Sep 22 • 54M

Feeling Bloated, Sober September, and Fall Soft Pants

An End of Summer AMA with Virginia and Corinne.

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Weekly conversations about how we dismantle diet culture and fatphobia, especially through parenting, health and fashion. (But non-parents like it too!) Hosted by Virginia Sole-Smith, journalist and author of THE EATING INSTINCT and the forthcoming FAT KID PHOBIA.
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You're listening to Burnt Toast. I'm Virginia Sole-Smith and I also write the Burnt Toast newsletter.

Today is another Ask Me Anything episode with Corinne Fay! More accurately described as an Ask Us Anything episode. Corinne is back (if you missed her previously, start here and then go here and here) and we are covering so many topics this week, especially fall fashion. We have a lot of thoughts about pants. So buckle up for that. We also talk about snacks. Pants and snacks, and I know, you're already in.

Corinne, for those of you who don't know, works with me on Burnt Toast. She also runs @SellTradePlus on Instagram. She's awesome. And she was wearing an amazing jumpsuit while we recorded this.


Photo by Westend61 via Getty Images

Episode 62 Transcript

Virginia

I feel like we should catch up a little! I haven't talked to you, I mean, we haven't recorded one of these in a few months. We talk frequently but it's like text and email. How are you?

Corinne

I'm good. This summer has been a whirlwind. 

Virginia

You have been all over the place, right? 

Corinne

I have. I came out to the east coast for the summer. I've been staying with my mom and I've been spending a lot of time with family—my mom, my sister, extended family, and traveling to see lots of old friends.

Virginia

That sounds so great. I was so mad, you were in the Hudson Valley like an hour from me but I was in the final days of book revisions and we couldn’t make it happen. 

Corinne

And how are you doing? You've had a busy summer as well.

Virginia

I am good. It was unexpectedly extra busy because it turned out my book timeline was different than I thought it would be. But now September Virginia is so happy because this morning I turned in the revise, as opposed to when I originally thought I'd be starting the revise in September. Now I'm like, it was totally worth it because it's done.

Preorder FAT TALK

Corinne

Congratulations!

Virginia

Thank you. It's so huge. It's now 400 pages in Word. It won't be a 400 page book—I don't want to terrify people. Word page counts and book page counts are different. And like 50 pages of it is just end notes, which I assume nobody reads but I'm still very obsessive about. Writing the end notes really almost ended me, but I made it. I made it through.

Corinne

That's so awesome.

Virginia

It's good stuff. My kids are back in school and the book is someone else's problem for a few weeks. I'm living life. All right, should we do some listener questions? We've got a lot of good ones this time.

Corinne

We do. Let's dive in. Should I read the first one? 

Q. How do you work with yourself when you are having one of those days when you either feel bloated, feel like you're carrying some extra weight or just feel lousy and a little bigger in your body? Does it trigger any anxiety or fatphobic thinking? If so, how do you work with yourself?

I ask because as a human, I assume we all have some of these days with normal body fluctuations if we are connected with our bodies. It is a normal part of living in a body, but I tend to get really anxious and my fatphobic mind starts up when I'm having a day when I may be holding on to some extra weight.

Virginia

My first response is like, yes, I think this is how we're taught to think about our bodies. It's normal for these feelings to come up and to have this moment. But let's push back on the phrase “extra weight” a little bit. Let's be curious about that because that is sort of tricky language, right? That's the fatphobia. I have a lot of empathy, these are very real feelings that come up because you've been taught to feel this way about your body. And bodies do change. Our bodies change size throughout the month, and the year, and the seasons. And it is hard to not have that knee jerk response to it because that's what you were taught to do since you were a kid.

What do you think?

Corinne

I'm struggling with this question. One, because I think what you're picking up on, it is coming from a very real place. And it is slightly equating “feeling bigger” with feeling lousy. I feel like the word “bloating” is like a trigger for me. What do you mean when you say “bloated?” Are your clothes uncomfortable? Are you seeing the way you look and not liking it? 

Virginia

Do you just need to poop? Are you constipated?

Corinne

Are you having trouble with mobility? Or are you like weighing yourself? I'm curious what the feeling is.

Leave a comment

Virginia

I think you're right. What is coming up? I think in this person's effort to be careful in how they're talking about this, they're not giving us all the details, which is understandable but makes it harder for us to answer your question.

For me, there are some times, like a change of season, when I bring out the next season's clothes and something is tighter than I expected it to be. That is, I think, a common point where people suddenly are like, wait, did something go wrong? And then I have to reframe. If my body has changed, that is fine. It is not my body's fault. It's the pant’s problem, not mine.

I also try to take a step back and ask what else is going on with me. Because often, worrying about how clothes fit is a place my brain goes with anxiety because it's got that groove worn into it. But actually, I'm anxious because I have a work meeting where I have to be on camera or be in person with people or we're gonna see friends we haven't seen in a long time. Often it's my social anxiety that manifests in body and wardrobe anxiety. And so taking it back to like, Oh, I'm just anxious about this social encounter because I'm an introvert who works from home and isn't great at seeing people. Then I can sort of keep it there versus going to the body negativity place.

