Body Image work is life long work....

I have started writing this post multiple times.  I really wanted it to be about back to school and kids and talking about bodies but I keep getting stuck.  I haven't really had that happen before so I decided to check in and see what is up with my brain.  It's not that I am not passionate about what I was planning on writing about.  It's not that I don't think it is important because I really truly do.  And it's not that I don't think anyone would read it...because if I am going to be completely honest I think that with every post I write.  I think it is because I had an experience recently that has been eating at my brain a bit and maybe this is the place to dissect it.  I am going to be be completely honest...I have no idea how this is going to go.  And I really hope I find a point to what I am writing that someone else will find useful.

I am always reading books about body positive work, the politics of bodies and diets and pretty much anything I can get my hands on in this realm.  Recently I just finished "Landwhale" by Jes Baker (which if you have not ready you must!! So vulnerable, so amazing, so enraging) which is a memoir of living her life as a fat female.  So many components of this book were eye opening and having lived with thin privilege my whole life this book told stories that I needed to hear.  It was while I was reading this book that I had an appointment with my specialist for Crohn's disease.  I have recently started a new medication,  is a biological that I inject every 8 weeks and it treats both my Crohn's and Psoriasis.  At my appointment the doctor weighed me.  He does every 6 months and it is the only time I ever get weighed.  I don't decline because I know it is part of disease that my weight can fluctuate based on disease activity and he uses it dose my meds properly.   He made the comment that the meds must be working well as my weight has increased by 10% in 3 months.  Now as a person who spends her life wanting to eradicate fat phobia and make everyone comfortable in their bodies I was super pissed at myself for the reaction of "Seriously?!? Is that right??"  Here I am- a person that is supposed comfortable in their own body having a moment of "no..I did not gain that weight"  I- to be completely honest- don't remember much of the rest of the appointment as I was having an internal struggle with my gut reaction.  This is where I go back to "Landwhale" (READ IT!).  Jes talks about moving away from body love and body positivity to body autonomy.  Meaning that it is unrealistic to love our bodies every day, but we can work to accept that this is our only one.  We can be allowed to not like how they look  or how they are moving through the world- often times because the world is not built for all bodies- but we can learn to get through those moments.  Reinforcing that idea helped me, for a couple of different reasons.  First being that I was so pissed at myself for having any negative reaction to the comment that I was a grumpy ass for a few days.  I questioned all that I have written and said.  I noticed that my pants were tighter (noticed or projected I am not sure) and instead of telling myself to get new ones I had a couple hours (undershooting I think) of mental gymnastics of how to get my body back to what it was.  And I was disgusted with myself.  It was only when I was working on a lecture for school on self compassion that I seemed to snap out of it (not sure that is the right phrase).  My body is healing.  My body is absorbing food- all the food- for potentially the first time in years.  The psoriasis that covers 70-80% of my body is no longer visible or causing me pain.  And I was upset that my butt was bigger!  I sat here staring at my laptop wondering if I was only able to do the work I was doing because I was a "normal" clothing size.  Would or will I be brave enough to do it with a larger body- as the likelihood of my weight continue increase more is probable- or will I fall back into the depths of diet culture and rationalize my behaviour.  I can  honestly say I have never been more pissed off at myself nor have I ever questioned myself so much.  Both of which I think were good outcomes to be honest.  

I look at the work of fat activists, now these are amazing humans.  They not only put themselves out there to help others heal their relationships with their bodies they do it in a time where social media is rampant and trolls are everywhere.  The backlash they receive for merely existing is insane let alone that they live unapologetically in their bodies.  I realized that my message of "bodies need to be accepted at all sizes" is received in a different way because of my thin privilege(which is f'ed up)    This privilege has allowed me to have a voice that I am not sure I fully deserve to have.  (Yet I do believe that using my thin privilege to provide access to more marginalized voices is important and to this I will try to do more).  I want to showcase their work in a way that can bring more light to this topic and the amazing work that they do.  

The other thing that happened when I started working on this is that it became very apparent that this work is never, ever done.  Our bodies change all the time.  They age.  They get sick.  They heal.  And really as long as we have a body that means we are alive that in of itself is amazing!! Which means that one must always be doing the work on their bodies.  We must always be checking in to see what we are saying and thinking about ourselves.  And we must continue to challenge those thoughts and grow with our bodies.  My body didn't need food restriction or increased exercise.  My body needed me to say "heal from years of this disease", "do what you need to do so that I can continue to live my life".  My body needed me to say "thank you for continue to exist".  My body needed me to say "Who gives a flying fuck what you weigh!"

