Self-care is a challenging topic — and one none of us can seem to clearly define. What is self-care? Is it a manicure and pedicure? Is it a day at the spa? Wine night with a bunch of awesome people? Sleeping in on a Saturday? Is it fancy, time-consuming, and expensive — a luxury — or something far simpler than that? And what is its purpose?
I think a lot about self-care. As someone who finds habit formation triumphantly difficult (I’m a rebel, according to Gretchen Rubin), mastering the little things takes enormous effort. And you know what? That’s okay. So when I think about self-care, I think a lot less about addition and much more about subtraction. I think a lot less about rules — self-care being another thing on the to do-list, or something else to punish myself with — and more about permission.
Permission to take a day off. Permission to sleep in. Permission to eat the things I love. Permission to choose a relaxing walk around my neighbourhood over a vigorous workout. Permission to be imperfect. Permission to stand up for myself. Permission to get loud. Permission to buy an exorbitantly priced green juice when I feel my body needs the nutrition; permission to eat ice cream because it tastes so good. This is all self-care to me, because it all begins with "What do I need to feel good today?" and finding a way to get it.
I asked other body positive, anti-diet practitioners to share in this topic and offer their view of what self-care is and what they do to show themselves love.
SOPHIA APOSTOL is a Toronto-based Confidence Coach who helps curvy ladies to feel confident from the boardroom to the bedroom. She brings 15 years of experience in the academic and corporate sectors to her client relationships. She builds resilience, courage, and authentic confidence by focusing on awareness, learning, growth, and emotional intelligence. Women who live aligned with their values, strengths, and creativity are able to pinpoint what is holding them back and can clearly see how to move forward. Sophia has worked with entrepreneurs, managers & executives, and academics who want fulfillment in both their career and personal lives.
"Here’s my biggest lifehack for self-care....have a list of your Top 10 Go-To’s written on a post-it on your fridge and saved in your phone’s notes app.
When we’re in need of self care, our brain isn’t working optimally, hence the desire for self care, and can only focus on short-term alleviation of suffering (my default behaviour is numbing & binging with chips and Netflix).
So, the way around this is to have a no-brain-needed list where I can easily see it. When I feel like I need/want self care, I look at my list and pick from these options:
1. Get outside!!! Get dog leash, get dog, get down to the lake.
2. Make a cup of English Breakfast tea. Sit on balcony. Breathe.
3. Call one of my besties. Receive their love and support.
4. Text one of my besties. Share that I’m feeling sad/angry/tired/etc. Receive their gratuitous heart emojis.
5. Set an intention every morning. Text it to my 2 friends who also share theirs each
morning (accountability partners are everything!).
6. Use one of my meditation apps for guided mindfulness to lower stress & anxiety in 10
7. Crank up girl-power pop music and practice my hip shimmies and sexy belly dance arm
movements...the more jiggle the better!
8. Listen to a podcast that makes me laugh, cry, and learn. Current faves: Dear Sugar, The Moth, On Being.
9. Go to Body Blitz. ASAP! (This is a women’s only water circuit spa in Toronto, and it’s heavenly)
10. Watch Netflix. Not binge watching for 5 hours, but to relax and enjoy a couple of
TARA MILLER is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist and intuitive eating coach, and owner of the Health Hut, a natural beauty and healthy lifestyle shop with locations in Toronto and Muskoka. She helps clients with a number of issues using a non-diet, "all foods fit" approach to nutrition and wellness.
"For self-care, it seems simple but I absolutely love spending time alone in the evening and going to bed early. I also enjoy being social, so make it a point not to schedule more than two nights out during the week in order to stay balanced and recharge. I used to find it hard to say no to things, but when I realized how important feeling good is to my productivity, relationships and well-being, it has gotten much easier. Nothing beats getting cozy - even it means I have to schedule it in!"
CHRISTINA FRANGIONE is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Dietitian Nutritionist, who is currently pursuing her Master's degree in nutrition. She is the voice behind When Not All Foods Fit, a blog dedicated to helping people who struggle with disordered eating or negative relationships with food/their bodies AND who also need specialized diets for allergies, intolerances, chronic illnesses, co-occuring disorders, or religious or ethical beliefs.
"Self-care can be relaxing, enjoyable, and rejuvenating. It can also be challenging, painful, and anxiety provoking. Some days, my self-care might be watching a sitcom, painting my nails, or going to a yoga class. Other days, my self-care might be making an uncomfortable phone call, trying to identify why I reacted a certain way, or telling myself “it’s okay” over and over until I believe it. Self-care is so necessary both when you’re clearly in need of some extra support, and when you have a handle on your mental health. "
EMILY FONNESBECK is a Registered Dietitian and Certified LEAP Therapist who takes an individualized, non-diet approach to client work and avoids fear-based information. She gives guidance to those seeking help with eating disorders or disordered eating, digestive concerns, food sensitivities, diabetes care, heart disease, pregnancy/infertility nutrition, sports nutrition and athletic performance, vegetarian diets, general nutrition information and more.
"As a working mom of 3, I've found that self-care doesn't just happen. That's particularly true now that we have a new toddler living with us who is still adjusting to a new language, new country and a new family. The best way I take care of myself, hands down, is asking for help and not holding myself to the impossible standard of doing everything on my own. As a recovering perfectionist that's not super easy for me. But I really benefit from delegating responsibilities to my kids (which is good for them too), accepting my husband's support in household tasks and childcare, triaging to-do lists and even letting go of stuff that isn't necessary (like a clean house some weeks). We all have to be team players to make it work. The best part is that I then can find time each week to do things that mean the most to me like playing with my kids, spending time with my husband and writing. Lastly, I find it so helpful to schedule time for things that I know build physical and mental resiliency for me like exercise, meal planning, scripture reading and sleep. "
JENNA FREE is an Intuitive Eating Counsellor and Body Image Coach at You Ain't Your Weight. After years of modelling and obsessing over food and weight, she discovered intuitive eating and self-love -- two tools that "turned her world upside down." She helps women ditch the diet, stop obsessing over food and learn to love their bodies once and for all.
"Practicing self care means more than bubble baths and massages (although those things are amazing). For me a huge part of my self care now is listening to my body, which I rarely did when I was dieting. Honouring my hunger is a huge piece of this. I don't deny myself food anymore, I have learned to always trust my body. Our bodies are so much smarter than us!”
How you define self-care? What challenges do you face in practicing some form of self-care? What would you need in order to show yourself love?