My body attacks its self but I refuse to attack my body

I recently read a really great blog post from Vincci Tsui ( during her series on Intuitive Eating with Chronic disease. This particular post was about Principle #8- Respect your Body. I replied to it on Twitter saying “My body may attack its self but I refuse to attack my body”. What was interesting to me was that I have never actually said that sentence before but it resonated within me. My body attacks its self….I have said that before but never acknowledged the trauma of that. If there was something/someone else attacking my body daily it would accepted for me to feel fear, hatred and anger towards that thing or person. Yet we are told often to love our bodies. Now don’t get me wrong. I think we need to work on our relationships with our bodies, for sure. But maybe at times love is too far away or doesn’t feel realistic. Maybe we need to respect. Maybe we need to refuse to attack our own bodies.

There are many ways we may see friends/love-ones/clients attack their bodies...and things we may do ourselves They may restrict food, overexercise, call names, pick and prod, shame or a host of other things. This daily attack will wear people down. Make them believe all that they say to be true. All of that, on top of living with a chronic disease that can be exhausting in of its self. Individuals with diabetes never get to walk away from having it, they need to test and administer insulin at all times of the day. People with GI diseases have to plan eating and bathroom breaks every single time they leave the house. And the list goes on. How do we start to respect the body that is not behaving in the way “it is meant to”.

For me (and this is me only so I am not sure if it would work for anyone else) it was finding joy. In Bréne Brown’s work on vulnerability she takes about joy coming from vulnerability. And she talks about how we are programmed to shut down joy. As humans we will often catastrophise our joy. I think with Chron’s disease it was really easy to do this. I was tired, in pain, feeling different, angry at the body and easily turned to shame. Shame is “ I am bad” talk vs “this was a bad choice”. I lived in a shame sprial with this disease for a long time. And then after major surgery I chose to find joy. It was not an easy task. It came in very tiny steps. There were big markers for me to find joy in this body that so easily attacks its self. I grew humans!! This was something that I so wanted to do but was told by medical professionals it was not likely. I won’t lie that it was easy but my body fought hard to give those tiny humans what they needed. I respected what my body was doing. I did not have control (I think this is when I realized I never had control of my body) of what my body would do but I needed to respect that it knew what was going on even if it didn’t the pregnancy blogs that I was kinda obsessively reading. I also had to respect that my body was not well after having both babies and I needed a lot of support. I also needed to bottle feed. I remember being angry for a brief moment that my body couldn’t feed my babies. It is always put on us that this is such an important part of development and bonding. It is natural and “breast is best”. But once again my body attacked its self. Did I need to go on attacking myself because I couldn’t do that or could I find the joy in the fact I had a tiny little life in front of me that still needed me to feed it. My little e’s needed food and I could still provide it. It is that simple. So I found joy in those quiet moments at 3am when the world is asleep and you really just want to be asleep but you have profound conversations with humans that can’t talk yet. And I found that joy even using a bottle.

My body has taught me more lessons than I can count. It has taught me that it will signal when I need rest and that I need to listen. It will tell me when I am hungry and full. It will feel better when I provide the foods that it needs to stay strong- irregardless of whatever else some tells me will “cure” me. It reminds me when it wants to move in a joyful way and it signals when I am pushing too hard. And it will give me about a 4 minute warning when I need to desperately find a bathroom….( I do wish it would give a 40min warning as apparently my body has yet to understand rush hour traffic in Toronto)

Our bodies are amazing, AMAZING things. We need to respect them even if we can’t love them. This is why the banishment of diet culture is so important. How can we take care of something we hate. How can we listen to the stories it holds and the signals it gives if our internal brain dialogue is overriding it all. How can give our body what it needs if we are constantly listening to the noise outside telling us our bodies are not good enough. They are…..because let’s be honest, it is the only body you are going to have while you are here, you actually can not trade it in for a new model or upgrade to the next version. This is it…your longest relationship is with yourself and it can only improve if you stop attacking you.

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...


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....