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Santiago interviews Cherie Marie, a body image coach, BodyBarre instructor, and former 4th generation Adventist who grew up in California, Ohio, and Berrien Springs, Michigan. We discuss food, purity culture, and much more including overcoming challenges with food and body image.
To claim a 90-minute session with Cherie, send her a Direct Message on Instagram and mention the promo code "Hell"
Other topics mentioned:
Sex and Sensibility
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Credits: Music: Hall of the Mountain King Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) • Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
Haystacks & Hell Intro
[00:00:00] Santiago: Welcome to Haystacks and Hell, an ex-Adventist podcast where we tell stories about growing up Seventh-day Adventist, leaving faith behind, and building new, fulfilling lives.
Meet Cherie Marie: Body Image Coach, BodyBarre Instructor, and 4th Generation (ex) Adventist
[00:00:16] Santiago: Hey everyone, welcome back to Haystacks and Hell. I'm your host Santiago, and today I'm very excited to speak with Cherie Marie. Cherie is a body image coach and BodyBarre instructor based in the US state of Colorado. She was raised as a fourth generation Seventh-day Adventist, growing up in California, Ohio, and then Berrien Springs, Michigan.
[00:00:39] And if that sounds familiar, it's because Cherie is the sister of Melissa Spiers. Cherie also attended high school at andrews Academy in Michigan and graduated from Andrews University with a BFA in ceramics. Cherie started to struggle with her weight when she noticed that her belly bulged a little bit more than the other girls in gymnastics.
[00:01:01] Her body was totally normal, but she began to feel oversized and self-conscious. That along with the Adventist health message and her family's particularly strict dietary practices and beauty standards led to years of chronic dieting, rapid weight gain, and drastic weight loss. Today, Cherie finally has a healthy relationship with food and her body after decades of blood, sweat, and tears.
[00:01:28] She's received certifications in the never Binge Again and Positive Intelligence programs, as well as plant-based nutrition from Cornell's online certificate program. So in addition to talking about her Adventist upbringing, we're going to discuss Cherie's perspectives on desire, hunger, and more.
[00:01:46] She's also debuting a seven week program especially for folks dealing with religious trauma and challenges with food. And as of the recording of this podcast, she's offering a free 90 minute session. So stick around to hear more about that and for the promo code. So Cherie, welcome. Thank you so much for your work and thanks for coming on the show.
[00:02:07] Cherie: Oh, I'm excited to be here.
[00:02:09] Santiago: So I wanna start out by asking you, what are some of your earliest memories of growing up Adventist?
[00:02:15] Cherie: I can't remember any that aren't. I mean, how do you separate, you know, like, I mean, I was a preacher's kid when I was born. I remember playing in the churches, you know, like other people have mentioned, in the choir loft and in the empty baptismal and running up and down the aisles in the empty churches, you know, all that cool stuff.
[00:02:34] And, um, just constant church events. I got drug along a lot in the evenings when my dad would be doing whatever at, you know, church meetings and things like that. So, and he was also a youth pastor, so we were on the bus, taking kids here and there and going to the beach camp outs and going to the, um, I can't remember the name of the summer camps all over Southern California, but those lovely places where, you know, there'd be weekend programs or whatever. You know, we prayed before every meal and we did worship all the time. And I mean, that was just my whole life. There was nothing else!
[00:03:17] Both: [Laughing]
[00:03:18] Santiago: A lot of that does sound familiar. I don't think I ever went into the empty baptistry, except maybe once.
[00:03:27] Cherie: ...because you're down in there and you can see out the little glass, you know, and it's all, you know, tile or whatever, and you feel kind of cool.
[00:03:34] Both: [Laughing]
[00:03:35] Santiago: Yeah. So within all of that, I want to ask you what were Sabbath mornings like for you and your family?
[00:03:44] Cherie: Oh my god. And god should be taken right out of it. So it should be just be, 'Oh my.' [Laughing] Um, oh, it was so stressful. My mom was always cranky as can be. And from the time I can remember, she dressed us really carefully and my sister and I had to match. And uncomfortable clothes, you know, the whole nine yards.
[00:04:08] And our hair was particularly important. This was the late sixties, early seventies. And we had to have these, I mean, I'm telling you, they were gorgeous in photos, but these very elaborate updos and... I mean, piled up on our hair, and we had to have these things called spit curls where she would literally take spit on her fingers and tape, uh, these little curls to our cheeks to make them dry on our cheeks.
[00:04:36] Oh, yeah, no, this was the thing. And so all of that was painful and awful, and she'd be cranky and yelling at us, and I mean, she didn't usually yell, but Saturday morning she did. And then of course, we'd pile in the car and she'd be always running late. And I don't even know. It was always, it just seemed like chaos and, you know, I mean, I could just feel the angst and the stress in my body right now talking about it.
[00:04:59] So it was clearly not pleasant. Then when we would get to church, I don't know if I remember this from like our, our usual churches or when we were guests somewhere, but I was very painfully shy child. And having to walk into a new Sabbath school room with my fancy hair piled up on my head and all these little hippie girls with long, straight hair.
[00:05:27] Oh my god. I mean, I would have sooner died. It was mortifying for me. So you can just imagine. And oh, and they always ask, ask you, you know, 'Who are our guests today?' 'Do you wanna come up front,' da da da da. You know, and I just like, it about killed me.
[00:05:47] Santiago: Yeah, I can imagine. It's interesting, I've, I've read a book called Quiet, about introverts, and I personally am an introvert. Not saying that you are, but I can relate to this kind of anxiety and fear of being in a new space, being put in front of new people. It, it's awkward, especially as a kid, but especially if somebody is an introvert.
[00:06:11] The whole premise of that book is that so many of our spaces within schools, within work, but now that I think about it, within church as well, it is kind of built for extroverts. And so if you're an introvert, um, you know, whenever you're going around Sabbath school asking, 'Hey, what did you think about this Bible verse?' or, 'Do you have a prayer request?' 'Do you wanna share?' Like, now that I think about that, the things I did, even as an introvert myself, I was putting other people on the, on the spot when they maybe weren't that comfortable.
[00:06:44] Cherie: Yeah. Well, and I mean, in college, this is, so this is very interesting. This is very telling. In college, I first started drinking and I could start talking to people when I would drink, right?
[00:06:58] Both: [Laughing]
[00:07:00] Cherie: So it was kind of like this liberation for me. And I mean, to this day I'm grateful for that because I'm really quite outgoing and gregarious. But as a child, especially one who was literally made up to be, I don't even, I can't even describe it. Like, we just stood out in so many ways. I mean, my mom always made us wear red, too. Like, I mean, 'Hello, here we come!' you know, these fancy haired girls in red and... Oh, so yeah, so that was not comfortable for the introvert in me at that time particularly. I, I managed to outgrow some of it, but still, you know?
[00:07:42] Santiago: Yeah [laughing] so we were just chatting about how, before we started recording, how you were homeschooled up until second grade. So I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about that and your early Adventist education experiences.
[00:07:59] Cherie: That's very curious actually, because my mom ordered when I was probably five or six, she ordered this huge big packet of homeschooling materials. It came with, as I recall, anyway, schedules and, you know, five or six formal subjects that you had to study, et cetera.
[00:08:22] And she dutifully would sit me down and we would, at the kitchen table or whatever, and we would try and go through my subjects. Five and six year olds are not meant to sit still and learn. I, I mean, I just firmly believe that. And apparently I am very known in my family for sighing heavily all the time.
[00:08:44] And apparently my sighing would just overwhelm the learning, right? And so she finally, after trying to sweat through this for a while, ask a friend of hers who was some, you know, teacher in, at some level in, in elementary school, 'Cherie's just struggling with this. What are we supposed to do here?' And she said, 'Oh my gosh, toss that all out and just do what you can during the day.
[00:09:11] Read to her a lot, help her learn to read and, you know, pick up the stuff that she's interested in and just weave it into the day, da da. But don't make her sit there for, you know, four hours.' so it got a lot better. And I don't remember how it all went, but I do remember, this is very funny because I ended up take taking art later, a bunch of flashcards on famous paintings that at six I was supposed to remember, you know, whoever it was, Rembrandt or something.
[00:09:41] And I remembered that being just painful, like, I, you know, I had no basis for it. I had no, 'Why would I need to know this and why am I being forced to sit here to do this kind of stuff?' But anyway, so somehow during all that I learned to read, and then it was decided that I was ready to go to school at Loma Linda in second grade.
[00:10:01] So again, as somebody who had basically never left her house, right? And I was young for my grade actually, too. Going to school for the first time was a bit of a culture shock. And I had, I didn't get to play with a lot of other kids either. So socially, it was kind of overwhelming. And of course, that's all I cared about, was the social part.
[00:10:23] I didn't give a rip about anything else. So it was, it was a struggle. And halfway, no, not even three quarters of the way through, I think the, about two months of school left. Somebody decided, my teacher, I guess, decided I should be moved to third grade because I could read at eighth grade level.
[00:10:43] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:10:44] Cherie: Nobody noticed that I couldn't do math [laughing] and I still cannot. I mean, I floundered! And so then the last two months of school, I was moved, introvert me, to a new classroom with kids I didn't know. I don't remember how I got through that. But the next year was horrible because I was really behind a year. You know, I could read everything fine, but the teacher was brutal and she would make me go and do math problems on the board.
