Posts in Non-Diet Approach
What Body Positive Practitioners Do For Self-Care

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. 

Intuitive Eating, body positivity, fat positivity, eating disorder recovery, health at every size. What 5 body positive practitioners do for self-care.

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

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
minutes. 

    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
episodes."

Find Sophia: LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram

TARA MILLER

 

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!"

Find Tara: Facebook, Instagram

CHRISTINA FRANGIONE

 

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. "

Find Christina: Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest

EMILY FONNESBECK

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. " 

Find Emily: Instagram, Facebook 

JENNA FREE

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!”

Find Jenna: Instagram, Facebook

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? 

How I Became an Intuitive Eater

While having wine with a friend — a common event around these parts — we got to talking about intuitive eating. That’s the problem with obsessions: they haunt you during the off-hours. 

“What I would like to do is drink eight bourbon sours, eat a bag of chips, and follow it up with a poutine, but I know it’s not probably not the best, so I tend to make healthier choices. You know, like salad.” I understand this. I hear it. I get it. 

Intuitive eating is part this, and part some other thing entirely. 

We question intuitive eating. On some level, we feel we need guidelines and rules to live a healthy lifestyle. Someone to stand there with a stern look about her and a stick in hand and maybe a stained apron around her waist, advising us to eat our vegetables. Tell me what to do. As I flipped through the South Beach and Atkins books as a teenager, I could feel the anxiety rising up. The good foods, the bad foods, as concrete as the marble slab I take my photographs on. Intuitive eating would have been a fantasy, as elusive as as a fairy godmother or a twinkling firefly or you know, weight loss. 

intuitive eater

 

Should I count calories or fat grams? I distinctly remember heading out for ice cream with my family and a couple of my parent's friends at the Waterfront. I chose what I thought was peach frozen yogurt — deemed an acceptable choice — but what turned out to be a scoop of creamy, satanic ice cream. I sat there fidgeting in my seat, questioning my order. Was it frozen yogurt? I was certain it wasn’t. My mother assured me it was.

As she talked, I blurted, “I think this is ice cream. Can I throw it out?” Moments later, it left its own milky residue against the black garbage bag. I wish I could say I regretted it, but I was too overcome with relief to notice much of anything. I was scared of so much at fifteen, but I wish I hadn't counted food among those fears.

When I introduce people to the concept of intuitive eating, immediately they fear they will #eatallthethings. That, after years of being told to quit sugar or to never allow anything white to pass their lips or to fill up on frozen grapes, they will suddenly and irrationally and uncontrollably dive headfirst into an eternal binge.

For one thing, something called habituation settles in, where you get bored with what you’re eating. I mean, what would you think if I told you to eat chocolate ice cream for every meal? Initially you might feel pretty A-okay with it. But eventually you’re tire of it, long for grilled chicken salads or roasted potatoes or a bowl of split pea soup, and then you’d — gasp — say things like, “chocolate ice cream again?” 

I became an intuitive eater by eating all of the things I’d previously denied myself, including foods that were too high in carbohydrates, deep-fried, or were simply things nutritionists shouldn’t eat. I ate Ethiopian stews over white rice (!!!). I kept ice cream and potato chips in the house (!!!), foods I’d previously binge on, to see if I could eat them and still feel sane using my newfound learnings. I ate sour gummy candy and stopped feeling guilty over my penchant for my glass of wine a night, particularly if it came with exceptional company and great conversation. 

I started asking myself what I wanted to eat for meals and stopped pre-planning them. Sure, I made some things ahead of time, but instead of portioning things out, I ate whatever combination most appealed to me. I gave myself full, unconditional permission to call crackers and hummus lunch, to eat a processed protein bar on workshop-heavy days, and to drink however much coffee I deemed appropriate.

I think they call this trust. 

Because of this, sometimes I choose dandelion tea instead of wine. I naturally gravitate towards kale salads, because I notice how much better I feel eating them. I drink more water, not because I'm told to, but because I feel more productive when optimally hydrated. I've started meditating. Sometimes eating means three square meals, and sometimes five large snacks; sometimes breakfast is eggs, bacon, and a bunch of greens, or avocado toast, or a couple scoops of plain yogurt between newspaper articles, or coffee until I realize I haven't eaten. Sometimes it's twice or three times as many calories as I used to allow myself, and sometimes meagre portions that leave me wondering where my love of food has gone. 

