Let’s talk — just not about your diet, please

Sometimes, I just can’t think “schoolwork.” I can, however, think “blog.” And as promised, I want to continue to talk about some of the toughest parts of negotiating my happy/healthy life on a day-to-day basis.

Today, I want to talk about fat talk. I consider diet talk a form of fat talk. So I’m referring to the kind of chats about how fat we feel, how bad we were over the weekend, what we’re eating or not eating…you know the type. I’m talking about the endless conversations where we beat ourselves up about diet and the shape and size of our bodies, and the significance that we attribute to all of this.

fat talk 1

Obviously as a personal trainer and a health and fitness writer, I hold health as a priority and encourage dialogue on the topic. What I don’t encourage is an obsession with it, nor the kind of bonding over misery that seems to ensue when people talk about their bodies. That is the “fat talk” that I’m talking about.

The Huffington Post goes so far as to call fat talk an “epidemic.” The article does a good job of talking about what fat talk is, and what’s problematic about it. Even Special K has tapped in on just how rife our world is with it—though they choose to turn it around and call it a “barrier” to weight management (a circular argument, in my opinion, that keeps us focused on weight and needing to fix it).

My hobbies and my job are both active pursuits and as such, maybe I’m exposed to extra body talk—and with it its associated fat talk. Given the preponderance of fat talk, I find myself, at times, going into it. Rather than being as body positive as I hope to be, there are times where I don’t feel like leaving a conversation or feeling left out. Sometimes, I want to stop someone where they are and remind them that fat talk is not helping us in any regards—it’s not helping us change our bodies because it usually involves playing the victim, and it’s certainly not helping us appreciate the bodies we have. No matter what our goals are, I think it’s safe to say fat talk can go.

But I don’t always have the energy or the guts to take a stand for body appreciation. There are some people in my life who are dedicated whole-heartedly to wanting to lose weight. They’ve been dieting for as long as I know, and they may lose or gain weight, but it’s pretty much unbeknownst to me. These are people I love, and part of their identity is their weight. And so dieting or needing to get on a diet or needing to deal with their weight is such a part of them that I fear suggesting otherwise would be overstepping my boundaries. My body is certainly my business, and offering unsolicited advice to others on their bodies is kind of dangerous territory.

When I’m at a party and eating something that someone calls “bad” or vows that they will “eat clean” again soon—you know the kind of conversations I mean—that opinion doesn’t just hurt that person. It makes me and I would think anyone else enjoying cake, maybe, think twice about it. Fat talk is toxic, it’s contagious, and I know that it’s something I have to work to resist. Hearing my gremlins externalized in someone’s voice who is speaking the language of fat talk? That’s not a very nice feeling. Sometimes, saying something or calling someone out might be the wrong choice. We risk looking inconsiderate, or maybe stuck up, or like we have a superiority complex. And we can’t always convince someone.

Yes, I consider myself an advocate for body positivity and acceptance. I struggle with it just like a lot of people. I want to inspire other people to look at their bodies not as problems to be fixed, and I know that “fat talk” isn’t a route to that attitude, but I also don’t want to seem like I know it all or have it all figured out. I also work in health and fitness and know that people can be motivated by things like wanting to fix their flaws and end up finding a healthy relationship to their bodies. It’s my job there to support them, and to emphasize relating to our bodies in positive ways—not to judge their goals.

