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Mental Note

Episode 34: Big Booty Pride: Body Positivity & Systemic Racism with Gloria Lucas

By Ellie Pike, MA, LPC & Gloria Lucas

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Join us as we trace Gloria's journey to create a place of healing for communities suffering from generational trauma and cultural exclusion and racism. Discover ways to support both yourself and the people around you.

Gloria Lucas decided to name her mental health awareness and body positivity organization after the Spanish slang term for a big booty - nalgona. She began Nalgona Positivity Pride after her own eating disorder struggles left her feeling like professional resources ignored her experience as a Xicana with indigenous heritage. Rather, it all felt geared towards white Americans. What about people of color? Is recovery not for everyone?

Join us as we trace Gloria's journey to create a place of healing for communities suffering from generational trauma and cultural exclusion and racism. Discover ways to support both yourself and the people around you.

Transcript

Ellie Pike:
Systemic racism permeates our lives and the mental health community is not immune. As a straight, white, thin bodied woman, I have a lot more listening to do in order to better understand both my role and oppressive behaviors, as well as what I can do about it. That's why I reached out to Gloria Lucas.

Gloria Lucas:
My name is Gloria Lucas. I live in Southern California.

Ellie Pike:
Gloria is the founder of Nalgona Positivity Pride.

Gloria Lucas:
Nalgona Positivity Pride means big booty pride pretty much. So Nalgona is a slang term in Spanish for a woman with a big butt. How that name came to be was a friend of mine. They said that out loud. And they said, "Oh, it's because we are not nalgona positive." And it made me laugh. And I said, "Well, whatever it is that I'm building, that's what it's going to be called." Not knowing what I was building at that time would become what it is today.

Ellie Pike:
Our conversation touches on her experience as a Xicana in recovery from needing disorder and the need for more resources catered to black, indigenous, people of color, BIPOC for short. An editing note, our conversation took place before the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Brianna Taylor and George Floyd. So we don't really get to recent events. However, Gloria's approach to decolonizing the mind is highly applicable to current conversations on race and inequality. You're listening to Mental Note podcast. I'm Ellie Pike.

Gloria Lucas:
So I started Nalgona Positivity Pride, not really knowing what I was building because there aren't any models for me to follow, there's nothing else that I could compare it to. So I just have had to learn along the way. So Nalgona Positivity Pride has evolved to be a Xicana body positive organization that focuses on eating disorder awareness in communities of color, as well as indigenous communities. So we focus on education. I do a lot of public speaking and I travel and present on the intersections of colonialism, eating disorders, ancestral knowledge. And we also have a large social media platform in which I have been able to disrupt and create visibility of ourselves. And we also host different community events that focus on either the fat community, eating disorder awareness community, or even amongst just body positive messaging.

Ellie Pike:
I am so excited to interview you and you have a lot to say. But before jumping into that, I'd like to know how do you describe what it means to be indigenous?

Gloria Lucas:
Well, I think that identifying or saying you are indigenous means different things for different folks. And for myself is acknowledging that I have an ancestry in the background with the original people of this land of what is considered now, North America, Central America. And because of white supremacy, as well as racism and colonialism, all these factors have made it very difficult for people to really come to terms with their indigeneity. And I think that it calls upon us differently, depending how we are tied to the land, how we could be tied to a tribe, how we could be tied to an ancestral culture. So it's a very complex conversation. And I think that there's a lot of debate even within our community as to what does it mean to be indigenous. And for myself, again, it is knowing where I come from to the best of my knowledge, because again, so much has been lost and forced to forget that the stories aren't always there.

But I think that some of us get called to do this line of work because of our ancestors. They planted the seed for us to continue spreading the resiliency. So that is what it means for me to be indigenous, is acknowledging that. And also all the complexities that come with it, because for instance, my parents are what are considered now immigrants. Although, before there were no borders. So myself being a first generation here in the United States, that's an identity, but also being indigenous descent. So it's navigating through multiple worlds. And I think that to each their own right, is how they come to terms with that and if they want to come to terms with that.

