Thanksguilting

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Thinking on it, Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays—it’s usually on the cusp of true fall, when the days are cool and the nights get frosty, I get to head home from Montreal to stay with my parents, Bob’s Burgers usually has an amazing turkey-themed episode to enjoy, and there’s tons of cooking to be done.

Stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, salads, squash and my specialty—dessert—my family goes all out on the nosh. Plus our house is filled with people—my sisters, my totally dope brother-in-law, and our close family friends, all getting together to drink and eat, and take a look at all of the goodness we’re grateful for in our lives.

So this post isn’t going to be about weight loss, because there was just way too much fooding going on here this weekend and honestly, when I’m at home, I eat like a total stoner-turned-cow and graze on everything. (Confession: I had two oreos before breakfast this morning. I never buy them, my parents do. So there you have it.) Instead, this is just a short list of all the things I am thankful for when it comes to my body, and my health.

I’m thankful that I can afford nourishing and healthy food (and also some not-so-healthy treats)

I’m thankful to have all of my faculties and a functioning, healthy body.

I’m thankful for every step my body lets me take, every kilometre it lets me run, and every pose it lets me hold.

I’m grateful for the moles and beauty marks on my skin, which I get from my mother and my Babcia.

I’m grateful for carbs (my one true love).

I’m grateful for the friends and family who encourage and support me.

I’m grateful for the time to change, to become stronger and take care of myself better—and that’s the plan.

I’m grateful for my mother’s heart attack—not because it happened, but because it was a warning to her, and to me, and pushed my family as a whole towards healthier habits.

I’m thankful for this blog.

Next up, watch me backslide from all this internal peace and flip out over how to counteract the Thanksgiving slump before the Christmas season!

Way to go, babycakes

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Some days, I can’t help but feel that my body is a child. Whether it’s begging for five more minutes in bed on weekday mornings, or demanding cake and chips when we should be eating brown rice and kale bowls, taking care of it can feel like parenting—or at least what I imagine parenting to be like.

Another example of this is the dialogue my body and I started having when I got my running backpack last week and started jogging to work:

Are we going to run FOREVER? How many more minutes?

We’ll get there when we get there, okay?

But I’m TIIIIRED. CAN’T WE JUST STOP NOW?  Are we there yet?!

I’ve been listening to my body a lot lately, but I don’t always think that this is the best way to operate, or the healthiest. There’s an existing idea that when you’re craving something, it’s probably a nutrient you’re missing… I can’t help but feel I’d get cravings for more salmon and less white cheddar popcorn if that was totally true.

I also don’t think this body toddler-chatter (NO NO NO) always counts when it comes to exercise. There are some times when listening can be really good—when I’m really anxious, following the urge to go for a walk calms me down. If I’m working out and feel a twinge of pain, it’s a waving red flag to take it a bit easier to prevent injury.

Sometimes though, the body just wants to stop because it wants to stop. It would be easier to slow down, or easy to stay on the couch. It is easiest of all to sit and listen to it and do nothing else.

However, I read a quote recently that tweaked my perspective on who I’m having these conversations with: “your mind will quit before your body does.” Translation? It might not be my stomach or my knees behaving like a five-year-old on an apple juice bender, the pockets of their overalls jammed with goldfish crackers, demanding cartoons and nap time. No, it turns out the real source of all of this outlandish behaviour is my mind, telling my body what to do. To carry on with the toddler metaphor, my mind is an older kid, bullying the younger kid, taking its lunch money and using it to buy cupcakes.

To give the body the power back, I think the key has to be talking the mind into giving up its bullying ways.

The way we self talk can have a profound effect on how we live and function. Professional athletes do visualization exercises because they need to mentally reinforce the notions that they are winners. The mind is a powerful tool, if you can manage to“parent” it properly.

