Hi, I’m Rachel (that’s me over on the right).
If you’re new here, let me introduce myself and this podcast.
I’m a life coach and teacher who helps women gain a deeper trust in their hungers — both at and away from the table. In college, like many women, I had an eating disorder and through my recovery, I discovered the Health at Every Size movement, fat activism, and Intuitive Eating. These learnings lead me to see and believe that humans do not need to fit a certain size or shape, that our size is not a determinant of our well-being, that our well-being is not only about our physical self, that entire systems and industries exist to profit from making us spend our lives obsessing over food and our bodies, and most importantly, that we can actually trust our bodies to figure out what to weigh and what to eat.
In late 2017 my husband and I learned that we were expecting our first child and I found myself with a new question: why are the only times we celebrate a female belly when it belongs to a chubby baby, an adult with six-pack abs, or a thinner-bodied pregnant woman?
Even before my belly began to expand I was aware that I was likely to face two common rites of passages in our culture: the adoration of my pregnant belly and the shaming of my postpartum belly. Something about this simply didn’t make sense and it made me think about the broad range of experiences women have with their bellies throughout their lives in a body—and belly—toxic world.
So I set out to have a series of conversations with wise women about their bellies and how we all might find greater ease at the center of it all. These conversations make up The Belly Love podcast.
This is a capsule podcast—just 10 episodes start to finish—because I’m headed to maternity leave soon and I don’t know which projects will feel right to me on the other side of maternal initiation. In no way could these episodes capture every belly perspective or topic but I have tried to include a broad range. Hopefully, you will find something interesting and that helps you on your journey.
In addition to the podcast, I’ve created a powerful Belly Love guided meditation and digital workbook to support listeners in going deeper and exploring their own personal belly journeys. Both are available at the bottom of this post. Check them out!
Note: You can download or stream all the episodes below, or you can listen to them via iTunes or Stitcher.
Episode 1: Belly Activism and the War on Stomachs with fat activist Marilyn Wann
In this episode legendary fat activist Marilyn Wann joins me to talk about:
- Fat (belly) activism
- Taking down weight hierarchies
- The problems with stomach amputation (a.k.a. gastric bypass surgery)
Episode 2: Episode 2: My Belly Journey and How I’m Preparing for Postpartum Body Changes with Rachel Cole
In this episode, I, your host, share:
- My first memory of belly shame
- How I moved from belly shame to greater belly acceptance
- The way I approach all body changes and how I’m preparing for the unknown of my postpartum belly
Episode 3: Belly Acceptance and Joyful Movement with Melissa Toler
In this episode speaker, writer, and educator Melissa Toler and I talk about:
- Reclaiming movement and fitness from diet culture
- What the flat stomach ideal represents
- Redefining health beyond weight or muscle tone
- The non-linear path of body (and belly) acceptance and giving up dieting
Episode 4: When Fat Bellies Get Mistaken for Pregnant Bellies with Hilary Kinavey
In this episode licensed professional counselor and co-founder of Be Nourished Hilary Kinavey joins me to talk about:
- How bellies are pathologized
- Connecting (or not) to our belly through our family lineage
- Being with the unknown of how your body will change
- What to do when someone mistakes your fat belly for a pregnant belly
- How small-bellied allies can support bigger-bellied humans
Hilary’s article “On Being Asked If You Are Pregnant”
Episode 5: Living with (and Dressing) a Fat Belly in a Belly Judging World with Jes Baker
In this episode body liberation author and speaker Jes Baker joins me to talk about:
- Making bellies visible in plus-size fashion
- Dressing with a Visible Belly Outline (VBO)
- Dealing with body judgment from other people
- The difference between body positivity and body liberation
- The inherent vulnerability of our bellies
Episode 6: Belly Dancing, Embodiment, and Menopause with Bronwyn Simons
In this episode artist, astrologer, writer, belly dancer and co-founder of the Vivid Menopause Program Bronwyn Simons joins me to talk about:
- Belly embodiment and living from the inside out (rather than the outside in)
- The healing power of belly dancing and other movement practices
- Redefining what it means to feel sexy and sensual in our body
- Practical tips for navigating belly and body changes in menopause
Episode 7: Diastasis Recti and Belly Acceptance with Ariana Pritchett
In this episode strategist and mom Ariana joins me to talk about:
- What diastasis recti is
- How to navigate recovery from diastasis recti — especially when the medical community fails you
- The importance of talking about pregnancy and birth-related body trauma
Episode 8: Menopause and Belly Fat with Dr. Margo Maine
In this episode, clinical psychologist and eating disorder specialist Dr. Margo Maine joins me to talk about:
- How our culture’s toxic focus on women’s bellies is really about disempowerment
- Why women’s belly fat actually isn’t “the worst kind of fat”
- The health-supporting reasons behind gaining belly fat in menopause
Episode 9: Postpartum Belly Changes and Eating Disorder Recovery with Carla Korn
In this episode, psychotherapist and eating disorder specialist Carla Korn joins me to talk about:
- Going through pregnancy and postpartum when you’ve recovered from an eating disorder
- Postpartum belly changes and shame
- The non-linear path of body acceptance
- Practical tips for working with critical body thoughts
Episode 10: Making Belly Peace and Embodying the Divine with Ivy Felicia
In this episodeThe Body Relationship Coach ™ Ivy Felicia joins me to talk about
- Making peace with your belly (even if you don’t love it)
- The myth that black women don’t struggle with poor body image
- How a connection to the divine can help on the journey to body acceptance
- How to navigate anger and body-blame when you have a chronic illness
What’s next on your belly journey?