The nature of writing about the things I find tough means that I don’t have a really solid conclusion, but I’ll end with what I think, even as I struggle to walk away from the latest discussion of someone’s current macro breakdown. What I think is that we can spend our whole lives trying to manage our bodies, but at some point, all that energy turns into an obsession. And after a certain point, we start to lose out on the quality of our lives in something (taking care of our vessels) that was intended to improve it. I think fat talk is related to that, because it overemphasizes just how important the shape of our bodies is. Of course I am pro-healthy eating and working out, because I am pro-taking care of yourself. I am not behind spending so much time and energy on this stuff that it does the opposite of what I believe it should (improve the quality of your life). I am also pro-people talking about things that matter and I fear that for women in particular, fat talk is a means to keep us focused on our own selves, and in particular our physical forms. And the illusion of willpower and thinking that if only you’d try harder and then you’d have that six pack and it’s possible and it’s entirely up to you feeds into this because it keeps us talking about it ad nauseum. And to me, that’s sad. There’s a whole world out there, and our lives are filled with so much more than workouts and diets and numbers on a scale or in a pair of jeans. Taking care of our health is about setting us up to enjoy those other things.

Like I said, I don’t have this figured out. I’d love to hear from you below in the comments, but in the meantime, enjoy these little laughs that make fat talk a laughing matter:

t talk 2

fat talk 3

Do you find yourself engaging in “fat talk”?
Have you ever called someone out on this?

Advertisements

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

CrossFit and body love: why I’m not so sure it’s that easy

As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on my thesis. Part of what I’m doing is a media analysis of CrossFit, and I’m interested in gender and bodies and fitness and all those good things. If you’re into CrossFit and are into the whole social media / online community, you might be familiar with Tabata Times, which has a whole “Women’s Only” section dedicated to women’s concerns. In most of the articles, there is a common theme of loving and accepting our bodies that comes up. Many of them talk about how CrossFit, and focusing on performance, has helped them accept and appreciate their bodies—all good things.

I knew going into my thesis that it might be a challenge to focus on something that stirs up so many thoughts and hits close to home. Whether it’s triathlon or CrossFit or any other sport that helps me to think about what my body can do instead of how it looks while I’m doing it, I can certainly relate to the feelings of appreciation and gratitude that come from taking the focus off of looks and weight. But something that I’ve noticed with these articles celebrating body acceptance is that it’s a very specific kind of body acceptance—one that is still small, albeit muscular, and one that is still very concerned about being attractive. While I agree that strong can sure as hell be sexy for a woman, I don’t think that means that skinny has to be gross. Or that being sexy is what our approach to exercise should really be all about.

What would it be like to exercise for a reason that’s got nothing to do with how our bodies look? We have this grand idea that if we start CrossFit we’ll look like a CrossFitter, or that if we start running, we’ll look like a runner. But CrossFit boxes celebrate the fact that they’re filled with all shapes and sizes. And go to any marathon and watch the people crossing the finish line and you’ll see that there are finishers who occupy a range of body sizes and types.

I love the message that we can learn to love our bodies if we focus on what they can do. But I don’t love the way it leaves me feeling if I think, well hey, I did CrossFit, but I still want my thighs to be smaller, or, It’s okay for her to love her body because she weighs 66kg (arguably not “big” by any means)…so something must be wrong with me and I need to fix it: more CrossFit, more books about body image, more articles about how CrossFit saved someone from their body woes. I’m starting to see a bit of a lose-lose situation here: I feel required to have the “ideal” body and then since I know that “ideal” bodies are not attainable/sustainable, I feel drawn to these articles that make me feel like the problem is actually the way I look at my body. But then, since those “ideals” aren’t going anywhere (even if they’re shifting), I am back where I started—unable to accept my un-“ideal” body and feeling worse for not even being able to meet the standard of body love.

I love that stronger women are beautiful these days, but I hate that we are so concerned with what exercise does for how we look. I love that people are letting go of the obsession of running on the treadmill for hours on end, but I hate that people are replacing it with two-a-day CrossFit workouts. I love that people are realizing that they don’t have to eat like a bird to be “healthy,” but I hate that they think that they need to “go Paleo” or restrict themselves in equally as cray cray ways to do it instead. I love that we are no longer narrowly defining beauty as thin, but I hate that we are just replacing it with a (thin) woman with biceps and quads.