Not only is this something I’ve written about before, but Jocelyn and I have had this talk recently too: if losing weight was purely a physical task, it would be simple. Really, truly, it’s the fight with our mentality that adds to the burden and struggle. Mental health, energy, notions of self worth, internal struggles, comfort, safety, and then some, all show up to the playground to make trouble with ramifications for our physicality.

So, I guess what I’m getting at here is, when I’m trying to run up that first hill on my morning commute and my legs are throwing a tantrum, and my mind is saying that this sucks, that I should stop and take the bus—I have to try to remember that it’s my job to take a deep breath, explain why the bullies are wrong and keep going. This week’s mission is going to be positive self talk, to stop listening to the mind, and continue to nurture the body.

Mantra of choice? I am becoming.

I am becoming the person I want to be. Each day, I work to make myself more the person I want to be.

The Secret Origin of a Fat Feminist

For this post, we’re going on a trip to Bitch Planet.

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I put to you the comic by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, gloriously recommended to me by a friend, and one of my  comic book store guys. So, fuelled by my “two separate recs” rule and feeling spend-y, I picked up it up this past weekend…and then read the whole thing in basically one sitting.

The story takes place in a not-so-far-off future in which women who cause problems are branded as “noncompliant” and sent off to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, better off known as (say it with me) Bitch Planet. The inhabitants are there for a myriad of different reasons, from infractions such as murder to being obese or anorexic. Either way, if you’re stepping outside of the status quo, you’re getting shipped off in space to lady prison.

I loved the first volume. Besides the fact that it’s intersectional as hell and has a campy 1950s sci-fi soul, BP also represents a huge range of female body types, unabashedly drawn with honesty and not a sense of voyeuristic pornography. My favourite character is the goddess-titan Penny Rolle.

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She’s a big, unapologetic, badass woman. Spoilers ahead, there’s a scene where the prison authorities hook Penny up to neurotransmitters, trying to ascertain her ideal self image—they want an end-goal for the “self improvement” they’re about to force on her.

The thing is, when that image is revealed, it’s Penny  exactly as she already is—larger than any other character in the book and happy to be that way.

So here’s what I’m getting at, the notion that reading this book clarified to me: being a body-positive feminist is hard when you’re trying to lose weight. Personally, I feel the goal doesn’t align with my values—not on the surface anyway. They are two core beliefs and desires in a wrestling conflict, and neither of them wants to give up.

I can talk forever, claiming that all I want from this journey is health until I’ve run a marathon with my mouth into a smaller dress size, but—the facts are, I dream of the day I can walk into an H&M and grab one of those size 10s easily, without hunting around for the elusive size 14.

Wanting to lose weight for non-health related reasons feels like I am holding myself to a double standard. I love the body positivity movement. I love women, and people in general, who embrace what they have, and can truly look on themselves with a warm, loving light. Some days, I even see a bit of that light in myself—it just isn’t all the time. I can admit I’m delicate on the touch and go of this—one day, I’ll find inquiries about my workout routine encouraging, the next, an off-hand comment about a jacket that will fit someday has me grinding my teeth to dust.

One of my favourite Instagram accounts, run by self-proclaimed “fat femme” Jessamyn Daniels, is proof enough to me that the body is capable of some truly astounding shit at any size. 

Yet still, I look at myself in the mirror after a sweaty yoga session, or a strong run and think that my own body is not good enough—that I’m not there yet. I know we’re our own worst critics, when we need to really be nurturing and understanding of ourselves. I try to be that, but it doesn’t always work.

Worse, my lack of self body positivity folds back on me, to make even my healthy efforts seem like awful traps. Simply put, sometimes my brain makes me feel bad for making healthy choices, because I should just be happy with how I am right? How messed up is that? And it asks me, how, how, how can you walk around, hating on societal standards, when somewhere deep down, there’s a part of you pushing to conform to those standards? I’m not asking rhetorically, I genuinely have no idea. Maybe these notions and motives make me a hypocrite.

