friday find: august 30

fridays are for sharing! here’s something I liked this week…

This week, I stumbled onto 4700 words of interesting. “The obesity era” is David Berreby’s take on the way the world looks at the obesity epidemic for Aeon magazine.

In my opinion, it’s good to read things that stretch you – either because they suggest new ideas to you or because they present the opposite side of a thing you’ve taken a perspective on. Check and check. I definitely read about some new things in this one (from marmosets and macaques and mice and domestic animals paralleling the trend in rising obesity to alternative theories on what’s behind the obesity epidemic) and I certainly was challenged.

I am a firm believer that personal responsibility is a big factor in obesity, though I do think there are forces that make it harder for some people to take personal responsibility for it than others (mostly social). The article got particularly interesting when Berreby touched on a theory that suggests that we should toss out the personal responsibility perspective and look at finding an economic system that would make nutritious food accessible to everyone. The questions that brought up for me are numerous, but I particularly question who would decide what nutritious looks like? And how this food system in an alternative economic system would look?

Even though there were parts of this piece that I didn’t entirely agree with, I do think it’s worth considering the message Berreby’s trying to get across:

“And so the authorities tell us, ever more loudly, that we are fat — disgustingly, world-threateningly fat. We must take ourselves in hand and address our weakness. After all, it’s obvious who is to blame for this frightening global blanket of lipids: it’s us, choosing over and over again, billions of times a day, to eat too much and exercise too little. What else could it be? If you’re overweight, it must be because you are not saying no to sweets and fast food and fried potatoes. It’s because you take elevators and cars and golf carts where your forebears nobly strained their thighs and calves. How could you do this to yourself, and to society?”

What do you think of the obesity epidemic?
Have you heard of alternative theories on obesity?

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think about it: miley’s a person

here’s a thinker…

One thing I like a lot about the CrossFit world and the lifting world in general is that, at least in large part, there’s an emphasis on what you can do and not what you look like. As an extension of this, I’ve seen more the acceptance and even celebration of a wider range of bodies.

The lifting world, however, has a kind of body shaming of its own that really irked me last week. I might live under a rock and I may have needed to do a little backtracking to figure out why Miley Cyrus was all over my facebook feed, but I know enough to know that these pictures (I took them all from the same page I follow and often giggle at) rubbed me the wrong way.

miley 4 miley 3 miley 2 miley

When did it become okay to judge someone for not having the body of someone who squats? It seems like we’ve taken this “Strong is the New Skinny” thing to the next level, the one where we have left the old ideal in the dust. Great–we aren’t telling girls that they should be skinny any more. But we are just subbing in a new unattainable ideal for the old one and the issue remains that we have one “good” body type that we celebrate and the rest of them are made wrong.

Body shaming is body shaming, whether you’re shaming someone for being fat, skinny, or something in between. Shaming is shaming, whether you’re shaming someone for being a certain size, a certain race, a certain religion, a certain whatever.

Suddenly, posting or sharing what seems like a “funny” picture of Miley’s butt doesn’t seem so funny. It seems like a big deal, because it is.

Keep in mind that Miley Cyrus is a person, not her butt.  Think about how often we take a portion of a (normally female) body and show it on it’s own and how that affects the way that we think about bodies (our own and others). Celebrities might have thick skin, but I can’t see being too thrilled about having your butt pasted next to a chicken bum. What about the girls who aren’t celebrities who are subjected to this kind of thing?

hot dog legs

I take issue with the ways that we remove parts of the bodies of girls and turn them into objects because I think it’s damaging to the way we look at (women’s) bodies. I also take personal offence to these pictures: those girls are probably not feeling very good about their hot dogs.

Just like people who are skinny aren’t better than people who are fat, people who have bodies that look like they lift weights (this is about image, and I know some people who lift weights who don’t look like “after” pictures, myself included) are not better than anyone else. It’s easy to make someone else wrong in order to make ourselves right, but that’s not the route to leaving anyone feeling good in the long run.

Miley’s (imperfect) butt? Not a big deal.

These pictures? Definitely a big deal.