When I really feel my best, I don’t worry about what other people are doing. This is where I worry that given that some of this “confidence” that comes from having a “CrossFit body,” whatever that means, is at the expense of bringing down other people (or “the old me” that these articles often refer to who spent time running and dieting and trying to be skinny). What happens if CrossFit—and the body that goes along with it—is taken away from us? What if the kind of body love these articles talk about is just as elusive as the ideal body?

Maybe it’s just about acceptance, and maybe that acceptance is unconditional; whether you do CrossFit or not, whether you’re skinny or fat, whether you’re tall or short–you don’t “earn” a body that’s worthy of your own acceptance.

you-yourself-as-much-as-anybody-in-the-entire-universe-deserve-your-love-and-affection-38

I think it’s time to define the relationship that we want to have with our bodies, and then do our best to remember that even though other people will tell us how we ought to take care of ourselves, how we ought to think about our bodies, and how we ought to look, we’re just talking about the vessels that take us through our day-to-day lives. It’s not really how they look or anything about them that makes our lives meaningful. Don’t get me wrong, I intend to take care of my body so that I have a place to live for a long time, and a place that feels good to live in, but we can’t escape the fact that our bodies will do things that we don’t want them to do. We get older, our bodies deteriorate, we get wrinkles, we gain weight, we get stretch marks, we get sick. Our bodies aren’t meant to be perfect, and I don’t intend to waste all the energy I have trying to make mine so. We need to focus on our health, yes, but I would argue that our health is what allows us to live our lives, not the sole purpose of our lives.

What do you want to “get away” with?: on eating for health versus eating for a healthy weight

With Thanksgiving just in the past and plenty of opportunities around the corner for “indulging” in “fun foods” (or junk foods, if you prefer), I thought I’d tackle something that I have given lots of thought to as of late. I hear over and over again people talking about how they can’t “get away with” eating those fun foods or things that they really want.

case in point

case in point — people want those metabolisms!

I’ll admit that I used to be jealous of people who could seemingly eat whatever they pleased without a care and without gaining weight. But I’ve come to realize that there is more than meets the eye, when it comes to the way people fuel themselves: we may see a person’s instagram feed and they may not really eat what’s pictured; we may see the only meal that a person eats all day; we can’t possibly know what’s going on beyond what meets our eyes. On top of that, the more I change the way I think about the number on the scale and what it means, the less I consider eating copious quantities of junk food something to be envious of.

If you think about it, unless we consider weight the most important indication of our health (above and beyond what we’re actually doing to our bodies), we’re not really getting away with anything if the anything is not healthy in and of itself. If someone is “getting away” with eating junk food, they’re still putting junk into their bodies. If they’re not gaining weight, that doesn’t mean that that food is not still driving unhealthy processes in their body or that their insides are in good shape. We think that we want those metabolisms that will allow us to eat whatever we want, but we forget that we still need to eat healthy for the sake of fueling our bodies properly, whether we can stay thin on a diet of potato chips and cookies (or whatever it is you think you can’t have) or not.

But there’s something there worth considering: what is it that we envy about those people who can eat “whatever they want”? During my recovery and when I went about making all foods fit in my diet again, legalizing even the things I forbid myself to eat for years, I did my best to eat “whatever I want.” I didn’t always nail the “without guilt” part of the equation, and I certainly overate in the process, but what I realized is that I’m not the out of control monster that I thought I am when it comes to food. When it’s OK to have dessert, I have it. When I think I shouldn’t be having it because I’m not ____lbs or a size __ yet, then I overeat it. Conditions on the consumption of any food for me are just a trigger for me to throw my hands up in the air and overdo it. Alternatively, when I’m letting myself have it easy with food, I’m always surprised at how little of those formerly oh-so-tempting things I needed when they were OK – one cookie was enough for the girl who used to eat a whole row? If I overdid it, I didn’t feel good. I found myself actually craving vegetables alongside that chocolate. But it’s a slippery slope and I feel like I live in a world where if you’re not dieting, you’re a bit of an outcast, although “diet” is a four letter word that people don’t use to describe their approaches to food.

