Why I clicked “Unfollow” on fitness accounts while eating chocolate

I often have to check myself on my thoughts about my body. When I think about where I’ve come from: an unhealthy and sad version of the woman I am today, I am proud. I realize that the feeling of pride comes from focussing on the state of my emotions, physical health, and confidence level when I was obese, and not the aesthetic aspect of what 242 “looked” like.

Many of us women tend to focus on what we look like rather than how we feel. When the focus is put on physical labels, those labels transfer to feelings. Animated almost cartoon-like terms are put on the areas we want to change: muffin Top, thunder thighs, chunky monkey, jelly belly, spare tire. And we obsess about those areas and compare our bodies to other women. It becomes a competition. We have a self-deprecating remark on reserve for a compliment thrown our way. One day I will love my arms, my legs, my stomach if I just keep up the cardio, weights, and eat loads of salad (insert method)…oh yes, one day I will be happy with my body.

One day.

How about today? Can we love our bodies and all the things we can physically do today?

I also realized I felt the most alive in those first few weeks of my journey when I found a love for being active, fuelled my body with foods packed with nutrients and vitamins, and finally took care of myself with respect and love. That feeling of euphoria had nothing to do with what I weighed, or what size of clothing I wore. For the first time in my adult life, I found pride within my progress. Progress, not perfection.

And so today, I have to remind myself this lifelong journey to feel alive and vibrant comes from taking care of myself the way the human body was meant to be cared for. With heart healthy activity, vibrant coloured natural foods full of nutrients, and feeding the soul with positivity and love. I can change the way I view my body just by adjusting those factors and focussing on health vs. appearance.

Having lost 90+ pounds, I will always have bigger thighs than if I was never obese. That’s a fact. Having extra skin or fat on my thigh area does not attribute to being unhealthy. These legs travel me wherever I want to go. To not appreciate the gift of health is disrespectful; especially to those who have limited or no mobility.

There is a shame feeling when I type “I love my body as is”. Why? Body shaming is so prevalent in our society that the norm is self-deprecation. There wouldn’t be a market for “get thin quick” diets, or “lose fat in 10 days!” ads if we were content with our body.

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I love learning more about fitness and nutrition. The science of fitness is interesting to me, and so I followed a bunch of fitness-focussed accounts on Instagram. Last night as I was enjoying a full-bodied glass of red wine and a couple of squares of dark chocolate with sea salt, I started browsing my Instagram feed. Images of fit bodies (heads cut off/focus on chiselled body parts), quotes like “real women drop it like a squat”, and low-calorie meals flooded my feed. I instantly felt shameful about my glass of red and my dark chocolate. So I clicked unfollow on every stranger fitness-based account that brought up body-shaming feelings for me (I should add I enjoy seeing my friend’s fitness progress, I love their hearts and I’m invested in their hard work).

After removing the accounts, I had to analyze why seeing all those photos made me feel bad about myself. I asked myself this: Do I want to constrict calories to a level where I’m not happy? No! I don’t want to feel hungry. I crave balance not restriction. Do I aspire to be a size 2/4? No, because that’s not my personal goal.

Hey, it’s none of my business what you eat, your personal goals, and how often you workout or don’t workout. Go for it girl! However, no one will dictate to me what my body should look by their standard of a “real woman”. We are all real women! ha!

There’s just as much “skinny” shaming as there is “fat” shaming. My point is why shame? Why focus on the physical? Why do we even have an opinion about another woman’s body? Seriously, none of my business. I want to get to know another women for her heart, her sense of humour, her personality. I really don’t care how many calories a day she eats or what she weighs.

So love your body for all you are physically capable of doing. Embrace and celebrate your imperfections because that’s what makes you unique. Feel pride from treating yourself with respect and self-love.

Above all else, let’s not just love ourselves, but love others through action: lifting one another up with encouragement and support. No jealousy or envy. There is no room for that in living an authentic life full of positivity.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

 

 

The Best Era of Our Lives

I’ve been thinking about how to live in gratitude lately, and I’ve changed how I think about it.