After listening to even one of the Belly Love podcast episodes, I imagine you might be swirling with questions and thoughts about your relationship with your own belly. So as not to leave you hanging I have prepared these two excellent next steps to support you in digging a bit deeper: a digital workbook and a guided meditation. In tandem, these resources give you a safe container to explore your past, present, and future belly experience.
Inside the workbook, you’ll find:
- Advice from experts on topics such as how to move towards belly acceptance, how to grieve the belly you used to have or never had; what’s worked for them in making peace with their bellies; how to move past sticky old belly stories, and more.
- LOTS of powerful writing and multimedia exercises to facilitate your belly exploration, healing, and active learning.
- A robust resource list of belly loving articles to read and experts to follow
The guided meditation is 15-minutes long and provides a safe container to drop into your real lived experience of your belly with presence and curiosity. The meditation is designed for ongoing practice, allowing you to track your dynamic relationship to your belly.
The Belly Love podcast episodes are free and the workbook and meditation bundle are available to purchase for $25.
Real talk: the United States is the only developed country with no nationwide paid maternity leave. As a self-employed woman, I’m lucky that I can take leave to bond with my child without losing my job, but that brings with it a significant loss of income. This workbook and meditation bundle are one of the ways I am funding my leave. I believe you’ll find great value in these resources and your support is greatly appreciated.
For many many years, I’ve been fortunate enough to practice something called Wild Writing with Laurie Wagner. Each Friday morning when we’re in session I pack up my notebook and drive to Lauri’s house where myself and a cohort of other women gather around her dining room table and spend two hours in practice.
I wish every woman in every community had a regular Wild Writing group. It feeds such a potent mix of hungers. The hunger for connection, for truth, for hearing your own voice, for laughter, for space and slowing down, for time away from screens, for emotional release, for permission to be imperfect, for inspiration and new discovery. For me, it’s often been a powerful support to my mental health. I could go on and on.
For a long time I felt the call to lead my own group of this practice with my own spin and so last year I finally did.
I called it Sift: a writing practice for being human. Though the subtitle should probably be “a practice for being human together through writing” but that’s a mouthful and well, semantics!
And for six weeks in 2017, myself and a table full of brave women met weekly and let this practice feed us. Then I did it again and again!
I have now run four 6 – 8 weeks sessions of Sift and I’m hosting another 8-session in-person group in a few weeks.
Let’s start with an overview of what Sift is:
This is a practice. Like yoga or painting, it’s about showing up and being willing meet yourself where you are.
This is not for people who want to be better writers (though you can want that too), it’s not for professional writers (though you can be that too), it’s not really about the writing at all. It’s about what the practice helps us access and about doing it together. You need no prior experience to participate. Just a willingness to show up and be honest.
Personally, I practice to tell the truth, to be human with other humans, to hear my stories, to make sense of myself and the world around me, to make space for my contradictions, to find the words, to reveal, to relax, and to be a little messy.
The practice essentially goes like this:
You arrive. Settle in. We do a little warming up and then I read a poem and when I’m done I pick a line or two from the poem for us to use as our writing prompt.
Then we’ll write, unedited, pen to paper, not stopping for 10 to 20 minutes. We don’t try to sound smart. We don’t try to write well. This practice serves to help us get around our perfectionist and performer. This practice helps us tell the truth on the page so we can tell the truth in the rest of our lives.
When the time is up we go around the table (myself included) and read our writing. No feedback is given. We don’t discuss what’s written. We witness each other. Sometimes there is laughter. Sometimes there are tears. There are almost always nodding heads. It’s all welcome. Then we repeat.
If it sounds simple, it is, yet it’s also profound.
If it sounds exhilarating yet also scary. You’re not alone.
If it sounds fun and nourishing, it is!
If Sift calls to you, raise your hand.
What a few past participants had to say…
“Sitting at the table with a group of thoughtful women is my weekly retreat. And I mean that in the most sacred, spacious, nurturing way. Rachel offers a gentle invitation and I get to set aside my to-do lists, relentless perfectionism and over functioning ways to be guided into JUST BEING with words and the wisdom that pours onto the page. For two hours, I don’t need to control anything. I don’t need to be clever. I get to show up and be present to a circle of women who are present to me, too. When the time comes to return to the lists and obligations, I do so with a profound sense of restoration and renewal.”
“I signed up for Sift not knowing what to expect but with the intent to challenge myself (and with a dash of inner-critic fear). Rachel’s outline of the program doesn’t do justice to the experience of being in it. It’s like a weekly meeting with myself, sometimes a time to release and be playful, sometimes a line into something deeper. I enjoy the process, which naturally facilities presence, and it’s been an honor to sit in communion with other women and to hear the stories they choose to share. Perhaps the best thing about Sift is it’s without expectation and judgment, truly. I can flow into and float out of our weekly sessions.”