Corinne

Right. And those two things are so linked, because anxiety makes you uncomfortable but also if your clothes physically feel weird, it can amplify it.

Virginia

I think where this has gone really badly for me in the past is if I haven't taken enough time in advance to figure out what I'm going to wear to the thing and now the thing I thought I could wear is uncomfortable to wear. So now my anxiety about the thing is compounded by the fact that I feel miserable in this outfit that doesn't fit right. Then you're in this whole vortex. So one workaround is I try now to plan further out. I’m going to take author photos next month, and I'm already thinking about what I'm gonna wear so it's not the morning of author photo shoot day and nothing works.

Corinne

That thing where you’re throwing everything you own…

Virginia

Yes, Exactly. Let's avoid the flailing and hating everything. 

Corinne

Maybe this person just needs some soft pants.

Virginia

Don’t we all just need soft pants? 

Corinne

Yeah. If you're feeling that discomfort, put on your soft pants.

Virginia

I don't know if we totally answered that. 

Corinne

I hope that didn't sound dismissive because that's not how I meant it. 

Virginia

We don't want to dismiss the really real feelings that come up. But look at what's underneath it. Don't feel bad that your brain went there because you've learned to go there, but recognize that that's not where it needs to stay.

Corinne

And whatever you can do to make yourself physically feel more comfortable will probably help.

Virginia

Well, on the subject of soft pants, these next questions are ones I'm very excited to talk about with you.

Q. What are some of your favorite or go to “business casual” clothes outfits?
Q. Fall wardrobe essentials?

So I feel like we should talk about like fall clothes in general. I don't know that either of us would describe ourselves as business casual.

Corinne

Oh man, the business casual is straight up triggering. That is a situation where I'm throwing everything in my closet on the bed and, so uncomfortable. I'm so sorry for everyone who has to try and figure that out.

Virginia

You guys can't see us but Corinne is in an adorable Target jumpsuit that we just discussed in great detail. I am in cutoff shorts and a tank top because it's really hot in my office. So, we did not go business casual for this Zoom recording 

Corinne

Oh my gosh, no. 

Virginia

But I do want to give a plug for soft pants for fall. I decided after having spent months on Jeans Science as everybody knows, that I am going to try not to buy new jeans this fall. Because they will be bad. All the jeans are bad. They will inevitably be disappointing and I won't like them. So why would I spend money on them?

I have three or four pairs left from Jeans Science. I tried them on all last week. Two pairs didn't fit anymore, so I threw them out immediately. But I think I still have two or three left that are fine. They're not great because there are no good jeans, but they're fine for the days when I really feel like I need jeans. And otherwise, I am embracing leggings. I got some great Universal Standard black leggings. I also got the Universal Standard ponte pant, which is a very difficult phrase to say on a podcast. 

Corinne

I’ve always said “pont-y,” just throwing that out there.

Virginia

That could be right. It sounds like panty, but okay. Pont-ay?

Corinne

There we go. Yes, say it with an accent.

Virginia

Okay, so question mark on how to pronounce it. But I feel like it's like a dressier legging. It's very versatile. I just have a black. I have a black pair and I have a bright red pair. The other thing I'm really excited about for fall is I also bought—another word I can't pronounce, “chambray.” Is that how you would say that? The denim but it's the soft denim? I bought a buttoned down shirt to wear with the black leggings or the ponte pant and also like maybe my cute pink clogs (Charlotte Stone doesn’t have my exact color anymore but these are similar, also for sure wait for sales!). I'm pretty excited about this as a look for fall. Sort of transitional. Could go to a clog boot once it gets cold here. What about you? What are you wearing?

Corinne

Well first I want to address business casual. 

My business casual go to is just Eileen Fisher, whether new or secondhand. I feel like they have so much comfortable stuff that's like that “artsy” business casual. I'm a particularly huge fan of their lantern pant, which is like kind of like a wider style that like goes in at the bottom a little bit. It comes in like a million different fabrics and slightly different styles every season.

Virginia

Oh, I know this pant. 

Corinne

It’s great. Goes with everything. And comfortable! You could wear it on an airplane.

Virginia

They're kind of like pajama pants, but like a little more tailored? But not super tailored.

Corinne

I would also say Universal Standard also has great stuff. I used to be more of a dress-wearing business casual person and now I'm like, I don't want to wear a dress. I want to wear pants all the time.

Virginia

Yeah, I'm in more of a pants place, too, although I have I'm doing some shopping for dresses right now because of the author photoshoot. So I just got one from Draper James (and hat tip to Dacy Gillespie who found this for me, I’ll talk more about that soon!). It's not a super inclusive line, but they do go up to 3x, I think. Yeah. I'm very excited about it. But I haven't like worn it out in the world so I feel like I can't fully endorse it.

