Self Care Day

Did you know today (Saturday) is national Self Care day?

I’ll be honest, the term self care always irked me a bit. When I first began to hear it, the term seemed to always be associated with a limited scheme of things: pedicures, manicures, spa days, shopping or all about pushing “me first”. (I believe my early experience with self care probably came from women’s magazines…

It always seemed to be more about spending money on unessential things that would supposedly relax you. Sadly, they were all things I never found particularly relaxing.

So I wrote off self care as overly indulgent and generally selfish (big judgements? yes. But we are talking teenage Bronwyn here, please forgive her).

After finding out that Saturday was Self Care Day, I looked into it a bit more. Self care according to the International Self-Care Foundation is actually more about daily habits that keep you healthy.

Now that’s a self care regime I can get behind. If you check out their infographic, they define self care purely in terms of health: first understanding health and improving health literacy, then as the daily habits around physical activity, healthy eating, and general life management that can be helpful for you to live a balanced and healthy life.

With this in mind I began to realize I was doing a lot more self care then I realized. Because I think a lot of self care looks like my original teenage experience, I thought I’d share some things you can do (or may be doing already) that I think are truly pieces of self care.

Get Outside

Whether it’s a run through your neighbourhood, getting your hands dirty in your garden, a walk with friends, or a hike or bike ride through the woods, getting outside is one of the biggest self care things you can do. Lots of evidence supports getting out into nature but if that’s not your thing, the next best thing is simply getting out of the indoors. Sure we now have Pokémon-Go, but usually getting outside involves less screen time, more action and definitely being more present. And if you get lots of movement from your outdoor time, even better.

Get Moving

My first point lends itself well to my second point. Move every day. As more and more jobs become sedentary, and a lot of the relax time becomes couch-centric, getting yourself moving every day is the absolutely bestest thing you can do. Don’t believe me? check out this video – I won’t spoil it for you, but I love this little video and think it’s basically kinda amazing what a little exercise can do for your well-being!

Eat Well

Eat healthy food you like, but don’t let it rule your life. I’ll be the first to admit I love healthy food. I was raised on whole grains, real peanut butter, and a decent assortment of vegetables (ok I was a picky kid who wouldn’t eat potatoes but would totally mow down some French fries, but whatever). What I’m saying is I didn’t always like ALL healthy food, but I always liked some healthy food ( such as rice, chicken and broccoli, which was what I remember having for dinner most often). Yes I want you to eat your vegetables, yes I think we live in a sugar and deep fried filled world, where all too many of us are easily overindulging, but I don’t want your pursuit of healthy eating to cause you more stress. This in fact is when healthy eating becomes a bigger issue then it needs to be. (PS struggling with healthy eating, finding a balance and making it happen? I can help with that! Get in touch, and check out my services page for more information – end of shameless plug).

Get Involved

I mentioned that when I first heard about self-care it would often have the adage of “me first” and considering I likely heard of self-care in women’s magazines or on Oprah, it makes sense: many moms and women feel a lot of guilt when putting their needs first or even just on par with those of their loved ones (you shouldn’t, this is the air plane mask rule of self-care: put yours on first then your kids because if you die you are useless to those you love). So I understand the messaging, but it always bothered me because it always seemed to be about taking time away from being involved in your family, your friends and your community to go for a pedicure. But from my viewpoint spending time with your friends and family, where you are fully present and engaged, is so crucial to taking care of ourselves. I also think volunteering is one of the best things you can do with your time; our communities are built on volunteers and the more helping hands the better it goes. For me personally this has meant being involved on my sports teams outside of just practice, or helping out when I lived in residence, as well as being active and involved in my profession. In the end taking care of your community helps to take care of you.