I am always learning, always changing.  I only know my own lived experiences and a bit about others from my learnings.  I feel that this experience opened me up to the realization that more work needs to be done in the world and in myself.  I am not even close to where I want or need to be.  I will continue to work on myself as I hopefully assist others on their body work.  

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

ps....for those of you living in the GTA check out the Nourished Circle Retreat, link at top of page.

The day I taught my 10 yr old about diets...

If you follow me on social media you would know that recently I posted a very excited statement that my child didn’t know what a diet was. (It was one of those "OMG look at what my kid did moments"...with her adding "that sentence is Insta worthy...you are weird," to crash me back to earth). After my fist pumping, jump screaming excitement dissipated I realized that I needed to ask a few follow up questions as well as figure out how to manage the next few years of her life now that I had essentially taught my 10 year old what a diet is (my version of diets which may or may not have included an “s” bomb in my description). 

To save the backspace button on my phone (typing this in the car as we drive to a rugby match-parental multitasking at its finest) I am going to refer to my child as E ( the younger is e- smart right?!?)   So this started a few months ago when E was learning about puberty in school, realizing I truly wanted to control the conversation about body sizes and abilities I decided to pick up Sonya Renee Taylor’s book “Celebrating your body! (And all it’s changes) (FYI E and I are going to write a review of the book when we are finished...maybe not so much a review but a gushing post about how you all need to read it.)   I chose this particular book for a few different reasons. I LOVE Taylor’s work-(have you read “The Body is not an Apology” yet?)- as well as loving the diversity of bodies depicted in the pages. So, we were reading it together, stopping anytime E had a question or wanted clarification or to say for the 100th time “ so you get hair where??” when all of a sudden she says “ we need to stop I just don’t understand” I guess my face asked “what?” because she then said “ the books says diets are not good for your body and I do not know what a diet is...so what is it anyways?”  I started to laugh. Which I can tell you that you should not laugh out loud while reading a book on puberty with your child. After dealing with her anger at me laughing (she thought it was at her) I explained that her not knowing what a diet is, is perhaps in the top 5 moments of my adult life.We proceeded to talk about diets, who might do them, has she heard anyone as school talk about diets or needing to lose weight (the answer to that was yes but she said she never wanted to talk about that so often left to go do something else hence missing the details). We had somehow managed to get through the first 10 years of life without learning anything about food manipulation. I reached over and kissed her saying “ you are perfection”. The reply “I know we all are”. In that moment. I had hope. I had hope that this generation might not be getting the same messaging about their bodies as I did. I had hope that people were becoming more aware of how they talk about their child’s body to them. E already talks about everyone’s body being different and embracing these differences. Or was this hope false because I work my ass off to be inclusive off all bodies, abilities, genders, races in all aspects of my work and personal life (and I make mistakes in this area all the time but am trying to learn and grow and show my kids that is ok)

After our talk I sat back and thought about it some more. Yes there is no body talk in the house but there has to be more.  There has to be more than that for her to not really understand what a diet is.  As I thought about it I realized that my stance on body talk has truly helped her be shielded from it.  Pretty much everyone in my life knows my views on bodies, diets and how we talk about these things.  I do think that most people in my life do not talk about their diets or body talk around me (and therefore my kids) because they know that it will end up being a conversation instead of a flippant remark.  I kinda feel like this has helped form a force field of sorts around my kids.  It's not a perfect field and I know that the dark side will likely be able to find a weak spot and weasel in at some point but for now it seems to be working to hold diet culture at bay.  It just goes to prove to me how important it is to talk about our own bodies in a neutral or positive way at home.  How important it is role model these behaviours.  

But diet culture is a shape shifting villain that rivals Thanos (my first Marvel reference??...hmmm) in strength and determination.  I know that it is every where and as they get older they will see it too.  I hope the base that we have been working to build around bodies and how we treat them will hold.  I hope that this base is safe and warm and is comfortable enough to come home to when needed.

