diet advice: think twice about who to trust

Yesterday, I shared an article that got me to thinking yesterday called “Opinion Stew”, which was by (medical doctor) David Katz and talked about the craziness that is the way in which we find our diet gurus and called for some common sense when it comes to deciding who to trust. The gist:

For now, anyone who shares opinions about nutrition or weight loudly and often enough — or cleverly enough — is embraced as an authority, with no one generally even asking what if any training they’ve had. This is compounded by the fact that, in the famous words of Bertrand Russell, “Fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.” It is the least substantiated, most uninformed opinions about how to eat that will come at you with the greatest conviction. That’s your first clue that something is awry, because true expertise always allows for doubt.

We have created a seething stew of opinion about everything to do with nutrition, including, presumably, stew. That leaves us with far too many cooks, many lacking credentials to be in the kitchen in the first place. I trust everyone knows what that means.”

 Some of my (facebook) friends shared the link and others commented in thought-provoking ways. I felt stressed out over thinking “I shouldn’t have shared this—I’ll certainly offend ____ [insert handful of names of people I know who dole out nutrition advice who are not dietitians and/or doctors].”

But if you read my post on why I think Paleo did me more harm than good from a few weeks ago, you’ll understand that I’ve personally been led astray by these not-so-credentialed gurus and books. I started to think maybe I would be better off not saying a darn thing about the way I feel about nutritionists vs. dietitians, but the shame I seem to be feeling about failing at the kinds of diets put out there by people who aren’t mainstream dietitians is something I’m probably not alone with. Even if some diet “works” for a 25 year old girl who is blessed with the ability to eat pretty much anything and still look “fit”—and is willing to talk about it on a podcast or blog about it or base a nutrition counselling practice off of it—that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy or that it’s the right choice for everyone. I’m a self-conscious person and sometimes I can think that because I don’t have a six pack or haven’t got the “perfect body” figured out I should just shut up. But ouch.

A couple years ago, I was en route to becoming a Registered Dietitian. I didn’t finish my degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, but I do have the (kind of crappy) orgo mark on my transcripts and the hairnet and lab coat I saved from spending a summer in Food Science to remind me that the kind of training dietitians go through is not something to be scoffed at. On top of the degree, there’s the internship, not to mention the competition those budding dietitians have to go through to earn one.

I also briefly considered taking a natural nutrition program or going through some program to become a health coach. But the warnings about those programs as “drive through degrees” or scams were enough to make me reconsider (I chose to take my Coactive Coaching instead because there are professors at Western who use it in their research, plain and simple, across a variety of issues—health and otherwise). I haven’t been through one of those “alternative” options, so I can’t speak on how hard or how easy they are. I have talked to people who have been through it and said that they don’t feel like they should be giving out advice, but then I’ve met plenty of people who do. I’ve also seen the way in which the lines of who to trust are blurry—recommending blogs and podcasts over even common sense.

And I’m mad at myself for believing the people who so confidently convinced me that everything I’d believed about nutrition was somehow wrong. But the writing is on the wall when it comes to my own story: I have been my healthiest and my happiest with my body when I’ve been working with a dietitian—not a nutritionist or someone who calls themselves an eating coach. Add to it that dietitians tend to have some experience working with people with eating disorders, and I know that I would rather spend my money paying someone who has dedicated a significant portion of their life to learning about nutrition and about how to help individuals and communities to be healthier than giving it to someone who decided to capitalize on their own success with a single diet. My biggest fear when it comes to the kind of alternative diet advice that more people will end up confused and doubting their own judgment and perhaps straying down the path of disordered eating. To pick on Paleo some more, let’s consider a nutritionist who has no formal training and then tells an individual to cut out a whole (foundational) food group. I don’t need to read the criteria of anorexia or the warning signs to know that cutting out a whole group of foods is a slippery slope. I don’t doubt that some of these nutritionists might recognize an eating disorder in their clients, but I also don’t doubt that some of these nutritionists have their own messed up relationships with food. I don’t doubt that some of them might have the guts to refer them to someone with training to help their client with their issues, but I also don’t doubt that there are some nutritionists who would just push those clients to try harder. I don’t doubt that there are some that would give up on their clients and blame them for not doing it right. I don’t doubt that there are people who are being led into disordered patterns of thoughts and behaviours around food because of the mass nutrition confusion that Katz talks about in the article I shared.

