Food, control and uncertainty- part 2

Isla uses measuring cups and spoons to play with “sand” or to pretend bake with flour, not to exercise control over her food intake.

So this is the second part of my blog post on food, control and uncertainty. If you read my first post, you will know that I fully intended it to only be one post, but I guess I have a lot to say on the topic. It might be because it is super topical right now, but it likely is because I have so much experience trying to control my food experiences, at all times, let alone during times as uncertain as these. I truly hope that these posts will speak to someone during these times and help normalize these feelings. And only if a person is truly ready, not because they feel they should because they heard that this is the time to improve or make changes in their lives, perhaps inspire them to work towards changing this narrative. Because at the end of the day, if this pandemic has taught us anything, life is too short to let our relationships with food be so impacted by external forces that it causes us distress and negative effect on our wellness. So, without further ado, let me begin.

Today I want to talk about the other side of what I talked about in my last blog post. Unlike using food to comfort us to seek control during uncertain times or feeling out of control around food because we are unable to deal with our lack of control of a situation, the polar opposite approach to seeking control is uncertain times is heavily rooted in diet culture. Seeing as I spent 10 years on diets and recovering from an eating disorder that started after my first diet, this topic can bring me to a place that I never want to go again. I truly understand the feeling though. There is a part of me that still loves routine, being told what to do and being perfect. The thing is that I know now that there is no way that our lives are always routine, I can’t have someone always tell me what to do and perfection is just not possible. Now, if you are wondering how this relates to food and control, stick with me.

When we feel like we can’t control things in our lives, we seek ways to balance that out. Strictly following diets in an effort to control our circumstances can often put us into a place where we feel in control of something. This is why diets can be so attractive. The start of a diet, when we feel super in control and killing it feel amazing. We are proud of ourselves. We notice changes in our bodies and think that this equates to wellness. And maybe a part of it is if we had been completely out of control with our wellness before. But remember this isn’t the full picture of wellness. Trying to strictly control anything in our lives only causes a power balance between what we think we can control and what is actually possible (often somewhere in the grey middle area). I often call this middle area the sweet spot. Where we can have some expectations about what things can look like but can also be happy when they don’t turn out this way. And like it or not, most restrictive diets don’t allow for that sweet spot.

The other issue that can also put us far outside this sweet spot is when we look to seek control in reaction to using food to comfort us. As we are at the complete opposite end of the spectrum in this situation, any attempt to swing to one of extreme restriction will only cause our inner rebel to come out and at the first sign of inability to follow the rules, will abandon them outright in all or nothing fashion only further damaging wellness more than staying at the other end.

So, Jen, what exactly does this all mean? Well, if you have stuck with me so far and have read my previous stuff, you know that love is our guiding lamppost. We need to recognize that none of these attempts is inherently “bad” and are really quite normal. Almost everyone has attempted a variation of these methods and lived to tell the tale. Right now though, there is so much uncertainty and feelings of looking for control in some way or another are bound to bring up feelings. Sitting with these feelings is a great start. Honouring these feelings, that that are normal and that it’s ok to feel them is important. Working through them is great if you can get there. Talking to someone, journalling or engaging in supreme acts of self care can help to unpack some of this and make us feel better. At the end of the day, being kind to ourselves and loving ourselves through whatever choices we make with compassion is really the cure to it all. And really, today could use a bit more of this.

Until next time. Xoxo Jen

Note: while I am anti diet, I recognize that some people can successfully diet in ways that are not restrictive or in ways that does not affect their overall wellness in the ways I have described. As always, you know yourself and no judgement if you have something that truly works. I just caution as research on eating disorder causation is heavily linked to dieting. Anyways, just wanted to put that out there for those of you who might want to know my stance on this. I plan to discuss this further at a later date. I’m about love, not judgement 😘

Food, control and uncertainty- part 1

Isla knows that these are uncertain times that can be stressful. We can use food in these times to handle it.

It’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. I have wanted to write one in a while, but I do find it tough to keep my social media presence up while showing up for my family and maintaining self care and wellness for myself. Even more so now that physical distancing has been happening, I spend more time using technology to touch base with friends and family which leaves me wanting to get off my tech when I’m done. I sometimes feel my anxiety kick in when I haven’t done something in a while. Almost like a mix of embarrassment and a fear of it not being good enough that leads me to put off getting this done, but it matters to me, so I plug on. Posts may not be out every day or even once a month, but they will happen. So without further ado, here’s my next post!

