In diet culture it’s hard for most of us to feel comfortable in our bodies, let alone LIKE them. But what if it’s possible to burst through this thin-ideal bubble and experience the joy, the light, the MAGIC of our bodies? My guest this week, artist and speaker Kathryn Max, has done just that, and you simply MUST hear their story! Kathryn’s art is a powerful expression of tenderness, compassion & unconditional body acceptance. It’s so beautiful – let’s get all fired up with LOVE!
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Intro: Welcome to All Fired Up. I’m Louise your host, and this is the podcast where we talk all things anti-diet. Has diet culture got you in a fit of rage? Is the injustice of the beauty ideal getting your knickers in a twist? Does fitspo make you want to SPITspo? Are you ready to hurl if you hear one more weight loss tip? Are you ready to be mad, loud and proud? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Let’s get all fired up.
Welcome back to the podcast my delicious diet culture dropouts. Thank you so much for tuning in for yet another intriguing, deep dive down the anti-diet rabbit hole. I want to start with huge love to you all and thank you for continuing to listen and support this podcast, which as you know, is completely produced and put out by me on my lonesome, alongside a whole lot of editing. And I really appreciate your messages of love and support, especially during this year where things have become pretty rocky with getting the podcast out in a predictable way, I’m really pumped about 2022, and I’ve got big things of what I can’t wait to share with you next year. But in the meantime, I really appreciate your listening. And if you love the All Fired Up podcast, help get the message out there by rating and reviewing.
A five star review is always good, wherever you get your podcasts or preferably maybe with apple podcasts, because I’m really trying to target that. The more this message gets out, the more likely it is that diet culture falls onto its knees and I can go off and become a florist like I’ve always wanted. And if something about diet culture is pissing you off, let’s get it off your chest, send it to me. Send your rage straight into my inbox – firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell me what’s bugging you. It could be something that happening in your local community, could be a diet that’s getting pushed in your social media or just something that you’ve heard around the traps that’s really getting up your nose about living in diet culture. I want to hear it. I’m your agony aunt for all things diet, so send that to my email address.
Free stuff, alert who doesn’t love stuff that’s for free. I have amazing E-Book called Everything you’ve Been Told About Weight Loss is Bull Shit, and that was co-written with the glorious Dr. Fiona Willer, dietician and amazing podcaster from the Unpacking Weight Science podcast. In this classic resource, we have stuff that’s full of fun facts to help you push back against diet culture’s bullshit. Essentially, we bust top 10 myths about the relationship between weight and health. And we give you heaps of scientific articles and resources and overviews, giving you the truth about the relationship between weight and health and just how much bullshit is being fed to us. It’s an excellent resource. It’s completely free. You can download it from the Untrapped website, untrapped.com.au. I encourage you, if you haven’t already got a copy, to grab it and share as far and wide as possible; friends, family, health professionals, everyone needs to hear this message.
More free stuff. If you have been living in diet culture and you find that you have found it difficult to be at ease in your body – ie. if you’re a human living in diet culture, this eCourse called Befriending your Body is completely free. It’s created by me and in it I send you an email once a day for 10 days. And it’s like a little love letter to you every day for 10 days, giving you some small messages of self-compassion and practices of self-compassion, which are all designed to help you start looking at your body through a different lens, through the lens of compassion, support, friendship, appreciation, respect, and liberation. The befriending your Body eCourse is really easy, it doesn’t take too much time out of your day, and as I said, it’s completely free. So if you’re tired of struggling and you’re looking for something completely different and something pretty urgent; this can be with you in seconds. All you need to do to download the Befriending your Body eCourse is go to my Insta, which is untrapped_au and click on the link in the bio and you will see the Befriending your Body eCourse sitting there waiting to befriend you.
Huge hello and big love to everyone in the Untrapped online community. Without Untrapped this podcast wouldn’t be able to be produced. Untrapped is an online masterclass in the art of everything anti-diet. And it was co-created by me and 11 other health professionals working in this space. It’s an incredible program. Very comprehensive, all online so you can do it at your own pace. And in it, we go through all kinds of stuff like recognizing and waking up from die-culture bull shit, reconnecting in with your body signals and repairing your relationship with food, with your body and with moving your body joyful ways.
One of my favorite aspects of the Untrapped masterclass is the online community that we’ve created. We’ve been running since 2017. Can you believe it? And we have built up this incredible group of people we meet every week in a Q and A, and we’ve completely bonded. And I think most of the power of Untrapped is in this community. So if you are looking for a change and if you don’t want to do it on your own, think about joining us in Untrapped. You can find out more from looking at untrapped.com.au and we would absolutely love to have you.
So, on with the show, my guest this week, oh my gosh. I mean, this is a completely mind-blowing episode that I hope that you’ve got somewhere nice to relax and really take some time to absorb the awesomeness of what you’re about to hear. So look, it’s Christmas time, diet culture bull shit, no matter where you live on the planet, it’s at an all time high at this time of year, the pressure is on. It is high season for the weight loss industry. And look, we are all feeling a little bit more fragile than usual, thanks to the ongoing bull shit of this year and living with this COVID pandemic. So it’s been a complete mind-fuck, and look, you know, you all know how much I love to rant and complain about diet culture, but I think we need a bit of love, and that’s what this episode is all about.