1431897224822433426The only way I’ve almost managed to square off with myself on the subject, console that these efforts aren’t destructive, is that no matter where these beauty standards came from, this is my choice. For me, feminism is about giving all women all of the options they deserve and want. If a woman chooses to stay at home and raise her children in a traditionally feminine role, it’s still a feminist decision, because she picked that path for herself.

Similarly, I have to reason that wanting what I want for my body isn’t anti-feminist, it’s just what I want. This is my path, and I am finding the strength to walk it. If I am aware of all of the trappings of body shaming, and body standards  of society, and I’m aware that I don’t have to change—but I choose to try…

Is that feminist? Or is that compliance?

The Long Road to Polka Dots

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Maybe because of their infamous slimming properties, I’ve got a large host of black dresses taking up real estate in my closet—but I didn’t want to wear any of them to my cousin’s wedding in September.

I was tired of dressing for special occasions like they were funerals.

So when I was out thrifting recently with friends, I was thrilled when we found a bright blue, tea-length number covered in polka dots. Totally 1950s and snugly in my aesthetic niche. Even though I had a moment of body dysmorphia, and I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to fit when my friend pulled it off of the rack, it slipped on with ease. One fight with a sticky zipper later and wedding style was achieved in living colour. (Side: is there anything more harrowing than the ‘is it me or is it the zipper’ moment? I don’t think so.)

That’s the story: woman needs dress, woman buys dress. So what, right?

Here’s what: sometimes I feel like wearing a black dress is an apology. As though by putting one on, I’m showing people I have looked in a mirror, and have—at the minimum—attempted to bandage the eyesore of myself to the beauty standards I’m violating at my current size. Here and now, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been making an awful lot of unnecessary apologies for a long time.

I wore a black dress to my 20th birthday dinner, six years ago. I wore two different black dresses to my sister’s engagement party and her bachelorette bash. Despite hunting around for something colourful, I seem to settle into the niche.

I’ll chalk it up to the lower self confidence I had in those days, when I believed that I would only wear pretty dresses in lavish patterns when I was more “acceptable.” This was a pact that society and I had entered into in my mind: when I was smaller, it would be okay for me to be visible and celebrate myself in the clothes I had always wanted. Even typing those words now, I can see how dizzyingly unhealthy that mentality is.

More recently, my concerns for losing weight are largely focused on mental well-being and quality of life.  Still, it would be a lie to say I don’t have any aesthetic reasons at all for wanting to trim up, but I know that changing how I look is not going to change my mentality.

The body dysmorphia I had in the change room at the thrift store? It happens at every size if you let it go unchecked. Even when I’ve been my slimmest, I haven’t felt more confident, more strong, or more colourful.

I’m a picture-perfect example of how losing a bunch of dress sizes is not the only hard work to be done in a lifestyle change. In the time since I seriously started to lose weight, eight years ago, I’ve gotten close to my goal—that magic number many dieters believe instantly unlocks all the doors—really close, twice. Both times, I gained back more than 50 lbs.

If I had been perfectly happy, inside and out, in those leaner times, with all of my confidence problems solved by the mere act of seeing a number on the scale, I wouldn’t have three different sizes of jeans in my drawer. I wouldn’t even be writing this.

Thin does not equal happy, just like fat does not mean shrouding yourself in mourning clothes and waiting for the revelation of mental bliss to fall out of the sky when you finally achieve your magic number. There’s so much more at play here than calories, miles, and pounds. Just like we are not our numbers, we are not saved by those numbers.

Facts are, I know I can lose weight. I’ve done it before, and I’m doing it now. Whether I can learn to appreciate and respect myself  to keep that weight off that is the bigger question. I need to get to the place in which I’m dressing for my taste, and not how I think should dress for my size.

I’m not entirely sure how to go about working on this, but I’m thinking I’ll start small. Maybe even as simple as finding a pair of shoes to go with my new dress. I’m going to need a new pair to walk in, anyway—

After all, so far, it’s been a long road to the polka dots.