Body positive

I know I spend a great deal of time investing into my own personal body positive journey. I do this in small, sporadic bursts on social media, clad in a bikini claiming zero fucks given.

But what does body positive actually mean? And how did this journey begin?

Well, I imagine this translates into different things for different people.

Maybe it means you put on a bikini instead of a one piece, or… maybe you just put on a bathing suit for the first time altogether. Maybe you wore it to the beach and actually participated in beach-type activities like wading in the water, sitting on a beach towel basking in the sun, or building a sandcastle with the kids.

Perhaps your body positive journey involves leaving the house without makeup on. You’ve worn it every day of your life and now, you feel free enough to go bare faced into the grocery store.

For some, body positivity means posting a selfie without a filter.

Maybe you wore shorts for the first time.

Either way, everyone’s journey is going to look a little different.

For me, my body positive transformation looked a little something like this…

I was cycling through extreme dieting in order to lose weight for 8-week transformation competitions. I’d drop my calories and exercise in excess. I’d become obsessed with watching my body shrink in such a short period of time. Losing 20lbs in 8 weeks seemed realistic to me. (Narrator: it was NOT realistic, nor was it healthy…) I was weighing myself daily, and allowing that number to dictate my mood. I would take progress photos and compare them obsessively. I was weighing my foods and carefully tracking everything.

Here’s the thing: losing weight can be done in a proper way. When you do it for the right reasons, it can be done. Slowly, and without excessive restrictions… When you’re in a good mental state, and you aren’t desperate to lose weight in a short period of time – it can be achieved in a healthy manner.

I spent so many years fighting to lose 10-20lbs. I was literally killing myself over such a slight fluctuation in a scale number. Sure, during my first pregnancy I hit 205lbs as my “highest” weight, but I was also carrying a baby, and a placenta, and a significant amount of water weight. My lowest point, aside from childhood? 134lbs. That’s the lowest I’ve seen. And for some reason I spent a good part of my life trying to reach that holy grail of a number because in my mind it would validate my success.

I felt like my identity revolved around my fitness journey, and any regression in progress meant failure.

This, my friends, is what I call disordered eating. Yes, it’s similar to an eating disorder – but when you switch the two words around it has more of an impact. Eating in a disordered fashion might look like this:

1) punishing yourself for eating a “bad” food, or for eating too many calories

2) staying away from “bad” foods all together, instead of eating what you love in moderation

3) skipping meals

4) binging

5) having any sort of negative emotions towards foods

This was me.

Food controlled my life. I had to step back from it all to re-set my mind and get comfortable once again. This meant eating in an un-controlled manner and accepting the changes to my body that came with it.

I started sharing my raw, unfiltered self with the world. I winced when I hit the “share” button of a selfie full of stretch marks and cellulite. It was uncomfortable, but it was honest. This was the real me. No holds barred. Just me with loose skin and curves for days.

It felt good.

Reallllly good.

I felt like I was unbuttoning my jeans and letting out my belly that I had been sucking in forever.

I started back at the bottom. I ate whatever I wanted and watched my body respond. Curves and rolls started to form, and the muscle I had developed started to fade. At first I felt lost. No one to update with my progress, no calories to track, no bikini photo comparaisons to take, or measurements to track. But then, slowly I grew more comfortable in my skin. The anxiety dissipated.

Then I started exercising again. No specific goals in mind, and no amount of weight to lose in particular. I was mindful with my eating – listening to what my body wanted. I cut dairy and gluten to help with my joint pain and skin issues. But I also ate when I was hungry – and if that meant peanut butter from a container, or coconut milk ice cream – then that’s what I ate.

After several months of lifting weights a little more consistently, I could feel changes. That’s what I looked for – a feeling. Added strength, and speed. A little less struggle with each repetition. I stopped looking to the mirror and the scale for confirmation of my progress. And it feels good not having to “check in” all the time.

My mind wanted to default to a progress picture, just for shits and giggles. But this time it felt different. I didn’t analyze, nor did I feel like it was a validation. I looked at it and thought, “Well neat. I mean, I feel better… so I guess this is just a visual reflection of the changes I feel inside. But yeah, cool!”

I didn’t feel like I needed to push harder to maintain, or change my calories. I didn’t feel anything. Just – me. I felt like me.

So here we are.

No goals, no tracking, and no specific body type that I am after. Just happy and healthy, of mind and body.

So I hope you choose to do the same, and prioritize your mental health over aesthetics. We are all ever changing beings; you just have to learn to roll with the tides. Being fit and healthy can mean so many different thing. So I hope you choose to be happy first. And that means being comfortable with where you presently are, and accepting yourself as is.

