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…

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..

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.

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