When Eco-friendly is Not Disability-friendly

light blue, lavender, and yellow plastic drinking straws stand at various angles
Image by Manfred Richter from Pixabay

What do you think about someone using disposable plastic straws or plastic shopping bags? Are they lazy? Selfish? They don’t care about the environment? Should plastic straws be banned? How about plastic shopping bags? These bans are becoming more and more popular throughout the world, along with companies deciding to no longer offer disposables.

But wait- what about people who, because of disability, need these items? They can just use alternatives, right? They can use paper straws, or bring their own reusable straws and bags, can’t they? Not always. In fact, people with disabilities are often unable to use the alternatives that might seem just common sense to able-bodied people.

A middle-aged man and a middle-aged woman sit in wheelchair scooters at the bottom of a ramp in front of some steps. They both have crutches hanging on their wheelchairs. The man has several stuffed animals in the basket n the front of his wheelchair.
Image by fsHH from Pixabay

Some people with compromised immune systems cannot use reusable shopping bags because the bags are vectors for bacteria and mold, which will make them ill. Some disabled people cannot use paper straws because they don’t last long enough, and cannot use reusable straws because they don’t bend or aren’t easily cleaned. They cannot drink without a straw because of issues with mobility, swallowing, or coordination.

precut chunks of watermelon in a plastic container with a plastic fork
Image by MMT from Pixabay

Some disabled people need to buy precut fruit in plastic containers. It might seem silly and wasteful to see peeled oranges wrapped in plastic, when oranges come with their own natural wrapper, but if you take a moment to ask yourself “who might need this? Why might this be necessary for someone?” I’m sure you can recognize that there are people who are physically unable to peel an orange.

I’ve seen many online conversations where, when a disabled person points out that they actually need disposable plastic straws, they’re bombarded with “can’t you just____?” and “you should use ____.” Don’t be that guy. Don’t challenge a disabled person as though you know better than them about their own life and disability. It’s not the duty of disabled people to prove their disabilities or needs to you. It’s not your job to decide who is “disabled enough” to “deserve” a straw or bag or whatever. Gatekeeping is ableist, and disabled people have to put up with it all the time. For the same reason, a restaurant having disposable straws tucked away to be given to disabled people who ask for them is not a good solution. Disabled people shouldn’t have to ask for accommodation. They should not feel the onus to explain why they need a straw. It’s nobody’s business but their own.

Now, I myself do not have a disability that necessitates any of the hot-topic items mentioned above. I’m glad you read my blog post, but you really should hear from disabled people on this issue. Here are some links for more information.

A video on the straw ban

Grasping at Straws: The Ableism of the Straw Ban

When Accessibility Gets Labeled Wasteful

The Last Straw: Ableism in Environmental Campaigns

Green Beauty

 

three handmade soaps stacked next to two natural-fiber washcloths
image by jussiak from Pixabay

Little by little, I’m replacing things in my life with more eco-friendly alternatives. Lately I’ve been focusing on beauty and personal care items. I’ve already written about how much I love my Little Seed Farms deodorant. Another thing that’s been helping me feel cool and fresh as the weather gets hotter is my Rainwater Botanicals baby powder. Look, I’m a fat woman with a big chest. Summer tends to bring chafing, chub rub, boob sweat, and prickly heat, which are damn uncomfortable. This arrowroot-based body powder helps with all of that and has a pleasant but very light fragrance. It comes in a cylindrical cardboard canister and sprinkles out easily. I keep it in my bathroom cabinet, and even though the air gets quite steamy during showers, the container has not been affected.

cardboard canister of natural baby powder

I also bought a sample size of Rainwater Botanicals under eye serum with carrot seed oil and olive squalene, and I looove it. I’m not sure yet if it’s helping with my wrinkles, but it feels and smells so wonderful! I might just have to buy a regular-sizes bottle to see how it works long-term.

After countless hours searching for body lotion in a glass bottle, I finally ordered a homemade goat-milk-based lotion from Borden Acres on Etsy. The lotion is lovely- smooth, moisturizing, absorbs easily, smells great. There were several fragrance options and I chose lavender essential oil. At first I was disappointed because it arrived wrapped in bubble wrap. I felt like all my time searching for lotion in a glass bottle was for naught. But I spoke to Danielle Borden, the owner of the shop, and she explained that she never buys bubble wrap to ship her products. She reuses the bubble wrap from packages she receives, such as the raw materials that go into her lotions. I was so happy to hear that she is actually lessening the plastic waste stream by reusing plastic, and I will continue to buy Borden Acres lotion.

