Looking back: Why we need to love who we were

In starting teachers college, I’ve done some looking back on my social media and internet presence to make sure that my digital self is not doing anything that a teacher ought not to do. I’m kind of the one who’s always arguing for safety first and going home from parties early, so there wasn’t too much fear that I’d find anything I need to hide.

In the process, I started to come across photos of myself over the years. One of the things I noticed was the way I would look at some pictures and want to judge my body in them. When I started to think about it, I tried to be compassionate. That girl—whether she was big or small, smiling or pretending to smile—is part of who I am today. It is hard when I look back to not be a little upset with myself—How could I starve myself? And how could I binge and purge? And what would my life be like if I hadn’t spent so long hating and abusing my body? What would I be doing? How would my body be now? The questions could go on for days.

But I know that there’s power in acceptance. I know that I cannot go back and change things. And I also know that just as I encourage my personal training clients not to look at their “before” photos and beat themselves up or feel bad about them, the person we were years ago, 6 months ago, or at the start of our journeys is the person who made us into who we are today.

remember where you come from

Anyone who has gone through a recovery process or who has undergone some kind of transformation (from an eating disorder, around their weight, through an addiction) should give some credit to who they were in the throes of their issues. It was that person who found the strength, the motivation, and the means to start the process of becoming who we are now and who we will be in the future.

suffering start

Looking back and feeling ashamed is a disservice to who you are now. We have to be okay with where we’ve been, and I argue that we have to be proud of who we were then just as much as we ought to be proud of where we are now—on whatever journey we might be on.

love yourself as if

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?

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? 

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!

coming clean: weight loss versus body love

Today on her blog, Sam tackled the “Do I want to lose weight?” question. As someone who takes a stand for Health and Every Size, I think it was brave of her to talk so openly about where she’s at and it was a perfect inspiration to go into the topic a bit myself.

Not too long ago, I had a big cry when I realized that I was scared to admit that I want to lose weight. I thought for sure that meant that I was a hypocrite of some sort. But I realized that wanting to lose weight is fine, as long as it doesn’t come from an unhealthy place. I’ve always thought that a healthy weight is the weight that comes out of the healthiest habits, and when I get real with myself, I’ve realized that some of my habits are not so healthy.

Even though in the past I know that I’ve been sucked into thinking that weight loss would some how solve all my problems, I’m at a place now where I feel confident about whether or not I’m taking care of myself or hurting myself when it comes to what I’m after. I’ve worked on—and will continue to plug away at—lots of my issues and know that five or ten or even twenty pounds is not what stands between us and happiness.

I even realized that not talking about this would be doing a disservice to anyone who follows my blog. I’ve always been open about things and I know that there are other people out there feeling like body love failures in the same way I am.speak

It’s just as shitty to beat ourselves up for not loving our bodies as it is for weighing too much. If we aren’t feeling comfy and happy with our bodies—or maybe more importantly, with our habits—I say give ourselves permission to work on them and to be open about the struggles. I know that there’s a lot of talk about the way that CrossFit, for instance, can help us to really appreciate our bodies and what they can do. This usually comes with a point about how it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale or the size in our jeans reads any more—but what if it does? Where does that leave the girl who doesn’t want the quads that won’t fit in normal jeans or the shoulders that make wearing a blazer next to impossible? Where does that leave the girl who doesn’t want to go to the beach because she just can’t get used to the body she has?

That girl is me. One of my the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves is, how’s that working for you? When I ask myself that in relation to trying to love my body/eating and training the way I am, I have to be honest: I’m frustrated and I’m looking for change this year.

To end things, I want to make it clear that I don’t think we should abandon our body love pursuits. Of course loving ourselves is a great thing! But self-love doesn’t happen overnight and it does not mean that we cannot want to change ourselves, to improve ourselves, or to be somewhere different than we are. Loving our bodies does not have to mean giving up on the pursuit of a healthy or even healthy looking body, but for some people it might. We can define what we want our relationships with our bodies to look like and then work on making that our reality. Maybe it doesn’t mean eating cake all the time, having cellulite, and being okay with it. Maybe it doesn’t mean eating clean, working out, and weighing ourselves. Maybe it means somewhere in between, where we take care of ourselves and put in a little work.

For me, I’ve started to make some little adjustments in my healthy, happy definition—with my weight as one of the things that fits into that health picture. I am working with a dietitian again, trying my best to tackle my health habits one at a time. I’ve joined in on the healthy weight challenge (no extremes allowed) that some of my fellow cyclists are doing this spring. I’m open to shifting my training and realizing that I need to do what makes me happy, not what I think I should be doing. And I’m being open about this in hopes that other people who have maybe gone through the same thing have some insight to offer.

 

Have you ever felt like wanting to lose weight made you a sell out to the body love crowd?

Where do you do things for your health out of “should”?

What do you think defines a healthy, happy weight? Relationship with your body?

