Whose Table, Which Seat?

February 27, 2021
The Yoga and Body Image Coalition is a 2021 Featured NEDAwareness Week Partner.  The following is a YBIC National Eating Disorders Awareness Week post that highlights how the practice of yoga can be an integral component in the effective treatment of and on-going recovery from eating disorders and disordered eating. The shares included are from those who have first-hand experience with disordered eating or from those who are called to share their body acceptance journeys.

Everybody has a seat at the table, Everybody has a seat at the table…every body has a seat at the table…I can’t stop mulling this year’s theme over in my mind-body again and again; I break it apart and put it back together like a lego tower that is off by just one block. But what’s the missing piece? What is making it feel difficult for me to pursue this topic as someone both in recovery from an eating disorder and body dysmorphia, and as someone who works as a therapist with people who are either also in recovery or are in an active state of their eating disorder and seeking additional somatic support to add to their care team.

Everybody has a seat at the table. Along with the markers of my identity named above, I am also intersectional in my identities – inhabiting a body comprised of multiple ethnicities, who identifies as a queer nonbinary femme, who is chronically ill/disabled (shout-out to any fellow Crohn’s Disease or IBD warriors who understand the added layer of complexity around the digestive system), but who more visibly than any of these things; is fat. Not fat, as in “holy shame spiral, this is a negative word to fear,” but fat as in, “literal body descriptor.” Average height. Brown Hair. Browner eyes. Thighs that touch. Arms that jiggle. Belly of abundance. Fat. (please notice here any sensations, emotions, memories, feelings, or images that may have arisen for you in this moment of experiencing the word fat and please take time separately to sit with and reflect upon that).

Everybody has a seat at the table. So here’s the thing about being fat; we often don’t have any seats at any tables – they may be too small or have un-moveable arms or no backs or be attached to tiny desks or even contained within moving vehicles or sat staring back at us from therapy office waiting rooms. Not only that, but all-too-often we are overlooked within the eating disorder community and treatment interventions because of how fatness is wrongly perceived (if anyone wants to educate themselves further on this topic, “Fearing the Fat Body,” by Sabrina Strings is an integral place to start). In fact, for many of us, it is actually the medical system and its wrongful, antiquated, and continued use of arbitrary numbers such as BMI’s that are the source of our eating disorders to begin with – then, making them actually medically-supported. I’ve sat in a lot of seats in a lot of doctor’s offices all over the country, some of them accommodate my body, most didn’t. Many of them were elaborate infusion suite chairs, some of them came in the form of cafeteria tables, and others in the form of MRI’s – none of them have truly ever made my body feel welcome.

So I think what I’m realizing I needed to speak on this year, as we loop-back upon the pandemic’s arrival date, surviving a truly tragic and devastating year, is that many of us have perhaps been finding other seats in other rooms of our homes (both tangibly and metaphorically-speaking). And if your body is your ultimate home, then the questions that remain are: how have you been inviting yourself to sit on your own so that once it’s safe for us to all come back together at the biggest, most inclusive and expansive table ever, with benches, spaces for mobility devices, and chairs in every ergonomic variation known to humankind, we can actually all enjoy a meal together. What conditions are you creating both within and without you to make all of our homes the safest, most joyful, most pleasurable places we can inhabit? What does your dream table/seating scenario look like and who are you inviting into that healing space with you?  I know it can be difficult or even scary, but I believe now is the time to do it anyway, and to finally find ourselves on the other side we all deserve so badly.

Rachel Otis

Rachel Otis is a Somatic Therapist, Yoga Teacher, Abolitionist, Writer & Pleasure Activist who works directly, compassionately & non-judgmentally with the mind-body connection infusing sessions, groups, retreats, & articles with radical self-love, exploration, and expression! She provides healing pathways of somatically-oriented coping tools and resources including yoga, art, supportive self-touch, guided meditation, joyful movement, vocalizations, exploring imaginational realms, and breathing techniques. 
They are passionate about creating a more sustainable, socially-just future by infiltrating oppressive systems to create change from the inside-out for ALL bodies! As a Queer womyn with chronic illness, she honors those marginalized identities along with her Micmac Indigenous ancestors by constantly working to decolonize & reclaim our connection to our minds & bodies.
Rachel has their Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Somatic Psychotherapy from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, and work on a sliding-scale, tele-therapy basis to provide accessible sessions to clients worldwide. They also offer: virtual book clubs, live somatics + yoga classes, full and new moon workshops, group therapy, Diversity & Inclusion trainings, oracle card readings, and will be re-launching their stateside & worldwide Resiliency Retreats once it is safe to do so!

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