Body Positivity Tuesday: Choose a (body) positive role model

This is the second of a series of posts I am putting out on Tuesdays to encourage you to continually work on embracing your body and loving yourself a little more. 

Week 2: Choose a (body) positive role model 

One of the people who taught me that sharing our stories and our strategies for recovery is not only inspiring but also healing is Jenni Schaefer. Her books, which came from her personal experience overcoming her eating disorder, were immensely powerful in my own recovery! Jenni is not only an example of someone who has made a full recovery from an eating disorder, she is also the kind of person who uses adversity in a way that turns it into a positive thing. I admire this greatly!

Maybe your role model has nothing to do with how we think about our bodies—and I would say that is fine and dandy! If you look up to Oprah, consider what it is about her that makes you feel inspired. Maybe it’s a teacher you have or a parent. Next, consider whether or not the appearance of your role model’s body has anything to do with what inspires you about them. I’ll guess that it’s something else, and I encourage you to think about that when you think about who and how you want to be in the world.

I’ll end this one with a quote (by Maya Angelou):

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Act accordingly.

tend to become

Did you have any role models before you read this post?
Who did you come up with?
How have your role models changed over time? 

PS If you are in London, please get involved with our Love Your Body day! Like the facebook page, come by the rec centre for the events on the 8th, and tell your friends. Stay tuned for a finalized schedule, but please mark the day on your schedule!

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Body Positive Tuesdays: Love Your Body Campaign and an activity to help you love more about yourself

I am a firm believer that self-acceptance and loving ourselves is a practice, not a one time thing. Recovering from my eating disorder taught me that every day, I am the one responsible for taking care of myself and every day is an opportunity to take really good care of myself. Lately, body positivity has been even more on my mind than ever, though, with the upcoming Love Your Body day at Western, where I am a (forever, career, etc.) student. This will be the fifth year of the campaign, which is about promoting body love and a healthy relationship with exercise and nutrition.

As you might know, my eating disorder was awful but I appreciate it for forcing me to re-learn how to take care of myself in a new and healthy way. I sometimes share some of my strategies for what keeps me in a healthy and happy place on the blog (happyisthenewhealthy.com).

This year, I’d like to piggyback on that Love Your Body celebration, which is on April 8, with a way to keep body positivity in our minds for a little longer. The cool thing about the internet is that we can reach all kinds of people, regardless of where they live or whether or not they can join in on a day of festivities at one university.

My plan is to share some of the best ideas I’ve come across when it comes to building a healthy relationship with my body each week on Tuesdays, an otherwise kind of lame day. I encourage you to give the ideas that resonate with you a go, but not to put any pressure on yourself in the process. Say you try four of my suggestions. That’s four more than had you decided that your relationship with your body isn’t worth the time. Trust me, it is. Please share the ideas that really resonate with you and talk about this in your own community and on your own social media. Here’s to moving a step closer towards a body positive world out there, one day at a time!

Week 1: Write 10 things you love about yourself and/or your body.
For the first week, we’ll start with a task that (at least seems like it) will be easy.
However, so many of us are experts when it comes to beating ourselves up. We know exactly what our flaws are and what we’d like to change, but faced with the question of What is awesome about you?, it can sometimes take a little convincing that we aren’t being “too proud” if we celebrate ourselves a little.

When you make your list, try to think of some physical and some non-physical attributes that you appreciate about yourself. Do you love the way that you get a pair of cute dimples when you smile? Do you love the way that your laugh is contagious? There are no rules about this list, but a good idea might be to keep it handy for days when you just can’t seem to be your own cheerleader.

What is on your list?
How did you feel when you were going through this exercise?

PS If you are in London, please get involved with our Love Your Body day! Like the facebook page, come by the rec centre for the events on the 8th, and tell your friends. Stay tuned for a finalized schedule, but please mark the day on your schedule!

The irony and the onesie: It only ‘works’ if we keep hating our bodies

Today’s food for thought comes from the Today Show (where else?!) and a little segment they included about a onesie for babies that reads “I hate my thighs” that seems to be causing a stir on the interwebs. I’m going to contribute to that stir.

Here’s a picture of the onesie:

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 8.34.56 AM

People argued over whether or not this was a way of poking fun at people who are obsessed with their fat thighs or just a bad joke that should be seen as some kind of shaming (everyone’s favourite word these days).

I think whoever’s behind marketing has hit the nail on the head, because people are talking. As for the onesie, to me, it’s ironic–and forces us to think for a second.

There aren’t many people who would fault a baby for being too chubby. There might be some who blame parents for overfeeding kids that are ample, but for the most part, even words like ‘pudgy’ that would likely be offensive if they were used to describe an adult are meant in the most positive way when they’re used to describe babies.

