Week 35: End with grateful

See you soon -- here, and other places

We’ve reached a fork in the road, friends.

I’ve been avoiding this intro section all week. Writing the intro means it’s really time to say goodbye. And I don’t WANNA say goodbye!

…So I won’t. Not exactly. As I unpacked last week, this is the end of Move and Groove, but I plan to morph the newsletter into something new. Something that will arrive in your inboxes at a more reasonable hour of the day. Something that I hope will still feel personal and intimate, but will also allow for a different use of my writing brain, link-sharing brain, and whole self. Whether you stay on the list or opt out, I can’t thank you enough for being along for the ride over these past 35 weeks.

The stats that matter to me

My pal Josh (the Josh from Week 28) wrote to me a few weeks ago asking if I might consider writing a “peek behind the curtain”:

“What do the numbers look like? what have the ups and downs been? what have you learned about the various crafts involved - email, writing, online community building, content curation, a weekly discipline, etc? what's shaping your thinking about continuing or not continuing to publish?”

I liked this idea because I like transparency and I love when other writers share things like this. I was pondering the suggestion when I came across this image:

I’ve done very little promotion of this newsletter, and I think that’s why. If and when I write this follow-up, I’m down to share the subscriber stats and all that, but I also want to include the metrics that matter to me. Things like:

  • How many people of color vs. white people did I quote, cite, link to? What’s the rough breakdown among other demographics and identities?

  • How many times did I truly put myself out there and practice sharing vulnerable things about myself? (Somewhere between two and eight.) How many times did a lengthy, personal draft go to languish in the compost doc? (A lot.)

  • I don’t think we can calculate this exactly, but I might try to roughly estimate the amount we collectively gave to fundraisers for individuals. This wasn’t a goal when I started out, but it occurred to me after several of you sent me chunks of change last week toward a friend’s security deposit, which I pooled and contributed a few days later. Thank you to those who made that possible.

  • How often did I pass the mic — meaning how often did I just hand the space over to someone else whose ideas I wanted to amplify? I wish I had done this more.

And on that note, I’m about to turn things over to a friend for an interlude before we get to links. But if you have other ideas and would be curious to read an email with other "metrics,” hit reply and let me know.

Body love: Prerna’s top tips

I mentioned last week that my friend Prerna Abbi-Scanlon (@tripthelight on Instagram) and I sat down for a long conversation about intuitive eating, self-love, healthy bodies, and more. Prerna stopped dieting about a year and a half ago, inspired not only by her own well-being, but by creating a better mindset around bodies for her niblings [for those new to this word, “niblings” = a gender-free term for your siblings’ kids].

Keep an eye out for a longer piece on saying no to diet culture in my Medium publication soon; in it, we’ll cover some juicy topics like how to have productive intergenerational family conversations about food and how to choose a doctor who wants to be your “accomplice” in health.

In the meantime, here here are Prerna’s three tips to get started:

Tip 1: Create a new normal for what bodies can and “should” look like. (Spoiler alert: there is no should!)

The first step in my journey was looking for Instagram accounts to follow. Social media is a great tool for education, but beyond that, it’s also a lot of what we look at. I wanted to soak in more ideas and images that would help me on my mission to stop dieting and to start appreciating my physical body as it was. If you want to do this, I think a great place to start is @the_feeding_of_the_fox where Imogen Fox shares tons of content in her stories with all different kinds of bodies. This is so helpful in resetting your understanding of normal. Instead of seeing only white skinny people all day, I see people of all different skin tones and sizes and shapes and genders and abilities. This really helped me in retraining my brain to see them all as normal and good. This account often leads me down a rabbit hole of more accounts to follow, and was especially helpful in finding people who looked like me. Seeing more bodies like mine by following more women who are brown and have a belly helped me to feel better about my brown, round, femme self.

Tip 2: There are well-researched strategies and methods to help you.

If you feel ready to jump off the diet culture bandwagon, you’re not alone. But if you’re like me, this wasn’t the place where I wanted to carve my own path. The good news is, you don’t really have to. Of course, nothing is going to be perfect for everyone, but there are some really great places to start.

One I highly recommend is Intuitive Eating (intuitiveeating.org). This is a set of 10 principles to help you leave dieting behind by learning how to listen to and honor your body.

Another is Health at Every Size, or HAES (haescommunity.com), which is based on respect, critical awareness, and compassionate self-care. I wanted to stop torturing myself with diets, but I also wanted to do my part in ensuring that my body is functioning well and can continue to serve me. HAES helps me to do this, and to find healthcare providers who will support me in doing so.

A great Instagram account to follow for solid strategies is @danasuchow. Dana is an educator on diet culture and kids and her feed is full of specific tips on how to talk to kids about food and bodies, and how to shift what you’re doing to set a better foundation for them.