What do you think when you see these kinds of pictures? Are you guilty of sharing them?

food for thought: better

I write an article here or there for Canadian Cycling Magazine. Last year, when I was dabbling in vegetarianism, I pitched and wrote an article about going meatless as a cyclist.  Later, I wrote an article about a paleo diet for cyclists. From coaches to dietitians to athletes themselves, I found sources to comment on the practicality, the health effects, and the performance effects of the diets.

Both diets fared pretty favourably, though there were quite a few people willing to tell me that the paleo diet was too restrictive and a trend and none willing to suggest that cutting out meat was particularly risky.

This brings me to a point not about my journalism skills (?) but to a question: is one of these diets better than the other? 

To attempt to answer this questions brings up a list of a couple key questions:

  • What would make one approach better?
  • Who gets to define if “better” means living a longer life vs. biking faster vs. looking better in your bikini?
  • Once the definition of “better” exists and is agreed upon, is it universal?
  • Are we all made the same way and should we all eat the same thing?
  • If that’s the case, how about if you don’t agree with eating meat…Is it better to feel shitty for not eating the perfect diet or to feel shitty for going against your beliefs/values regarding eating meat?

What if you just didn’t have to feel shitty about what you’re eating, plain and simple?

Here’s a novel idea: don’t worry about it so much.

The stress of stressing over whether your diet is perfect or not is bad for you on a mental, physical, and emotional level. I don’t know which diet is better for you, but I do know that it’s up to each of us to figure out which is and that the answer won’t come from a book or an expert. Finding what’s healthiest isn’t about following someone else’s rules–even if it ends up looking like a vegetarian diet or a paleo diet or a raw food diet or a whatever diet. You’ll know you’ve got it when you feel good on all your levels: physical, mental, and emotional. And that’s the kind of healthy that you deserve.

I am going to point you towards one expert who I think does a great job of presenting information about food with style. This video of Michael Pollan is just one that I keep bookmarked–he talks about nutritionism and the way we look at food with ideas about what might make for a good alternative.

What is your perfect diet? 
What’s a “healthy” food that just doesn’t agree with you? Do you still eat it?

on the right foot: questions and appreciation

a life lesson, a coaching gem, some insight from my own experiences, a question to get you thinking–what better day than monday for a positive post?

So, I have myself a stress fracture.

Whomp whomp.

meme

The doctor’s orders are as follows: Take 4 to 6 weeks off of anything weight bearing. If it hurts to walk, I’m supposed to use crutches. I might be in denial, but I think it’s starting to get better. When I don’t have pain, ease back into activity (starting with 30 seconds of running alternating with 4.5 minutes of walking for 30 minutes total). Eat a healthy diet to promote healing. Don’t throw a shit fit.

I added that last part, but it’s mostly a joke. I threw myself a one evening pity party (in the form of crying for a bit, blogging, reading magazines, and ignoring my cell phone) and then decided that it was time to call in my appreciator, which I introduced in a post last month.

Coaching yourself can sometimes be a lost cause, but I did come up with some questions to help me move from the “my life is over” perspective into a more empowering place. Naturally, I included my word vomit insight.

What’s the gift in this situation? or What’s possible as a result of this situation?

I’m going back to school in approximately a week, which means that the more time I have to get my shit together organized, the better. On that note, not being able to work out as much as I’d like to (I can’t fathom swimming as often as I’ve been going to CrossFit, doing yoga, running, and biking, etc.) means I’ll need to find other ways to use my energy and other ways to fill myself up (exercise is my happy time). On my list of options? Journaling, reading, baking, cooking, writing letters and cards to friends, making a vision board, learning to knit (attempt #4) and playing my violin.

Another gift is a break from training that will give me the time to reassess where I’m at. This summer was a whirlwind in terms of what I was training for and how I was exercising—from CrossFit to soccer to yoga to running to kind of training for triathlon to going on my Outward Bound trip—and to be honest I’m a bit overwhelmed with what I should be doing and more importantly, what I want to do. This is sort of like a chance to start over. I very well might come back and instead of trying to maintain 20 different activities just be able to add in the ones that I really want to.

Getting hurt and being out of the gym also provided me with the insight that I wrote about last week in terms of looking at my self esteem in a different way–and that’s a pretty big deal!

The timing’s also something I’m grateful for—thank goodness this didn’t happen before my trip to North Carolina, which would probably have meant I couldn’t go.

What’s the lesson in this situation?

