WTF, 2018?: A Retrospective


NEW YEAR’S EVE IS HERE and I have been doing a lot of reflecting, so here I am. What began as a quick Instagram post has become an extensive blog post, which is possibly more symbolic of this year than anything I could have imagined.

2018, eh? What. A. Year. This has been one of the most challenging years of my life, and it has forced me to grow and change in ways I couldn’t have predicted.

2017 saw me challenging many beliefs I held about myself, and ultimately living some of my best life. I optimistically thought 2018 would see me continuing to live my best life, and while in some ways it did, it also humbled me (ew did I just say that? But alas, I don’t know how else to say that…) and shook me to my core.

SO, here’s a fun little personal roundup of the year that felt like a decade. In 2018, I:

  • Started experimenting with ClassPass and tried everything from spin and hip hop to Iyengar Yoga and boxing.

  • Got my second tattoo (and it was a lot bigger than the first! I was extremely anxious about the pain, and the whole thing was ultimately surprisingly chill. Thanks E.K.!)

  • Ran several races, including my first ever (and then second) trail race.

  • Felt like I ran 500 marathons in the most difficult professional year of my life. I have learned so much, but I am also tired.

  • Made yoga and boxing weekly practices for a good chunk of the year - and LOVED.

  • Started my blog, after the encouragement of Justine, the human embodiment of the shine theory. This has been a transformative experience for me.

  • Went on a mind-blowing two-week road trip with Max that brought us a lot of incredible memories and also set off a string of financial difficulties throughout the year.

  • Had a wealth of experiences: Kayla and Justin brought baby Nate into our lives, Canada Day weekend on Island Spirits, the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the AGO, so many amazing meals with wonderful people, was asked to officiate Emma’s wedding and to be a bridesmaid in Lauren’s in 2019, the annual Fearless Heart Yoga retreat with my mom, two amazing family weddings, baseball, volleyball, Drunk Feminist Films, you name it, not to mention all of the personal and professional growth and accomplishment I have been honoured to witness in my loved ones.

  • Went on an incredible local road trip with my mom - a week I will cherish for years to come. My personal highlights were the Brockville tunnel, a surprising experience we took our sweet time dancing through, and wine and cheese at Lake on the Mountain overlooking Prince Edward County.

  • Had a challenging year in my romantic relationship that has ultimately made us stronger than ever, but has been a whirlwind neither of us expected at this point.

  • Started challenging many of my long-held beliefs about weight and food, and realized the role restriction had in my cycles of disordered eating. I have Christy Harrison’s Food Psych podcast to thank for kickstarting this.

  • Began working through these disorders rather than around them, and in the process gained a bunch of weight.

  • Oh hello! Just as soon as I thought I was the most comfortable in my body I could be, I was suddenly very uncomfortable again and having to revisit a lot of what I thought about myself.

  • Took a step back from moving my body as often over the last few months (in exhaustion from work, personal life, my new relationship with my body, and other overwhelming challenges), and proceeded to feel even more at odds with myself.

  • Started working with an incredible eating disorder counsellor, Annina Schmid. Have learned a LOT about myself and my disordered eating in the process, and am feeling ready to move my body again. Still have a lot to learn and a long way to go, but my binge eating has subsided substantially and I’m able to listen to a lot of my body cues for literally the first time in memory. That is huge

  • Decided to face one of my biggest fears, and joined Katrina and Hannah’s winter camping trip. Threw out my back the week before and did it anyway (possibly a bad decision, but here we are). A 5k hike in turned into a 6-hour journey, we were wet for three days, I required and received so much help and grace from friends, my grandma passed away during the coldest night of my life, I threw up multiple times on the hike back out, but ultimately the experience was exhilarating. Blog post to follow, because if this wasn’t worthy of one I don’t know what is. 


And now here we are! I have spent the last few days getting a lot of the space and recuperation I have desperately needed for months. I have also dedicated hours to cleaning our apartment, which has helped my headspace more than I had anticipated (did not help my back, but you can’t win ‘em all). 