[00:11:16] Santiago: Oh no.
[00:11:19] Cherie: [Laughing] Long division in our classroom, we had these, Loma Linda at the time anyway, had these, Southern California, really great, you know, school buildings, the long buildings with doors facing outside. So every classroom had their own doors. 'Cause it was so hot, right? No air conditioning, so you'd open the front and the back door and you'd get sort of circulation. But we were 34 kids crammed in this little classroom in fourth grade. I mean, so close together. That teacher could not handle 34 kids, and especially not me who couldn't do math.
[00:11:51] Both: [Laughing]
[00:11:52] Cherie: So I would get put up at the board to do long division or whatever the the hell it was and oh, horrible. Just humiliating and awful. But we had a good PE teacher, that was my favorite thing. I learned to play flag football in third grade, or fourth grade, sorry. And I got to join the gymnastics team. So all was well.
[00:12:14] Santiago: Nice. One of the things that I took away from my conversation with Melissa is that she mentioned that you both didn't seem to have too much of a connection personally to the church and its theology. So I'm wondering for you, you know, what, what's your perspective on that and what was that like for you?
[00:12:35] Cherie: True, you know, we were so marinated in it, and you just hear this language all day long, everywhere. I mean, for us, you know, more of it, even at home. And I don't know, I, I can't even describe it, but I, I, I mean, I drank the Kool-Aid. I really did, but I never intellectualized it. I don't think I really ever personally internalized it. I remember around baptism time in, I don't know, fifth, sixth grade-ish, somewhere.
[00:13:07] Maybe it was seventh, I don't know. One of the youth pastors came and sat in a little tiny room with all of us and we read verses and got ready for baptism, whatever all that stuff was. And I remember having this extraordinarily pious attitude toward it. Like I was gonna be, you know, so good at this pre baptism stuff. And I was gonna speak up and ask really poignant questions and, you know, all this fake stuff.
[00:13:40] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:13:41] Cherie: I still believed that I was doing what I needed to do and it was the right thing. So I, I believed in it, yes. But I also didn't have anything else to believe, right?
[00:13:57] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:13:57] Cherie: So, I was just walking the talk, really, is how I look at it. Now when I hear you guys on the podcast and stuff, I, I hear theological terms and everything and I'm like, 'Oh, that,' but I don't remember what it is. Like, it just never really digested it, I guess.
[00:14:18] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:14:20] Cherie: I lived that way and up to a certain point I was a good girl and I did all the things that good girls do that everybody was supposed to do. And I was a goodie two shoes and I didn't get in trouble. And, you know, I, I, I mean, I didn't point out to other people when they were out of line, but I sure did gossip. [Laughing] Sorry, all my friends, but, but I mean... And I was concerned with what other people were doing, whether or not they were, you know, keeping the Sabbath or whatever. But it's almost like it was a garment that I wore, but I couldn't tell you what was underneath it or inside of it, you know? It was like, I just kind of threw it on.
[00:14:58] Santiago: Wow, that is such a good analogy. I've never heard it put that way or thought about it that way before, but that, that makes sense. I'm sure for some people their experience is a little bit different, but I think what you just said probably resonates with a good amount of people listening right now.
[00:15:15] Cherie: You know, I didn't know anything else, right?
[00:15:18] Santiago: Yeah, I think you touched on something really important, which is if people are not aware of other religious traditions, other denominations, and understanding kind of the history of where all of this comes from, when you do discover that, if it's been kept from you, that can sometimes lead to a faith crisis.
[00:15:41] It doesn't for everybody, but I know it can for some people. Many of us didn't know that there was anything else, right? I think there was this concern of we need to be sheltered and we need to be taught the "one true way," if you will. There wasn't ever really a true choice if you grew up in it.
[00:16:00] Cherie: Mm-hmm.
[00:16:01] Santiago: I'm sure for people who converted to Adventism and then left, their perspective is very different because they had to, at some point, make a choice. But for those of us who were raised in it, there wasn't really ever truly, I think for most of us, a choice.
[00:16:16] Cherie: Even specifically in my family, anything that was not as part of our church culture was highly suspicious, dangerous, and freaky. Like I remember specifically speaking of Southern California in the hippie days, being at parks and these, you know, hippie vans, the the love bus and everything would roll up and all these kids would pile out and they'd be all in their cool, super cool clothes, which I would just like gawk at. Oh my god. I wanted to be them so bad. And they were always barefoot.
[00:16:47] And the guys all had their long hair, and the girls all had long hair, and all their cool jewelry. And their feet would be dirty 'cause they were barefoot, right? And they'd roll out of their van with all their bongos or whatever, and their guitars and they would play. I'm sure they were all high as kites. I don't know. But they were having fun, let, let me tell you. And they would be playing, you know, sitting on the grass and laying on blankets and making out and whatever, doing, you know, teenage things. College-aged kids things or whatever, in the parks in California.
[00:17:18] And my mom would grab us like those people were going to rip our soul out of our bodies. And like, 'Those dirty hippies, they're always barefoot!' and I mean, I remember being terrified of them. So, I mean, that's just a funny little example of that, but that, that is a metaphor for everything else. That anything outside of us and our family, culture and church, forget it.
[00:17:45] Santiago: That's so interesting. On the one hand, you're looking at the cool clothes and you want to be them, but at the same time you're terrified. I feel like I'm sure some people could also relate to that. I, for me, growing up, I remember having a bit of a self-righteous attitude when I was younger. It went away as I got older and I met more people that weren't like me and I recognized, okay, that self-righteousness is not really a great thing.
[00:18:15] And the interesting thing is I, I kind of went through a phase when I was in middle school while I was going to an Adventist academy. Because the kids who went there, they were Adventist, but they came from presumably less conservative families. And so I was trying to be a little bit more like the kids at academy.
[00:18:34] But then after I left, when I went to high school, that kind of shifted a bit for me and I was like, okay, I'm the Adventist kid, probably the only Adventist kid in this public high school. And then later on in my public college. So even though I didn't usually go out of my way to share my faith with other people, I was like, okay, I know that I'm different from them and I know that, you know, I'm not supposed to be like the world.
[00:19:03] I would get invited to go get a beer with classmates after class and whatnot. And I would always be like, 'Oh, I'm good.' I'd make some, I'd make some excuse up. Yeah, there, there's definitely a tension between quote unquote, you know, you're supposed to be in the world, but not of the world. [Laughing]
[00:19:24] Cherie: That part, I think, can be excruciating. Because what, what even is that? How do you... Okay, we were not allowed to have a TV growing up, until Magnum PI came out. And then my mom suddenly needed us to have a TV in the house.
[00:19:42] Both: [Laughing]
[00:19:43] Cherie: I kid you not. And we were not allowed to have music. And my sister covered, you know, our reading was quite limited to CS Lewis and actually we had the Lord of the Rings series.
[00:19:57] Um, and then all religious, that was it. And so we were culturally very sheltered at home. I mean, I've always been fashion obsessed and so as a kid, I wanted to look like everybody else. And I still didn't because I, my mom wouldn't let me get, buy my own clothes until I was way too old to be choosing, you know, not getting to choose my own stuff. 'Cause she really controlled a lot of things. And I was always painfully aware of not being normal.
[00:20:26] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:20:26] Cherie: Anywhere, like going to the shopping mall or whatever. I always felt like such a weirdo. So I was always weird, even weirder than the weird Adventist, you know, in general. Like, I was a weird of the weird Ad—you know? So, I always struggled with that "in, but not of." Like, how, how can the whole world outside of this bubble be so evil? I mean, I was scared to death of it, but I, I wanted to know popular music. Like we'd go roller skating or whatever and disco would be on, and oh my god, that was the best thing ever.
[00:20:58] But it was also, you know, so forbidden and so evil and so wicked, but yet we were kind of allowed to sort of dip our toes in it, but then kind of have to wash our hands of it later. Like that's such a, oh, that's such a difficult place to be, especially as a kid. I think even all the way through, you know, late teens.
[00:21:28] Santiago: Mm-hmm. I'm wondering throughout all of this, did you personally have anxiety about death or the afterlife?
[00:21:36] Cherie: I don't remember particularly, but I had, it's kind of the converse of that. I remember in the, what, what were the books with the blue spines that we all had? Arthur, Uncle Arthur? No, it was... Anyway, they're the the white books with the blue spines. Anyway, they're very shiny. And I remember I was probably seven when I started to understand the idea, well, I, I wanted to understand the idea of eternity. You know, 'cause it was all about heaven.
[00:22:10] Like when you go to heaven, you will live forever. And I could not wrap my head around that. And I remember not being able to go to sleep that night when I first grappled with that concept. And the fact that also, God had never not existed. So, you know, timelessness before me and after me. Forever, you know, I just could not wrap my head around that at all. And so I don't think I ever feared death just because there wasn't gonna be one. I was gonna go to heaven.
[00:22:43] Santiago: That's such an interesting difference between you and your sister, 'cause Melissa talks about being kind of, definitely having some fear and anxiety about that. Um, my brother and I, like you, we didn't really have too much fear or anxiety around that.
[00:22:57] And I contrast that with hearing stories of people who did drills, apparently preparing for the "time of trouble," making tents in the woods. Somebody commented on a video of mine on TikTok saying that growing up in Texas and Oklahoma, they would go on nature walks to identify things that they could potentially eat as they're on the run. And it's like, oh my goodness.
