Posts in Self-Care
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? 

“Feeling Fat”: How to Move On From Using Diets as Coping Mechanisms
Body positive, intuitive eating, health at every size, anti-diet. Where "feeling fat" comes from and how to stop crutching on diets.

 

 

I felt utterly, completely lost when I finally ditched diet culture. 

Sure, I’d mostly untangled myself from the mess, but still — diets were an easy coping mechanism. Like a deck of cards, you could fan them out and pick one to play. Low energy? There’s a diet for that. Sluggish digestion? There’s a diet for that. Hormonal imbalance? Yup, one for that too. 

Whatever your problem, whether a bad breakup (too much ice cream? There’s a diet for that) or trauma, there’s a diet in the wings, just waiting for you to mutter, “I’ll start this on Monday.”  

According to The Bodywise Woman by Judy Mahle Lutter, 50% of American women are on a diet at any given time, up to 90% of teenagers diet regularly, and up to 50% of younger kids have tried a diet at some time. 

Diets — which science tell us time and time again do not work (as in, they don’t do what they say they’re going to do.) 

They stress us out, slow the rate of weight loss with each successive attempt, teach the body to retain more fat when you begin eating normally again, decrease metabolism (1). 

They increase binges and cravings, increase risk of premature death and heart disease, cause satiety to atrophy, and cause body shape to change. (1)

Diets also erode our confidence, self-trust, and have been linked to eating disorders (30% of pathological dieters go on to develop a partial or full-blown ED). (1)

But still, even knowing this, we can’t escape them. In fact, “fatness” has become an epithet for nearly anything undesirable, from financial troubles to a break-up. “Fat, skinny, or in between, all compulsive eaters feel fat. When they say that they feel fat, they are really saying that they feel bad. Use the word fat to mean bad is more significant as a sign of our culture’s fat phobia than it is a description of body size. Fat in our society is an epithet” (2)

Wherever we look, we’re told fat is the worst thing a woman can be (well, next to promiscuous, but even that is debatable these days.) We’re encouraged to shed fat, burn fat, spot reduce. I can’t go to the gym without a trainer affirming how many calories I’m burning, scroll through Instagram without being told which foods to eat (and when to eat them and in what quantity), or grocery shop without being told, time and time again, that I should always be monitoring.

We never speak positively about body fat, even though it’s saving our asses. Those in northern climates, for example, were originally heavier than those in southern climates because their lives depended on it (2).

Body fat keeps us warm (it regulates temperature), supports healthy reproduction (especially in women), helps to regulate nutrients, and is essential to maintaining healthy skin, hair, and nails. 

So in short: without body fat, our species would cease to exist.

You’ll have to excuse the drama. 

What does this have to do with feeling lonely after leaving diets in the dust?

It means you’ve been robbed of your coping mechanisms. You can’t shelve your miserable feelings in the corner and pretend they don’t exist. You can’t continue to distract yourself from the real issues at hand by chasing after an impossible aesthetic.

For me, it meant I could no longer play small in my business. It meant I could no longer transmit the same messages I’ve been spewing about health and wellness. I could not continue to avoid accepting my body as it was and is and will be. I could no longer put off getting rid of the clothes that no longer fit because I was finally honouring my hunger and fullness cues and had quit restriction in all forms. 

For you it may mean…

Dealing with an unsatisfying relationship. 

Figuring out your next career move so you don’t dread going into work. 

Coping with negative emotions in a way that doesn’t involve a disordered relationship with food. 

Finally booking the trip of a lifetime to Bali even though you feel you can’t afford it. 

Enrolling in yoga teacher training, instead of listing the reasons it doesn’t make sense. 

Pursuing adoption on your own, because you never met anyone who felt ‘right’ and you always wanted children.  

Delaying our hopes, wishes, and desires doesn’t always mean we’re crutching on diets, but dieting can prevent a part of us from growing up and fully embracing our inner selves. 

But to mature into intuitive eating, we need to create our own self-care box. We need to figure out what makes us feel good, what lights us up, what brings us joy. You know, the opposite of a diet. 

This could include a mix of things, like:

  • Watching Netflix while enjoying a delicious glass of kombucha

  • Heading to a yoga class on a Sunday morning

  • Getting together for coffee with an old friend

  • Spending a rainy day reading and drinking tea instead of killing yourself at the gym

  • Enjoying a night of pizza and board games with your family

  • Hosting a frisbee game in the park

  • Going for a run (not my thing, but possibly yours?)

  • Starting an art project

  • Taking a photography class

  • Cooking a new recipe

  • Catching the latest Woody Allen flick

  • Watching a live music show

  • Colouring (there’s such a thing as adult colouring books and they are awesome)

  • Taking a relaxing bath at home with candles and romantic music

  • Hosting an impromptu dance party (yesssss)

It doesn’t matter if none of these resonate with you. I encourage you to brainstorm some ideas on what you could add to your personal toolbox to help you to cope with those times when you would otherwise restrict, deprive, or engage in bingeing or binge-like behaviours.

What would you include in your self-care toolbox?

References

1. Intuitive Eating, 3rd Edition. Resch, Elyse and Tribole, Evelyn. St. Martin's Press, 2012. 

2. Overcoming Overeating: Conquer Your Obsession with Food. Hirschmann, Jane R and Munter, Carol H. Vermillion, 2000. 

How to Self-Care for Success When You Have Zero Extra Time

A couple of years ago, I returned home at around 4am after working a wedding. I’d graduated a few months prior from nutrition school and hospitality was still paying my rent. Exhausted, I never heard the storm, or woke up to the water rushing from my ceiling, or felt my sheets saturate. 

Instead, I slept. 