Tip 3: Talk to your people.

None of us live in a vacuum. You can’t change diet culture for yourself or anyone else in your life if the people you interact with aren’t supportive.

The people around you are likely to notice a shift, whether it’s physical changes to your body or changes in how you interact with things like food and movement. Forgetting about the trolls, people who love you may show concern. I try to be ready to respond with facts (see the helpful links in Tip 2!) for those who are swayed by that, like my scientist mom. For others who have an emotional bent, I try to share stories of how much better it feels to be free from the bounds of diets while also caring for my health.

Inevitably, the people and institutions we interact with are going to do things that are really contrary to what you want and need. When that happens, I try to remember that I’m not alone in the experience, so I’m not alone in trying to figure out what to do.

An Instagram account I love is @allisonkimmey. Allie is a self love educator with two kids, and she talks about not only learning to love her own body and teaching those lessons to her son and daughter, but also everyone else. She’s posted about everything from discussing body love with her daughter when most dolls are unreasonably thin, to how to inform a school that you don’t want your child’s BMI to be measured or discussed.

Thank you, Prerna, for your generous work writing all of this! I’m excited to learn more.

(Not) Following up: Boundaries and cancellations

Back in Week 32, I wrote about my desire to set healthy boundaries while also not writing people off if they’re truly willing to grow. The reflection was sparked by a strong gut-level reaction I had to an Instagram post about Joe Biden by the photographer Pete Souza. It was also fueled by my complicated feelings about Gina Rodriguez, the talented star of Jane the Virgin, a show I’m obsessed with (exhibit A: Move and Groove’s very first issue). I was really bummed that she went radio silent on social media after a bunch of criticism mounted against her. As a fan who had followed her online for awhile and was accustomed to seeing her engage actively there, I hoped she would quickly take in, metabolize, learn from, and publicly speak out about the criticism, “learning in public.” She hasn’t done that so far — her posts have been few and far between and mostly to promote work projects.

At any rate, several people wrote back because I explicitly invited feedback. And I read those emails carefully and thought about them, but I also haven’t revisited the topic here since. I wish I had the energy right now to write another post about it and quote Hannah, Lindsay, and Adam in particular. I feel really accountable to this group! And while I unfollowed Pete Souza, I am watching the fifth and final season of Jane—a show that is good and a show that does good—so maybe there’s more to tease out.

But since I’m maxed out and muddled, I’ll just say: 1) thank you to everyone who did write back with both support for and challenges against what I wrote, and maybe I’ll still be in touch about quoting you in a forthcoming piece at some point; 2) Joe Biden is still not the answer (The Cut) and 2b) this tweet, and 2c) Why Female Presidential Candidates Are Still Overlooked (Harper’s Bazaar); 3) Anyone who’s read this far on this topic might appreciate this Medium post: 10 Tips on Receiving Critical Feedback: A Guide for Activists.

Links

Podcasts:

  • Code Switch wrapped up the month of April with a beautiful episode full of poetry. Find it at NPR.org or on your podcast app of choice. Big love to Jenn G. B. for making sure I didn’t miss this.

  • Pod Save the People’s recent episode in celebration of Earth Day is worth the listen. (Crooked Media)

  • Back in the fall, Chris Hayes interviewed Ta-Nehisi Coates in front of a live audience for his Why Is This Happening? podcast. Shoutout to Kent G. for flagging this episode, titled “In This Hope.” Find it on Stitcher, iTunes, and probably anywhere else you listen.

  • Looking forward to this Mashup Americans episode featuring Ai-Jen Poo (APM, again, search where you listen)

  • Speaking of podcasts: 9 Podcasts That Don’t Whitewash Race (Yes! Magazine); this new one called Man Up! looks intriguing (Slate.com); and Ahmed Ali Akhbar, creator and host of the illuminating See Something Say Something podcast, recently launched a Patreon.

Words:

Songs:

  • Today my soundtrack has been a swirl of this year-old Royal Wedding rendition of Stand by Me (via Vox), and Lizzo’s Worship (YouTube).

That’s a wrap!

::Roll credits::

Ending (and beginning again) with grateful,

Julia

Hi, first-time readers! In August 2018, on my 35th birthday, I began to write an email a week for 35 weeks. I called the series Move and Groove: An Experiment in Getting and Staying Unstuck. This is the last of the 35 — but I still plan to share updates and personal writing with this list from time to time. If a friend forwarded you this email and you’d like to subscribe, head to julia.substack.com.

My freelance work website is under construction, but you can peek: juliaconsults.com. I’m also on Instagram at @juliaseesmith and (less often) on Twitter at @juliacsmith.

You can also subscribe to Dandelions, a newsletter I’m piloting this summer with my friend Joanna Eng.

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