In this Christmas season, let’s pivot into something completely different. So my guess this week, Kathryn, formally Kathryn Hack, now known as Kathryn, or you might know her on Instagram as fat_mystic_art or Fat Mystic. This is an amazing human. Kathryn is a fat liberated artist and speaker, and they, sorry. And they are the pronouns. They have many intersecting identities including being fat, queer, disabled, poly, ADHD, lipedema and ex-evangelical. Are you fascinated? Because I certainly was completely fascinated by this human, when I saw their art in their Instagram feed. It took my breath away and like kind of hit me in many areas as you’re going to hear about in our conversation. So, I really don’t have more words and I don’t want to give anything away, but I think your mind will be blown by this amazing episode interview individual. So without further ado, I give you me and the glorious Kathryn.
Louise: So Kathryn, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Kathryn: I’m very happy to be here, Louise. Thank you for having me.
Louise: So tell me what’s firing you up.
Kathryn: Well, interestingly, I would say that being fired up, hasn’t really been my lived experience recently with whether it’s diet culture or any kind of oppressive systems. They definitely can feel discouraging, but I have a really deep practice of self-compassion. And what I have observed is that the more I live in a state of grace with myself, the more I am kind and consistently really gentle with myself, it’s almost effortless for me to extend that kind of grace and compassion to other people while also having good boundaries. So I don’t let people mistreat me because I live in a fat body or disabled body or because I’m queer or any of the identities that I live within. And yet, I don’t feel fire about it. I don’t feel anger exactly. I feel yeah, real contentment and peace and this journey and where it’s brought me. And I feel a lot of joy in my life and the grace to handle the challenges that come in living in the body I live in.
Louise: My goodness. Okay, everyone wants to know what cocktail is this self-compassion. This is so interesting. So you said you’ve got a really deep practice of self-compassion and that’s what got you to this place of not being unimpacted, but not being affected in a negative way.
Kathryn: And I think sometimes I might still be affected, but it’s just that self-compassion is such an effective tool, that even if something does impact me negatively, I’m able to be present with that emotion with a deep resource of compassion and care, and so it just doesn’t damage me. Like, I’ll sort of let this emotion move through me. I’ll feel it. I won’t deny it. I won’t suppress it. I definitely don’t shove it down in my body like I used to. I just feel it, I’m present with it and then it sort of moves through. So the deep practice started a little while after I was first introduced to the fat liberation movement. It was intellectual information to me that, oh wow, some people are living in fat bodies and they’re like, yeah, I’m fat, so what?
And I was like, whoa, that was a revolutionary idea to me. I’ve lived in a fat body since puberty and I felt shame about it my whole life. Around the same time that I learned about fat liberation, I was also diagnosed with a chronic illness. The name of my chronic illness is lipedema. It’s progressive, there’s no cure for it, and it contributes to the size and shape of my body. It’s understood to be a fat disorder, and it happens to accelerate during major hormonal changes. So most humans who have this experience, they see the onset around puberty. And then during childbearing years, during pregnancy specifically, there can be significant advancements, and then again around menopause. My experience was that I lived in a smaller but fat body for most of my life. And then after I had two kids, about 21 months apart, my body really changed radically. It impacted my mobility, I took up a lot more space in the world. And for the first several years, there was an incredible amount of shame there.
Louise: I guess that built on the shame from puberty, you said like it had been there anyway. When were you diagnosed with lipedema?
Kathryn: I was diagnosed in 2016.
Louise: Okay, so that’s fairly recent.
Kathryn: It is actually. And that’s kind of a fascinating thing. Like, I talk a lot on my art page about how much my life has changed, thanks to reconnect with my body and healing my relationship with my body. I would say that self-compassion is what helped do that. So first it was sort of the information, like there’s humans out there and these brilliant activists that are brilliant feminist thinkers and like helping me to get new information about whether or not I’m allowed to exist as I am. I also want to say that humans in the disability justice movements are just so brilliant in how they articulate that dignity is not condition and ought not be. So, that was all really, really helpful information.
And then what happened is I was able to apply the information by compassion, you know, like learning how to just sit with myself and feel my feelings and validate them and then genuinely out loud saying to myself, like “Kathryn, I’m so sorry.” And then I’d be really specific; “I’m so sorry you don’t deserve love because of the body you live in.” And intellectually, I knew that sentence wasn’t accurate, but in my body it felt true somewhere. And so, I would just acknowledge these things that were sort of limiting beliefs. And it was a limiting belief. I absolutely am worthy of love in the body I inhabit. And as I started to offer that specific lie, compassion and heal the pain that it caused, I suddenly was in relationships where I felt really loved and seen and valued and desired, and so it changed literally everything living in my body.
Louise: How did you learn about self-compassion?
Kathryn: Well, you know, it’s interesting; it really first started with, with my body. So learning about fat liberation, I was reading everything I could get my hands on. And then also, I just am a very spiritually curious person. I spent most of my life inside Christian theologies. I was an ordained pastor for about a decade. And then I left that worldview because it was more and more confining, and I started to feel – even though I had sort of these incredible spiritual experiences, what I would now say is I think that divine doesn’t care about dogma. I feel like the divine is willing to engage with us no matter where we are. And it really, really doesn’t care about any dogma that we may bring into our desire to connect with whatever is out there, so as a Christian, and I was a Pentecostal Evangelical Fundamentalist Christian.