I slept until my eyes didn’t burn, until the bones of my body didn’t move like lead, until I was damp from the roots of my hair to my pant legs. And by then there was only the red hot rush of anger, and my skin shivering in the stillness of a brisk September morning. 

selfcaretips.jpg

Photo credit: Cynthia Magana

The water had seeped through the upstairs loft and into the second floor bedrooms, and within three days I’d developed a fever so overwhelming I slept for forty-eight hours, huddled under the blankets. Dizzy and dehydrated, I walked myself to the ER. Bacterial pneumonia. 

Spending eight weeks recovering in bed, as you might imagine, is not exactly my idea of a great time. But it was definitely a lesson in self-care. 

Several weeks ago I was asked to present on nutrition and self-care. I think about that period in my life all the time, because it was during those weeks where my business evolved from something I hoped to do to something I would stop at nothing to create. As I explained during the session — hola, the power of vulnerability — it was a metaphor for my life. 

I know you’re busy. I know you feel like you don’t have time for self-care practices. You feel like your life is out of control, like you don’t have ownership. You’re stressed out, burnt out, mentally done. You can’t remember the last time you felt energized, or which foods even give you energy. 

You want to put yourself first and learn who you are, deep down, without all the noise, but you don’t know where to start or how to change. You want more hours in the day. To boost your mood and laugh aloud again. To be more mindful at mealtime and throughout the week, and to work with a heightened degree of focus and clarity. 

I know it because I’m currently group coaching 20 women, and nearly all of them have told me the same thing. 

But you know what? You can find it. And actually taking care of yourself will help everything else fall into place. 

Slowly — like, turtle’s pace slow, honest — I’ve been cultivating a low pressure self-care practice, one that involves eating nourishing foods (according to what makes me feel amazing), guarding my 10am bedtime as I would my firstborn child, prioritizing morning movement, using essential oils, and revelling in a whole lot of geeky introverted alone time.

I joined a mastermind to meet new, like-minded people.

I re-stocked my supplements.

I journaled.

I listened to provocative podcasts.

I read a lot of Gretchen Rubin, and started making decisions based on what would make me happy. 

I thought seriously about what would make me happy. 

More importantly? I stopped guilting myself for choosing joy. 

Any strong nutrition program, if you ask me, is rooted in a radical self-care and stress management practice. How much exercise should I get? What should I eat? How many calories should I consume? Honestly, none of this really matters if you don’t have your shit together. And you get your shit together by mastering your schedule via habits and boundaries, and putting yourself first without compromise. 

While I love green smoothies and a kick-ass pilates class as much as the best of them, we need to acknowledge the external factors first. Only by addressing the spine of our lives can we move beyond the bones and optimize our capacity for sharing our gifts with the world.

But how do you start a self-care routine? How can you shift some of your habits? 

1. Begin by identifying your goals -- things you'd like to do or would like to do more consistently.

For example, I used to workout intensely several times a week, but this slipped once my business revved up. I knew this was something I wanted to change. Secondly, I wanted to treat myself with more respect and set stronger boundaries to boost my professional performance. 

I recommend outlining these goals on a sheet of paper, or brainstorming ideas if you're unsure. 

2. Now, figure out your big why. Why would you like to make space for these new habits in your life? What do you hope to gain? How would your life change? 

Having goals, especially related to self-care, is lovely. But in my experience, they just don't get accomplished unless your why is super strong (there's a reason it's a major component of business plans!) In my case, I wanted to workout more consistently to boost my energy levels, which would then enhance my productivity and help me to grow a heart-centred, passionate business. I find imagining myself at aged 80 always helps, too! So: why would you like to master your goals? What do you hope to gain?

3. What's not currently working in your life? What needs to change in order for you to make space for new habits and self-care practices? 

Maybe you're staying up so late that you find it difficult to wake up early to exercise, prepare a nourishing breakfast, or meditate. Maybe the amount of time you devote to social media is dragging you down. How can you eliminate inefficiencies? What shifts can you make to welcome new, positive changes? For me, I started setting my alarm earlier and earlier -- and it totally worked. I love waking up early and relishing in what I refer to as The Golden Hour before the hustle of the day begins. 

4. How much money are you open or willing to investing in your self-care practice? 

Self-care doesn't have to cost money -- I can think of many free tactics -- but it helps. Some of my purchases, including a diffuser, essential oils, and my monthly gym membership all cost money, but I receive a high ROI on each of these. Are you open to spending money on a membership, or would you prefer to go for runs and take advantage of complimentary community classes? Will you buy the recommended reading for your book club, or will you borrow from the public library? 

5. Why haven't you accomplished these goals in the past? Why aren't they currently part of your routine? 

It's important to address this, in the event these issues are still bubbling under the surface. It took me a while to cultivate a solid self-care routine because I felt I was always too busy, too tired, or too something to make a lil' magic happen in my life. Deep down, I was definitely struggling with some self-worth issues. Do you feel like you're worth it? Do you feel you deserve a Golden Hour and some nourishing evening time? 

6. Implement. Where are you going to fit these things in? I recommend slotting them into your Google Calendar and committing, so you a) don't forget b) have a more difficult time objecting. 

If you find you work better with accountability and support, enlist the help of a partner. Regarding workouts, try taking group fitness classes or joining a team. If you're a rebel who hates for anything to be scheduled (I can empathize ;), focus on your values and how you want to be seen. Find various ways (and psychology!) to successfully execute your self-care goals. 

Also? Release perfection. Sometimes I skip days. Stuff comes up. But overall, having a routine and knowing you have structures in place to support you, energize you, and keep you on track to reaching your goals is, in my experience, the best part. 

Interested in my favourite, go-to self-care practices? Click below to have the list sent straight to your inbox.

 

 Do you have any favourite, tried-and-true self-care tips that have worked especially well for you? Share them in the comments!