When teaching BMI...

I was recently asked by a colleague at the college that I teach at, how I thought we should we be teaching Body Mass Index (BMI) so not to harm our students.  First off, I wanted to fly out of my chair and hug her for asking this question.  Second, I thought how do we teach nutrition and health and wellness and weights without harming.  Especially in this day and age.  When everyone in the room has a different story and a different relationship with food and their body.  When I look out at a classroom full of students that have self selected into studying nutrition I know that there are likely many different internalized views on what it means to be healthy and how to achieve this.  We do not know the struggles anyone in our classes are having with food or body.  And we can't assume that nobody in class is struggling.  

I was even more reminded about the diet stew we swim in when giving a class an assignment on diets.  They needed to find a fad diet- (I used to say fad diet but have switched it to diet because they need to realize that anything that has rules or restricts is a diet, fad or not), they research where the diet can be found (in a book, online, in a shop), state the claims, find scientific research to back up the claims- or research at the disputes the claims and compare it to Canada's Food Guide (not perfect but a comparison). Every year -this is the 4th  year I have taught this class with this assignment- I get emails from students pointing out that Whole30 or paleo are not diets- they are lifestyle changes and I should remove them from the list of diets.  Or that they can't find any journal articles to support (insert any restrictive diet here) so they would like permission to quote off the website as it sounds scientific (??).   And every year I am reminded of how strong the pull of the diet industry is.  I try to surround myself with like minded people (or nobody I am friends with talks to me about diets anymore because they were worried about my head with all the eye rolling and forehead slapping). My social media feeds are very carefully curated to include images of all body sizes and non diet inclusive minded feeds, even my podcast selection are mostly the same HAES, non-diet, inclusive podcasts.  I think I really do forget what the "other side" looks like.  I think I forget how radical I sound to these students.  I think I forget that some of them really do think that Whole30 or the diet du jour will make life better and their bodies smaller. 

Which is what brings me back to the beginning of this post.  How do we teach BMI in a way that will not be harmful especially when they are swimming in the diet stew?  We never know the lived experiences of all the people we come into contact with especially when teaching.  When I teach I am considered the expert in the room (I cringed at writing that if you are interested...I do not think I am expert at anything expect myself).  If I stand up there and say this is the BMI, this is how you calculate it, this is what your category is...and leave it at that...what I am leaving there?  Did I just trigger a student into thinking they need to lose weight because they see their BMI in the overweight category?  Did I just put my whole class into a defined box that doesn't account for anything except their height relative to their weight?  So, do I even teach BMI?  Yes, I do.  And here is why.  Even if I do not use it in practice or find it relevant, they will see it in the world.  They will come across it in their work and their lives.  They will be told what their BMI is at doctors appointments or while getting a fitness assessment at a gym.  They will see the chart in magazines or in weighting rooms.  And I want to teach them what that number really means.  I want to make sure they know how the BMI was created, where the categories came from and all the limitations.  I want to teach them that they are so much more than a number on a scale or a point on a chart. ( I would like to take this point to thank Fiona Willer AvdAPD for her podcast "Unpacking Weight Science" (you can find it here https://www.patreon.com/UnpackingWeightScience/posts) and her online course of the same name as Fiona is now giving me even more tools and the proper language to use when teaching about weight. She is on the SheRo list for sure )  I want to teach my students to look at diets critically and use this critical thinking when assessing weights and bodies.  If I can even reach one student in each class then we will continue to ripple out this effect.

So in short- Yes I think we can teach BMI in a way that is less harming but we need to teach where it came from, how we got to using it the way that we do and be very clear about all the things it does not measure.  I need to acknowledge that even though I would erase BMI from the world- I can't. But I can arm the future with enough knowledge to challenge its uses and slowly over time I hope we will not have to be having conversations about how do we teach BMI in a non harmful way, we will be teaching about the archaic why we used to think weight was related to health and this ancient index that makes no sense. 

Until next time be unapologetically you while I continue to be Unapologetically me


My spin on Nutrition Month

Happy Nutrition Month (March 2018 for reference)!  It is Nutrition Month here in Canada and I do think other places in the world as well.  Each National Dietetics Association makes a theme for the month to promote a particular nutrition topic.  This year Dietitians of Canada has set the theme of "Unlock the Potential of Food".  There are various handouts you can give out and there are events all over the country to promote this.  (www.dietitians.ca) I would like to put my spin on it for you.

When I think of unlocking the potential of food the thing that comes to my mind is not how can particular foods improve or change me but how can food give me pleasure or even neutrality.  What would it be like if we unlocked the potential pleasure in food?  How does food enrich my life, my relationships with others and myself?  I know that food does not bring pleasure to many.  It is a source of guilt and shame, a source of fear, a source of pain, a source of confusion.  I would like to spend a month (or a lifetime) on that.  Putting food back in its place of nourishing the body, sustaining our lives so we can live our lives.  A thing we need to interact with multiple times a day but doesn't cause us to overthink or over plan.  I want to spend the month talking about those moments when you laugh over a plate of nachos with friends or learn about your kids day over dinner or simply being alone with your food and enjoying it.   

Every morning I sit quietly and drink my first mouthful of coffee and savour it.  I let the warmth fill my body as I let the aromas surround me.  It may be the only mouthful of coffee I enjoy in quiet and alone for my whole day but I make sure it happens most days.  I try to make it more about the enjoyment of the flavours than a device I need to get through my busy often sleep deprived days.  This is where mindfulness comes in.  The smells, the textures, the tastes.  Every meal has an explosion of each- even the most simple meals. 

Finding the pleasure in the foods can be hard for many as we live in a culture that does not necessarily allow us to find pleasure in things.  We use terms such as "I am so bad", " this is devilish", "sinfully delicious" "I only eat clean"(this terms bugs me soooo much)....we put such morality on foods.  Have you ever caught yourself saying " I am so bad for eating this...(insert food here) but I will just (insert whatever you say you will do to compensate for said food)".  Nobody has ever gone to (your version) of Hell or jail or anything for eating a food you enjoy.  If I was sent to jail for every time I enjoyed a "sinful" food unapologetically I would likely be living there by now.  The jail we send ourselves to is in our brains.  We don't let ourselves find pleasure instead we find shame.  Some count calories or macros.  Some workout however much exercise is needed to "burn off" this food.  Some feel like they failed for eating a particular food or way and then this seeps into other aspects of life.  I think that if we find a way to just eat the damn chocolate because you love the chocolate instead of all the negative self talk we do you might actually find the pleasure in the chocolate.  

So maybe next time you find yourself eating try to unlock the potential pleasure of the food.  Slow down and notice the tastes, the textures, the smells.  If you are eating with others maybe you could be so brave as to talk about the wonderful flavours you are eating.  Maybe encourage others to describe what tastes or feelings come of up with that food.  Take deep breaths, relax and enjoy.  Eating can become a pleasurable experience that does not need to be "fixed" later.  Noticing what you are telling yourself while eating can be a first step towards Unlocking this Potential in food.  

Until next time be Unapologetically you while I be Unapologetically Me.

Mindfulness and me

January was mindful eating month as hosted by The Centre for Mindful Eating (https://thecenterformindfuleating.org/ if you are interested).  The theme for that month was compassionate self care.  I had full intent of writing many posts on this topic over the course of the month culminating in a post on January 25th which was mindful eating day.  Well as you can see that didn't happen.  It is now March!  (ummm...so really time really does go faster as you get older!) So now I am revisiting compassion- not just in how we eat but in everyday life.  I have to be compassionate with myself that life got very busy and I had to prioritize.  Compassionate self care is essential when we are looking at our lives- to decrease judgement and shame regarding our decisions-whether it is what we ate or whether we decided that a blog post could go unwritten at present.  When I sit back and look at January and February I can see how work got exponentially busier at a time when it generally doesn't. I can see how unexpected life situations came up and smacked me in the face.   I can see how things got hectic but I made more time for self-care to get through it all.  Not going to lie- I didn't really realize this until I reflected on the last 2 months. 

I have decided to become more mindful this year by incorporating a mindfulness practice into my life (and my kids have joined- 6yr old now asks for his "breathing app" daily... so fun).  Whether it is actually getting back on my yoga mat, a 2 minute mindful breathing exercise or sitting quietly for 5mins in the morning before my day starts I have been doing this most days.  So I was practicing compassionate self care- I just wasn't telling anyone about it...and in today's society if I didn't selfie it did it truly happen?? (A thought for another day)

I have even been incorporating mindfulness into one of the classes I teach.  We have done a couple meditations with heads down and breathing.  But last week I did a mindful eating exercise.  You might have done this in the past with a raisin.  I, however, provided my students with 3 pieces of chocolate (or they could bring food of their own choice to class for this) and walked them through a guided mindful eating exercise.  To be honest I went a bit faster than I find I do in smaller groups (not sure if it was the restless energy they started with or my feeling of being overwhelmed at the moment I started this not knowing the outcome).  This class has 34 students which even though not a large class is the largest group I have ever done guided mindful eating with.  After they went through the exercise I had them sit silently and write a reflection of the experience.  These reflections were an amazing experience for me to read.  Students commented on how they had never really smelled their food before eating.  Many students commented on how  the chocolate tasted different than any chocolate they had every eaten- one even asked if I had it shipped from Europe.  But the most interesting comment I heard, that was written more than a dozen times, was that they did not feel self conscious to eat the chocolate because everyone else was doing it because they had to do it for class.  Many of these comments were followed by something like- "I didn't realize I thought like that".  

