on the right foot: books that made me think

While my reading as of late has been largely academic papers–thank you, grad school–I rank books with food and shelter when it comes to basic necessities. Books I’ve read have shaped and reshaped my perspectives on the world and today I want to share some of the books that really made me think and reconsider the way I live my life–the “books that made a difference,” to steal a term from Oprah magazine (which will come up a lot in this post)…

This book taught me that there’s more to life than an eating disorder and there’s so much life beyond recovery. Rather than being terrified at the prospect of life without my eating disorder to help you cope, this book helped me get excited about the kind of life I’d get to create after recovery. Jenni Schaefer writes in a personal way that makes me feel almost like a close friend or a sister is giving me advice—she’s gentle, authentic, and honest in her writing.

Whether or not the advice in the book is bang on to what diet you identify yourself with (if you’re still on that train), the message of this book is about fueling yourself for your performance goals, whatever they might be. With the perspective of food as a good thing—calories as something to be utilized and nutrition as a focus—I read this book when I really needed to. Nancy Clark touches on the silly ways people try to lose weight (burning the pounds off on the treadmill and starving themselves), exercise obsession, the female athlete triad, and eating disorders and she includes some pretty tasty (and simple) recipes at the end of the book. She made me want to be a dietitian to promote this same sane approach to eating, especially in athletes, and remains an inspiration for standing for health–not just aesthetics–when it comes to training and nutrition.

It might be cliché to list this as one of your favourite books, but I can remember reading about it in an issue of Oprah magazine and I went out and bought it in hardcover. It was the first memoir I can remember reading and since then, I hardly read anything but. I connected to the story and the writing and realized that writing about personal experience is pretty powerful stuff—a lesson that’s stuck with me and had a big influence on how much I write and share and what I want to do with my life.

This is a pretty random book that I read when I was in high school. It was one of the first non-fiction books I read and I really liked how the author took science information that would otherwise be inaccessible to me (in journals that I didn’t know existed written in language I wouldn’t be able to decipher) and made it comprehensible—and interesting—for me. Now I eat this stuff up and realize that it takes a certain kind of writer to be able to make a story out of science.

This book was, dare I say it, life changing. It was the first food book I read that wasn’t a diet book and I still come back to the suggestions that Michael Pollan makes in it. I was most impressed with his meshing of science and personal experience and the book challenged me, as a dieting and calorie-obsessed teenager, to entertain the notion that there were other things that could make food “good” or “bad” and to drive my food choices.

Brene Brown’s TEDtalks are amazing—the stuff she talks about is powerful and it’s exactly what she covers in her books. Daring Greatly made me think about the way I’m living and the beliefs I have and is one of those books I never seem to see because I’m always recommending it and lending it to friends.

Geneen Roth’s books are all amazing, but the first one that I read was Women, Food, and God (another recommendation I found in an issue of Oprah, interestingly enough) and while I wouldn’t have believed food and my relationship with my body was remotely profound or spiritual before I read the book, I remember dog earing so many pages talking about eating and our beliefs about ourselves and the world. I’d list Roth as one of my favourite authors—I get sucked into her books because they read almost like poetry and because her experience resonates so much with me.

That would make up a top notch shelf, on my bookcase! Which will look like this…

books 2Or this…

booksOrrrrr maybe this…books 2

What are the books that made a difference to you?
Have you read any of these books? Did they have any impact on you?

Advertisements

weekend wrap: healthy, happy, homecoming

Another week down! It’s hard to believe that next week will be October. Luckily, I loveeeee fall and am pretty happy with the changing weather and leaves and the fact that Christmas is coming (ha!). Here’s what I’m feeling particularly thankful for this week…

  • This guy. Again.

this guy

  • Board games. I won my first game of Settlers this week and I am officially nerdy.

catan

  • The beautiful fall weather. Homecoming was beautiful and I also got out to enjoy a beauty 45km bicycle ride with Angela on Friday afternoon.
  • Britney.
  • Sweatpants. ‘nough said. 
  • Vanilla bean ice cream. 