Kathryn: Yeah, that’s a mouthful, but yeah. And it’s really rigid thinking, but also there’s this Pentecostal element that is very metaphysical. There are a lot of interesting experiences. Things like speaking in tongues or getting sling in the spirit. And I had had an incredible experience after experience, after experience of feeling a sensation of being completely loved and accepted by what I would now call is just the divine or the universe, that something benevolent that loves me exists. And now I would even say like I’m part of it, like we’re all sort of connected as consciousness, you know? I’m still very spiritual and I like to refer to myself as a Woo-Woo Bitch these days. Are we allowed to swear on this podcast?
Louise: We encourage swearing on this podcast. Absolutely.
Kathryn: That makes me happy. That was one of the first things that showed up when I stopped being a fundamentalist is I was aware of how much I had edited my language. And now swearing is my fucking favorite thing to do.
Louise: It’s my fucking favorite thing to do too. It’s expressive.
Kathryn: It is, and it feels freeing to me. So my body started to slow down kind of dramatically. I had had this outpatient surgery that was supposed to be a quick in and out kind of thing. And I had an incision rip and it meant that I was like literally in bed for about six or eight weeks. And then I finally am better enough that I can move around a bit, and then I immediately get vertigo. And it fascinating because in that particular window, I felt like my body was saying, “Kathryn, we’re going to sit you the fuck down. We’ve got something to tell you.” And it was an incredibly powerful time in my life where I stopped limiting my spiritual curiosity to what was sort of acceptable within Christian circles.
And by that point, I was already no longer a fundamentalist, but I was still attending like a more liberal-minded Christian Church. And the person I was married to was a pre-devout kind of more liberal Christian. But I knew that Christianity was really important to them and our marriage. And it turned out if I allowed my evolution to take me beyond Christianity, that that relationship would end, and that is what ended up happening. But my body working so I could stop participating in culture, really. And I had two small kids, it was a really strange time. They had just kind of fend for themselves a bit more than their peers, because I just couldn’t function.
And my brain was like – my spirit, my brain, whichever was just curious. And we have like this amazing technology and our hands, and so I just was following my curiosity. Eventually, I mean, it took me lots of places. Like I did a little time of like, oh, I’m curious about tarot cards. And so I looked into that and then I was like, oh, I want to learn about like all of our chakras, and I even bought some like stones to like, you know. I took one of the online quizzes that talked about like, which one of my chakras needs more attention, you know, that’s my clothes, I need to work on that. And so it was like a game. It was like fun. It was just following my curiosity. And in that space where I was just following anything that was shiny, I was reading more and more about self-compassion.
And there was this very specific practice that I had read about and learned about that I started doing and telling my friends about and it was this thing where you literally say out loud to yourself, I’m so sorry. And then you be as specific as you can about the belief, even though intellectually, you know it may not true, but the painful thought and you just say, I’m so sorry, and you just hold space for yourself. And I don’t know how it works, except that it does work and it just shifted those painful things. They just were allowed to move through me.
Louise: Yeah. I love that because you’re bringing like mindful kindness to the beliefs and thoughts that are happen in the moment, so I’m so sorry that you just thought, oh, I’m so disgusting.
Louise: And so you’re pausing, you’re not letting it kind of just sink in, and you’re apologizing to yourself – so powerful.
Kathryn: And it’s really been the most affected, I would say, on the old beliefs that have sort of been sneaky. We’ve been very programmed by the cultures we grew up in. That’s why fat phobia is so rampant, you know, anti-fat is everywhere. It it’s like a global phenomenon that fatness is bad. That’s kind of fascinating. What the hell?
Louise: The world is wrong and fat is bad.
Kathryn: Yeah. But actually, and I think that’s so interesting, and one of the things I really love about the fat community is that we are an international global group of humans, that are going to push back on this really stupid presumption that our bodies are wrong. And I don’t know, it creates this really interesting energy of when you choose your own inner knowledge over the projected information. It is powerful. It’s an empowering transition. And so, you turn the volume up of your own inner space, above the chatter of culture and you start to realize, you can do whatever the fuck you want. You can have whatever.
Louise: You can wear what you want, you can have sex, you can enjoy hell out of yourself.
Kathryn: It’s all of it. Absolutely.
Louise: For how long has life felt like that for you?
Kathryn: It just keeps getting better and better and better. So, when I was experiencing that period of time where I was recovering from surgery and then ended up with vertigo, that was like, it felt like explosions, like my body expanded and my brain and my spirit was expanding. And I’d had this sort of metaphysical experience where I had this profound sensation that my physical body that was inhabiting was an allegory to this spirit size I was meant to embody in this. And I don’t actually even talk about that that much, but it was huge in shifting my thinking about like whether or not my body was allowed. And not only is it allowed, it’s powerful. When people see me, it’s not hard to see that I am also quite free, but I live in a body that we’re used to people seeing shame. Walk around in bodies like mine and they there’s just shame. I’s hard not to, because of how much conditioning we’ve been taught about fat, but I just don’t have that. I don’t have that energy. And so, people interact with me and I’m not easy to forget.
Louise: Do people just not know what to do with you if you don’t kind of obey that is not expected shame.
Kathryn: I don’t know if they… I’m not having those kinds of conversations with strangers. The humans are that are close to me, like they just see me. I’m a full human person. I do have this deep spiritual practice, but like I have hard days too and I have sad days and I reach out for support when I need it. I get frustrated with my kids and I complain about that. So yeah, it’s just the humans that are in my life really see me. And then when I’m out in the world, I just don’t live. I just am not anticipating. I remember living in a way where I anticipated hostility for the body I lived in and I felt hostility. Now I just don’t anticipate hostility directed towards me. It just doesn’t occur to me anymore. I don’t know how, except that it was all this self-compassion, but this very dramatic shift is, can move through the world and I’m not anticipating hostility.