This really hammered home for me that mindful eating can help us slow down, enjoy the tastes and pleasures that come with food but it can also make us more aware of all the negative self talk that comes of up when we eat certain foods.  The judgement that we put on ourselves by not "following the plan" or eating a "bad" food.  If we eat anywhere from 3 to 9 times a day that means we have 3 to 9 times a day at least where we could be engaging in negative self talk about our food choices.  That's 3 to 9 times a day that we may be unconsciously doing damage to our mental health and physical health.  

I have been dabbling, for lack of a better word, with a mindful practice for about 12 years now.  I have known how to explain it and even help guide but I have never embodied it.   I am now working on that.  And by working on my mindful practice I can see how much it could benefit everyone.  I have been devouring everything that The Mindful Dietitian, Fiona Sutherland, has to offer.  I am learning from my colleagues at work. I am taking the Motivational Interviewing and Mindfulness course by Nourished Body (Woohoo Kori Kostka!) I have been reading and listening and learning and experimenting.  (I have been doing an exercise with my coffee in the morning before I take my first sip and HOLY SHIT the amazing coffee tastes even better and will always make this grumpy not a morning person smile).  I am trying to be a pebble in a lake with regards to this topic.  I am only one person.  Yet, if I can ripple out the message of mindfulness to my students and my own children, then they ripple out to their families and clients, then they ripple out to whomever they chose- it may take a generation but I believe that this is a key to healing our societies relationship with food and bodies.  

Today I stood in a space that has just been renovated in the office where I do my private practice sessions and I was struck with an almost fully formed idea of a body image/mindfulness based group for kids aged 10-14.  This is my tiny fight back to WW (#wakeupweightwatchers) and it might just be another ripple in the lake that could be part of a movement of change.

So you be unapologetically you, while I mindfully be Unapologetically me....


If you were on Twitter the last week (for reference 2nd wk of February 2018) you might have seen the hashtag #wakeupweightwatchers.  Many of the individuals that work in the eating disorder realm, body positivity/acceptance and HAES™ areas or people who realize that marketing dieting to teenagers is a repulsive idea were trying to put pressure on Weight Watchers ™ to stop their new program.  This program offers teens free memberships this summer to start "the development of healthy habits at this critical life stage" or as I would like to reframe it - "the development of an unhealthy relationship with food that will carry on with them in this critical life stage and beyond".  To be honest the first time I saw a headline on Twitter about it, I stared at it for a while wondering if my brain was officially so tired it couldn't read words any longer.  I mean really....WHO thought this was a good idea?!?!?  And then I thought about it.  Moneymakers thought it was a good idea.  And really, I guess if you take the fact that WW (I am boycotting even writing their name for the rest of this post) has been around for decades and keeps having to change their program to make it "better" (if it really worked long term do you think they would need to keep changing it?) then it makes sense that they want a person signing up at 13 because imagine...the amount of money they will pay over their lifetime in fees (I am guessing there are fees to be treated like you are not good enough as you are).  I mean really...why wait until they are in their 20's and 30's...get them now!!  This means more money (Well they do have to pay the mighty O and I am guessing that's not cheap).  

WW is going after a very vulnerable section of the population.  Teens bodies are changing, growing, developing.  Often they do not have the best relationship with it during this time.  Sometimes they are being raised in houses with grownups that do not have a good relationship with their bodies or food.  So lets make this a family event!  (side note: I am writing this in a coffee shop and I am sighing and pounding my keys and the people beside me keep looking with concerned looks...I kinda just want to say "DIET CULTURE SUCKS!!"...I will let you know if it comes out..)

To be completely transparent I have never been to a WW meeting or whatever they do online.  However it is my understanding- from having clients that have tried this in the past- that there are weigh-in meetings where everyone stands around while you get weighed.  Then you have to discuss why your weight is down or up or nothing changed.  It is also my understanding the the meeting leaders are people that have been "successful" (what does that even mean?!?!) on this plan and want to "help" (eye roll) others.  Let's just think about that for a minute.  Let's put a bunch of self conscious teens in a room and weigh them-in front of everyone.  This makes me want to take a big scale with big flashing digital numbers and go to a WW board meeting.  I would like to have them each stand on the scale that would be in the middle of the boardroom table (my fantasy don't judge..lol) so they have to climb up for everyone to see.  Then the number will be recorded in a little book so that they can compare it at the next meeting.  I wonder if attendance at these meetings would be good.  I wonder if even more chaotic eating behaviours would start the week before the weigh in.  I wonder how many of them would protest that their weight is their business and nobody else's. 

And then after we get judged on our relation to gravity on earth- we no longer call food its proper names.  Let's assign some points to foods so people can work on their math skills???  Why can't an apple be an apple?  Or chocolate cake be chocolate cake??  And call it a "healthy habit"?!?!?!?!  This is where I can't even more annoyed.  This is not a health habit- it is a diet- plan and simple.  If you make your food decisions based on an arbitrary point system instead of what you actually want to eat- it is a diet.  If you restrict foods, or whole food group to follow a plan- it is a diet.  If you have to consult your app to assess whether you are allowed to eat what is on your plate for dinner- IT IS A DIET!   Plan and simple.  This company is marking to the 13-19 year old age group because they know that diets don't work and that they will now get consumers into the diet cycle sooner and therefore make more money.  And they do this by continuing to push diet culture.

What if there were programs that were free and backed by celebrities that helped teens in this age group to trust their bodies.  Listen to their hunger and fullness cues.  Teach them that food is pleasurable and nourishes our bodies and our souls.  What if we had a free campaign that taught teens that their bodies were perfect JUST THE WAY THEY ARE!  What if there were millions of dollars poured into advertising to show that a body size does not equate health.   I realize that it might not be as sexy as changing but if we were able to raise a generation that didn't buy into the diet culture machine.  I truly do not believe in the depths of my soul that a program like this will actually help.  It breaks my heart to think of the path that it puts individuals on.  

If you have any time to do a quick look at #wakeupweightwatchers on twitter please do.  So many great minds have been dropping truth bombs about diets and eating disorders and the effects they have long term.  And if you are feel brave and more eloquent with words than I am please consider @ this company to voice your concerns.  This issue needs voices.  It needs loud amazing voices to get them to reconsider what they are doing. 

Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically (and angrily) me

Diet Culture makes me angry...

Today is the last day of Eating Disorder Awareness Week- #EDAW2018 here in Canada. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (www.nedic.ca) and other organizations across Canada have been running awareness building and educational activities to try to educated the public that eating disorders are a serious mental health issue that can affect anyone regardless race, gender, class or body size.  The theme for this campaign was "Was Size Does NOT fit all" and it has been working to dispel the myth that there is only one specific looking body that has an eating disorder.

I really like this campaign- in fact I have loved all of their campaigns since I became aware of the organization in 2001.  (Check out their website..its a great resource) One of the reasons that I have gravitated to this message is because I suspect that many individuals in our society are not diagnosed with an eating disorder because of how they appear on the outside.  I personally have worked with individuals struggling with a restrictive eating disorder but lived in a larger body therefore many medical professionals thought they were lying about their restrictive behaviours.  I also believe that when we allow for personal bias or societies own eating disorder to interfere with diagnosing we can affect treatment or even miss diagnosis.  I was referred a male client once who had finally been referred to a clinic after years of struggling with his eating disorder because his doctor didn't really believe a male could have "eating issues" so spent over a year running tests for other disease states.  I have worked with teenagers who struggled in recovery because intuitive eating in the home conflicted with the parents dieting mentality.  I believe this circles back to societies ingrained fat phobia and diet mentality.  DIET CULTURE. And that is where I think we need to start targeting campaigns.  

What would our culture look like if it was no longer on a diet?  Seriously- think about it.  What would happen if people made food choices strictly based on what made their bodies feel good and what tasted good not what the app on their smartphone told them they should eat today because they didn't balance their "macros" properly at breakfast. Or what some random person told them was "the best way to eat".  What if everyone moving their bodies was strictly doing it for enjoyment and not to compensate for said unbalanced macros at breakfast or as punishment for eating something that brought them joy.  What if peoples bodies were just fine the way they were? OMFG!!  I think I would love this world but if I am being honest I can't picture it clearly.  Diet culture is so pervasive, so insidious that I can't imagine fully what this type of world would look like. And that truly pisses me off.   Diet culture affects everyone, everywhere.  There is not one place I was today that was totally free of it (exclude my house as it is a DIET FREE ZONE 24/7 and if you bring your diet shit in I will politely-the first time- ask it to leave!!)...except maybe my car...no radio today-therefore no "lose xx amount of weight by Valentines Day" just 3 awesome body liberation podcasts...nope I was wrong...I drove by a car that was wrapped in an ad for a fad diet company.  It's EVERYWHERE!  