What are you grateful for this week?

friday find: september 27

The article I want to share this week isn’t really new, but I re-read it this week and it had a newfound impact on me compared with the first time I read it.  “What do you really want? When what you want and how you train don’t match” is a piece about getting real about your goals and the actions you’re taking towards them. Gems:

  • “All the experts are right and all the experts are wrong.” It’s sort of like finding evidence to support either side of an argument–there are educated, smart people out there who will tell you to do this and educated, smart people who will tell you to do the exact opposite. What’s important is what you’re trying to do.  
  • “You can’t be all things at once – certainly not a better distance runner and a better deadlifter at the same time – and you will only frustrate yourself trying.”  The CrossFit sentiment of “fitness is a compromise” comes to mind–when we want to be the best/master one thing, we compromise another.  
  • “Give yourself permission to want what you really want.” I especially liked this because I think it’s really easy to be embarrassed about your goal (Is wanting to lose weight vain? Is wanting to be strong weird? Is wanting to be healthy not hardcore enough? Is wanting to run marathons bad for you?) because of those experts who want to convince us that what they’re promoting is right. 

I also liked the reminder from the article to have goals, consciously hold them, and to make them meaningful to you. There’s no use setting the goals you think you “should” and there’s only frustration in trying to do all kinds of things at once. Getting clear about what you do want is the first step. I was on the goal train last week when I wrote a fitness column for the gazette, which might be helpful (or just gives me an opportunity to splash my own face and self promote my work on my blog)…

Screen Shot 2013-09-24 at 8.44.13 AM

At any rate, I am using the article as a wake up call to really think about the goals I’m setting for myself and whether or not they truly resonate with me.

I’m interested in what you thought of the article on “Breaking Muscle” and in the goals you’re working towards. I’d love to hear your insight on the great questions that the article asks!  I’d also welcome compliments on my beauty head shot. 

think about it: fat and sick, but not the way you might think

This weekend, I was roaming around the interwebs and came across an interesting article on the Today Show website. The piece, “The 200-pound anorexic: Obese teens at risk for disorder, but it’s often unrecognized,”  raised something important: the idea that the advice we give people in the name of “health” should actually be about health, not about losing weight or body fat or whatever other goal we can mix up with the pursuit of this thing we call health.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I take issue with some of the things I see in popular culture about weight loss. I get sucked into The Biggest Loser and other TV shows that sensationalize weight loss (Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp, X Factor, etc.) but my interest has slowly shifted to being curious about the things they normalize and the messages they send, intentional or not. A question I like to ask myself is whether or not the advice we give to those people or even the things that we celebrate as achievements for them are healthy across the board. Is moving away from one’s family in order to pursue weight loss, exercising for hours upon hours a day, and losing drastic amounts of weight in a short time something we should be showcasing as victory and achievement? Would we tell someone who was looking to get healthy but didn’t have hundreds of pounds to lose that they should do the same? If the weight is a byproduct of the contestants’ unhealthy habits, what would happen if we focused on building healthy habits? Right or wrong, my hunch is that the people would get healthy but the ratings would suck.

bl

Around the question about the advice we give to “fat” people, we need to examine the way we look at “fat” and at what we take it to represent. Given the current focus on fighting the obesity epidemic, it’s no wonder that when we think fat, we don’t think very nice things (lazy, gluttonous, out of control, sick, wrong, etc.). Fat doesn’t just represent the physical, it signifies a lot more. It’s a disease that we need to fight. It means something about people as people–their moral worth, their self control, who they are as a person. Talking about the obesity epidemic, referring to the war on fat, and the other language we commonly use around weight can be so misleading, something the Today Show piece touched on:

“Taken too far, the anti-obesity movement can mean focusing on thin versus fat, instead of healthy versus unhealthy, which can trigger disordered eating behaviors in some children…“

The implications of making fat a disease and a medical issue are big:

“…what happens is (pediatricians) are so distracted by their perceived responsibility to prevent obesity in their patients that they’re like, ‘Oh, this is great, you’re losing weight,’ and they don’t ask, ‘Well, how are you losing weight?’”