 

 

#storiesnotselfies: Women’s Empowerment Series and a weekend well spent

I’ve not been my regular blogging self lately for a variety of reasons, but I know when something is worth blogging about, and this weekend included one of those things. Besides overdue reunions with busy friends, bouldering (aka falling on … Continue reading

dr. seuss was right

I can’t believe that it’s day 22 of Molly’s challenge already. I am back onto loving her message for the day–love your body because it’s unique (and because you’re unique)! Maybe she had Dr. Seuss in mind when she wrote this one, because that’s sure what came to my mind:

today you are you

 

Molly’s post included a little bit about appreciating our bodies and not comparing to others’. This is a big thing for me. Even though I try to keep “Comparison is the thief of all joy” in my mind, I can still get caught in the comparison game: case in point, spending 20 minutes this morning (when I’m supposed to be reading, naturally) seeing where I stack up in the CrossFit Open (a competition I can honestly say I’m doing just for fun). Of course, there are 900 girls around here who are “fitter” than me by CrossFit Open standards, but if I left it at that I might be left feeling more mediocre than I should.

compare

Instead, it’s important that I step back and look at where I’m directing my energy and celebrating the ways that I’m “winning” in my broader pursuits–physical and otherwise. I’ve been teaching more spin and exercise classes lately, which leave me feeling rewarded and give me a sense of connection and leadership (things I love). I’ve been personal training clients again, which means I’m working on developing my practical, job-marketable-skills but also that even though at a gym more but don’t necessarily have as much time to get to CrossFit myself. I’ve decided to give cycling more attention this summer (there’s something I miss so much about being fit for something that allows me to get out and about and spend days with people riding around in the sun–or wind, rain, hail<–minor detail!). I guess what makes me unique here and what needs celebrating is my versatility and my passion for health and moving in ways that feel good. 

Not everyone can combine the things that I do and feel like they’re doing the right thing. Some people prefer to pour themselves into one thing–and that’s fine. What makes me unique is that–whether it’s exercise (I love CrossFit! I love yoga! I love cycling! I love trail running! I love triathlon! I love group fitness!) or work (I freelance write! I personal train! I teach fitness! I life coach! I’m in grad school!)–is that I like to have a lot of pieces in the puzzle.

I feel like I got a little bit off track with that, but I think the point of the challenge is to give yourself credit where maybe you used to make yourself wrong. I still on occasion think that I should settle down and dedicate myself to one thing entirely, but that doesn’t agree with what I love: being on the go, being connected in lots of ways, etc. For now, what makes me unique that’s worth celebrating is that I’m a Jill of all trades.

This seems fitting:

do more of what makes you happy

 

As does this:

 

What can you appreciate about your unique self? 
Where do you find yourself comparing when you should be celebrating? 

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?

 

think about it: what’s more important than loving your body

Last week, I found my way to an article on The Huffington Post called “Why Love Your Body Campaigns Aren’t Working.”  Isabel Foxen Duke (she’s a coach) wrote the thing and I think she raised a really important point:

“…instead of simply shifting the global paradigm of beauty, we need to start exploring why those paradigms are meaningful to begin with, and challenge the validity of those beliefs.”

Amen to that.

If we want people to start loving their bodies, I don’t think we need to look at the bodies themselves. We need to look at the BELIEF systems around our bodies and particularly around weight. This needs to go on at an individual level and a societal level.

Individually, not using your weight or how your body looks as a source of self worth is a pretty big step, but big steps go hand in hand with a revolution. Imagine being able to look at your body as a gift–whatever it looks like–because it lets you live the awesome life you’re too busy enjoying to get distracted by anxiety over whether or not your cellulite is showing. That would feel pretty good, don’t you think?

So would getting weighed at the doctor and taking the number as just information—not a reflection of your self worth. Or buying the size of pants that fit you, regardless of whether they’re an XS or an XL–and wearing them with confidence.

I have a couple questions I think might help lead to what I’m getting at here.

  • What if your weight was like height and you couldn’t change it?
  • How would you talk to yourself?
  • Shop for clothes?
  • Eat?
  • Exercise?

Answering these questions while thinking about weight in a new way—as something we don’t need to worry about affecting directly—starts to hint at all that’s possible if we make that shift in perspective.  If you start focusing on your actions and on what you can control and let weight be the by product, you have the freedom (and the responsibility) to do what’s really good for you. So, what’s possible if you change what you’re making weight mean?

I’d suggest this: make a list of the things you think your weight (or if you’ve already realized that it’s not your weight but the obsession with it that holds you back, then the focus on weight) is stopping you from doing. Look at that list critically and ask yourself, is there any reason why someone with your body shouldn’t have those things? My guess is that the answer you’ll come up with is no. Skinny people are CEOs. Fat people are CEOs. Skinny people fall in love. Fat people fall in love. Skinny people can go to the beach. Fat people can go to the beach. Etc. etc. Like the article I linked to suggested, there’s a learning process here and when we go through it we can start to look at our bodies in a new light:

“Eventually my relationship with my body did start to change… when I finally realized I can get the guy, the job, the cute clothes in the window right now, regardless of my weight. Women with “non-traditional body types” are not disabled from creating what they want in the world, we’re just taught that they are.”

This leads me to my next point. We need a change in how we look at our bodies as a society.  We need to start valuing, displaying, and appreciating all body sizes and shapes. It’s not that we’ll never have a “skinny” person on the cover of a magazine and I don’t think we need to come up with requirements for how big or how small a person needs to be to be a model. I think we need diversity. I think we need to look at “Strong is the New Skinny” type campaigns with a critical eye and take them for what they are—a new method to get women to drive themselves batty chasing after another unrealistic ideal. Like I’ve said before on this topic, if we want to move forward, we don’t need a new skinny, we need to stop worrying about fitting into ideals (skinny, strong, curvy, whatever the flavor of the day is) that don’t serve us.

So, to answer my question, what’s more important than loving your body? Loving yourself, of course, and loving the way you live your life.  Another quote from Foxen Duke:

“When our belief systems around weight change — that is, when we challenge the “meaning” we give to weight or body shape — our bodies naturally become our allies in achievement, rather than an obstacle to overcome.”

Think about it: our bodies are the instruments that let us live our lives! If we love our lives, doesn’t it make sense that we would love our bodies? And if we love our bodies, wouldn’t we take exquisite care of them?

take care

 

What do you think your current body is holding you back from?