So how do we break up with diet culture? (middle fingers up??....well thats how I started) But maybe we start with the realization that one size  really does not fit all.  There is not one perfect size of body.  There is not one perfect way to eat.  There is not one perfect way to move.  We all come in various shapes, sizes, colours, abilities and so should our lives.  We can read blogs by amazing humans doing amazing work in this area...(random thought- Maybe I should post a list of the ones I love...ohhhh...yes...that's coming soon).  We can shut down diet talk in the office- "no thank you, I am not interested in hearing about why you think eating like a Whole#CaveManOnAPointSystem is the best thing ever".  We can advocate for spaces that have chairs that actually fit human butts in all their various sized glory(I'm looking at you doctor office waiting rooms...well any waiting rooms and movie theaters and restaurants and anywhere that has a chair).  For those of us that live with some privilege in this life we can use our voices to get the voices of those are that are marginalized heard-trust me they have amazing things to say.  Put on our damn crowns and take down diet culture. (see post called "crown on..."to understand what I mean or visualize any type of crown that makes you happy).  Christy Harrison host of Food Pysch podcast (https://christyharrison.com/foodpsych/)calls diet culture the life thief and I couldn't agree more.  Let's arrest this thief and lock them up for eternity.

Until next time but Unapologetically you while I be Unapologically Me.

Body Betrayal

I have started off 2018 pretty much the same way I finished...trying to catch up.  And one of the things that I have prioritized in my catch up world are podcasts.  I love listening to them as I commute to work and if you have read this blog in the past you have heard me randomly discuss some.  I actually listen to the them at 1.5x speed so I can through them faster...(honestly I was listening at 1.5x forever before I realized I was doing that..I thought it was odd that people talked so fast but got used to it). And it was pounding through all the Body Kindness Podcasts from November 1 until now that I got inspired to write this.  

Body Kindness Podcast is hosted by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN(she's awesome sauce!) who is also the author of "The Body Kindness Book", which I can't recommend enough for people looking to build a more positive relationship with food and their bodies.  Anyways I have been listening to this podcast for about a year now- I really enjoy it- and starting in August (I think it was) she started having theme months.  I listened to all of "Body Betrayal" theme month in a row and the collection resonated with me more than any collection of podcasts ever had.  So I decided to be brave (continuing this bravery thing from last year....so much more to be brave about I think) and write about my own body betrayal and how it shaped my life in such a profound way that I would never wish my life without it.  

I have written about having Crohn's disease in the past yet I don't think I have ever written about how I viewed my body, my relationship with food and my life with a chronic illness that people can't see. So here it is...how I got angry with my body but found a peace and a fire that I am not sure I would have ever found otherwise.

 I was diagnosed at the age of 20yrs old.  At the time I was finally diagnosed I had been symptomatic for about 5 years.  Even though I knew about Crohn's disease- my Granma Kay had it as well- nobody really thought that is what was wrong with me.  As an anxious teenager my stomach issues were put down to a nervous stomach or avoiding helping with the dishes after dinner.  I didn't realize that most people didn't need to have a bowel movement after each time they ate anything or that my tummy filling up with air to the point of stabbing pain was that odd.   When I was finally diagnosed there was an inflammatory mass in my small intestine so large I was having difficulty bending over to put on my socks.  It was so bad that the tech that was doing by very first barium x-ray said "Dear you need to take your Chron's meds everyday, its not looking good" when my response was "huh...I don't have that"  I was marched directly down the hall by the tech through the waiting room and presented to my new Gastroenterologist who I had yet to meet because I was just doing the initial workup for him.  I remember asking why did I have to get to this point before anyone looked at this...my doctors response "You haven't lost weight".  He went on to explain that many doctors wouldn't investigate this because dramatic weight loss is often seen and I didn't have that.  My weight had been pretty stable for the last couple years hence why the medical community thought it was my mental health not my GI health.  I remember being angry.  Nobody believed me because I didn't look "sick".  This is when the roots for Health at Every Size started for me even when I didn't know it existed....but it still took time.  I was too angry.  I was angry that I had a body that attacked itself.  I had an immune system that couldn't tell invaders from normal healthy cells.  How the hell did that even happen.  That winter everyone kept talking about boasting their immune system and I was thinking how do I kill mine???  My body let me down.  I was just 20.  I was young.  I still had so many things I wanted to do and none of them included waiting in doctors waiting rooms for more tests or appointments or contemplating having parts of my intestines removed or a colostomy!  I wanted to do stupid stuff like get drunk at a club or buy stupid expensive shoes or stay in bed and read all day.  But my body hated itself and in turn I hated it.  I was self conscious to go out because I often needed to go the bathroom- I used to joke that I knew every public bathroom in a 100km radius.  Slowly though something changed.  My "f' you" attitude moved to my body.  Two years after diagnosis I started university for nutrition (which I always feel the need to say I never wanted to do it because of my disease I had wanted to become an RD long before) even though my doctor said they stress would not help me be well.  I pushed on.  During 2nd semester of 2nd year I had 3 feet of my small intestine removed, didn't drop out of school and managed 2 courses through this time.  I was starting to rebuild my relationship with myself.  If I did what I needed to do to stay well (my version of well) then I could pursue all the things I wanted.  It was after my surgery that I was again struck by peoples odd perception of bodies.  About 6 weeks after my surgery- which left me with 36 staples down the front of my abdomen right down to my pubic bone and 30lbs less that my admission weight I was out shopping for new pants.  Waistbands hurt so I was looking for overalls (It was 2002 so lets pretend they were cool then) when the woman helping me in the store made a comment that she would "kill to be thin like me"  My body had just had organs removed but hey lets have that body!  It was there...in the GAP...that I realized size does not equate health, happiness or anything else I had been sold. Fast forward a few more years, many ups and downs (almost 15 colonoscopies, 3 endoscopies, 6 CT scans, 3 MRI's and 3 dilations of my intestinal tract), my body had healed a huge incision but left a "beautifully healed scar" (every doctor tells me this...) and it had gotten me though university and internship...

As a dietitian I struggled with not eating the foods that I thought I was supposed to be recommending.  I felt like a fraud working in an eating disorder program and needing to drink ensure because solid food caused too much pain to eat.  My mom served me pureed versions of Christmas dinner because the fibre in the vegetables hurt.  I ate white...white bread, white rice, white potatoes, french fries, boiled chicken breast.  This was my life.  I missed fruit!  I dreamed of ceasar salad.  And broccoli..let me tell you about broccoli...3x it has sent me to hospital with an obstruction because I ate it then ate more of it...and it got stuck.  Who would ever want to work with a dietitian that lived on a steady stream of peanut butter sandwiches on white bread and pudding?!?!  Yet again my body taught me.  It taught me to enjoy food.  I enjoyed the times of remission when I could eat an orange.  It taught me to listen to my body.  I learned that I could tolerate cooked vegetables and still eat a fruit at the same meal without pain.  It taught me to slow down and taste my food and enjoy the sweet juice in a mango.  It also taught me that my food choices, the ones that I made to make me feel good did not dictate how good I was as a human or a dietitian because I made these decisions to keep me well.

My body taught me empathy during this time, perseverance, strength and resilience.  My body taught me to listen to the stories of others because we don't carry our stories on the outside they are inside sometimes buried very deep.  My body taught me to show my scars- they are part of my story not something to be hidden but something to be proud of.  My body grew 2 humans after being told it never would.  It has run multiple half marathons after it was told it was too weak.  It has gotten to through almost 40 years on this earth.  My body taught me that everyone deserves to have a positive relationship with their bodies because it truly makes life worth living. It is the only body we get.  

But my body decided I needed another lesson.  The second body betrayal I felt was 3 years ago.  I had worked on body positivity in my life and that of my clients.  I was an anti-diet dietitian.  I thought I would never hate my body again...but I did.   It started with a few red rash like dots on my thighs, then spread up to my abdomen then down to my ankles, then up to my shoulders.   I saw multiple doctors before I was diagnosed with auto-immune psoriasis.  Yet again my body attacked itself.  But this time it did it in a way the whole world could see...in August...when it was hot...and I was wearing shorts and tank tops.  I had psoriasis covering almost 80% of my body.  My face was spared but that was it.  It was during this time that I experienced something that I had never experience in my life as a white thin female- people pointed at my body in disgust.  Strangers made comments.  I was asked if I should be in the park with my kids as I may infect others with my skin disease. It was at the high point of my body being covered that I took my kids to an indoor waterpark for a weekend.  I overheard a woman say to another person while in line for a waterslide "does she not realize how gross her skin is, she should not wear a bikini".  At first I looked around to see who she was talking about because I wanted to stand up for this person but then I realized it was me.  People had been moving away from me all day.  Moving chairs, stepping away in line, giving me a wide berth in the wave people.  My kids who were 3 and 6 at the time actually noticed too!  The sad part was is that I didn't stand up for me.  I wasn't sure what to say.  I wasn't sure what to do.  I did nothing.  But it was there. Surrounded by strangers that I moved into my next phase of work.  I do not know what it is like to live in a larger body but my body taught me what it was like to live in a body that people thought was unclean, unhealthy and not good enough to be looked at.  My body showed me what it is like to question whether your mental health can handle taking your body out in public.  My body made me think about times when I didn't go in the pool at a pool party because I was embarrassed to expose my skin.  My body gave me a tiny tiny glimpse into what it must be like to live in a marginalized body.  Please do not misunderstand- I am very aware of my experience is not that of those that face shame and ridicule for just being born a certain colour or size or gender or ability- but it opened the blinds.  It was this that has made me work on how we talk about bodies and present those bodies to others.  It made me a fat advocate.  It made me look at diet culture as a social justice issue.  