Similarly, after restricting for years and then starting to binge and purge (and gain weight), I can remember feeling ignored and like my unhealthy habits didn’t matter given that I was at a “healthy” (or slightly overweight) weight. Rather than investigating what was going on with me, I felt like my doctor ignored me and reinforced my silly belief that I didn’t deserve help–I wasn’t “disordered” enough because I was nowhere near fitting the picture of the struggling anorexic.

Think about it:

Would the same advice given to an anorexic be troubling? Because then we shouldn’t be giving it.not everyone who has an e d looks emaciated. That girl could be puking. Don’t ask immediately if there’s something they could be doing “Wrong” or think that they need to “try harder” – just because they look “okay” doesn’t mean that they are.

I’ve heard people talk about fat people and say things like, “At what point do you just stop eating?” I think the Today Show article makes it clear that this isn’t okay. Like it says, the symptoms of overweight or obese individuals with disordered eating habits (whether they fit the criteria for an eating disorder or not) often go “unrecognized and untreated,” but I also think they go “unrespected.” Even knowing that someone is struggling with some pretty unhealthy habits, I think it’s easier for people to dismiss them when someone doesn’t look like they’re sick.  I think this has to do with just how deeply ingrained our ideas about what a fat person must be like are, and I think it’s time we started to look at the thin = healthy (and a list of positive attributes) and fat = unhealthy (and a list of negative attributes) association we make.

What do you think when you see a fat person? A thin person?
Where do you think the associations you make come from?
Do you think it’s possible to look at body size from a different perspective? What do you think it would take?
What’s your stance on the anti-obesity fight?
Do you equate losing weight with gaining health, necessarily? 

 

food for thought: paralysis by plate

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

Look at this plate (or not, I’m trying not to be so bossy)…

20130919-223136.jpg

What do you think?

This is my dinner–and it’s pretty standard by way of what happens on my plate on a regular basis.

I wish I could leave my own judgment at “This isn’t instagram worthy,” but unfortunately, now and again (and again), I enter into a mental battle with myself over the things I put on my plate.

In regards to that particular plate, which looks innocent enough, a laundry list of questions came up:
-am I eating enough carbs now that I am swimming 2x a week and spinning 3?
-should these potatoes be sweet potatoes?
-is it okay that I’m eating the dark meat and some of the skin of this chicken?
-am I getting enough protein since I’m still lifting things a few times a week too?
-should I be eating this chicken when even though I paid twice as much for it because it’s free range and organic I still think it probably ate a crappy diet and wasn’t the happiest chicken out there?
-should I be eating more chicken when I already ate it at lunch? am I eating too much meat?
-should I be concerned that these potatoes were probably roasted in vegetable oils? Or in olive oil that was heated high enough that I might as be eating potato chips?
-should I be eating this many carbs at night?
-does this fit my macros?
-should I skip the butter since my raw, grassfed butter went bad last week and I’m stuck with a stick I bought at the grocery store?
-should I be concerned that these grapes are from further away than I’ve ever been on a plane?
-is it okay that I mixed organic, local spinach with local kale and conventional, us-produced swiss chard?
-am I going to get sick from eating regular old grapes when they’re one of the dirty dozen I’m supposed to avoid?

At times like these, I feel paralyzed. I put myself into a lose lose situation—no matter how amazing something I eat is according to one criteria, it’s not good enough and might even be bad according to another.

I have a lot of nutrition knowledge. I took a good portion of my foods and nutrition degree before opting not to go the route of becoming a registered dietitian. The books and blogs and documentaries and magazines I’ve eaten up along the way have stretched my mind when it comes to what I think a healthy diet looks like. But having all that knowledge, like I’ve blogged about before, can be a gift or a curse. Sometimes, when I get into this mental game with myself, it’s clear that exploring everything from veganism to a bodybuilding diet to paleo to the food guide and back has left me with some competing and contradictory ideas about what I should be eating.

