23. Balancing Act: Beer and Body Image, Plus a Hashtag That Feels Not Quite Right
Getting personal about what some of us might be balancing with craft beer as well as the need for inclusivity; plus may your cup runneth over with Plan Bee beer.
#earnyourbeer If You Want To, Or, You Know, Don’t—Let’s Just Have a Better Awareness of Body Issues and Insecurities in Beer
I don’t remember a time in my life where my weight wasn’t an overbearing concern, occupying far too much precious real estate in my mind. To make a thirty-year-long story short, I was chubby in kindergarten and my pediatrician scared my mom about it so much that, in 1991 and without any of the knowledge that’s so accessible to parents now, she rewarded every pound I shed with a Troll doll. Not exactly a healthy foundation for one’s relationship with food and weight.
A couple of years later, I had become a kid actor, and my experience was nearly perfectly positive and wonderful, the exception being the horrifying obsession with children’s weight and an even worse pressure on them to keep it off. When I look back at photos now, I can’t believe the very normal kid body that agents and managers constantly wrung their hands over. It was, after all, the ‘90s, and waifs were It. By high school, the damage was done to the extent that I had pegged myself an ogre, incredibly lucky to get any male attention, and that obviously didn’t go well. After college, I found myself in arguably the only industry worse for a person’s body image issues than entertainment: fashion.
For all of the many reasons I happily moved my career into craft beer, I was always wary of the fact that I was now positioning so much of my life in a space that revolves around something loaded with dreaded calories and carbs. I loved it enough to perpetually work toward balance. But even today, as I’ve been attempting radical acceptance and a healthier relationship with weight, body image, and, well, health, not a beer goes by without some amount of thought as to those aforementioned calories and carbs.
Beer, like any intoxicating beverage, is a tricky space to work in for a variety of reasons—and that’s before acknowledging the minefield we’ve unearthed over the past year or two. For many, the very presence of alcohol, itself, can prove a challenge, something that always demands mindfulness and care in order to maintain that balance. Personally, I struggle more with the balance of what beer does to a body, especially a body attached to a deeply insecure mind. I want to do this work and try the creations of talented brewers and the iconic brews of time-honored breweries; I want to get to know new cities in part through their breweries and beer scenes; I want to hone my tasting and pairing skills. But I also don’t want to obsess about how beer impacts my weight. And while I believe there’s a different path for every single person and each of us has to find whatever one works best for us, I’d feel resentful forever if weight worries were what made me walk away from something I love. Because those worries have already taken too much.
This year, I’ve been working hard on accepting the body I’m in. It’s no small task to try and shake loose three decades of programming. My code was written long before the very recent (and definitely still not pervasive) shift toward body positivity—and I mean the actual earnest shift, not big brands tokenizing women over a size 2 in their ads, like, “Look! We got one!” I truly did not know that weight had anything to do with things like genes and hormones until I was in my late twenties. It was always framed as merit-based to me, and so if I wasn’t thin, I was weak. In my family, we read the atrocious book Skinny Bitch like it was the bible, and repeated Kate Moss’ “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” comment like the lord’s prayer.
But then, when I started crying at a fitting for my wedding dress because I just didn’t look how I’d always imagined I might, my mom told me I looked beautiful, and that it was a waste to obsess over hitting that ideal of tininess celebrated in the media. That just wasn’t how women in our family were built. First of all, holy 180. But secondly, this was the first little lightbulb moment that felt like a bit of freedom. I was healthy, I worked out, I ate well. There was nothing I could do to look like Kate Moss, anyway. But it took another few years for me to realize, why would I want to?
Visibility helps, that’s something we’re banging the drum for in every conversation. And body image is no exception. It was seeing more and more people in every shape and size and never for a second thinking about them the way I thought about myself that started to push the needle. I would never be as cruel to anyone as I am to myself, and frankly, the urge was never even there to fight. Excuse the cheesiness of this, but dawned on me that I thought other people were beautiful no matter what size they were. Add to that some healthier conversations with friends, some books, and, importantly, Jameela Jamil’s podcast I Weigh…then skim past presumably 573 more pages I could write about weight and body image and societal scrutiny…and I’ve reached the point where I’m—certainly not without struggle—starting to lean into acceptance, embrace balance, and silence the negativity.
What does this have to do with beer, beyond the fact that until very recently, this all made my own relationship with beer quite fraught? As we rewrite this industry and community, this is just another thing I wish we’d think about. I’m sure some people out there are tired of this truth, but words matter. Social media made it that way. If you want to sit in your living room and verbalize toxic feelings on body image, I guess I can’t stop you (but have you tried puzzles?). But when you do it on a public platform, I’m going to ask you to think about what you’re saying and how you’re saying it.