Reflect on what is working in your life

Self Care really comes down to the every day habits we create. Yes moving is great, but if you only go for a run every three months it’s not doing you much good. A walk every day for thirty minutes is better. The same goes for everything else: it is what you do regularly that will effect your health in the long run. So take a look at your habits: do most of them serve you? Or do you have a few unhealthy ones that just take over? Be mindful of where stress enters your life. We all have stress but a big part of it is how you deal with it: do you avoid it and complain or do you get to work tackling the nagging tasks that are haunting your sleep?

So I know this isn’t a long list, but it is a bit of a long post! So I’ll end it now but what do you feel you do for self care? Are there habits or daily things you do that you never considered self care but are?
(PS I know I did a lot of judging on the mani pedis but if those are your things that’s totally cool! I wanted to present some alternatives for those of us who don’t always like those things, or can’t always afford them. It’s more about thinking (critically) about what we call self-care and what it actually could be.)

On the biggest loser debacle

Hello,

Happy Friday!

I was really hoping to sit down this week and write a great post about some nutrition related thing, but it never happened. So I thought I’d take a quick moment and comment on the big hubbaloo that happened last week around the study on the biggest loser that came out.

First a couple links to great blog posts discussing it:

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff: http://www.vox.com/2016/5/10/11649210/biggest-loser-weight-loss

Regan Christian: https://danceswithfat.wordpress.com/2016/05/06/the-biggest-losers-big-surprise/

Really I’m not sure I can add much more. To anyone who pays attention to research around weight loss, weight focused health or obesity research this is just one more study in a long list of studies affirming this one idea: long term extreme amounts of weight loss is not easy, very often not sustainable and in general not actually healthy.

I think Dr. Freedhoff says it best when he talks about being a runner as a metaphor for weight loss. If we considered only Boston Marathon qualifiers to be successful runners, we’d have a whole lot of not-real-runners out there.

The truth is the focus on weight, and thus weight loss, as a health measurement is a fallacy that keeps getting promoted as fact. There are a lot of companies, organizations and people dependent on this myth being taken as fact. The diet industry does not want you to win at weight loss because it would be a financial loss, they also don’t want you to stop trying because again financial loss. Even a lot of health and medical institutions have a large buy in to weight loss as a panache for all your health ailments; if they can promise you weight loss it’s a visible way for them to prove they’re improving your health, but sadly their promises fall short so often.

Tied into all this is of course some of our North American societal ideals: being thin is a desirable trait, a measurement of attractiveness, and don’t even get me started on the morality we have attached to food, nutrition, thin and fat bodies, and the constant hunt for “bettering” ourselves through health.

While I am all for people living healthy lives, health should support the best life you want (and like) living. You don’t owe health to anyone, and you certainly don’t owe anyone a constant battle for a thinner “better” you. 

One of the hardest parts with this is giving up the dream of the perfect body, and the perfect life it supposedly promises. With the amount of fat stigma, fat shaming, and fat discrimination that exists it is easy to see why many of my clients hesitate to give up dieting (until they’ve lost 10 more pounds, then they will!). This is one of the hardest pills to swallow. If I can leave you with one thing it’s that there is a lot of awesome people writing about just how they figured this shit out – you are not alone, and blogs like Dances with Fat (link above) and fabulous ladies like Virgie Tovar and many others are there to give words of wisdom on how they gave up dieting and embraced their bodies against the odds.

So I am going to leave this for now, before it becomes an epic rant – but you know I will be back to this topic sooner then later.

But are you still living?

I see it all the time; people making “lifestyle changes”. Usually lifestyle changes are relegated to one part of our lives: diet and exercise (Which irks me to no end – but that is not the topic of this post) but unwittingly this can affect our lives in other, more subtle ways.

Sometimes this is for the good of our life. We start finding ways to integrate food and exercise in a way that helps us feel better physically, or fills our time with healthy activities, or even builds and improves friendships and relationships in our lives.

But sometimes it can take a less positive turn and can take away some things in our life we really enjoy. There’s a popular misconception about healthy eating and exercise that they are unpleasant, drudgery and chore like. So if this is to be believed then the opposite must be true: if you’re living your life happily, you can’t be healthy.