My body didn't betray me...my body taught me.  It has given me lessons that I am not sure I would have gotten anywhere else.  It opened my eyes to biases that I had too much privilege to realize were there.  It made me who I am.  And for that I can only be grateful.  Thank you body, my earth suit, for getting me through this world each and every day.  

until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me.  

A different kind of resolution

As 2017 comes to a close I feel that I have been smacked over the head with "new you" "lose weight and take control of your life!" and " be a better you this year" ads. (Side note we are currently in the south western United States and I feel that this is even more prevalent than at home)  Its everywhere.  Radio ads, billboards, Facebook posts, Instagram stories...everywhere I turn!!  I have heard a few name January "international diet month" and nothing could be more true.  Diet culture goes all in at the start of the year.  Playing up on peoples desire to make this year better than the last- as if losing some (or a lot) of weight will somehow change finances or your family situation or improve your work life balance.  I hate to tell you this- no actually I love to tell you this- it doesn't work.  Studies show that up to 95% of all diets fail long term and that those that do lose the weight have to continue restriction to maintain this weight loss long term.  Most regain all the weight they lost plus some- then comes the guilt and shame. But what if this year instead of a resolution that includes x number of hours at the gym or x number of kilos lost what if this year the only resolution you made was to find some joy.  Find joy in food, joy in movement, joy in quiet, joy in the loud....Just find joy...or whatever your word for that is.  If yoga makes you feel joy try to carve out 5 mins a day (or whatever you can do) to find that joy.  If drinking your morning coffee while it is still warm in peace and quiet (OMG this is the awesomest thing in my world!!) maybe try setting your alarm a bit earlier to get up and enjoy this time.  If you find joy in freshly baked chocolate chip cookies- eat the damn cookie- and instead of saying "I shouldn't eat this" say "I really truly love this".  

I find joy in being outdoors.  I love feeling free with my body, that I am not tied to anyone or anything.  Walking, running or hiking outside fill me up with a peace and grounding that I need.  I need to get outside each day, this is self care for me.  Drinking my coffee while its still hot, snuggling with my kids, eating food that makes me feel nourished and satisfied.  Standing in front of my students and seeing in their faces that they are getting what I am trying to teach.  These are all things that I find joy in.  And there are many more.  I am telling you this to say we do not need to change to find our joy.  

In a world that is constantly telling us we need to change, that we are not good enough, strong enough, smart enough, thin enough- that we are just not enough- it is a radical act to find joy in what truly makes you happy.  So when the clock hits midnight and January 2018 kicks off maybe take a moment to not think of "this is the year I become what society says I am supposed to be" but say " this is the year I listen to myself and just find the joy"

I wish you all the best as we start 2018.  May you find your joy while being unapolegtically you and I will continue to be unapologetically me....


Crown on...

Sometimes in life you get inspired by things that you were not expecting to resonate with you.  Sometimes those things are so badass that you have to permanently ink them on your body.  

As a non-diet dietitian who follows the Health At Every Size philosophy, mindfulness, intuitive eating and feminist approaches I have often felt like I live and work in no mans land.  As a person who lives in North America- a continent that is steeped in diet culture- it can be hard to constantly stand up for what you believe in and fight the battle daily.  I will admit there have been days that I get tired- tired of challenging, tired of questioning, tired of pushing back- but I try to keep pushing.  I push because I believe in a world of body acceptance.  A world where we do not spend time and money "fixing" or "correcting" our bodies but just living our lives.  I believe this in the deepest part of me.  Which is why I was brought to tears during a scene in the Wonder Woman moving this past summer.  There were so many moments in that movie I loved (yes I know it wasn't perfect) but one in particular resonated with me and the work I do.  Spoiler alert- which really it came out this past summer so you should have had time to see it if you wanted to but the scene has Diana (Wonder Woman) on the Western Front during World War 1- she looks around at the despair and suffering and can not understand why nobody has moved forward.  She is informed that they have not moved an inch in a year.  She very clearly sees what she must do.  She turns her back to the camera and puts on her crown.  It is the first time in the movie you see her wearing the crown of the greatest warrior from Themyscira (where she is from).  She runs into no mans land and battles- alone.  She is strong and brave and she takes everything thrown at her.  The men at the front lines eventually follow her.  They make it across no mans land and take the front.  So what does this have to do with anything I have ever written about before??

I have put on my crown.  I will continue to run into no mans land- no matter how tired or how frustrated- to move us all forward on this journey.  There are more voices- amazing and strong voices- that are doing incredible work.  And the movement is growing. 

To all those that have been fighting diet culture for decades to those that have only started dipping their toes in we are strong, we are brave and we will take the front one day- soon I hope.  

wonder woman tattoo.jpeg


Until next time be Unapologetically you while I be Unapologetically me

On the 12th day of the holidays...

"On the 12th day(yes I know I missed many days) of the Holidays the unapologetically me rd gave to me....12 ideas for self advocacy...."

I have been working on creating a post-grad course on self advocacy for the last few months and I will totally admit to struggling with it.  The reason for this is not that I don't think it is important and necessary but the fact that I think it is SO important for every single person on earth that I am afraid of missing something!  When we learn to advocate for ourselves whether it is by drawing boundaries with loved ones or getting doctors to listen to us we are putting ourselves first which is so important when we are working towards body acceptance and food peace.  

So here are some ideas I have for advocating for yourself and self care over this holiday season...in what ever way you need (I really don't like lists...they make me think of rules...and I am not a fan of rules (hey mom!!) so here are a bunch of unnumbered paragraphs that may not equal 12...I should have written this post on the 8th or something)

Social gatherings can often lead to diet conversation.  Why someone is "bad" for eating this food.  Or how "good" someone is for abstaining from dessert. Discussion about how the most recent "detox (UGH!!)" was the only reason they were able to fit into this outfit tonight.  So when the conversation turns from "Keeping up with the Kardashians" to "Keeping up with the fad diet" be prepared with a comment to either excuse yourself from the conversation or change the topic.  I will often work with clients to prepare this statement ahead of time.  If you practice it in your head before hand it will come out of your mouth easier when you need it.  "Now if you will excuse me, I just need to pop over there for a second"...see ya diet talk!

Be prepared to eat what you want, not what someone else wants you to eat.  Sometimes when we are working on a better relationship with food it is hard to say no to a food that is presented to you.  Example:  You have been eyeing the chocolate cake and know that it is what you want but Aunt Mable insists you have a piece of her apple pie.  You are trying to listen to your body cues and you know that you will be full after one dessert.  What do you do?  Again being prepared to advocate for the dessert that you want will likely make you feel most satisfied.  Now you don't need to throw the apple pie back at Aunt Mable- you could always say you are going to take a slice home to enjoy tomorrow but right now you would really like the chocolate cake.

For me the next one is always a bit trickier.  Body talk.  Or body shaming.   Relatives will often comment on kids growth as they haven't seen them in a year.  "wow, look how much you have grown in the last year!!  You are built just like your dad, sturdy!"  or " Wow, you have grown taller and really thinned out" (implying what I ask).  Or even to other adults " wow your weight has gone (up or down really) what have you been doing?"  All this needs to stop.  The holidays (or any other f"ing day of the year!)  are not a time comment on the bodies of others.  This is where advocating for yourself or your child is so important.  Advocate for no diet talk.  Make it a rule.  I think it might have become an unspoken rule with my extended family because everyone knows that I will challenge what they say and ask that they not talk like that in my house or around my kids.  I saw a quote on Instagram recently posted by Rachelwcole.com and it said : you: "you know how some people don't talk about politics or religion?" Them: "yea" You: " Well we don't talk about dieting"  I want to make this into a welcome mat for my house.

Look at your schedule and say no.  I find- in North America anyways- we constantly feel the need to be doing something, even more so over the holiday season.  We have to attend all the parties, concerts, plays, ballets, lunches, and whatever without really thinking about the toll it is playing on your well-being.  Say no to something.  Without guilt and without an excuse.  Use your first instinct.  Just take the time to do what you need to do to nourish yourself.  Whether to need to reconnect with yourself or just take a break, its ok.  It's ok to fuel your body with what it needs not what you think it needs.  Taking care of yourself is more than just what you put into it.  It is how you treat your whole self and acknowledging that you need a break is part of that.

And finally (ok..so I know its not 12 points on the 12th day...but again my thing with rules) before you go out to any event or dinner or Grade 1 recorder choir (take tylenol for that) get yourself ready with a little power posing.  Stand in the mirror and make eye contact.  Make your best super hero face (which is any face because you are the super hero) and strike your super hero pose! Full disclosure mine is feet further than hips spaced apart with wrists crossed like Wonder Woman and often times my tongue out...(to those that know me personally are you surprised??)  I also have a superhero song that when I really need to feel like a bad ass ready to take down diet culture ...not sharing that...  Power posing will help you feel more confident when walking away from diet talk or asking someone to not police your intake.

Now ... back to writing my course...

until next time...be unapologetically you (while advocating for yourself!!) while I be unapologetically me....

On the 7th day of the Holidays...

“On the (oh my what day is it??) 7th day of the holidays the unapologetically me RD gave to me...7 scales a smashing!!” 