I’m learning that my body can only take so much and that overdoing it will eventually wear me down. I have managed to stay pretty lucky in regards to injuries even when I was exercising compulsively, but this is a big reminder to take care of myself. Along with making sure that I’m training in a healthy and sustainable way, this is a really good time to make sure I’m giving my body the nutrition it needs.

Who can I become as a result of this situation?

I’m becoming a cranky bitch for the next 6 weeks smarter athlete. I’m becoming more patient. I’m developing an appreciation for the ability of my body to heal. I’m becoming a stronger person mentally and emotionally. I’m becoming more dedicated to taking care of myself.

This is the kind of work that helps me get through things that bum me out and is the fastest way for me to start to get over it and see the bigger picture. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, 4 to 6 weeks is not a big deal, even if I am bummed that I can’t do Tough Mudder. In reality, this is a little thing–stress fractures suck but they heal on their own.

this too shall pass

I saw a woman in a wheelchair not too long after I left the doctor–instant perspective. I spent the weekend with friends who I haven’t seen as much of as I’d like to this summer because a friend of mine received health news last week that reminded me that we can’t take our health for granted and that life isn’t always fair and health doesn’t always make sense.

And if self coaching myself with some powerful questions doesn’t work, I’ve always got music that kind of goes with the theme.

Have you ever had a stress fracture?
How do you deal with things that bum you out?

friday find: august 23

fridays are for sharing

Last week, I was lucky enough to stumble onto a little post, “Shockingly Stupid Advice: How Cosmopolitan Magazine is Misleading a Generation of Young Women” on theunlost.com, which is a good spot in general to get sucked into. Since I have a magazine up my butt get riled up sometimes when I read things in the media, this post is one I’m happy to share, because I think it raises a really good point while poking a little fun at Cosmo’s tendency to equate success with winning the sexual favour of a guy:

“…is THE purpose of life really to attract a guy? Are our lives really incomplete unless every single one of our decisions, from our choices in clothes & makeup to the way we carry ourselves to the things we do on Facebook, are based on the “What Would A Guy Think” school of thought?

And besides that, are shimmery cleavage and sultry bedroom eyes really the key to attracting lasting love?

Just a thought, but maybe we should be focusing our efforts elsewhere.

But then why doesn’t anyone in the mainstream media send out that message?”

And then the author gets real about what that message might be, going on to change an article from the magazine to fit what she thinks (and I agree) is a better message to send out. In summary, to focus on being awesome instead.

Amen to that!

What message do you wish magazines would send out?
Do you read Cosmo or any other magazines regularly? What are you reading for?

think about it: perspectives on self esteem

On my plane ride home last week, I picked up the latest issue of Scientific American Mind (yes, I am this nerdy). In it was one article (you can read part of it online) entitled “Self Esteem Can Be an Ego Trap,” which got me thinking. The gist of the article is, as the summary says:

  • “Having high self-esteem has a few modest benefits, but it can produce problems and is mostly irrelevant for success.
  • The pursuit of self-esteem through a focus on greatness makes us emotionally vulnerable to life’s disappointments—and can even lower our chances of success.”

Fair enough. Something that I’ve done a lot of thinking, reading, and writing about is self esteem and how to improve it. The first limiting the belief where I had a “holy shit, no wonder things are like this” moment was one around not being good enough–a red flag that my self esteem needed some work. For the last while, I’ve told myself that self esteem comes from being successful at things that challenge us. I can remember deciding that I needed to start proving to myself that I can achieve things in order to build up my self esteem.

I’m starting to reconsider that perspective.

Red flag: proving.

Truth: Self worth is inherent. You deserve to feel good about yourself whether you get out of bed and put pants on in the morning or not. This is an idea I keep coming back to and one that I remind myself and others of regularly. 

If you read my post on Monday, you might remember that I’ve been trying to rest and figure out a foot injury since the beginning of the month. Turns out it’s a stress fracture. If you know me at all, you know that sitting still isn’t my forte and that I like to do lots of things that involve sweating and using my foot. Naturally, not being able to do them is a big ol’ bummer.

