Tag Archives: Body Image

Women in the Canadian Armed Forces

By: Valerie Chalmers

Throughout Canadian history women have actively participated in war from the home front to the front lines. The percentage of women in the Canadian Armed Forces (Regular Force and Primary Reserve combined), the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Canadian Army range between 12.4% and 18.4%. Women enrollment in the CAF sits below 20% for a variety of reasons. The CAF have implemented a variety of initiatives for employment equity and earlier this year the Canadian Armed Forces launched a program to give women the opportunity to learn about military life before they decide to join.

“War has impacted Canadian women’s lives in different ways, depending on their geographical location, and their racial and economic status. Pre-20th-century conflicts had great impact on women in Canada — Aboriginal women in particular — whose communities could be dispossessed and devastated by colonial militaries. Women were interned in Canada during wartime — that is, detained and confined — because their background could be traced to enemy states.” – The Canadian Encyclopedia

Canadian women have had a consistent presence throughout the various wars our country has been involved in. During both the First and Second World Wars women organized home defence, trained in rifle shooting and military drill. In 1941, 50,000 women enlisted in the air force, army and navy. Throughout different divisions they were trained for clerical, administrative and support roles as well as cooks, nurses and seamstresses. Women’s involvement expanded when they began to work as parachute riggers, laboratory assistants, drivers and within the electrical and mechanical trades. Women also worked to maintain our home economy by volunteering inside and outside of the country, producing and conserving food, raising funds for hospitals, ambulances, hostels and aircrafts. Women have made considerable contributions to Canada’s military efforts, despite this it wasn’t until 1989 where all military positions were opened to women.

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Healthy Co-Parenting with your Ex


Let’s face it folks, times have changed. The traditional family is no longer that traditional. More and more often couples are finding themselves in a position where they no longer want to ‘couple’ but are, regardless, looking ahead at years of obligatory interaction due to their children.

For the past 6 years my ex and I have been called things like: weird, surreal, amazing, and the ‘poster children’ for divorce. As much as I enjoy praise, (come on, who doesn’t?) it also breaks my heart a little that our situation is so uncommon.

I have questioned what it is that makes our relationship one that, while never perfect, has always been equitable and pleasant. Is it because one or both of us are perfectly rational, emotionally mature individuals who should be therapists in our spare time? Uh…nope (shush Dan, I can hear you from here).

What we have found together, though, is a friendship that has grown roots in today, and plans for tomorrow, rather than lingering in yesterday. Here are the lessons we learned along the way, in the hopes that our style of healthy co-parenting becomes the norm rather than the exception.


This is the foundation upon which every decision we make is based. It is non-negotiable. This is, unfortunately, also where so many relationships go wrong. Anger and resentment gets in the way, people want to hit back, or score points. Stop it! This is not about you. It doesn’t matter who did what to get you there, the fact is you’re there. Take responsibility for the child you created, and their well-being. What is in their best interest? What kind of life do you want for them?


Whether you are talking to or about your ex, be civil. Do not bad-mouth each other in front of your child. You once loved this person enough to procreate with them. Point out their positives when you can to your children, so they can recognize them as well. Every child starts being told “oh, you have your dad’s nose” or “you’re so your mother’s son”. Don’t let them have a negative association with that half of themselves.

Communicate regularly when possible. Before my ex was able to move closer, we used to meet up at a coffee place every weekend to exchange our son. We spent an hour or so chatting about our weeks and what was going in our son’s life. While you might not be there, consider what small changes you can work towards to make the situation less adversarial.


Yep, you heard me. Do stuff together. No, it’s not going to ‘confuse’ your child. It’s going to help them understand that while there is a new living arrangement, being part of a family doesn’t stop. We do birthdays, Christmas, Mother’s/Father’s Day, even Halloween. Camping and road trips, while not common, have been done. This is something that I give my ex SO much credit for. Over the years he has always gone out of his way to ensure he is present. On my end, I have always ensured he knew he was welcome in anything we do.

This feeling of family extends though. His parents stay with me when they come over from England. They want to spend time with their Grandson, and I love that! My mother and he have a hilarious relationship that involves shameless flirting. We all come as a package, and if a step-parent comes into the picture, they will absolutely be wrapped in that package.


SO many aspects of healthy co-parenting fall into this category. Often, when parents split, the relationship shifts from parent/child to grown up/buddy. They don’t need you as a friend. They need you as a guide, a rule-setter, a loving pair of arms, and a safe place to land. Don’t try to use them as a sounding board to vent your venom over the injustice of it all. It is NOT their problem, it’s yours. Call a friend, or a hotline. Open a bottle of wine after you’ve finished ‘adulting’ and have a Facebook rant. By trying to force your child into the role you want them to fill, you are denying them their childhood. Be the grown up they need you to be in this difficult time in their lives.