In the meantime we have talked more about diets.  I told E what they mean and why people used them.  I talk to her about the culture and how people think that their lives will be better if they lose weight and so they pursue this dream without living their lives in the moment.  We even talked about how people use "health" to fat shame and encourage people to diet.  To which my almost 10 year old looked me straight in the eye and said...." you mean people think that you can determine someones health by looking at them??...That makes no SENSE!!"

And that is why I have hope in the future....

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

Type 1 Diabetes, Body Image and Language.

One thing that became very apparent to me when I was at the Body Image Workshop in Chicago with Marci Evans and Fiona Sutherland, was just how much we (RD’s, Therapists, Humans in general) need to work body image into the discussion with clients.  This got me thinking.  Not only does it need to be part of the discussion when working with clients with eating disorders, it needs to be part of the discussion when we are talking to clients in any context.  I think body image work needs to start being considered and perhaps even implemented in various settings.  I think about how diet or wellness culture is so pervasive.  We hear body talk almost constantly everyday- whether in direct conversations, on television shows (do we even call them that anymore if they are made for Netflix random thought), on the radio, in print ads and all over every platform of social media.  That constant inundation of diet or negative body talk can only be highlighted when they get diagnosed with a disease where the body become front and centre. 

Today I want to talk about type 1 diabetes and body image.  I worked in an exclusively type 1 facility for 8 years.  I watched these amazing families work with a disease that is highly unpredictable and very scary.  I also spent those 8 years wondering if what I was teaching to help each child diagnosed survive and grow would harm their body image.  Carbohydrate counting is very important for matching insulin doses to food however this puts a huge focus on carbs.  Kids and teens (my area) could easily link the need to take an insulin shot with the intake of carbs.  No carbs-No shot.  No matter how inclusive of all foods you are as a practitioner or a parent there is still an incredible emphasis on foods.  An individual with type 1 diabetes is recommended to give their rapid acting insulin approximately 15 minutes prior to eating.  This may not seem like such a big deal to some but what we are asking this individual to do is decide how many carbohydrates they are going to eat at that meal- no more no less- (unless they want to give a second shot to cover a second plate or they are on an insulin pump which is a bit different)  In doing this we are eliminating the ability to listen to internal cues- because there could be very dire outcomes if you give insulin for carbohydrates you decide not eat.  It is just another way we are teaching them not to trust their bodies.  And if you look at it from the lens that they probably already feel that way due to having a disease where their bodies “attacked” their pancreas. 

All this and we haven’t even scratched the surface on bodies.  So this topic is going to be a mini series of blog posts that can be read individually or together-this post will be on language around bodies, followed by eating and insulin and lastly diabulimia.  There are many things I wish I could have done better or changed more for my clients in my time at the diabetes centre.  I was still navigating my way around HAES™ in an environment that was not an eating disorder facility and in retrospect wish I had done more to change the diabetes universe (realizing just recently that I still could do this)  however I do think I made some changes or planted some seeds that were helpful and I want to share them with you.  Even if you do not work in diabetes I think that this might trigger some thoughts about your own work.

Language.  If you have read this blog before you know that I am very interested in language and how it lands on the receiver.  Especially how we talk about bodies.  At diagnosis, a kid or teenager will likely lose a fairly significant amount of body weight.  This is due to the physiological effect of starvation.  The body has stopped or is not making enough insulin and therefore the individual’s glucose is not getting to the cells for energy.  This will cause the body to breakdown muscle and fat for energy and will put the body into ketosis.  Due to not having enough insulin in the body to rid the body of the ketones many people will be diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when they are in or close to Diabetic Ketoacidosis.  These individuals are also often dehydrated as their bodies have been working to get the glucose out of the bloodstream via urine.  Therefore increased thirst and increased urine output.  All this to say that most bodies are much smaller at diagnosis then they were even a few months ago.  And it is at this point we need to be very aware of what we are saying.

Insulin needs to be injected subcutaneously, meaning into the fat tissue.  Imagine being newly diagnosed with a disease that you do not understand but learning your medicine needs to go into fat and often times these individuals will be told that they are so tiny right now(at diagnosis) that is it hard to find a spot to give the insulin.  In a culture that praises thinness this can be viewed as the best compliment.  Being so thin that it is hard to find a spot to inject.  If a child has been living in a larger body for a while this could be seen as ultimate accomplishment.  This is where I think the language around injections needs to be considered.  I do not think that practionners should be saying “ you can put this injection anywhere you can pinch an inch” or “we will use your butt as it has some good padding” or “ see this chub right here this is a perfect spot to inject”.  I wonder if we actually teach the kids (or parents depending on the age of the kid) what the layer under their skin actually is and why it is there.  What if we got really radical and called it your adipose tissue or the layer of fat under the skin.  By using cutsey names for fat we are again increasing the power of the actual word “fat”. 