But beyond just being disappointed that I can’t run or do yoga or CrossFit or whatever the way I’d like to, I’ve also noticed something bigger going on with my emotions in the midst of all this: I’m feeling worthless (or at least not optimally worthy). It looks like this: not thinking that I “deserve” to eat dessert since I’m not working out, not feeling like I’ve accomplished enough in a day and thinking that since I can’t work out, I should be way more productive, not bothering to take care of myself in other ways (putting off things like painting my chipped nails or folding my laundry, etc.). It feels like this: crappy. And that old perspective on self esteem is what was driving the whole mess.

Realizing that I’d like to feel good about myself regardless of whether or not I’m succeeding or failing is kind of a big deal. Great success requires being brave enough to take on challenges. What comes with taking on challenges is failure. When we’re striving for a new level, we’re stretching ourselves. If we’re not failing, we’re not trying hard enough. If I want to be excellent, there’s no room for letting my failures (or successes) dictate how I feel about myself at the core.

Like the article says, self esteem based on success is fragile. I’d also argue that if your self esteem is situational, it can be fleeting. I wrote about how we can get caught up in if only thinking and chase one thing after the next after the next to no end in that post on Monday–and the same thing applies here. From one thing to the next, when will it be enough?

The article has its own suggestions about what a better option for building self esteem might be, namely compassion: “Compassion, along with a less self-centered perspective, can motivate us to achieve while helping us weather bad news, learn from our mistakes and fortify our friendships.” While I don’t think there’s anything wrong with focusing on yourself or putting yourself first, I think this suggestion is just a nicer way to tell people to get over themselves, which sounds like a good first step. The article also points to using values instead of failure and success as a way to measure our worth. I agree wholeheartedly and think that the best way to look at this all is to consider the question, in true coactive coaching style, “who am I being?”

If we are in touch with our values and what we stand for in the world, we have a way of measuring how we’re doing–and good way to build up our self esteem. Sure, we might still see ourselves in negative light, but if we’re disappointed with ourselves for failing to honour a value, that’s the kind of feedback that we need in order to course correct and become a more fully expressed version of our most authentic self.

yup yup

I’m aware that this might be “out there” for some people. We tend to focus on the doing (the “active” in “coactive”) but in this situation, a little shift back to the being (“co”) is worth a shot.  Being asked who you’re being in the world can be different. Thinking about who you want to be in the world can be revolutionary.

What do you base self esteem on?
Who do you want to be in the world?

food for thought: eyes on your own plate

“food for thought” posts are my chance to share an opinion, an insight, or something to do with food–think nutrition, emotional eating, a recipe, you name it

It’s come to my attention lately the strange way in which people feel entirely comfortable commenting on what other people eat (or don’t eat). This can look like “innocent” comments, attempting to get everyone on a bandwagon, poking fun at people who don’t share dietary preferences, etc. And while it’s kind of fun to make tofurkey jokes about vegetarians and bacon comments about paleo folks, if those jokes or comments carry judgement, the fun’s done. And I’m starting to think seriously about what it means to be invested in what’s on someone else’s plate.

I saw an article from a few weeks ago in metro entitled “Prepare to meat the enemy: London vegans say no to ribfest.” The article was about a group lobbying for people to go vegan with them–outside of ribfest.

What’s wrong with people telling other people what to eat?

Today, everyone’s an expert (thank you, interwebs). From dietitians (who lots of people don’t trust given that the government’s food guide isn’t always favourably viewed) to personal trainers to bloggers, everyone has an idea about what you should be eating*. And for the most part, that idea is what they’re eating.

But the mark of someone who has it together is that they’re okay with not even trying to convince you to join their camp. The vegetarian who can hang out with a carnivore without worrying about converting them has to be confident that they’re doing what’s right for them to the point that it really doesn’t matter what their dinner date does (and vice versa). It seems to me that when we’re trying to get someone to join our side of things, it has more to do with us than it does with them.

When I’m talking about we, I’m really talking about me. When I’m certain of what I’m doing, I don’t get in arguments over whether or not eating this or that is healthy–I just go about my business.  But I catch myself trying to convince the people around me that my way is the right way when I’m doubting myself, which leads to arguments and more second-guessing and certainly not an ideal outcome. I’m learning to catch myself in the moment and to check in with what’s really going on before getting into nutrition debates or offering someone a resource, however important or convincing I might think it is.

