More of Me to Love: Elizabeth! Thank you so much for speaking with us. Who would have known that there would be a wonderful woman out there who actually wrote a book called More to Love and was able to come to a website called More of Me to Love for a fireside chat - or a warm-glow-of-the-computer chat, if you prefer.
As this is largely a community of people who recognize the benefits of Health at Every Size, we’ll start by asking, What do you do to stay healthy? What are your favorite healthy foods and ways of getting exercise?
Elizabeth Patch: I have never been very athletic, hated gym class, and I always exercise reluctantly! But when I am diligent about walking, do yoga stretching and use light “girly” weights, it increases my level of energy and stamina, and decreases the arthritis pain I’ve had since my mid-20’s. So I drag myself to put on my workout clothes, and I always feel better afterward. I also love to garden, and find that digging, pulling weeds, turning compost, building stone walls, etc. sure feels like a workout! As for favorite foods, I am an omnivore, but I definitely notice that junk food makes me cranky, sluggish, and achy. So I try (usually) to eat non-processed food without any weird chemicals: lots of fruits & vegetables, whole grains, small amounts of meat and fish, some dairy, limit the sugary stuff. I can’t live without red wine, coffee and dark chocolate!
MTL: Who is your favorite artist that uses larger subjects? Favorite painting?
EP: In art school I focused on the human figure, so I am a fan of anyone who can really draw anatomy with both accuracy and feeling, no matter what the size of the model. I am a fan of British artist Lucian Freud, the living grand master of the human form. There is a knockout painting of his in the NY Metropolitan Museum of a very large man seen from the back that always astonishes me with its power. He did a series of paintings of the model Sue Tilley that are just amazing in their virtuosity and the honesty in which he paints fleshiness of her body.
A link to an article with photo of the model: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2008/apr/12/art
But of course, there are many many many more artists that I love. How much space do you have?
MTL: Ha! As much as you need, but maybe you’ll share more later. Do you still obsess about your body and your weight? Do you diet anymore?
EP: Yes and no. The autopilot voice in my head still asks “Do I look fat in this?” but I understand that what I really want to know is “Do I look good in this?” I could find a new flaw with my appearance every time I look in the mirror! But I try to shush that annoying, whining voice as soon as I become aware of it. This takes practice! I don’t “diet” in the sense that I avoid forbidden foods and go hungry to lose weight. I try as often as possible to eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full. I prefer “slow food” to fast food, which requires planning, time and work, but I find it far more pleasurable and less destructive, to shop, chop, cook, and serve than mindlessly eat an entire bag of chips and dip for dinner. And with slow food, you get yummy leftovers for when you are too busy or tired to cook!
MTL: We at More of Me to Love think it’s important that thin people are involved in the Size Acceptance movement. Do you think that your involvement, as a thin woman, is particularly important? How do you feel about Size Acceptance being everyone’s issue?
EP: Size acceptance IS everyone’s issue! Even as a thin woman, my life has been surrounded with friends, family members and students who have struggled with various levels of eating disorders. I have lived through decades of friendships formed around dieting and weight loss, and participated in zillions of pointless conversations about how much we hate our butts, bellies, fill in the blank. As a teacher for 20 years, I have overheard my 2000+ students, without fail, talk incessantly about dieting and hating their looks, no matter what size they are. It took me most of my adult life to be okay with my own size. Fat girls, skinny girls, girls in between, we all need size acceptance!
MTL: If tomorrow you woke up and weighed 50 more pounds, which was, in all fairness, properly distributed around your body (not a bloated leg, that is), how would you feel about that? How
would you deal with it?
EP: All new clothes! And a new haircut! And anything else that would make my new self feel attractive and happy. The fact is, everyone gets a new and different body every day anyway. Flip through photo albums and look at yourself at all ages, look at your mother and grandmother at all ages. Bodies change! Treat the body you have today with love and respect, it’s the only body you have.
MTL: How do you feel about the word “fat?”
EP: Fat SHOULD be a neutral word, like brunette or short or freckle-faced, but I think it’s been used as an insult for so long, that it’s hard for some people to use. My work is meant to be a light-heated approach to the difficult issues of body image, so I use the word fat gently. I prefer other, more melodic words like curvaceous.
MTL: How do you share your work with your students and try to make them understand the importance of loving themselves and their bodies? Do they ever come to you with body-related
issues because they know about your work?
EP: You may find this surprising, but I do not actively share my book with my students (I know this goes against Marketing 101: always try to sell!). I feel very strongly that my job as a teacher is to teach my subjects well and help my students succeed, not promote my own work. Of course, I always take steps to intervene and get help when I see that girls are struggling! But otherwise, like Batman, I have a secret identity.
MTL: Have you found your art an effective way of communicating with people who have extreme body issues or do you find that it’s already fat proud people that appreciate the inspiration? In
your experience, what are other ways to communicate self-esteem issues with people (other than through inspiring art and writings)?
EP: I hope that my work is so appealing and non-threatening, so simple and upbeat, that anybody with body issues, extreme or otherwise, can use it for healing. There are many great books that deal with body issues from an informational or therapeutic standpoint, with lots of statistics and footnotes. But sometime you just need a quick pick-me-up, and that’s what my art is designed to do.
Perhaps the best way to communicate self-esteem issues with anyone is to really listen, show compassion, and have a sense of humor.
MTL: When you discuss ideas like Health at Every Size with people and tell people that it’s okay to be fat, what kinds of reactions do you get? Do you find that people ever get angry at the idea
that it’s okay to be fat? How do you deal with such attitudes and confrontations?
EP: The message is broader than “it’s ok to be fat.” The message is: you are who you are today, and you deserve respect and acceptance and love today, not in some mythical future when you are “perfect.” Because nobody is perfect! You can live a fabulous fat life or a miserable skinny life; size has nothing to do with it! And for those who only associate fat with poor health, large and healthy is as likely a combination as thin and sickly, and has more to do with the presence of disease and lifestyle choice like smoking, drugs or lack of exercise, than it does with body size.
MTL: How do you feel about the new Fox reality show, More to Love?
EP: MY “More to Love” is about learning to love and accept yourself. The Fox reality show with the same name is about finding someone else to love you.
MTL: Very well said. Is there anything else you’d like to say to the More of Me to Love readers?
EP: So many women and girls spend so much of their lives hating the bodies they were born with, developing all sorts of harmful, destructive relationships to food. I firmly believe that the continuous, unrelenting, non-stop media images of underweight women as the absolute ideal of beauty is a root cause of all this misery.” More to Love” is my contribution to giving normal, curvy, full-figured, beautiful women some fun, upbeat, adorable images, and some positive affirmations as an antidote. I hope it puts a smile on the faces of those of you who are on the path of self-acceptance, and those of you who still continue to struggle with it.
MTL: It’s been such a delight having you join us, and I know our readers think so too. Readers, feel free to leave any questions or comments for Elizabeth or generally below.