Looking forward at 2019, I know that a lot of change is coming, and even still there is only so much I can predict. What I do hope for myself, is that I can give myself the space to continue doing this work, to continue healing, to find joy in movement again, and to recharge regularly. I want to give myself the space to keep writing and reflecting. And I want to get a doggo to cherish and smother with unconditional love. 

Instead of making resolutions and desperately obsessing over the things I’d like to change, I now see this time of year as a pause for reflection, and a time to make space in ourselves for the year to come. By now I can at least predict that next year will have moments of heartbreak and beauty, with belly laughs and sometimes sadness. At the end we will still be ourselves, but also someone entirely new.

With that, happy New Year! Let us see what 2019 brings.

Hello, I've gained weight

Warning: This piece contains discussions around weight, eating disorders, depression, and other mental health issues. 

Hey, hi, hello there. This has been a difficult piece for me to write, but also, I know, an important one. I've been putting it off. It would appear I've gained some weight.

Aug 30-2.jpg

I would be lying if I said this hasn't been one of my bigger fears in the last few years. Death? Loneliness? Crushed hopes and dreams? Nothing, apparently, in comparison. After an almost year-long stint on an extreme low carb diet, perpetual cycles of low carb eating and calorie/macro-counting (in between bouts of binge eating, my restrictions set free and my hunger running rampant), gainful employment, and a newfound joy in moving my body, I had stayed within the same 15 pound range for the last four years or so. 

Find me in January of this year! I was riding high on social engagements (like the countess that I am), eating delicious food, and moving my body in new and fun ways most days of the week (hip hop classes, boxing, many blissful hours of yoga, you name it). I was continuing to find comfort and strength in my body, although I still struggled to not feel guilt and shame, compulsion and restriction, in many of my food choices.

At the same time, I started listening to intuitive eating podcasts and following more body positive bloggers, my Instagram filled with an endless stream of stunning plus-sized fashion and bodies of all shapes and sizes. I learned about the science behind Health at Every Size, and the intricacies of diet culture as a social justice issue. Gradually, over months, I took a hard look at my history with food and my cycles of binging and restriction, and gained solace in the idea that my body might stay this size forever.

And then I got sick. Nothing serious, but I had been running at full tilt for months and I found myself stuck in bed for a week, with symptoms lingering for weeks afterward. Max and I left immediately after for a two-week road trip, and my groove was thrown out of whack. When we got home, we went away the next weekend, and I found it harder and harder to get back into the swing of moving my body at the level I was before.

I gained some weight in that first month, but tried not to dive back into my usual patterns. I fed myself - sometimes too much, sometimes carelessly - and watched from afar, taking care and observing my feelings and interactions with food, for once not wracked with guilt. While my choices in food weren't always healthy in the nutritional sense, they were healthy in a new way. I certainly had some compulsions around eating, but my binge eating had subsided substantially. 

Unsurprisingly, I've continued to gain a little more weight. It seemed to happen overnight, as I'm sure it does to many people. My clothes started fitting poorly, my body moved a little differently. I'm not at my highest ever, but I'm high enough to feel uncomfortable in my body. When writing this, I had to stop myself from specifying I had only gained "a little weight" over and over again. (I only did it once, see?) I'm scared.

I feel increasingly self conscious, and a wave of depression has been following me around for a number of reasons (including, ya know... just having depression). I'm tired and sluggish, although whether from depression, my decreased exercise, or the weight gain, who can tell. In all likelihood, they're all tightly intertwined, with no discernible heads or tails.

In many intuitive eating journeys, gaining weight at first is actually a common occurrence. It's natural to find confusion in portion sizes, hunger cues, what a meal looks like, and what food will actually make you feel good, after years of ignoring these cues and following external "rules". My old response would be to heavily restrict and track my food choices, but I know now that's probably not a helpful next step.

This time, instead of trying to find a workaround, I'm going to work through this. But there's the rub - I'm not quite sure how. How do I eat healthily without restricting? If I don't feel good in this body, what can I do about that? What bullshit with food and emotional responses is still rattling around in my brain? What does body positivity look like when you're not feeling positive about your body? Where do I go from here? 

