Tag Archives: Food

Body Shaming At Any Size

Hey there.

It’s been a while since I’ve written, and even longer since I’ve ranted.

This video has been circulating around the internet lately, and I was incredibly proud and in awe of this brave woman. She is an example of strength and dignity that we all can learn from.

Body shaming is disgusting, and one of the worst forms of bullying out there. Everyone has been a victim of it, I’m sure. Whether it’s for your shape, size, hair, skin, race, whatever, it exists.

I have been the victim of body shaming on more than one occasion. Even when I weighed less than I do now, I had people in my life who would consistently put me down for being “fat”.  Who would point out my every flaw, or just give me “tips” to disguise the parts of my body that were socially unacceptable. It hurts, especially when it comes from those who are closest to you.

There’s one other type of body shaming that I’ve been a victim of that nobody talks about, or maybe it’s just that nobody cares.

Have you ever called anyone a skinny bitch? (I have.)

Skinny girls are torn apart all the time. It seems everyone thinks that because skinny=socially acceptable, “thin-bashing” is okay. Skinny people have it all, right?

Let’s play a brain game. Imagine you overhear the following:

Oh my god, how much weight have you gained? You look disgusting. Seriously. You need to stop eating. I mean it. You look like you’re all steriod-puffy from cancer treatment. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see that you look like one of those obese people you see on the news?

Horrifying, yes? Now imagine this:

Oh my god, how much weight have you lost? You look disgusting. Seriously. Just eat a fucking sandwich. I mean it. You look like a cancer patient after a million rounds of chemo. Look in the mirror! Can’t you see you look like a holocaust survivor?

I’ve heard all of these things from people trying to be “helpful”. I’ve heard it from friends, acquaintances, teachers, strangers . . . nobody seems to think twice when it comes to being underweight as opposed to overweight.

Yes, I was suffering from an eating disorder at the time. But people don’t realize that obesity can be just as much a symptom of an eating disorder as emaciation.  Why is one acceptable to comment on, but not the other?

Remember:

The girl who can eat anything and never gain a pound might be throwing up everything she eats.

The girl with the hot body who seems so disciplined going to the gym might just feel like a hamster trapped on a wheel. She can’t step off the treadmill to save her life.

The emaciated girl who is obviously anorexic may be fighting for her life, and doesn’t need you to remind her of how bad she looks.

I was out to dinner with a friend earlier this year. She was working so hard to fight anorexia on her own, and was out for maybe her 2nd meal in public at a restaurant. She had ordered her meal, and on her way back from the bathroom, some drunken jerk yelled, “Go back to the concentration camp!” This absolutely destroyed her, and she could only pick at the meal she had so bravely ordered.

You never know when an ill-timed, even well-intentioned comment can throw a complete wrench in someone’s day. Please just think before you speak. And to the asshole guy from the video who is worrying about the example she is setting for children, just remember that your children are watching you more carefully than they are anyone on tv. Would you really rather raise your children to be assholes than overweight? As far as I can see, the assholes are much more dangerous to society.

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School Again! School Again! School Again!

(For those of you who went to theatre school with me: insert presentational arm choreography as needed)

I know I’ve been a little MIA of late. The reasons are twofold. The first:

I’M BACK IN SCHOOL!

Monday marked my 21st first day of school. I’m studying Holistic Nutrition now (not musical theatre anymore) and absolutely love it. Less than 18 months ago, I would have a panic attack after 10 minutes of discussing food with WGT, and now I’m in 4 hour lectures discussing fats, carbs, sugar, and all that scary stuff in detail. And it’s amazing. There’s so much I don’t know about food, and every inch of it fascinates me. It’s going to be a fine line, as they keep referencing “the benefits of fasting” in passing, but I’ve just gotta take everything with a grain of sea salt.

The second:

Sometimes, keeping things quiet is restricting your voice. Sometimes, it’s because you just can’t talk about things until you’ve figured them out for yourself. And some things are just private (although more people now know the details of my menstrual cycle now than I ever thought possible). I’ve got a lot going on in my private life right now, and until I figure it all out, that’s where it will stay.