That being said, what I’ve realized is that what I really am jealous of when it comes to those people who appear to eat whatever they want and stay fit, or healthy, or happy, or whatever, is the freedom that goes along with it. I don’t mean freedom in terms of what they’re putting in their body, I mean freedom in terms of how they approach food and how they approach their own body. The people I envy most are not even those people who eat French fries and still have six packs, they’re the ones who eat salads and burgers and cake and kale without letting it be more than it is. They’re the ones who stop eating when they’re satisfied. They’re the ones who know that if they have a bigger lunch, they’ll probably naturally eat less at dinner—and don’t deprive themselves if they end up being hungry when that time rolls around. They’re the ones who trust themselves around all kinds of food. They’re the ones who don’t turn to food for comfort, but take it for what it is: fuel. These kinds of eaters are the ones who I envy, and lucky for me, identifying what it is about them and their approach to food that I am so jealous of gives me something to aim for creating in myself.

If we have been overweight or have struggled with our weight in the past, it’s easy to feel like we are some kind of special snowflake who could never be able to be happy around food and our bodies. Talk about a limiting perspective. All thinking that way does is create all kinds of feeling of shame, of lack of control, of failure, and all that does is drive us to continue to overeat foods we think are “bad” and to live in this crazy cycle where food is consuming us instead of us consuming it. I know from experience that moving towards that kind of relationship I envy with food is not easy, but I also know that I’m getting there one step at a time. The clearer I can get about what I want for myself in terms of habits around food and thoughts around food, and the gentler with myself I can be as I move in that direction (little steps, little steps), the better I feel in the process of changing the way I think about food and my body.

I shared a Geneen Roth quote with a friend the other day and I think it fits well with this and ties it all together nicely, with the reminder to trust yourself instead:

“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.”

trust

Where do you feel jealous of other people’s metabolisms/eating?
What is it about the way that they eat that is so appealing to you?
What is standing between you and the kind of relationship with food that you want?
What do you want your eating habits to look like?
How do you want to feel about your body?
What is a healthy relationship with food?

less layers, more judgement?: bodies in the summer

I have always loved the summer. With it comes so many good things: a break from our routines, extra sunshine, long bike rides, ice cream cones, and tan lines, to name a few. With it too comes less clothes. This week, I stumbled onto this ecard, which I think is a touch on the unnecessary side.

no one wants to see

 

Today I thought of it when I read an article from the guardian about being fat in the summer. In “Yes, I’m fat, but spare us the cruelty this summer,” the author talks about her experience being big and being told that her body is too big on a seasonal basis. People, in the summer, feel more compelled to comment on her size, which the author admits makes the hot months uncomfortable. She calls for people to give her (and other fat people) a break during the already uncomfortable summer months when it comes to judging them for their weight.

I don’t have a lot of experience being told that my body is too fat in the summer. I do know what it’s like to be uncomfortable in some capacity because of the shape of my body in the hot months (hello, prickly heat from thighs rubbing during a run) and I certainly have experience wishing that it was fall so I could cover up.

No matter what size we are, the summer is a time when there is more of us exposed. Whether we’re overweight, underweight, or just think we’re too much of this or not enough of that, the summer and it’s lack of layers can make us uneasy. I agree with the article’s call for less commenting on each others’ bodies.Our reactions to how someone else looks have more to do with our own relationships with our bodies and ourselves than anything, and I don’t think we should take those out on other people–whether it’s the norm or not.

Where I disliked the article was with the way that the author frames fat and refers to her own body. I think that it’s interesting that this kind of article where there’s a call for people to back off with the body judgement is so harsh towards the fat body of the author herself. Her body–fat or not–deserves her love.