This is NOT to say that I don’t think people should talk about what they’re doing with eating and nutrition. Hearing about someone else’s experience with a diet or training program might be interesting (I read the posts that go along with the Human Health Experiment the owner of my gym is doing on himself). But I don’t think we should use that as a platform from which we can advise other people and charge money to advise them on how to take care of their own (very different) bodies.

So, that is a lot of words to come to the conclusion that I’m glad I shared that article. I want people to think twice before they share an article by someone who positions themselves as an expert—what are they really saying? I want people to think twice before they spend their money on any kind of diet or health or nutrition help or product. In short, I hope that the article—and my rambling on about it—makes you think.

Here’s the link again — “Opinion Stew” 

Did you read the article?
What’s your take on nutritionists vs. Dietitans and where to spend your moola?
Do you think there’s danger in the way things are right now?

home sweet home, with a few new reasons why i love having a cycling coach

fromthe ride

Yesterday, I returned to the icy coldness that is southwestern Ontario after spending a lovely week in the sunshine of Florida biking my butt off. I was travelling with a group of cyclists and Coach Chris. We stayed in a house of 6 and met up with one other man to ride as a group of 7 every day. I can’t describe how awesome it is to have cycling tan lines in January, even if the first two days were a shock to my legs (and my still recovering lungs).

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FYI, this January I rode more km than last March and April combined. Eeeeek!

I realized that I may not be the best coachee—I usually do a CrossFit workout on top of things here or take a rest day by accident there or go too hard when I should go easy or don’t go hard when I should be sprinting—but that I benefit a lot from having a coach. Here are six reasons why having a coach rocks that came to mind this week for me:

  1. They’ll take pictures of you on top of hills. Even if it means missing out on a hill repeat or two, they’ll make sure the world knows that you’re biking in the sun. We rode up Sugarloaf for hill repeats twice. While it doesn’t look too bad in a photo head on, it feels a lot like the hill I ride to outside of London (Old River Road), hills + outside riding + January (+ recent bronchitis for me) = humbling!
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  2. They’ll ride with you if you need it. I have slowed Coach Chris down on numerous occasions outside of London. Most of the time, I ride faster for being with people who are quicker than me and that is awesome. At camp this week, my cough and the little rollers were a bit too much for me and we took an easy day separate from the other riders to ride 50km instead of the planned 110. My ego raged a bit, of course, but I knew as soon as I started pedaling that my coach is a smart man!
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  3. They’ll handle the details. I don’t know how many years Coach Chris has been heading to Florida for this camp, but having someone to organize a camp who knows the rides, the airport, the grocery stores, etc. sure makes for an easy breezy trip!
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  4. They’ll introduce you to lovely people. I like meeting other people who take pride in their bike short tan lines and can laugh at a joke about chamois butter. There was one other lady on the trip this past week and she was a great roommate—and we’d met before at rides and races that I’ve gone to with Coach Chris and then decided to go on the camp together. Bike friends are perhaps the best friends!
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  5. They’ll help you with silly things, or hook you up with the people who can. Pumping your tires with a different pump too tricky? A coach will show you how. Having bike issues in the rebuilding process? The people they bring are givers: one of my co-riders this week lent me his spare wheels for the week—lifesaver! Cyclists are the best people—and helpful!

    Rebuilding, unbuilding...not my forte!

    Rebuilding, unbuilding…not my forte!

  6. They’ll reign you in and remind you of what’s important. I always want to go and try to prove myself. It’s part of an inferiority complex I have, and it usually means that I want to achieve my goals yesterday. With a coach, I have to keep a longer term goal in mind and I often get a dose of perspective about things like the fact that it’s January, or that I’ve just started to feel better following a gnarly cough, or that weight is not something worth obsessing over.

If you’re on the fence about hiring a coach, I would say to give it a go. There are tons of things that we waste money on, but I’ve never felt like the money I’ve spent on my coach has been for naught. I think part of the puzzle is finding someone who you want to listen to and who you trust with your training. I’m lucky that I have a fit with someone who lives in my city and who just so happens to plan really good camps—South Carolina is next in 7 weeks!

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More tan lines please!!

Do you have a coach?
Did I forget anything on the list?