Whether we like it or not, our lives have significantly changed over the past month. No matter how you are handling the changes, uncertainty can manifest itself in some major ways in our lives. Often we don’t always realize the pervasive impacts that our lack of control in this uncertainty plays a role in our thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions. One of the reasons I needed to write this post is something I’ve been seeing playing out in the lives of many in my life and society at large. It worries me that the reaction to the impacts will have on people’s wellness in the months to come. It is directly tied to my whole reason for this account- food and the relationship to our body.

In times where we feel out of control of an impact in our lives, food is an area that we feel that we can control. This often plays out in two major ways. Eating more in a way to comfort ourselves to bring control in uncertain times or eating very little food or in restrictive ways as a source of trying to exercise the little control we do have. I’m going to outline both of these scenarios and where I get worried and how to deal with this in kind, loving and gentle ways.

As I scroll through my news feed, I see a larger number of pictures of my friends cooking and baking. I LOVE this. Spending times creating in our kitchens is something I think is so important to building healthy relationships with food. Food is fun and can be so comforting during uncertain times. This is normal and natural! Why not allow ourselves to have food have a role to help comfort us during times when we have less tools at our disposal to comfort us safely. Notice my choice of words. I used the word “role” for a reason because food can easily become a crutch for us during these times. Again, not the worst crutch we can have, in fact a very socially acceptable one in many cases, but it can have huge negative impacts on our wellness and also with some big reactions that lead to even larger issues. Let me explain.

When we feel stressed, anxious, bored or frustrated with a lack of control and we turn to food to help us. This is ok and normal. If we don’t reflect though on the reasons and feelings, we might end up turning to it over and over again. This may lead to discomfort in our bodies and perhaps, weight gain. There are a plentitude of memes out there lately, joking about the covid 15 (not unlike the frosh 15 pounds that people gain in their first year of post secondary) are not enough evidence that people worry about this weight gain and the idea that this is disastrous in our lives. Therefore, this is where I get worried as a body positive, health at any size and anti diet health coach.

This message, that our bodies in a bigger size are gross, therefore then sets us up to react to any weight gain related to this comfort to need to get our body back ASAP when this is over and two mindsets that can be further damaging. The first: eating everything in sight because “I’ll lose the weight after” or the second: “making your body the enemy and therefore eating more or trying to control food through diets, then bingeing because you are feeling disgusted with yourself.” If you don’t think I have any clue what I’m talking about, I have lived with both of these mindsets. I understand the feelings. You are not a bad person for feeling this. There is no shame! And this, therein, lies where the solution is. Bringing gentleness and kindness to ourselves when we find ourselves engaged in comforting with food. Not overreacting with hate and shame if your body changes shape during this time. Finding ways to gently work on your wellness, now and later, through kind movements you enjoy and food that you love in mindful ways. Your body deserves love always. No size needs to be attained to feel that. Wellness can be achieved at all sizes. I am here to help if you need it.

This is starting to get long and the baby is going to wake up so I have decided to make this a two part blog post. I promise to have the second part up in the next few days. Huge hugs and love to you now and always. Regardless of how you feel you have been handling things, just as you are. Right now.

Xoxo Jen

Level Up your Food Love Quotient to Impact your Families Relationship with Food

My 7 1/2 month old loving up on the food- chia seed pudding, kiwi and oatmeal pancakes with yogurt.

Our relationships with food first start at home. Setting our little ones up for happier interactions with food starts with modelling that as parents. Food is a basic need and learning to recognize that eating should not be a source of shame, guilt or fear is so integral to fostering a health and wellness. This mindset will help them approach food and their bodies more positively and help them navigate their interactions with diet culture in the future.

1) Slow down and enjoy meal times– it seems like this should be a no brainer but yet, we are often so busy that we don’t take the time to eat. Rushing through meals, distracted and stressed to get everything done, taking time to eat in a slow and relaxed fashion often does not take a precedent. If you saw my video on my social media @thebodypositiveparent on a Instagram or @jjmintuitiveeatande exercise on Facebook, savouring food takes time but is so much more pleasure filled. It is an act of self care to It might not be possible to slow down and be fully present in ALL of your meals but make it a priority to try more often than not.

2) Eat without distractions as often as possible- screens fill our lives almost all of the day. There is always an email, notification or text to respond to. Imagine if we could try and be more present at meal times and take that as time for ourselves to breathe and relax in all the busy? I know it’s difficult, but we don’t always need to be plugged in and “on”. Try and move away from the TV or phone and focus on the flavours on your plate. Connect with your family during this time- it’s often the time we have that’s most uninterrupted for family bonding.

