Body Positivity Tuesday: Video Reminder

When the going gets tough, it can seem a lot easier to just buy the damn diet book or sign up for the next weight loss transformation. But before you throw your hands up in despair, remember why accepting and loving your body is “worth it” (hint: because you deserve to be on your own side). This video might help too…

Week 4: Watch this video.

At times, I doubt myself and the time and energy I’ve poured into blogging and talking and working on body positivity in my own life and in my world. Usually, I catch the gremlins who are trying to hold me back and can get right back on track. When that fails, and I wonder Why am I doing this?, I can usually motivate myself right back to passionately promoting body positivity and body acceptance by watching this video from Melissa A. Fabello.

 

Race Recap: MEC London Race Two 15km

I used to have a firm rule about putting a race recap out onto the interwebs by the end of the weekend. This was around the time when I was photographing most of the food I ate and talking about my day to day activities a lot more on my blog. Just like I’ve let go of the need to document every morsel I eat and ever mile I cover in my training, I have learned that a race recap is better done late than never.

Last week was the second race in MEC’s race series here in London. I didn’t do last month’s race, but I knew from doing one of the trail options last year that the events are well-organized, supported, and perhaps most importantly—affordable! While I’m all for budgeting and making our health and our health hobbies priorities, I like the idea that I can sign up for a whole series of MEC races for 75$–less than the cost of some of the single races around!

On Saturday, the weather couldn’t have been better. I pre-registered for the 15km option on Thursday, when I knew the weather would be good—and good it was! I was in a tank top by the end of my warm-up, which always makes me a happy runner. I know some people prefer it a little cooler than me, but I love sweating and was happy to finally break one after the winter that keeps hanging on.

image1

I was running the same event as my friend/partner in training crime, Katie. She’s a little faster than me and when we went to the portajohns together and I came out before, I joked that I had her beat in one race that day. …ha!

image6

Katie and I just before the race — look at that sun! And those smiles!

After a somewhat mishmash start (all of the 5 and 10 and 15km race options started at once), we spread out quite a bit over the course. The people running the 5km option raced off ahead and then turned around and raced back. I got to see my coach, Coach Chris, turn around and give me some encouragement as I carried on (he broke his PR that day). Everyone turned around after 5km and came back on the same route, with the 10km racers heading for the finish while we tacked on another route. As I got to the turnaround at 5k, I realized I was running quicker than anticipated. I went in joking that I wanted to be faster than my half marathon from back in the day (1:48ish) and knowing that 1:30 was a reasonable goal for 15km (6 minute kilometres feel steady to me and I’ve been walking a bit on my long runs). I decided to keep on doing what I was doing and see what came, and rather than end up feeling too tired, I managed to keep the pace up and even kick it up a bit after we turned around at ~12km.

I finished with a smile (?) on my face and maybe a little more in the tank than I might have wanted in 1:23:04. I liked coming in, even though there wasn’t much going on at the finish line. Someone did have a cowbell, and Brent came out to see me finish. Katie was there too, relishing in her 1:12 finish, so that was just grand!

Is that a smile?

Is that a smile? (Yes)

Some of my friends from CrossFit were running their first trail race. I also knew a few other people doing the 5k who enjoyed the weather and impressed themselves. I loved the feeling of community, the sunshine, and the way that the event felt welcoming. Having a chip time always makes me want to run a little harder (in case someone googles my finish?), so that was nice.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 5.10.32 PM

All in all, I was very happy with the race. I felt good the whole time, even though I’ve never run the distance. I think besides my half marathon, this is the first time I’ve gone that far. I passed someone in the last km or so, so that tells me I perhaps underestimated myself. I think that, assuming I can stay injury free, I like these longer races. I remember finishing the half marathon happy and having a fairly speedy recovery from it. Maybe it’s because with longer races, they hurt, but they don’t hurt like a 5km race or seem to be just another run like a 10km seems to be for me. The element of—will I make it? How will I feel when I do? Can I keep this pace going? is kind of the exciting part!

completes

My next race is my triathlon debut of the year at Woodstock. The race is a Sprint Distance Triathlon, which unfortunately for me usually makes me feel slow since I mostly go the same pace no matter how long you ask me to go for (this might be my greatest weakness, or my greatest ability, depending on how you look at it). At any rate, this is one of the early ones where everyone’s getting their cobwebs out. I’ll be happy if I make it out of my wetsuit without falling on my butt, or onto the run course without forgetting to remove my helmet after the bike. And if I can have a good time doing it, of course. Then I’ll have some time to gear up for my Half Ironman debut at Musselman on July 12. I’m not sure if I’ll like the half distance, but if this longer race was any indication of where the enjoyment lies for me, I think the chance to see if I can make it and how fast I can go without falling over sideways will be just the challenge I’m looking for!