 

judgement and pacemakers: checking myself

Hello from Florida! A few days ago I was flying down the side of a mountain in Vermont (I successfully learned how to have fun skiing in Vermont) and today I was biking in shorts and a short-sleeve jersey. I am pretty glad to be a grad student right now.

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My bike, in pieces.

My bike, in pieces.

For the record, my bike was sitting still. But 95km in January is pretty cool...

For the record, my bike was sitting still. But 95km in January is pretty cool…

On the news a few days ago, there was a little piece about a “pacemaker for the stomach.” You can read about it here on the Wall Street Journal’s website, but to my understanding it’s basically a device that goes into the abdomen and affects the nerve signals that are responsible for feelings of hunger and fullness. The details are not what’s important, but my reaction to it, which was initially to think that I would rather people “actually” lose the weight themselves instead of using what I sort of think is a band-aid.

But I’m not so sure.

As we were driving home from Vermont and my boyfriend mowed down on what he called a “freedom donut” (because everything in Amurrica = freedom ________), I realized that I haven’t eaten a donut in a really long time. Or French fries. Or pizza. And yeah, I don’t eat perfectly—I love me some chocolate. But I definitely pay attention to what I eat and exercise on a regular basis and still have weight on my mind—and on my thighs.

So maybe part of my resistance to weight loss surgeries or pills or quick fixes or whatever is that it frustrates me, since I am trying to “earn” my own. Of course, there’s the fears I have about compromising health and focusing on numbers at all costs, but I think it’s mostly my ideas about our bodies and “earning” them, working hard enough at it, trying…

Some women I know struggle to keep weight on. I know that some people “have it easier” when it comes to maintaining a thinner body. There are friends of mine who can eat froyo all the livelong day and who never exercise but who seem to look like they spend plenty of time at the gym. Those people don’t “earn” their bodies, either.

I think we want to believe that we absolutely earn our bodies—that we get what we put in and people get what they deserve when it comes to this stuff and to most things in our lives. And while I believe that we have a whole heck of a lot of power over our own lives, I’m not naïve enough to believe that I merit everything I have or am. I was born into a certain life and a certain body and a certain family and city and life and as much as I think I work hard, I know that there are people who started from a deficit compared to me and have had to work harder just to get even to where I am. This applies to our bodies too.

Just like there are people who are predisposed to have an easier time getting lean or getting into shape, there are people who are predisposed to have a tougher time. It’s up to each one of us to decide what we do with the bodies we are given them. I know that I want to take the best care I can of mine and I have to set the boundaries for myself and define what makes me “healthy” versus what might border on focusing too much on how I look (at the expense of health). So knowing that, I’m going to let a bit of the judgment go–anything I’m feeling towards those “cheaters” or the ones taking the “easy” route is really about myself. The more I can appreciate the body I do have and even appreciate that my “struggles” with weight have taught me so much about myself and about health, the easier that will be!

What do you think about “shortcuts?” 

 

10 ways to stay on track, even when you can’t work out

’tis the season for flus, colds, and all kinds of ways to feel yucky that can derail even the most committed New Years resolution-ers who’ve decided to make 2015 their year to get fit. I was sick over Christmas with some form of bronchitis/pneumonia/bug that is finally starting to clear up.

meme sick

While I was definitely frustrated–I hate being sidelined whether it’s because my schedule is crazy, I’m sick, or I’m dealing with some kind of injury–I actually appreciate the time off that forced me to get organized out of sheer boredom. The experience got me to thinking, because in the past when I’ve gotten hurt I’ve been absolutely miserable about it.

So what are some things we can do to stay positive and even to set ourselves up for a healthier start when we do get back to our normal selves? If you’re sick, snowed in, or just finding yourself with free time, here are ten of my best ideas for getting yourself on track towards healthy:

  1. Make a playlist for your first workout back. It’s probably going to be a struggle, so you might as well have something to motivate you in the background. Bonus points if you also delete the same old playlist you’ve been using for 5 years and download lots of Britney in its place.
  2. Organize your workout clothes. I’m going to guess that yours could use a re-folding. There’s something so nice about opening up your closet and being able to find the top you want or the tights you need, especially if you workout in the morning and have approximately 10 seconds to do this before your partner wakes up and grunts.
  3. Clean out your gym bag. I am the queen of carrying too many things–lugging my workout bag to the gym is part of my workout. With my toys for CrossFit and weightlifting, two or sometimes three pairs of shoes, and then my shower necessities, it can be hard to fit a water bottle or a set of clothes in my (large) bag. For this reason, I need to clean out anything extraneous in the darn thing on the regular to make sure I don’t lose a shoe in the parking lot (again).
  4. Set a fitness goal or two. What is that big goal that you really wish you could achieve when it comes to your fitness? Is it lifting a certain amount of weight or finishing a certain race? Is it beating an old PR? Write down what you want to do and when you want to do it–it’s the first step in making it happen.
  5. Make a vision board. If you’re crafty and in the habit of setting goals, a vision board is a great way to make yourself a visual reminder of what you want to create in your life. You’ll love the feeling of looking at it every day–think instant motivation plus a feeling of pride when you start to see those things becoming your reality!

    My most recent vision board (right next to a reminder I need). It could use some updating, because things on there keep on happening in my life! Imagine that...

    My most recent vision board (right next to a reminder I need). It could use some updating, because things on there keep on happening in my life! Imagine that…

  6. Organize your tupperware situation. This trivial task is actually really important: if you don’t have anywhere to store your healthy food, how the heck will you make it? There’s nothing better than having a fridge stocked with healthy food that’s ready to grab when you’re hangry or rushed out the door and there is nothing worse than packing chili in a ziploc bag because all your tupperwares are in your trunk.
  7. Find a few healthy recipes to try. We are all creatures of habit, but variety is the spice of life. With the interwebs, there’s no excuse for not trying new recipes. Type in what you have in your cupboard and fridge and ta-dah!, you’ll have a recipe that works. I prefer cookbooks however, so if you’re like me, why not bookmark some recipes you’ve been meaning to try and make a point of planning them into your meals for the next week? Nomnomnom.
  8. Read an inspirational biography. If you’re pretty sick, you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the couch. Rather than watching the whole Harry Potter series start to finish, why not mix in some reading of the type that motivates you? Some of my favourites are people’s stories, like Dara Torres’ (Age is Just a Number), Chrissie Wellington’s (A Life Without Limits), Cheryl Strayed’s (Wild), and Kathryn Bertine’s (The Road Less Taken). 
  9. Watch a sports documentary. I don’t mountain bike or snowboard, but my boyfriend is into these sports and so I’ve caught myself watching a video or two of them and getting fired up. Whatever you do, seeing someone do what they do at their best can be supremely motivating. Try this one…
  10. Get some rest. There’s a reason you’re sick, and the sooner you take a nap, the sooner you’ll be back at it–whatever it is.
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If you are feeling sick, I hope you feel better in a jiffy. I also hope that even if you’re not, you’ll do one of these things–you’ll be fitter for it!

What keeps you positive when you can’t work out?

Throwback Thursday: thoughts on Paleo, balance, and finding what works

This post has been on my mind for a while. I am going to use “Throwback Thursday” as the excuse for posting it now, even though my thoughts are still a bit scattered and I’ve got some apprehension about sharing…

Paleo didn’t work for me.

Before I started CrossFit and found out what Paleo, or Eat By Design, or whatever you’d like to call it, was, my eating was pretty balanced. I ate mix of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, (mostly lean) meat, nuts and seeds, and sufficient froyo with a smile on my face, and I’d been at a stable weight for a while, though I still didn’t have my period on a regular basis. I had been through my eating disorder, done a stint of vegetarianism (mostly because I read Eating Animals and got sad), and was in a super high stress state, but I was back on track—even if my body hadn’t totally sprung back to (hormonal) health just yet. Up from my lowest weight of 114lbs, I weighed a comfy 138-142lbs and when I look back at pictures, I think I looked healthy and athletic.

My half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was "bad." I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

My first (and only) half marathon, before anyone told me cardio was “bad.” I ran it in 1:47 minutes.

So what happened?

The “for me” part in “Paleo didn’t work for me” is important. I didn’t really do it right, but I did what I think a lot of people do. I also think the way in which I failed at “doing it right” is indicative more of the diet not being good for me more so than of me not trying hard enough, even if I’ve spent plenty of months telling myself I should just try harder.