(Update: I wore it out in the world after we recorded! To a work event! And I loved it though I did worry about sweat stains but it was okay.)

But if you're preppy—and I'm from Connecticut, so I can't not be preppy sometimes—I recommend. When I was looking at Draper James, they had some really cute tops that I think would certainly qualify as business casual, particularly if paired with a ponte pant or linen pant. Dresses are tricky because then you also have to make decisions about tights.

Corinne

And shoes. I don't like the shoes/dress situation because I don't want to wear heels ever. 

Virginia

God no. Yeah. I left women's magazines for a reason and not having to wear heels is one of the top reasons.

Corinne

Can you wear it with Blundstones? That's my question. 

Virginia

You can totally wear cute dresses with Blundstones. That's a great look.

Corinne

But might not be business casual. 

Virginia

Well, as we established up front, we do not have the credentials to speak very well to business casual. But I do think a dress with tights and Blundstones could work in a lot of more creative corporate settings. If you work at a bank, I don't think I can help you. I mean, I think a jumpsuit can totally work too for business casual. I mean, as you are proof right now. I have one from Athleta that's like a nylon-y fabric. (Guys I lied, it’s from Target and they don’t have it anymore, sigh.) It kind of reminds me a parachute fabric. But I feel like I can dress it up a little if I need to. Jumpsuits get tricky in the winter with shoes, at least here on the East Coast where you don't want bare ankles. It always comes back to the whole bare ankles thing. California has really done a number on us.

Corinne

So true. I will say one thing I've been wearing a lot in this cold damp summer thing we're having is I got a pair of cashmere bike shorts.

Virginia

Wait, what?

Corinne

From Naadam. Do you know that brand? 

Virginia

I do not!

Corinne

They're so great for that sort of humid, cool, but it's summer weather. Could maybe work for fall in some places?

Virginia

This is reminding me of that old photo of Princess Diana wearing a blue sweatshirt and white shorts. People post it on the one day a year where the weather is appropriate for this combination. But in Maine that’s like a lot of time actually?

Corinne

I love long sleeve top and shorts. These are also very good for if you're “feeling bloated” because they're just very soft and very stretchy comfortable.

Virginia

Yes. I am excited about this. I also want to know if they make like a longer pant? I have long wanted a pair of leggings made out of sweater material for winter. And J. Crew sells them but they're not size inclusive enough for me.

Corinne

You should definitely check out Naadam. They go up to a 3x but it's a very generous 3x. They definitely have a jogger style. And they have a lot of sales, so if you're interested, I would subscribe to their emails and wait for them to be like 40% off.

Virginia

I don't know if a knit cashmere jogger counts as business casual. If it doesn't, that's not a world I want to live in.

Corinne

You should be able to wear cashmere pants anywhere. 

Virginia

You're so fancy! 

Corinne

Always in fashion. 

Virginia

All right. The next question is:

Q: Can we have an update on Corinne’s Barbell Lift Off experience, if you're comfy and want to talk about it?

Corinne

Yes. I mean, the update is that I am not doing it. Basically, as I mentioned, I came out to the East Coast and once I got to my mom's house, I just kind of gave up. Partially because I was at the point where I needed to actually obtain weights.

Virginia

You'd progressed beyond the broomstick. Which is exciting! Congratulations!

Corinne

 I mean, yes. I just got like, overwhelmed by having to get stuff. But it is on my radar to restart when I get back to New Mexico and can have my own space and my own dumbbells or whatever.

Virginia

I think this also just speaks to how so many workouts are location and schedule specific. And then we beat ourselves up—and I'm not saying you beat yourself up, I hope you didn't. But there's this tendency to be like, “I'm gonna do this thing.” And then you don't do the thing and you might feel bad, but it's like, the thing stopped working. The thing was great for that month and then your needs changed. And maybe you're doing something else or maybe this isn't a month where exercise makes sense. And that's cool. That's life. 

Corinne

Totally. Yeah, and I think in general in summer, I would rather just go outside.

Virginia

Totally. I agree. Next someone would like to know:

Q: Favorite Snacks!

Corinne

So many, so many ideas.

Virginia

You just took a pause to just prepare yourself for that.

Corinne

I mean, hard to know where to start. Big topic. Especially this time of year when like I feel like all the best snacks are like seasonal fruit.

Virginia

It is a good fruit time of year.

Corinne

My first answers were peaches and cucumbers. But my favorite grocery store or roadtrip snack would be Cheetos probably. Or like any cheese cracker. Goldfish!

Virginia

You know me and Extra Toasty Cheez-Its. I feel like I don't even really need to answer this one because I've discussed this. 

Corinne

Do your kids like Cheez-Its?

Virginia

One of my kids does, one of my kids doesn't like any crackers. I know. I'm just trusting that she's going to come through this. She likes potato chips. I'm not saying she doesn't have any crunchy carbs in her life. But she's a potato chip, tortilla chip type kid. Not so much a cracker type person. 

Corinne

Interesting. 