Have you ever smashed a scale??  Taken a sledgehammer and smashed that small square into a million trillion pieces??  If you haven’t I highly recommend it. There is something amazing that happens when you rid your world of your oppressor. It can be so freeing. And so scary all at the same time.  

In reality we don’t need a home scale. What does it actually tell you?  Besides your relation to gravity on this earth. It doesn’t tell you how kind you are, how much you love or the difference you make in the world. What it does is make you fixate on a number. It can make you value your worth in that number. I have worked with people whose happiness for a whole day is wrapped up in this number. Imagine the freedom of your day starting off with a warm cup of coffee (or tea or whatever you love), maybe a few quiet minutes of reflection or a slow stretching series. What if your morning was about self nourishment not waiting for the scale to tell you how to feel. 

I have always felt that many but not all people weigh themselves wthout realizing what they are actually measuring. When I worked in a clinic setting with kids with type 1 diabetes the doctors would weigh the kids every 3 months (this is determined to be best practice however there are about 6 blog posts brewing in my brain on this topic). So I started asking kids of different ages what they thought was being measured on the scale. The answers ranged from “I have no idea” to “whether I am healthy” to “it measures my fat”. This always concerned me because many homes have scales that kids may step on and start measuring their self worth. So whenever scale weight started being talked about I would say “ your bones and your teeth and your blood and your hair and your toenails and your skin and your muscles and (I would always ask them what we should add-there is a demographic that ALWAYS said poop!) that is what was weighed on the scale. They were always surprised by all the things that make up their weight. In fact I think many parents were surprised by what I said. 

So this December give yourself the gift of a smashed scale. Have a scale smashing party(Alone or with others) and celebrate the freedom of not weighing yourself.  

Now does anyone have any ideas for getting them out of stores???  My desire to be a 3 year old and just swipe the shelves of them at stores will likely get me arrested so that’s not the best option I guess.  

Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me

On the first (3rd) day of the holidays....

On the first day of the holidays the unapologetically me RD gave to me....(ok it’s the third day but I’m never on time for anything)...permission to eat free-ly  

Ok. So my rhyming skills are not the strongest. And truly I can’t wave a wand to bestow total permission to eat but if I could I would wrap it up in shimmery blue paper with a sparkly silver bow and deliver to the world. Recently I was a holiday party and someone made a comment of not eating all day to “save up” for the party foods. This is not giving yourself permission to eat what you love.  This is depriving yourself of the food that you needed during the day in order to eat something that you likely enjoy but still have some fear around. Individuals can compensate in many different ways- whether it be restricting the day of the party or the day after. Figuring out how much you need to exercise the next day to “work it off” ( can we please rid the earth of those stupid charts- one serving of nacho dip with 8 nacho chips needs xx amount of exercise to burn off). 

So this holiday season pick a gathering- one where you feel comfortable and happy ( if there is one I realize that is not the case for many over the holidays) and give yourself permission to enjoy the foods there without guilt or shame. Try being mindful with your food. Maybe step away from a conversation to take a bite of what you have on your plate. Or block out Aunt So and So as she is explaining in great detail her rock garden. And take a bite.   Experience the flood of flavours in your mouth. Think of how nourishing it is to eat something you truly enjoy without the calculator in your brain telling your how to work it off. Try to stay present when eating- distraction leads to not tasting or enjoying our foods.  

Doing this might help you enjoy the party you are at. Or if nothing else it will help reduce some of the stress you might feel going into and coming out of it.  Take some time to enjoy the garlic feta dip (OMG I love this dip) or what ever you choose. Enjoy the flavours without your planned punishment. 

This holiday give yourself the gift of freedom. Give yourself the gift eating freely. Give the most important person in your life (you... that’s you!  Honest) a gift that can help you on your journey to food peace and body acceptance.  

Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me

When the path gets a bit clearer

I find that inspiration can sometimes come at the strangest times...or moments that may seem very mundane become moments of utter clarity.  I recently was smacked on the head with inspiration and a clear Christmas light lined path showed up before me.  Metaphorically but I am writing this by the glow of our Christmas tree that my kids somehow convinced me to break my "no decorating until December rule" so it is up as I write this just shy of midnight on November 29th.  

After 5 very long weeks of being on strike- I am an instructor at a college in the province of Ontario Canada- I returned to work excited and ready to jump right back into it.  Which was hard- courses needed revamping, email had piled up, and it felt like the first week of September not the middle of November.  Fast forward a week and I have now totally lost my voice and am exhausted from trying to give students what they need, my family what it needs and holy crap the holidays are here and all that entails.  Enter here where I would remind a client about the need for self care and get curious as to why they were filling the needs of everyone else but not themselves- we never perfect the art of living.

As I was in a class listening to a group run through their first draft of a presentation targeting grade 8 girls (about 13 yr olds) on the effects of social media on body image (yeah!!) while simultaneously trying to listen to peer feedback being given to another group I made the comment " I feel like I am listening to 2 different presentations- find your point and stick to it" Which I was listening to 2 different presentations but it was true for the one I was focused on.  Then it struck me.  I needed to find my point.  And stick to it. I said this out loud but nobody heard me...all they heard was "squeeeeeak!.   I needed to bring it back to the thing that fills up my cup.  The thing that made me start writing this blog.  The thing that drives what I teach in classes, how I talk to my kids, my friends, my family.  The thing that makes me sit here in the dark with the glow of Christmas tree lights and my laptop and write.  And that is body image work.  I want people to realize how amazing their bodies are.  What they can do.  How they can fill up space.  I want people to find peace with their bodies.  I want to take diet culture out of the equation for the next generation and the one after that and forever more.  I want my great grandchild to laugh at the "weird diet things" people did in the late 1990's and 2000's because it seems too inconceivable that someone would try to manipulate their body.  So this is where I stand and this is where I move forward.  

I have done a lot of work in this area in the past.  I have run groups for teenage girls.  I have gone to conferences, workshops.  I have read countless books and blogs.  I have talked to classes, and individuals.  I have spoken at my local high school.  But now I feel that this is where it goes.  I still believe in Intuitive Eating and Health at Every Size, as it will inform everything I do.  I will continue to talk about mindfulness and having a mindful practice. Yet for now I am going to try to focus on body image work.  

I am going to talk more about the training that I am doing and workshops I am taking.  (OMG I am going to Chicago in April to the Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherland Body Image Workshop and I literally happy danced around my desk with joy when I paid my fee- it's like meeting my superheros)  I am going to put on my tiara- Princess Diana of Themyscira's tiara (Wonder Woman's tiara if you not into the DC comic world) and I am going to fight the evil that is diet culture.  I want to take on the medical community a bit more.  When I worked at a diabetes centre, I worked with kids, teens and young adults with Type 1 diabetes.  I have always thought that we need to be more mindful of how we talk about bodies in this environment- so be prepared for a post on that.  Be prepared for more random observations about living in my body, raising 2 other bodies and the stuff I hear from my students.  I hope that you will continue on this adventure with me.  I think this is my place. And I am now ready for it... I hope you are too.  

You might also see some stuff on workshops or groups that I think I want to plan.  

And today, in front of a group of high school students who are interested in a career in nutrition I said when asked what do you wish you knew in high school that you know now, I replied " that your path may not be the one you originally set out on.  But if you keep learning and growing and changing and following the road in front of you instead of the road you think you should you will end up in a place that makes you happy and fulfilled".  I am on that road and loving every second of it.

Until next time be Unapologetically you while I be Unapologetically me.

Dear Santa....

We had our first snowfall of the season last Thursday.  My kids woke up and flew outside to make snow angels, build snow people and have a snowball fight.  For a full hour before quickly eating breakfast and running to the bus they just played and had so much fun.  Why am I sharing this?  Well because it is November and it snowed and you can imagine what the conjured up for the shorter than 5 foot tall crew in our house...yes that's it...Christmas.  

This past Sunday (today is Wednesday for those you that need a timeline reference) I came home to both kids and partner stringing Christmas lights and garland on the front of the house.  And so started the yearly tradition of me attempting to hold off Christmas and my family wanting to jump in at the earliest possible moment.  And the nickname of "Momeneezer Scrooge"( thanks for coming up with that one MZ)  Don't get me wrong.  I love Christmas.  I have wonderful memories of Christmas growing up. As well as amazing memories watching Christmas through my children's eyes.  However being a dietitian who does not subscribe to diet culture I find the holidays difficult.