When my bookshelf was stocked with The Paleo Diet, Primal Blueprint, The Paleo Solution, The Paleo Diet for Athletes, Practical Paleo, and Everyday Paleo, things changed. I told myself it wasn’t a “diet” in the traditional sense and that I was after health, which was true but I was also hoping for a six pack along the way and I certainly was not ready to gain more weight.

So, I started to make changes. I replaced the chicken, turkey, fish, and beans I ate with more and more pork, sausages, steaks and ground beef. While I did do a good job and managed to track down some free range organic sources on occasion, the vast majority of this meat was just from the grocery store.

When I ate grains, they were definitely not whole grains any more. The Paleo diet says white rice is okay if you train hard enough, so I ate more of it, usually with plenty of coconut milk and sometimes butter on top (FYI, this is delicious). But I also had the mindset that if bread was bad for me, I might as well have the white stuff, so I said farewell to the whole grain options I used to buy. French fries were healthier than a hamburger bun, right? Potato chips better than whole wheat crackers? If grains—or carbs, in my thinking—are bad, who cares about choosing well?

When I went for treats, I was never satisfied with a just a little. Dark chocolate became something like a food group for me, especially the kind of dark chocolate that I could somehow combine with almond butter, cashew butter, macadamia nut butter, coconut butter, sunflower seed butter, etc….I ate all the butters. And real butter! With a health halo around it, I started to put more and more butter on the sweet—not white—potatoes I ate. Without bread as a vessel, I’d find myself spooning nut butters right from the jar into my mouth. It’s good for me, right?

paleo desserts

I started to take heavy cream in my coffee. Formerly one to add milk and maybe a sweetener or spoonful of sugar, I thoroughly enjoyed the taste of the 30% cream and the looks on the Starbucks baristas faces when I asked them for the whipping cream to add to my highly caffeinated long Americano order (which is also delicious).

Some mornings, I’d crave oatmeal so badly that I would try to fake it. I’d microwave some combination of eggs, a banana, and almond butter. I remember worrying that I was having too much sugar and one day when I “caved” and ate two bananas, I was sure I fired up my fat storage and was doomed for diabetes. I’d make granola out of nuts to go on top of this, because the old recipe I’d used also included those oats, gosh darn it. Oats might not contain gluten, but they were still grains and everyone Paleo knows gluten and oats were probably bedfellows in manufacturing.

There were other changes, but I think you get the picture. I’d gone from what was defined as “conventionally healthy” to an attempt at a fad diet that I still think can be a fine choice—if you put in the time and effort (and moola!) to get the food from good sources, like eating meat, and are on top of food prep—that totally messed with what was a balanced approach. You have to know that I have an addictive personality and that as smart as I like to think I am, I can be easily persuaded. I took things to an extreme, and I used excuses like “It’s gluten free!” or “If I’m going to “cheat,” I may as well go big.” I’m sure I’m not the only one.

I also changed my exercise habits. I started to question whether or not “cardio” was good for me. I traded my daily swimming, biking, and running workouts for more and more time with the barbell. I loved the way I could focus on getting stronger. I also read things that told me that cardio was making me fat.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did.

I hated this photo, but I was at least having fun with CrossFit. This was at a fun competition our gym did in the thick of my CrossFit as the be-all end-all days.

But I love swimming, biking, and running.

I love oatmeal.

I love chickpeas.

I love not feeling like I need to have a huge hunk of meat with every meal.

…I gained almost 30lbs in the process of switching my exercise and eating habits. I can’t blame CrossFit or Paleo, and I should add that I added muscle.

As strong as I feel when I am lifting a really heavy barbell, I still crave the feeling I get from going for a super long bike ride. Last year, I experimented with doing both. In the process, I found my body shifting a little more and I lost some of that weight (5-10lbs, depending on the day of course). Stepping back into the world of long bike rides and runs and dips in the pool, I found myself remembering some of the common sense nutrition notions that I used to ascribe to.

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

Back on the bike this year. One of my first rides of the year, in Colorado!

While I can’t blame the Paleo diet or the ideas about exercise that came along with it or the books or the people who exposed me to them, I can take responsibility for myself and my health habits. Instead of feeling stuck, I can work on shifting my habits and thoughts back to a healthier place. Those beliefs I picked up about carbs and grains and exercise were built. As sticky as they might be—because nut butter is delicious and sausage is amazing—,they can also be replaced—because feeling light and healthy and good in my skin is another kind of amazing.