[00:23:23] So, you know, it's, it's, it's interesting to see how, even within a single denomination, the experience varies widely when it comes to things like, you know, anxiety about death, afterlife, the time of trouble. It's, yeah, it's, it's fascinating to hear that.
[00:23:42] Cherie: Well, I did definitely struggle with time of trouble stuff. That was very terrifying. And the thought of having to go hide in the mountains that just, uh, I mean, that was terrifying. But as per se, the fear of, I guess I always just assumed I would go to heaven. I'd be so good, I would go to heaven. [Laughing] So I don't think that I ever thought, 'Oh, I'm not gonna have eternal life.'
[00:24:05] Santiago: Right.
[00:24:06] Cherie: But, um, but yeah, time of trouble stuff was really terrifying. And that, you know, that got harped on a lot in school. And interestingly, I did not raise my two children Adventist at all. But when my son, he's my oldest, when he was about five and I took him to Sabbath school once, cradle roll, it would've been, um, at my parents'.
[00:24:28] They had, you know, on those little easels with, you know, the felt boards and whatever, and they had Jesus on the cross, right front and center of, of everything. And it traumatized him terribly. Absolutely traumatized that poor boy. And he would never go again. He was very verbal and he was able to tell me, 'That dead man on the, those pieces of wood, I don't wanna see that ever again, mama.'
[00:24:56] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:24:56] Cherie: And I mean, I was almost 40 at that time and I, [sigh] I mean, I, I'm getting choked up thinking about that right now. Like, oh my god. Like, I, I grew up seeing that all day long, right? I think I was numb to it. And to see it from a child's perspective at five of being shocked by that. That's how we grew up and we just didn't know it. That's why our bodies and our psyches are struggling with deconstruction stuff. It's because we were raised with a lot of terror that we kind of became immune to.
[00:25:39] Santiago: Wow, yeah, that is, that is so interesting hearing the experience he had. I don't remember really having too much graphic imagery in our church.
[00:25:50] Cherie: Do you remember the crown of thorns though? And the blood dripping out of Jesus' face? I mean that's, and that's what he was seeing too, you know? And that's just, oh my, that stuff was scary.
[00:25:59] Santiago: Yeah, no, absolutely. I remember seeing pictures of that, you know, maybe in presentations. I don't remember ever seeing like an actual, was this a physical kind of thing that was in the classroom, or was...
[00:26:12] Cherie: Yeah, it was some, you know, postery kind of thing and it, I mean, it was very sterile Jesus on the cross, but yet he was there, you know, limp with his arms tied on and I'm, I'm sure it had the nails. You know, it was good 24 by 18 inch picture right in front of the whole class and it really upset that child.
[00:26:33] Santiago: Yeah, no, I think that's understandable. If you, if you have not grown up around that and then you're exposed to that as a little kid, it makes sense to me that I, I think that's a totally normal response to imagery like that.
[00:26:47] Cherie: Think about this too, though. So you go in and, you know, you get stickers and you get whatever, and you sit in your little white chair and, and there's all this cool decorative stuff and all these, you know, things you wanna touch and play with in the room. And they have, especially in cradle roll, they have little, I don't know, play areas around the room kind of stuff.
[00:27:04] You know, little fences sometimes, you know, cool. Like, it looks like a fun place for kids. And then there's music and it seems fun and everybody's all upbeat, and then there's this dead man hanging in front of you.
[00:27:15] Santiago: Yeah, definitely a huge contrast. I want to ask you, what did purity culture look like for you, and how do you think it affected you and your peers?
[00:27:25] Cherie: Golly, so this is huge, right? Like I'm so glad that we have a word for it now because it really, I mean, I hate labels, but it gives you structure. It gives you a package, kind of to put all of your experiences in and say, 'Yeah, there was this whole ball of stuff that heretofore was floating and I experienced and absorb, or, you know, observed and my friends experienced and, you know, was a very internal process to me.
[00:28:03] But how to, how to define it, you know, you just like, you can't put a finger on it. And so when I first started hearing that terminology, I was like, oh, like, it just felt really good to have that. Because it kind of distilled everything into something that even though it doesn't make sense, made sense, you know what I mean?
[00:28:27] Like, all I remember from the time I was little was that, you know, another, another term that's used a lot in the coaching space and probably in wellness is, "good girl conditioning." And that just is straight across the board for women raised in America and many other places.
[00:28:48] So it's just a female thing specifically, but then you add purity culture into that. And so I don't know what it would be like to experience a family and church and school structure that didn't, from the get go, tell girls to pipe down. Don't take up too much space. Look pretty, be perfect, but don't share your body. Don't show it off. Don't inhabit your body. Shrink, constrict, and always make more room for men.
[00:29:26] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:29:26] Cherie: I mean, I'm a different generation than you and my kids growing up, you know, they aren't growing up Seventh-day Adventist. So it's, it's very different for them, thank goodness. And so we're, we're making progress everywhere. But from the time I can remember, girls were less than, and we grew up with that massive dichotomy of particularly, I know this is particular to my family. But most of my friends, you know, had a large degree of this too. Look pretty and perfect, but... Let me see if I can put this into words better. "Be shiny, but don't shine."
[00:30:03] Santiago: Hmm, okay.
[00:30:05] Cherie: Got it, does that make sense? Like, look great, be lovely, be feminine. Be the pure girl that lives in the image of God and does everything to the glory of God. But don't be too much of it.
[00:30:26] Santiago: Hmm okay, I can definitely see that. The closest analogy I can think of from my own experience is growing up being a musician and always hearing people say, 'Wow, that was so great. I feel so blessed by your music, thank you.'
[00:30:46] And always I was taught, do not accept the praise. Say 'Praise God.' You give that to God. That's the closest analogy I can think of as a guy. 'Cause as a guy, I didn't get that. But when it came to performing, you were supposed to practice and do as good as you could, but you could not take the credit for the work that you yourself did.
[00:31:08] Cherie: Same. That, it's almost the exact same thing. You know, we were taught, and, and, and I remember this language, you know, "your body is a temple." Your body is made in the image of God. Which let me say, as a female, even as a little girl, that was hard to understand because you're so literal as a child. 'Image of God, but God's a man and I'm a girl.'
[00:31:38] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:31:38] Cherie: So what does that mean? Like, that's starting off right from the get go, that's misogyny, it's patriarchy. I mean, that's, that's a lot to, to process in your head.
[00:31:51] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:31:52] Cherie: Causes a lot of internal strife.
[00:31:55] Santiago: Yeah, even the creation myth that Eve was taken from Adam.
[00:32:02] Cherie: Yep, and then, and then Eve caused the downfall, too. So Eve is pretty much a loser right there, the whole package, right?
[00:32:11] Santiago: Yep. I'm just remembering right now that I didn't do this often, but I can remember at least one or two specific cases where as a little boy in church, I brought that up. I don't remember what the context was, but I do remember saying, 'Well, Eve,' and I was blaming Eve in that moment, even as a little boy, I did pick up on that message. There is, there is a, uh, creator online that I follow on TikTok and Instagram. Her username is "Eve was Framed" and I love that username.
[00:32:47] Cherie: I'm gonna look her up, I wrote that down.
[00:32:49] Santiago: She's got some great content. And, uh, what I appreciate about her, is she's kind of in the same, I think, camp that I'm in where she actually has made friends with progressive Christians who share values with her. And I've said before, and I'll say it again, even though this podcast is from a very secular, very non-religious perspective, and intentionally so, I still hope to hold some space for people of faith who might listen in because there are people of faith who do happen to share values with us and vice versa.
[00:33:24] Cherie: Oh, of course.
[00:33:25] Santiago: And I wanna stress, I think where we can find common ground, it's important that we do and that we acknowledge that. Um, but yeah, I, I was so, I was so glad to see a post she made the other day with some progressive Christians. They met up for lunch and I was like, that is great. We need more of that.
[00:33:41] Like, that is, that is fantastic 'cause she's an atheist and she's unapologetic about it, but she's still able to make friends with Christians. And I hope, I hope we can get to the place where there is more of that. Because I think it's not practical to assume or even hope that everybody leaves their faith. That's a whole other conversation, but, but anyway, just to say, yeah, Eve was Framed, great account. Go check her out, I'll link her in the show notes.
[00:34:08] Cherie: That's awesome. Well, and I agree with you. I, I mean, there is room at the table for everybody, absolutely. And those of us who have left high control religions, we should be the ones, even more so in my view, to be extending grace, compassion, and, and the welcome mat. Because we've had a longer journey, let's just say, perhaps, that has had more colors in it. And I don't disagree with a lot of Christianity.
[00:34:42] I mean, the humanity part, the, you know, living to be the best you can be and to be the best for everyone else. Support, love your fellow man. All, I mean, there's, all of those things I live by. I just struggle with the rules and the obsession with repressive limiting pieces that, to me, are inhumane.
[00:35:16] Santiago: Mm-hmm, yeah. I think Jeff in, in our interview talked about "othering," right? And this idea of "us versus them." And yeah, I think that's so important, right? There's that story of where Jesus is asked, 'Well, who is my neighbor?' Right? Everyone is your neighbor.
[00:35:35] Cherie: Who isn't your neighbor? Yeah.