Since it’s hard to take it too seriously, what could be funny about it? Well, how ridiculous would it be for a baby to start having those thoughts about her little thighs? People will agree—toddlers shouldn’t be concerned with their body shapes just yet. My least favourite statistic regarding disordered eating is listed on the National Eating Disorders Information Centre website:

In a study of five-year-old girls, a significant proportion of girls associated a diet with food restriction, weight-loss and thinness. (Abramovitz, B. A. & Birch, L. L. (2000). Five-year-old girls’ ideas about dieting are predicted by their mothers’ dieting. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 100 (10), 1157-1163). 

Five year old girls! I think it would be just as ridiculous to put a kindergartener into a shirt that says “I hate my thighs” as it is to stuff a baby into one.

So when do we stop thinking our bodies should go without the harsh judgement that says it’s OK to hate them? At what age does it become alright to start beating yourself up and trying to fix your “flaws”?

My own body issues started early and are filled with memories of being teased. They ebbed and flowed with the years, but they never really went away and my dieting and weight-tracking began before I even hit puberty (which was early for me, adding to my dis-ease with my body). At 26, I can look back and say that in my life, I’ve spent more years of my life at war with my body than I have spent trying to take exquisite care of it. The beautiful thing about going through eating disorder recovery when you’re young is that it means you have a lot of time left to spend taking care of yourself. It’s obviously not an easy task to relearn how to treat yourself and think about yourself in a whole new way, especially when you’ve spent some of your formative years doing exactly what you’re trying to let go of. But as time goes on, I’ve found that feeding myself, moving my body in ways that feel good, and finally, learning to accept and appreciate my body the way it is has started to replace my old ways as a new kind of normal. When I get to the end of my life, the time I spent abusing myself and hating my body will be just a small portion of my days.

One tool I used during my eating disorder recovery was learning to listen to—and work on—my self-talk. I would often found myself saying really mean things, things that I would never ever say to a friend. “You’re not good enough,” or, “You’ll always be fat,” or, “Nobody will ever love you,” etc. Naturally, I found it hard to listen to myself, but even harder to try to stop that voice and change it. A strategy that worked was thinking of talking to myself, but as a child. I had a picture of myself from when I was about six years old and I would picture my harsh words directed towards her. Even now, thinking about telling that little girl with her pigtails and her white dress, that she’s not good enough makes me sad. Just like those little girls (or boys) that we were deserve our deepest love and affection, so do our grown up selves. Without being kind to ourselves, the person we’re always with, we’re bound to walk around holding ourselves back.

The photo I mentioned. This is clearly a little girl with some sass and a bit of swagger.

The photo I mentioned. This is clearly a little girl with some sass and a bit of swagger.

So, I don’t think people should buy that onesie. But we can get up in arms about it, or we can just not buy it and move on with our lives. The biggest issues are not this kind of product, which I think actually gets us discussing the issue more—they’re the everyday ways that we normalize hating our bodies and make it OK to dedicate our lives to fixing them.

The company that put it out won and is still winning. They came out with a second onesie, maybe to please those critics who just couldn’t get behind the ironic interpretation.

Screen Shot 2015-03-18 at 8.36.36 AM

 

Of course, on the internet, you’ll just make someone else angry and I think sometimes you can’t win. But maybe that’s the point. But instead of getting angry about “shaming babies” or whatever, let’s get angry about this even being a thing that we “get.” Let’s work on making body love the norm instead.

you as much as anybody

What did you think of this Onesie?
If you’ve had body issues, do you remember when they started?

Unconditional Acceptance: Believing We’re “Enough”

I’m sick. Yesterday, the couch was my best friend. I alternated episodes of Girls with periods of writing where I felt like my fingers couldn’t keep up with the ideas coming out of my head. I’ll call that a win for my thesis, but I beat myself up yesterday: I feel like I was on top of the world on Wednesday — I wrote, I ran, I taught a spin class, and I did some yoga on my own — and a big ol’ failure on Thursday, confined to my couch.

This is the fourth time I’ve been under the weather and needing to take antibiotics in the past year. Everything has been minor, and for that I am grateful, but I’ve noticed that when I’m sick, I can get realllllly antsy about “not doing anything.” Whether that “anything” is the workout I was going to do, or writing a paper, or cleaning the toilets, or folding my laundry, or writing a blog…there’s something around not being productive that makes me feel like I’m not doing enough.

“Enough.”

When I got to thinking about this, I noticed a pattern. I used to drive myself crazy on my rest days, and while I’ve gotten a lot better at taking a darn break, I do still find myself having a lot of “fat” days on the days that I don’t work out. What the heck is going on? A rest day is a way to take care of our bodies—to give them the time to heal and come back stronger. I know that!