Just show up. Be awesome.

And for fucks sakes, live your life.

Vanilla.

It’s been a while since I sat down to write.

To be honest, the words haven’t flowed like they used to. At first it began as therapy. Each story unfolding with words carefully strung together in a sequence that allowed my mind to de clutter.

But, as my mind cleared and the stories ran out, I stepped back from my blog and focused more on my Social Media page posts.

I shifted the spotlight onto body positivity. By talking about this particular subject, I started being able to reach more people. The feedback was astounding. People reaching out to me and thanking me for motivating them to wear a bathing suit, or for helping them make positive changes to their lives. And some women, helping free them from diet culture.

However, I feel like I’ve hit a wall.

A complete and utter block.

But when I think about the writing and how it compares to life, they seem to be running on the same track.

I’m not drowning. I’m not trying to stay afloat. I have no battles I’m trying to fight, nor do I have any unwritten trauma to work through. My life is relatively boring. Stable and steady. Work is good. Kids are healthy(ish) and in good mental health. We are on summer break and things are fun right now. I am comfortable in my skin, and have found the balance that I was after.

I mean, things aren’t perfect – but I’m not in a terrible place.

Vanilla.

It’s the best way to describe things. Plain, simple, yet delicious.

Stripped back, basic, unravelled.

These are the times we need to get more comfortable in. When there is no drama, and things are peaceful. We know how to try and survive the hard times – stay busy and distracted, meditate, drink more water and exercise, read a few more self help articles, engage in a social life – you know the drill.

And when things are blissfully wonderful, well… it’s just that. Easy.

But what about the in between? Do we know how to function when things are mediocre?

After a week in the hospital with my youngest, I am now home on “vacation” with the kids. A stay-cation, if you will. No camping planned, no outings scheduled every day of the week. The boys played with LEGO and went fishing today, Finn spent 90% of the day naked on the deck, Avalon played on her iPad, and I worked in the garden. Makeup free, music on, dirty hands – vanilla. Just… simplicity.

I sat down for a moment in the summer sun, not too hot and not to cool. I thought about how beautiful it was to just be. To get my hands dirty and have nowhere to be, and no expectations.

It took me a while to get comfortable with the thought. But here we are, and honestly – it’s a beautiful thing. I like it here. I like vanilla.

Father’s Day

My parents divorced when I was just a baby. I lived with my mother full time, and saw my dad every other weekend.

He travelled for work and spent lots of time on the road. But on Fridays, when it was my weekend with him, I remember sitting on the back of the couch staring out the window, waiting for him to come pick me up. I’d get into the car, and it was usually Q107, classic rock, on the radio. A song would come on, and he’d ask me, “Do you know who sings this song?” I rarely knew unless it was Kim Mitchell. I think this is where my affinity for good music came from.

On the weekends we would go fishing, go for bike rides, do our routine Saturday morning grocery shop, along other things. My dad taught me how to bait a hook, how to cast, how to gut and fillet a fish, how to do laundry, how to cook, how to sew – yep, even sew.

My dad would take me on our yearly summer, and sometimes winter, trip to Agnew Lake Lodge where we would spend a week on the boat and in the water. Some of my greatest memories came from this place, with my dad.

My dad is a soft spoken man, never yelled, and was rarely angry. Every opportunity was one for learning, and he was a wealth of knowledge.

In my wreckless teen years, my dad intervened after I dropped out of school and took me from my mother’s custody. I went from directionless to enrolled back in high school in a matter of two days. I became an honor roll student, and even dropped my lunch period to take on as many classes as I could to get caught back up.

My dad gave me the direction I needed; the solid foundation I needed to stand on to get ahead. He instilled a work ethic in me and drive to be better; to do better.

My dad walked me down the aisle last year, and I was never more honoured to share a moment with such a man. He quietly coached me to put one foot in front of the other, and to just breathe. He had a father/daughter dance with me and talked me through my tears. He gave a speech to honour the marriage and talk about me as a daughter, and how I lacked commitment to the sport of skiing – but surely had commitment to avoiding it ever again.

Today on Father’s Day, I reflect on my own dad and how he shaped me to be the woman/wife/mother I am today. He taught me the importance of family and traditions. He taught me patience, and important life skills. No matter what, he’s been there. If something happens, I can call him and he’s there. If I’m stuck on the side of the highway at 4am, he comes to rescue me. If I need someone to get the kids from school, he’s there. If we are sick and need to borrow a humidifier, he shows up with two brand new ones for us.