One thing I do know is, I can't do this on my own. My needs for a professional are veeery simple - a Toronto-based counsellor or therapist who is relatively reasonably priced, has a history with eating disorder recovery, works with intuitive eating principles, and operates from a Health at Every Size standpoint. See? So simple! Am I looking for a dietician? A counsellor with special certifications? A mini team of specialists? I'm not sure yet, but it's time to start digging. 

In the meantime, I'm trying to be gentle with myself and get back to moving my body in the ways I love. Some days may feel foggy and maybe I'm crying at a lot of doggo videos as of late, but I'm also wearing my best kimono, pumpin' iron, and singing Adele at the top of my lungs (all at the same time, obviously). Let's take this one day at a time. We can do this.

That time I ran a trail race

Desperately stretching pre-race

Desperately stretching pre-race

A couple months ago, a friend read my post on my journey with running and swindled me into trying a MEC Toronto trail race (unbeknownst to him). I reached out to my partner-in-fitness, Charlotte, to join me, gave her a choice of dates, and she selected a 7k route. Internally, I panicked, but I figured I had several weeks to dust off my running shoes and get back in the game. I can't yet run the full 5k in my 5k races, stopping to walk intermittently, and this was 7. And a trail race. Not only would I be running further than I ever had, but there would also be hills. And roots. And maybe some mud, bugs, rocks... You get it.

Two weeks before the race, my panic upped its game a little. Sure, my running shoes had been dusted off, but they had mostly been playing baseball in my beer league, nothing intensive. In a couple months of illness, vacation, and an effort to find balance in food, I had also gained a bit of weight, and at the same time a few minor injuries were bubbling to the surface.

One of my favourite moves is to set my expectations for these things low. People tell me not to get down on myself, but I'm not - this way, I always come out feeling victorious. I decided that if I wasn't at the halfway point at 45 minutes, I would turn around and head back. No harm done, but I didn't want to push myself too far.

Runners galore

Runners galore

Arriving at the Kortright Centre on the big day felt no different than usual, which was comforting - crowds of runners went for warmup jogs, stretched, and chatted. We grabbed our race kits and stretched, me desperately trying to stretch out any potential muscle spasms.

As usual, I positioned myself at the back of the pack, and boom, we were off. (Please note there was no actual starting pistol.)

I slowly ran into the forest, waiting for my leg to painfully cramp, and... nothing happened. One of my favourite things about running is that it can be frustratingly, mindbogglingly unpredictable. You can do all the right things and have a terrible run, or have a couple drinks the night before (ahem) and have a breezy jog. There's a nice kind of surrender in that. No two runs are the same.

I also realized immediately that we were doing a loop, not an out-and-back route, so my backup plan of turning around at 45 minutes wasn't going to happen. I jogged forward, the trees around me getting taller, and felt the blissful solitude of running alone through a forest, unburdened by backpacks and equipment. Then I hit the hills. 

One of many hills.

One of many hills.

Another friend - I have a couple - told me ahead of time not to worry about the hills. Even many experienced runners end up walking up the steeper ones, and a trail race is about finding balance (and taking advantage of the downhills, hollaaaa). So I did that but baby, those hills were hard for me to walk up. And it was fucking hot. I huffed, I puffed; nothing came down, but I did stop to die a few times. I made a few temporary friends on those hills, also gasping for breath and sweating buckets. Humanity can be lovely.

What a nice stream. 

What a nice stream. 

And honestly? Time flew by. At one point I texted Charlotte that I might be a while, and she asked where I was when I realized I was already halfway done. Don't get me wrong, I was slow, but there was so much to see! We ran past maple syrup shacks, streams, and organic farms. Through a trail strung with twinkle lights up above. The terrain was constantly changing, and I had so much more to focus on other than my slow and agonizing death. (A little dramatic, but also accurate.)

The last km stretch!

The last km stretch!