Living in gratitude has been this elusive state I’ve tried to live within, but there’s always something that throws me off and I think
“well I can’t be grateful for this  ___insert hard life stuff here___
Little by little over time I realize I’m not living with a grateful heart at all.

Today, I was watching Krysta Scoggins’ music video for “I Miss You”…

Watching the story within that video made me realize that we never know in life when we are living in “the best time of our lives” until something changes. Then we look back and think “if only I knew then to enjoy that time and not let it pass so quickly. I wish I had been aware of how blessed I was then”  However, we don’t fully comprehend that until something hard happens and a shift/change in life occurs. Then we start living in a new normal with new blessings to discover down the road. Living in gratitude doesn’t mean life is perfect. Life is shaped by blessings and trials and it’s the trials that make us appreciate the good times.

So I got to thinking, that every time I grumble or moan about some area of my life that’s hard to deal with, instead I’m going to remember that this full-of-life busy home family life, this healthy body that allows me to run and train, this fun chapter of good times with friends…the very stage of my life that is happening Right Now just may be the best era of my life.

If I live in the best era of my life for all of my life, won’t that be something…

From my grateful heart to yours,

Christine

One Size Does Not Fit All

Loosing weight is hard, maintaining weight loss is tough, and exercise is painful; however, living in a body that doesn’t feel like your own is way more painful.  Back when I was at my heaviest, I will never forget the feeling when I looked in the mirror every morning and wondered to myself “how did I let myself get here?”

I was faced with a dilemma, I wanted to lose the weight, but how?  There are so many methods to lose weight: no carbs, low carbs, no fat, high protein, calorie restriction, intense cardio…all of it made my head spin with confusion.  I knew one thing for certain, if I was going to lose close to 100 pounds, I wanted to find the method that would allow me to keep it off for life. By some estimates, more than 80% of people who have lost weight will gain it back and then some within two years.  That statistic was terrifying to me…all that work, sweat and tears for nothing?

I’m an all or nothing personality, so when I decided I was going to tackle my issue, I went all in. I poured over healthy living websites using my slow dial-up connection, it was an exercise in patience I tell ya!  I quickly realized that what worked for one person didn’t mean it would work for me and I needed to get to the root of why I was overweight.

Simply put: I was addicted to food and I lied to myself on a regular basis about my food issues. I used food to deal with my life struggles rather than dealing with the emotion behind them.

Now when you have a food addiction, it’s unlike other addictions because you can’t quit eating like you quit smoking. You have to find a way to eat that is healthy both emotionally and physically.

Through trial and error I found these tips helpful.

  • Eat slowly
  • Listen to your body, it knows when it’s full. Stop eating before it gets completely full.
  • Eat foods that take time to chew, such as salads, veggies, fruits.
  • If it swims, flies, or runs, it’s a leaner protein.
  • Learn correct portion sizes, and then eat your meal from a smaller plate so your portion still fills up the entire plate
  • Eat with intention, don’t eat in front of the TV or Computer
  • Don’t be too restrictive. I live by the 80/20 rule, I’m on point with my eating 80% of the time, the other 20% I save for social occasions and to enjoy the odd treat. To me, a life of balance has room for a little dessert.
  • If I want to eat when I’m not actually hungry, make some tea, drink a big glass of water, go for a walk. Get to the root of why I want to stuff my face when my body is full.
  • Stop lying to myself and stop making excuses for bad behaviour that prevents me from reaching my goals.

After I tackled some of my food issues, I felt confident to face the other part of the equation: Exercise. Oh how I loathed exercise. Here’s what I learned though, you can still loath exercise and fall in love with the euphoria that comes as a result of exercise. I needed to push through each workout and stop the internal hamster wheel of complaints. Just get it done. The addicting part of exercise lives within the results, and results come quickly because our bodies are frickin’ AMAZING machines.

Because I struggled with food, it was important to add exercise in so that I didn’t have to be so stringent with my food choices.  Move more, and I got to eat a ‘lil more of those whole foods which I didn’t WANT to binge on, that realization was a welcome surprise! There were certain foods that were triggers for me, meaning I wanted to eat more and more. For the most part, I cut those out. I never wanted to binge on apples, chicken, yogurt, veggies, whole grain rice, etc. Give me a plate of nachos, and I will body check you if you get in my way. So I realized Nachos probably wasn’t the best choice for me. 😉 Hunger drivers, and hunger suppressers…find which ones those are for YOU. One size does not fit all.