Even if we think we’re helping someone (like wanting a loved one to be informed), it’s still a good idea to watch ourselves. A few years ago, a friend of mine (innocently) posted a link to the kashi/GMO scandal on my facebook page.

kashi gmo

While her intentions were likely good  (assuming she thinks that GMOs are unhealthy and has my health in mind), I got really upset by the photo. I can remember crying and needing to talk it out with my mom, all because of the timing. I was in the midst of therapy and working with a dietitian to deal with my eating disorder, and I’d just gotten to the point where I’d started eating snacks again. Carbs–particularly things like crackers and granola bars–were one of the hardest things for me to add to my meal plan, but I was finally starting to feel comfortable eating granola bars. My meal plan had a consistent afternoon snack that involved a granola bar or cereal–and the only brand I ever bought was Kashi. Finally at a place where I wasn’t obsessing over every single morsel of food I put (or didn’t put) into my body, the picture–and the thought that what I was doing in the pursuit of recovery and health might be harmful–shook the crap out of me. It took me a while to recover from the whole experience, reinforcing the importance of being mindful of what we say when it comes to food.

In summary, what I eat is my business. What you eat is yours. If we start caring about each others, it’s really not about the food.

Do you comment on other people’s food choices?

*This isn’t the same as calling people out who dish out advice. With all the confusion over what to eat, there is a need for people who know what they’re talking about to offer the information they have–to people who want it. Unsolicited advice, however, is a different story.

on the right foot: if only…

a life lesson, a coaching gem, a question to get you thinking–what better day than monday for a positive post?

A six pack.
A boyfriend.
An expensive car.
No more debt.

What am I talking about?

These are all ways to finish the “I’ll be happy when…” thought I know we all think sometimes.

Last week, I was on a lovely vacation with my family in the mountains of BC.

photo-12

We were pretty busy but not busy enough to stop me from getting into my head one too many times and catching myself thinking those kinds of “if only…” thoughts.

These family vacations are annual occurrences and they always involve beautiful places, lots of good food, quality time, and me getting spoiled. Two years ago, I was on one and can remember thinking how even though it was pretty darn good, it would be better if only I had company of the male persuasion.

This time around, I’ve got the company of the best boyfriend a girl could ask for, but the if only thoughts still crept in, this time around if only I could run or hike (I’m dealing with a foot injury that’s slowing me way down) and if only I had a “better” body.

happy

But this time around, I’m calling bullshit.

If you’re in the habit of finding and focusing on what’s missing, you’re missing out on what’s really here. Getting into the trap of if only thinking is a sure way to feel like things aren’t, like you’re not, like your life isn’t…good enough.

And that’s a crappy place to be.

When we tell ourselves we’re not/things aren’t good enough—like we do when we start the if only tape in our heads—of course we’re going to feel bad.

Need an example?

Lucky for you, I’ve got the real life situation that inspired this post for just that.

Last week, I had the option of focusing on not being able to run/hike on my vacation, which inevitably upset me and made me cranky, which of course made me bad company and took away from the trip. Alternatively, I had the option of focusing on the quality time I was spending with my family, the other things I could enjoy on the trip (rope swings require very little use of a sore foot, for the record), which was a much cheerier way to look at things.

sisters

rope swing

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get down in the dumps a bit last week (before coming to this conclusion of course) or that switching the perspective was easy or natural. But difficult as it was, it did feel good. Rather than focusing on what’s missing, shifting to gratitude and appreciation for what’s present is a recipe for feeling content and blessed.

I’m going to sum this one up in the words of Oprah (and you know this woman’s got it figured out), “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never have enough.”

A reminder to go along with this post is that we can’t find happiness in things. That car, that six pack, that whatever isn’t the route to a good life. Once we get whatever it is we’re after, we will just replace it with another thing to chase. Want off the hamster wheel? The trick is to enjoy and appreciate where we’re at and what we have, even while we move forward in our lives.

happiness

The next time you catch yourself tuning into the if only channel, I challenge you to ask yourself a few questions: What can you appreciate about where you’re at? What would open up for you if things/you were good enough?*

*Accepting that we’re “good enough” can be scary because it can sometimes be wrongly regarded as “giving up.” In truth, acceptance doesn’t mean that we won’t try to improve ourselves or our situations. Instead, it lets us feel good about ourselves while we make those improvements.