3) Eat food you enjoy- again this seems like a no brainer but so much of our world makes us feel like we “should” be eating, doing or being something else. There’s always a “better” way to do things and eating is no exception. This makes us feel lost and confused around food and often we don’t even know what we like (add in the fact that we aren’t focusing on our food when we eat-see above- and it’s even more complicated!). I am not a picky eater as I enjoy a wide range of foods but I am extremely discerning about the food I put into my mouth. I was at a party this weekend and donuts were offered as a dessert. I don’t like donuts and just because they are free, I didn’t eat them. I came home and enjoyed a piece of chocolate later that night because I prefer it. The more often we choose food we love, the more likely we are to enjoy it and therefore feel more satisfied with our food. Take the time to explore what you like and don’t like and start including more of what you and your family enjoys in meals.

4) Switch it up- variety is the spice of life and it can be hard to enjoy food if you are always having the same thing. In my dieting days, I had a list of “safe foods” that I felt comfortable eating. I ate them on repeat and ate them on autopilot without enjoying the the flavour palate. I know that it’s difficult to get creative when time pressed as a busy parent. It can be as simple as varying the type of pasta you buy, choosing a different sauce, adding a new topping to a salad or oatmeal. These changes keep food interesting and more enjoyable to eat.

5) Include the family in the menu and prep- I know it’s more efficient for one person to do the menu planning, grocery shopping and prep. Especially if you have small children, it can be hard to have them join you in some of these endeavours when you have so much to do. Think about how much more fun food can be though when they play a role in the process? Remember that it doesn’t have to be all the time but allowing them to enjoy and be a part of the action, they feel empowered around food.

6) Have fun with food- lastly, food is such a big part of our lives. It is used to celebrate so many occasions and can bring so much joy to our world. We can be so militant and serious when it comes to food and this rubs off on our children. I see so many battles over food between parents and children that might be avoided if we made eating an experience rather than a struggle. Why not include a dessert on a dinner plate every once and a while rather than a reward for eating our vegetables? Why not make fun shapes in our food or experiment with using food in weird and exciting ways like as a finger paint at art time (yogurt paint for example)? Create an ambience at the dinner table that makes kids and parents alike want to be there- add a table cloth you can draw on at home for a fun restaurant like feel or some music you can sing along with and enjoy.

As with anything, these suggestions are meant to be approached with progress in mind and not perfection. It won’t always be possible to implement them 100% of the time. In fact, what fun would be had if we couldn’t eat a bowl of popcorn during a movie if eating without distractions became our golden rule? Grace, love and kindness with ourselves and our families is so important when making any changes in our lives.

Also, note that I did not say that this way was “better”. How you do things might be different and working for you. That’s great! I said in my title that it might impact your family not improve it. I don’t work in inciting fear in you to make changes in your life. That’s not what my coaching practice is all about. It’s simply about trying something different and perhaps making a positive impact in your enjoyment of food that may plant the seeds for a happier relationship with food for all involved. Happy experimenting!

I’m always here if you want to reach out further or want to access more extensive coaching to help. Send me an email at thebodypositiveparent@gmail.com or leave me a comment below.

Much love xoxo Jen

Thank you for joining me

My reasons

Thank you so much for joining me on my slightly altered journey. I am so happy to be here and honestly, my mission has become so much more cemented since becoming a parent. First though, for those of you who don’t know me, let me introduce myself (or for those who do, just celebrate the person I am as I would do for you ❤️).

I am Jen and I am the mom to a healthy baby girl, Isla. I’m also a wife to Evan and a dog momma to Chap and Chanel (not pictured here but they will appear soon, they just don’t attend baby showers with us). I am a full time high school teacher in Ottawa and am currently on mat leave until the 2020-2021 school year. I’m also a health and wellness coach which brings me to the reason you are all here.

High school and diet culture threw me for a huge loop. It set me on a path to a diagnosed eating disorder that took me over 10 years to heal. It was both the best thing and worst thing to happen to me on my life so far but I choose to focus on the positive so let me explain why it helped me.

I am the person I am because of my eating disorder. I healed myself through personal development and strong community connections. It has led me to give back to the community through volunteering to give workshops through our regional Eating Disorder organization, as well as, obtain my Health Coaching certification time specialize in gentle exercise and intuitive eating practices. I am passionate in being an anti diet, body positive, health at every size practitioner.

This blog will focus on exactly what my coaching practice does. Healing with love. Wellness with love. I want the generation of families that my daughter is raised in to include positive interactions with their food, bodies and movement. I want the future, including the students I teach, to feel comfortable being healthy without the influence of diet culture to effect change in their families. I can’t wait to share with you all here.

Thanks for joining me and please reach out to me anytime. I can be found on Instagram @thebodypositiveparent. I’m in the process of migrating my Facebook over and I will share with you when that happens.

Sending you love and light as you journey through your day. Thanks for reading

Xoxo Jen

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