All of the small choices we’ve made through the years have all fallen into one of these categories. It has made our lives so much more positive, and frankly, so much more enjoyable. Kudos to all of you out there right now who are doing your best, and keeping your integrity in difficult circumstances. I wish you smoother seas ahead.

Just remember, when in doubt, go back to #1.

Love Others As We Love Ourselves

This is really quite hard.

For example, an analogy was spoken to me earlier today. If I have a nice comfortable bed to sleep on, but I know someone who doesn’t, then the ultimate “love others as yourself” would be that I buy them a nice comfortable bed to sleep on.

Out of my abundance, my love pours onto others. This love can look like money, possessions, a kind word, a smile, a hug, or simply, love. Just a thought that I love the person standing in front of me.

But when I’m not able to love someone as myself, when I’m not in an abundance, or a place to be generous, what happens?

When I decide to take care of myself, what does this mean, for myself, and for others?

Self-care for me personally, looks like quiet time. It is me, in my room, with the door closed, listening to music, reading, thinking, pondering, wondering, processing. This can look very different to each of us.

You can go to a spa, to the movies, for a manicure. Treat yourself. You can close your door, turn off your phone, close your eyes. Still yourself. You can take a nap, go for a walk, sit in nature. Calm yourself. You can run, lift weights, eat. Power yourself.

How you take care of yourself can be very different to how someone else might take care of themselves.

There is one thing, though, that I believe is certain about self-care. It is short lived, and it is needed more often, the more we keep neglecting our needs.

As a person who gives an extensive amount of time and other resources, I often find I run on empty. I need to refuel, refill, and re-energize, daily. Often more than once a day.

The demands that are placed on us are far too often more than the resources we have to give. But our relationships are far too valuable.

So where is the balance between self-care and caring for others?

We each have a rhythm. My rhythm is a lot of quiet time, a lot of time reflecting and learning, a lot of time growing. When these things fill me up, when I’ve read enough, sang enough, thought, pondered, and wondered enough, I get to be joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, loving, good, gentle, faithful to my friends and family and most importantly, in control.

I’m not tired, worn out, too busy, overwhelmed, bombarded, needing someone to take care of me first.

I’m full. The rhythm of my heart is just as it should be. I have an abundance of all things good and that love, and everything else that goes along with it, can pour out all over others. My needs are taken care of. First.

I am no good in taking care of another, until my needs are met, first. This can take some time, trial and error to learn. But it is worth the struggle. Once you find your pace, your life will change.

Your relationships will be more fulfilling. The amount of people you take care of will be greater and but the work will be lighter. You will be filled with so much love that you can share it all around you, all of the time.

You are loved. You are worthy. You are a beautiful woman that gives so much. Take care of what you need so that those who need you, can be taken care of, all around you.

Blogger Talk – Self-Care


Who do you know that has “Self-Care” down to a fine art?  Please give them a shout out and share why you admire this skill.

I believe that self-care is a journey, and with this I believe it will always be a working progress and commitment as it looks different with each activity or life event that happens for everyone.  There may be some who have mastered self-care in the moments or at this time, but I believe it is never truly mastered.  So instead of giving a shout out to one person, I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has embarked on a journey of self-care and what that truly means to them, to those who are currently working through what that looks like, and those who have mastered it in the moments.

Who do you know that has “Self-Care” down to a fine art?  Please give them a shout out and share why you admire this skill.

I believe that self-care is a journey, and with this I believe it will always be a working progress and commitment as it looks different with each activity or life event that happens for everyone.  There may be some who have mastered self-care in the moments or at this time, but I believe it is never truly mastered.  So instead of giving a shout out to one person, I would like to give a shout out to everyone who has embarked on a journey of self-care and what that truly means to them, to those who are currently working through what that looks like, and those who have mastered it in the moments.

Flipside to question 2, who would you give the gift of the ability to provide “Self-Care” to themselves?  What would you like to see them do for themselves?

I can’t think of one particular person, if that makes sense.  If I could I would give the gift of the ability to provide “Self-Care” to everyone.  I would encourage and challenge everyone to take on the journey of self-care and really give themselves permission to see what that looks like and means for themselves.  I would do this with everyone because it is needed with everyone, it is impossible to give to anyone else unless we are first giving to ourselves or to be present in the moments of life without being present within ourselves.