I just assume that I get to be treated with the amount of dignity and love and care that I treat myself with. And if that doesn’t happen to be the case where someone doesn’t treat me the way I want to or expect to be treated, it just doesn’t wreck me like it would’ve before. It just is like, oh, that’s an anomaly. Like, I’m sorry, that person, they must be having a rough time. Like, how sad that they would feel the need to project their shit onto me. It’s very clear to me that that’s theirs. It’s not shit my. I’m good.
Louise: Oh, that’s it, right? Because the self-compassion has kind of sunk in and made you kind of unstoppable.
Kathryn: And what’s funny is like unstoppable how, because I have a lot of limitations living in my body. I have a lot of limitations moving through the world. Like, my body doesn’t fit in most public seating. I’ve had to do the both end of doing this internal work of, I know that I’m allowed to exist in the world with full dignity and I’m also someone ADHD, and so sometimes I have low executive functioning. Which means, I can be overwhelmed with the amount of extra labor that’s required for me to like, make sure that that restaurant I want to go to with my friends is going to have seating that’s going to work for my body. And so, I’ve been able to like my circle of friends and people I date, I’ve been able to invite them into this sort of tender space of, hey, would you actually help do some of the labor here?
And I was pretty tentative about it at first because it felt really vulnerable, and they were so happy to. They were just so happy to. They were like, “That is okay Kathryn, we love your presence in our life. And of course, we’re going to try to streamline this and make it less hard for you. You shouldn’t have to work this hard, just go out and be in the world.” Yeah, and so it is the both end. Both things are at once; I am unstoppable and this world is still not built for, to welcome a body like mine, I have to do in a lot of extra labor.
Louise: Which is terrifically difficult, but how nice that you can like share this with friends who will then go out and advocate and take care of everything alongside you; you don’t have to do it on your own.
Kathryn: Yeah. It’s a really beautiful thing. I think the work of getting free and liberation is an internal spiritual work. And then what happens is we get to see it lived out in human relationships because we are social creatures and it’s got to be the both end. We’re not meant to be alone, most of us aren’t. And so, yeah, and then that was just a really – that took some compassion too. It was very tender when I first started saying out loud to my circles, like I want to be out in the world a little more and I’m noticing I’m saying no to invitations because it will be too hard. And then I’m like, oh, actually I can ask for help. Turns out, asking for help is its own kind of superpower. And culturally again, especially in Western cultures, we have been taught not to do that.
Louise: Yeah. Don’t impose on people, don’t have needs, don’t… that’s terrific. Out of interest, who were the fat liberation people that you read for inspiration? Who your community now that you…?
Kathryn: Let’s see. So Sonya Renee Taylor’s work was really impactful to me and the book, The Body’s not an Apology. I really liked what I read from the author who wrote Shrill and now Lindsay-Anne Baker, The Will author. I can’t remember her first name.
Louise: I can’t remember it either.
Kathryn: Yeah. And then I just started following like the hashtags on Instagram. Instagram was really helpful in my evolution as well, because I love how you can just follow hashtags, like disability justice and fat liberation, haze, so all of that was really impactful. So it became like this big, beautiful soup of just taking in everything that was sort of out there and allowing it to change how I thought about things.
Louise: I love that; a big, beautiful soup, because Instagram can also be like a treacherous shark infested ocean.
Kathryn: The thing is like curating our feed too. I mean, it can be. But I think that internet has served me so well because social media is can reflect back to us our own energy sometimes. And whatever you’re drawn to are attracted to you, you can unfollow and start following the stuff that makes you actually feel good, so it doesn’t have to be that. It doesn’t have to be that.
Louise: No, I love my little haze bubble that I have on Insta and social media, speaking of which that’s how I found you. Because I think I was scrolling through Being Nourished, their feed, Hilary and Dana and I saw this amazing picture of lady and it was just lit up with flowers and it was glowing, like literally like no shit glowing. And I was like, I just stopped. And I’m like, that is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. So since then, I was trying to find it and I couldn’t find out anywhere. And then I found you and looked through your feed and your art and it was like how I think self-compassion looks like in art. I can’t explain it very well, but it’s like it moved me in my body. It was so beautiful see. And that’s why I kind of tracked you down and finally found the beautiful painting, which is going to be up in my new office. Which ironically the new office is called Flourish at [unclear27:54].
Louise: And then the idea is that it’s a big, beautiful like greenhouse full of plants and growth and beginning for people. And so, I wanted to feel it full of like art that showed that. That painting that I had seen is called Flourishing, so I can’t wait to put it up there. I just want to talk about your art because it’s just like a mind bogglingly awesome. How long have you been doing it?
Kathryn: Not that long. I started really making body art, figurative art in 2018. I was sort of dabbling in 2017. I was sort of experimenting. I was 38. I’m 44, almost 44 now, but I was 38 before I could even call myself an artist. It just was things were, again, we have these limiting ideas sometimes. Like the idea that I was an artist felt so gatekeepy, like I wasn’t fancy, I’m just up hot. Yeah, so I was 38 and I was like, oh my God, I’ve been calling myself crafty my whole life. But like the truth is, is that I am an artist. And then when, like I said, I describe how in the same window of time I had this lipedema diagnosis, this chronic illness and there’s no cure, so my body will continue to evolve. And then they’re just like, by the way, all of our bodies are continuing to evolve. We’re in a constant change.