“I love Sift for bringing together an amazing group of women. The structure is helpful for introverts like me (not a lot of small talks). This group has been incredibly helpful and supportive for helping me process some difficult life events as well as finding my voice. Rachel is offering a beautiful gift to the world!”
How to Participate
Where: My home in Oakland, California near the Oakland Zoo.
Time: 10 am-noon on Wednesdays
Dates: June 27th, July 11th, July 18th, July 25th, August 1st, and August 8th.
Cost: $300, nonrefundable.
I have space for 3 women. Filled on a first-apply basis.
To join: Email me!
I’m not a writer. In fact, I’m a terrible writer, but I feel called to this practice. What should I do?
Let me reiterate that this is not a practice for people who identify as writers or ‘good’ writers, though they are welcome too. This is a practice that uses writing to support us in being more at ease being human and for that, you need no skill or title.
I’m traveling for some of the dates listed, can I still join?
Participants must pay in full but life happens and it’s okay to miss a session or two due to scheduling conflicts.
I have a question you didn’t answer on this page.
Please email me!
A few weekends ago during the Golden Globes, Oprah Winfrey accepted the Cecil B. DeMille Award and like many people I was moved to tears by her speech. I knew I was witnessing one of the truly great women leaders of my lifetime offer us a rallying cry of hope and power.
I also knew I was witnessing a woman who many people have placed on a pedestal and toward whom criticism is sometimes seen as blasphemy. The last time I offered a public critique of Oprah I was surprised to see how many people unfollowed and even attacked me.
It’s imperative that we stop viewing our leaders with an all or nothing lens. They are neither saints nor sinners. They are humans, complex, and full of contradictions and blind spots — just like you and me.
Listen, I have blind spots. Lots of them. I mess up and speak out of cis-gendered, able-bodied, hetero, white privilege and ignorance all the time. Blind spots are not something any of us can pretend to be free from. We can only work with them to reduce the fog and shine a brighter light on the places we’re not seeing clearly.
And diet culture is inherently anti-feminist. Diet culture is a patriarchal tool, or rather a weapon used to keep women from their full power.
Thus, it is imperative we call in (or out) the leaders of the women’s movement who perpetuate diet culture and Oprah Winfrey is the most prominent person who fits this bill. I am not tearing Oprah down. I am not throwing Oprah and all her good deeds away. I am calling Oprah out where it is necessary while also still acknowledging the enormous positive impact she has had on the lives of women.
If you ever feel guilty for what you eat, find yourself eating in a way that feels out of control, find yourself limiting when/when/how much you eat in a way that helps you feel calm or powerful — you have diet culture to thank.
If you don’t feel at ease around food. If you feel like you need to keep a close eye on what you eat, even counting points or calories. If you are afraid to eat entire food groups. If you spend more time thinking about food than you do your relationships or life dreams. If you spend more time thinking about food then you do enjoying food or your life. You have diet culture to thank.
If you find yourself going round and round the dieting merry-go-round (on the diet, off the diet, blame self for ‘failure’, on the diet, off the diet, blame self for ‘failure’) you have diet culture to thank.
If you have spent years trying to lose weight only to end up weighing more than when you started. You have diet culture to thank.
If your day can be made better or worse depending on the scale, you have diet culture to thank.
If you ever feel like you have to earn what you eat by exercising more, you have diet culture to thank.
Does some of what I’ve just described sound benign, even normal? Thanks, diet culture.
These are just some of the many ways the diet culture has seeped into our everyday lives. This is what we’re sold and this is a load of poisonous bullshit.
Diets are proven not to result in long-term weight-loss or improved health and for a women’s leader to not only promote but profit from, this is not okay. Diets suck energy, time, and financial resources away from women.
It should be said that it is one thing to be on a diet. It’s one thing to be on a diet and share about your experience on your talk show. It’s one thing fall victim to the siren call of weight loss and portion control. I have all the compassion in the world for dieters. If you are on a diet or find yourself this New Year feeling the urge to get back on the merry-go-round I have no judgment of you. None. Billions of dollars are being spent each year to reenlist you.
However, with great power comes great responsibility and the pass I gave Oprah all the years she was dieting doesn’t stand now that she holds a 10% stake in and is the face of one of the biggest dieting empires. As I said, it’s one thing to be on a diet, but it’s another thing to sell dieting. It’s another thing entirely to go from drug user to drug dealer.
Oprah is wonderful, brilliant, and has made the world a better place. No question.
And Oprah and every other women’s leader who fails to incorporate an anti-diet, body liberation stance into her feminism and activism is failing women in this way.
Let’s ditch the black and white thinking, let’s stop with the hero worship and let’s not be afraid to make the downfall of diet culture a feminist issue because it is.
If you’re a feminist who wants to have an empowered relationship with your food and your body join me for this upcoming round of Feast, my masterclass for women who are seeking to be free and well-fed. The deadline to apply is fast approaching.