotica. Classes, retreats, and workshops. There is so much to do and enjoy. Please send me your suggestions and ideas for what you find missing in life or in educational opportunities. What kinds of workshops would inspire you to keep the pen moving (or the keys clicking)? I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org
In other news this month, we are finally off to meet one of our two grandbabies born during the pandemic. This summer is a strange transition time, as we negotiate how to reengage with family and friends even while much of the world is still deep in the throes of the pandemic. Here in the United States, the stringent lockdown that formed the background of my stories in The Erotic Pandemic Ball seems like another lifetime. And one day this transition time will be far behind us as well. I send you best wishes as you navigate this passage.
Please keep writing and creating. It’s our birthright at all stages of life.
I publish two blog articles (published online on the 10th and the 20th) and this newsletter every month, so you hear from me (or a guest blogger) a couple of times a month. Below is a brief extract from each of last month's blogs - click the links for the whole enchilada! If you've ever considered getting your voice out there, I welcome suggestions for topics, or a fully written guest piece in line with my philosophy for the site. Drop me a line......
A never-been-kissed junior high school student, I passed around a battered, spiral bound notebook full of the “naughty” stories I wrote to entertain my girlfriends. I may have been a virgin, but that didn’t stop me from using my Bic pen to write what I imagined to be passionate and shocking situations. My protagonist did all the bad things I didn’t dare to do: she swore, shoplifted, drank fiery amber liquids, smoked cigarettes, stayed out all night in short skirts, and lingered in the back seats of cars with cute boys. Fade to black, no graphic details.
My stories were diary-style confessionals, episodic, with no resolution. No mention was made of the narrator’s mother (presumed dead). Her father was conveniently working too much to pay much attention to what she was up to. My frame of reference was Nancy Drew, who bravely sought out dangerous situations, and answered to no one.
Dr. Alexis Conason began her career as a clinical psychologist with a goal to help people lose weight.
When she was introduced to the concept of Health at Every Size, she experienced a paradigm shift which she shares in her new book, The Diet-Free Revolution. This book encourages us to take agency over our own bodies and exposes the Diet Industrial Complex as an industry that thrives on its own failure. The Diet-Free Revolution will be a game changer for people dealing with body size issues, including many women past midlife.
Stella: Alexis, what was your process like, in moving past Diet Culture to become an advocate for mindful eating and agency over our own bodies?
Alexis: Food was my companion as a child, a source of comfort. But as an adolescent I became convinced that dieting was the answer to my unwanted curves. As kids when we are powerless over so much in our lives, food is one of the few resources we have to take care of ourselves; it’s a sign of resilience. But at the time I didn’t see it that way.
You may remember the terrific guest post by my friend Simone LaBerge, “Sexuality Down the Decades,” where she reflected on her own sexual development from childhood to her seventies and talked about her hopes for the years ahead.
Her writing inspired me to create a free short course to help you to reflect on your journey so far and your hopes for the days to come.
Sign up for a fascinating interior journey, and share the details with your close friends and on social media please!