It took over a year to get the weight off my body, and the losing world is really no different than the maintaining world.  I’ve been at my goal weight for 8 years. I’ve learned what worked for me 5 years ago, doesn’t necessarily work for me today. It’s a process of changing things up as the body adapts. I find that’s the fun of it though! It’s a new challenge, and weight loss goals transform into fitness goals.

Recently, I went through a hard time in my personal life and to that end I gained 15 pounds. I again poured over healthy living/fitness websites and was overwhelmed with the information regarding cardio/weight training. Do I add more weights and reduce my cardio? Do I up my cardio? Do I stop running my 5K’s and instead add High Intensity Training for a shorter amount of time? I tried different scenarios to the point that the love I had developed for exercise melted away into a chore and I became a slave to the scale. My identity within my mind was attached to the number that popped up on that stupid scale.

It hit me one day that I used to run my 5K with a smile on my face because it was my time to quiet my mind and release my stress. I had given that up because the research I had done suggested steady state cardio wasn’t as effective as interval training.  But what happened to my love of running? It went away!!!

The key for me in this stage has been to stop focussing on the scale number, but instead focus on staying active doing the sports I love. Enjoy whole foods that keep my body satisfied and energized so I’m not thinking about food constantly. Weighing myself weekly is not healthy for my mindset.  It may work for others, but again I learned that one size does not fit all.  I haven’t weighed myself in a few weeks; yet my activity level and my mood has changed for the better as I’ve reincorporated those runs that I love!  I run my 5Ks and ride my bike for the love of it and not for calories burned. Sometimes you have to stop controlling everything and just LIVE to let go of the stress.

THIS is how I have to look at life in order to not only maintain my goals, but to reach new goals:

  • I run for freedom of the soul.

  • I exercise for the love of euphoria and pride.

  • I eat for energy. 

  • I love myself for the woman I have become, who no longer hides behind excuses and isn’t afraid of setting goals.

  • I will always have respect for the woman I was because that’s what keeps me from reverting to past behaviours that were the source of so much pain.

  • And the best part is, none of those elements have a thing to do with a number on a scale.

So yes, perhaps weight watchers, Jenny Craig, using a trainer, weekly weigh-in support groups, etc. may work for you at your stage in your life; but they don’t necessarily work for the stage of my life right now. Even the things that worked in my past, do not work in my present. That’s OK! Everyone’s goals are different and comparison is the thief of joy. Life is always changing, embrace the change and remember that one size does not fit all.

I’ll leave you with my new favourite running song:

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Shifting Focus: a Letter of Love to Women

Women, we are too hard on ourselves my friends! As a photographer, I am acutely aware of this fact.  You see I photograph families. I am beyond excited when I capture an image that portrays the love that lives within the everyday. The kind of natural exchange of love that lies within a look, a gentle swipe of hair off the brow, an embrace, a shared laugh with locked eyes. I share this lovey dovey image with my client and she tells me she doesn’t care for it because her thighs look big, or her arms look chubby, or her stomach looks saggy, etc.  Rather than focusing on the love, she focusses on her physical body.

I understand it all too well. There was a time in my life, more predominately when I was at my heaviest, when I refused to be photographed. I saw a camera and I ran for the hills. If forced into a photo, I opted for the “Gopher” pose. You know the old hide-behind-everyone-in-the-back-row-and-poke-your-head-up look. Looking back on it, I now realize I took years of printed memories away from my children.

I had a revelation the other day while I was trying in vain to fall asleep. A memory popped into my mind from a few years ago that happened while I was visiting my little sister Brenda. We woke up on a lazy Saturday morning. Brenda and I poured our coffees and sat in the filtered sun surrounded by our children who were in their glory to wake up and play together. The girls were playing dress up and skipping around the house filling the room with laughter. My son Lucas was composing his very own piece of music on the piano while my other son Ty laid on the floor playing with his iPod. Brenda’s daughter banged her chin on the ground and ran to the reassuring arm’s of her Mom so she could be inspected for injuries.