I exercise however I like. Sometimes I prefer to go for long walks to clear my head, and sometimes I run for twenty minutes — not because I like running, becauseI don’t — but because it feels rewarding to push my lungs. I've realized I love pilates. And that starting now and into the new year, I want to learn how to lift heavy, which may seem light right now, given that most teenaged kids dwarf me. 

What about your life would change if you gave yourself unconditional permission to enjoy all of it?

How to Become an Intuitive Eater

  1. Make a list of all the foods you feel you can’t keep in your house or find yourself overeating whenever they’re within arm’s reach. These foods can be things like cheesecake or clementines — it really doesn’t matter.

  2. Why do these foods make you feel a little cray?

  3. I’m going to ask you again. Why do these foods make you feel crazy? What about them scares you?

  4. How do you feel when you eat these foods? If you feel differently when eating different things, address each one separately.

  5. What do you think would happen if you allowed yourself to eat these foods? This is an unconditional, very liberated allowance, by the way.

  6. How do you feel about eating these foods in the company of other people?

  7. If you’re worried others would judge you or make you feel ashamed for choosing these foods, why do you feel this way?

  8. Go back as far as you can. When did you start classifying foods as “good” or “bad”, “healthy” or “unhealthy”?

  9. What prompted this practice?

  10. Homework: when grocery shopping, I want you to look around the store. Observe everything on offer. Resist the urge to judge. Instead, go by how you feel. What appeals to you? Notice the colours of the fruits and vegetables. What looks fresh? What do you feel like eating? When walking by the bakery department, what looks delicious? How would you enjoy it? Would you serve it with a cup of tea or coffee? Enjoy it with a friend over a glass of red wine?

  11. Next, I want you to select something “forbidden” — except this time, it’s on emotionally neutral ground. I want you to imagine a world where salt and vinegar potato chips, cheeseburgers, and pizza aren’t “bad foods.” Of course, we know vegetables are more nutritious, but this doesn’t mean alternatives to them don’t belong in a healthy diet. I want you to sit down at the table. Serve yourself a helping of this food. How much of it do you want to eat? Pay attention to the way it feels in your mouth, its flavours and textures, and any aromas. Avoid distractions or anything that would take away from the experience. Just taste. When you have had enough, put it away, knowing you can have it again at any time.

  12. Write down your feelings about the experience.

 

PSA: If you're struggling with any of the above, consider booking a call with me. I also offer a special Habits & Behaviours Audit to pinpoint exactly what's going on with your relationship with food and body. If you find giving up the calorie trackers challenging or are always "so good" during the day only to find yourself eating everything in sight come evening, this service is tailor made for you

I attended an event this week featuring Molly Wizenberg, voice behind the legendary Orangette. On the dedication page, she wrote, enjoy it all. I love those three words, and I hope you carry them with you. 

 

How to Love Yourself: Twiggy, Nasty Women, and the F Word

I feel like I need to pre-empt this discussion with the following: 1) I’m of thin privilege 2) body image issues are not size-specific. Now let’s party.

loveyourself.jpg

 

Many individuals (okay, mostly women) come to me interested to know what they ought to eat, how much the ought to eat, and which food choices I’d deem “healthy.” I find part of this admirable. But I also can’t help but wonder: where is this coming from? Why do women seem more concerned than men? What’s driving our need to eat well? Is it low energy? Poor digestion? And often it’s a discomfort within our own bodies. We’ve gained a few pounds and no longer feel like ourselves. We weigh more than our friends. We don’t feel as though we have any control over our bodies. 

Part of this, I'll admit is just practical. Buying a new wardrobe is flat-out expensive. And yes, we gain weight for all kinds of reasons, and wanting to lose it is sometimes less about wanting to be a certain size and more about balancing the bodily systems in the name of health (ie. autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances.) So yes, it is possible to love yourself and to want to lose weight, for reasons unrelated to self-image. 

OWNING WORTH AND VALUE

But a big part of wanting to lose weight, for many of us, is more about issues around worth and value than health. Learning how to stand in our own, reluctant power. 

In The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf observes, “a cultural fixation on female thinness is not an obsession with beauty but an obsession with female obedience.” The rise of dieting and thinness arrived on the scene with women’s right to vote, only to wane during the “regressive 1950s” as women became once again preoccupied with domestic responsibilities. But as the 60s and 70s unfolded, “that pleasure had to be overridden by an urgent social expedient that would make women’s bodies into the prisons that their homes no longer were.” 