[00:35:36] Santiago: Exactly, who isn't your neighbor? Sometimes it can be a little bit difficult, for me included, to extend grace to folks who are still within the system, within the fundamentalist system that I personally grew up in, and within that thinking. I think about it like this:
[00:35:54] we cannot make excuses for flat out bigotry that is harmful and can ultimately lead to death. At the same time, for our friends, for our family, for our acquaintances who are in the system, we're not going to help them see things differently if we don't come to them from a place of grace, in my opinion.
[00:36:17] Cherie: Well, and it's funny because in the last four years, I mean, I'm in my mid fifties, okay? In the last four years don't, I don't know why the timing happened this way, but I have become what I would say, the most spiritual I've ever been in my life. And I was missing that, like I had a craving for it that I did not know.
[00:36:40] I, I mean, I kind of knew and I, I would've always said if you'd asked me, 'Oh, I'm a spiritual person.' But I have become really what I would consider more of that now. And it is a development of greater empathy and compassion and a sense of oneness. Like I really, humanity, we are all of the same breath, we are. Literally, we are all breathing the oxygen that goes around the whole globe.
[00:37:16] So that to me, is spirit. That we are connected as humans and our lifestyles and our cultures and our histories and languages and skin and orientations and all of that may vary in a way that looks very dramatic per se, but it's not. And we're one. I did not get that in church. There was some language about that, a little. But it was very much about otherness and we are the "one true," and everyone else is wrong. And anything outside of us is suspect, evil, wicked, dangerous, and we should not be partaking. We should witness to them, and try to convert them at all costs, but we are not one.
[00:38:16] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:38:16] Cherie: There's a big difference there.
[00:38:19] Santiago: Yeah, definitely. That's, that's an interesting kind of framing. I think Melissa talked about how she felt that she was raised to have a sense of superiority when it came to having compassion for people, but not being taught true empathy. And I can relate to that to some degree.
[00:38:39] I definitely became more empathetic as a person, as I got older and as my views on theology and politics and things like that started shifting. And I think, you know, a lot of those things go hand in hand, even if we don't initially realize that to begin with.
[00:38:58] Cherie: In my experience, I did not learn compassion. I learned pity. Big difference. That's superiority, pity is superiority. Pity is 'Oh, bless your heart.'
[00:39:12] Those poor people that don't know any better, haven't met Jesus are, you know, alcoholics and drug addicts and poor people and people of color and, you know, god, we didn't even know about gay people.
[00:39:24] I mean, [laughing] you know, like had, had that been anything I was exposed to, oh my god, they would've been seriously other and seriously pitied. So that's what I got from it in my church and school and very much at home. Empathy was not a felt state. When I say felt state, when you are empathetic, your body is empathetic to somebody.
[00:39:52] Like if I see a child that is not my child, that gets hurt on the playground. I mean, my heart just explodes all over them. Like I just, I physically want to run and, and, and help that child, right? The same with like the other day I was in the grocery store and there's this little old man and he was, you know, really bent over and he's trying to reach something on a shelf. My heart, my physical body just burst like this dear sweet man can barely move his body. And I, you know, and I mean, I had to help him, right? Like, your body feels empathy.
[00:40:27] Santiago: Mm-hmm.
[00:40:28] Cherie: I was not marinated in that as a child. I was marinated in 'All of those people have problems and are wrong and need saving, but don't really get too close to them.' They're contagious. Everyone's contagious, and don't get near 'em. They all have cooties that'll ruin your salvation.
[00:40:50] Santiago: I guess you could say that Adventists originally perfected social distancing, at least from, at least from non-Adventists.
[00:40:58] Cherie: [Laughing] That's brilliant. I love that. That is so, but that's exactly what it was, right? Like put up the plexiglass between us and them and you know, we'll hand you a Bible underneath.
[00:41:10] Santiago: [Laughing]
[00:41:11] Cherie: Oh, and a Steps to Christ.
[00:41:13] Santiago: Yeah, yeah, can't forget steps to Christ and Great Controversy.
[00:41:17] Cherie: Seriously, that's a perfect analogy because that's exactly what it was. Exactly.
[00:41:23] Santiago: Yeah. Well one of the things obviously that makes the Adventist church unique in some ways to other denominations is the health message. And Melissa and I talked a bit about the food you had growing up. She personally described it as awful. I'm wondering if you felt that way too, or what your relationship with food was growing up.
[00:41:45] Cherie: Woo, this is a good one. It's funny because, you know, we, we, we come from the same womb, but we look at things very differently. And we had, we, you put us in the same room and we'll both describe two different scenarios, you know? But I didn't find the food gross. I didn't know anything different, mostly, but it was just boring.
[00:42:06] And it's so hard to even describe—food... Put it this way, food was just problematic, period. So my mom, to her credit, you know, she went to La Sierra back in the day and everybody had to take Home Ec, right? And the health message was very advanced actually for the sixties in terms of, you know, they really knew and the things, the nutrition things that they were preaching, so to speak.
[00:42:40] They knew about saturated fat and packaged foods being as un, you know, unhealthy and you should, you know, basically eat straight out of the ground. It's the best stuff for you kind of things. I mean, they were, it was, it was solid. So I grew up with, you know, everything being, all the labels being read and we couldn't have lard and, you know, all this stuff.
[00:42:58] But there was always an emotional charge around food, that it separated. It was another "otherness," right? It separated us from the rest of the world. And I very keenly, at a very young age, felt that because even once I went to the academy for the first time, not all the kids ate pure, you know, plain peanut butter and jelly and plain carrots for lunch. They would have chips, oh my god. You know, tainted food. And so I was very keenly aware very early that food had a quote "moral component"
[00:43:38] to it, and was a good and bad thing that was somehow tied to my spirituality and my, uh, salvation, or a stumbling block to my salvation. You know, that's probably somewhat specific to my family. I know other people it was the same, but I don't know that that was as universal as, you know, maybe, um, some people would say.
[00:44:04] And there was always tight rules around it. We had, you know, very little sugar and my mom was always substituting dates or something for sweets. And so a lot of so-called desserts and whatever would be terrible. And we were not allowed like, ugh. This one, my sister and I talk about this one. Even like when I was 12 and 13 and my little brother was much younger than us and we'd still have Easter egg hunts.
[00:44:28] My dad was really good at, at hiding everything. It was super fun. Our eggs, our little plastic eggs were full of mixed nuts and raisins.
[00:44:40] Both: [Laughing]
[00:44:43] Cherie: I kid you not. Maybe an M&M or two would be sporadically put in there, or maybe a chocolate chip, but it was not candy. And so, yeah, food was always problematic and loaded with layers of suspicion and lots of don'ts. One time, actually, this is very interesting. When we lived in Redlands, my dad was in medical school at Loma Linda, and somehow, somebody from, I think it was Loma Linda, they were doing a photo shoot for something about junk food.
[00:45:26] And my little family got chosen as the people to photograph. So my mom and my sister and I, they put us on our couch in our house and we were all, you know, fancied up in our nice clothes or whatever. And they brought a bag of potato chips. We were pretending to watch TV.
[00:45:41] We didn't have a TV. So we had to be pretending to veg out on the TV and eat potato chips, right? Like the common American, standard American diet. I was over the moon that I got to eat like 12 potato chips during this photo shoot. I kid you not, because we weren't allowed to have them. I mean, that was what, 50 years ago or something, practically, and I remember it very keenly. And the potato chips left with the woman when she went away for the day! [Laughing] We didn't get to finish the damn bag of chips! I got to literally have 12 chips for my photo shoot, and then they were taken away from me.
[00:46:27] Santiago: Oh man.
[00:46:28] Cherie: So that sums up food, kind of.
[00:46:34] Santiago: Yeah, wow, okay. So can you fast forward a little bit from that moment to the moment where, you're in, I guess, your gymnastics class and you're seeing a difference between your body and the body of the other girls in there. Can you, can you walk through a little bit about this and then how that kind of just changed your life from then on to, to where you've gotten to now?
[00:47:03] Cherie: Totally. So we were kind of unusual because my parents were both very athletic, and my mom extraordinarily so for someone who grew up in the years that she grew up in, like she was born in 1940, right? So, I mean, she could ski, water ski, do gymnastics, rock climb, swim like crazy. Like she was even a lifeguard.
[00:47:26] Like, I mean, she was athletic. Oh, ride, she could ride horses like nobody's business. Like this, this girl was athletic, okay? We just kind of came about it naturally and we started doing gymnastics at a very young age. I joke all the time that I wasn't right side up until I was 16, like I was constantly upside down, hanging from things and on my hands, you know, that kind of stuff.
[00:47:47] And, um, super strong for little girls. I can't even remember now when we started actually getting to take gymnastics lessons. My mom just taught us stuff at home and then we just messed around with it and at one point we got to start going to the YMCA or some, no, it was, first of all, it was private gyms first, and there was one that was Christian based, so we were allowed to go to that one.
[00:48:09] But of course they competed on Sabbath, right? So we couldn't do that. And my sister remembers, and I don't remember this, so it must have been so painful I sublimated it somehow, but we were kicked off of one team because we were very good, but we weren't able to compete on Saturday. So they didn't want us on the team, right? Because we're taking up coaching time for kids who are really gonna compete.
