Note: I found the quotes in a BuzzFeed article.
I have to admit I was a bit skeptical about the Netflix series Queer Eye. I’m nervous about shows that seem to focus on appearance and want to give people a makeover. (If you’re not familiar with Queer Eye, it’s a remake of the reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, where five gay men give makeovers to people in all different situations.)
But my nephew convinced me to watch it, starting with an episode where the Fab Five helped a trans man really come into his own, and I was hooked. They’ve helped so many people: gay and straight, single and married, abled and disabled, young and old, of different ethnicities and religions and backgrounds.
Now, I have to agree with the tagline that it’s more than a makeover. It’s a show about empowering people to be their authentic selves as fully as they can.
What I also love about the show is the life lessons that come peppered throughout. With that in mind, here are some of the tips I particularly enjoy and that can apply for people struggling with body image and mindful eating.
1. Don’t close off your feelings
“You can’t selectively numb feelings. So if you try to numb the vulnerability, you also numb joy, happiness, connection. You can’t have connection and joy and happiness without vulnerability.”
- Jonathan Van Ness, grooming expert
This one struck me because so often, people turn to food to stop feeling whatever’s going on. You might notice this if you reach for food when you’re sad… angry… depressed… or lonely.
Those feelings aren’t always comfortable, and being vulnerable leaves you open to them. It makes sense, then, why you’d be tempted to shut those out, or try to stop being vulnerable altogether.
The problem is that this usually backfires. As Jonathan points out, trying to stop those feelings also stops other emotions that you actually want, like joy. And you can’t have a truly deep connection without vulnerability.
Instead of ignoring the feelings, or trying to shut them off, you’d do better to find ways to express them, and if possible, see what you can learn from them.
2. Be careful about building walls
“When people build up walls, they end up keeping other people out, but they’re also keeping themselves in.”
- Karamo Brown, culture and lifestyle expert
Allowing yourself to be vulnerable also means not building walls, although this is easier said than done.
Sometimes people even use food as a way of building a wall between themselves and others. If you’re overly restrictive in what you eat, that creates a barrier in any activities with people that involve food.
For example, you may decide not to go somewhere because you don’t want to be tempted by the food. That means you also miss out on the opportunity to be with people you care about.
This is why with mindful eating we talk about how you can end up making your life very small and constrained if you place too many rules around yourself. Be careful of who you’re keeping out, and how you might be keeping yourself in.
3. Cooking for one is important
“You thought it’s depressing to cook for one. My goal is to change your mind on that. You can take care in making something as easy as this, or scrambled eggs, omelet, whatever it is.”
- Antoni Porowski, food and wine expert
I loved this one, and it’s something we talk a lot about in mindful eating.
So many people struggle with preparing food just for themselves, either because they feel like it’s depressing, or it’s not worth the effort.
But the reality is, you’re worth just as much effort as anyone else. In fact, treating yourself well might be the most important thing you can do.
That includes taking care with the food you eat. It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but you can still pay attention and make it with love.
Or even if it’s something you don’t have to prepare, like these sugar snap peas, you can still put them in a nice dish to give them a bit of flair.
4. Be the best you
“I don’t want Remy to be someone else. I want Remy to be the best version of himself.”
- Tan France, fashion expert
I was especially worried about what kind of advice Tan might give people, since I’m not a fashion person. But I loved his approach.
He wasn’t trying to make people look like someone they weren’t. He simply wanted to help them find their own style, whatever that might be, so they could be fully confident and in turn act as their best selves.
This is such an important lesson. It’s so easy to compare yourself to someone else and say you want to be just like them, but that’s not possible.
And even if you could do that, being someone else deprives the world of the unique person you are.
Instead, find the fashion and approach that lets you be yourself as fully and truly as you can.
5. You can find freedom
“I started getting older and refusing to accept [the hate and ignorance]. And refusing to accept the kind of chains that I’ve been having my whole life. I just wanted to be free.”
- Bobby Berk, design expert
One of the things I enjoy most about the show is how you get to see the Fab Five deal with their own issues. Bobby goes through this a lot, as a gay man who was kicked out of his home and religion because of his sexual orientation.
Even if you don’t have that situation, you could well experience shame and prejudice because of your body size or shape, or what you eat.
It’s hard to say “no” to all of that, to have the strength to simply refuse to accept what other people put on you.
But if you can move past the expectations that other people have of you, whatever those are, you really can be free. And it’s a wonderful feeling.
Do your own makeover
Of course, you don’t need the Fab Five to come in to give you a makeover. This is something you can start yourself:
Are you using food to numb your emotions? If so, can you find ways to experience those emotions, so you’re not missing out on deeper connection and joy?
What kind of walls are you building, using food or anything else? And how can you start to break down those walls?
If you struggle with cooking for yourself, think about how you can put a little more care into it, and remember that you’re worth it.
Notice if you’re comparing yourself to others and trying to be like someone else. Then think about the best version of you and how you can become that person instead of someone else.
Do you have anything that’s weighing you down, any chains of anger or shame? If you do, can you take one small step to letting go of those chains so you can find your own freedom?
I’d love to hear about your own experiences of remaking your life. And for myself, I’m off to watch season 4 of Queer Eye to see what new lessons I learn.