Virginia

But yes, Extra Toasty Cheez-Its for me. The Ghirardelli Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, I like to eat by the handful. That's a snack often when I'm writing and I feel like my brain just needs a steady drip of glucose to keep me going. What else am I snacking on lately? We make a lot of the Ghirardelli brownie mix. That is very popular in my house. A brownie is a delightful after school snack. It's very popular. I feel like I'm on a little bit of a snacking rut to be honest. I feel like I always give the same answers. 

(San Fran people, sorry, I know, I mispronounce Ghirardelli every time!!!)

Corinne

I was gonna say, in a few weeks I'm driving back to New Mexico and if anyone has any car snack suggestions, I'm always looking for stuff.

Virginia

That's a great Friday thread. Your best car snacks. Or anytime snack. Do you want to ask the next question?

Corinne

Yes.

Q. Would you put your pet on a diet if your vet said it was necessary?

Virginia

This one, I had a lot of emotions.

Corinne

Same. This was just hitting a little too close to home.

Virginia

So we did have a cat—this is a fatphobic story, but it is also a little bit funny, and it's about a cat, so I'm giving that setup. When we lived in the city and our cat was an apartment cat, so his world was quite small because we lived in like a 600 square foot apartment. And I took him to the vet and the tech lifted him out of the carrier and said “Jesus Christ!” because he was—he was amazing. He was very chunky and delicious and I loved him so much. But I did feel that she fat shamed my cat. And they did suggest a diet. And I don't think we did the diet.

But we ended up moving out of the city to a house where then he had a bigger space to run around and he did slim down. But no, I didn't alter how I fed him because we had two cats and it was gonna be too hard. I feel like they are good intuitive eaters. I don't want to mess with that. What about you?

Corinne

I have a dog named Bunny. When I got her, from an Albuquerque city shelter, she was fully grown and 38 pounds and now she's close to 60 pounds. When I got her I took her to the vet, they were like “she's the perfect weight. She looks great.” And I was like, “Are you joking? She looks like a lollipop.” Like, her huge Pitbull head on like a little scrawny body. So I just fed her normally and she grew to be a normal size. And when I take her to the vet now, they're also like, “she's the perfect weight.” I’m like, she weighs almost twice as much, but whatever. So recently I took her to the vet because she's been having some issues with UTIs and they gave me this whole explanation of how—I don't know. Basically like if dogs’ vaginas get too fat, urine can pool in weird places, and then they get UTIs a lot. 1

Virginia

Um, wait. This cannot be a thing. 

Corinne

 I mean, I don't know. But so I have recently been faced with a question of whether I would put her on a diet to try and help with her UTI issue.

Virginia

How are you feeling?

Corinne

I have tried to gently cut back her food a little bit. I have no idea if it's made any difference or effect. It's just such an interesting question because I also feel like people are so weird about pet weights. 

Virginia

Yeah, it feels like not a very evidence based statement. “Her vagina got fat.”

Corinne

I mean, I'm doing a little bit of interpretation.

Virginia

People have asked me this question over and over, and I keep being like, Oh, I'll do a reported piece on pet health. And then I keep not doing it. But now you're making me feel like maybe there's a story here? I also wonder how much of it is the vet's own anti-fat bias and making judgments about owners. You know what I mean? I want you to say to that vet just like Ragen Chastain teaches us: What treatment would you give to this dog in a thin body? Let's start there.

Corinne

Yeah, interesting question. It's one of those situations where people will say stuff to pets or about pets that they would never think of saying to people. I mean, my dog also gets a ton of treats because she's reactive and I use hot dogs to train her. So I've always just been like, who cares? Give her as many hot dogs as she wants. 

Virginia

I do feel like I would interrogate your vet on this a little bit. Like, how much of it is the weight? How much of it is them wanting to prescribe that versus medication? And obviously, that's complicated. It's hard to give pets medication. So maybe this feels easier in some ways to control. The quality of life matters, too! And hot dogs are great. And also managing your dog's reactivity matters. So yeah, that's tricky.

Corinne

Also, having pets “fixed” also really changes their body. So it sometimes feels like we're getting pets. We're changing their hormone profile. We're controlling how much they eat and how much they exercise. 

Virginia

And then we're getting mad at them for being fat. 

Corinne

Yeah.

Virginia

Social determinants of health for pets matters, too! Okay. If anyone listening has good anti-diet vet sources let me know! Part of why I haven't reported that is because I can't figure out how to find the counter perspective. I'm sure the mainstream veterinarian view is that animals weights should be managed. So if anyone knows someone taking a different approach, send me resources if you have them.

Leave a comment

Corinne

All right. This is another good question for you.

Q. I'm the mom of a three and a half year old who is in a major “why” phase. I've read from you and others that it's not advisable to talk deeply about nutrition with kids before around middle school age and to avoid labeling foods as “good,” “bad,” “healthy,” etc. My kid is very curious about why he can't eat chocolate and candy exclusively. In his own words, “they taste much better to me so that's what I want to fill my tummy with.” I don't know how to answer this question without talking about nutrition. So far, i've tried to place value on eating a variety of foods, something like “different foods do different things in our body. So it's good to eat a lot of different things.” Do you have any other tips for good language to use here? My major concern is not his sugar consumption, but rather being able to respond to his curiosity honestly and accurately for his age.