Self deprecation when it comes to our perceived faults–in this case, a fat body–might make it easier to take. But unfortunately, making fun of our own bodies just makes it worse and gives permission to other people to do the same. While I applaud the honesty:

“I suppose the facts of a fat summer are ones I accept and embrace every time I get a Big Mac (which is more often than I should, and yet never enough), and I’m self-aware enough to know that being this big isn’t good for me, that barbs from strangers on the street are mixed with truths.”

…I definitely get why someone would be judgemental. Our culture views health as a personal responsibility and if it comes down to eating or not eating Big Macs, I am not surprised that people think someone “should” be smaller. For the fat acceptance movement, I think this kind of article sends the wrong message. If we don’t change the way we look at “fat” and the way that we think about people’s bodies becoming fat, I don’t think we are going to change the way people relate to their bodies or look at other peoples’.

That being said, I am on the side of the fence where I think people should take responsibility for the way that they treat their bodies. Healthy is healthy whether your BMI falls in a certain range or not. You can’t necessarily judge a book by its cover–or a person by their body size/shape–but you can judge yourself based on your actions. It’s easier not to eat healthy or to exercise and to try to change the way that we feel about our bodies, but I think we’ll feel better about whatever size body we have when we can rest assured that we are doing our best to be as healthy as we can and taking care of our bodies. To me, that’s what body acceptance is about. I feel better about my body when I know that I’m doing things to take care of it. I know that this “It’s OK to have this body if you’re healthy” conditional approach might not win me the favour of some advocates out there, but I also know that if we want a healthier world people need to value their health and that means encouraging healthy behaviours.

In short, I agree with this article and with the idea that in the summer and year round we should back off with the comments and judgements regarding other peoples’ bodies. But I don’t think that in the process we need to normalize that someone who’s fat must necessarily be eating big macs or not taking personal responsibility for their health, nor should we excuse unhealthy behaviour as part of our journey towards acceptance. Skinny or fat, taking care of yourself and taking responsibility for making healthy choices is a win.

What do you think about this article/topic? 

 

 

love your body challenge: completed!

A blessing and a curse when it comes to blog writing is that there are no deadlines, requirements, or external motivators to keep you posting when you mean to. This week, I dropped the ball on wrapping up Molly’s love your body challenge on the same timeline as her. But, since this is my blog, it’s okay that I’m combining a few days and reason to love your body into one spot:

  • because it’s a composite of your parents (and grandparents) – It’s hard to hate your looks when you take a look and realize you look strikingly similar to the people you love the most in your family…

moms

dad

christine

gramma

  • because it’s healthy – YESSSSSSS!
  • because it allows you to love and be loved

cutesy

  • because it’s perfect (and could use a little improvement) – I loveeeee that Molly ended her challenge on this note. She talked about this concept in her workshop and I took heart in hearing someone give me permission to be happy with myself while still wanting to improve myself. I spent a lot of time getting rid of the diet mentality and teaching myself not to base my self worth on how much I weigh or how much weight I was losing or whatever, which means that now when I take up a “getting healthier” kind of goal, it’s easy for me to question myself. I think there’s a process that I’m going through where I see what the extreme of this all looks like and am now just learning how to, from a healthy and sane place, set goals around my workouts, my body, and my health without using them as crazy-making tools. Just as making health goals the only goals in my life wasn’t healthy, not allowing myself to say things like “I want to eat more vegetables and less chocolate” because it seems like a step in the direction towards where I used to be crazy is silly and gives power to the idea that I’m somehow fragile or disordered. I’m not sure if this makes sense like it does in my head, but in short, just because you’re committed to loving and accepting yourself doesn’t mean that you can’t improve yourself. Amen to that!

accept

I’ve really enjoyed blogging through this challenge and I hope you’ve enjoyed my posts along the way. I think this was a great way to get into the positive mindset that I talked about wanting to adopt more of and keep around here. I think my biggest lesson was that we can choose to be positive and that it feels pretty darn good to do so! Lucky for you, I have a few ideas for ways to keep these regular posts coming even after Molly’s challenge has completed.