Is there a difference between “Self-Care” and Self-Love”?  If yes or no, please explain further.

I believe that self-care and self-love are directly related and that you can’t have one without the other.  Self-love is loving yourself enough to take care of yourself and giving yourself permission to ensure that you have self-care in whatever way needed.  Without self-love you wouldn’t be able to explore the true meaning of self-care and what that means for you.

Good at “Self-Care”?  Have you always been?  If not, what changed?  Please share.

For years when I thought about self-care I thought about my self-care looking like spending time with my kids, or my husband or my family, or even having a hot bubble bath.  Recently, I have been given a different outlook on self-care and what that means to me.  This all started with a time where I was struggling emotionally and having difficulty balancing, when talking to one of my space holders about my concerns and where I was at my space holder looked at me and said those magic words “what do you do for you when things get tough?” I automatically started talking about these above things, mostly around my kids, spouse and family, she then asked me the same question again… I didn’t get it at first until she explained to me that self-care is about filling my own cup up, and though these pieces are strategies used for self-care it is so much more than that.  For me in that moment I realized that for years I was trying to fill my own cup up through others without looking at what I really needed in those moments in order to care for myself in mind, body and spirit.  Since then I have dedicated myself to figuring out what my self-care needs to look like, and though I don’t think this will ever be mastered it is a working progress.  Since this time I have been able to realize that there are moments where I absolutely need to fill myself back up through the happiness of others however, there are also moments where I need to allow myself the freedom to do the opposite.  I need to give myself permission to leave the house without having the expectation of being a mom, wife, daughter, sister, Social Worker and just walk, just walk to clear my head without any interruptions.  I need to give myself permission to rest when my body says it needs to rest, and to have all emotions needed in those moments without guilt and shame.  I have realized that on overly tough days my self-care does look like a quiet bubble bath, but with that I also realized the importance in giving myself permission to have a good cry if it’s needed.  So in closing, I believe that self-care comes in so many forms and what I have learned for myself is that it depends on where the need for self-care is, but regardless of the need the important thing that I learned and continue to practice is to give myself permission to do the things I need to do for me to care for myself so that I can care for others.

Please share your tried and true “Self-Care” strategy that anyone reading this blog post could also do.

As stated above my tried and true self-care strategy is continuously in the works.  But with that it is loving myself enough to give myself permission to fill my own cup up whenever and however it’s needed without guilt and shame.


Finish this sentence:  The one thing for myself I would love to do but can’t seem to do it is ____Travel

Reflexology as my own business.  I see it in my future and I am taking baby steps to get there.


Please share your tried and true “Self-Care” strategy that anyone reading this blog post could also do.

Positive thoughts, in relation to the law of attraction.  I create positive energy around myself, and that is what comes back to me.  Try it, it really, really works.

What is your most luxurious “Self-Care” indulgence that you couldn’t possible do without?  Please share.

It is a combination, through trial and error that I have established to feed my soul: My monthly massage, practicing yoga, long bubble baths complete with scented candles, journaling and family game nights.  These are my must-have.  

Recommendations for a Very Good Bath: Finding Your Chill Zone


I’ve gained a reputation (in my house) as someone-who-takes-baths-very-seriously. I wasn’t always a serious bather; I showered almost exclusively from the ages of 12 –25, but the bath has recently become the most important part of my self-care routine. I’m on a one-bath-per-week minimum these days, and it’s an actual ceremony. It’s ~a dance~

Bath GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY


I flip the laundry basket upside down and drape a towel over the hard plastic so that you can’t see the hard plastic (ambiance is Very Important). I strategically place my computer on top so it’s at the right height to watch in the tub, from where I’ve watched all of the classics: Gilmore Girls, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Grinch (in season). I have a book too, or instead, probably something with feminist undertones, really. If I’m reading, the 8tracks playlist hastags like ‘Chill’ ‘Jazz’ ‘Winter’ ‘Relax’ or ‘Piano’.


I have a Very Big mason jar full of icy lemon-water or green tea, set in the front-left corner of the towel that’s draped over the laundry basket. I pull out one or two essential oils – maybe rosemary, then lemongrass, or maybe lavender, then bergamot – and I put them on the edge of the tub where they wait for me until I’m ready.

I flick the lighter and light the end of a Balsom Fir incense stick from a box that I was gifted by a friend at Christmas two years ago. I take a second to reflect on the almost-empty box. I know I’m going to miss the smell. It’s woodsy and it makes me feel like I’m outside. I light a candle or two, too.  I drop in the special combination of essential oils (the rosemary and lemongrass or the lavender and bergamot) at a rate of 10 drops per oil, and I hop in. For the next hour I inhabit a territory that I like to call a “chill zone”.