I’m not saying self-love is easy. It’s tough af. It’s tough especially when Western culture largely idealizes one body type -- the thin and tall type -- over all others. When we feel judged as soon as leave the house. When we are judged as soon as we leave the house.  When we're made to feel ashamed by our bodies. When we're told we look great after losing some weight, and wonder if we looked so bad before.

When we gain weight and are informed we're beautiful, but would be even prettier if we lost fifteen, twenty tops. When someone talks about their own diet and insists if you went on it, you would probably lose seven pounds, even though you expressed no interest in partaking. When we’re told what we look like matters more than what we think, either directly or indirectly. When our biological functions are somehow prized above our ambitions. When we're advised to get Botox for our crow's feet, or when someone tells you that you look like a child instead of the thirty-something grown woman you've fought to become, even though you didn't ask.

How rude, you think, but it gives you a complex anyway, one you spend a few months talking yourself out of, knowing in ten years you won't give a damn. 

But I believe it’s possible. Like many women — almost all women — I’ve battled with disordered eating habits. I’ve skipped breakfast, panicked over fat grams, and counted calories. I’ve shrunk my body with diets and fitness apps and worked out multiple hours a week so I, too, could achieve that mythical ripped physique. I know what it feels like to binge after long periods of restriction and deprivation. I’ve hoped my hips narrower, wished my thighs thinner, and smiled at every well-intentioned person who has ever suggested I may get my growth spurt yet

And even though I still have shitty moments, there’s a few tools I’ve used to help me to see beyond the teeny tiny and limited expectations the outside world has seemingly set for me, and to embrace the greater arena of goals, intentions, intellect, and empires. #Riotsnotdiets, am I right?

HOW TO START LOVING YOURSELF NOW 

1. Call it for what it really is.

The first step to loving yourself, if you ask me, is acknowledging both the healthy weight obsession and and female ideal are rooted in censorship and oppression -- not health. Weight and health, as we’ve discussed, have little to do with one another. The more power we gain, the smaller our ideals become. Before you decide you need to lose weight or take up a new diet, please ask yourself the following questions:

  1. How would you characterize your relationship with food?

  2. How do you feel about female power?

  3. How do you feel about being powerful?

  4. If you were after power, validation, recognition, and achievement, what do you think you would first need to have or own?

  5. Where do your beliefs about the last question originate? What has informed or shaped them?

A sexually unchaste girl was ‘fallen’; women ‘fall off’ their regimes. Women ‘cheated’ on their husbands; now they ‘cheat’ on their diets. A woman who eats something ‘forbidden’ is ‘naughty’: ‘It’s just for tonight,’ she’ll say. ‘I have lusted in my heart’ becomes ‘All I have to do is look at one.’ ‘I’m a girl who just can’t say no,’ announces the model promising Jello-O gelatin, which ‘kind of makes you feel good about saying yes.’ With Wheat Thin crackers, ‘You don’t have to hate yourself in the morning.’ The rosary has become a calorie counter; women say, ‘I have the stretch marks to show for my sins.’ Where once she was allowed to take communion if she made a full and sincere penance, now a woman is granted a given procedure ‘if she has sincerely tried diet and exercise.’ The state of her fat, like the state of her hymen in the past, is a community concern: ‘Let us pray for our sister’ has become ‘We’ll all encourage you to lose it.’
— Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

2. Recognize and list the negative ways poor body image impacts you and your life. 

Do you believe you will love yourself if you loathe yourself enough? Do you believe you will get the body you want by punishing it through intense workouts and restrictive dieting, the kind that makes you want to eat everything in sight? The kind that leaves you eating #allthecookies if you dare bring them into the house? hat's wrong with the way your body looks right now? Who says? 

I experienced a massive change in perspective when I started paying attention to the things I loved about my body. For example, those hips I wanted to shrink? I love them. They look great in a pair of high-rise, snug-fitting jeans. My legs are strong, which makes uphill climbs a breeze. I can do 25 push-ups more than I could when I too busy starving myself to give a shit.

I don't tell myself this stuff as some sort of consolation prize.

I tell myself this stuff because it’s a fact. It's real and honest and I mean it. Because I wouldn’t trade it. As someone of thin privilege, I understand my experience might differ from yours. Your experience might be easier, or it might be more challenging. You might be judged more or less than me. You might feel judged more or less than me. But like you, I feel the pressure. Like you, I sometimes also feel it’s difficult to say, “I love myself,” as though I’m not permitted. As though I need external permission, a rebel teenager on the loose. 