Did you take part in the challenge? What was your biggest lesson?
Do you think you’ve got a balance between acceptance and self-improvement figured out?

 

 

day 3 and recognizing my strength

Hi there!

Today’s post from Molly Galbraith’s Love Your Body Challenge is all about acknowledging where you’re strong:

“We do things on a daily basis that require enormous amounts of physical, mental, and emotional strength, and yet we never slow down to recognize them, and give ourselves the credit we deserve.”

I think of myself as a strong person:

Emotionally, I’ve been through some stuff, which assures me that I’m strong.

stronger than you think

Physically, no problem.

This is my favourite picture. Ever.

This is my favourite picture. Ever.

 

Mentally, I do my best to think strong thoughts.

Strong or miserable

So, for today, my focus is: “I am strong enough to admit when I’m wrong and start over, and I am proud of that.”  x10

I am the person who sometimes acts too impulsively and trusts too much. In combination, this means I’ve spent a lot of time and money and energy on things that, to some people, might look like a “waste.” I, however, refuse to look at them that way. Of all the “mistakes” I’ve taken or the “wrong” roads I’ve found myself down (switching programs in school, for instance or starting and quitting jobs or training programs, perhaps), there are none that I haven’t learned something valuable about myself from. In lots of cases, finding the strength to stop where I’m at once I’ve realized it isn’t serving me was the hardest part.

strength 2

 

How are you strong on a regular basis?
Does reminding yourself of your strengths make you feel more confident in the moment? 

 

a challenge: what i’m capable of

I am a big fan of Molly Galbraith. Last fall, I got to meet her when I went to ladies retreat she put on in Ohio. She talked about her personal experience, how she works with women as a trainer, and about some pretty insightful body image stuff. One of my favourite posts of hers is “It’s hard out here–for a fit chick”  where she explained her own story and her journey, doubts, and eventual confidence as a fitness professional:

“So that’s what I want you to realize.  None of us have it all figured out.  Some of us are farther along in our self-acceptance journey than others, but we are all in it together.  In the meantime, let’s can the trash talk about our own bodies AND each other’s bodies.”

Needless to say, I have a girl crush on this lady. If you know me, you know I’m also big on all things acceptance and body love. Coming off of an awesome Love Your Body Week at Western, I was really excited to see Molly launching her own body love challenge to her followers.

1426583_10201974993690486_802101072_n

 

I’m a day late, but I decided that I wanted to be a part of this challenge. Rather than do a day or two here or there without really being accountable to anyone, I thought what better spot than on my (currently neglected) blog to keep that conversation about loving your body going. I was drawn into Molly’s invitation, where she shared pictures from big name awesome ladies in the world of (interweb) fitness talking about their own journeys to body love and showing their flattering and not so flattering selves to demonstrate that body acceptance and “body embracement,” as Molly calls the next level of loving your body, can happen regardless of how “good” you look or where you’re at. Amen to that!

So, in the spirit of the second day of the challenge, I thought I’d reflect on Molly’s 2nd Reason to love your body–because it’s capable:

“We are such a complex and divine piece of machinery, that we should constantly be in awe of ourselves, and I would be willing to be that there is something, at least one thing, that you do better than almost anyone else.”

I like that Molly talks about the physical and the non-physical capabilities of our bodies here (hers is to make people laugh). When I really thought about what I could appreciate my body for, of course I thought of all the physical things I’ve been able to impress myself with (from training up to and biking 100 miles to building the strength necessary to do sets of pullups) but also gave some thought to what I really do well but don’t acknowledge myself for.

This is mile 92 of my first century. I finished--with a smile!

This is mile 92 of my first century. I finished–with a smile!