Virginia

I like the language that this person is using: “Different foods do different things in our body.” I also often say, “Well, we couldn't eat just broccoli all day either.” The point is you can't eat any one food. That way you're neutralizing it. Like you can't eat chocolate all day, you can eat broccoli all day, these foods are equivalent.

I do think, though, you might want to do a gut check on the fact that your kid is asking this question enough that you are now asking me about it. That says to me that this kid might be fixating on treats, which suggests there may be some unconscious or not restriction of the treats? So, another way around this is to let your child eat chocolate and candy exclusively. And let them figure out how that feels.

Because nothing really bad will happen if your child eats nothing but chocolate for a day, right? Unless they're allergic. Like, they're maybe gonna have a stomachache and maybe poop weird because they only ate one food, but nothing bad's gonna happen in a day or two of this. So maybe declaring a chocolate day, and just go with it and see what happens. And probably not much happens, other than, if you do this maybe for a day and maybe once a week, maybe in some regular fashion, they should, over time, become less fixated on the idea of wanting to eat only chocolate and candy. So that's something you can play with.

I would definitely make sure you have times in their day, like maybe it's after school snack or dessert after dinner, separate from whatever you eat at dinner, where they can determine the quantity of the treat. 

Corinne

That's a good answer.

Q. I'm not sure this is the right place for this question. But it's happening in my life. And I don't know what to do. A friend, not in my inner circle of friends, but in the next ring, so very important, has gotten Lyme disease after having COVID. He is treating it by fasting. I feel as though he and his wife are headed down the rabbit hole of eating disorders. As a person who loves them, I feel like there's something I could say or do that would at least give them the heads up. But I do not know what skillful action I could take.

Virginia

Well, first, just really sorry. That sounds scary and stressful. And Lyme disease, when it's really severe, is horrific. So I'm super sorry you are going through this and your friend is going through this. I definitely understand your concern. Experimenting with diet in order to treat a medical condition can be a really fraught thing to do. There's a lot of wellness culture around Lyme. There's a lot of practitioners that push dietary restrictions without necessarily having evidence on their side. Would you agree with that?

Corinne

I would agree with that.

Virginia

So it is worrying that your friend may be getting some advice that's not evidence-based. What's also concerning is most likely whoever's encouraging them to do this has not screened them for risk of eating disorder, has not talked about the ramifications of it. On the flip side, it's his struggle. You want to center his experience, you don't want to come in and be like, “Don't do that. That's a terrible idea.” Because that's not supportive or helpful. I think I would just try to be the person who makes a space for him to talk about how it's hard. This kind of reminds me of the conversation I had with Serena in the office hours episode that just aired a couple of weeks ago. When you're told you have to do something for your health, all too often we don't make any space for the conversation about what else is it going to do to you? How is it going to mess up your relationship with food? How is it gonna impact your mental health? So, just being someone who makes space for that, I think could be helpful.

Corinne

My ideas around this were basically, first: Do you need to protect yourself? If you need to be like, “I don't want to be around this,” then take care of your own stuff. I feel like the thing that's really hard to do but might be helpful would just to say how it's affecting you. Like, “hearing you talk about this is making me feel anxious or I'm having anxiety hearing about this,” or something like that.

Virginia

Yes. I mean, it's hard when your friend is the one who's going through the really hard thing and you don't want to center your emotions over his. But I think just expressing concern like, “That sounds so hard. How are you feeling mentally about it?” Or “In the past when I've tried something, I've tried something like that and it really fucked with my head and just checking out how are you feeling?”

Corinne

I think sometimes when this stuff comes up in relationships, we think that if we give enough research and evidence to someone that they'll come around and agree with us. My experience has been that that doesn't usually work. So either they're gonna figure it out themself or maybe not, who knows? 

Virginia

I mean, that's the other thing. You may be feeling like it's your responsibility to save them. And it's not. If this is a rabbit hole, they go down, it's not your fault.

You can express concern, you can be a place for them to put the feelings about why it's hard, and maybe help them process that. But if that's not something that they want right now, they may just be so laser focused on trying to manage these symptoms and feeling like they have to try everything to do that even though, again, I don't think the evidence around fasting and Lyme recovery is there. Yeah, I think that would just create more tension and create more distance between you when I think your goal is to maintain connected to this person.

Corinne

It's a really tough situation.

Corinne

Q. What's one topic or piece of research, you have to cut from the book that you want to tell us about?

Virginia

I love this question. I'm not going to tell you too much because these are all things I'm hoping to turn into features for the newsletter. So, I don't want to give away the story, but just a little teaser. One story I'm really interested in that I couldn't fit into the book is how BMI cut offs are used to ban fat parents from adopting, especially in certain countries.

