Body Image

when your body can't do what it used to

when your body can't do what it used to

Last week, I went to a yoga class for the first time in awhile (8 months? 10 months?) Yoga is something I wish I did more regularly and at one time I did, but now I’m super selective about the classes/teachers I’ll go to (No weight loss/fitness talk! No yoga practices being co-opted by diet culture! Do not talk to me about bikini season! Do not force me to do crunches and pretend that it’s some ancient practice!)

My relationship with exercise has been somewhat complicated over the years. There was a time in my life where I absolutely abused exercise in all its forms. Yoga at that time served only to burn more calories and I forced myself to go to the heated “power” classes, pretending that it helped with my mental health but not really fooling anyone. Yoga was basically an hour of forcing my body to do things that it didn’t want to do while it begged for sivasana so it could finally get a few minutes of forced rest.

It was not great. 

Fat is Okay! And Other Messages I Wish I Got From Straight/Curve

Last week, I went to a screening of the film Straight/Curve that Project HEAL put on as part of eating disorder awareness week. I knew the premise and I was excited for an uplifting film about body image and diversity, but I walked away confused and angry (like, really angry). This isn’t meant to be a review of the film- I am far from a film critic-but as a Health at Every Size provider and as someone who has gone through her own recovery, I found a few things really problematic that I want to touch on here for anyone who has seen the film (or who hasn’t).

For anyone who hasn’t heard of the film, this is the description you get from a quick Google:
“A majority of women say they do not feel represented in fashion or in the media. Filmmaker Jenny McQuaile examines the industries and obstacles responsible for this body image crisis and showcases leaders who are fighting for diversity in the media.”

Hooray!! I naively thought as I walked in. Finally blowing the lid off the bullshit diet culture nonsense that media forces upon us daily. That is…not what I found. The movie starts with the director and her team discussing about a dozen women who are all outside the modeling “norm” and how diverse they are. Then they pan to the models getting out of the car….and I’m not kidding when I say I thought those where the examples of what we were moving away from. It took me a few minutes to realize those were the diverse models.  

Before I keep going, I want to say: I have respect for all these women. They are, indeed, outside the norm for modeling (they are all above a size 0/2 that we are used to seeing in models, some of them were WOC, some of them were older than the average model). A few of them shared their histories with food and without a doubt, I have compassion for all of them and their journeys. I’m excited that the modeling industry is recognizing some variety. But as far as everyday, non-model bodies go, they weren’t particularly diverse. And there was no other discussion to acknowledge that; no mention of how bodies come in a lot more shapes/sizes/colors/abilities/genders/sexualities than what those 12 or so women represented. So while I appreciate them talking about their experience in the modeling industry, I wish the conversation zoomed out to discuss the bigger picture (no pun intended).

As far as diversity goes, I was happy to see that they included women of all ages including older and middle-aged women who are so often left out of the conversation. They also represented some people of color and some size diversity. Something I would have liked to see more of was representation of folks with different abilities, who are also frequently left out of the conversation. Also, there was no representation of non-binary folks or femmes who aren’t classically feminine. The film did include one model who was part of the LGBT+ community but again, I would have loved to see more (and more diverse) stories. I had the privilege of being on the panel discussion afterwards with the creators of ThirdWheelED who both identify as queer and who were gracious enough to make that part of the discussion afterward (and I highly recommend checking out their site if you haven't already which has a lot of great resources listed). It's hard to feel good about your body when you don't see your body represented anywhere else in mainstream media (especially a movie that's about representation). 

And then there was the scene when one of the models was talking to her daughter about body image. Her daughter, who was maybe 6 or so, was saying that a girl at school had called her fat and with no hesitation, the model answered, “you’re not fat”. And I sat there wishing with everything in me that her response instead had been “it’s okay to be fat” or “who cares if you are?!”  or even just "no, you're not fat but some people are and that's okay and normal" because that’s the message that the audience (kids/adolescents/young women and their parents) need to hear. And again, I want to point out how much compassion I have for the woman who said that. I get that a mother's instinct is to protect her kid and “fat” historically has been used as an insult. And I also get that she is trying to raise her daughter to love her body in a world that teaches women to hate themselves. But there was such a perfect opportunity for a discussion about size diversity and using “fat” as a descriptor (rather than an insult) and I felt sad to watch that moment pass by.