The last hill was by far the worst, not because I was tired but simply because it was a long, steep, probably haunted slope. Some of the 11k runners who lapped me (no judgement, I'm used to it) kept pace with me lugging ourselves up that hill.

I made it to the top though, and lived to share my experience here with you now. After a few more twists and turns, I ran past a parking lot and realized how close I must be to the end. Suddenly a few devoted runners (including a regular I've started to recognize at every race) appeared in front of me, cheering me on for the last 100 metres. I exited the forest into the open field, and Charlotte popped out from the picnic tables beside me, taking my photo as I ran toward the finish line like the kind and generous friend (and appointed sports photographer) she is. I laughed, and I kind of wanted to cry.

Running to the finish line.

Running to the finish line.

So, would I do it again? 

In the end, I died. I collapsed on a bench, ate two bananas, and chugged some water. The bugs, they bit me. The hills, they laughed at my pain. I was very dirty and slick from sweat.

Obviously Charlotte and I immediately signed up for the next one. And another one after that.

We fell in love with the twists and turns, the trees and trails. This time, when runners passed me, panting "great job!" as they ran up the trail, I felt joy and camaraderie. It was fucking haaaaard, and I can't wait to do it again. 

Charlotte and I basking in the glory of our victories. (Btw she absolutely kicked this race's ass.)

Charlotte and I basking in the glory of our victories. (Btw she absolutely kicked this race's ass.)

Let me eat in peace

Sipping tea...

Sipping tea...

Trigger warning: This post contains talk about diets, weight, and related topics.

As a fellow person who exists and operates within a society, I'm sure you realize that we all make assumptions about others based on their appearance. Implicit bias comes in all shapes and forms, from race to gender expression. This type of bias is at the crux of many social justice issues, so there is a lot to unpack here and I'm not about to do that at this very moment. 

As a fat woman, I'm well aware of how much of society sees me. Maybe I'm rude, for taking up space. Lazy, because I must never move. Ignorant, because if I only knew better I wouldn't have ended up this way. Impulsive, because I can't see past instant gratification. Sexless, gluttonous, unhealthy, selfish; the list goes on. 

I have a favourite as of late. It might seem obvious, but the more I look out for it the more I see it everywhere (isn't that how it always is?) 

Falling in love with a piece of Swiss chard in my friend Jen's incredible garden.

Falling in love with a piece of Swiss chard in my friend Jen's incredible garden.

I must be fat because I don't know what it means to eat healthily. 

As a fat, 27-year old woman in North America, I must not have been exposed to years of "helpful" advice from strangers, friends, family members, and the media. I must not have spoken with concerned doctors, tried countless diets, and obsessed over whether I'm eating "correctly" for the better part of my life. I just need to eat more vegetables. Control my portion sizes.

Welp, that's enough of that, because let me tell you where I'm at. Maybe I'll print this post out and keep it in my wallet to pass along for future "helpful" conversations. 

Like many fat women, I've heard it all, and I've tried it. When I hit puberty at ten years old, I started struggling with food. Now, almost two decades later, I wonder if I wasn't just growing, looking for an emotional outlet, and hungry? Plus those Eggos tasted really good. 

But so launched a many years-long battle between me, my food, and my body. After hitting puberty I covered myself in baggy boys' clothes because I was so uncomfortable in my skin. I grew curves, I got a little chubby, and I felt enormous next to my friends. Looking at old photos now, I feel so sad that I ever felt that way.

At 16, I gained a little more weight, and after researching the South Beach Diet for my health class, started going to Weight Watchers with my family. We all lost weight, and did learn quite a bit about incorporating more whole grains and veg into our lives, although we were pretty average eaters before then too. I got smaller, and became obsessed with being smaller. After a case of mono (heyoooo) I was at my lowest weight ever, but still found myself getting referred to as "voluptuous" and "curvy" - no matter what I was still bigger than my friends. I spent the rest of my high school years sometimes secretly eating, ashamed, and sometimes trying to eat less at school in the days that followed. 