Ellie Pike:
Gloria, thank you so much for explaining that and what it means to you specifically, because it can be so different for different people. But I like the emphasis that you bring on storytelling because so many stories have been lost. You find it to be a responsibility of yours to make sure you are your story and the impact of being indigenous.

And I'm really excited for this episode because I'm used to talking about people's personal stories of eating disorders and mental health recovery, but it usually has to do with their recent history, their immediate family and how that has impacted them or their environment. But for you, you talk about the history of trauma within culture and how that affects people on a personal level with their relationship with their body and relationship with food. So I'm really interested in learning how it's all interconnected. So how does historical trauma play a role in the development of eating disorders or even mental health issues?

Gloria Lucas:
To explain historical trauma I think that's key. And for those that don't know, historical trauma is cumulative emotional harm over generations. So in other words, it is intergenerational trauma that gets passed down on multiple ways. One on the cellular level, learned behavior and through the environment. So if we think about the last 500+ years of violence and ongoing degradations that black, indigenous people have faced, there's no way we could separate these factors from body image and from the relationship that people have with food. And looking at the effects of colonialism, which is once the conquest started and the takeover of native land, food control, as well as starvation, were in the center of white colonialism.

For instance, food, rations were controlled by white officials as a means to have indigenous groups sign treaties or create by punishment for indigenous people engaging in culturally related practices. And also for instance, in Canada, recently they uncovered these files in which they were experimenting on indigenous children and they were experimenting on starvation and supplements. So considering that as well as the shaming and banning of indigenous foods as a means of cultural genocide, then looking at displacement of indigenous people from their native lands. Because if we look at today's reservations, these are reservations because native people were forced out of their original lands as a means to make room for more white settlers.

Ellie Pike:
Gloria is sadly under exaggerating the scope of colonialism's impact on indigenous people in the Americas. Some historians even call it the worst human Holocaust the world has ever witnessed. According to a paper published by the Native American Symposium in 2017, an estimated 13 million people lost their lives since the beginning of colonialism in the Western hemisphere. That's almost two times the current population of New York City.

Even in modern times, the brutality continues. The US Department of Justice reports that violent crime rates on Native American reservations are roughly 2.5 times the national average. And at our Southern border, indigenous families have faced the traumatic force separation of guardians and children. All this current tragedy adds to the trauma that's already been compounding for generations. When a pervading sense of not being safe in your own body is normal, it wreaks havoc on mental health.

Gloria Lucas:
So all these factors combined, as well as the current social, political inequality, make it very hard for black and indigenous people to experience peace with food. So for a lot of us an eating disorder goes beyond, "I want to lose weight,", to, "I exhausted and living in such painful racist circumstances." So there is no way we can erase the damage that has been done and the ongoing mistreatment of people of color, as well as indigenous people, especially when so much of what I just shared is not even acknowledged. And when it is shared, it is in a very sanitized and censored way. And on top of that, there has been no reparations on all the harm.

Ellie Pike:
Yes, it seems like it would just be so hard to find healing within a community, much less within yourself if there's no reparations and if there's no authentic apologies and just movements for really building community and pairing the damage. So I can only imagine what that's like to keep living under that injustice.

Gloria Lucas:
Right. And we're seeing the effects of that. And we see eating disorders being very common in indigenous communities, as well as communities of color, but yet, there's not even language for it because there's no representation for it. And as also the unique needs of these communities are not being met in general and many times a lot of our communities are in survival mode so mental health becomes secondary and not seen as immediate as getting food on the table.

Ellie Pike:
It's basic Maslow's hierarchy of needs. A five tiered pyramid that explains how humans get their needs met and achieve full potential. Fundamentally, a person must first get their physiological and safety needs met before growing and self-actualization. Faced with a system and culture that makes life untenable for BIPOC communities, the resources needed to heal are all too often made with white audiences in mind, a void that Gloria is determined to fill. So I would like to know a little bit more, you talked so much about colonization and one thing that I've appreciated learning about is when you talk about decolonizing your body. So could you go back and explain a little bit about what you mean by that? And also, the impact of colonization on the thin ideal and on people's perception of their own body.