Other earth-friendly switches/purchases I’ve made:

I bought a lipstick from Color the World. It’s advertised as “age-friendly,” which sold me, since lipsticks tend to bleed on my middle-aged lips. It goes on smoothly, tastes like absolutely nothing (which I love), and the tube is an adorable printed cardboard (mine has kitty cats; each color has a different print, usually related to a worthy cause your purchase is helping). But the color I chose was such a perfect nude that I can barely notice a difference when I wear it. I need to buy a different color to really test it out.

I just ordered some organic cotton bulk/produce bags and some handmade cloth napkins, and I can’t wait for them to arrive. I will, of course, write about how they work out.

I also bought a couple more travel cups, one from Marshall’s and one from Starbucks. The Starbucks one was a bit pricey but I reeeeally wanted an iced coffee and didn’t have a reusable cup with me. I’ve gotten to the point where I feel guilty if I buy coffee in a plastic cup (even my teenage daughter feels guilty using a disposable cup now!). So I bought it and I’m glad I did. It’s recycled glass with a very pretty green tint. Next task: clean out my trunk and stash a few reusable cups in there so I always have one if I make an unplanned coffee stop.

a glass travel cup half-filled with iced coffee

How to Love Your Body in 2019

A woman stands outside, holding a mug. Text: How to love your body in 2019
original photo by Sandra Chile on Unsplash

It’s a new year, and that brings New Year’s resolutions. Losing weight is always a popular resolution; it’s the first or second most common resolution year after year. But what if, for 2019, you resolved NOT to try to lose weight? What if, instead, you resolve to love and honor your body at whatever size it is? To stop hating your body, stop thinking that you’re not good enough?

You can do this! I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s a journey that usually takes years and hard work, but it will be so worth it. You will be so much happier, more self-confident, and more satisfied with your life.

I’m not a health professional or any kind of expert, but I can tell you what has worked for me and what continues to work for me as I unlearn fatphobia, self-hate, and the assumptions that society has taught me about size, beauty, and health.

 

Several frosted chocolate cupcakes on a plate.
Image from Pixabay

Don’t Diet

At all. Obviously if you have dietary restrictions because of allergies, sensitivities, religion, or personal ethics, keep those. And if you have a medical condition requiring a supervised diet, don’t do anything without advice from your doctor and/or nutritionist. But don’t diet to lose weight. No Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig (is that still a thing?), keto, Atkins, low-carb, low-fat, Zone, Whole 30, blah blah blah. No counting calories or fat grams or carbs. And remember, even if you call it a “lifestyle change,” if you are restricting your eating with the goal of losing weight, it is a diet.

A view over a woman's shoulder, showing her hair, as she reads a fashion magazine
Image by Pixabay

Stop reading “women’s” magazines

Do not read any magazine that mentions weight loss on the cover. Do not read any magazine that promises the secret to slimming down in X weeks, getting the perfect abs or butt or beach body, or losing a certain number of pounds (stone, kilos, etc). Don’t read about celebrity diets or workout routines. Don’t read about “bad” or “good” foods. Just stop. That also goes for TV shows, websites, YouTube videos, and the like. This is honestly the most important step (in my experience, at least). You will be amazed when you realize just how pervasive anti-fat messaging is in our daily lives.

If you still want to keep up on fashion and beauty tips, there are plenty of media outlets where you can avoid the fat hate. Try magazines such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, The Every Girl, and Bust; and blogs such as Jamie Je T’aime, In My Joi, and Musings Of a Curvy Lady. Explore tags such as #fatshion or #plussizefashion on Instagram. Even if you’re not big on fashion, go ahead and look at fat women wearing stylish clothes and flawless makeup. It’s inspiring to see bodies of diverse sizes and realize that weight and beauty are completely unconnected.