What I’m learning is that:
-“Paleo Police” may sound catchy, but there’s no food police watching over and judging over your food choices.
-There is no such thing as a perfect plate.
-If I’m this stressed out over the food I’m eating, it doesn’t matter if it’s the healthiest food on earth—it’s not serving me best if it’s served up with such a heaping dose of anxiety.
-It feels a lot better to focus on what’s good about what I’m eating than what is bad: there’s fruits and vegetables (uncontested win, in my opinion), there’s multiple foods (as opposed to my hunk of meat/nut butter phase, my avocado pudding streak, or some of my other old habits), I’m sitting down to eat, and as confused as my mind my get, I am still eating real food.
-Reading more nutrition information or buying another diet book still isn’t the answer.
-Trusting myself and figuring out what makes me feel and function the best is the only way to know what’s “good” for me and what is not so good for me.
-Letting food take on less importance in my life—not letting myself be so defined by the food I put into my body, rejecting the diet mentality—is scary but the only way to move forward and leave this behind.
-I’m looking forward to more free time and mental energy, less stress, and more healthy/happy.

I’ll wrap this one up with a quote because when it comes to putting this stuff into beautiful words, there’s no one better than Geneen Roth:

“When we give up dieting, we take back something we were often too young to know we had given away: our own voice. Our ability to make decisions about what to eat and when. Our belief in ourselves. Our right to decide what goes into our mouths. Unlike the diets that appear monthly in magazines or the thermal pants that sweat off pounds, unlike a lover or a friend or a car, your body is reliable. It doesn’t go away, get lost, stolen. If you will listen, it will speak.” -Geneen Roth (in Breaking Free From Emotional Eating)

bonus: “Surviving Whole Foods” made me laugh and is sort of related.

How do you keep your nutrition knowledge from paralyzing you?
Who/what do you trust when it comes to what you put in your body?

on the right foot: busy-ness and being in the moment

monday! what better way to start the week than with some positive thinking, some insight, or maybe a question to get things rolling. here’s where i share a coaching gem, a snapshot of something i’m working on, or whatever really floats my boat. 

Something I remember blogging about last year was giving up my addiction to being busy. This meant rejecting the idea that I had to prove that I was “enough” by always being on the go and letting go of the idea that if I wasn’t busy, I wasn’t worth anything.

stop glorification

It wasn’t easy, but realizing that this perspective wasn’t serving me was pretty powerful and right now, I’m more grateful than ever that I dove into the issue before starting grad school.

Why, you ask?

Because things are busy.

But, like I said: I will always have a list of things to do. I will always be crossing things off that list and then promptly adding more. I’m not saying this is a bad thing—I like the sense of accomplishment that comes from having things to do and actually doing them and now that I don’t feel like 24 hours a day needs to be dedicated to doing things to prove myself, I think I have a healthy relationship with being “busy.” Accepting that I’ll always have things to do—and seeing that as a good thing—makes living a balanced life a heck of a lot easier. So does being able to differentiate between being busy to prove and busy because I’m inspired and excited about things.

What am I getting at?

With grad school comes a new kind of workload. A lot of my classmates—myself included—are feeling it. There’s lots of complaints about how much work we have and how it sort of feels like we’ll never have time for other things. I’m trying really hard to avoid getting sucked into this mindset and to resist stressing by association.

So, how am I going to the gym still? How am I volunteering at the newspaper? How am I keeping up my blog? How am I maintaining a social life?

I’m doing all of this because I’ve decided that these things are important to me and have made time for them. I’ve accepted that yes, I have other work that I technically could be doing. But just like my to do list, I’m recognizing that that work isn’t going to go anywhere and since there will always be something else to read, the only way to “have” time for other things besides school is to set up some boundaries and decide what “enough” work looks like.