But I’m also going to tell you you’ll never love yourself unless you choose it, breathe it, live into it — unconditionally. 

3. Read all the feminist lit you can get your hands on. 

Thin images surround us. We’re immersed in them.

Steps I would recommend:

a) Take a media detox.

b) Look at alternative publications. Search #bodypositivity and #haes on Instagram and see what turns up. Read quotes by Ashley Graham.

c) Read The Beauty Myth. Read Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon. Ditch the diet books. Ditch the non-diet diet books. 

d) Meditate. Even if you only have a few minutes. 

e) Look at the evolution of "attractive."

 f) Look to the way other cultures treat and view women.

g) Get angry. Get upset. Get fired up. Let it fuel you. 

h) If you can't do it for yourself, do it for all of the girls in grade school and high school who, too, are taught from birth, that they must be teeny tiny to mean anything in this life. 

i) Nasty woman. That's all. 

Whenever I’m stuck in my own head, I find the best way to get out of it is to read thought-provoking literature. Insight.

4. Work to make peace with food.

We focus much of our attention on what we’re eating, but little on how we’re eating it. What’s driving your food choices? What’s driving your hunger? Do you eat salads because you love them, or because you feel pressure to do so? Do you feel guilty after eating a “forbidden” food, such as a donut or bag of potato chips? If you do, why?

I want you to consider the following:

a) Do you have “yes” and “no” foods?

b) Do restrict and deprive yourself of foods you enjoy for goals unrelated to your profession?

c) Do you avoid social outings for fear of overeating or eating foods on your forbidden foods list?

d) Do you feel anxious or a little cray around food?

e) Do you take your time to chew your food?

f) Do you feel as though you're allowed to fully and completely savour your meals?

I've found that when we begin to cultivate a great relationship with food, some of the other stuff begins to fall into place. 

Is it possible then that we today worry about eating and weight the way our foremothers and their doctors worried about women’s sexuality?
— Kim Chernin, The Obsession

5. Tell your story. Use your voice.

Many people know intuitive eating and disordered eating are special to me, and in the last several months several individuals have forward to tell their stories. Sometimes we're hesitant to put a label on our experiences, because labels feel severe. They feel intense. Dramatic. Sometimes we're unsure of what to call our experiences. Often, we've been made to feel ashamed. But I also think it's important we share our stories and use our voices for the collective good. We need to call bullshit on the healthy weight obsession. We need to call bullshit on never-ending weight loss projects. 

We also need to bring awareness around eating disorders. To tell the world there is no "eating disorder body type." That you don't have to be underweight to suffer and struggle. Everyone deserves and needs to eat. 

6. Eat foods that make you feel good.

Not just because they’re low calorie or increase metabolic rate or any other weight loss bonus. Ones you love, which give you energy and fuel your focus and concentration. I do eat large quantities of vegetables, but mostly because I love them and they help me to do what I need to do in this world. They're delicious roasted, dunked into spicy hummus, and tossed in a bright salad. But red wine and ice cream also make me feel good. They add to the overall life experience.   Mind, body, spirit. 

7. Craft and commit to solid goals. 

When I don't have a list of things I'm working toward (this rarely happens, though!), it feels easy to default to weight and body-loathing. The more I focus on ways I can help the world -- through protests and marches, writing, learning, consulting, creating -- the better I feel about myself and my place in the universe. It stops being about myself and my own ego, and instead about more important issues. List 3 goals you'd like to achieve in the near future -- ones unrelated to body weight. How can you work towards them? How can you manifest them between now and the end of 2017? Who can keep you accountable? Can you join a Mastermind group? 

This year I was fortunate to work with a number of businesses. I ran 50+ workshops and 4 programs, each of which I developed from scratch. I got to see Western Canada for the first time. I'm proud of these accomplishments, objectives I'd never have achieved had I dwelled on my appearance or my insecurities. Sometimes you just have to go out on the limb, say fuck it, and try for the fruit. 

Twiggy appeared in the pages of Vogue in 1965, simultaneous with the advent of the Pill, to cancel out its most radical implications. Like many beauty-myth symbols, she was double-edged, suggesting to women the freedom from constraint of reproduction of earlier generations (since female fat is categorically understood by the subconscious as fertile sexuality), while reassuring men with her suggestion of female weakness, asexuality, and hunger.
— Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

8. Your body is the product of thousands of years of evolution. 

And it is not a mistake. 

 

What helps you to fight the urge to self-hate? What tips can you share with others?