Next came university, an extremely difficult time for me and also a classic time to gain the good ol' Freshman 15. On my own, I often ate in extremes. I ate whatever I wanted, binging at the cafeteria, only to then go on the Master Cleanse, drinking lemon juice, cayenne pepper, and maple syrup until migraines and fatigue took me down. After leaving school, I drowned my depression in food, trying to find a pocket of happiness or comfort in a confusing and empty time. 

Over the next few years my weight went up, and I tried everything. I went back on Weight Watchers, I counted calories, I was vegetarian, I went to two doctor-referred weight loss clinics. I lost nearly 60 pounds on an extremely low carbohydrate, low fat, low sodium diet. I ate salads and burger patties, spent days forcing myself to eat chicken breasts. When I couldn't eliminate entire food groups anymore, I counted my macronutrients, joining Facebook groups of women measuring their daily intake of carbs, fat, and protein to the gram. 

Don't try to tell me I don't know how to eat. I have tried almost every way of eating. 

A few months ago I started listening to Christy Harrison's podcast Food Psych, and it has been a game changer for me. I found her at just the right time, when I was growing more comfortable in my own skin, finding more joy in my body, and feeling differently about what "healthy" might look like for me. I think I may now be leading a "healthier" life (a word which is very open to interpretation and also not a basis for which to judge or criticize others), obsessing less about food, keeping active, and passing medical tests with flying colours. My diet looks pretty similar to the thin people's around me, I walk a lot, and I push my body hard on a regular basis. And I'm still fat. 

I'm still on my journey, and still figuring out what a balanced life and intuitive eating look like for me. I still struggle with binge eating from time to time, and hope to start exploring that in a less punitive environment. But Christy Harrison blew my mind when she pointed out that restriction and binging are just two sides of the same coin. So here I am, finding balance and pleasure and health in food, and looking to my body and life for cues on how to do it. 

In the meantime, please, just let me eat in peace.

Running into last place

I didn’t grow up feeling athletic. I played, and loved, softball for most of my life, and occasionally dabbled in other sports now and then, but nothing else really stuck. While I was much smaller as a kid (aren’t we all) and as a teen, I still had a bigger body than most of the friends I saw around me, and I didn’t see myself in that space. Fitness was hard – why would I choose to be out of breath, sore, and far behind everyone else? Clearly it just wasn’t for me.

As I got older, I also gained weight, and these things seemed more out of reach than ever. I signed up for a couple gyms with the goal of getting smaller, tried running (because that’s what you’re supposed to do, right?), realized I could barely start, and got discouraged. I figured “when I lost the weight” it would be much easier for me to do the things I saw everyone else doing, so I just had to focus on my eating first and the rest could come later. I played softball with my friends in the summer and took some classes at a body positive yoga and fitness studio, but it didn’t take up much space in my life.

May's finish line with my bud and partner in all things fitness, Charlotte

May's finish line with my bud and partner in all things fitness, Charlotte

Fast forward to a year ago, and something switched in me. My mental health was feeling steady and I had vastly improved my relationship with food but was still living in a bigger body. Somehow it seemed that everyone I knew was doing something exciting and active that they loved, and I had missed the memo. All because I was waiting, for most of my life, for the moment I would get smaller and that part of my life could begin.

I belonged to countless weight loss communities; on Tumblr, Facebook, weight loss-focussed websites, through medical programs in Toronto, you name it. But the posts I was growingly increasingly interested in weren’t focussed on getting smaller, but getting stronger. I had joined a gym with my partner, but I continued to feel alienated from the weight room and world of fitness in general. So when a friend of mine started seeing a personal trainer to start lifting heavy, I decided to take the chance and hire a professional to show me how to get things done.

My journey with the weight room is a story for another time, but suddenly I felt empowered to take up space at the gym. I knew what I was doing, I knew where to go, and I was getting better at it. I wasn’t comparing my progress to anyone else’s – I was just working hard and getting noticeably stronger. The world of fitness, which once felt like it did not have space for me, seemed to open up as a world where I could compete against myself. I could push myself to do things that seemed impossible, and when I tackled each challenge I could feel like I was on top of the world.