And then fat liberation, that I was allowed to take space and have the body I lived in and I needed a way to marry these two ideas just to make peace with the fact that this is a reality of my life. My body is going to stay this way and progress. So up until that point, I just constantly was believing that like someday I would lose all the weight, you know, like most of us think, you know? So I had to decide, nope, if that never happens for me, I’m going to live my best life. So making art was the bridge and it was like, I wanted to see myself depicted beautifully in art and media, and so I just started playing around with it. And it’s interesting because you know, you referenced the image flourishing and you said painting, it’s actually not really a painting. It’s digital.
Louise: It’s digital. I have no idea when it comes.
Kathryn: We have these iPhones, and there’s all these apps on there. I literally make all this art on my phone. Sometimes I like the aesthetic of mixed media, and so sometimes I’ll do like mixed media art, like an abstract sort of thing. And then I can like take a photo of it and I can layer it into a silhouette. But yeah, we have all this software now where you can just like take a photo and then like strip away everything that’s not the silhouette, and then I can layer and layer and layer. I can create a background, I can do all these things. I can just pull an image in and out of like 16 different phone apps, you know? And it was just plates. Something I can do while laying down and it doesn’t require any art supplies that my kids are going to make a fucking mess out of.
Louise: That is exciting.
Kathryn: And it really helped me get into a state of flow where I could be like listening to an audio book and then like playing on my phone, making something beautiful. Here’s the other interesting thing is that, in like summer of 2018, I started my Instagram and I was like, I’m going to make new art every day. I’m going to post something every single day, and I did that for six months straight. And there is really something powerful about adding creativity to whatever our work is. Like, what are you working on in your life human? Like, what’s the thing that is asking for your attention, right? Is it body issue stuff, then find a creative outlet for that. It could be poetry. It could be writing short stories. It can be visual arts. It could be clay. I have this sculpture of myself that I made with, oh, I wonder if I can remember their name. There’s this other, like the activist who I think is from Australia, actually.
Louise: Yes, yes. And my God, what is happening to my brain? It’s 6:00 AM. Ashley Bennett. It’s Ashley Bennett from at bodyimage_therapist.
Kathryn: She’s delightful, and it was really fun to go to her class in San Francisco. And a bunch to us were in there with clay molding our own forms. And it was powerful to lovingly touch this clay, to like fill in where all of these fat roles are, you know, the volume of my big belly. It was just powerful. So whatever creative outlet attracted to, adding creativity to whatever your work is, somehow I think unleashes huge amounts of energy. It just opens us up in ways that I don’t think just thinking about things could ever.
Louise: I think you’ve nailed it. You’re regularly visiting that place and reinforcing it, but just sort of intuitively finding this way of doing it. It shines out of it. I don’t think I’ve seen art before, which embodies self-compassion, this stuff that you’ve done, I just love it. And I love how you’ve paired it with compassionate phrases, like be gentle with you.
Louise: And I love fat-trans queer loved, just full of love. It’s too just incredible. And I particularly, yeah, I’ll just keep blushing if I keep looking. I just encourage everyone to go and look at it. So this is really like a love story of you and your body.
Kathryn: Well, okay. So maybe, right. My relationship, my body meant that my spiritual worldview shifted a great deal. How I interact with the world around me changed. It also meant that I ended a long term marriage that wasn’t exactly a terrible marriage or anything, it’s just we didn’t resonate with each other anymore. I was no longer a Christian, that was really important to him. And as soon as I knew that that marriage was over, I was like, oh my God, I’m queer. Of course, I am. How did I not know that? You know? And so I spent so many decades in purity culture, I just was prohibited from exploring my own sexuality. And so, one of the things about being a late bloomer is the temptation to feel like a I’ve missed out on a lot of stuff. And again, like I felt all those feelings. I gave myself a lot of compassion. It would’ve been amazing to be having lots of gay sex when I was in my twenties, but that wasn’t my experience. And so the cool thing is, is that I get to be a sexual being today in the body that I have, but as also as a person who’s incredibly self-aware who is great communication skills, who is emotionally intelligent. And so, I’m navigating dating almost as if I’m a preteen or a teenager, but also I have all of this wealth of internal self-knowledge and self-compassion.
Louise: So that’s good make it like much more enjoyable than usual teen experiences.
Kathryn: I’m having a fucking blast, yeah. And not that every date I go on is amazing. A lot of them are amazing. I’m also very interested in nontraditional relationship models, so I’m practicing solo polyamory. Another interesting thing to read about is something called relationship anarchy, which is just brilliant. It’s just asking us to challenge all of these beliefs about what relationships are supposed to be and gender roles and like expectations we might have on a dynamic with another person. You actually get to invent that; you and that person get to make that up as you go, it gets to serve both of you, and it can be like anything you want it to be. I love that. I love the freedom of turning everything on its head. There’s no external expectations on what my relationship with any one person needs to be. I get to decide that. They get to decide that with me. So yeah. Right out of the gate, you know, I came out as queer during the pandemic and then once enough of us were vaccinated, I’m out here dating, dating a lot. I’m having a good time.
Louise: It’s not easy to date in a pandemic. Wow, this is all so new. You’re riding the wave.
Kathryn: I’m riding this very big wave. Also one of the things that I’ve learned is that scarcity is a capitalist construct, and it fucks us up pretty bad, but we apply scarcity to everything. We definitely apply it to dating and it just doesn’t feel true anymore. Like, people are coming out to the fucking woodwork to be like, hey, how you doing, can we date? And I’m like, yeah, let’s go on date. Me and the body I inhabit, I’m a desired person that feels amazing. That feels amazing.