In summation, the blogs will be sparse for the next little while. Balancing school with full-time work (and an early morning yoga practice – more details to follow) means I’ll be doing a whole lot of reading, and not much writing (apart from homework). I won’t disappear forever, tho. You’ll still get TMI as much as I can. I’ve got a lot to say, and the world’s gonna hear it from now on!

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Eating Disorder Recovery: Yoga On A Budget

You made it! Part 4/4!

Today we’re covering yoga on a budget, and whatever else I forgot in earlier posts.

You may ask: “Kelly, why is yoga as important as life and food and clothing?” Well, since in recovery you have to heal your mind and your body, what better way to do it than by practising something that is good for both your mind and your body?

For me, most of my life was spent performing: looking in a mirror, figuring out what my body looked like while moving. Who cared what I was doing to my body (ahem, pointe shoes), so long as it looked pretty? That, coupled with the obsessive cardio I did as a part of my eating disorder, meant that I had a pretty messed up relationship with my body. Yoga taught me to pay attention to what my body felt like, instead of what it looked like. It’s also the only time in my life when my head shuts off (sometimes) which is something that I think can benefit anyone, especially those with an eating disorder.

Alas, yoga be expensive. (Especially in France, I’m told). Here are some tips I’ve used to maximize the yoga on a minimal budget.

  1. Lululemon. Most (all?) Lululemon stores offer FREE YOGA CLASSES! I go every Sunday. They get a different teacher from a different area studio to teach for a couple of weeks at a time. I’ve met some of my favorite yoga teachers there.

    Lululemon Yoga Outside

  2. Passport to Prana. A Passport to Prana is a $30 card that gets you a free yoga class at each of many studios in major cities in Canada and the United States. I think there are 40+ studios in Toronto alone, which works out to less than $1/class.
  3. Energy Exchange. Several studios offer an energy exchange program, where you can pay for yoga classes with your time. You can clean studios, work the front desk, help with computer stuff, etc. In Toronto I know Kula, Moksha Danforth, Yoga Sanctuary (take home a communal mat to clean in exchange for a free class), and Sundara Yoga all have Energy Exchange programs. I’m sure there are more.
  4. Park Yoga. Different teachers and studios will offer park yoga classes in the summer months. Usually these are by donation for charity. There’s nothing like lying in savasana looking at the sky.
  5. Karma Classes. Most studios offer karma classes, where you can take classes from new teachers, again by donation.
  6. Share The Love Yoga. Share The Love Yoga is a website that has organized all the free/karma/inexpensive classes in Montreal, New York, and Toronto into a weekly schedule. You can find a class at pretty much any day/time.

There are lots of yoga DVDs and YouTube videos, etc. but use them with caution. It’s really easy to get injured if your form isn’t correct, and it’s important to at least start learning yoga with a teacher.

Okay. On to the “Damn. I should have mentioned that.” section.

  1. Groups. If you can’t afford private therapy (even with all these amazing tips), try to find group therapy. You can usually find inexpensive or free groups in major cities. In Toronto, check out Sheena’s Place, in Burlington, Danielle’s Place, in London (Ontario), Hope’s Garden. Feel free to add others in the comments.
  2. Jobs With Perks. When you are well enough to work, try to find a job that gives you a discount on necessities. Clothing stores do that, but you usually have to wear their clothes, and end up spending your entire paycheque in the store. If you can handle the food industry, do. I love my health food discount.
  3. Campus Services. If you’re in school, check out what eating disorder/mental health services are available. Some schools will even subsidize your off-campus therapy.
  4. Eating Disorder Charities. Beat down the doors of NEDA, NEDIC, or anyone else who might be able to help.

I hope you found something you can use in these posts. Please feel free to keep sharing your tips and tricks (the healthy kind) in the comments. Thanks, as always, for reading.

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Eating Disorder Recovery: Food On A Budget

Welcome to part 2 of the series.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback on the first instalment. I debated whether it was really helpful, or if I was just having a passive aggressive pity party, but knowing that so many of you identify/are in the same situation, I decided to soldier on.

Today’s topic is a tricky one: food. I’m going to keep it as simple as possible, as I know how much food talk can stress people out.

Here’s what I’ve learned.

  1. Be flexible. It’s hard to do, I know, but it’s important to keep on the road to recovery. There has been more than one occasion where I couldn’t afford a $10 jar of almond butter, so rather than alter my meal plan to incorporate the less expensive peanut butter, I just reduced the quantities of almond butter I ate to make it last. Not smart. Restriction is a slippery slope.