The other talking point at diagnosis is weight.  As I mentioned there is often a decrease in adipose and muscle tissue prior to diagnosis which is then followed by an increase once insulin is initiated.  Clients are then often weighed every few days to assess that the insulin is working.  This is where I think education could happen such as talk about set point theory or even something as simple as what is actually being weighed on the scale.  I have personally found many kids and teens surprised to hear that when they are being weighed after diagnosis it helps the educators see that they are becoming more hydrated and getting more muscles.  That the scale tells you nothing about you or your health most times but in this instance it tells me water and glucose are staying in your body.  For whatever reason (DIET CULTURE!!) many kids think that the only thing a scale tells you is how fat you are.  Not how much your bones weigh, or how much the poop in your colon ways (a huge hit with the 6-10yr old crowd) In full honesty, I “forgot” to weigh people quite often but if a doctor demanded a weight I was sure to educate while doing it.  And I do think this helped.  Because as I will talk about in the third part of this series people learn very quickly at diagnosis no insulin=decrease of weight.  Which can then lead to purging by omitting insulin or Diabulimia as it is often referred to. 

Just imagine all this then you now have to live with a chronic disease that requires you to inject yourself daily-often in your abdomen, buttocks or possibly legs.  Well aren’t these every teenagers favourite body parts (yes, even boys the often forgotten group when speaking about body image).  In a social media world where these body parts are glorified when thin and smooth, it can be very difficult to constantly “pinch an inch” to give insulin.  Every 3 months (standard appointment spacing where I live) the diabetes team will ask to see these “sites” and check that they are not “lumpy”.  Again, imagine how this feels.  Imagine having multiple eyes on your midsection when you are already self-conscious.  I think this is why the continued dialogue around body image is so important.  Educators should be asking how clients feel about having so much focus on certain body parts.  We should be asking how this factoring into their self-talk about their bodies.  We should be asking how their bodies are being perceived at home.  I have often wondered if because of the nature of diabetes and the fear parents have, if those living with diabetes feel like their body is never truly their own.  I wonder this because there can be so many people involved in their management. 

Finally, gold standard care for a child living with Type 1 diabetes in Canada is that they see their specialist doctor every 3 months and as part of this routine checkup they are weighed.  I have seen parents standing at the scale ready to record the weight.  I have seen doctors comment on how much a kid is up over the course of the last 3 months.  I have seen kids panic before stepping on the scale. Again to be honest I always did blind weights.  I got very good at measuring a height and a weight at the same time.  Now I wish I had pushed back a bit more and questioned why.  We as a clinic stopped weighing teenage girls as frequently but I think it should have been for all ages and all genders.  My thought behind this is, why make weight such a key thing every 3 months.  Why should it be as important as HgBA1c or a meter download.  Because it’s not.  The weight tells me nothing of kids health.  What taking a scale weight did tell me however, is how much of a focus is on weight in a particular house, but I am not sure that most people will pick up on that information.  When you see a parent panic about the weight on a scale please take that as a sign that there will likely be diet talk (or healthy lifestyle change dressed up in diet talk) in the house. 

Watching how we phrase things regarding diabetes management can go a long way to helping protect our clients from poor body image.  And if you still struggle with these ideas try it yourself.  Be a client in a clinic appointment.  Get weighed in front of the team.  Show everyone your abdomen.  Show everyone your blood sugars and let them guess on your food intake and exercise (next post!) and then rate your body image.  How do you feel?  Now image being a teenager with a changing body and a disease you struggle with.  How do you feel about yourself now?