Louise: Wow. That is the power of not limiting yourself. And that’s the other kind of word that came to mind looking at your art is abundance.
Kathryn: Yeah. Yeah. It feels so much better to live in this space. And I want to be really careful to say, it’s not that I am in an elated state of being constantly. I really do have access to this like really high, high frequency sensation of joy and pleasure and abundance. But also, I still am inhabiting a human body that has chronic pain, that experiences big fatigue. I’ve had relationships end in a way that really hurt my feelings. And I’ve been afraid of things here and there too, you know? And so, it’s just that in those times now I don’t judge myself harshly. I can experience very, very big fatigue and just decide that everything I wanted to get done that day isn’t going to get done and I’ll go home and I will just rest and do whatever I need to do to get through that particular window.
Louise: What would you offer yourself then? How do you stay compassionate in a moment like that?
Kathryn: Well, what’s interesting is that that’s taken a while because I remember even just, I don’t know, eight months ago I would have a fatigue spell and sometimes they would last up to like five days where it was just super hard to function for days. And the first day or two, I could be like, that’s all right, I’m just going to roll with it. And then if it went on beyond that, it would start to feel scary because our brains have a tendency to be like, oh my God, this is my life now. And what I started to see though, was on the other side of a hard window, I felt more free somehow. And I don’t know how to explain that. Sometimes we go through a hard time and then coming up out of it, there’s just some kind of lift. And that had happened enough times that I started to trust it.
So several weeks ago I had a rough spell and I didn’t have that panic feeling. I just remembered like, oh, I’ve been through this before, like on the other side, I’m just going to feel more powerful. So in the time while I’m experiencing it, while I feel like really low energy, I just lay down as I needed to. My body is like, this is what’s going to happen, this is how much rest we need and stop trying to qualify it. Like, I feel like I rest more than any human I’ve ever met, and I’m like, what? Really? More? How much more could I need? And my body’s like, it doesn’t need to be qualified like that. Like it’s not about comparing it to other people, like you’re going to need to lay down and rest somewhere. And so then I just keep myself occupied by listening to audio books or playing on my phone or meditating or whatever I want to do. That’s a really powerful thing too. I stopped doing things that I was supposed to do. I literally only do what I want to do.
Louise: I love this.
Kathryn: There’s some amount of privilege that comes with that. Like I’m separated, so I don’t have to live with my ex anymore, but I was a stay-at-home parent before. And so, with child support and whatnot, I still get to like live as a stay-at-home parent and I have my art that I do and other things occupy my day and my time. I’m not needing to work 40 hours a week in order to live in the world, so I recognize that as a great privilege I get to have. But that being said, I still think being free on the inside is what’s making me free. You know what I mean?
Louise: Yeah, much more. I remember being at one of Hilary and Dana’s retreats in 2016 and talking about how like… it was for embodiment, to be an embodied practitioner. About trying to get out of like the crowded city of our brain and down into the wilderness of our body – uncharted territory. And I remember us talking about that’s where the freedom is, it’s down there and it’s not verbal, it’s sort of felt.
Kathryn: Yeah. And I would say that – like I said, I’ve been explaining who I am as a person, as someone who’s quite spiritual, and that’s true. But what I started to see is that in some spiritual communities, they would talk down about the body. They would say like, oh, this meat sack that we’re in, you know, like your body is not who you really are, you are not your body. And I don’t agree with that at all. I think our bodies are fucking magic. They hold so much intense wisdom. They will talk to us and teach us things. Our bodies have held all of our trauma our whole lives; just held it, just waiting for us to be ready to look at it again. And it has only ever been kind to us. And even when it’s not working well or there’s pain or any of those things, it’s not out to get you, it’s just trying to get your attention.
And when we can turn into it and listen and believe that it’s our friend I feel like it’s multiverses within ourselves, like unending amounts of wisdom and love and compassion all in this physical form that we inhabit. Even if you just think about DNA, like our fucking DNA is ancient. You know what I mean? There’s studies that talk about how like trauma can be passed down in your DNA. Like the stories that your body has, it’s way more powerful than we give it credit for often. And so when we live our lives, we’re not ruled completely by our minds, but we actually get to make decisions based on how does it feel in my body when I think about doing this thing? If we literally do the things that only make our body feel like, ah, expansive and open and relaxed, oh my God, your life will change. If you’re constantly doing things to your body’s like, “Oh, dread, dread, I don’t want to, I’m going to make myself.” Nope, nope, it doesn’t serve you.
Louise: This is an amazing conversation. I knew this would be an amazing conversation. There’s so much in everything that you are saying, and it’s learning how to do that I think that’s difficult for people. Because like you said, we’re so kind of stuck in our heads and so scared, and often I think it’s that fear response that’s in our body that stops us getting down or trauma cuts us off. So it is really interesting that you come to it in your late thirties and you come to it in a moment, like when your body just sort of calls it a day almost and says, oh, lie down for a few weeks, you’re going to have to just be with me.
Kathryn: Yeah. There’s an account. I follow on Instagram called The Nap Ministry. And I can’t remember who is in charge of it, but this really powerful black woman. And I just want to say too, like as a white woman in the privilege that I embody there, like the kind of freedom that I get to live in is absolutely because of the work of black women and fems and indigenous people. Like, I’m really grateful for all the labor and the work that they’ve done to help kind of illuminate the path forward. So this particular person who has the Instagram, The Nap Ministry, they just blew my mind when they talked about like rest as revolution. Capitalism has really indoctrinated us with the idea that our worth is connected to our labor or our productivity. And then we live in systems that you literally can’t live unless you do labor for often someone else. And that’s really wrong. Human beings are not designed for that. That’s a system that we all have grown up in and it’s impacted how we think about ourselves.
