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Ruth Bader Ginsberg with middle finger up

A fun (but obviously photoshopped) image of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg

Following the recent, horrendous Hobby Lobby decision, I’ve been seeing a spate of articles talking about why so many women need birth control not for controlling birth but for medical issues like irregular periods.

I find this argument not only irritating but detrimental. I think the argument that birth control is not just birth control but medicine SUCKS as an argument. Why should it matter what anyone uses birth control for? Whether you’re having sex with multiple partners or just want to regulate your period — why is that anyone’s business? Why is that your boss’s business?

It’s your body. It’s your choice. That’s all that matters. Let’s not appease the narrow-minded by telling them you’re not using birth control to control birth.

Maybe I’m particularly sensitive to this appeasement that masquerades as an acknowledgment of rights because it reminds me of an argument that I see in the fat community a lot.

It makes me think of Stella Boonshoft, whose image was hailed as a moment in the body love movement. Yes, it was brave of her to take that picture in her underwear, but her words continually undermined her message: “PCOS makes it incredibly hard to lose weight, and spikes up your insulin levels which can lead to diabetes and other complications. I felt like I was just getting bigger and bigger and could do nothing to stop it. . . . Health and weight are not synonymous, and I know that to be healthy means to manage my sobriety and PCOS the best that I can. I may not ever be thin, but that’s okay. It’s all about progress, not perfection.”

I don’t mean to be hard on Stella. It’s not just her. But I want this sort of argument to stop because it’s not helpful.

It’s not helpful to say, “I’m fat because . . .” because it doesn’t matter why you’re fat. At least, it shouldn’t matter to anyone else. From a rights perspective, whether you’re fat because of genetics, or a medical issue, or constant dieting, or whatever, it doesn’t matter.

Why doesn’t it matter? Because you have a right to be fat no matter what the reason. You have the right to be in the body that you have no matter how or why you got there.

You also have the right to use birth control for medical reasons or for actual birth control or just because you like it. It’s none of my business. Just like your fat is none of my business.

But equal rights and bodily autonomy are our collective business.

You don’t have to apologize for your size or your birth control or your choices. Let’s stop the politics of appeasement when we’re talking about our bodies.

Do you agree with me on this? Let me know your thoughts below!

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Sometimes I find fatshion blogs to be fun and inspirational.

And sometimes, well, not.

I often recommend that clients look at more body positive blogs, especially ones with images of fat people. It’s a way to recalibrate your brain so that fatter bodies seem more like what they are – normal.

The Adipositivity Project: 2013 &emdash; (I’m not a big fan of the idea of normal, but often realizing that your body is normal rather than gross, weird, and abnormal is an important step in your body love journey.)

After practicing serious, radical body love for about 7 years now, I rarely see an image that makes me feel bad about my body. But loving your body is often like peeling an onion, and though I’ve peeled away nearly all of the layers of body hate, I noticed that there’s a little, annoying part of the onion left. Maybe it’s only 1% or less of that onion, but it’s there.

I realized that I have a weird issue with my body shape, and that fatshion blogs seem to exacerbate it every once in a while.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I have a sort of “upside down” triangle shaped body. My hips and waist are essentially the same size. This makes it really hard to keep my pants from falling down (seriously, this is no fun). When I wear tights or leggings, I have to tuck them under my bra in order to keep them on. When I try on pants, if the waist fits, there is literally a foot or more of material in the hips and thighs. The size that would make sense for my thighs is about 6 sizes smaller than the size I wear in tops. Most dresses that fit my top half have feet of extra material in the bottom half. I’ve tried getting my clothes tailored, but the cost ends up being exorbitant because I want to tailor pretty much everything.

My body has been like this forever, so I don’t think about it much and I’m used to working around it. But every once in a while it really gets to me.

I even tried to start my own fatshion blog, Fatshionable Apples, but I haven't done much with it.

I even tried to start my own fatshion blog, Fatshionable Apples, but I haven’t done much with it.


Fatshion blogs sometimes exacerbate my annoyance, because although the wonderful folks who run these blogs look way more like me than magazine models, they still don’t seem to have the challenges I have with clothes.

I don’t know what the answer to this is, but I thought I’d share it because I can’t be the only one!

Plus, I think it’s good to be transparent with you all. I love my body, don’t denigrate it, don’t hate it (anymore) but I still run into these little, uncomfortable parts of the onion (there’s that metaphor!) now and again.

Do you have similar body shape issues or issues with fatshion blogs? If so, let’s chat about it in the comments section below!