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

looking forward by looking back

Recently I was listening to an awesome podcast that had Jessica Setnick, MS, RD/LD, CSSD as a guest.  Jessica is a Registered Dietitian who studied Anthropology prior to her nutrition education so she has this amazing take on relationships that people have with food.  She spoke about how if we want to further understand how a person currently experiences food and eating then we need to look to the past- at least 2 generations back.  I found this to be so fascinating as I grew up in a family where my grandparents had lived through World War 2 and the depression.  They would have lived in a time where food was scarce and you were lucky to have food on your table.  Fast forward to the late 1970's when I was born we did not have the same issues of food scarcity however we were definitely raised in a "finish everything on your plate" house because that is how my parents were raised.  

I remember eating Sunday dinner at my grandma Kay's house or any meal with her for that matter and you always finished your plate.  And if you finished one and there was still food left on the table you should really have seconds.  And if you had seconds there was still dessert and tea to be had.  And all of the food was a symbol of love.  It was never meant to teach me to not to listen to my body cues for hunger and fullness- It was actually a way that my grandma expressed how much she cared for us.  She could provide for us.  Yet I always felt guilt if I was full and did not want more.  I almost always ate passed the point of comfort because I did not want her to think I did not like what she provided or hurt her feelings.  Grandma Kay learned as a child what it felt like to be deprived and she likely wanted the opposite for her family.  This is a very common theme according to Jessica Setnick regarding present day issues.  Most of us (in my generation- Gen y or Gen x) have at least 1 family member two generations back that has lived through a war, a famine, or poverty of some sort.  This means that our parents were taught eating behaviours from their parents then they taught us similar ones.  But what do we teach??

Which leads me to today.  When I feed my children do I continue on with this-you must eat all the food I put on your plate or you don't get (dessert, a snack later, tv time...whatever the "punishment is for not eating dinner) or do I change.  I can admit that change is hard.  Especially when it comes to parenting because I think I suck at it daily.  Even with all I have studied and what I know to be true there is a bit of panic in my chest when one of my kids picks at dinner and does finish what I have provided.  Or they eat what might be too little (to me not them).  I am not going to lie, I am sure that I have confused them at times with my "can you eat a bit more??"  followed quickly by " well if your tummy feels full and you are done then that is enough".  And even worse when my husband and I have a discussion at the table regarding whether or not said child has eaten enough!  (there needs to be something prior to having kids so that you can create a plan of how you are going to feed/parent/do bedtime at each stage of child's life because sometimes it is crazy when you realize your philosophies are different because you become aware of that while dealing with an issue)

I want to raise my children to trust their bodies.  In all regards.  I want them to trust their strength and their intuition and that their bodies do not need to be changed or manipulated by anyone especially themselves.  And that starts by letting them tell me when they are full at meal times.  As an RD this is easy for me, as a mom this is sooooo hard.  So this summer I have changed the parenting rules.  We are going all-in with Intuitive Eating.  Not just me.  Everyone.  It is going to start with letting the "E's"  plate their own food.  At 8 and 5 years old I have always done it - partially due to mess and possible waste but they are old enough to handle utensils so why not?  And if rice ends up on the floor well lets be honest it always does anyways- we just clean it up.  By serving themselves I am hoping to help them explore what it is that their own bodies want.  I may serve up a balanced plate but maybe they wanted a bit more rice or carrots or fries or less of something.  If I do it for them I am not allowing them to figure out what they need.  It should really be no surprise that as a society we have been raising kids to be adults who can't figure out how to intuitively feed themselves and look to dieting (ohhh...a whole other topic) and meal plans to feed themselves.  And when my little people say they are full I will say "ok" no more "are you sure?" "can you eat 2 more bites?".  This does not mean there were will be an eating free for all at our house.  Its just letting them be in control of what goes in their bodies.

This could be an interesting summer at dinnertime in this house or not.  It might just go by unnoticed by them.... which would be the coolest thing.  I will post updates....Social Experiment #1.  There may even be pictures of how a 5 year old plates his food....

Until next time by Unapologetically You while I be Unapologetically Me...

 

summer weather means...