I guesssss I'll take him as a prize.

I guesssss I’ll take him as a prize.

Have you done any races lately?
Have you ever done a MEC Race?
What’s your “big race” this year?
What’s your favourite distance to race? 

Conditional acceptance: The problem with the performance focus

I’ve blogged about the need for believing we’re worthy before, but it’s an issue that’s close to my heart and that I’m continuing to work on, so here we go again.

Before I start, let me add: I say yahoo! to anything that shifts the emphasis for women away from how it will make their bodies look (Will pilates give me the toned abs I’ve always wanted?). But the more I read about woman after woman finding her self worth in her abilities, the less comfortable with the whole idea I get.

For my thesis, I’m reading issue after issue after issue of CrossFit magazines and The CrossFit Journal and looking particularly at constructions of healthy femininity. One theme that comes up a lot is CrossFit saving women from their body image woes. Time after time, women are saved from their eating disorders or years of self-abuse thanks to learning to appreciate what their bodies are capable of. In general, these are women who are extremely talented at CrossFit, pictured in sports bras with six packs, and who echo the same sentiment: the route to empowerment is via doing.

I call (at least a little bit of) bullshit.

The route to empowerment is different for all of us. Basing it on ability leaves out those who aren’t able, firstly, but it also sets us up for a conditional kind of self-acceptance that I don’t think will give us the kind of lifelong healthy relationship with our bodies that I am working on creating for myself (and starting a discussion about via this blog and my work in the world).

As it relates to me, I know that athletics helped me a whole lot to appreciate my body. I’ve mentioned before the way I keep my picture of my big ol’ deadlift PR around for when I’m feeling shitty about myself. I hang my latest race bibs around to remind myself that I’m badass for signing up for things that force me outside of my comfort zone on a regular basis. And moving away from the need to burn calories and burn off food to testing out my performance and seeing what I can do with the body I’ve been given has certainly helped me feel better about what I’ve been given.

capability

But.

Since I’ve started to focus on triathlon training again (with lifting things on occasion more for fun than anything and because I like to feel strong), I’m not as strong as I used to be. I can’t do as many pull-ups as I once could, and I sometimes find myself beating my self up for letting myself slip. And on the triathlon front, I don’t run or bike as fast as I did when I was in the midst of my eating disordered days.

But.

I’m healthy. I have balanced hormones. My weight went way up and then has started to come down a bit (not much by the standards of those who employ 30 day challenges or body transformations, but 10 pounds over two years without losing my period). I like training and understand that when my body is whispering no, I should listen so it doesn’t scream. These are perhaps more important than winning an age category at a race or impressing people in the gym and on instagram.

priorities
So in my recovery and body love journey, I’ve seen that impressing myself with what I can do is certainly a tool for me to, like I said appreciate my body. But acceptance requires me to dig deeper. Yesterday I got a migraine and missed my workout. If my self-worth is based on what I can do, what’s a girl who’s stuck in bed and only wants to eat cereal and chocolate to do?

I think the answer lies in realizing that we can’t find the kind of self-love we want outside of ourselves. Some of us look for it from guys, some of us keep on trying to show that we’re good enough by taking it out on our bodies, and some of us don’t even realize that we want it.

This all comes back to a piece of advice worth repeating over and over again ‘til we get it: we are inherently worthy. Whether or not we work out, whether or not we can lift as much as someone else—or our former selves, whether we run faster than we did last year, whether we put pants on in the morning, whether we eat “clean” or choose cookies. Loving ourselves doesn’t require us to be better than yesterday, because we weren’t bad or unworthy yesterday.

can be already are

Loving our bodies doesn’t require that we do exceptional things with them. I think our bodies are exceptional just by virtue of the fact that they let us live our lives. It’s great when we can also appreciate what they’re capable of, but getting to a place of acceptance is another worthy goal, in my opinion.