My dad has been my rock. It’s cliche, I know. But I mean it. And I’m so, so thankful for him.

Happy Father’s Day to my dad, and all the other dads who have made a impact on your life today.

Mourning the undead

I have tiptoed around the idea of writing about this.

But here we are. 5am coffee in hand, kids are sleeping, and I am alone with my thoughts once again.

How often do you speak with your parents? Siblings? Family in general?

I always thought I’d grow up and be super close with family. That my mother would annoyingly stop in to just visit. That my dad would call me and check up on me, or invite me over for Sunday dinners. That my sisters would just come by to hang out.

But that’s not the case.

Life gets busy. Calls never get made, and dinners never happen.

I honestly don’t remember the last time I spoke to my mother, let alone saw her. But she’s in another province. As is my sister, who is busy and runs her own business. So I get that making time for family is a challenge.

My dad and step sister are one town away.

And honestly? It’s a lonely feeling.

I don’t know at what point family time became secondary. We just let life blow past us. And the kids get older, moments get missed. Faces are barely recognized. We are aging. And you know what? The window of time just gets smaller and smaller.

As a co-parent, my time is divided up into every-other-week. I live bi-weekly if you will. One week we have a full house with four kids running around, and practices, and dinners, and coordination of daycare and school pickups. And then one week of just a toddler – a week when I work overtime at the office. You become hyper focused on survival; just getting from one week to the next. Taking time out is a challenge since you’re running such a tightly held together ship.

But then you blink and a year has gone by.

And you look around, and the memories you have of family are just the ones from childhood. Nothing beyond.

And it hurts.

I suppose the road to reconnection goes both ways. It’s a phone call out. It’s a text. It’s a branch out to say, “Hey, how ARE you?”

It’s taking the reins and demanding a relationship.

Maybe you’re in the same boat? Maybe you have allowed someone to phase out of your life and you are wanting to reestablish a connection? Maybe someone has left your life, still very alive, but you have to go through the motions of letting go.

Maybe you, too, feel a sense of loss; a sense of mourning for the undead.

It’s HARD, my friends. It’s fucking HARD. You’re not alone in your thoughts. I’m with you on that one. Letting go of someone when you don’t know if you should fight for them, or just move on. If you should try to make new memories with them, or go make your own.

It’s not an easy decision, nor is it a simple answer.

I guess my point to all this is to say: I get it.

Health update

I have been not-so-silently suffering some weird symptoms over the last almost year and I finally saw a doctor yesterday to get the ball rolling.

It started a year ago when I became very tired. Like, first trimester exhausted. I was even sneaking in little naps in my car on my lunch break. I saw my doctor then to check my thyroid and she discovered I had mono.

Shocking right?

I thought I already had it as a teenager, but I guess not? Or maybe I had it again?

Fast forward to October last year when I started having what I thought were anxiety attacks. I felt this pressure in my chest and it would cause my heart to race. It was debilitating. So I saw the doctor again and she recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (she’s pro-natural and definitely doesn’t jump the gun and push meds, thankfully!)

Everything actually seemed to clear up but then I started having seriously bad acne. Painful, cystic lumps on my face, a rash on my body and tongue, and yeast infections… I assumed it was from the sugar overload over the Christmas holidays, so I implemented a Candida Diet (see previous post…) and had decent results.

Everything was great, until about April. Then things went downhill fast.

Extreme chest pressure, joint stiffness, swelling in the body, contact lenses that no longer fit in my eyes, heart palpitations… I felt like I was completely falling apart. The symptoms hung around for a few weeks and then slowly dissipated. BUT – next game the severe acne. It came back ten fold. It’s all over my face, neck, chest, back, arms… my legs were even flaming itchy. It hurts, it feels like a sunburnt feeling by the end of the day. My tongue has white, burning patches, and I have another yeast infection.

I went to the doctor (again) and presented her all these symptoms. She ordered a blood test to check my thyroid, test for Lupus, and also see about getting a gluten antibody test run.

She also recommended sticking to a gluten, dairy, and sugar free diet to see if it clears up the rash on my body.

Who know what this all is?

So I’m back to square one and on a strict elimination diet – which isn’t really that bad. My body responded well to it before, and I’m glad she wasn’t like “Here take this antifungal!” She actually said it’s only really used on someone with a severe case or if they have an already weak immune system.

Stay tuned – I’ll keep you all updated with the progress.

It’s not your job to make someone happy

As parents we often question whether we doing the right thing for our kids.

Do you let them cry it out?

Am I breastfeeding long enough?

Are they spending too much time on the iPad?