Here's why. I find it often starts in November.  People calling to see if I could help them "get through the holidays" without weight gain.  Or to see if I could put them on a diet so that they would "know" what to eat at holiday parties.  And even to see if I could help them "quickly" lose XXlbs so that they can eat/drink whatever they want until the new year.  As soon as I start to explain my approach and that I follow a non diet philosophy the response is almost always " so you won't help me?!"   Some days I find it hard not to yell "But I would be helping you!! I would help you make peace with food and your body so next year you could enjoy your parties without guilt and shame!" To be honest I often do not even get to that point as many just say good bye and hang up.  Once a person even said "but you teach mindfulness and (I forget which magazine) said it is the new way to lose weight".  (I think the co-opting of terms such as wellness and mindfulness for weight loss is a post unto its self.  It will come....once I figure out how to do it without F@&k being every other word)

November kicks off the season of social gatherings and weight loss ad campaigns.  "New Year New You" (FYI you will always be you and you are amazing) ads start about the same time as the Christmas ads.  As a culture these two things seem to have become enmeshed.  Enjoy these beautiful yummy chocolates but be prepared to work them off come January 1st.  Diet culture has even infiltrated Santa Clause  as he can be seen choosing the low fat cookies on TV ads or joining a gym to "work on his body" after his magical night of delivering presents.  Look at the magazine covers in line at the grocery store next time you are there.  They will be explaining to you how to navigate the buffet table at your work function to choose the "low (fat/carbs/sugar/whatever the hell they are trying to tell you to avoid this week).  They will show you how to detox (um...fyi...you own a liver so you are a master detoxer already) before or after you next social gathering.  Essentially these articles will teach you how not to be present in your life while you continue to follow the rules of diet culture.  If you take a lap of the food table to assess and make a plan then go back and follow what ever rules you have set up for yourself you might miss out on a conversation with a family member that might not be here next year.  Or the co-worker that struggles over the holidays.  Or the stupid drunken comment your brother makes that you can hold over him for years to come.  If you are too busy adding up calories or macros you will miss the magic.  And food can be magic...and hold magical memories.

When I was a kid we would visit 3 different houses on Christmas eve.  Do you know what I remember most from all those nights?  Yes the people but...in all honestly the food.  We would go to Bill and Annabell's first.  They were about the age of my grandparents and were our neighbors for a few years.   They always had a Christmas Eve gathering in their basement and served spinach dip with pumpernickel bread and kielbasa with cheese and Triscuits. I always looked forward to these treats and even now I think of them every time I see spinach dip in a loaf of pumpernickel.  The second stop (which did change to the first at some point as I am guessing my mom will call to remind me of this..lol) was my dad's parents.  There we had bowls of nuts and boxes of chocolates called "nutchos"  (I have no idea if they still exist but Christmas was the only time of year we got them) and homemade nuts and bolts.  The third and final stop was Granma Kay's house.  She had a shrimp ring and/or crackers with seafood sauce and mini shrimp on top and a Chinese food box from M&M meats.   Where these all my favourite foods?  No.  Was this the only time of year I could eat them? No.  But what these foods did do was tie together all the love that I felt that night.  For me it was a happy time.  We ate, we laughed and we celebrated the holidays together.  These memories bring me such joy( I will acknowledge my privilege to have had these experiences).  I do not recall if there was any diet talk those nights- and I am guessing there wasn't because the foods are just the foods to me.  It might seem idealistic but those are the same memories I want for others as the holidays can be such a difficult time for many they do not need to feel worse by diet culture.  I want people to remember the amazing appetizers the neighbor serves or the delicious cheese tray or even the weird shrimp/seafood sauce cracker combo their granma made.  I want people to eat during the day before they go to their holiday party and not "save up" before going.  I want people to look forward to the holidays as a time of food peace not a time that can increase the guilt and shame of eating.  Every year I am reminded that I continue to be in the minority when trying to rid the world of dieting.  And every year I wish I could have gotten those people that called for an appointment to lose weight to try the non diet approach.  I want a world where people eat what makes them feel good.  Where they eat what they want without rules, without shame.  Dear Santa...is that too much to ask??

Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me...

Being a BA

I was recently called a "Bad Ass" by someone I admire greatly.  I took this as such a complement.  In fact I quite possibly told everyone that I spoke to the rest of the day that she called me a "Bad Ass".  And now I'm telling you.  Why? Because I take being a "Bad Ass" very seriously...and if you know me personally you know that serious and me don't hang out often.  Here's why.

I believe that weight, gender, race, (among other things) are social justice issues.  I believe that no matter what your size or your colour of skin or gender you identify with you matter.  And I have started being more vocal about that.  I believe in the power of words.  I have started calling out more people for the words they use and the effects these words have on others.  I will be honest that it does not make me popular with some and there are many people that just look at me like I am an alien life form speaking a language that they have never heard of...but I am hopeful that I am at least drawing attention to the meaning behind the words they are saying and that next time they might be more hesitant to say these words. 

Let's take the word "fat".  What does that word mean to you?  What does it mean to others?  How did a word that can mean- 1. a chemical compound found in food or 2. a description of size became a word that means "lazy" "unhealthy" "ugly" "gross" "unpopular" "unfit" (these are not my words- I ask this question when doing body image groups and these are the most popular answers).  We have demonized the word fat.  Kids hurl this word as insults on the playground (as young as 4...according to my kids).  "you look fat in that"( or some variation) is heard daily in schools, workplaces and homes.  I have heard parents say it to kids, kids say it to adults and even clients to me.  How can we change this?  Well I think the answer to this is so much bigger than this post.  It is a social movement that faces fat stigma head on and challenges society as a whole.  For my part today I want you do just be aware of your words.  Think about how you talk about bodies when you are with your friends.  Do you have the " we are so fat" talk when you get together for dinner?  Do you talk about the diets you should be doing or are starting soon?  Do you comment on the bodies of others to your partner or kids?  Do you say " I wish I looked like that?" when you see a body you deem desirable?  Just start noticing what you say...to yourself in your head and to others.  Are you helping to create this culture or stop it.  Is it so normalized now that you had no idea that you always spend 20mins talking about losing weight when you are together with your friends.    

When you look in the mirror what do you say?  Is it "damn I look great!" or something more critical?  Do you pick at the body parts you don't like or do say " legs let's walk through life today"  Or do you say what I have been saying to myself and to my kids for awhile now " Be Brave and Be Badass(BA when not wanting to say Ass in front of the bus mommies)"  Try it.  Find a phrase that inspires you and start saying it.  Whisper it quietly in the mirror or yelling it at the top of your lungs.  But say it...and say it enough that you start to believe it.  Say it more than the negative chatter you hear everyday.

Listen to your words.  Be mindful of your words.  And always be a BadAss...

until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me....

A bit of perspective on life...

I feel like it has been so long since I sat down to write anything.  Usually I have a few ideas in my head that I fiddle with before writing and I then I find a quiet hour with a cup of coffee and type.  However the universe had different plans for me the last 10 days.  I have had a very sick 6yr old- viral meningitis- that required a hospital stay and more days at home resting and dealing with residual headaches.  I have watched my child with amazement and fear as he went through some pretty scary tests at the hospital and dealt with headaches that caused him so much pain.  It was during one of the long hours of staring at him while he finally rested that I had an overwhelming urge to write about death.  He was never close to death so please don't be alarmed but the thought came to me in the context of body image.  If we want to live a life of no regret, a full life that makes you smile when you look back on it.  A life where you fully LIVED....then maybe we need to let go of diet culture and the need to ever change our bodies to fit a certain ideal.

Here me out.  Think of how much time you might have spent thinking about a diet plan or how to lose another x amount of pounds or whether you should go to the gym instead of hanging out with friends.  Think of any time you have thought "I will do that when I lose weight".  I will (insert "go to beach" "wear shorts" "buy new clothes" "go to a yoga class" "plan a vacation" "apply for that dream job" here) when I get to a weight that I am more comfortable with.  How many things have you missed out on?  Even just saying "no thank you" to a piece of a friends birthday cake because you are "on a diet" has taken you out of a moment you might have enjoyed.  How many times in your life have you made a decision based on fitting into a cultural ideal instead of what you truly want.  

As I looked at my 6 yr old asleep I thought- I want him to experience everything life has to offer.  I want him to climb mountains and dive in the ocean, fall in love and out of love.  I want him to eat the cake and have a second piece if he chooses.  And I want this for my 9 yr old as well.  I want her to walk as confidently into a room at 16/25/42 as she does now.  I want her to put on an outfit because she loves it not because it "suits her body type".  But how do we get there.  Diet culture messaging is everywhere.  Even the very lovely nurse that gave my child ice cream for breakfast because he really wasn't eating much made the comment that she wishes she could eat ice cream for breakfast but she would be huge...sigh.... 

We need to be unapologetic about our decisions and bodies.  I wear a bikini on a beach (and trust there is a lot of self talk going on in my head reminding me that people are not judging me..I am judging me) without pulling on the pair of shorts that I did for so many years.  I will let the photos be taken without filters and adjustments and I will post them without rationalizing the way I look in them for others to see.  I will eat the cake at the parties.  But I need help.  I need others to do this too.  We need a movement.  We need a societal shift.(I wish I could wave a wand and change that but I can't).  My kids are walking out into the world more now without me there to help them.   

If we had the ability to look back on our lives after they were over (like a long movie reel) would you wish you had done more?  Would you be most proud of the time you "were so strong and didn't eat the carbs/fat/sugar (whatever is the fad diet trend at that time) or when you were fully immersed in your life.  Do you want "Here lies (insert name) who managed their weight until the day they died" on your tombstone? Or something else like "Here lies (insert name)  who lived life to the fullest".  

If I am being totally honest we only have one ending to the this life.  Nobody is going to live forever.  Nobody is going to beat death.  So let's just live while we are here.  Let's take our earth suits for a ride.  You don't have to love your body but you need to start accepting that it is how you are on this earth.  And our time is limited.  Take a breath- jump in- live this life.  

Live Unapologetically

Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me....

