EDAW 2019- A reminder ED's come in all sizes

It is Eating Disorder Awareness Week (EDAW) here in Canada, February 1st to February 7th, 2019. The National Eating Disorder Information Centre (NEDIC) is running a campaign stating that “1,000,000 Canadians struggle with an eating disorder- we can’t afford to wait”. The concept being that we need to squash the myths and stereotypes that surround eating disorders and get people the help that they need- and deserve! This stat should be concerning on a few different levels. First being- that is a huge number of individuals diagnosed however I suspect that there are many many more that are not being diagnosed because the medical community continues to have biases around body size and shape which means that people are not getting properly diagnosed and treated. This should be so upsetting to the human race yet I am not sure that it is. Our culture has taught us that our body sizes are our faults. That if we are not working to make ourselves smaller then we are not working hard enough. That if we live in larger bodies our bodies are not worth the same amount of care or treatment. There are so many more people walking around this earth with what could be a diagnosable eating disorder if anyone bothered to listen to their stories. And this is my plea. We need to listen. We need to put the body in front of us in context to their lives, not ours. We need to hear the trauma that their body has endured. We need to do all this without making the assumption that we can assess them just by looking at their body.

Deb Burgard once said “ we diagnose in smaller bodies what we prescribe in larger bodies.” Let that sink in. If you have an emaciated body with a list behaviours you could get an eating disorder diagnoses and access to treatment. If you have a larger body with the exact same list of behaviours you will either get a pat on the back if your weight has gone down or be told you need to work harder. Seriously. This is happening all around us. If you do not look like the Hollywood version of an ED it is harder for you to get a diagnosis. If you broke your leg and you went to the doctor for help and the doctor said “You are doing a great job, keep doing what you are doing as it is obviously working…” I am sure most of us would protest and demand to see another doctor. However we have been trained to have so much shame over our bodies that we do not. Diet culture has made us believe that we need to look a certain way to be normal- normal relationship with food be damned! I have sat with larger body clients that were told they needed to lose weight however are eating so few calories a day that they literally look at me and say “ I guess I am not supposed to eat anything because the doctor says I need to lose weight for my health”. But what is health? If the size of the body in front of me at that point were much smaller there would so much concern- a possible hospital admission, a run of blood work, a check of blood pressure and heart rate. But instead they are told to lose weight for health all the while I suspect that they are not believed when they say that they do not eat very much. This is completely unethical health care.

So what am I proposing?? Listening. Not listening to answer and move on. But really truly listening to the story of the body in front of me. Listen to their lived experience. Listen to how they relate to food and movement. Listen. Not to solve or fix. Not to criticize or deem unbelievable. But to be open minded enough to realize that eating disorders do not discriminate between genders, races, socio-economic status, sexual orientation or body size. They can affect any human that is walking this earth right now. We need to listen so that we can be the best health care providers or supporters we can be. We need to listen so that everyone who is struggling with their eating has a safe place to go to seek assistance. And we need to listen so that everyone can get the treatment and support that they all deserve.

If you are interested in following along for EDAW check the hashtag #EDAW2019 or go to nedic.ca for further information or links.

until next time be unapologetically you, while I be unapologetically me RD

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

I recently read a really great blog post from Vincci Tsui (http://vinccitsui.com/blog/#.W7zQGS8ZN-U) 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…

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..

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.