[00:48:30] I don't remember in those earlier years being feeling embarrassed about my body very much. I mean, we wore leotards and everybody did, and just kind of, I don't know, you thought, didn't worry about it too much. But you know, I started to become a woman's body, then I realized that I had a little tiny roll of fat on my belly that nobody else did.
[00:48:53] And I could see it as if it was like an elephant trunk sticking out of my belly. Probably nobody else noticed. But I became fixated on it. And I was also very muscular compared to a lot of other little girls. And not, um, I just wasn't lanky, you know? And so I perceived that I was chunky when I wasn't. I was just a normal kid with muscle, you know?
[00:49:23] I was just strong and, um, and I, you know, my body build was just, I was perfect for gymnastics, actually. And, um, and everybody else was lankier and thinner and didn't have a roll on their belly. So I started becoming self-conscious about it. Then after we didn't do Olympic style gymnastics,
[00:49:42] in high school, mid high school in Ohio, had a really great PE teacher who was also a gymnastics coach. And so he started a team. And so we did exhibition, and so it's more, um, acrobatic gymnastics where you have partners and, and props and use trampolines and you know, those um,
[00:49:59] three highs and stuff where people are on each other's shoulders and that, it's just cool. It's kind, it's more, it's just, I would just call it exhibition gymnastics. Anyway, so we got to start doing that and that was super fun because we were with the boys. And it was all ages. So it was, you know, kids younger than me all the way through the seniors.
[00:50:15] And I was a freshman, so oh my god, I got to do gymnastics with the seniors and it was super cool. And of course being Adventists at that point at school, we couldn't wear leotards anymore because that would be too revealing. So we had these one piece onesies, and then for, for actual workouts, we had t-shirts and shorts. I, at that point, had started gaining weight and my, what was this?
[00:50:36] My freshman year in high school, I probably put on 15 pounds, which at this point I look at it and I'm like, 'Oh, brother.' But at the time, nobody was, nobody was heavy, you know, even slightly heavy. So I just became more and more and more self-conscious about it. And I developed really serious disordered eating at that point, which continued off and on forever and ever.
[00:51:01] And a lot of other people at the time, I didn't know, did as well. And it came out later, you know, a lot of my girlfriends now will say, 'Oh yeah, in high school, you know, I used to purge or whatever.'
[00:51:11] And we didn't talk about stuff like that in those days. So I thought I was the only person struggling, and I had serious dysmorphia. Like I really, when I see photos of myself, I'm like, oh, for the love of god, you know, like, okay, so I had a tiny bit more fat than anybody, but I was certainly not what I thought I was, you know?
[00:51:29] Santiago: Hmm, yeah, I think you touched on something really important, which is that a lot of this stuff, people just didn't talk about it. Maybe 'cause you didn't feel comfortable or that you could trust people to talk about it and be able to empathize with you instead of gossiping or judging or things like that. When you look at your kids now, do you feel like things have gotten better to where that's more acceptable to talk about?
[00:51:57] Cherie: Oh my god, it's not even the same. It is a different world, thank goodness. Thank goodness. Because I mean, when you transition from body image straight into sexuality and talking, you know, in high school, people were probably talking about stuff that I wasn't part of. But then again, I do know all the way through the end of high school that there were a lot of people who suffered all kinds of abuses and you know, pregnancy scares and all these different things that nobody did talk about.
[00:52:33] And so, yes, a lot of it wasn't talked about and it wasn't just specific to me not being included, but, um, but yeah, we didn't even have language for stuff. Like how would I have said to somebody, you know, 'I have an eating disorder, I closet eat, I go and binge on cookies and cold cereal,' for god's sake. You know, like that would've been the most shameful thing in the world for me to say. Like I didn't, could hardly even talk to it about my mom, even after years of it, 'cause she would shame me about it and what have you.
[00:53:07] And so there's no way I would've talked to anybody else about it. And other girls were restricting their food and stuff, too. So I think it was all just kind of, you know, normal and, and, and unfortunately that part is still normal. Disordered eating is very, very, very common still. But at least we can have words for it and talk about it now, and people are getting help and, you know, recognizing it earlier on and what have you.
[00:53:33] Santiago: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think social media, I've read that definitely plays into that. And I gotta imagine there's a whole kind of new dynamic now that we need to figure out how to deal with when it relates to body image and seeing seemingly perfect lives on social media that are actually very manicured.
[00:53:55] Cherie: Oh, that's, yeah. So we got better and then boom, now we have this whole fake world of it, that is way worse. I mean, it used to be just the magazine covers were airbrushed and the ads in there, all the supermodels, but now it's every day on your phone, everyone is filtered and sculpted and you know, the wrinkles taken away and, and yeah. It's just very complicated and I think there's just so many layers of it that are so destructive.
[00:54:31] Santiago: Yeah, I've talked before about how part of me feels that we maybe got the internet before we were ready for it.
[00:54:39] Cherie: Exactly.
[00:54:41] Santiago: I don't think, and I guess that's just kind of how technological change is, right? You're maybe never truly ready for things, but there's a lot that we still need to learn. There's a lot that we have learned, but there's still a lot that we need to learn about how social media affects our own body image, our relationship with self, our relationship with others. That's a whole other conversation.
[00:55:04] Cherie: It is, yeah.
[00:55:05] Santiago: I want to ask you about the word "desire," because you mentioned to me that this was something you wanted to talk about and it sounds like you heard this talked about growing up. So can you share a little bit about that?
[00:55:20] Cherie: I mean, I think probably a lot of people, ex-Sevvies listening to this, would struggle with that word. Because, and I, I polled about six of my girlfriends that I've known since high school about that word, about two weeks ago. And first of all, let me define what I think desire is. Desire is just a hunger for something.
[00:55:44] Anything. You know, I've been cooped up in this house all winter, and it's stuffy and we've had the heat on. I desire fresh air. You know, I would like to open my windows and air out my house. That is desire. It's just this thing coming from your body that says, 'This is something I want.'
[00:56:06] Now, there can be all layers of whether that's a good want or destructive want, or if it invades someone else, you know, all those things. But, but that is all desire is. It's just a wanting, right? When it's been attached to only sexuality, basically, it's a loaded word, right? And those of us that grew up in purity culture, desire is dangerous. The word "desire" is dangerous because our sexuality is not okay. We really shouldn't have it and use it except under, you know, a three bullet point list of how we should use it and own it and inhabit it and feel it. So if the word desire is attached to that loaded subject, we almost can't say it. And my girlfriends said that. They were like, 'Ugh like it feels like squirming. It makes me squirm.'
[00:57:08] And that to me, breaks my heart. There's nothing wrong with desire, even sexual desire, depending on what we do with it, right? Like it is, it is natural to us. It is a truth that is coming from us. That's another whole podcast. What you do with that and what level, you know, what kinds of desire. But I look at it in my work, as part of hunger. In my experience and all the studying and, and learning that I've done and talking to people that I've done, disordered eating is not about food.
[00:57:51] Body image is not about what we're eating or not eating, and it's not even really about the shape and size of our body. It is about our stories and our beliefs around it, and the whole, and the emptiness that we have inside that we don't know what to do with. And so food and rejection of, and disowning and disembodiment, is a coping mechanism for that which we don't know what to do with.
[00:58:29] Santiago: Hmm.
[00:58:29] Cherie: They're escapism. Food and struggle with body image is a form of escapism. Just like drugs or alcohol or anything else you do to escape emotional stress. Trauma that you cannot process. Do you know Dr Gabor Maté? He says about addictions, 'Don't ask why the addiction, ask, why the pain?'
[00:58:58] Behind all of these things that trip us up and then we get fixated on and obsessed with, is a hunger, a desire, a dissatisfaction, a bundle of emotion and experiences that we have not processed and we don't have any clue is even there most of the time and we don't know how to process it.
[00:59:22] We haven't processed it out, most of us, and all of the repression that we grew up with, and yes, we grew up in repression, has to go somewhere. And it ends up going out sideways somewhere, for a lot of us. Like, when I first got into college and all of my friends and I started deconstructing, we didn't know what we were doing.
[00:59:43] We just were like, okay, we don't believe this stuff anymore. We wanna drink and go dancing! So, you know, I mean, I'm lucky I did not lose any of my close people to drug addiction. Some have rehabbed, but nobody died from it. No overdoses. I do know some friends of friends and people that I hung out with here and there that did. So it comes out sideways.
[01:00:09] Santiago: I've heard people talk about how some of the kids who grew up in the strictest families, when they go off to college, even when it's an Adventist college, they will go all out with alcohol, with drugs. And I know this personally. I'm not gonna name names. I'm not gonna get any more specific than this, just to say that this person went to an Adventist college and did let loose a little bit because again, I think it's the kids who grew up the goody two shoes, like you said.
[01:00:38] For me personally, I don't think I did too much of that when I came out because I guess I had a gradual transition out of it. And so the media I consumed and just, I, I read a lot. I got interested in a lot of other topics, so I was able to pour my energy, I think, into other ways before I decided, 'Hey, maybe I will finally try a drink.'
[01:01:03] And when I first had a beer, I was like, okay. It's, it's fine. It's whatever. It's not something that I feel this need to go out and do frequently. It's something I'll do socially every now and then. But I think you touched on something really important, which is at least from my own anecdotal, the stories I've heard, the things I've observed, it is the folks who were the most repressed, who then tend to, maybe not always, but tend to go out and then go off the deep end sometimes.