And finally, I want to touch on one scene that has stuck with me since Thursday night, that makes me rage a little bit every time I think about it. There was a scene in which one of the models, a thin woman who I believe has recovered from an eating disorder, went to get her body composition measured (first question: why?!) and the subsequent reports showed the distribution of fat on her body (second question: why?!). The doctor detailed the different types of fat a person has on her body and then declared her particular fat as being okay. And I swear you could probably see the heat rising into my cheeks as I sat watching thinking ALL FAT IS OKAY”. Listen. I took anatomy & physiology. I know there are different kinds of fat and I understand their functions. But for a movie whose purpose was to broaden the idea of beauty and promote body diversity, “fat is only okay sometimes” feels like really questionable messaging (and also, totally against everything I stand for but that’s beside the point). The truth is that you are not wrong no matter where the fat lays on your body and more than that, you don’t have to get anyone’s permission to feel okay in your body.

I appreciate what Straight/Curve was trying to do and it was a step in the right direction. As someone who is hoping for our culture to move towards body diversity and fat acceptance with leaps and bounds, that step felt a little frustrating but I understand that’s not the way the world works (but I can dream about a world where it does, right?) There were some problematic pieces but overall, I was left wanting moreThis movie is opening some doors and it’s not enough. This movie planted seeds and we have so much work to do. I dream of the day when we can see a movie about body diversity that involves women of all sizes and shapes and abilities and genders and sexualities and ages and ALL THE THINGS. Marginalized women, we need your voices! We need your movies! And dear reader, if you have suggestions for movies like this, please leave it in the comments because I would looove to watch.

Until next time xo

Photo by Annie Spratt 

The Only Detox You Need in 2018

Trust me, it's not what you think.

It’s about that time of year when the New Year’s articles start rolling in…the best detoxes, cleanses, diets, exercise regimens, blah blah blah. If you follow my work and know what I’m about, you probably aren’t surprised to learn that I have no interest in reading any of those articles. I don’t care about the trendy new diet. I have no interest in setting resolutions that will fall by the wayside by February 1 nor do I want to set resolutions that only exist to make me feel bad about myself. But after talking to clients, friends and family, I do find that there are a couple things that I think are worth detoxing from.

Toxic Social Media Messages
Social media is great and I wouldn’t be here writing this blog if it didn’t exist. But it can also be really harmful. There are countless “fitspo” accounts out there showing you supposed “inspiration” for your new workout/diet and don’t even get me started on those perfectly curated Instagram feeds showing only the prettiest smoothie bowls and green juices and pretty white women in $100 leggings doing yoga. And as aesthetically pleasing and seemingly motivating as those accounts can be, I find a lot of people use them to compare themselves and find ways in which they’re not “measuring up”. So my challenge to you is unfollow every single account that makes you feel insecure, less than or just plain bad. Diversify your feed and follow accounts that make you feel good about yourself. Jes Baker has an AMAZING resource of inclusive body positive accounts to follow. And remember this also means unfollowing any family member/friend who is constantly posting about their diets/weight loss. If that’s going to trigger you, hide their posts from your newsfeed. Your mental health comes first.

Body-Focused Resolutions
Diet-minded resolutions are definitely something to ditch in the New Year. Oftentimes, resolutions are focused on body weight/size/shape but the truth is that we don’t have much control over the size of our bodies so body-focused resolutions are frequently setting you up for failure. There are ways to make self-care resolutions without an expectation for weight loss- for example, to drink more water, try new fruits & vegetables or add in variety to your meals. All of these things are great ways to optimize health without setting any expectations about your body. By setting resolutions that focus on the way we feel versus the way we look, we are much more likely to be successful (and have a lot more fun doing it).