Sometimes I forget this. As a goal-oriented and ambitious person, I struggle with feeling worthy unless I’m productive, or I work out, or I do this or that. But I for one would like to accept my body so that when things that stop me from performing as I might like to – injury, pregnancy, illness, life – come around, I still feel like a boss. While we by all means celebrate what we’re capable of, let’s give this acceptance thing—no conditions required—a go!

love yourself first

Do you struggle with this? What’s helped you?

Photoshopping, Instagram, and Playing Nice When it Comes to Bodies

This morning, as I was going about my normal caffeination process and getting lost on the interwebs, this article about a woman who photoshopped her body into what commenters on her instagram account suggested would make for a perfect body came my way.

I like the video portion of the process, where we see each of the steps from normal body to “perfect” in action:

The responses to her photoshopped photo on Instagram might be the most upsetting part of all this—some people thought she still wasn’t good enough, others applauded her for losing weight or for having a great body—albeit one totally faked.

Screen Shot 2015-04-22 at 9.29.50 AM

“Photoshopping and body image — all of that — is such a big problem that a lot of girls deal with because magazine covers are Photoshopped, and even people on Instagram Photoshop their photos,” she told People. “You really don’t know what’s real and what’s not anymore.”

And reminding me of my post on Monday about being in this health and fitness industry, I think Ho’s message in the end of it is one worth sharing:

“I realize now that I am not just an instructor at a gym, but that I am a role model and leader in the fitness industry. It is my responsibility to do whatever I can to help people get healthier while feeling confident and happy in their body,” she told Forbes.

The video gets at the way in which it seems ridiculous to force one single woman to do this to herself. But for some reason, we accept it every day. The fact that day after day, we strive to “fix” our imperfections, telling ourselves we’re just not good enough, makes me as sad as this video did. We judge one another and we judge ourselves, and it’s maybe even sadder the way that we think it’s despicable to do it to someone else, but do it to ourselves nonetheless.

I hope that today, thinking about this all, we can be a little kinder to each other—and to ourselves. Our bodies are beautiful, and health can take a whole lot of different shapes. Let’s celebrate them and celebrate what we do and who we are!

e kind

Did you see this video?
What do you think about the idea of “photoshopping” on instagram? Are filters and selfie sticks the same as this?

Body Positivity Tuesday: Be Picky

It’s time for another tip from the body acceptance arsenal. This week is about putting on blinders when it comes to things that don’t serve you on your health and happiness journey…

Week 3: Limit your digital exposure to things that make you feel bad about your body.

As a blogger, I’m obviously biased towards social media’s potential to be a positive force in our lives. But I’m fully aware how the literally unlimited exposure available to us via the internet and social media to the kinds of content and pictures that can make us feel inadequate can wreak havoc on our abilities to feel good about ourselves. The internet is also a place where people can present things that aren’t even real—as real as they appear. A big step back during my eating disorder recovery was letting go of the blogs I was following who took part in the “What I Ate Wednesday” madness. I realized that part of giving up the obsession with whether or not what I ate was good or normal or too much or too little or whatever was to stop comparing myself to others, especially those who took the effort to document their every bite on the internet.

The remedy? Examine what you expose yourself to on social media. If you’re constantly bombarded with photos to which you compare yourself, or with people promoting all kinds of extreme diets, or with anything that leaves you feeling worse off, get rid of it. We have to be the gatekeepers of what we allow into our lives, and given the way in which we are constantly connected these days, social media is a big part of this puzzle.

respect

Is there anything you’re letting go of after reading this post? 

Fit: What Living Healthy Looks Like

As someone who dabbles in fitness instructing, personal training, life coaching, and more generally considers herself a wellness professional, I’ve had people tell me that I am a great leader. Whether it’s because I blog about my feelings or because I can kick their butts in a spin class, I try not to take the fact that I am lucky to have the chance to influence people on a regular basis for granted.

Sometimes, these compliments can come at strange times—in the changeroom while you’re half naked or when you’re out at the mall shopping with your friends (how do they recognize you without the sweat and spandex anyway?).

Sometimes, they can make you feel better about something you were actually self conscious about (like using the same Britney Spears remix sporadically for the last 7 years of teaching).

And sometimes, they can make you think about the kind of leader you’re being.