    (not this kind of flexible)

  2. Learn to cook. Not easy. At the depths of my eating disorder, I wouldn’t even touch food with my bare hands, so learning to cook was a little traumatic. But cooking your own meal from scratch is a lot cheaper than pre-packaged insta-meals, and I’m told it’s important to develop a relationship with food 😉
  3. Buy bulk. I know this one is tricky, too, as those who struggle with binging have difficulties keeping large quantities of food in the house. If you buy things like quinoa and dried beans, you can make them up in small quantities, thus eliminating the “in the moment” availability of binge food.
  4. Buy bulk in small quantities. For foods that are trickier to keep, hit the bulk store often and buy a days worth of nuts/dried fruit/baking supplies at a time. This greatly reduces your risk of binging.
  5. Learn to eat around other people. If you can learn to trust other people to make food for you, maybe you can accept a dinner invitation, thereby having one meal you didn’t have to pay for.
  6. Buy multiples. If you’re an avocado eater, many grocery stores sell multiples in mesh bags. You can get 5 for $3.99 that way, as opposed to paying $2 a pop. Same goes for bagged apples, etc.
  7. Do your research. I have an app on my phone that lists all the foods on my grocery list, and at which grocery store I can find it for the least amount of money. Also, scour the fliers. Buy more (if you can) when it’s on sale.
  8. Keep doing the food thing. Recovery is expensive, but you know what’s more expensive? Recovering again and again and again. If you keep at it this time, you’ll never have to do it again, and your money can go to things more fun than therapy.

You can do it! And, as always, if you have anything to add, feel free to comment 🙂

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Eating Disorder Recovery On A Budget

Settle in, folks. This one is going to be a series.

There is a major problem with how people with eating disorders are treated. I recently read a story about a girl in the United States who died from her eating disorder while her mom was away learning to be a truck driver. It was the only job she could find that would give her necessary insurance to get her daughter treatment. It’s not an uncommon story.

In Canada, it doesn’t matter if you have insurance. There are too few resources here and, as a result, anyone without a whole lot of private funding gets put on waiting lists for 6 months – 2 years. It can take a lot less time than that to die of an eating disorder. And even if you get approved to be sent to an American treatment centre, your insurance can back out after on a technicality and leave you stuck with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Having found myself fired from my job because I “no longer met the requirements” for my job (ie. your bones are creepy, so you can’t work here any more), I had zero money and a big problem to tackle. I was too sick to work, and was on long waiting lists for treatment. I had to figure out a lot of things really quickly. This is what worked/didn’t work for me. You may disagree with what I’m saying, but I invite you to take the parts you like and throw the rest away.

  1. Decide how badly you want recovery. You’re going to have to do many things you don’t want to do. You’re going to have to get really honest with people you don’t want knowing anything about yourself. You’re going to have to humble yourself time and time again. If shame is a big trigger for you (I know it is for me), get used to it. 
  2. Find any and all (legal) sources of money. Get on unemployment. See if you qualify for disability. This is the tricky one: come clean with family members about what you’re going through, and find out if they’re able/willing to help you cover costs.
  3. Try to find a therapist who operates on a sliding scale. They charge according to financial need. (If you’re in Toronto, drop me a line. I know a couple of good ones and can point you in their direction.) If you already have a therapist, you’re going to have to decide how important it is for you to stay with him/her, or if you can look for someone who charges less.
  4. Get ready to make sacrifices. Food, housing, and therapy. Those are the things you need. The rest is optional. Seriously. Get ready to dig into the back of your cupboard to use the ends of all the shampoo bottles, etc. you have stashed away. I started this in May and made it til Christmas before I had to start using Vaseline instead of moisturizer. (Do not recommend. Break-out city.)
  5. Google. It will be your best friend. Search out drugstore, grocery store, etc flyers so you know what weeks you can buy the necessities on sale. Find free festivals, movie screenings, etc. in your city so you have at least some “entertainment” options. Enter contests. You can win some fun stuff.
  6. Sell off anything you don’t need and won’t miss. Save the cash. You’ll need it.
  7. Learn to knit. It’s a great way to pass all the time you’ll have not working, not going on expensive outings, not shopping, and not engaging in eating disordered behaviors. Also, it’s an inexpensive way to do Christmas/Birthdays/etc. I learned to knit in October, and had 5 scarves ready for gifts by Christmas.
  8. Give of yourself. You may not have money, but that doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. Help people out without expecting anything in return, and karma can surprise you. Not only will you feel better for having contributed something, but I have done “good deeds” that led to jobs 10 years later, and have volunteered for things that have turned into paying jobs. Don’t do more than you are able, but know that you don’t always have to be paid “now”. Karma’s got your back.