Chill•ŸZone noun The mental and/or physical space or state in which you are most comfortable, relaxed, zen, clear-minded, and peaceful.


Ideally, an act of self-care will allow you to spend time in your “chill zone”. I’ve bestowed this name upon a room before, but it isn’t always a physical space. It could be sitting on a bench taking deep inhales and exhales of fresh air. It could be drinking black coffee and starting a new book. It could be drawing in your journal while sitting beside a Vanilla scented candle. It could be watching a movie with your cat. Maybe it involves using something that a loved one gave you as a gift. Maybe it’s eating a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese with lots of Parmesan shaved on top while you listen to Amy Winehouse. Your “chill zone” is your own space and it’s up to you to find it and spend time there. For me, it’s a Very Good Bath, and I suggest that you give it a try.



I am Totally WORTH It, and so are YOU

Self-Care.  What a timely topic, as this year I have declared, to no one but myself – that this is MY year of Self-Love.

I am committed to taking care of ME, my mind, my body, and my spirituality – trust me this was a long time coming, actually 52 years in the making.  I have been and continue to be a lot of things for a lot of people – and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The difference this year – is everything I give to others, I am now giving to Myself.  I can attest, that with this dramatic shift in my thought process – I actually have more energy to give to others.

So you ask, how is that possible – is that not defeating your commitment of Self-Care?  Nope.  Why?, because giving to others now makes me feel great, because I feel fulfilled myself.  Now taking care of others has become a choice, not a duty.  Let me also say – the people you love and are doing so much for, notice the difference.

As a caution, My idea of Self-Love will more than likely be dramatically different from anyone else’s – you have to find out what you really need to feel….well to feel your best Self.  I will share a few things I have learned in my new journey – and it is only February!

Embrace the Law of Attraction – what you put out into the universe comes back – make sure what you are thinking, and feeling is what you want surrounding yourself.  A dear friend gave me this gift of Self-Love Thinking.  I now practice gratitude everyday, and thanks to Pinterest, have a jar on my dresser that I write a kindness or event that I am grateful for each week – so at the end of the year – I see all the good in 2017.  What a great way to start 2018.

Stress Less – How?, Breath.  I enrolled in a beginner’s Yoga Class when I found myself at work one day, gasping for a breath at my desk….I truly forgot to breath – wake-up call.  Now thanks to a wonderful yogi Amanda Tripp, at Yoga By Sarah, I am mindful of my body and what it is telling me, I feel the effects of the yoga postures and I have the breathing techniques to calm myself in times of stress.  She has taught us that yoga extends beyond the classroom, so I continue to grow through the practice of yoga.

Enjoy Food Again – I was not eating for optimal health, and in fact was feeling the effects mentally and physically.  So in January, I joined Weight Watchers and can now say, I am enjoying food again.  Eating healthy provides me with the fuel to do all the things I want.  With this program I eat what I want, and it truly helps me look at myself…Beyond the Scale.  Fitting in so nicely with my year of Self-Love – our group leader Sue Smiley is awesome!

Move It, Move It – Literally, and figuratively I had to move more!  Yoga helps, now I am walking which I find helps clear my mind as well – there are so many great nature trails in Niagara – I want to explore them all over this next year!  I have signed up for the 150 Participation in celebration of Canada’s 150th year and look forward to checking off a few new activities.

Something Old / Something New – As I look to expand my activities, I have tried an introduction to Ariel Yoga, Suspension Training – learning I don’t like hanging upside down, and I am not ready for training of any kind.  I  also learned to knit, thanks to my very patient Mom.  I have returned to embracing my curly hair (thanks Barb and Kaitlyn) – it is after all who I am.  I look forward to experimenting with cooking food that is edible and putting paint brush and canvas again, something I haven’t done since high school.

Spend Time with Family & Friends – Lastly, but most importantly, I plan to take all the energy I get from loving and taking care of myself and share it, by spending time with my family and my friends.  All of whom have always felt I was worth investing time in taking care of myself – the difference is this year I feel it too!  Here’s to a year of family game nights, movies, hikes, girl’s nights and quiet evenings at home with the fur-baby!

If you take anything from my journey – I would hope it is that YOU need to practice Self-Love everyday – in the ways that are unique to you and that will help you feel fulfilled.  YOU are WORTH It.  And then I hope that feeling of love goes beyond yourself – to your family, friends, community, and beyond!  I think we can all use a focus on LOVE this year, Namaste.