Last Monday was the start of summer here in Canada...well kind of.  It was Victoria Day on Monday or as many call it May 2-4 the first long weekend of the summer.  Which is when I start to believe that we are done with snow and ready for some summer sun.  In fact my family spent Saturday swimming at my brothers house. Watching the kids jump happily in and out of the water brought my brain to the part I dislike the most about summer.  The onslaught of ads and discussions about "getting that beach body" or "get swimsuit ready". I firmly believe that you get a beach body by putting it on a beach and to be swimsuit ready you need to own a swimsuit and put it on.  But I am aware that is not the case for most.  In fact I had a vivid flashback to a picture of myself to a time that I didn't think I was "swimsuit ready"  

For years my mom had a photo in her kitchen window of my brother and I on a family trip to Florida.  I was about 10 or 11- not much older than my daughter is presently- and I was in my favourite blue and pink bikini.  My brother was shirtless in his swimsuit and aviators (everything makes a comeback!) and flexing his arms-likely imitating some wrestler.  He looked calm and relaxed and clearly comfortable hamming it up for the camera.  I however have this weird look on my face as I am clearly sucking in my stomach for the picture.  My arms were at an odd angle as I tried to pull my belly button closer to my spine (thanks Cosmo for that tip).  WTF!! When did I learn to suck it in for the camera.  I honestly do not remember.  I do remember lying to a friend in high school when she asked me why I was sucking in my stomach for that picture.  My response " I wasn't I was just thin"  and the stupid part is that I was thin.  My body was perfectly fine as it was and I was supposed to be enjoying this amazing trip that I got to miss a whole week of school from but instead I worried about what I looked like on the beach.  This is something I do not want for my daughter or son for that matter.  I watch her now, carefree running around in her bathing suit, and I think "how do I protect her from this" (now she is a gymnast-which will be a whole other post someday I am sure)  But I know what I can do at home.  Talk about bodies in a positive way (which we do), not diet (there are no good or bad foods here, just food) and show her that I love my body and I am not ashamed of it (this is likely the hardest one as we all have days this is hard).  So I wear my bikini's- they fit me the best as I am long in the torso and they are way more comfortable than one piece suits(thought why did I feel the need to justify why I wear bikinis?)- without a T-shirt.  Stretch marks from 2 pregnancies, an 8 inch scar down my stomach from a bowel resection surgery 10 years ago, and skin covered in auto immune psoriasis (scars and active ones) be damned.  I need to show my kids (both not just the girl) that my body is fine just the way it is.  And if anyone has a problem with that then that is their problem and societies problem.  Not mine.  And especially not the problems kids need to be facing.

So yesterday to further push myself even further into presenting my body as is, I joined (figuratively as I don't think there is an actual thing to join) the #SportsBraSquad by running in my sports bra.  (Sports Bra Squad was created by Kelly Roberts and documented on her blog RunSelfieRepeat.com)  I am attaching a photo for proof.  Please see that there was no sucking in of stomach.  So to the 10 year old me...nothing you have accomplished in life was because you sucked in your stomach on the beach that day, you accomplished it because you are determined, smart and caring.  And none of that has to do with how you look in a swimsuit

And one final note on my sports bra run.  An elderly lady was walking towards me as I ran on the sidewalk of a busy street.  She signaled for me to stop and I worried something was wrong with her.  She said "You are amazing for dressing appropriately in this heat!! Good job"  and off she went.  Sometimes it just takes a little comment to make you brave enough to take a selfie of your stomach and put it on twitter....and always remember the reverse is true. 

Until next time be unapologetically you while I be unapologetically me....in my sports bra!

Running.....

So I like to run.  I do not run fast, not even close.  I am sure I look like I am staggering down the road at times because I don't get enough rest (KIDS!!) and I likely drink more coffee than water so I get a bit dehydrated but I run.   I do not run for weight management or weight loss.  I do not run to give myself permission to eat whatever I choose ( I feel I am allowed to eat whatever I choose regardless of my physical activity that day).  I run because it makes me feel good.  Not just physically but mentally.  I struggled with postpartum depression after both of my kids.  It was not a great place to be living.  But running helped.  It was meditative for me.  It allowed me time to take deep breaths, to look at the sun (or rain I kinda like running in the rain), to listen to music that had swear words (!), and to feel like I was moving forward at a time in my life when I felt stuck and alone.  I have continued running since.  In order for me to keep "moving forward" and not just give all my time to my kids I sign up for races.  I have no expectation of winning and sometimes the goal is just to finish but I show up at these events knowing that the last 12 weeks of training for this was more for my mental state than the time I get when I finish.  