These are the basics to start you off. Upcoming in the series: Food, Clothes, and Yoga on a budget. Anything I’ve missed?

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Consider Yourself

I had French toast today.

Just thought I’d get that out of the way. To those who know my eating habits, it’s pretty shocking, so calm down before you read the rest.

Inhale through the nose, exhale through the nose.

Feel better? Good.

How did it come to this? The eating of French toast?

It all started on Wednesday. I was in yoga class, balancing on my hands in Crow Pose. Had some good balance going on, and after holding it for a while my teacher said, “Ok, Kelly. Now jump it back into chaturanga.” (Non yogis: picture kicking your legs from a crouching handstand to a push-up position in one movement)

I looked at her like she was crazy.

Doesn’t she know I’m weak? I’m still too damaged physically to do anything like that. I’m not well enough.

I tried it, half just to prove to her how incapable I was.

You know what? I got about half way back. I tried again. I got one leg back into position. By this time, we were ready to move on with class.

Holy shit! I almost did it! I vowed to work on it at home until I could do it.

Sometimes in yoga class, the teacher has you set an “intention” for your practice. It can be something you want to get out of it, something you want to let go of, or whatever. I usually focus on sending love or healing to a friend. It’s easier for me to focus on something external.

Today, however, I decided to try to do the class without treating myself like a sick person. I’d still listen to my body, but I wouldn’t back off saying, “That’s good enough for someone like me.”

The teacher taught us to jump from downward dog, through our arms, and land sitting with our legs stretched out in front. It’s not as easy as it sounds. Normally I’d try once or twice then call it “Good enough”. I couldn’t get it in those two tries, so I had to try again, and again. By about my tenth try, I squeaked my legs through. I did it 3 or 4 more times, and did it successfully. I can “jump through to seated”!

I realized, while all this was going on, that I do the same thing with food. I don’t really push myself anymore. I mean, I can eat 3 meals a day, at home or at restaurants, but I still have a lot of food rules. Right now my eating borders on orthorexia (obsessive healthy eating . . . more on that in a later post), and it doesn’t really bother me. There isn’t much I want to eat that I can’t make a healthy version of. Why bother fixing it if it isn’t really a problem? Today, however, I found a reason why.

Friends were having lunch at Cora’s (a popular brunch place in Canada) and while the food is delicious, it’s not exactly a health food restaurant. I looked at the menu, and there were very few things I could eat, given my current food restrictions. Basically, the only thing I could eat without alteration would be poached eggs and fruit. Maybe toast. Not exactly a meal worth spending “dining out” money on. I screwed my courage to the sticking place and ordered French toast. My first “not 100% clean” meal since I started eating again. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t earth-shatteringly good.

But that wasn’t the point. I pushed myself, and I could do it. I did it not because I wanted French toast, but because I wanted to eat lunch with friends without being a freak.

Well, I’m still a bit of a freak, but only inasmuch as I’m proud to be a freak, and letting my freak flag fly.

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What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

Strange title, I know. And no, it’s not a song title . . . that I know of . . . but I have many musical friends and I’m sure one of them could come up with something. (Musical Friends: if you come up with something good, I’ll TOTALLY post it)

Elephant Journal Logo via google

Anyhow. Some weeks ago, I was reading a post on elephantjournal.com entitled What Your Yoga Teacher REALLY Thinks About You. Naturally, coming from the hyper-critical world of dance, and being the cynical, judgement-paranoid girl that I am, I expected it to be a “Stop fixing your hair in downward dog/Make sure you have bathed in the last 3 days before coming to class/please make sure your yoga pants aren’t threadbare – I don’t want to see your hot pink thong” kind of thing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The author, Kristin Althea, is all about the love. She thinks the sweat, and the shirt riding up, and the falling out of poses, and the being human is beautiful. Well, knock me down with a feather. And for some reason, this skeptic-of-the-year believes her.