 

On that note, I decided to celebrate the fact that I’m a writer. If you didn’t know, I keep a little portfolio website for my more professional writing beyond this blog. I’ve realized, especially lately, that not everyone LIKES writing. Whether it’s someone who can’t believe that I overshot a paper by 2000 words (fact) or the friend who wants to know how I got my foot in the door at Canadian Cycling Magazine, I am reminded every once in a while of the fact that I am a good writer. So, as Molly suggested, here’s my mantra:

I am capable of turning ideas into writing, and that’s awesome.  In fact, I am capable of anything I set my mind to, that I am willing to work for. “    x10!

writing = love

What are you capable of?
Will you join in on this challenge?
Who is your biggest girl crush in the fitness industry?

 

less dieting: a cause for celebration or deeper consideration?

As an advocate for more healthy and happy in the world, news that less people are dieting should be a big win for me. According to USA Today’s “Fewer people say they’re on a diet”, that’s exactly the case:

 “On average, about 20% of people said they were on a diet during any given week in 2012, down from a high of 31% in 1991, according to new data from the NPD Group, a market research firm.

Women showed the biggest decline, with 23% reporting being on a diet in 2012, vs. 36% in 1991.”

The title of the piece points towards what I think is going on (and what it suggests) – less people say they’re dieting. I’m going to hold off on tossing the confetti and popping the champagne.

Does this mean less people are dieting?

It seems to me that more people than ever are working on their bodies. I see all kinds of new diet foods on the shelf (gluten free is the diet du jour). There seems to be just as many magazines offering ways to drop 10lbs fast or TV spots talking about the latest research on which workout is best for dropping pounds (or not).

I think I have some insight into what could be going on. The poll allowed people to define for themselves what “dieting” meant–something I think is important to take into consideration.

Let’s face it: it’s not ”sexy” to be on a diet any more. Powerful women don’t diet – they accept their bodies. We spend hours and hours and all kinds of money in the pursuit of body acceptance. I know I would hesitate to tell anyone I was on a diet, even if I was (let’s say theoretically for a medical condition OR for aesthetic reasons).

stop dieting

In this culture where “dieting” is taboo, it’s become the socially acceptable—and celebrated—behaviour to eat for our health. I know plenty of people who are afraid of the gluten ghost today and who bought fat free everything in the name of their health. Depending on the “lifestyle” flavor of the week, it can become easy to see a “diet” as a way of life, especially when marketers encourage us to see things that way.

dieting

dieting 2

I think eating with our health in mind is a wonderful thing, but I’m not naïve. In our society, taking responsibility for your health carries moral significance. I know that—and so do marketers. The person who doesn’t take responsibility for their health—the overweight person who you see ordering French fries, for instance—is seen as any host of undesirable things: lazy, gross, unhealthy, a burden on the tax system, etc. It’s no surprise to me that people want people to know that they eat healthy. Dieting, however, has come to be seen not only as something that doesn’t work but also as an indication that you’re vain or narcissistic. No wonder the people they polled aren’t on diets!

It’s interesting: “Orthorexia” emerged in the 1990s (in the years between the polls in the article). This diagnosable eating disorder is the extreme effect of what focusing on “eating healthy” can do (“an eating disorder in which a person is obsessed with “eating right”). Whether you call it a diet obsession or a healthy eating obsession, no one wins when food takes over your life.

Part of me still wants to celebrate that less people are dieting. Maybe all the anti-dieting workers in the world and the intuitive eating advocates have made a difference. But given that there are still so many overweight and obese individuals who have to struggle with their weight as well as with the ways that people view their weight, I don’t think the battle has been won. I don’t think stigmatizing dieting fixes the issue–it just gives it a new name. Though I think that shifting a focus to eating for health is a good thing, I think people need to be careful not to take “health” information exactly as it comes. Figuring out what you define as health and moving towards that will help you keep an eye out for things that are misleading and simply using health as a way to market or legitimize themselves.

Do you have a special approach to eating? Would you call it a diet?
If something is labeled or called “healthy,” do you assume it is good for you? What does that mean to you?