There was a time where human beings existed without having to go to work and labor in order to just stay alive. So to nap, napping being resistance to those capitalist ideas was a revolutionary idea to me. And that rest was how we honored all the people that went before us that weren’t allowed to rest. And it absolutely – I really do credit my body stopping working and requiring so much rest with my ability to disconnect with these systems that control our thinking. You know what I mean? So I was out in the world less because in my bed napping more. And what that meant is I was spending more time in my own energy and the things that I was just naturally feeling curious about. And then I could follow my curiosity to the next step and the next step.
In a spirit paradigm, you might say like your higher self is always going to guide you towards enlightenment if that resonates with you. But I would also say that my body had a very key role in that. My body was the one that arrested me and got my attention, my body demanded rest and I said, okay. And before I said, okay, I spent years pushing through like most of us do. You like buckle in, you like buck up, you push through and that’s stupid. We don’t have to do that anymore. You know what I mean? The idea that you were good because you hurt your body in order to achieve some task is really stupid. We don’t have to do that anymore. We don’t have to hurt ourselves anymore. We can be kind to ourselves. Rest is revolutionary.
Louise: I love that. Absolutely love that. And I think especially now, you know, the last two years have been pretty shit for most people on the planet. And I don’t know if this happened over there, but as we are coming out here in Australia, there’s a lot of like exhaustion and a lot of anxiety coming back into, and fear of what’s going to happen next step. People do need to rest more. We can get these messages, like you said, from the structures and systems that we need to kind of pull up our socks and lose the COVID kilos and, you know, whatever. And I’m finding for my clients that that kind of message like let’s get back to normal, just doesn’t resonate as much, is maybe we’ve had a bit more time to spend in reflection.
Kathryn: Normal was very toxic. It really was. Normal has never been good or kind to human individuals. It has served these systems that are oppressive and that’s all. And I think the pandemic forcing most of us to slow down to some degree, it means that we get to become disillusioned with how it was really shit before too. And no, not fucking going back to that. No, thank you. No, we’re going to have to create something new. A lot of the kind of things that I’m listening to and reading about now is all anti-capitalist stuff. And the idea that we’re in late stage capitalism is a pretty widespread idea at this point. And so, how we going to cope with that? How are we going to cope end of capitalism? Those of us who are adults now are probably, I don’t know that it’s going to be easy or fun.
And again, that’s why we have to do the internal work of like, I’m actually, okay no matter what, I’m going to be okay, and I’m going to be really fucking gentle with myself, because I don’t know what the future holds. And sometimes uncertainty can be very scary. And again, we can offer ourselves compassion for that, but the truth is the more I live in a state of genuine compassion for myself, I’m very present in this exact moment and you know, that’s a spiritual practice that most of us had heard about like be present, be present in it; it didn’t resonate until I started to live in a state of compassion. And it’s not that I’m trying to be present; I just am. I just am here. I’m just present with myself because I’m so kind to myself. I don’t have to escape into the future to think it’ll be better then. Oh my God, I’ve spent years thinking it’ll be better then, when my body is smaller – I would escape in the future all the time. I don’t do that anymore. My life is beautiful because I am so fucking kind to myself. And when I am this kind to myself, somehow the world is just way less hostile. And it doesn’t mean there’s not still a ton of unknowns; I’m just not afraid of the unknown anymore.
Louise: You’re amazing. That everything you just said is just brilliant – so inspiring. No matter what, just keep doing what you’re doing, because you are like your art. You’re just like glowing. It’s amazing.
Kathryn: Thank you. And the thing that I kind of want to reiterate is like, I know I can speak eloquently about some of these things. I am very human too, right? There’s the both end. But if I can come to this state of being, that means it’s available, like the amount of freedom that I get to live in. I realized a long time ago that I kind of wanted to be of service to the world in some way, you know, I was in vocational ministry, and the world who I was a part of really made perpetuate to this savior complex. And then I had religious trauma and I had like childhood trauma and I was definitely someone who was codependent for a lot of years, was codependent in my relationship with my spouse. And I feel like I’ve lived a very normal life, but I’ve started to taste freedom, and then the freedom just brought more freedom. And then that freedom brought even greater freedom. And so, I would very much like to say that existing as I am in the world now, it feels like it’s accessible to people. Like being alive and free in the body inhabit might convince someone else that, oh my God, what if I could be more free too? And now I no longer feel like it’s my job to save anyone. It’s just not. Like, I really trust people on their journey. I trust you to follow your own curiosity and see what path that takes you on. But I being free in the world, I think perpetuates the idea that freedom is available to all of us.
Louise: Yeah. And I think that’s why it’s so lovely to speak to you, and to know that this conversation gets the listen to by so many people. I think this part like of like finding that freedom through self-compassion, connected to your body specifically and inhabiting – I think that’s really tough for a lot of people, and that’s a bit that we can get stuck on. Like, we can kind of talk about I love fat liberation, and I love haze, and I love anti-diet, but I still don’t feel okay in my body. Like I still can’t really accept it, let alone inhabit it, let alone feel freedom in it, let alone expand. What you’re talking about is I guess, perseverance with that compassion until it doesn’t feel like an innate trick, but it feels like it’s the portal and then you just sort of go down and inhabit.