So, I’m in the process. Today, I am “back on grains.” I eat whole grains as much as I can—quinoa, oatmeal, and rice are my favourites. I like bread and cereal, so I eat them and choose the whole grain options because I don’t think they’re rife with anti-nutrients anymore. I eat lots of fruit and plenty of vegetables, and I have less room for the meat on my plate. I still overdo it on the nut butters, but I’m working on it.

wrong road

I’m writing this because I think there are other people who have dabbled in Paleo or have given up something they love that makes them feel healthy and happy in the name of something someone told them would be better. I know that it’s hard to shift back—there’s still times when I think “how the heck did I eat that many carbs?!”—but it helps me to remember that I was happier with my body when I was eating all the carbs, and wasn’t thinking about them as a villain.

I hope your Throwback Thursday isn’t as intense as this, but I also hope that you take the time to check in with yourself and ask, about your health habits, that question I mentioned earlier this week: how’s that working for you?

Have you ever gone down the “wrong” road and wanted to get back to the fork?
What have you learned from trying diets or exercise programs that don’t work for you?

Celebrating strong, but at the expense of what?

In the past, I’ve talked (a lot) about my thoughts on the whole “strong is the new skinny” idea. This morning, as I was swimming before the sun rose, I let my mind wander. Watching all the swimmers come in and out of the pool, I noticed how different their bodies are then those that I’m used to seeing at CrossFit.

Because I’ve been in the CrossFit world and the realm of barbells for a few years now, I don’t think twice when I see a woman with big biceps and even bigger traps. Hell, I’ll even celebrate them for being willing to go against the idea that women should be small.

But I started to think about the way that we celebrate strong women but seem to pick on small men. All the talk of “gainz” (best spelt with a “z”) and the jokes about skipping leg day, for instance, directed at men who don’t make muscle their priority are actually kind of hurting us all.

People love that I am a strong woman. Taking up space physically for women is a sort of statement that goes beyond the physical and our bodies. But while the space women have to be strong is certainly demonstrative of the way in which we’ve expanded on the possibilities of gender, we’re not doing such a great job on the flip side. I’m afraid this does more than just keep men in a space that’s too narrowly-defined—it affects the way we look at femininity and women, too.

Consider a man who wants to take up synchronized swimming, knitting, raising a child, or any other traditionally feminine pursuit. We think twice before celebrating him, while we immediately applaud the women who choose bodybuilding, woodworking, or careers over kids for being leaders. What does that say about the way we think about those traditionally feminine pursuits? Traits? About women more generally?

The “Like a girl” ad that was floating around the interwebs last year comes to mind….

I’m afraid that in celebrating the masculine qualities that women can now embody without also working on expanding the possibilities for men worth celebrating, we are reinforcing that what is feminine is somehow inferior, or less than, or not worthy of praise. Consider staying home to raise kids. In my mind, there is nothing more important than taking time to properly raise a family. But also in my mind are all the ideas I have about the freedom I’ve got to have a career and the obligations I feel to do it all with a smile on my face someday.

So to bring it back to that “strong is the new skinny” idea, I think we should at least consider what we’re saying. Beyond the issues that I see with replacing one body ideal with another, both of which are largely unattainable, let’s take a second and consider that even skinny women, or women who choose to do “girly” things, are also of value. Men too.

What do you think?

 

coming clean: weight loss versus body love

Today on her blog, Sam tackled the “Do I want to lose weight?” question. As someone who takes a stand for Health and Every Size, I think it was brave of her to talk so openly about where she’s at and it was a perfect inspiration to go into the topic a bit myself.

Not too long ago, I had a big cry when I realized that I was scared to admit that I want to lose weight. I thought for sure that meant that I was a hypocrite of some sort. But I realized that wanting to lose weight is fine, as long as it doesn’t come from an unhealthy place. I’ve always thought that a healthy weight is the weight that comes out of the healthiest habits, and when I get real with myself, I’ve realized that some of my habits are not so healthy.

Even though in the past I know that I’ve been sucked into thinking that weight loss would some how solve all my problems, I’m at a place now where I feel confident about whether or not I’m taking care of myself or hurting myself when it comes to what I’m after. I’ve worked on—and will continue to plug away at—lots of my issues and know that five or ten or even twenty pounds is not what stands between us and happiness.