Corinne

I hate that. 

Virginia

Yeah. So that's a story I want to dig into some more and find out more with what's going on about it. And I say that also understanding that adoption is like this hugely complicated topic. And there are lots of feelings on all sides, but at the very least, we could take weight out of the conversation that would be cool.

The other one I'm really dying to do is a story on co-parenting when your ex is really deeply enmeshed in diet culture. There is some stuff on this in the book. I think there's so so much to say about that topic. I should say, I'm going to start looking for sources very soon so feel free to email me if one of these is like, “Oh, that's my life,” because I would love to talk to you.

And then the last one, I know I've been promising to do this forever, it really is going to happen this fall: Plus size clothes for kids. I'm getting into it. I didn't have space for that in the book either and I also felt like that was a story that it wouldn't age well. If I do find any good brands, we can't trust brands to still be good a year later, as we all know from Old Navy. So I didn't want to put brands in the resource section of the book. But I think it would be a great newsletter piece. So those are three I'm excited about.

Corinne

I'm excited about those too.

Q. Curious what productivity methods work for each of you, especially as writers slash editors, stuff like writing at a certain time of day for a certain amount of time, special email answering strategies, et cetera. I love hearing about how people organize their days.

Virginia

This is a fun question. Do you want to go first?

Corinne

Yes, although I feel like my advice will not be helpful. My advice is that I find it really helpful to do a bunch of phone work in my bed before I get up, which is just the opposite of every productivity thing. 

Virginia

It is, but I love it. 

Corinne

I do some work on Instagram, so @SellTradePlus and some social media stuff. I find just doing that before I've even gotten up and had breakfast or caffeine makes me feel like I'm on top of it. 

Virginia

Because those are tasks, you just want to blow out of the way and you've done it and you can start your day feeling like you've gotten stuff done.

I mean, my strategies are not dissimilar. I don't do the in bed thing because I try to keep my phone out of my bedroom at night. Because when I don't, I stay up too late and it ruins my life. But I'm a fan of the early morning work hours which I've talked about. Before my family is awake and before I'm getting emails and stuff. I often get a lot done between 6 and 7 am. Post coffee, I do need coffee and breakfast first, before I can be a remotely functional human being.

I also am trying to do more batch working. I feel like that's a trendy concept but it's kind of resonating with me. Because now that the book is mostly done, like the newsletter work, because that's like the bulk of my work week, is very discrete tasks like research a newsletter, record a podcast, prep for a podcast, and so I did map out all those tasks. Wait, I'm gonna show you something and you're either gonna be mortified for me or think this is amazing.

Corinne

That's beautiful. 

Virginia

This is a piece of my children's construction paper with many colored post-it notes. It is color coded. The orange is editing, like getting the next day's newsletter ready. Pink is writing or researching newsletters, and blue is all the podcast stuff. And they're blocks of time of when I'm doing stuff. I'm trying to mostly record podcasts on Wednesdays now because when I'm recording a podcast any old day of the week that kind of throws off like when do I need to prep, if I'm trying to also write that day, and then I lose a block of time anyway.

My other suggestion—this is also a batch working thing—is emails that don't require an urgent response I put in a folder called “Friday.” And every Friday morning, I just go through and deal with all those emails at once. So it's not the death by a thousand cuts where you're trying to answer lots of emails throughout the workday. There are surprisingly a lot of things that I’ve found can wait till Friday. Some of it is like life stuff, like make a doctor's appointment or whatever, sending invoices, or I don't even know. There's so many things that every Friday it's like, “Surprise! What's in the Friday folder?” All that stuff that is not that huge of a time suck, but it takes you out of whatever else you're trying to do for three to fifteen minutes. I like to deal with it all at once.

Corinne

I love that tip. What do you use to do that? Do you use Gmail or Outlook?

Virginia

Yeah, I just have a Gmail label and I set it up so it's the top third of my inbox, but I close it. So the rest of the week, I don't see those emails. And I just throw stuff in. And then on Fridays, I open it and just race down them all.

Corinne

When you're done you just delete them?

Virginia

Yeah, or file them if it’s something I need to keep. But yeah, I take them out of the Friday admin folder. So yeah, you feel very accomplished because then it's empty. You did it all.

Corinne

That's a really good idea. 

Virginia

Yeah. And you don't obviously have to do Friday because your schedule might be different. I don't work a full day on Fridays because that's my life day when I go to the grocery store and have the doctor's appointments and run errands. So like, it makes sense to like have a chunk of that Friday morning be dealing with all those things

Corinne

 Totally. Yeah. 

Photo by Peter Cade via Getty Images

Virginia

Oh, this is a very interesting one.

Q. I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sober September and if/how you think it intersects with diet culture and restriction.

I have two friends doing it now and a part of me completely understands why they want to drink less and have a healthier relationship with alcohol. Drinking less can help people feel better and I want to be supportive. But another part of me feels uncomfortable with the restrictive nature of the campaign, especially when one friend is saying “drinking less is also good because it cuts out sugars, which are the real culprit for my body.” That text made me so sad and I honestly didn't know how to respond, so I didn’t. I wanted to send them the Comfort Food episode on sugar not being addictive, but it feels pushy. So I listened to it as a way to calm myself down instead.