Keeping time for fun and for relaxation also leaves me energized and ready to actually do work when it comes time to be productive. If I give myself permission and make time to read blogs or goof around on facebook in the morning, I’m not as likely to get sucked into these things as distractions while I’m at the library.

It also helps me to remember that I’m not in grad school for the sake of getting a piece of paper or some letters after my name. I’m there because I want to be there and I want to learn. My goal isn’t to “get through” or to “survive” but to actually take something from it and to let myself be served by it. I get to study things that I’m interested in, which makes getting assignments kind of exciting—they’re opportunities, as cheesy as it might sound. At the end of two years, it’s not just the fact that I’ll have a masters degree that I want to be happy about—I also want to be more informed, I want to have new learning skills, and I want to look back on a challenging but rewarding experience. Even cheesier, maybe, is that I am committed to living in the present. Constantly stressing and worrying that I shouldn’t be having fun along the way during these two years isn’t really conducive to living in a pleasurable moment. So, as natural as it might be to spiral into the “grad school sucks” and “this is hard” and “I have no time for _________” when I feel like most people are doing it, I’m trying to stay positive and hoping that that makes me less annoying and more encouraging.

live in the moment

If you’ll excuse me, now that I’ve blogged, I’m going to go do some readings. 🙂

How do you know when you’ve crossed the line and are too busy?
How do you stay sane with a busy to do list/life?

Weekend Wrap: bumpy

This week was admittedly a little bumpy. I definitely caught myself focusing on what was going wrong to the point that I almost failed to notice what is right and what is lovely a it my life right now. Gratitude is a practice and a habit and I am glad I’m consciously looking for the good, like…

20130921-160835.jpg

You know who you are!

20130921-160950.jpg

This guy (esp: patience, cute butt, and big heart).

20130921-161107.jpg

20130921-161059.jpg

20130921-161119.jpg

Being able to run (for 6 minutes / 30 minute walk!).

20130921-161204.jpg

Pretty cappucinos at coffee shops without Internet to distract me from admiring them. –

20130921-161304.jpg

New friends and whoever the genius behind the best ball concept.

what are you appreciating this week?

friday find: september 20

sharing!

This week’s share is an article, “Wolf in the Cereal Bowl: How Special K and Other Companies Co-Op Body Acceptance to Sell Body Shame,” which raised some interesting points itself and also got me thinking. The five step breakdown of how we end up looking for ways to give up dieting in the article seems accurate enough, and while I skimmed a bit over the parts about how Special K took their scale idea directly from a body acceptance campaign, I was drawn back in at the mention of the similarity to the ways Dove markets and held on ’til the ending remark in the article:

“When we let ourselves to be charmed by the smoke and mirrors of these ads, we are buying into a corporate strategy that appropriates messages of body acceptance and media literacy for profits—profits that directly reinforce the systems of oppressions that these movements are working hard to overthrow. Special K asks, “What will you gain when you lose?” Here’s a thought: How about we lose this disingenuous bullshit marketing so that real health and acceptance movements can gain the visibility and support they deserve. K?”

To me, the ad isn’t as empowering as the comforting music in the background might suggest. The Special K ad markets to the fact that women beat themselves up for wanting to weigh less and suggests a way to fix that instead of their bodies–but there’s still an idea that buying some product will help us fix something about us that’s wrong.

My other questions regarding the ad:

  • Where are the men who hate shopping for jeans?
  • Is body acceptance only a women’s issue?
  • Do men even eat Special K?
  • Is cereal gendered?
  • What do jeans have to do with cereal?

While I agree that body acceptance shouldn’t be “co-opted” and used in a way that keeps people down, I think that a message that isn’t about fixing your body is refreshing in marketing. That being said, I don’t think that the solution is to use body acceptance messages to sell anything and everything. My thought is that the solution lies somewhere around not marketing to people’s flaws. The body acceptance itself is what people need, not the products.