Gloria Lucas:
Decolonization for me, myself, it means on unlearning a lot of what has been enforced by white supremacy, as well as capitalism and colonialism. So it's the active process of unlearning all these messages. Also, decolonization can mean taking back the land. So it's the literal process of getting the land back to indigenous peoples. So there's different context for decolonization. And I feel that this is a term that I have been slowly moving away from simply because I feel that we should be doing more listening and less defining for others. And when I mean by listening is listening to local indigenous peoples. Because like I mentioned earlier, I do have indigenous ancestry, but I'm not from here. I'm not from this land. So I am a guest here. And because I'm a guest, I should be doing more listening. So that's currently where I stand with that.

Nonetheless, I do encourage people to question and do the unlearning. So ultimately, it's moving away from this white thin beauty standard. And I think it extends beyond beauty, because if we really look at it, when girls of color are trying to assimilate or abide by this very narrow definition of beauty, really what they're saying is, "I want to be visible. I want to be seen. I want to be heard. I don't want to be bullied. I don't want to experience racism or fat phobia," whatever the case might be. So that's really what it means. So I think it extends beyond beauty. It's more a validation.

Ellie Pike:
I wanted to pause at where you said that a person of color who assimilates to the white, thin beauty ideal is not really about beauty, but about wanting to be seen and recognized. And that really stood out to me. It has highly impacted all of our culture. So I'm curious in that regard, how do you live within that? So for you, what does that look like to not be ashamed of a larger body and to decolonize yourself in that regard?

Gloria Lucas:
Well, I think that it's being honest with oneself and recognizing where one stands with body image, because it's still something that I personally struggle with. And I think it's important to acknowledge that because many times within the body positive community, as well as the eating disorder community, there's always this binary of either like, "I'm going through it," or, "I'm on the other side." You're either recovered or you're not. And I don't think that's healthy.

Ellie Pike:
I agree.

Gloria Lucas:
And I feel that many times life is within the gray area. It's not really one way or the other. So currently what I'm more focusing on is looking at harm reduction for eating disorders. Because the reality is that eating disorders exist, will continue to exist, relapses happened. And a lot of people don't have access to the support and resources that they need. So then how do we offer this education for people who are struggling with eating disorders to prevent further harm and to deal with the symptoms of having an eating disorder while they're going through it? Because whether or not we share this information, people are still going to engage in disordered eating.

Ellie Pike:
I love Gloria's nuanced and proactive approach to getting people help. Recovery is never perfect. And the time to start is never better than right now. Yet, simply stopping disordered eating does not solve pain fueled coping behaviors. That's why Nalgona Positivity Pride advocates for harm reduction behaviors.

Gloria Lucas:
To tell marginalized people who have gone through a lot or who have an eating disorder that they need to recover, you're taking away their ways of coping, one of their main ways of coping and handling life. So that's very abrupt and I think it's a lot to expect for the first step. So then harm reduction becomes maybe their first attempt to being gentle with themselves and taking care of oneself. And it's an opportunity to meet people where they are at with their eating disorder. Because there have been instances in my history with an eating disorder where I was not ready to recover. I did not have the necessary support that I needed. So if this is me, I'm assuming thousands of other people have gone through that or are going to go through that or are going through it. So how do we then meet them where they are at in a way that is gentle and ethical?

Ellie Pike:
I appreciate that. I think that that is a really, really good point that someone may be really, really sick and need help and need recovery, but they may or may not have the means to do it. And you want to be ethical if you're meeting and supporting them where they are. But I imagine that there's some challenges in that. And you provide an online support group. So can you tell me a little bit about how does that meet that harm reduction model and the goal of supporting someone where they are?