I don’t want to be the person who’s always chiming in with “hey, that’s diet culture talking and restriction is the bigger issue here!” bc people don’t love that, haha, and I know everyone is on their own journey, but I’m struggling to be supportive of the pursuit to cut out a substance that *can* actually be harmful to your health (unlike sugar & food), bc it feels like it’s part of the same old diet culture/healthism scam.

For some context, I drink, and while I don't think it’s excessive, I do sometimes take breaks, so I get that impulse to cut back (I also wonder why I do it). But I kind of hate public campaigns for this kind of thing— It’s like an ice bucket challenge for restriction and my eyes can’t help but rolling. Any thoughts you have on this newish campaign to abstain from alcohol (for one month— to reset! To cleanse your body! To test your willpower! And then you just go back to drinking for the rest of the year…?) would be welcome. Thanks for all the work you do, Virginia & Corinne! I’m so incredibly grateful for this community. <3

Oh, this is a big question. 

Corinne

I know. This one is so complicated.

Virginia

So, I actually wrote a piece for Medium a couple years ago about the whole sober-curious, dry January phenomenon. I started out with the same skepticism. I was like these feel like diets, this feels weird. I also have people in my life who struggle with addiction and who are sober. So I know what like “real sobriety”—that's sort of a judgy way to put it—but I've seen people get sober. I know how hard that is, and what a huge accomplishment and how necessary and life saving it is for a lot of folks. And so the experiment-y, trendy way of doing it just felt sort of insulting to me, to people who are doing this really hard work. So I get that.

But then I interviewed a bunch of really smart people for that piece, including Lisa Du Breuil, who was on that Comfort Food episode. She had a much more generous framing that really changed the way I thought about it. Basically, she was like, “It's an opportunity to be curious about your relationship with alcohol. It can be harm reduction.” For some people the idea of getting sober be really daunting. And taking a break and seeing how you feel can be really useful to people.

She saw it quite differently as from a diet, I think because alcohol is such a different substance than sugar, right? I mean, it is addictive. Sugar is not physically addictive. It is not necessary for life in the same way that sugar is. There's just all these distinctions. And so that made me feel like I totally agree the marketing around it is really irritating, and there's often a lot of diet-y language and like this sort of add sugarphobia gets in there, but if someone wants to take a break, and see how they feel, that can be a really useful thing. So I ended up being more pro- it than I expected.

Corinne

I think I more come from the Lisa perspective that it could be useful to see what's going on. But it also sounds like in this case, your friends maybe have more diet culture-y reasons for doing it. Are you doing it to explore your relationship with alcohol or are you doing it because you don't want the calories or something like that? And those two things are not necessarily separate. 

Virginia

I think, too, a lot of it depends on what you do with the information. So if you're counting down the days, and then going to the bar like we're free from the Dry January or sSober September, that's sort of revealing about your relationship with alcohol. And it does imply you did more of the “diet until your cheat day” approach, which we know is not a helpful strategy for anything. I think if people don't use it as an opportunity to look at the relationship, then that is more troubling.

I just think when it comes to addiction, we need so many tools in our toolbox. If taking a break and thinking about it, even if you then decide, “Nope, I'm going back,” and maybe this is the first step of many towards a path towards true sobriety or maybe you are someone who doesn't need true sobriety, but this helps you figure out what you do need, that can be good.

Corinne

Yeah, it is really complicated. I also don't know if binge drinking or heavy drinking is usually in response to restriction in the same way that binge eating might be? Just something to think about. I drink a lot less as I've gotten older because it makes me feel horrible, which I think is kind of an intuitive response to alcohol, but it can be hard to listen to that. 

Virginia

Yeah, taking a month off, I think it can be a chance to both physically and emotionally see. Like seeing how you feel in social situations without it, seeing how you feel in your workday. There's so many ways that it can be interesting to understand your life without that if thats something that's in your life in a big way.

I guess another thing I want to say is, I think it is important to classify alcohol differently from sugar. Because if we don't, we're kind of grouping them together and that's the diet culture thing, to frame sugar as addictive. And I think that's something you can push back on with your friends. Like, it's not really about the sugar. 

Corinne

That comment is definitely troubling.

Virginia

I would certainly be like, “I think if you're trying to restrict sugar, we know where that will go. That won’t work for most of us. And the people it does work for usually works in dangerous ways.” That's quite different and it's not a necessary restriction the way for some folks alcohol is a necessary restriction.

I really also liked Jessica Lahey, who's the author of The Addiction Inoculation: Raising Healthy Kids in a Culture of Dependence, I liked her approach to it. She talked about how taking breaks was helpful for her in the lead up to becoming sober as a way of understanding her relationship.

The last question is a fun one we'll wrap up with.