I even realized that not talking about this would be doing a disservice to anyone who follows my blog. I’ve always been open about things and I know that there are other people out there feeling like body love failures in the same way I am.speak

It’s just as shitty to beat ourselves up for not loving our bodies as it is for weighing too much. If we aren’t feeling comfy and happy with our bodies—or maybe more importantly, with our habits—I say give ourselves permission to work on them and to be open about the struggles. I know that there’s a lot of talk about the way that CrossFit, for instance, can help us to really appreciate our bodies and what they can do. This usually comes with a point about how it doesn’t matter what the number on the scale or the size in our jeans reads any more—but what if it does? Where does that leave the girl who doesn’t want the quads that won’t fit in normal jeans or the shoulders that make wearing a blazer next to impossible? Where does that leave the girl who doesn’t want to go to the beach because she just can’t get used to the body she has?

That girl is me. One of my the most powerful questions we can ask ourselves is, how’s that working for you? When I ask myself that in relation to trying to love my body/eating and training the way I am, I have to be honest: I’m frustrated and I’m looking for change this year.

To end things, I want to make it clear that I don’t think we should abandon our body love pursuits. Of course loving ourselves is a great thing! But self-love doesn’t happen overnight and it does not mean that we cannot want to change ourselves, to improve ourselves, or to be somewhere different than we are. Loving our bodies does not have to mean giving up on the pursuit of a healthy or even healthy looking body, but for some people it might. We can define what we want our relationships with our bodies to look like and then work on making that our reality. Maybe it doesn’t mean eating cake all the time, having cellulite, and being okay with it. Maybe it doesn’t mean eating clean, working out, and weighing ourselves. Maybe it means somewhere in between, where we take care of ourselves and put in a little work.

For me, I’ve started to make some little adjustments in my healthy, happy definition—with my weight as one of the things that fits into that health picture. I am working with a dietitian again, trying my best to tackle my health habits one at a time. I’ve joined in on the healthy weight challenge (no extremes allowed) that some of my fellow cyclists are doing this spring. I’m open to shifting my training and realizing that I need to do what makes me happy, not what I think I should be doing. And I’m being open about this in hopes that other people who have maybe gone through the same thing have some insight to offer.

 

Have you ever felt like wanting to lose weight made you a sell out to the body love crowd?

Where do you do things for your health out of “should”?

What do you think defines a healthy, happy weight? Relationship with your body?

 

 

another one for new year’s: what are you saying hello to?

Goodbye 2014, hello 2015.

At the end of the year, it’s the perfect time to look back on the past year and to ask ourselves what is working for us and what isn’t. When it comes to what isn’t, it’s also the perfect time to make a commitment to ourselves to let go in the coming year. Letting go can be tough, and I think part of what trips us up is that we commit to saying goodbye to our bad habits without thinking about what will take their place. It’s that new thing that we want to cultivate that we need to focus on—not what we’re trying to stamp out, but what we want to create—to pull us forward and to keep us growing.

change and focus

What are you saying goodbye to? And hello?

If you’re not sure, I can offer some food for thought. Here are three big shifts I’m going to focus on in 2015:

Goodbye personal training, hello coaching.
Teaching people to squat is fun. Being at the gym is fun, but it’s less so when it’s 6:00am and you’re not the one working out. I know that some people love being a personal trainer and working one-on-one with people to work towards their goals. I sure love the part where you get to talk to people, help them figure out what they want for themselves, and then come up with a plan to make it happen. But that part sounds strangely similar to what I get to do as a life coach: talk to people, work on goals, make plans. I’m not leaving the fitness world—I love teaching spin and bootcamp and the occasional yoga class—but I am going to cease personal training in favour of sleeping in working on my thesis and building my coaching roster*. I love health, but the biggest shifts, even for people who want to change their bodies and work on their physical health, come in the way we think–and coaching is the perfect way to work on our thoughts, beliefs, and thus the way we live our lives.