Almost 2 weeks ago I ran in the Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon.  For those of you that do not know the half marathon is 21.1km (13.1 miles).  I had been sick leading up to it and was actually going to withdraw but I decided that I need to be a positive role model to my kids and finish what I signed up to do.  So I went alone to Toronto very early on that chilly Sunday morning and as I waiting in my starting corral - the last one as I mentioned I am slower- I looked around at all the bodies standing with me.  There were women and men of various ages and sizes standing all around me talking to each other.  Many were talking about being nervous, hoping they finished, some talked about how chilly it was, 2 men were discussing the breakfast they were planning on having after in great detail (sausage, bacon and eggs if you are wondering) but one woman's voice stuck out to me.  I heard her say to her (I am assuming) friend that " I didn't lose enough weight to be here". I almost screamed "WTF! You are about to be a total badass and run 21.1km down one of the coolest streets in the world.  How can your last thoughts on that be about your weight?!?!"  But I didn't yell that because the horn went off and the crowd surged forward.  I spent about the first 3km really wondering about that voice.  Wondering if she was enjoying her run.  Wondering if she noticed the CN Tower from our vantage point.  Wondering who she was so I could find her and tell her that she is a rock star for setting a goal and making it to that start line. 

I had kinda forgotten about that comment as the race was very difficult for me that day and I had my own moments of tears on the course (full disclosure- actually following a training plan is important- doing half the plan then not running for 3 weeks prior to race is not advisable).  But I was reminded of it yesterday when the email came saying "your race photos are ready". So at larger races there are usually photographers on the course taking your picture to commemorate the experience.  I looked at the photos and thought "Man you do not look pretty when you run" and " you really do not have runners thighs".  Then BAM!  I totally had to WTF myself!   My realization of "wow you looked at your physical self in that moment not the internal struggles you were going through at that time" was disconcerting.  I did what I spend so much of my time trying to get others not to do.  I shamed my body when it carried me 21.1kms over 2hrs and 36mins!!  It was F'ing amazing!  My body did not let me down that day my brain (and lungs asthma is a pain) did.  So I have realized that no matter how long I have been practicing self love or body acceptance I still will throw down some self hatred when vulnerable.  I should never have judged the woman on the starting line for her comments-even a tiny bit- because she was likely being vulnerable in the only way she knows how in our weight obsessed culture.  

So I am going to continue to work on myself while I work with others to overcome body shaming and issues with self worth.  And this coming Sunday I am going to lace up my running shoes once again, toe that starting line (from the back of the pack) and run 21.1km all the while reminding myself that my body is badass and it carries me through this race and this life and it deserves to be honoured.  I may even buy a race photo to remind myself of that...

Until next time be unapologetically you will I be unapologetically me

 

International No Diet Day...why not everyday??

On Saturday May 6th it was "International No Diet Day".  This is the day we are to eat without fear and rules.  This is a day to push back against the diet industry when it tells us we are not good enough as we are.  This is a day to eat for pleasure and enjoy our foods.  But why do this only one day a year?  What happened to the other 364 days??

Have you ever watch a baby eat?  They cry when they are hungry and push the bottle or nipple away when they are full.  They do not measure the amount of food they are consuming, they do not say "I've had enough carbs today" or "I was bad-I had the breastmilk"...  They just eat until they are full then they stop.  There are no rules, there is no shaming, there is just eating for nourishment and growth. Interestingly we as a society love a "chubby" baby but also as a society we condemn those that continue to be this size as they age.   There are stats that show that children as young as 5 have established food rules that are for the purpose of weight loss.  I remember the first time I saw that I thought "how does that even happen?"  But then I realized.  Children idolize the adults in their lives, they model their behaviour.  They go to schools where the teachers talk about their weight watchers points openly, they watch TV that has commercials for weight loss programs, they have adults in their lives that go on and off diets regularly- I once had a 6 year old client say to me she was on the "Disney Diet" because they were going to Disney in the spring and needed to be healthier before they left.  We are raising a generation of children that are self conscious of their bodies before they even understand what that means.  And I think this is why we need to stop the diet talk every day.  I want to raise children to realize the amazing things their bodies can do.  Their bodies are their earth suits.  These bodies will take them through everything thing they will do while on this earth and that truly is amazing.

So lets try to make International No Diet Day every day.  That may seem scary and daunting for some but imagine the freedom.  Imagine the freedom of letting go of your rules about foods.  Imagine a world where our children spend their time and energy on projects that bring joy to them instead of fighting with their bodies... Imagine.