As with everything else, beer Instagram creates a real clusterfuck of confusion, insecurity, self-doubt, and comparisons when it comes to body image. One hashtag that really grinds my gears is #earnyourbeer.
Now, look. For one thing, I don’t think for a second that whoever first created that hashtag nor anyone who posts under it is thinking, “Let’s really stick it to the fatties.” I would honestly be shocked to find out one person was posting under any motivation other than celebrating a healthy balance of fitness and fun, except for those who maybe want to brag about their bodies, which, cool, great! Let’s all brag about our bodies! I mean, I’m not actually going to do that because I went to Catholic school so I’m woefully repressed lolz. But, you know, in theory…
That brings me to another point, which is that I do 100% think that what’s on display under the #earnyourbeer tag is good and positive. It’s promoting a healthy relationship with beer, positioning it in the context of a life that revolves around all different kinds of activities, and one that considers wellness.
If I don’t take umbrage at the motivation or the content of #earnyourbeer, then what the hell is my problem? The literal words, themselves. Which, again, I don’t think was intentional. It’s catchy. It’s catchier than #ItsImportantToFeelHealthyAndBalanceYourBeerHobbySoIDKHaveYouTriedHikingBecauseILikeIt.
But in its commanding call to action, it feels condescending to those of us who aren’t sprinkling in photos of ourselves doing CrossFit between crispy lager shots. I have no desire to document my workout regimen, and I don’t care what people do as long as they feel good about it. If you do want to show off your fitness routine and it makes you feel good, then I want you to do that. But friend, don’t tell me to earn my beer. I earn my beer by continuing to survive the “Ninja Warrior” obstacle course of fucking bullshit that is being alive in 2021, thankyouverymuch.
Someone in the craft beer Instagram realm once got into a pattern of repeatedly, frequently DM-ing me, aggressively probing into what I did to work out and what my diet was like, because she was trying to get a health coaching side hustle off the ground, which would semi-cater to craft beer drinkers. I tried a few times to tell her that what she wanted to know was None Of Her Fucking Business in an extremely polite manner (really!) before muting her. I come to beer Instagram to talk to some rad people I’ve met, stay tuned into goings on, and tbh promote myself as a brand because freelance writers have to these days. I don’t come to have my eating habits called into question and spiral back down into a black hole of insecurity.
I’m so here for broadcasting healthy balance in life, believe me. But as we keep pushing toward being more inclusive and welcoming, this is just another thing it couldn’t hurt to think about. Like anything else, body image insecurities are another thing hidden away in social media posts. We have no idea how the person smiling with that beer really feels, but we should want for them to feel good about themselves, even if they can’t bench…whatever is an impressive number to bench; I don’t even know and can’t be arsed to Google it.
This week I pulled the Ace of Cups.
Cups speak to love, emotions, and relationships. This card, in particular, adds creativity and compassion to the mix, and specifies new relationships. It means you’re open to new love, friendships, and/or connections, as well as new opportunities and new creative endeavors. And if you’re not, you want to work on getting to that place. Fulfillment and happiness await, but only if you’re open-minded and open-hearted.
You’re a bright, talented little gem of a human, aren’t you? You are! I think so. Make sure you think so, too, and then let that out into the world. I understand it’s most likely harder than ever to feel open like that right now. Personally, I often find myself fighting the urge to just accept humanity is fucked! But we all know there is good out there—good people, specifically—so we have to be open to finding connections there. It’s really the only way we get through this with a shred of sanity left.
I’m thinking of a beer that has serious “cup runneth over” vibes, that feels luxurious and just lovely in its quality and character. And this one also happens to be appropriately named: Amour, one of Plan Bee Farm Brewery’s barn beers. Local Hudson Valley strawberries were added both on the hot side in the coolship and on the cold side in the oak fermenter. That sounds like the beginning of a beautiful relationship, even if it only lasts until the bottle is empty.
This Week’s Boozy Reading Rec
I stumbled upon this article while doing a little more reading for last week’s issue on the connection—or lack thereof—between alewives and witches. For Atlas Obscura, Stephanie Castellano explores the history of the Englishmen colonizing America needing women for their booze. “The Brides ‘Imported’ to Colonial America for Their Brewing Skills” is a fascinating glimpse at how valued women’s brewing skills were even while women, themselves, were not treated as though they were valued—and how the value of those skills evaporated once men were settled enough in their new stolen home to try to make a profitable industry of brewing.
Until next week, here is Darby at Finback falling asleep with an ease that certainly makes me jealous.