Q. I'm curious how you all Virginia and Corinne met and became friends.

Oh, sweet. We met because Corinne applied to be my assistant, right? We didn't know each other before that.

Corinne

No, I was a Burnt Toast subscriber and I saw that you were hiring someone.

Virginia

And it was meant to be.

Corinne

It's worked out great for me.

Virginia

Like we said, we still have not met in person and I'm very excited for that to happen eventually. But yes, we are now buddies and in all of the different computer ways you can be friends. In our first conversation, I was like, “Oh, she's who I want.” We also figured out much, much later—so this wasn't a nepotism thing at all—that Corinne went to college with my sister. Although I think at slightly different times?

Corinne

Yes. I don't think I knew your sister, but I did go to Smith.

Virginia

It's a very cool thing about working online in this way that you get to know people. You're in New Mexico, I'm in New York, I don't think our paths would have crossed otherwise.

Corinne

Maybe you can do a book event in New Mexico.

Virginia

That would be amazing. That would be really fun.

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Corinne

When I got out to the East Coast and was starting to work at my mom's house, I was working at this little desk upstairs with a window open. And there was a bird screaming at me. It was driving me freaking crazy, despite being a very beautiful, warbly noise. Yes, so lovely, but it was driving me nuts. And it was so loud. So I downloaded this app, and I'm curious if you know about this, or have this. Merlin?

Virginia

Oh, I know about that.

Corinne

Okay, so it's an app, like a bird watching / listening app. So you download it and then you download a pack that lets you like identify birds by their call. It's kind of like Shazam for birds. You can you just turn it on and press a button and it will like identify the birds like as they're singing, which is really cool. So yeah, being in a more nature-y setting, I've been really enjoying just using Merlin to listen to all the birds that are around me. 

Virginia

And what kind of bird was it? 

Corinne

It was a robin. An evil, evil robin.

Virginia

They can be kind of bossy. Big personality.

Corinne

Yeah, and now just a few months later they’re not here at all. So it was maybe some kind of mating or defending their nest situation. But yeah, the robins have died down and we've moved on to, I don't know, blue jays or something. 

Virginia

My mom is a huge birdwatcher, so she uses that app all the time. And she taught my daughter how to use it. And last weekend actually when I was on a hike with my local body liberation hiking club we whipped out Merlin to identify some warbler that we all were excited to hear and it was this great little moment.

Corinne

I guess if you're a bird watcher you probably already have it but if you're not a bird watcher it's still really fun.

Virginia

Like you don't have to learn all the bird calls, that feels hard to me. I can barely tell like three bird calls apart that I've mastered over like 41 years of being told about bird calls. 

My recommendation is sort of dorky but I'm very excited about it. It’s these little—I'm holding it up—food storage containers that I just got. Isn’t that the cutest thing? 

Corinne

The cutest thing I've ever seen. It's like a small, round container in like a beautiful light blue collar with little windows on the side.

Virginia

Okay, so people who are parents may have encountered Life Factory, which is a very expensive and very adorable line of baby bottles and they’re glass, but they have like a silicone overlay with little holes in it. For a while they did food storage containers and they don't seem to be doing them anymore. I held on to my Life Factory bottles for years past my children using bottles, because they were just so cute. Literally, I'm just letting the last two go and my children are nine and almost five.

So then I was cleaning out my Tupperware drawer last weekend, which is something I just wrote an essay about. And we needed to replace some of our food storage containers because they were done. And so I found this brand called Ello at Target. They make bigger sizes too. They make both plastic and glass with the silicone overlay. They're not that expensive. This is the size I'm using for my kids snacks, like they take like yogurt or fruit in it. Actually, I had it on my desk with my chocolate chips earlier. It’s really delightful they come in so many cute colors.

I feel like this is like peak white mom recommendation and I'm sorry, but I love them so much. 

Corinne

Yeah, they look great. 

Virginia

Well, Corinne. I think we did an episode! Thank you for being here. This was super fun.

Corinne

Yeah, it was.

Virginia

Do you want to remind people where to find you and follow your work?

Corinne

Oh, yes, you can find me mostly on Instagram @SellTradePlus, where I am posting people's plus size clothes for you to buy. And my personal Instagram which is @SelfieFay where you can see my dog.


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The Burnt Toast Podcast is produced and hosted by Virginia Sole-Smith. Follow Virginia on Instagram or Twitter.

Burnt Toast transcripts and essays are edited and formatted by Corinne Fay, who runs @SellTradePlus, an Instagram account where you can buy and sell plus size clothing.

The Burnt Toast logo is by Deanna Lowe.

Our theme music is by Jeff Bailey and Chris Maxwell.

Tommy Harron is our audio engineer.

Thanks for listening and for supporting independent anti-diet journalism.

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Corinne here: I did not do a great job explaining this, but Bunny has a somewhat recessed vulva, so the vet’s explanation was that extra body fat in the pelvic area can sometimes exacerbate the condition by creating extra crevices or folds which can then get irritated or infected.