Kathryn: Yeah. And our brains do change, right? So, like it’s the default. It wasn’t always, it took some time and I didn’t make myself do it. Like, this was really born out of when I realized I was only going to do what I wanted to do. And so, my meditative practice is really like when I’m laying my bed, I’ll just take some deep breaths and I’ll let my brain just sort of wander. I don’t like any kind of dogma or high structure at all. Some of that might be PhD, but also I spent decades in a lot of fundamentalism and so there was so much dogma. So, this is me sort of pushing all the way to the other extreme and it has served me. And I think the big message for anyone who’s listening would be like, find out what serves you by following your curiosity and what you actually want.
Sometimes we don’t even know what we want because we’re not embodied enough. But then you can try this little fun game of like think of something that you might want and then see how it feels in your body. Does it feel expansive? When you take a breath, do you feel like room or does it feel tight? And so, then we start to ask our body questions. Our body has our own individual truth. It really, really does. And what happens is you start to check in with your body more and more. Then you are sort of guided in your life. Eventually, it’s not something you have to think about; it just happens. And then you will lead yourself to whatever is your best life.
Louise: That is so cool. It’s like the difference between thinking and knowing in your body, it’s that language of knowing in your body or not the language, but it’s that experience of knowing in your body that when [unclear52:02]. That is a cool trick.
Kathryn: Yeah. They live in concert now, you know, so like our brains have been very subject to conditional cultural programming. Our brains are really susceptible to that because human beings want to belong and society tells you, these are the things you got to do to belong. And so you want to belong so you conform, right? And then when you are not in relationship with your body, again, that’s why anti-fatness is such a destructive force because it separates us from our body, and it makes controlling your body the objective, and your body is not to be controlled. It’s just to be loved and enjoyed and to be honored. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of different ways we can just very gently, it doesn’t have to happen overnight, but just a little to check in, like you just happen to be eating a meal and you just realize, oh, I’m going to take some deep breaths. I’m going to breathe really deep into my belly. And I’m going to experience this one bite of food and just relish every bit of pleasure. I’m going to feel it go down into my body. And then you you’ll start to see you’ll just do that a little bit more and more, and you can heal the relationship with your body by just actively engaging with it a little bit more and a little bit more until it becomes something you do without thinking
Louise: So lovely. And all of that is stuff that we’re not encouraged to do. Even a belly breath – oh gosh. You know, don’t let your stomach pop out. Eating and feeling pleasure, like honestly, pleasure and eating is not something we even like – it’s not on the radar. These things are radical, but so simple. And what is it that Dana and Hilary talk about body trust is our birthright.
Kathryn: It is. It is our birthright. And you know, most of us have been around small children, they do not feel self-conscious in their bodies. Someone told me that they were having Thanksgiving dinner with a three year old. They were sitting next to the three year old and the three year old was going, “Mm mm.” And so they were laughing about how, like, it almost sounded like orgasmic sounds from this toddler who hasn’t been socially conditioned yet. And hopefully they get to live without that other stuff limiting their experience in the world.
Louise: I’ll [unclear54:13], right?
Kathryn: Yeah, exactly. So as a parent myself, that’s the thing I teach my kids more than anything is bodily autonomy and to make decisions based on what feels right to them in their body. That feels like the best gift I can give them.
Louise: I couldn’t agree more. And that connects to so many other experiences.
Kathryn: It really does.
Louise: Yeah. What a terrific conversation. I’m so grateful for you to come on and talk to me about all of this today, and I’m going to continue buying your work.
Kathryn: Thank you. It’s been such a pleasure for letting me share, and I really, really love talking about these things and thank you for getting up early so that the timing worked and all of that. Thank you for reaching out and finding me. I’m really delighted.
Louise: Ah, right back at you. Thank you.
Outro: What did I tell you? Is this an incredible interview and an amazing individual or what? I tell you what I could not stop thinking about that conversation for days afterwards. Kathryn’s experience and way of expressing everything through their art, it’s just mind blowing. So look, I’m a bit spent, I’m sure you are too. I feel little part of me feels like lighting up a cigarette and just laying back and just enjoying the after glow of that conversation. Thank you so much, Kathryn, for coming on and blowing all of our minds at a time when we really, really need some awesomeness. Thank you so much for delivering.
If you like me are fascinated and a bit blown away by everything Kathryn-related, look at their Instagram, which is fat_mystic_art, and go to the Etsy shop and buy everything, which is kind of what I want to do as well. The Etsy shop is Fatmystic, and there’s just so much terrific stuff there.
Thank you everybody, and thank you, Kathryn. Look, we’re going to sign off now and into the end of the year we go. Be very, very careful everyone, because like I said, it’s diet culture high season, the weight loss wolves are after us. Remember that your body is awesome, magical, mystical and not something to feel ashamed about. There’s just so much awesomeness sitting right here right now. Okay, so look everyone, I hope you take really, really good care of yourselves and I hope that there’s some kind of break coming for most of us. I know I’m going to have a rest. I’m going to be back and absolutely raring to go early next year. We’ve got some, like I said, some really cool news and big news coming, but this All Fired Up podcast is going nowhere. You’re going to be hearing from me a lot. I’m very, very pumped and excited. So look, look after yourself, everyone. And I’ll see you in the new year. In the meantime, trust your body, think critically, push back against diet culture. Untrap from the crap!