Click….

Click…

Click…

As Brenda talked to my Dad on the phone, my niece ran over to me and asked for an airplane ride. I laid down the camera, and my shutter-bug son Lucas picked it up.

Click…

The reason I have this memory is because of these photographs. Had this moment not been captured, I would have never remembered this hour of everyday life. Through time, this seemingly insignificant everyday life moment has transformed into an extremely significant memory that tugs at my heart-strings every time I look at it.

Here’s a weird fact: If I see something I want to remember and I don’t have a camera, I hold up my hand to where a camera should be and click the air with my right index finger. Yes, it’s weird but I swear it forces the image into my mind.

Moms: our children don’t look at our physical body. They just love their Mom. They see  our spirit, our heart, our love…not our body. I think about how I love my own children, purely, wildly, and with all that I have. It has nothing to do with aesthetics, yet I hold so many judgements when it comes to my body.

Those self-deprecating thoughts that play in our mind about our body are damaging, not just to ourselves, but to those who love us.  Can you imagine saying any of those things to a loved one?  Imagine telling your sister, or your mother, or your girlfriend, or your child:  “Great family photo, but your arms look huge.”  Yet, we accept this as our own truth. What does that say to our children? What are they learning from us?

My sister Janice is unable to walk without support because of MS. Can you imagine if I said to her “I hate my jiggly thighs.”   The thought of it makes me cringe.

To all you Women out there…

Appreciate your bodies. Your legs allow you to walk/run/dance, your arms allow you to embrace, your smile lights up a room and exudes warmth and joy.

Be good to yourself, children are listening, watching, and learning from you.

You are not defined by your physical body, it’s a part of who you are as a whole but it’s merely the vehicle for the spirit.

Let’s stop trying to be something that we are not but rather shift our focus to all that we are!

We can blame the media for our focus on the physical, but we buy into it.  To change it, we need to take responsibility for feeding our insecurities.

What would be so wrong with loving ourselves the way our loved ones do? The person we are as a whole. The generosity we show, the love we give, the energy we put into making the world a little brighter. The raising of spirited little children into confident self-assured adults.

When you wake up in the morning, be proud of the person you see in the reflection of the mirror.

You are beautiful.

You are amazing.

You are loved.

You are different!

Just be you with confidence and pride.

Treat yourself with the same level of love and respect as you treat those you love most.

And the next time someone asks to take your photo, remember that photo will produce a memory. Your loved ones need those.

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Waking our Inner Child

As a family photographer, I’ve noticed an amazing quality in all children I photograph.

Children think they are awesome as is. I often say to kids during a photography session: “You are amazing” and their reply is almost always the same…”I know”.

As adults, we are often confuse confidence for vanity, but I’ve thought about beauty in a different way lately.  When you say to a child: You are beautiful or you are amazing, children interpret that very differently than we adults do.  Kids love who they are as a whole, rather than relating that comment to aesthetics.  It’s the spirit of the child that shines through. The unbridled ability to play, sing, accept others, run, dress, just as they wish. To Just Be. Children are active because they want to be!

And then somewhere along the way…we lose that ability. We are affected by outside influences that tell us what to wear, what music to like, what size we should be, etc.

Much of this is cultural, based on where we grew up.  We are fortunate to live in a country where freedom of speech and religion is a right, but our children don’t know any different, and we can take this amazing gift for granted. We are free to dream.

When we were children, we loved our body for its ability. Arms to play, hands to hold and colour with, a face that carries expression, hair to blow in the breeze on a windy day or to add 17 pony-tails to on crazy hair day at school, feet to cover with sand, and legs to run through water on a hot summer day.

And then we get older and “wiser”.  Speaking from personal struggles, there have been times in my life when I wanted to be thinner, stronger, richer, and more confident. I’ve analyzed the times in my life when I was the most confident and I’ve realized that confidence comes from self-acceptance.  Just Be. Weed out the outside influences.

Find your inner voice, your own unique sense of style, form your own opinions.  My daughter will often come to me and ask if I like the outfit she chose for the day, and I reply “Do you?” because that’s all that matters.