[01:01:34] Cherie: I mean, the core 10 to 15 people that I hung out with in college, I was by far probably the most repressed of all of them. And I was the least wild, probably. But we, we had to let loose. We just had to let loose. We went to concerts constantly. You know, we, we were wild compared to anyone else at Andrews.
[01:02:03] And I think it's because we all were just like, we just don't believe this stuff anymore. It doesn't make any sense to us intellectually or in any other plane. And why? Why is having fun and enjoying life, enjoying culture, doing cultural things? Why is this bad? Why is dancing bad? Why is goth music bad? If it's fun and I enjoy it and I'm learning and you know, it gives me an, uh, an emotional release in some way. And it's a very socially fun thing to do. I'm supported by all of this. Why am I supposed to feel like this is sinful?
[01:02:51] And we all felt that at the same time. And I, we probably fed that to each other even more. And we just reinforced, you know, our rebellion and um, and just cut loose. I mean, we all took Jeff's survey, a bunch of us, I sent it to everybody and we've talked about it since. 'Cause I mean, I'm still pals with all of these people and, um, most of us are still not Sevvie. A few, but most not. And we are all just like, whoa, what a trip back in time that was. Like, it's, we're so far removed from it now, but, and we kind of talked about why did we all do this? And it was different for everybody, of course, everyone's unique journey. But I know for me, my motivation was, I was so tired of not having fun. I just wanted to have fun. I wanted to feel free...
[01:03:42] Santiago: Hmm.
[01:03:42] Cherie: ...and like I could do anything I chose to. And I didn't always choose the right things by any means, but I was so tired of feeling so constricted and like everything from my nail polish, literally in high school, anything I put on my body, my hair, everything about my personhood, my humanity was subject to this long, complicated list of rules that often contradicted each other and didn't make sense and were, they just squashed my humanity.
[01:04:20] That's how it felt to me. And my friends, I think, felt the same way. So as soon as I had a chance to, and alcohol was a, was a tool of that for me. I could talk to people, I could start dancing. I could run around and have a really good time, kind of in a carefree way that I had never been able to do. And probably I wasn't letting myself do it. And I needed that inhibition remover, in a way, to kind of find who I was, and my comfort level in life in a lot of ways. I just needed the freedom of, I let, literally let my hair down in a sense.
[01:04:55] Santiago: Hmm, yeah.
[01:04:56] Cherie: It was a big blowing off of steam and I don't think everybody needs to go through that or needed to, or, and a lot of people I know did not. But for me, it had to kind of be extreme to balance out and like, no, I don't hardly drink now. You know, but I had to go through this evolution, I think, and my friends did too, to find who we were as individuals and as our little community and where we fit into the greater scheme of the world.
[01:05:31] Again, using the analogy of a coat, we tried on all this stuff. We had to try it on to know if it fit us too. A lot of it was not smart or you know, and was very dangerous, literally. But we learned and it made us who we are as adults, and I'm grateful for every single drop of that.
[01:05:49] Santiago: Yeah, I think that's really important. And I'm sure a lot of people listening can probably relate, right? It's this, this idea of finding identity, trying to create an identity when you have lost your identity because of leaving the church. And I think that's something that I, myself, personally, am still working through and will probably continue working through for a while, and that's okay.
[01:06:16] But yeah, I, I gotta imagine for people, especially people who really, truly believed it into adulthood and now in adulthood are realizing, oh wait, I cannot believe this anymore. What do I believe and who am I without this or outside of this?
[01:06:36] I'm glad to hear that for you, even though yeah, it sounds like there were some winding trails here and there, that you're grateful for the experiences that you've had and that those experiences, good and bad, helped you land where you are today.
[01:06:52] Cherie: Oh, I wouldn't trade it. I mean, the, the heartaches and the pain and the, you know, all the, all the, all the growing up is important. Every single drop of it. But I would say going back to, you know, when you leave the church, your identity, who are you? I would say the church hands you your identity. In my growing up in my life, I was given an identity.
[01:07:17] It was put upon me. You are the good girl. You're a preacher's kid. You are an example to everyone else. You are a child of god. You better act, look, breathe, talk, eat it. And these, here's your beliefs. Here you go. Here's 10 books. This is what you believe.
[01:07:33] Santiago: Hmm.
[01:07:33] Cherie: Now live your life accordingly. I didn't create my own identity. No, it was given to me. So at 18, when I started deconstructing, I mean, I think identity is a lifelong process that I hope to live in my nineties and in my nineties, I hope I'm still defining who I am and learning new parts of who I am. That's the human journey. Our relationship with who we are and our body and all of that.
[01:07:58] But I really had to find it when I started to leave the church. And it's interesting, you know, using clothes as this analogy through this whole conversation, but for me it was very defined by clothes. Going back to the hippies, I wanted to dress like the hippies 'cause I loved their clothes. I mean, literally I filtered the world through that. That's just my personality and my interest level. I snuck jewelry in college. I made necklaces with watches so that I had jewelry I could wear and not get in trouble. I mean, it was all close to me. This, these were the years of goth and the beginning of grunge, right? And so we grunged out and we went to church, or we went to a school like that and nobody kicked us out. But some of the guys, when they started growing their hair long, they got in trouble.
[01:08:49] And there was only a few of us, but we stood out. And that was a vital soul level expression of my identity that I had to find. And I needed a physical display of my internal searching, to me. And I literally didn't care what anybody else thought. Like I was not trying to make a statement except a little bit within my community of friends.
[01:09:20] Like I wanted them to think I was cool, but other than that, I, it didn't matter to me. I just had this burning desire to figure out who I was. And clothing and hair and stuff was one huge tool, very organic tool that I used for that. So I feel bad for people who were peers of mine that deconstructed a few years later who didn't instantly find that tool, because it really helped me. And that was a safe way to do it. You know, drinking and all of that was not, but the clothing was a safe way to express.
[01:10:05] Santiago: Yeah and I think that's so important, this idea that there can be different tools for different people, right? So yeah, if anyone's listening and you're resonating with what Cherie just mentioned, then yeah, maybe give yourself permission to look into changing your wardrobe if that's something you're able to do and interested in doing. And if that's not a tool that resonates with you, music may be another tool for you.
[01:10:34] Cherie: I mean, music is a universal language. And mean, I would love to talk about body stuff now. So that was a perfect segue because when you grow up being told that your body is not yours, it belongs to God, and that any expression of it is God's and to his glory, and you have this body that is built for movement. I mean, if we don't move, we start to fall apart, right? Like everyone's telling us exercise more, right?
[01:11:04] We're not exercising enough because our bodies are built to move and here we're sedentary. But then if you grow up Sevvie, you're told you can move your body, but only in two or three different ways, right? So why do we have this so-called god designed, god-given body that we're not allowed to move to music?
[01:11:25] And of course, because dancing can be sexual. So you know, god forbid. But in general, dance is just an expression of emotion and movement to music. And ballet was okay growing up, right? We couldn't do ballet, but we could go see Baryshnikov dance because that was art, but it wasn't sexual.
[01:11:48] Santiago: I think you just touched on a really important distinction within, at least North America with Adventism, that things that are quote unquote from White culture were acceptable, but things that weren't, were to be suspect. That goes back to the whole thing of rock music, goes back to African music and it's tied in with "devil worship" and it's this foreign, scary object, so...
[01:12:16] Cherie: 'And music that comes from Black cultures makes you wanna shake your booty, and god forbid you do that.'
[01:12:22] [Laughing] I mean, seriously, it is that ridiculous, right? Like, like, bodies are meant to move and music, all different kinds of music make you want to, you just, you just enjoy it. It just feels good to move. And what is wrong with that?
[01:12:39] We have bodies with more than just five senses. We have spidey senses too that we don't even understand. We have bodies with bazillion nerve endings, and you can't tell me,
[01:12:54] if there's a god, that he meant to give us this beautiful place to live that is so capable of so many things: making music, writing, speaking, singing, dancing, sports, love, sexuality. All of these magnificent human things that are so rich and layered and satisfying and emotional and complicated and joyful and celebratory. That a god would've designed us like this and then told us, [claps] no, don't use it.
[01:13:36] Santiago: Hmm.
[01:13:37] Cherie: Why would he do that to us? How cruel is that? That is insanely cruel to me. So if he wanted us not to have a body... You know, another word that's hard for people is sensual, right? Why would he give us this insanely sensual body, and then tell us not to enjoy and use any of our senses for anything except just a couple things. Are you comfortable talking about real sexual stuff? [Laughing] Because I wanna make a point here.
[01:14:08] Santiago: Absolutely.
[01:14:10] Cherie: Okay. Women are fortunate enough to have an organ that is for no other reason, for pleasure in sex. Clitoris. There's no physical reason in the world, other than pleasure sensation, for us to have that. Why were we given that? Why did we evolve that? Well for procreation, right? Like, obviously this will encourage us to procreate because it might possibly feel good. That alone, that fact, and there's like 8,000 nerve endings in that little tiny body part that women have. You cannot convince me, on any planet, in any solar system, any universe, that that is not a blessing.
[01:14:52] Santiago: Absolutely. And we know that other species also have a clitoris. It's not just humans.