Two feet stand on a scale.
Image from Pixabay

Throw out your scale

If you can’t bear to throw it out because that seems wasteful or extreme, pack it away and put it in your attic or basement or somewhere you can’t easily get to it. Your scale does not tell you anything about your health, your beauty, your character, or anything that matters. You do not need to know the number on the scale. It doesn’t help you in any way. All it does is make you feel bad about yourself and encourage you to be obsessed with getting that number lower. There’s no reason for that. I know that for many people a bathroom scale seems like a basic household item that everyone should own, but it really isn’t. I haven’t owned one in years.

Learn about intuitive eating

This is a mindful practice based on noticing and honoring your hunger and fullness cues, respecting your body the way it is, and eating what you want, whether that’s a salad or an ice cream sundae. There’s more to it than that, of course, and I encourage you to explore books, websites, videos, podcasts…. whichever is your preferred way of learning. Here is a good introduction.

Focus on your health, not your size

Let me be clear: you do not owe anyone health. You don’t need to prove that you are a “good” fat person because you’re doing the “right” things. Having perfect cholesterol and glucose levels is not what makes it okay to be fat. A fat person who starts every day with a kale smoothie and an hour at the gym is no more deserving of respect and love than a fat person who is sedentary and eats a fast food burger and a milkshake for lunch every day. No matter your health or your habits, you deserve to be respected and treated well.

But, if you’re thinking “this is all well and good, but I need to lose weight for my health!” or if you just want to make some changes to be healthier, there is plenty you can do with a focus on healthy habits and not on your weight. Contrary to what you’ll read in most mainstream media, weight and health are only loosely correlated. There is a lot of evidence showing the validity of the Health At Every Size philosophy.

Find some form of movement that you enjoy. You don’t have to go to the gym, and you don’t have to be in pain to get health benefits from exercise. Walk the dog. Walk in the park. Dance. Ride a bike. Do yoga. Just make sure it’s something you enjoy, and move your body.

blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries
Image from Pixabay

Eat fruits and vegetables. This might sound dangerously close to diet territory. I’m not advocating that you eat broccoli when what you really want is cake. I’m saying eat the cake, and also eat whatever fruits and veggies you enjoy. Go ahead and eat your veggies with butter and cheese if that’s how you like them. Explore new fruits and vegetables. Try different colors and textures. Enjoy yourself. Enjoy your food.

Drink when you’re thirsty and maybe a little more, but you don’t actually need to drink eight glasses a day. That’s just a myth. Try to get enough sleep.

A woman lies in a bathtub of white water, holding a book near her face.
Image from Pixabay

Take care of your mental health as well, whatever that looks like for you. That might mean seeing a mental health professional, or meditating, or enjoying a hobby or regular time with friends. One thing that is definitely bad for your mental health is berating yourself over your size, your food, or your exercise habits, so try not to do that.

Three smiling women in swimsuits take a selfie.
Image by Rawpixel on Unsplash

Stop postponing your life

Are there things you want to do but have been putting off until you lose weight? Do those things now! Buy that cute outfit, take that vacation, pursue that new job… whatever it is, you deserve to live a full and happy life now. Happiness is not something you earn with your size.

Let me reiterate, I’m not a health professional of any sort. And I’m not a spokesperson for all fat people. All I am is a fat woman who has spent some years on this journey of loving myself at the size I am. I stumble often. I have days when I’m not thrilled with my body. There are still parts I am learning to love. I’m still coming to terms with middle age and the changes it’s brought. All I can talk about is my own experience. I sincerely hope it helps you and that 2019 is a year of happiness and self-love!

 

A woman ooks over her shoulder outdoors. Text: How to love your body in 2019
Original photo by Eye For Ebony on Unsplash

Why Crafting is Good For Your Health

Image from Pixabay

Note: This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you buy something through one of these links, I earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. You can read more about my advertising policy here.

If you knit, scrapbook, or do any kind of craft, you know that crafting is a lot of fun and a great way to spend time (and maybe a little too much money). But did you know that crafting also has health benefits? It’s true!

Photo by Kristina Balić on Unsplash

In fact, knitting, basketweaving, and other crafts have been used for their therapeutic effects for at least a century. They were part of the occupational therapy given during and after World War I to servicemen suffering from PTSD, or “shell shock,” as it was called then. In a more contemporary example, craft stores in the US noted an uptick in sales during the weeks after September 11, 2001. What is it about crafting that makes people turn to it in times of stress?