So maybe, just maybe, we could learn a thing or two about self-acceptance through the eyes of a child…

The child who looks at their Mom and tells her she’s the most beautiful woman in the world, even when she first wakes up in the morning sporting sticky-uppy hair and well-worn PJs.

The child who can befriend another in an instance and who accepts an invitation to play if only for a few minutes.

The child who loves who they are as is, appreciates their body for all it can do, greets each day with wonder and gratitude, and is eager to learn and grow.

The child who thinks they are just plain awesome, and who accepts others in the same way.

Let’s wake up that inner-child my friends. Self-acceptance is already within us.

Life is amazing and so are you. Have I told you that lately?!

From my heart to yours,

Christine

Challenging Old Beliefs

It’s true in life there are some things that are out of our control, but there are also many things that are absolutely in our control. The key is to discern between the two.

There were so many things in my life that I thought I couldn’t do.  For example, I convinced myself I couldn’t run a 10K. I woke up one day and actually said aloud “Why can’t I? Who says I can’t?”  Well, I said I couldn’t.  I thought I wasn’t athletic or a runner. Why did I think that?  Because I was living in an old belief. I believed that I would always be uncomfortable in my own skin. I believed that I was too big to run.  When I was growing up, I was raised on a farm which was 20 minutes from town.  My mom worked full-time opening a business, and so I wasn’t into organized sports. Having said that, I also didn’t want to be either. I believed that I wasn’t athletic. It just wasn’t my reality.

Bull shit!!!

Recently I was attempting to do two sets of tricep push ups….well I could only get through one set. I find tricep push ups so tough to do. I was immediately discouraged. How was I going to be able to do two sets when I had a hard time getting  through one set?  You know how?  I just have to keep at it!  I have to continue to challenge my muscles, and guess what…I will get stronger!  It’s a fact.

It’s the same with one’s mind-set.  If you are replaying the same old beliefs in your mind, and it’s not serving you in any way, the way to overcome it is to challenge that belief.  Keep challenging it.  When your mind says “I can’t”, then you need to challenge it.  Why can’t you?  Who says you can’t?  WHY do you believe you can’t…get the heart of the tired belief. Most often than not, it’s our own mind that says we can’t do something and it’s based on a past belief that no longer holds truth for us (and did it ever hold any truth in the first place?!).

I have many old beliefs. I have started leaving sticky notes on the mirror at the gym.   They say something different each time.

“You are more powerful than you even realize”.

“You are enough.”

“You are beautiful. Be good to you.”

I have no idea who notices them or if it affects anyone, but I do know that if I was looking at those notes before starting my work out, it would lift me up and start things off on a positive. They challenge inner-beliefs that I struggle with.  I do realize this is a bit odd. But, I keep writing those pick me up notes in the off-chance someone else struggles and needs to hear it.

Also, most recently I have decided to embrace my odd, geeky side! Hey, it’s part of who I am. Authenticity builds relationships of trust, value, & respect. So just be you. We are all flawed. It’s OK, because it’s honest & refreshing in all actuality 🙂  Maybe it’s weird to write strangers sticky notes who I never actually see reading them (unless I hide behind the garbage can which is a weird stretch even for me).  Whatever, I’m weird. I write pick-me-up sticky notes because my heart tells me to.  ha ha

The other day as I was getting ready in front of my mirror I thought to myself “I hate my legs.” I had to snap myself out of it, as much as I have challenged those old beliefs, they still crop up from time to time.  My next thought was, if I truly believed I hate my legs, then I should have no problem approaching someone who’s in a wheel chair and say “hey, how are ya? Do you know that I hate my legs.”  Humbling moment. I’m thankful that I have healthy legs. I’m so excited to ride my new bike.  Bring on the sun and cleared biking paths! 🙂

Be good to you. You are worthy. You are enough.  Challenge those tired old beliefs. Forget about status quo.  Give yourself permission to really look within your own heart and follow the path that is right for you. Trust yourself to make the healthy choices that lift you up.

And then when you are in a place of strength, you spread the love.  Love, strength, and positivity are contagious.  🙂

From my heart to yours,

Christine