But I think along the way in my body acceptance journey, I’ve started placing more and more emphasis on being proud of what my body can do. And while I love and celebrate how amazingly capable our bodies are, I think I’m ready for another leg on my journey.

Right now, I feel entitled to a sort of conditional confidence when it comes to my body. The kind of acceptance that’s okay on the days where I might be chubby, but I ran 10km so I must be okay. Or when my clothes don’t fit, but I’m back squat more weight than ever. Or when I don’t like the way my body looks, but I’m training for a half ironman so I’m a boss.

That kind of confidence, with its conditions and requirements, is fleeting. The days when I’m on the couch because I got sidelined by a kidney infection, for instance, it’s nowhere to be found. What is? The gremlins. You know the ones. They say “you’re not good enough” and try to convince you that you’re worthless.

What am I realizing? That I don’t think that the solution to loving our bodies can lie solely in appreciating what they’re capable of. I think it needs to come down to unconditional acceptance. Without that kind of acceptance that doesn’t rely on what we do or don’t do, we’re doomed to questioning whether or not we’ve done enough to “deserve” to feel good about ourselves. Without a sense of worthiness and confidence that we retain regardless of where our back squat is at our what our 10km pace is, or how much muscle we have, we are doomed to keep on searching for more ways to prove that we’re good enough.

The pursuit of “enough” leaves us exhausted. Living from a place of “enough,” however, I think leaves us inspired.

One of my favourite life coaches out there is Christie Inge, because she talks about how we are all inherently worthy (she calls herself an “Inherent Worth Warrior”). I always hear her voice reminding me that I’m inherently worthy when I start to think about all this stuff. Brene Brown talks about worthiness too–and the way that people “hustle” for it, unsuccessfully. She’s got good news: “There are no prerequisites for worthiness.” Amen!

christie inge

So where did we learn that we’re not enough unless we prove it? I think it’s a combination of places. Maybe it was our families—something like getting rewarded for doing things “right” and being taught that we were bad if we did something wrong. But more importantly–and harder to see–we live in a world where people think they earn everything. Those abs? She must have earned them.

...I beg to differ.

…I beg to differ.

The grandest myth I can think of is that people who are successful are entirely responsible for it—I’m all for determining your destiny, but we’re born into conditions that are entirely outside of our control. In this context, we feel like our bodies, for instance, are direct representations of the “work” we put in, even though some people are born with six packs and others with thighs that will touch forever.

So in relation to our bodies, we assume that enough effort and work will give us those bodies we can feel proud of earning. But I know people who work their butts off and still don’t look like magazine models. It’s widespread and “normal” to feel like you don’t measure up, and people realize they’re pursuing something largely out of reach. But they don’t stop trying, or question what the feeling of not being good enough does to their lives.

This “not good enough” epidemic is convenient for the people who want to sell us the solutions to our issues. If our bodies are never good enough, never “healthy” enough, never beautiful enough—of course we’ll keep on top of our body projects, buying the diet books, paying the gurus, and trying to find worthiness outside of ourselves.

But, what if our worth didn’t depend on what we do? What if we were all born worthy? What if this journey of self-acceptance isn’t about proving to ourselves that we deserve our own love, but unlearning all the messages that told us otherwise?

Repeat after me:

  • I am enough.
  • I am good enough.
  • I am pretty enough.
  • I am healthy enough.
  • I am smart enough.
  • I am happy enough.
  • I am ______________ enough.

…unconditionally. Regardless of what I do or don’t do.

Living from a place of worthiness or enoughness doesn’t mean that we don’t take care of ourselves. It doesn’t mean that we can’t still read self-help books, or buy makeup.

As Geneen Roth, one of my favourite writers on self-acceptance and the journey towards loving and accepting your body and yourself says:

“When you believe without knowing you believe that you are damaged at your core, you also believe that you need to hide that damage for anyone to love you. You walk around ashamed of being yourself. You try hard to make up for the way you look, walk, feel. Decisions are agonizing because if you, the person who makes the decision, is damaged, then how can you trust what you decide? You doubt your own impulses so you become masterful at looking outside yourself for comfort. You become an expert at finding experts and programs, at striving and trying hard and then harder to change yourself, but this process only reaffirms what you already believe about yourself — that your needs and choices cannot be trusted, and left to your own devices you are out of control. … You are not a mistake. You are not a problem to be solved. But you won’t discover this until you are willing to stop banging your head against the wall of shaming and caging and fearing yourself.”

Living from a place of worthiness is about the acceptance we all wish we had. It is about waking up in the morning without feeling like we have to prove ourselves. It is about looking at ourselves as something besides a series of problems to be addressed, things to be fixed. It means freedom and a whole new way of being in the world.