What do you think about using body acceptance to sell products?

think about it: ideas about ideals

If you haven’t heard, I’m pretty happy to be starting my masters in Kinesiology at Western. My area of focus is cultural studies and I am interested in gender, health, and media (fancy that!). Within that I’m exploring some different areas that call out to me. You can translate exploring into “reading my butt off” but luckily when I’m reading about things that interest me, the time (and the pages) fly by.

This week, one of my readings was an article** where the researchers did a critical discourse analysis of the pregnancy column in Oxygen magazine. I had a lot of “how ’bout that” moments and highlighted quite a few points, but this one jumped out at me in particular, largely because of how much of a “holy crap this is important” moment that I had:

“In contemporary culture, the borders between health, fitness, and beauty have become blurred such that a beautiful body has become equated with a healthy body. Women in particular are pressured to conform to a beauty ideal (a toned, slender body) which is unrealistic for a large proportion of the population.”

This is important to me because it directly relates to where I’m at right now and was comforting. Lately, I’ve been hearing the “not _______ enough” story in relation to CrossFit and how I look.

I am a girl and I do CrossFit, therefore I am a CrossFit girl, right?

Maybe.

Regardless of the fact that I can lift some pretty heavy things and have consistently (pre-stress fracture at least) been able to do WODs at a reasonable pace Rx’d (translation: I’m half decent at CrossFit), I’m not sure I fit the “CrossFit girl” mold.

Screen Shot 2013-09-17 at 8.56.27 PM

I don’t have the hair, I don’t wear makeup to workout, I don’t take my top off very often, and I definitely don’t have the abs. I’m left feeling like I do not “fit in” with the CrossFit clan of ladies, but because I do CrossFit and get excited about lifting big heavy things, I don’t exactly feel like I fit in with the “normal” girls bouncing on ellipticals and doing crunches either.

What’s a girl with big thighs and a big deadlift to do?

deadlift

I’m not sure what the answer is, but I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way. While I think CrossFit is a gift in that it teaches us to value the function of our body over the form and helps us appreciate what we can do instead of solely focusing on how we look while we’re doing it, I don’t think it’s a paradise for women. When I think about how I don’t match the “ideal,” my default is to blame myself for “doing it wrong” and to start questioning myself and assuming I’m at fault.

But what if what I should be questioning, instead of myself and my own abilities, is that  “beauty ideal which is unrealistic for a large part of the population?” Instead of wondering if I need to train differently, obsessing about my diet and how many carbs I’m eating, and stressing over my growing quads, what if I could direct my energy towards bigger and better things?

I don’t think that if you look like a CrossFit girl you should be blamed. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with setting aesthetic goals. But I do think there is something wrong, for me, with getting caught up in trying to “fit in” at the expense of my own health and happiness. I don’t think we should be pressured to fit into a certain mold or that we should choose how we exercise based solely on how we want to look without considering how much we enjoy the workouts and how they affect our health.

To move forward, I’ve got to be willing to ask and answer these kinds of questions:

  • What am I making it mean to fit in? Is it a source of self worth (or a way to beat myself up if I don’t fit in)? Is fitting in a cop out? If this is my thinking, no wonder I don’t look like those girls (self sabotage, much?). 
  • What is worrying about these things holding me back from? Where else could I spend the mental and physical energy I spend trying to “fix” my issues?
  • What are healthy goals? How can I balance health, fitness, aesthetic priorities? 
  • If our “ideal” is misinformed, what’s the answer? What would a more accurate “ideal” look like? Does one even exist? How can we show images of health and fitness that don’t trap us and keep us chasing something unrealistic and outside of our reach? 

**Jette, S. (2006). “Fit for Two? A Critical Discourse Analysis of Oxygen Fitness Magazine.” Sociology of Sport Journal. 23: 331-351 [online]

What’s your take on my questions?
Do you feel like you “fit in”? Does it matter to you?