I had one of those experiences not too long ago when one of my (favourite) participants from one of my fitness classes told me that she appreciated that the instructors at our gym looked like regular people.

The gremlin in my head immediately shouted at me that having a regular body is a bad thing—that I’m not trying hard enough or that I’m not good enough to work in this field.

In my trainee (and friend)’s defense, she meant it as a huge compliment and actually applauded everything I stand for: a holistic and sane approach to health that is not based on looking a certain way.

orking out

I can attribute my doubts to a lot of things, including a little bit of my own insecurity but also an issue with the fitness industry. I started to remember the way that a friend of mine assured me that he wouldn’t hire someone to help him with his athletic goals who was carrying a bit of extra weight at the time, or the fitness professional who won’t take photos for their website until they’ve leaned down, or the passionate fitness instructee who won’t take the plunge to instructor because they don’t think they match the bill.

While I understand that we live in an appearance-oriented culture and I don’t think that this is something that needs to—or that necessarily can—change, I also think that clarifying what we mean when we’re talking about “health” is important. Too often I think people work backwards and decide on how to eat, or train, or live based on the “ideal” body that they think they should be striving towards.

This can lead us to get caught up in the way the things we do in the name of health are supposed to make us look and if they don’t actually transform our bodies in the way we were hoping, we might not carry with the habits and go back to formerly unhealthy ones. What a loss!

I’d like to see more people talking about things in exactly the opposite way—what happens to our bodies when we do healthy things for the sake of being healthier, rather than looking a certain way?

I know that there are people who can have a six pack and look like a cover model without compromising their health—but I know far more that abuse they bodies and minds in the pursuit of that (short-lived) ideal. I also know that there are plenty of people who are blessed with certain body types that then let them “get away with” (although I think in terms of health you can’t hide from things that are not good from you, even if they don’t show up as fat on your body or immediate health concerns) things. Perhaps I am so conscious of all of this because in an extreme sense, I’ve seen what the pursuit of the ideal (at the time, thin) body can do when I had my eating disorder.

I like to think that in adopting healthier habits and always trying to take a little better care of myself that health—my happiest weight, balanced hormones, overall general well being, etc.—will follow. It is a big shift when you start to think about what you’re actually doing—but it’s also an empowering one. We can control our habits, and while I think we like to think that we can totally control the way our bodies look, I think that’s partially something people use to convince people to buy their products, try harder, and blame themselves if it doesn’t work out. It might be harder to take responsibility and address our habits, but it’s also extremely powerful.

ew are

So are there fitness professionals who represent balance? I think yes, and I include myself amongst them. Molly Galbraith wrote a post about this years ago that has stuck with me. She talks about the body acceptance element and how as a fitness professional she has struggled with it, and that’s where her power is:

“In the industry or not, I train/work with/counsel women from all over the world about nutrition, training, body image, self-image, and much more.  I hear their stories and their struggles.  I celebrate their victories, and help them learn from their defeats.  I laugh with them, I cry with them, and I talk them off the ledge when they’re ready to jump.  So why am I qualified to do these things?

Because I AM one of them.“

Similar to Molly, I think that my own journey to a health and happy place is what makes me trustworthy, inspirational, and “qualified” to do what I do. I try to model the kind of health and fitness that is sustainable and realistic and that feels good—and if that means that I have a “regular” body, then regular I’ll be!

rea

I just hope that I can contribute to a world where it’s not something that people need to comment on that someone has a body that looks like a “normal” healthy person who is in the health and fitness industry. I know there are lots of us out there. I know that whether or not someone has 12% or 24% or 32% or whatever % body fat, a person can be a leader who inspires others to take healthier steps in their lives. I know that “health” is more than an appearance.

How do you define health?
Does your definition of health feel like something you could sustain in your life? 

Meritocracy and our bodies

-we do not get what we put in

-we are not all one and the same

-it’s a lot easier to judge someone based on their habits – so and so has a great body so they’re doing it right, so and so doesn’t fit my ideal body bill so they must not be trying hard enough or know what the heck they’re doing.

FYI there are lots of people walking around out there with “ideal” bodies who have taken unhealthy steps in order to look that way. It’s our fixation on what we think ideal looks like—and the way that focusing on the outcome instead of on the habit—that I have to remind myself is wrong.