Living from a place of worthiness is about loving ourselves unconditionally.

And from that place of knowing that we deserve love no matter what happens, we can live our lives not out of fear but out of desire.

Where does “not being good enough” hold you back?
What would you give up if you believed you already were good enough?

For feminism or for health? Why the scale sucks either way…

Today, Tracy wrote a great post about her relationship with “weight loss.” As I was reading it, I couldn’t help but think, wouldn’t it be easier if we just stopped weighing ourselves? She seems to be on the same wavelength as me a lot, and she touched on this at the end of the post. Personally, I’ve tossed out my scale in defiance of my obsession with it during the earliest stages of my recovery. But since then, I have found myself weighing myself again on and off. As of late, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not really benefitting from knowing the number—so the scale’s gone again.

I would like to think that there will be a time when I could weigh myself and not use it as a tool to drive myself crazy. I am not there right now. Even now, without the scale around for daily weighings, thesporadic ones get to me. When I’ve brought the scale back into my world—either via being weighed by someone else like a doctor, or a coach—it stirs up a lot of emotion. I can feel elated if I’m lighter, but at the same time beat myself up for feeling good about losing weight since I know that weight loss is not the be-all end-all, my habits are. I can feel like a failure if I’ve gained weight, which is coupled with a reminder that weight isn’t everything. Either way, I don’t step off the thing ever feeling any happier for having done it.don't step on it.

For so long, my own focus was on weight and losing weight at all costs. I’d, like many people, gotten weight and health linked up in a way that didn’t let me see when I crossed lines and compromised my health for the sake of weight loss. As my choices became more and more extreme, I was successful at weight loss—but at the expense of my health and my happiness. It was a step by step process down this slippery slope into my eating disorder. Eating less became undereating consistently. Exercising more became overexercising on the regular. Eating better became synonymous with eating things with less calories, fat, or carbs—whatever the villain of the day in my mind was.

I know from a health perspective: weight should be the outcome or the by-product, not the focus. It’s not always “right” or perhaps a better way of putting this is that it’s not always an accurate reflection of whether or not we’ve done the “right” things. I might have eaten whole foods from great sources in appropriate quantities and have done a great job of taking care of myself, but if I just drank a bottle of water and have not gone to the washroom yet, I’ll weigh more. Do I abandon my healthy habits because they’re not “working”?

It is easier to sell weight loss than it is to sell long-term health. “Build healthy self-care habits in 3 years” doesn’t seem like it would fit on a cover of Shape quite as well as the “10 days to a flat tummy” headlines that do. People use weight loss as a goal all the time and even as personal trainers and fitness instructors we encourage folks to set SMART goals with specifics in terms of how much weight they’ll lose. I think it’s more important to think about what we will actually need to DO. You don’t wake up and just lose weight by a conscious choice. You do wake up and every day decide that you’re going to work out, or that you’re going to eat vegetables with your lunch, or that you’re going to write in a diary instead of eating a pint of ice cream when you’re stressed. Maybe it’s the allure of wanting to lose 10 pounds and be done with it, whereas deciding to build a healthy relationship with food or healthy eating habits instead would require you to keep on working on that goal for the rest of your life (I think we forget that habits get easier the more we do them).

From a health perspective, I think getting rid of the scale is a good choice for me. That’s my choice. It doesn’t have a lot to do with my status as a feminist or not, which is what Tracy was sort of talking about in her post. But do we have to get rid of our scales if we want to be feminists? Do we also have to get rid of our hair-brushes and makeup? I really don’t know the answer to this or where to draw a line or if there is a line of what makes something feminist or not. If weighing yourself feels good to you, fine. It feels like crap to me. I wouldn’t argue that women should stop wearing makeup if it makes them feel good, perhaps I shouldn’t argue that women need to stop weighing themselves altogether or wanting to be skinny. I just know that there are other people out there who feel compelled to keep weighing themselves and keep pursuing weight loss, and I think the issue becomes when we feel like there isn’t the option to get off the hamster wheel.

Like I said, I don’t know what the answer is here. But I do think I think arguing about it only keeps us all focused on something trivial instead of on the issues that we can all agree on. Think of the progress we might make if we weren’t so busy beating each other up for being truly feminist or not. It’s like when you stop to think about what kind of energy women might have if they didn’t have to focus on their bodies so darn much, or if they didn’t have to focus on whether or not they should be focusing on them, or…you see where I’m going with this.

So for now, I’ll be staying away from the scale, and I’ll be encouraging anyone else who is feeling crazy over it to do the same. Just like I learned in my recovery, the scale is not an accurate reflection of who you are, or how you’re doing, or of your self worth.

losing weight not your purpose