From distraction to awareness and back again

When was the last time you ate without distraction...and really noticed your fullness cues.  I was reminded of this last night.  I was eating dinner at the table alone as my kids ate earlier and my husband was out.  I pulled out my "Intuitive Eating" workbook and was flipping through looking for an activity on hunger and fullness cues when I started to laugh...and laugh so hard that I spit out my spaghetti.  Here I was reading about eating intuitively while I was eating with distraction.  Book open, intently reading, music going in the background, half an eye on my kids and eating my bowl of spaghetti and meatballs (one of my favourite meals).  I spend so much of my time trying to teach others to be mindful when they eat and I have not been doing it myself.  I have spent the last 2 months eating breakfast while I walk around getting my little people ready for the day- except for Friday's when I get up at 4:45am because nobody is awake then- but then I read twitter for headlines of the news.  Lunch has been at my desk- daily- only once this semester did I sit and eat with a colleague.  And Dinner!  Well that has been happening at the table twice a week.  I realize that I have not been practicing what I preach..and what I truly believe in! 

So back to my spaghetti and meatballs.  I looked at my bowl and wondered how many meatballs I had actually eaten.  I was so engrossed in my reading that I wasn't sure.  I took a moment to check in with my body.  I was feeling satisfied.  Not full to discomfort but I was done.  My stomach and my mouth were no longer asking for food but I would have finished my bowl had I kept reading and eating.   I looked down at my bowl which at this point was 90% empty and realized that I had barely tasted one of my favourite meals.  I was overwhelmed with sadness at his point.  I had prepared this particular meal because I was feel a bit down and for some reason spaghetti and meatballs stirs a happiness in me that is hard to articulate.  And I missed it.  I missed the pleasure of the meal.  The different textures, the different tastes of each component, the pure joy of a bite that includes noodles, sauce and meat.   All in the name of multitasking.

Did I need to be reading right then...no.  Could I have sat quietly and eaten...maybe...depends on how the nerf gun fight was going in the next room.  Could I have eaten with my kids and been much less distracted ... sure.  So now I am taking myself back to basics.  Back to no distractions when eating.  Back to not working while I eat.  And for me this is key.  I work a lot.. many are telling me too much and after spitting tomato sauce on the exact page outlining how to eat without distractions I think I should agree.

Why am I sharing this?  Well it's because I want to share that even when we are seen as an "expert" at something doesn't mean we stop working.  It doesn't mean that we have it all figured out and we can do this without thinking.  Intuitive Eating is a lifelong journey.  It is one that will have many hills and valleys as we continue to navigate life.  And if we pay attention to the journey there will be huge signs reminding us when we veer off track.

So tomorrow I start with breakfast.  I will get up while the house is quiet.  I will not pick up my smartphone and I will eat my english muffin with peanut butter without distraction.  And I will continue to do so with all my meals.... 

So you be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me

I went to the gym....

So recently I have done something that has terrified me in the past.  I have been going to the gym.  And actually using equipment. And I kinda like it.   I should likely explain the whole story.  I have not been in a gym for about 12 years.  For me the gym and getting a trainer was always tied up in changing my body, manipulating my shape and trying to fit into an "ideal".  I have never enjoyed lifting weights....and to be honest I didn't learn how to use the equipment.  I stopped going to gyms when I started my journey with Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size.  What the gym represented to me did to mesh with what I wanted my life to be.  One of the principles of Intuitive Eating is Intuitive Movement.  This principle means that you move your body in a way that you enjoy and not for the purpose of weight loss or body manipulation which was the way I viewed my exercise at the gym.  Presently the 2 ways I love to move my body are running and yoga.  I have been told many times that these 2 things do not really jive with each other but for me both make me feel free...and I love to feel free.  

Yet this year has been about trying new things (Yeah new job!!), doing things that scare me (hello blogging) and just being me (short short bleach blond hair cut) so when the sign up for student trainers was in my inbox one day at work I decided to see if I liked the gym with my new mindset.  The mindset that exercise does not have to be about changing me- just about moving me.  The school I teach at has an awesome Fitness and Health Promotion program and I work with a lot of the amazing staff so I was pretty confident that my student trainer would be client focused and not necessarily have a weight loss agenda...and I was right.  I have a trainer who totally accepted my goals of doing 3 push ups (currently can't do one) and a pull up (may need to reevaluate this as I have discovered I really do not like hanging from things).  He has been finding fun things to do ( those ropes you are supposed to wiggle up and down are heavy!) and I don't feel intimidated at all.  In previous experiences I didn't feel like my body fit the toned image I had of a person at the gym.  Now I really don't care.  I wear clothes that I can move in without worrying how I look because I am busy smashing a ball on the floor (crazy therapeutic exercise).  And this not worrying is very freeing.  I laugh.  I swear. I sweat.  And I have fun.  Admittedly this is because I have an awesome trainer who hasn't brought diet culture into our sessions at all.  He is super positive and meets me where I am physically or mentally that day and we go from there.  I just keep thinking that if others had this experience people that otherwise avoid the gym might actually enjoy it.  

I find joy in movement.  I did not think I would find joy in gym exercises.  In both running and yoga I focus on my breath.  I bring awareness to my body.  I am mindful of the surrounding sounds or the colour of the sky (when running outside).  I wasn't expecting to find my breath doing a lat pull down but it happened.  I have become even more present in my body by becoming aware of how certain movements trigger certain muscles.  I have realized I am a natural sloucher and am working on "carrying my body with pride".  And even more surprising I am finding I am enjoying this form of movement.  Do I care if I lose weight? Nope.  Do I care if my pant size changes? Nope.  Do I care if I actually can do a pull up by December?  Not really.  Do I care that twice a week for one hour I am moving my body in a way that I enjoy and is bringing me pleasure?  Yeah!!!  

I think that going to the gym can be triggering for many people.  My previous perspective of all people involved in training and the gym being steeped in diet culture was wrong.  And I am so happy to admit I was wrong.  Now I know that my current experience is the exception not the norm but it gives me hope for the future.  That we are teaching new trainers to be accepting of all bodies and goals.  That maybe someone is going to the gym to not change their body but learn to accept and love their body- the way it is.

So this is my very public thank you to MD for putting up with my sarcasm, opinions on every topic that comes up and my very frequent use of swear words

I am thankful that I decided to try this and I will likely sign up again next semester.  Because if I am being totally honest it will likely take until 2020 before I master a pull up. And that is totally ok!

until next time be Unapologetically you while I be Unapologetically me

Pink Tea

I feel I need to start this post by saying that Pink Tea is not a magical new food that will cure all your illnesses and make your life magically better.  Although for me it does.  Let me explain...

As people we all have different strategies for coping.  One that often gets talked about is Emotional Eating.  You can flip through fashion/food/health/fitness/gossip magazines (I still love reading things on actual paper..but you could find these and more on the internet) and find articles on how to "curb your emotional eating", "take charge of your feelings without food" and "tame emotional eating and lose weight".  All of these types of articles talk about emotional eating (often defined as eating larger amounts of "unhealthy" (those are sarcastic air quotes-I need a button for that..) or eating out of control while being upset) as a negative reaction to some emotion...think 80's teen movie of dumped girl eating ice cream from the carton in her pj's.  Yet is it really bad??

Isabel Foxen Duke (best name ever and person who speaks a lot on the topic of emotional eating) made a mind blowing (to me) statement on a podcast I was listening to recently (can you tell I am back to commuting more frequently, I keep referencing podcasts).  She said something to the effect that if eating is your coping mechanism it is likely better than doing heroin.  Which made me actually laugh quite hysterically as I had never thought of the two things together.  Both are coping mechanisms.  Both are used as ways to soothe/escape/forget whatever caused the initial stressor.  One of these things is often discussed in a way that is horrible for our health (some will say weight gain here) the other is just not talked about at all.  Both may lead to feelings of guilt and shame.  Both may lead to secret behaviours.  Both may leave the person feeling out of control.  But I am not sure both are the same. (Disclaimer here- I have never done heroin therefore I am guessing about how it makes an individual feel- I might be crazy incorrect in my assumptions and I am sorry for that)

For me (and I really only know me in this situation as I have only lived in this body with my set of experiences) I lose my appetite when I am really upset.   Immediately following an incident that really upsets me food loses all appeal.  You could put the most beautiful tray of sushi and a cheeseburger in front of me (my 2 favourite meals) and I would just stare at them. This can last for a few hours or a couple days depending on my ability to find other coping strategies.  And this is where my body takes over (stay with me here) and moves into what people in popular culture could call emotional eating.  I immediately need to go to my parents house for pink tea.   Now I should likely explain pink tea.  When upset as a kid my mom and/or grandma Kay would make me tea to talk.  During these times they would put much more sugar in the tea than they would any other time.  Often times I would take a mouthful of the very sweet milky tea and would think the word pink.  Pink for some reason was the only word that came to mind when drinking this tea.  Hence the name pink tea.  

This past weekend I saw something that really upset me.  It was just before dinner time so I called my parents and said that I was coming over for tea.  I think my body "craves" the pink tea when I am really shaken for 2 reasons.  The first being that I drive to safe place where I feel loved and protected.  To people that can help me find perspective and calm or just let me lie on the couch snuggled in a warm blanket until I am ready for perspective and calm.  The second and likely more complex reason is that my body knows it does not want to eat food but it realizes it needs energy and carbohydrates to get me through whatever it is I am experiencing.  My body is driving me to the pink tea so that my brain and body get some energy until hunger comes back.  Is it the perfect way to cope?  Well I am not sure there is a perfect way.  But I do believe that sometimes the foods we "emotionally eat" are chosen for a reason.  Whether it be a food that conjures images of compassion and care in your mind or a food that your body knows will provide you with some quick (sugars) or sustaining (fats) energy to get you though.