[01:15:00] Cherie: So we're given these bodies to live in, to inhabit fully, to really experience, in my worldview anyway, to their fullest. That doesn't mean we need to self harm, but we're here to experience our bodies. We have bodies to experience.
[01:15:20] Santiago: Yeah, I completely agree.
[01:15:21] Cherie: And so where this intersects with my work, I would say we are taught to not live in our bodies and that our bodies are problematic. For women, we're told our bodies, if we grow up in purity culture, we're told our bodies, just simply being born a woman is problematic for men and we must contain our bodies, cover them, manage them, manage them a certain way, in a particular narrow definition of what we should look like, do like, and be. 'Because men cannot manage themselves.'
[01:16:01] Santiago: Right, yeah. Which to me is just, I saw on Twitter the other day, I saw this great, what I thought is a fantastic comment, which is on the one hand, complementarian theology, which says, you know, men and women are equal in the sight of God, but they have different gifts and responsibilities.
[01:16:22] Basically, this "separate but equal" type of language. They were saying, if men are supposed to be these strong leaders, the representatives of God in the house, how are they also at the same time, so weak and incapable of controlling themselves that women have to cover themselves up in order to not cause them to stumble. And when I saw that, I was like, whoa, mic drop. Like, yeah, right?
[01:16:51] Cherie: Mic drop. So, both of us are losing.
[01:16:55] Santiago: Yeah.
[01:16:56] Cherie: Women are told to absolutely shrink ourselves. And physically be small, like literally be skinny, shrink yourself, so in all ways, condense and shrink yourself. And men, you're given way more leeway because "you can't control yourselves." But what that does is it sells you short too, because you can control yourselves, good grief. Everybody is human and can do that, right? I mean, unless you're a sociopath. But what that does is it pits us against each other.
[01:17:27] Santiago: Mm-hmm.
[01:17:28] Cherie: So it makes me afraid of men as a little child and a girl, and then a teen, and then a 20 year old, et cetera. It tells me that men have issues, number one, they have issues. They have problems. They can't be trusted because they can't manage their own bodies. Well, that's not a fair way to, to teach me to think of men. My best friends to this day are all men that I went to college with for the most part. I love men. I get along well with men.
[01:17:54] But we are told that. So then when you try to have relationships and you're, you know, and, and so then as a woman, I'm told I must be the moral compass for you. So of course that puts us on two sides of the, of, of the ball field, right? Like, are we even on the same team here? I don't know.
[01:18:12] Santiago: Hmm, exactly. And, and the other thing, the other challenge I see, and I grew up in this too, right, with a very heteronormative worldview. That's, that's why people, like people at the General Conference don't know what to do with anybody who doesn't fit that binary. And it's scary to, and I don't know if you've saw kind of what blew up on social media this week, but the Human Sexuality Task Force that was just announced, I mean...
[01:18:43] Cherie: Mind blown, mind blown, yeah.
[01:18:46] Santiago: Ugh.
[01:18:47] Cherie: I truly believe humans just like all of our spectrums, sexuality is just another one, and I accept all of it. And I do not have a problem with any, any of it. And I don't believe in shaming anyone at all for any experimenting or any way they need to find out who they are.
[01:19:07] Santiago: Mm-hmm.
[01:19:08] Cherie: I stand on that and I will go to the mat for anybody with that. And in this generation, they are so free. And anybody who thinks that is not human needs to look around, needs to take the Vaseline off their eyeballs and quit looking through the blur so they only see certain things. Because that's selling humanity short.
[01:19:33] Santiago: Yeah, I've talked before about this idea of left-handed people and...
[01:19:39] Cherie: Yes, I loved that, I heard that.
[01:19:41] Santiago: Yeah, and, and so that's something that's close to home for me. And you know, Melissa and I talked about that and I think it's important to use that analogy because there is kind of like you mentioned for your generation and I think many other generations, it is incomprehensible the level of freedom that some people have, right?
[01:20:02] Not everybody is in a family or an environment where they feel comfortable and free. But I do think that that is important that this idea that, you know, we've been so conditioned to think that heterosexuality and a gender binary is the way it is, because that's how it is.
[01:20:22] I'm following some biologists on YouTube who do a lot of science communication and science education, and come to find out even the basic high school biology that many of us were taught and many of us were raised in, when we talk about gametes and chromosomes, it's not nearly as simple as the high school biology that we got.
[01:20:46] And if you talk to anybody who has gone beyond introductory biology classes in high school or in college, they will tell you it's not nearly as simple as people make it out to be. And that's something that I just found out, I think within the last year or two. And so I agree. I think we are right now in 2023 and we have been for a couple of years, under an immense amount of technological and social change. So I empathize with the people who find it incredibly scary. I do, because I did too, at one point.
[01:21:19] Cherie: Mm-hmm, oh yeah, me too, totally.
[01:21:21] Santiago: As humans, we're used to labeling things, we try to simplify things, we create stereotypes for that reason. So I empathize with people who have a hard time wrapping their heads around that, and I'm still wrapping my head around it, right? But what I do know, like you said, is that this is something that is human and for us to try and "other" people who are going through this and who are figuring themselves out, that's only going to be damaging.
[01:21:47] Cherie: Oh, there's, I love the subject because it's, it's so crucial to who we are as, as a species. You know, I wasn't around little kids much until I had my own, and I'm thinking of one boy and one girl who were exactly my son's peers, and he absolutely preferred "girl toys." He wanted the, all the Barbie stuff. And he had all of the costumes from all of the Disney Princess movies, and I still know this child.
[01:22:28] I love him to death. He's fabulous and his preferences in what he wanted, talking about expression again, the way he expressed himself. And I first met him when he was four. This was him. And we all, we were good with it. None of his friends thought it was weird. And as parents, we, none of us thought it was weird, but we had to work at not thinking it was weird. Some of us, even me, and we talked about it a little bit, but we just, it's just who he was.
[01:23:02] And the little girl was the exact opposite. Like she dressed as a girl until she started picking her own clothes. She did not want to do the girl things. She hung out with my son and all of his buddies and she was this delicate little thing, and they were kind of rough sometimes, but she hung in there and she did all the legos with them and all of that, and she just liked what she liked. Who's gonna argue with that? In my day, it would've been converted because she was left-handed, like you said.
[01:23:40] And when I look at those two beautiful human beings who are intensely interesting, creative people, and I, I'm like, I look at them as, as if they're my own children, okay? How the hell would I impose my prejudice? Who would give me the right to squash their identity in what they like? How could I possibly be so self-righteous? That I would force her to wear girl clothes and say, no, you have to have Barbies and make him take Little Mermaid costume off and put him in a fireman costume. Why on earth would I force myself, 'cause that would be all about me and my ideas about things.
[01:24:28] It makes my stomach hurt to think that this is what has happened to people for millennia. Not in all cultures. Two-spirit people and everything have been revered in many other cultures, but not in this country. Well, not in this White country. And so when I look at it that way, as if these were my children, there is no way on any, any planet I can justify squashing them in that manner. That is criminal to me.
[01:25:04] Santiago: Yeah, like we talked about, if you let people be people, they are not going to necessarily always line up with your preconceived notions, and that is okay. And again, for anyone who may be listening who is in the middle of deconstruction or just recently deconstructed, you know, from Adventism, but is still deconstructing in other areas of their life, I would say I have empathy for you, I was there.
[01:25:27] Cherie: Yeah.
[01:25:28] Santiago: Keep learning, keep listening. If you can, make new friends and expose yourself to people who are outside of the bubble that you have been in, because that's something that really helped me get to the place where I am today. You know, I still have a, a lot of growing to do.
[01:25:45] Like you said, I hope that I am continuously learning and growing. Anyway, I don't wanna take us on too much more of a tangent because we, uh, we were starting to talk about your work. Um, I wanted to ask you about this program that you developed.
[01:26:02] Cherie: What I call generally the method that I approach, body image and weight loss with, I call it now, the High Satiety Method. It's a kind of a play on high society. Um, but not that they're not, it's not the same thing, but I just like the sound of it. But the word satiety, usually we attach that to food, like feeling satiated with your meal. And if you're a long-term disordered eater, you often don't know what that even is.
[01:26:31] Like, you don't know when you're full, you've, you're so disconnected from your body that you can't, you don't have a barometer for that. And actually, in some people, there is a physiological limitation with that too, where they literally can't feel fullness. So it's a method I've created by just congealing a whole bunch of things that I've studied and, and the certifications that I have and just many decades of wisdom and experimenting and, and, and doing it with other people.
[01:26:55] And, it's the premise that what we eat matters. We know it affects our gut biome, our emotions, everything. Yes it matters and it affects our health. There's no question about that. But when it comes to disordered eating, it is way beyond or way below, if you will, the food. The food is the top layer and we get stuck there and we obsess there because it's easy to fixate on. It's like in being a Sevvie, the rules are easy to fixate on, right?
[01:27:27] We're brought up with all the rules and we get stuck obsessing about whether you wear jewelry or not. Food, the food thing is where we get stuck, but underneath it is all of, like we were talking about before, hunger and desire and really the things that are missing in our lives and our ability to process the stress and strain and trauma and anxieties that we have as humans, and we all have them.
[01:27:56] We don't know what to do with them and they come out sideways in disordered eating and hatred and rejection of our bodies. And so I approach those two things, body image and weight, through the layers underneath. All boils down to, in my experience and what I've studied, sensuality and spirituality.