2018 MEC Road Race Three

2018 MEC Road Race Three

With endless possibilities ahead of me, I decided to first tackle my biggest hurdle, because why not? I was going to run.

When I was 13, I (very) briefly decided to try my middle school’s jogging club. We laced up, and launched headfirst into our run around the neighbourhood. My sporty friends took seemingly easy strides far ahead, and I soon hunched over into heaving breaths and side cramps. Clearly, running was not meant for me. What I didn’t realize was that I was running far too fast for myself. It was unsustainable, and I didn’t have to keep up with the other girls to try running. No one taught me how to pace myself, how to stretch, or that running and walking is just fine.

The face of glory!

The face of glory!

But now I was on my own and armed with a different attitude. I was the only person in this space. I started on the treadmill with the Couch to 5k program, only able to run a minute at a time. And it was hard – I huffed, and I puffed. I pushed myself week over week, and gradually got that number to 5 minutes, then 10, then 15. The moment I hit 10 minutes on that treadmill was one of the most glorious of my life. I felt like I could take on the world.

After hitting 15, and then 20 minutes, I started to get bored and decided a 5k was in my future. It was time to take this show on the road. A runner friend of mine was running a MEC race in a couple months, and I signed up. That weekend I went to the race route to try running outside for the first time and… it fucking sucked. WOW, running outside is so much harder than running on a treadmill. But the weather was warm, and I was surrounded by flowers, water, and birds. I felt deeply alive, even if it was quite the reality check.

I continued running outside, stopping often to walk, but loving the feeling of me and the outdoors, pushing myself in a new and challenging way - sweat dripping into my eyes, and heart pounding in my chest. The 5k came up quickly, and before I knew it I was hovering near the start line waiting to run, for the first time, with hundreds of other people.

Feeling strong after a brutal April run

Feeling strong after a brutal April run

There I discovered the joy of being surrounded by people who love doing something incredibly specific -  here were hordes of just beautiful, running nerds. Some were there to run a marathon, others to walk a 5k with three of their friends. People stretched and some warmed up on the course. The excitement in the air was palpable, and I felt like I was part of something.

I started running, at a pace barely faster than my walk, podcast blaring in my ears. Chest thrumming, I wove around women walking with strollers and chatting with their friends, then stopped to walk until I could push myself to run again. Just until that tree. Just until that fence. Just until that flower. My leg cramped in excruciating pain, and I starting channeling Monty Python’s Ministry of Funny Walks until I was relieved and pushed myself to run again. I was so slow, but I was doing it.

I finished with friends at the finish line and a wave of euphoria. Finally, I could make room for myself in these spaces.

The medal pic of my dreams with Lynsey of  Encore Fitness and Health  and Megan

The medal pic of my dreams with Lynsey of Encore Fitness and Health and Megan

I’ve now done six 5k races in the last eight months, with four more on the docket for this year. I still can’t run for the entire five kilometres, and my leg regularly seizes up in cramps (I’m looking into it, don’t worry). I explain this to people when I talk about my runs, not to be self-deprecating, but because I don’t want to see a look of disappointment on their faces later - I feel strong and powerful, please don’t impose your shiz on me. I have proven to myself that I can show up when things are hard, and I have proven to myself that I can work my ass off to continuously come in last.

There still isn’t a lot of representation in runners with bigger bodies. National Geographic recently named ultramarathoner Mirna Valerio of Fat Girl Running one of their adventurers of the year. She Can and She Did, a blog run by Kelly Roberts, is working to redefine what strong looks like, and showcases the running journeys of women with all sorts of body shapes (many of whom used to hate running). But I’m dying to see more! More stories of women working hard at things that don’t come easily, and more stories of women with bigger bodies kicking ass in spaces they don’t often see themselves represented.

In the meantime, I’ll be here huffing, puffing, running, and walking my way to last place. Isn’t it glorious?

The first finish line 🏆

The first finish line 🏆