Goodbye should, hello would.
I have a bad track record when it comes to falling into the trap of “shoulding all over myself.” I know I’m not alone when it comes to feeling like I ought to be doing this or that and then beating myself up if I’m not. For instance, I should have a career by now; I should have this much money by now; I should be this good at CrossFit. But it feel a lot better to ask myself what I would like to do, or to think about what I would do if I didn’t feel so caught up in my shoulds. I should go to college so that I can get a job quickly, but if this weren’t the case I would go to teacher’s college and wait it out on the supply list, trusting that I can support myself with my freelance writing and my coaching in the meantime.
do more

Goodbye sort-of-friends, hello people who brighten my world.
When I feel busy, I can forget to stay in touch with the people who matter to me: old friends who live far away, my family, or the people who are equally as busy and hard to track down. All it takes to remind me that I need to put in the effort to build strong relationships with people who inspire me and fill me up is one visit with one of those gems.
walk with the dreamers

2015 is coming whether you’re ready or not–you might as well ask yourself what you’d like this year. You deserve only the best, but it’s you who needs to make it happen!

respect

What are you ready to let go of from 2014, and what are you going to welcome in its place in 2015? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

 *If you’re interested in coaching, you can check out my services, comment, or send me an email at cherylmadliger@gmail.com to set up a (free) sesh to discuss coaching and to see whether or not we’ll be a good fit for one another!  

Christmas cookies: the struggle

Today is my favourite day of the year—Christmas Eve! I start to get sad when the holidays are over, mostly because I don’t feel like my habit of putting sparkles on everything is as socially acceptable post-December. This Christmas Eve, my mother and sister and I are going to get messy and bake Christmas cookies: think chocolate chip, peanut butter, snowballs, thumbprint, and some fudge too! Now, that’s a lot of cookies, and while I’m a big giver when it comes to baked goods, it’s still a lot of temptation, don’t you think? I’d lie to you and say that this is more than we normally throw together, but it’s actually missing the pizelles, no-bake cookies, and gingerbread bad boys we normally throw into the mix.

Our cookies are sadly not quite this pretty.

Our cookies are sadly not quite this pretty.

Even in the midst of all that deliciousness, I’ve been the girl who has sworn off cookies in the past. No desserts for me this year, I’d think. I’m too big to be eating those.

But the same thing almost always happened: I’d inevitably smell my mom’s chocolate chip cookies and want one realllll bad. I’d see a broken cookie and tell myself it didn’t count since it wasn’t a whole one. By bedtime, you can be certain I’d have eaten my fill of cookies, probably in hiding, ashamed of my lack of willpower.

One thing I’m learning when it comes to special treats, especially seasonal ones, is that it is mentally a heck of a lot healthier to just make room for a cookie here or a piece of cake there. I can’t say I’ve perfected this, but I do know I go to sleep a lot happier if I’ve decided to go into a holiday or event with a game plan and some room for a treat or two.

If you’re like me, you stress a bit about all the goodies around this time of year. I think that’s okay, but you might as well think productively about it and come up with a game plan. I took a vacation with my boyfriend to Mexico earlier this month (part of my blog hiatus) and I was admittedly a little nervous about the all-inclusive nature of our travel. But I took smart advice and decided to go in knowing that I’d be having treats, but with a plan so it wouldn’t be a free for all. I decided to go for a treat each day—and some days I even found myself grabbing a dessert and deciding against it not out of guilt, but because I really didn’t want or need what I’d taken. It was a pretty empowering feeling for someone who used to feel like she couldn’t even keep cocoa powder in her pantry for fear of figuring out some way to overeat it.

Putting the desserts to good use.

Putting the vacay desserts to good use.

Just like with vacations, holidays can be filled with foods that we don’t normally have around. Unlike vacations, holidays can be stressful and busy and there are obligations to eat your grandma’s pie or your sister’s turkey. Do your best to anticipate this, go in with a game plan that says it’s okay to have some foods that might not be top notch nutritionally, and to truly enjoy them.

I think a quote is a great way to wrap up this post, along with a challenge. Start to think about how you want to feel when 2015 rolls around and you look back on this set of holidays. It’s up to you to decide. Do you want to feel like you were in control of your choices? Do you want to prove to yourself that you aren’t out of control around goodies? Do you want to show yourself that you can keep exercising through the most wonderful time of the year? Have a plan and remember that you’re in charge. Then..give yourself the gift of experiencing what you want, where you are, and what you’ve decided to do (or eat, or buy, or whatever) this Christmas. No apologies. I hope it’s merry!

“You will never stop wanting more until you allow yourself to have what you already have. To take it in. Savor it. Now is a good time to do that . . .” 
-Geneen Roth