Get great body love tips and more when you subscribe:

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

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I get, literally, about ten email pitches a day. Most of them go directly to the trash folder (and, to be honest, my spam folder), but the email I got from Erin Zaikis made me want to reach out.

Erin is the founder of a social enterprise and soap company, Sundara (www.livesundara.com). Her soaps are made here in NYC, and proceeds from their sales are being used to fund hygiene and water projects for children in underserved areas around the world. Sundara is currently operating projects in Haiti, India and Ghana – in schools, slums and community centers alike.

Children in Haiti at a Sundara handwashing class

Children in Haiti at a Sundara handwashing class

Why soap? Because getting kids access to soap and teaching them how to wash their hands actually has a big impact on their life expectancy.

So I chatted with Erin and got her perspective on soap, handwashing, and the power of simple hygiene techniques.

Golda: What inspired you to start Sundara?

Erin: Last summer I was working in rural Thailand for an organization that combats child trafficking. As a part of my role there, I visited schools to meet children that were deemed at risk for being trafficked. In one school, I went to the restroom and when I came out to wash my hands, I realized there was no soap. I had my translator ask the students if they had any soap at the school or if they had ever washed their hands before and we just saw blank stares. I couldn’t believe that I was meeting children, some as old as 13, who had lived their whole lives without something I had been taking for granted every single day of mine.

So I drove to a store an hour away, bought out their supply of soap and conducted an impromptu hand washing workshop in the village. However many of the children just fumbled the bars of soap in their hands, not understanding what to do with them. It was mind blowing. I left that school thinking there was so much more to be done.

I started Sundara as my commitment to helping promote hygiene in underserved communities like these. Sundara is a soap company that raises funds for hygiene education and infrastructure – because I believe that basic hygiene is a right that everyone – no matter where they live – deserves to have. Since last year, we have been operating programs around the world in Haiti, Ghana and India.

Golda: Why is hand washing so important?

Erin: Diarrhea and pneumonia are the biggest killers of children in the developing world, taking the lives of almost 3.5 million children each year. However, as you hopefully know, diarrhea and pneumonia are PREVENTABLE illnesses. Hand washing is a low cost, low technology solution to preventing these childhood deaths – more effective and cheaper than any medicine or vaccine.

So much attention is given to clean water initiatives – and rightly so – but we are forgetting about the other side of the equation here. What good is clean water when a community lacks the hygiene education and a sustainable source of soap to use it with? Sundara seeks to bring attention to that part of the issue. We focus on sustainable, community led hygiene education initiatives in these areas and promoting localized soap recycling to make sure that even the neediest people will have access to soap regularly. Ultimately, if we can improve access to soap and educate about the benefits of regular hand washing, we can give these children a better chance to stay in school and reach adulthood, and therefore create healthier societies and a more equal world.

Golda: How does soap recycling work?

Erin: Our localized soap recycling with women’s cooperatives in each country creates the ultimate form of sustainability — by reducing waste in landfills, redistributing soap into the hands that need it most, improving hygiene amongst at-risk populations and ultimately reducing preventable hygiene related deaths.

Delightful Sundara soap

Delightful Sundara soap

Our process takes the soap you use once or twice at a hotel and instead of letting it end up rotting away in a landfill, redistributes it to the people that need it the most. Partially-used soap is collected by hotel cleaning staff upon room checkout, then handed over to our employees and volunteers. We surface clean each bar of soap, grind it down into small pieces, and run it through a bleach solution to sanitize it. The soap is boiled and rebatched into new bars – and samples are tested for bacteria and pathogens at a third party lab to make sure that it will be impossible to transmit disease through the soap. Once we know the soap is up to our health standards it is distributed by local women’s cooperatives, free of charge, to schools, community centers and homes. These women serve as hygiene ambassadors and host regular health education workshops to empower their neighbors and children on preventative health measures.

Golda: Does use of soap have any negative impact on the water supply in developing countries?

Erin: None that I’m aware of at the moment.

Golda: Why is it important to use paraben/sulfate/detergent-free soap?

Erin: Your skin absorbs 60% of the things you put on it so make sure you treat it with the best products.

Here are some things to avoid in your soap:

Detergents: Soaps are made of materials found in nature whereas detergents are synthetic and petroleum based (they were developed during World War II when oils to make soap were scarce). Detergents are harsh on your skin. They strip away more natural oils than soap. Soap is better for the environment, as it is natural and biodegradable. Some detergents still contain phosphates which causes significant damage to the environment, especially fish and wildlife.

Sulfates: These are what makes soap foam, but they also strip your skin of its natural oils and are known to be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen according to the EPA.