It made me think, too, about places besides yoga class when I worry about judgement. In the eating disorder world, judgement is a pathological fear. The grocery store clerk, at one time, could have reduced me to tears if she had so much as commented on anything I bought. (ie Wow! You buy a lot of cucumbers!) I remember, when I first started eating again, that being sent to the health food store was the most traumatic of all. These weren’t just people bearing witness to the food I purchased, but people who knew something about food, who likely ate healthily themselves, and had the ultimate authority to judge my groceries.

Now, I’m that person at the cash register of the health food store, pointing you in the direction of chia seeds, teaching you how to cook quinoa, and asking that often shame-inducing question, “Are these the organic cranberries, or regular?” From this position of power, I thought I’d write my own:

 What The Girl At The Health Food Store REALLY Thinks About You

As a shopper, I’m always convinced that cashiers are taking note of everything in my cart. I will often make excuses or jokes about things I’m uncomfortable about buying, or things I buy with great regularity. But here’s the shocker: I don’t have a clue what was in the cart of the person I rang through 5 seconds ago, let alone last time you came in. I worked for 9 hours today, and I can’t tell you more than one item that anyone bought today.

There are some exceptions to this checkout amnesia. There is “Hummus Lady”, with whom I have bonded over our mutual love of Sunflower Kitchen hummus, and the fact that she buys two tubs every time she comes in (sometimes more than once a week). She made jokes about it, at first, saying “You must think I’m absolutely insane, buying this much hummus.” I hadn’t noticed until then. Now it’s a running joke. There’s a little 2-yr-old boy who I absolutely love, and I know he’ll always buy his favorite cereal that he calls “Papa’s Cherrios” and, if it’s a Friday, “Choco Milk”. I know what foods some of my regulars buy, but it’s objective knowledge. No judgement involved.

  • When I ask you “organic, or non?” I’m not judging your response: I just need to know which code to ring in. Organic is expensive. I, of anyone, understand if you choose the cheaper route. I’m just happy you’re choosing to spend the money you have at our small, independent health food store, rather than at one of the “big name” stores. My bosses are some of the greatest human beings I’ve ever met, and I’d rather your money go to raising their families, than to furnishing the 2nd home of the “big name” store CEO.
  • If you have 2 bags of chips, I’m not thinking “Wow, what a glutton.” I’m thinking, “Ok, remember to take the promotional discount off of the second bag . . . oh hey, I didn’t know we got a new flavor . . . how can I bag their groceries without crushing these?” I swear. I’m too busy doing my job to think any less of you. Besides, I’m all about balance. Have the courage to eat your chips without shame.
  • If I ask you a question about why you are choosing an item, or what recipe you’re using it in, I’m not testing you: I don’t know enough about it and I really want to learn. Thanks for teaching me.
  • Unlike Kristin, I don’t think you all are beautiful. My job title makes me little more than pond scum to many people, despite the fact that I have spent more years in college than just about anyone who isn’t a doctor or lawyer. You treat me like shit, I’m not going to think that you’re beautiful. But, I have many customers of every age, shape, race, religion, and sexual orientation who I think are incredibly beautiful human beings. These people make the percentage of assholes I deal with bearable. I have customers who will introduce me as their friend, ones who I will talk with (on a slow day) for more than an hour, ones who I hug, ones who I share private jokes with, ones who I cry with over their illnesses and losses. There are people who will come by to share their cooking that they made specially for me to try (this is a challenge, but as long as it’s vegetarian, I will always at least try it). These are the things that make people beautiful to me. Not what they look like, nor what they have in their cart.

So next time you walk into a health food store, hold your head high. You’re doing something brave, and you have every right to be there. The store’s employees aren’t judging you (well, they might be judging your snarky attitude, but if you don’t have one of those, you’re good to go). Besides, chances are the girl ringing up your goji berries and coconut ice cream is working there to develop a better relationship with the food she fears so much, and is too busy worrying about what she’s going to eat for snack that day to scrutinize your cart.

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Filed under Blatherings, Fighting Fear, History Lessons