Gloria Lucas:
Sage and Spoon is, first of all, it is free and it is a closed peer support group. Meaning that it's only for BIPOC, black and indigenous, people of color. So that in itself is helpful. And why is it only BIPOC? Well, because a majority of support groups can be predominantly white and they feel that people of color, indigenous people have very specific needs that are not generally understood. So it's reclaiming that way of connecting and healing. Healing in our own terms. So Sage and Spoon is a space for people to come as they are wherever they might be with their eating disorder and find a group that accepts and can understand them where they come from. So if it's just a space where people just need to put words to what they're experiencing, like that in itself is harm reduction. And a way to start their journey for healing.

Ellie Pike:
It sounds like you've really put a lot of effort and time into making a very safe place where people can trust you and trust the group members around them. And I'm curious if you had to teach us, these listeners and me, it's a broad group. So it's people of color, it's white people, it's therapists, it's people who are dealing with an eating disorder or mental health issues. It's... Who knows? Anyone and everyone. If you had to teach us one thing, that's like a very specific need of the BIPOC community, what would that be?

Gloria Lucas:
I think for providers in support and to acknowledge these other factors are usually not part of the equation. Looking at racism, looking at food insecurity, looking at the fact that eating disorders for some folks exist as a means of surviving and surviving systems of oppression that have been put in effect due to white supremacy and colonialism. So I think these are very real things that have to be part of the conversation. For myself, there's no way that I could speak to a provider and not address how racism and acculturation have harmed me and have impacted me to the smallest detail as when there's a plate of food in front of me. So I think it's just doing your own education and learning because there's a lot of resources out there, for instance, white therapists. And I think that sometimes coming from a place of listening more is extremely helpful and learning more about historical trauma as well.

Ellie Pike:
I think that that's what you've taught me is in the short conversation is, we might not be able to dive in, I might not be able to be informed on the hundreds of years of colonialism and how it directly impacts specific people with their expectations for body image or their relationship with food. But what I can do is take one step up to creating a safe place where I can listen and learn and understand the impact of colonialism and racism on everyday life. So that's something that I really hope that our listeners can grasp as well, and that they can jump on and hear what you're talking about on a daily basis on your social media channels and on your website. And certainly, if anyone is a good fit for your support group, I think that that's a great opportunity for them as well. So thank you, Gloria. I know there's always way more to say, and I have so many more questions, but thank you so much for your time.

Gloria Lucas:
Thank you. Have a good rest of your day.

Ellie Pike:
In our current social climate it can be confusing to know what the next step should be when striving for anti-racist actions. To figure that out, let's go back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs to look at what's important. Your life and the wellbeing of you and your community are primary. If you resonate with Gloria's message, please reach out. Join Nalgona's Sage and Spoon support group. Find healing. If you're currently safe and relatively healthy, you can begin by acknowledging the hurt that's around you because our neighbors are really hurting. Weather from generational trauma, COVID-19 or systemic racism. It's a good time to listen before speaking. And when we speak, to use our voice to love and support the people we know who are in pain.

Thank you for listening to Mental Note podcast today. Our show is brought to you by Eating Recovery Center and Insight Behavioral Health Centers. You can reach a trained therapist to see if treatment is right for you by calling (877) 4119-578. If you're in need of a support group, visit eatingrecovery.com and insightbhc.com. They offer mental health and eating disorder support groups, including a group specifically for people of color.

Learn more about the people we interview and sign up for our newsletter at mentalnotepodcast.com. We'd also love it if you left us a review on iTunes. It helps others find our podcast. Discover more about Gloria and Nalgona Positivity Pride at nalgonapositivitypride.com. Mental Note is produced and hosted by me, Ellie Pike, directed by Sam Pike and edited by Josh Wright and Sam Pike. Till next time.

Presented by

Ellie Pike, MA, LPC

Ellie Pike is the Sr. Manager of Alumni/Family/Community Outreach at ERC & Pathlight Behavioral Health Centers. Over the years, she creatively combined her passions for clinical work with…
Presented by

Gloria Lucas

Gloria Lucas is a Xicana womxn from California and the founder of Nalgona Positivity Pride. Straight from the Inland Empire, the DIY punk community in Riverside taught her to organize and since the…

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