Did I give the right consequence?

I feel like I’m constantly questioning myself. Always wondering if I did something I shouldn’t have, or maybe not enough. I go to bed thinking about my day and the goingons, and what I could have done differently.

When you’re a co parent, you question yourself a little more. I know now that I’m divorced I see things a little differently. Now I wonder not only if I’m doing the right thing, but also if what I’m doing is going to rock the boat with the other parent.

We are all doing this blindly. No parent has the single answer that solves the parenting mystery.

Yesterday I had a long, busy day. I came home and was just overwhelmed with trying to get the house tidied, wash the barf laundry from the night before (my youngest caught a stomach bug), I was tired from not sleeping the night before, and I was processing my own feelings about my day. I was clearly frazzled and maybe a little short tempered with the kids.

I was folding laundry and my eldest daughter came to me and said this:

“Mom, is there something I can do to help you feel less stressed…?”

Ugh.

“No honey. I’m sorry. My being frustrated is not your fault.”

“But I want you to be happy. I don’t want you to be upset and stressed…”

I paused.

This was a pivotal moment in my life.

This was the moment when I realized something.

“Avalon, it is not your job to make me happy. Don’t ever feel like me, or anyone, being upset is YOUR fault. It’s not. It’s my fault for making you feel like it’s your fault. Don’t EVER think that you did something wrong. I should never have made you feel like my frustrations were your problem…”

I was displacing my anger and she felt like it was her responsibility to fix it.

I want to raise a strong daughter. One who can feel confident in her skin. One who doesn’t feel the need to fix someone else. She is so grown up and so mature for her age. I quickly forget that she is still only a child.

To feel someone else’s emotions, that’s complex. But to feel them and then want to fix it… that’s a very grown up quality.

It was a reminder for me to keep my emotions in check. For me to not displace my feelings onto others. For me to be stronger. For me to raise a daughter who doesn’t walk into a relationship feeling like it’s her job to make someone happy.

I sat with her and reminded her that she did nothing wrong. She’s wise beyond her years, but there’s still a little child-like essence left in her.

And I’m going to soak it up for as long as I can.

If today was my last day

Imagine today was your last day on earth.

Imagine that today you could look back and reflect on all the things you would have done differently.

Would you have regrets?

I can tell you that as I sit here in the dawn of the early morning, sipping my coffee and reflecting on the going-ons of my life – I would have changed a few things…

I would have would looked at my body in a different light. I wouldn’t care about those few extra pounds, or my lack of definition in my glutes.

I wouldn’t care about the 500 calorie chocolate chip muffin I finished for my toddler.

I would have yelled at my kids a little less, cuddled a little more, and watched a little more intent. I would have said “yes” when I said “no” – when I said no to a freezie, or no to playing LEGO, or no to “Mom, come watch this!”

I would have rolled the windows down and let my hair blow around instead of glaring at my husband for messing up my hair.

I would have taken more trips; road trips, day trips, exotic trips… I would have soaked in all the culture and adventure life has to offer.

I would have cared less about the mess and spent more time doing things with my loved ones.

I would have put the phone down. Opened my eyes to what’s around me; the sights and sounds of the world and the people in it.

I would have chatted with more people in line at the grocery store, instead of caring what people thought about me for asking about their top.

I would have gone out with friends instead of cancelling last minute because my anxiety would rather hide in the comfort of my home.

I would have put on the bikini and strutted across the beach, not giving a damn. I would have picnicked with my kids on the blanket, sitting with all of my loose skin and rolls hanging out, as I ate sandwiches and grapes and juice boxes.

I would have gotten up early and watched more sunrises. I would have appreciated more of Mother Nature’s natural beauty.

I would have visited my grandparents more. Listened to them, talked with them about life…

I would have cared less about dirt tracked in the house by the kids because they just came in from playing outside.

I would have kissed my family more; said I love you way more.

I would have said yes to more bike rides, and more after dinner walks to the park.

I would have held my babies a little longer despite society telling me “not to coddle them”.

I would have left the house without makeup on, or my hair done.

I would have taken the long way home, drove a little slower, and listened to my kids talk about their day.

And most importantly, I would have done my Sunday dinners with my parents. I would have talked to them more, visited more.

Today might not be my last day – it could be – but it might not… I may actually have the chance to knock one these things off my list. Maybe 5… maybe more.

What would you change? Would you have regrets?

I know for sure that those small things that you have been worrying about don’t really matter. In the end you may have regrets, but you don’t have to. You can implement these things now.

Stop overthinking. Stop worrying. Start LIVING.