Pink tea does not cure whatever I am going through. It does not have the magical answers I need or the power to go back in time.  Pink tea provides me warmth and sweetness.  It provides me the safety of those who make the pink tea.   And it gives me the time to come back to reality to start processing whatever I need to process.  It is not perfect but for me it works.

Next time you find yourself in a Pink Tea moment be curious as to why you here, why you chose this food or beverage, or why this particular time.  Try to be curious without being shameful or guilty.  Remember this is just an attempt at self care.

Until next time be Unapologetically you while I be Unapologetically me 

Looking for the moon

The last  3 weeks has brought about a lot change in my life.  Both personally and professionally.  With the start of September came a new teaching schedule for me, a new gym schedule for EK, a new hockey/basketball schedule for little e and an onslaught of work for my partner.  Through all this there was still the excitement and anxiety of new classes at school- for both me and the kids and getting back into a routine that works for everyone in our house.  Every year it takes me awhile to get into the swing of it yet this year was taking longer.  There was one day last week I was late for everything I went to by 5 minutes.  It was frustrating and I found myself getting down on myself.  I started to "should" myself.  I "should" be able to get everything done and be on time. I "should" be able to give 100% to my kids, my job, my partner.  I "should" still be able to find time in the day to write this blog! 

Then one day I was commuting to work listening to one of my usual 5 or 6 podcasts I subscribe to and the speaker just started to resonate with me on a level that I am not sure I would have realized had I not been pushing so hard in my life.  It was a line by Dr Anita Johnston-author of the amazing book "Eating by the Light of the Moon" on the Mindful Dietitian podcast.  (For those of you that don't know I want to move to Australia and follow the "mindful dietitian" Fiona Sutherland for a year-not in a stalkerish way but to learn from her- I think she is  AMAZING!!....just had to throw that out there..lol)  Anyways Dr Johnston said " look at the moon not the finger pointing at the moon".  And even though I don't believe the meaning of that statement was really related to how I was behaving it literally made me think I have stopped looking at the moon.  So I am coming back to the moon now.

When we take on too much we put many things ahead of our own needs.  If you caught the sentence in the first paragraph of this post where I wrote "  I should be able to give 100% to my kids, my job, my partner" why didn't I include "to myself".  Why is it so easy to push our own needs away to make room for others?  Personally I think as woman, we are taught from a young age that it is selfish to put ourselves ahead of others especially those we love.  We need to act a certain way, look a certain way, handle situations a certain way.  I know what I need to function at my best and worrying about how I am perceived by others does not help me achieve that.  I need nourishing food I enjoy, quiet time alone daily, conversation with each of my children nightly before they go to bed, physical activity outside and my nightly before bed ritual of milky tea with honey.  In the last 3 weeks all of these things were skipped completely or cut back dramatically.  I would go for a run but feel guilt about leaving my kids.  I would pack my lunch for work but do it without much thought and never enough food so I have been hungry a lot.  I looked at the pile of amazing books I purchased in May(!) for personal reading and realized none had been opened yet.  I have been looking at the pointing fingers without looking at where I am going.  

We are worth it.  We are worth the 30 minutes of "personal" time to reset and refocus (in whatever way feels best for you).  We need to be able to say "no I can't take that on right now" to bosses, colleagues, friends, families without guilt and shame.  We need to find the moon.

And for me it starts with this post.  I am going to write ... about whatever pops in my head..about food, mindfulness, body image, me....even the process of just writing this has started me having ideas again.  I am going to put as much effort into packing my lunches as I do with my kids- see last post- I am going to ask myself what I actually want!  And I am going to go back to my work self care ritual. Get a coffee and spend 5 minutes either walking outside the long route back to my desk or sitting in a quiet peaceful place ( my office has a relaxation room- I should actually go in it!).  

So even though this isn't food related I would encourage you to nourish yourself- your soul, your mind, your body, your heart.  Whatever you think needs a little love.  If you are able to find 5 minutes a day to dedicate to this I am sure you will find the moon whether it be a huge full harvest moon or the tiniest sliver of a crescent moon we all deserve to see the magic that is the moon.

until next time- I will be unapologetically me while you be unapologetically you...

With the end of summer comes back to school....

This is my favourite time of year.  Don't get me wrong I love the warmth and sunshine of summer but there is something that I love more about fall.  The changing colours, the cool brisk air mixed with the suns warmth, the smell of the air, cozy sweaters and pumpkin spiced everything!  I always loved back to school.  New clothes, new shoes, new opportunities to make new friends at school and try new things.  I acknowledge my privilege in this as I was very fortunate to grow up being able to afford to buy some new things for school and be able to look forward to joining groups and clubs that were offered.  For me September was like the New Year.  A chance to be everything I thought I should be.  I would often clean and rearrange my room the long weekend before school started and set up a "work space" for my homework.  I would carefully pick out what I was going to wear the first day of school (who am I kidding I did it for the whole first week).  I would be organized this year!  I would be on top of all deadlines!  I would not procrastinate!!  All this usually lasted a week....then I returned to me.  I was always disappointed when I went back to just being the way I always was.  I would get frustrated that I set goals and was unable to fulfill them.  Yet the reality of it is this- I am so much better when I am just being me; in all aspects of my life.  

So as we plan for the start of school- Me back to teaching college students and my kids entering grades 1 and 4 it is not really surprising to me that I am sitting here writing this instead of buying the oldest a backpack or working on a first lecture as really...I have 6 days...well 5 as no stores are open on Monday...hmmmm still so much time...

As a Dietitian I find that I get asked the same question over and over again the end of August.  "What do you pack in your kids lunches that is healthy and what they will eat??"  Nobody ever seems to believe or like my response.  " I pack what they ask for and throw in a refillable water bottle."  Just google "kids lunches" and you will get a million hits of sandwiches that look like ducks, or bento boxes with colourful perfectly portioned veggies and dips and flat breads, or cute little muffins with "spinach hid inside" that your child will love.  That is not my reality.  Nor my children's.  I say "what vegetable would you like?" they pick I pack.  "What would you like for your fruit?" they pick I pack. "what would you like for your main- thermos or not?" they pick I pack.  Do you see the pattern?  I know that this does not sound like magic but if they pick it and like it they might eat it. Sometimes they pick things I don't have made or ready to make (my youngest LOVES homemade tomato lentil soup with quinoa) and when that happens we pick a day later that week or next when I am able to make it for them.  And if they don't eat their lunch?  Whatever...maybe they were chatty that day or maybe they decided that cucumbers aren't the greatest vegetable ever or maybe they weren't hungry at that point.  Whatever the reason I am not able to predict the night before therefore I pack what they want and we discover together the next day if it was enough or too much. (Not going to lie-this took me awhile to get to this point)

When I was in school I don't recall anyone really looking at my lunches.  Now I have friends that show me letters from their school's saying what is "healthy" to pack and even telling kids which foods from their lunches they are allowed to eat and when.  I even know someone who told me that their daughters crackers were thrown out by the teacher because she deemed they were too high in sodium to be eaten.  The child was 4 and in junior kindergarten.  This upset me on so many different levels.  Not only should educators be aware that some families need assistance buying food and that may be all they could offer the child, the act of deeming a food "bad" enough to throw out puts a moral issue on food.  Kids grow up idolizing not only their parents but their teachers.  Many teachers are role models to their students.  By throwing out the crackers this teacher showed the student that her parents are not capable of feeding her properly and that some foods need to be avoided if we want to be "healthy".  Kids at this age are very black and white, good and bad.  They have no ability yet to look at it as grey.  By creating food rules we are creating some negative behaviours around food.  This child might feel shame eating these crackers in the future because they were only good enough for the trash and therefore might only eat them in secret so that people do not see them eat a bad food.  The child might not trust what her parents are packing for food and not eat it.  I don't know exactly what would happen but I do know that by putting a morality on food we change how this child will select her food in the future.  She could start looking to only eat "good" foods or foods that make the adults around her "proud" she chose.  She may avoid foods that she truly enjoys and wants to eat because she is afraid of eating "bad" foods and ruining her health.  It is hard to determine how one comment will affect a child but in today's diet culture immersed society it is pretty safe to say there will never be just one comment.  

Food Shaming- not just in schools but everywhere- needs to stop.  It is not just the adults in schools as both of my kids have come home at various times saying that another student has told them that what they were eating was not healthy.  I want my kids to have a healthy relationship with food but I also need to let them be in the world.  So for now if my kid wants to eat their chocolate cookie for first snack- let them.  If my kid wants to eat their thermos of rice at last snack- let them.  If my kid wants to eat his soup for snack and not lunch- let him.  Let them eat the foods that they so wonderfully picked for themselves to eat.  Let them learn what makes them feel nourished and well at school.  Let them learn how much fuel they need for the day.  Let them be without judgement or comment.

And I ask the same when you see me posting a blog post at 4am the week after school starts because my big plan to be organized this year fizzled and I am back to being.....

Unapologetically Me RD