Other People’s Expectations
If you’re a people pleaser like myself, it can be hard to trust your inner voice when there are other people’s opinions and ideas and expectations to consider. In 2018, let that shit go. The only person you need to please is yourself. The only voice you need to honor is your own. Do what feels right to you and you can’t go wrong.

Foods You Don’t Like and Exercise You Don’t Enjoy
It is just not worth it.

The New Year feels like a clean slate and there’s something about it that makes us all feel an extra burst of motivation and resolve. But the truth is you don’t have to make changes in line with the New Year- or a new month, new season, new week. You’re allowed to decide when the right time is to form new habits or make new changes in your life. For me, the New Year usually comes with a sense of urgency and expectation; like I must make these changes now or else. But there’s no need to put unnecessary pressure on ourselves. We’re all doing just fine and we don’t need to change to be worthy, lovable, good humans. So give yourself a pass if you’re not in the resolution-setting mood or if you want to just continue being your badass self in 2018.

Talk to you all soon! xo

P.S. If your resolution is for more anti-diet goodness in 2018, you definitely want to check out my New Moon New Year January Redux program starting January 1. When you sign up, you're signing up for daily emails from me for the entire month of January that will challenge you and get you thinking about how to incorporate more food peace into your life this year (plus the possibility of getting private coaching sessions with me). Check it out here!

Why You Won't See the Term "Weight Management" on My Site

I see the phrase “weight maintenance” used a lot in the healthcare world- whether it’s from doctors, fellow RDs or other health professionals. And to be honest, it always makes me bristle a little bit.  I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why this phrase makes me cringe (especially when I see it in the same places talking about intuitive eating & Health at Every Size) so I wanted to share some of what I’ve come up with here.

The main reason is that it implies we can control our weight. It might sound radical to anyone who is new or unfamiliar with HAES but I just don’t believe that we have as much control over our weight as society makes it seem. I practice using the set point theory  - the idea that our bodies have a 10-20 pound range that it feels most comfortable in and will fight to stay within. How is our set point determined? A lot of factors go into our set point but one of the main factors is genetics. Some research shows that up to 80% of our body shape/size is determined by genetics; if you look at your parents/grandparents/siblings, you probably have a good idea of what that might look like for you. But the bottom line is- our set point is not within our control. So when you come to work with me, I can’t guarantee that I will help you maintain your weight. When you start eating intuitively, you might lose weight, you might gain weight or your body might stay the same depending on where you’re at in your journey with food.

Another reason I have trouble with “weight maintenance” is that to me, it sounds like a code word for dieting. As the body positive movement grows and we shift away from the dieting craze of the 90s, the $60 billion dieting industry has come up with a lot of euphemisms for dieting. Some of those are “lifestyle change”, “cleanse”, “detox”, etc. Weight maintenance just seems like another word for dieting i.e. weight loss. And as much as I know that there’s a demand for weight loss, it’s not a service I can provide. Don’t get me wrong- I will always meet a client where they are and living in our weight-obsessed world, I absolutely understand why weight loss is appealing. But it’s never a goal I’ll set with a client or something we’ll work towards. Why? Because there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence that dieting for weight loss isn’t effective long-term. And the last thing I want to do is set my clients on a path towards failure.

That being said, I don’t expect anyone to be anti-weight loss when they come to me. We live in a culture that encourages, promotes and praises weight loss. It’s on the cover of magazines, it’s in an advertisement on the side of Facebook, it’s on social media, it’s everywhere. So if you want to lose weight…I understand. And my hope is that we can meet each other halfway. But promising that working with me will bring you weight loss or weight maintenance is not something I can do without compromising the values I believe in. Because the truth is, I don't know what your set point weight is, but I do know how to find it. And that's what I can guarantee when clients work with me- that I can help them find their body's natural weight and help them to feel at home in their bodies. At the end of the day, it's not about your weight; it's about your ability to take care of yourself in ways that feel right to you, feel at peace with your body and stop letting food get in the way of living your life.