Building a HAES® Community

There have been many times while working in the HAES® and non diet area of dietetics where I felt like the lone wolf or one of a few lone wolves. I knew of others, but they didn’t feel reachable across oceans or boarders and I didn’t really know how to find ones that were geographically close to me. For a long time it felt like this work was very individual, meaning that each of us did a lot of it alone- the learning, the trying of new ways, pushing when I thought I could in work or personal spaces. It can make you feel really radical and isolated at the same time. I was making mistakes without anyone to talk to about the issues I was trying to convey. There were many times I thought about giving up…not into the weight normative space but the RD space as a whole because I couldn’t figure out where to fit. Then I realized I was missing the community. I have many communities of humans in my life. I have my friends (whom I need to say I do not see enough and need to work on this), my work family (whom I have intense conversations with about Jane the Virgin…and work..sure), my gym mom crew (shout out to them who have taught me to travel to meets with a cheese board as that makes competition more fun) and where we be without the hockey/lacrosse families who help me cope with the stress of being a goalie mom (seriously…I have one child as a gymnast and the other is a goalie in 2 sports…there is not enough deep breathing in my world…) But I didn’t have my non-diet crew…and I really really needed one. Not only was one needed to feel less alone but one was needed to learn and grow from. I only know my own experiences. I do not know how others have handled the tough conversations with colleagues or loved ones. I do not know the experiences of those that have pushed hard against the weight normative paradigm I only really got to see the results…positive or negative. I have learned that if we want to rock the world and make positive change that sticks we need to build community…and we need to start now.

I realize I have a lot of privilege in the way I was went about building my community. As amazing as online learning is I needed to go to spaces where I could physically be present with others. I have written in the past about going to Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherlands Body Image workshop as well as going to Fiona’s workshop on Tough Conversations and both times I came home inspired. Filled with support, fire to do more and learn more, the feeling that I could help to move mountains. Each time I was in a community of HAES® focused practitioners I left feeling like we have only made a drop in the ocean but the drops are getting bigger and bigger all the time. I just needed this community at home. I have met amazing people that I would call friends now but I also needed the in person community that I discovered was so nourishing.

It was after this that Kori Kostka and I started the Nourished Circle podcast (you can find the episodes on this website by clicking the Nourished Circle tab). We came up with the idea for the podcast at a meeting we had after realizing we actually live very close to each other and had followed each others work- we originally met in university over 15 years ago. I had a community. It was small but it would grow. We started by talking to each other…a lot. We would ask each other about how to approach things, or language or books or people to follow on Social. Having another human to bounce ideas and thoughts off of became a bit of a lifeline for me. It helped me step out of my comfort zone. I know my voice is not a voice that should be centred. I live in a privileged body that does not experience marginalization for just existing and I wanted to learn how to be a better ally. We have been trying to do that on the podcast. I have been trying to do that in my work.

It was then at a recent weekend long workshop with Haley Goodrich and Fiona (again…I am not stalking her honest…) that was held in Toronto (a city which is very close to where I live) and we got to work on building community again. I was in such awe to be sitting in a room of individuals doing such amazing work in the non diet space. The conversations that they are having in their workplaces. The work they are doing with their clients. It was incredible. This is the local community. This is a group of humans that are doing the same work and struggling with similar issues. It was like finding home. And yet again I left feeling like we could make even more inroads. And I am ready….we are ready.

Building a community allows us to grow more and be more effective allies. There is strength in numbers. And I think this is something that we really need to stay focused on. Part of the issue when we are looking at dismantling the weight normative paradigm is that it is so ingrained in so many. One can literally walk out their front door (for some they do not even need to leave their living space) to be smacked with fat phobia or weight stigma. It is in our workspaces, or fun spaces, all our spaces! If we have community we will feel less like we are scaling the mountain in our bare feet using our fingernails. Community allows for us to have shoes, and supports and people cheering from above and below. If we really want to shift the normative thought to be one that is inclusive of all bodies regardless of size, gender or colour we need to work together. So I think we need to connect- in person if possible and virtually if not. If it is safe for us to, we need to proudly wear our HAES® buttons (thank you to Christy Harrison for making her “Proud HAES Dietitian” button which I have on my backpack along with all the buttons I have collected from the Body Love Box and a few more) literally and figuratively. Make connections. Have discussions. Learn how to be a better ally or advocate. Listen to the stories and share yours. Support each other. This is key. We need to support those that are doing the work. We need to share the social media posts of those that live in marginalized bodies. We need to support the work of those that live in marginalized bodies. We need to stand between the oppressed and the oppressor (thank you for reminding us of that Jes Baker) if we are able. We need to build our community so we can do all of those things as well.

So who is with me? Let’s connect. To everyone that was in the Toronto Non-Diet Approach workshop in September of 2019. Thank you. I hear you, I see you and I am with you. We are together and we can support each other.

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