[01:28:23] We are as humans, heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit, right? Heart, mind, body, soul, and spirit. If we are only one or two of those things, we are not whole. So growing up Adventists, we are not allowed the body part. We're the temple of God. Our body is a temple, but only in a certain way. And we're not allowed to be embodied, meaning fully living in our bodies, humans.
[01:28:55] So we've got heart and soul and spirit. We're supposed to have lots of spirit because we're supposed to be spiritual. We don't even know what soul is. Heart, okay, we think that's emotion. And of course we know our mind. We're all supposed to be educated and you know, be good thinkers and doers and live in our head.
[01:29:16] Nobody's ever in perfect alignment in harmony, I don't think hardly ever. But we've got to at least have the pieces, so, I think underneath all in my experience and the way I approach it, is underneath the food pieces, the disordered stuff, dysfunctional stuff is a hole in our spirituality and our sensuality.
[01:29:41] We have to reclaim fully living in our bodies, our senses, all of our senses, live in them. Be comfortable in them, revel in them. And we've got to re-inhabit those places in order to function well with food. So in the High Satiety Method we get into, and I, I break it into all different kinds of programs. Where like right now we're starting in a week or two, one called Hunger, looking at kinds of hunger. Okay, we know we have physical hunger when our belly is growling and we're really actually, need food. But we hunger for connection. We hunger for love. We hunger for creativity. We hunger for expression. We hunger for sensuality. We hunger for spirit and soul activity. Things that nourish our entire heart, mind, body, soul, spirit.
[01:30:36] So reacquainting ourselves with those and maybe some of us have not even known all of those things about ourself. When we go there, we can find peace with food and learn to truly love our bodies and live comfortably in them. So that's the way I approach it and what I teach.
[01:30:57] And particularly for anyone listening that wants to do some of this work, and it doesn't have to be, you don't have to have food issues. It can be just about body or just about finding a greater level of satiety and comfort level in life. Sometime after this podcast, it'll be sometime probably in end of May, I'm gonna start a group coaching program. We're gonna go seven weeks called Your Body is Heaven.
[01:31:25] And when you hear that phrase, Your Body is Heaven, as an ex-Sevvie, you're, you probably recoil from like, from that, like what? You know that's sacrilege? Yeah, that's why I used it. Because like I've been saying, we're given this body that is so capable of so many lovely things, living fully in it, being fully embodied, enjoying our body is heaven on earth. We don't know if there's another heaven. We don't. It's the great mystery. So why don't we live fully in them?
[01:32:01] Heaven is our body. We're told, we're taught our body is a temple, but I am switching that to our body is heaven. So how do we live that way? What does that mean? How do we get to a level of satisfaction and joy, real joy in living as physical humans?
[01:32:24] Santiago: I love that concept because I've, I've talked about how, you know, we as Adventists, maybe some people had a slightly different experience, but as Adventists, we have been so focused on this idea of the second coming and things are going to be better in heaven. And many of us, not all of us, but many of us accepted things for the way that they were because this is sinful earth.
[01:32:52] It's the way it is. We have to deal with it. It's gonna be better one day. And you know, I, I wanna acknowledge that there are physical challenges, physical limitations that we have. There are mental challenges, mental health, mental limitations that we have. If we can as humans, make the most of the life that we have and that we know for a fact that we have, I agree. It's better to do that than to just assume that it's going to be better one day.
[01:33:25] Cherie: Thank you for making that distinction. That is a beautiful point. I'm glad you said that. Could I just add one other thing here?
[01:33:31] Santiago: Absolutely.
[01:33:32] Cherie: So if we don't do this, if we don't choose to try and live fully as physical humans, spiritual and, and soulful humans. The opposite of embodiment, and I know it's a trendy word, but the opposite of it is disembodiment.
[01:33:47] And when I talk about that, what disembodiment is basically believing that your body is evil and really doesn't belong to you and is somehow, you somehow need to disconnect from it, okay? And that's how we were brought up, right? At least as females in, in Sevvie culture.
[01:34:06] Disembodiment breaks your spirit. I'm gonna just say all this and people can come at me if they want to, but I think it's something to think about, at any rate. It breaks your spirit, it corrupts your soul, because it takes you out, your soul out of your body. It causes you to disrespect other people because you don't respect your own body.
[01:34:28] You don't know how to live in it. You're afraid of it. So why would you know, how would you know how to respect other bodies? So in that situation then, where do you think racism comes from? Where do you think homophobia comes from? We are rejecting our own bodies, so therefore we can't accept the bodies of other people.
[01:34:51] And if we're rejecting our bodies and don't believe that they are pure and good, and sacred and divine, really, in the way that we inhabit them and that we are allowed to live in them fully. This is victim mentality. We're a victim of this "sinful body." I don't wanna be a victim. And that also leads us to feel powerless on some level and look for external validation, external forms of authority, not our own sovereignty, because we don't even believe we have a right to our own body. We can't inhabit it.
[01:35:38] So, in my worldview to extrapolate this out, if we do not embody and do not claim and live in our heart, mind, body, soul, spirit, all of it, we are damaging to the rest of the humans on this planet inadvertently, if not, even through violence, racism, homophobia, otherism, you know, judgmentalism, all of that. So I think it is fundamental that we come back to thriving in, in a responsible way, of course. I mean, that's a whole nother ballgame, right? [Laughing]
[01:36:27] But do no harm, do no harm, right? But, but fully living as humans in human bodies, heart, mind, body, soul, spirit, I'm gonna say that again, is in my worldview, our obligation. That is what makes us a contribution on this planet. That is what makes us compassionate, empathetic, productive people on this planet. And if we are not, we fall easily, more easily into all of those inhumane things that humans are so capable of.
[01:37:08] Santiago: Yeah, yeah, I think that's really well said. And I think there's, you've, you've given me a lot to think about there. I, I have heard you know, this idea that racism on an individual level, right, from one person to another, with bigotry, with prejudice, in some ways does come from your own insecurities. Obviously there is a lot more to it. That is, you know, we don't have time to get into today and I'm definitely not an expert on that...
[01:37:40] Cherie: Mm-hmm.
[01:37:42] Santiago: I think you hit the nail on the head that that is absolutely a component of that and othering in general, and I'm, I'm really glad you touched on that.
[01:37:52] Cherie: Well, Santiago, if my body is "other" even, right?
[01:37:56] Santiago: Mm-hmm.
[01:37:57] Cherie: How can I not "other" other people? If I don't accept my humanity,
[01:38:02] how can I possibly accept your humanity? Especially if you don't look like me.
[01:38:08] Santiago: Yeah, yeah. That's so important.
[01:38:12] Cherie: I'm so glad you have this podcast because we've got to be talking about this stuff. We've got to. Humans will not pull together and start treating each other well if we don't start talking about these things that are scary and ugly and, and confrontational, right?
[01:38:28] Santiago: Yeah, 100%. For anyone who's listening who has been resonating with what you're saying and thinks that this program might be, just the thing that they've been looking for, I'm going to include links in the show notes so that they can go check it out.
[01:38:44] Cherie: Awesome. So Your Body is Heaven. We're gonna start sometime in May. I don't know when yet, but I am mostly on Instagram. A L C H E M Y 1.0, and it's zero like the numeral zero. That's my Instagram and that's where I reside. And I post videos practically every day on all of these subjects. And you can DM me through that. I do not have fancy websites and all of that yet.
[01:39:14] And my promo code to anyone listening who wants to join any of my programs, but, the
[01:39:20] Body is Heaven, I think would be the most interesting one for us to start with, and I, I really, it's super affordable and I really hope that you will bring your experience and wisdom into this because we, this is community work here. This is about the soul of community. And the promo code is "Hell"!
[01:39:38] Both: [Laughing]
[01:39:40] Cherie: Remember on your digital calculator, so whatever the numbers, if you put it in and then upside down, it spells hell. And that was like so naughty in school.
[01:39:50] Both: [Laughing]
[01:39:50] Cherie: So DM me with the promo code "Hell" and you get an extra 90 minute one-on-one call with me and we can go through whatever, whatever is weighing on you that you want to talk about and maybe process and hopefully work your way out of a little.
[01:40:09] Santiago: Awesome. Well, Cherie, thank you so much for sharing all of your insights, for making this available to everyone listening. It's been great hearing how your journey has taken you to a place where you are comfortable in your own body. I think for a lot of people, sometimes that is not the case. All of the other things you've shared, being able to raise kids outside of the Adventist system. There's just so much that we could have talked about and probably can, uh, again at some point. So, love to chat again at some point.
[01:40:43] Cherie: Thank you. This has been super enjoyable. Your questions are well thought out and oh, we've just, we've got a long way to go, don't we? All of us.
[01:40:54] Santiago: Yeah. I am hopeful though. I am cautiously optimistic.
[01:40:58] Cherie: Oh, a hundred percent, hundred percent.
Haystacks & Hell Outro
[01:41:01] Santiago: Thanks for listening. If you have a story to share about your Adventist or fundamentalist experience, we'd love to hear it. You can submit stories on our website at hell.bio (that's H E L L dot B I O)
[01:41:17] or leave us a voicemail at 301-750-8648 and we might feature it in a future episode. Thanks again for listening. We'll see you on the next one!