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

How I started

I am a Health at Every Size dietitian.  I believe that we can not tell someone's health by their weight.  I believe we should enjoy food and eat intuitively.  I believe that exercise should be enjoyed and not for the sole purpose of weight loss.  How did I get here? Because this is not really the norm in my profession.

I started to really question weight and health when I was in my early 20's.  I was having severe abdominal pain, swelling in my lower right side of stomach and frequent trips to the bathroom.  After many doctors visits, trips to emergency room and generally feeling awful-I was finally diagnosed with Crohn's Disease.  During one such emerg visit I asked about the possibility of it being Crohn's as my grandmother had it.  A nurse said to me " no your weight is too high- people with Crohn's are very skinny when they are sick".  Hmph... Well she was wrong.  Yes my weight was not significantly below "normal weight" but it was below my normal.

A diagnosis I was handed a list of foods I was no longer allowed to eat and given a set of food rules to follow.  This I called "The No List".  It made me unhappy and made me crave all the foods I was not allowed.  A life without fruit and salad and anything that contained fibre made me very sad.

Fast forward a few years and I was in my dietetic internship.  I had a rotation with an RD that put a lot of emphasis on scale weight as well as restricting calories to lose weight.  It didn't feel right to me.  I had had my health judged incorrectly by my weight and I had learned first hand what "The No List" feels like.  I was really questioning whether I was on the correct career path.  The I had a rotation in eating disorders and my mind was blown.  Even though it wasn't quite intuitive eating it was not restrictive-it was about nourishing your body and your mind and I felt like I had found my place.

Fast forward a few more years and I read "Intuitive Eating" by Evelyn Tribole and Elise Resch and "Health at Every Size" by Linda Bacon and I felt like I found home.  This is how I can help.  And now I want to share it with whoever wants to listen- or read.  This is me.  This is what I believe and how I got here.  I want to end diet culture.  I want people to grow up nourishing their bodies.  And I want us all to be free of that internal dialogue that we will be ... good enough, smart enough, pretty enough...when we weigh a certain number.

I am enough right now.  And I will continue to be unapologetically me.

You be unapologetically you.... 

The day I became a number

I was listening to a great podcast the other day about letting go of diet mentality.  The interviewer asked the question " do you remember the day you became a number?" And I answered out loud "YES!" while sitting in my car stuck in traffic.  I had a brief moment of thinking the dude in the car beside me actually heard me yell before realizing that I had not really thought about that day in a very long time.

It is weird to me because I can remember what I was wearing, the exact desk at school I was sitting in and the faces of those around me but I can't for the life of me remember how old I was.  It was either grade 6 or grade 8.  I had the same teacher in the same classroom for both which is likely why I can't remember how old I was.  Our class was going on a ski trip.  My family are not skiers and therefore I had to rent skis.  A few days before this trip- which I do remember be super excited about- my teacher ( a male in case you are wondering), sat at the front of the class and asked each student who had to rent skis their weight.  Now remember that is this around 1990 and I would like to think there has been change in practices such as this since however I am not sure there have been.  He asked me "132lbs" I said honestly.  I hadn't yet started lying about the number and I had a vision of being tossed from my ski bindings if I did lie.  There was an audible gasp- or at least I heard one- from a couple girls around me.  I had just listed the largest number out of the class.  I weighed more than the boys... which I realized much later made sense because they had yet to hit puberty but at the time was traumatizing.  

I had weighed myself before as my parents had a scale in the bathroom but I did not have a reference for that number until that day.  "XXXlbs" (decided numbers can be triggers for some so took them out) became "too much" and a weird need to get into the 1XX's began.  Although I do not recall actively dieting or anything at that time, I do remember starting to hate my body that day...a hate that lasted many years.  There had been flickers of dislike before that day but it definitely increased then.

What would I like to say to my younger self that day?  I am not sure to be honest-I think I would just like to hug her and tell her all the amazing things her body can do and be.  What would I say to an educator who is supposed to create a safe learning environment for students? So many things to say but....there were many other ways to get that information instead of turning everyone into a number.... Be more aware of the stage your students are in and for the love of everything good in the world remember that one tiny comment about weight or body in today's (or the 90's) society can rock a kid to the core and drastically change how they see themselves.

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