This just isn’t the case.

For instance perhaps you’ve really started to “clean up your diet” (for lack of a better term) and things are going well; you’re focused, you haven’t “cheated” and things are showing progress. In your “old life” you go out every week for drinks with friends (you’re young and single, this is your social life!). Now because you’re so focused you either skip these evenings with your friends or you deny yourself your favourite meal every time because you are only allowed to eat salads and lean proteins. (But you love burgers and fries! And the occasional adult beverage. )

I bet you start to feel resentful.

And that good habit you’ve started starts to become a chore and something you hate doing because it deprives you of something you used to really enjoy.

Sometimes you have to find the middle ground… In the example above you could order what you wanted one of the nights out (one meal that doesn’t fit the healthy meal plan du jour won’t hurt your progress). Or a happy medium every time; a burger with salad or the lean protein salad but your favourite caloric-heavy beverage.

Then (and this is the important part) let yourself enjoy every second of it.

I do believe a lot of these instances are when diet or exercise changes become extreme in nature – and thanks to our perpetually perfectionist society we often have these extreme swings in habit. But the best way to truly change your lifestyle is to find a happy middle place where you still do what you enjoy, but slowly change the habits that might not be serving you.

Have you ever gone through experiences like this in the name of getting healthy? How did you find middle ground?

A little Running Story: Part I

I realized that my little running story isn’t so little, so stay tuned later this week for part II.

I think every healthy living blog has a running story.

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And I’m no exception.

My running story begins way way back in early high school. I hated running. Really hated it. Despite having played soccer for several years I hated running. Running was the worst part of soccer, kicking the ball was much better, but running? Ugh!

Somehow in January of grade nine my mom got me out running. It was slow, it was short (we ran a 1km loop around the block) but it was running (mostly). How she convinced me out the door and onto the pavement is a mystery; all I remember is that suddenly I was running. And I was sticking to it.

But it doesn’t really matter because the running changed my life. I can honestly say that I started having more energy, and I began to feel something I had never felt before.

Athletic.

I grew up an active kid, playing soccer, speed skating, being dragged on countless hikes, playing outside with the neighbourhood kids, yet never considered myself athletic. And I can distinctly remember how running made me feel so much more athletic, and much more confident about my abilities as an athlete. Suddenly in PE class I would try, no more hanging out in the little cluster of girls hanging out in the middle of the field, instead I would be running after the ball, or running that warm-up mile.

And it wasn’t because I was losing weight (in fact in my first year of running I actually gained weight, but that’s a story for another time), I simply had more energy, and was doing something to which many of my friends would say, “OMG I could never do that, I hate running”. And having that admiration from peers can be a powerful tool to feeling like there is something awesome about you.

I started out doing 3 and 5ks mostly, and trained for an 8k race in the fall of that year, and a year later I did my first half marathon.

In my last year of high school I attempted to run a full marathon. By that time I had run four half marathons, and many other races (one time “winning” my division in a 15k and being awarded a helicopter ride). But my relationship with running had changed significantly from those earlier days. As my goals with health had changed (to one that often was based on losing weight) so had my mindset, all the personal bests, all the awards (medals, a fricking helicopter ride!) just didn’t matter. I couldn’t just run any distance, I had to run more and more. Where once I had thought to myself, oh my god I’m running 5k, now I was only running 5k.

And of course in that marathon training I broke down. Mentally I couldn’t do it, on a long 30k run I hit the wall. There was other things going on in life (and for a teenager about to graduate how can there not be?) and trying to run a marathon was probably pretty ambitious. Too ambitious.

I had kept running, even though I didn’t love it. I was afraid to stop, because who was I? Who would I be without running? I’d be that person I was before I started running; a non-athlete, weaker, lazier, fatter.

And I was terrified of being that person again.