Famed psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly, who studies creativity and happiness, and invented the concept of flow
, believes that crafts enable people to enter a state of total absorption, which he states is the secret to happiness. Proponents of mindfulness also praise the repetitive, almost meditative nature of many crafts, which quiets the mind and helps to relieve anxiety. I’ve definitely felt this sensation when involved in knitting or sewing, and I know that engaging in creative work noticeably lessens my anxiety and depression. When I go too long without this form of self-care, my mental health suffers.

Crafting is something we can do both alone and with other people. We can cozy up and crochet in front of the TV with a cup of cocoa at our side when we need that perfect introvert evening. But if we want to get some tips, learn new skills, or show off our work to people who “get it,” hanging out with other crafters is a must. This provides meaningful social interaction, especially if you want something other than a noisy club or party.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

In addition to the relaxation and mood-boosting effects of the crafting process, there is the satisfaction of the product. There’s nothing like eating a home-baked dessert, putting on a home-sewn skirt or hand-knit hat, or looking at a piece of art on the wall, and being able to say “I made that!” Making something beautiful and/or usable is an accomplishment to be proud of, and psychologists say that a feeling of self-efficacy is important to mental health.

You might have heard that crossword puzzles and brain-teasers can slow cognitive decline as people age. Neuroscientists are now studying whether crafting has a similar effect, and the results so far look promising.

Of course, you don’t need to know or care about the health benefits of crafting to enjoy it. So go ahead and learn a new craft, or spend some time on an old favorite, and have fun!

 

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Cutting Myself Some Slack

Today I was going to get up at nine, start writing at ten, work on reading with Luz at around eleven-thirty, and then make some very overdue phone calls. I’ve been having trouble keeping up with everyday life tasks such as paying bills, making various appointments, homeschooling my daughter, keeping the house semi-clean… you know, the kind of things that everyone else seems to do without even thinking about it. I decided my problem was that I didn’t have a specific time set aside each day for any of these tasks. When I set up my planner for this week (yesterday, because that’s another thing I have trouble keeping up with), I scheduled these tasks, and last night I made sure to set my alarm.

After waking repeatedly through the night, I pressed snooze for a whole hour this morning and woke up at ten. Sometime after eleven, I realized I desperately needed to grocery shop, but I knew there was no way I was going to make it to the store. I ordered groceries online for Publix to deliver. By the time I was done, it was past noon and I hadn’t eaten anything. I started making some food, which of course prompted two of my kids to ask me to make food for them, too. Finally, after a brief stint as a short-order cook, I ate my first meal of the day. This happens much more often than it should. I actually have a reminder set on my phone for 1pm every day to tell me to eat, because I tend to get busy and forget to eat until mid-afternoon.

After I ate, I did manage to make one phone call before realizing how much pain I was in. I mean absolutely severe physical pain. And that’s when I had to remind myself that sure, scheduling time for certain tasks would probably be helpful, but my trouble goes deeper than that.

See, I suffer from chronic pain and exhaustion that I’m pretty sure are due to fibromyalgia. I haven’t yet gotten a diagnosis (remember those appointments that I still have to make?), but I tick off most of the red flags and my primary care doctor thinks it’s likely. I also suffer from depression and anxiety, and over the past month or so I’ve weaned off one antidepressant and started another. Not only has this been absolute hell psychologically, but my physical pain has increased immensely. So today, my entire body is aching and my head is about to explode. You know how you feel when you have the flu? That achiness you feel throughout your bones and even your skin? Add a strained lower back, and that’s how I feel now.

I was feeling guilty for not sticking to my schedule, for not doing the things that appear to be so easy for everyone else. I had to stop and consciously adjust my thinking. I had to remind myself that I actually did accomplish things today. I bought groceries (they were delivered as I wrote this post). I made lunch for two of the kids. I made an appointment for my daughter to get a haircut. I took care of myself: I showered, dressed, ate, and took my medication. This is important; it’s not something I can always do. And now I’m lying in bed. I have my coffee, my sketchbook, and my knitting next to my bed on my Räskog cart. I took some ibuprofen. And I’m not going to feel guilty for having reached my limit.