WTF, 2018?: A Retrospective

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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.

Finding life in my bigger body

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I'm back and writin' bebe, but this time things are lookin' a little different! I've spent the last couple years learning, finding balance in my life, challenging myself, and testing the bounds of who I am, and I have some things to say.

As someone who has lived most of her life in a bigger body, I've also spent most of my life trying to lose weight (sometimes successful, and sometimes not, but never without an incredible amount of energy and anguish). The last year has brought me more peace with myself and my body, and has made me realize that I can break free of the constraints that have been imposed on me. In my big body, I can be strong! I can be beautiful! I can be healthy, badass, a hard worker, an athlete, smart, funny, stylish, messy, crass, joyful. But I can be vulnerable and deal with my own shit too, because hello... I'm also human. 

The people in my life have watched me go through this journey over the last couple years, and it feels gooood. But I realized I have a lot to talk about! As a large woman in fitness spaces, as a beauty- and fashion-loving woman with restricted options, as a woman who has struggled with mental health, and as a proponent for social justice issues. It's important for bigger women to have visibility and a voice, and it's about time I stand up and use mine.

So hey! Let's get this thing started.