Fragrances: Any ingredient list that contains the word “fragrance”—and most do—is likely to contain a host of possibly dangerous chemicals, including endocrine disruptors like phthalates. This category is especially scary because it’s been shown to cause problems to the hormone system in very small amounts.

Parabens: This common preservative is also known to mess with hormones by acting as an estrogen mimicker.

Alcohol: This ingredient is extremely dehydrating, sucking the natural oils out of your skin and causing our faces to age faster.

Golda: Where can people buy your soap?

Erin: Our soap is available for purchase online at www.livesundara.com.

Golda: What percentage of profits go to Sundara’s soap initiatives?

Erin: $1 from each soap is donated to our hygiene fund – which is currently running projects in Ghana, Haiti and India. Thus, when you wash your hands with a bar of Sundara soap, you are providing the gift of health to communities around the world.

Golda: What can people do if they want to help/get involved with this work?

Erin: One of the biggest ways to help is through purchasing soap to fund our efforts – they make great thank you and house warming gifts as well as party favors!

If you’re interested in helping with your time we also have many opportunities. We are starting Sundara chapters in colleges across the country to fundraise for soap recycling initiatives. We are also looking to connect with people in the hospitality industry to expand our efforts and impact as many communities as possible. Additionally, we are still looking for part-time summer interns. If you’re interested in connecting or talking about any of these opportunities, please email erin@livesundara.com.

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I always liked Monica Lewinsky.

Back in 1998, I was 20 years old, just a few years younger than she was at the time. Superficially, I looked a little like her — the plus-sized body (though she was probably smaller than me), the round face, the modified “Friends” haircut. People literally would yell out “Hey, Monica!” to me on my way to class at NYU. She lived just a few blocks away from my dorm at the time.

A lot of people were in love with Bill Clinton then (me included). The 1992 election had been particularly exciting. After 12 years of Republicans, two relative cute, young-ish, progressive guys had taken over and they seemed to actually care about the economy and whether people had jobs that they could actually live on.

So when Monica hooked up with Bill, I think a lot of women thought to themselves that they would probably have done the same thing.

Me in 1999 at the NYU graduation

Me in 1999 at the NYU graduation.

The ensuing “scandal” felt like a witch hunt. The idea that a president could potentially be impeached for oral sex (or, ahem, lying about oral sex) was ridiculous to most rational people. I hated the idea that tax dollars were going to paying for special prosecutor Ken Starr’s investigation.

All that aside, at the time, you could not turn on the TV without hearing a “Monica” joke, which was, at least it seemed to me, almost always about her weight. The joke was the same every time — why would the president, the leader of the free world, who could probably get almost any woman he wanted, hook up with a “fat girl” (or, perhaps even worse, a fat, Jewish girl)?

As a fellow fat, Jewish girl, I thought the media response to Monica was kind of scary. I had spent my life trying to un-fat myself because of the judgment of others, but to hear, again and again, that this slightly fat 20-something was undesirable, disgusting, and reviled was particularly revealing. It was like the unspoken judgment of millions of people suddenly became spoken, loudly, and the consensus was that being fat, even a little fat, was the grossest thing that you could be.

In the meantime, I found myself thinking about the reality of what happened versus the judgment of others. The fact was that the most powerful man in our country, a man who combined an incredible IQ with a real compassion for people (in other words, really sexy) was undoubtedly attracted to a fat woman. As a 20-year-old, I found that interesting and, truthfully, heartening, even if the public response to what happened depressed me.

I had taken a short break from dieting in 1997, but I started up again in 1998. Looking back, I think that the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal may have contributed to that choice. Nobody wanted to be Monica, nobody wanted to be the butt of the joke.

In 1999, I started law school at NYU Law, and special prosecutor Ken Starr was teaching there. I was really hoping to run into him in the hallway so that I could “accidentally” trip him. No such luck though.

(By the way, if you want some insight into how Clinton and Lewinsky’s shared concerns about their fatness and dieting actually led to their relationship, you must read this wonderful book by Paul Campos.)

Did the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal influence your thoughts on your own fat body? Let’s chat about it in the comments below!

Get great body love tips and more when you subscribe:

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

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So excited to see Ragen Chastain, et. al. talking about her experience on PBS.

Share and like! (And give it a thumbs up on youtube!)

Get great body love tips and more when you subscribe:

Golda is a certified holistic health counselor and founder of Body Love Wellness, a program designed for plus-sized women who are fed up with dieting and want support to stop obsessing about food and weight. To learn more about Golda and her work, click here.

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