Power of Being a Girl 2017

Power of Being a Girl

YWCA Niagara is hosting it’s 11th Annual Power of Being a Girl conference within the region.
Many events lose interest of the community and participants after that many years, but this conference remains popular. Why? Maybe it has to do with the powerful impact it has on the grade 10 girls from all over the region who participate.

Throughout the years, the event has touched many lives. One of the speakers in previous years explained that at one of the conferences, some of the girls came up to her individually to self-disclose issues they have felt including thoughts of suicide and the difference the day had made to them. 12 girls that day felt empowered enough to find positives in their lives, things to look forward to as well as to speak about it. That’s some of the differences these events can make.

As huge a success as that story is, Power of Being a Girl has also inspired girls to discuss body image issues, negative feelings of loneliness. The discomfort most girls face during the ups and downs of teenage years. Some students have said:

“I felt alone and isolated. I was living in everyone’s shadow,” she said of the difficulties she once had but has since overcome. “Now I want to help others get out of the shadow and let their light shine.”  – St. Catharines Standard

More participants said:

“Your skin is the costume. Your personality is the beauty,” she says.

“If you keep trying to be what society thinks is perfect, you’ll never experience peace.

“You’re always chasing.” – St.Catharines Standard

The conference gives girls a safe place where they can check in with themselves and realize they are not alone in their feelings. They have the chance to ban together and encourage confidence in each other.

“At first, I was really nervous. And then I realized, we’re all girls here,”

“Everyone has flaws. They have to learn to love those flaws. They have to learn to love themselves.”

“Really, really good. Made me proud to be a woman.”

“My favourite part was knowing that I’m worth something and finding strengths I never thought I had.”

This year’s conference speaks to healthy relationships. We have no idea what’s truly in store for these participants in terms of revelations but we sure look forward to exploring them. If it’s anything like the last ten years, it will be a huge success, change the lives of so many.


Question of the Month: Self-Care

The question of the month is: In one of the coldest months of the year, how do you or your loved one’s take care of yourself?


I have felt extremely lucky the last couple of weeks because the weather hasn’t been too cold, so I have been happy to pretend that winter was on its way out (but as I am writing this, it’s very clear that winter is STILL here!) I always struggle with winter time, there is less sunlight, it’s cold out, and it limits what I can do. In the past I have found it very depressing, and all I want to do is cuddle up and eat carbs while waiting for spring. This year, however, my boyfriend and I adopted a rescue dog in October and it has completely changed our lives! I can say that Cooper (our wonderful dog) has completely brightened up these dark months and he is the reason why we are both taking better care of ourselves. Obviously, owning a dog means we are way more active, and that makes a huge difference in our moods. We are out playing/walking/hiking for at least 2 hours a day, which has led to our clothes fitting much better and our confidence growing! We also have gone to new places, taken on new adventures, and spent more quality time together. We are still huge fans of cuddling up on the couch, but having a dog to take care of has pushed us out into the world to discover new things. We have noticed that we both have more energy and get a lot more accomplished in the day.

Emotionally, having this wonderful addition to our family has made us so much happier and appreciative of what we have. I mean, how can you be down when you have an adorable dog looking at you for love 24/7? Cooper is an absolute joy in our lives, and he is definitely making these cold and dark months fly by. It is a little depressing going for a walk in the dark at 6 pm, but at least we are doing something together. Being outside is great for the soul, and now we make sure to enjoy and make use of every minute of sunlight we have! We are counting down until spring and can’t wait until there is warmer weather and new adventures to go on!

I think the biggest difference for me this year, is not allowing myself to get stuck in the ‘winter rut’ of secluding myself inside.

I am much happier getting out every day with the ones I love most, going on adventures on the weekends and enjoying that extra minute of sunlight we get every day!


During the darker winter months of the year, it can be tough to keep up with a self-care routine. Over the years I’ve learned that I’m a person that requires a lot of self-care in order to stay relaxed and rejuvenated, as well as to keep stress levels down. Everyone’s routine for self-care is different, and can take some exploring before you find what really works for you. Here’s a few things to try out the next time you’re in need of some “me time”!

Bubble Baths:
My #1 go-to self-care routine is definitely having a bath. I don’t skimp when it comes to a luxurious bath! When I’m able to afford it, I’ll take a trip to Bath & Body Works or Lush and stock up on bath bombs, face masks, soaps, and moisturizers to use for all of my self-care bath sessions, that way I’ve always got a stash to pick from when I feel like changing it up. I usually plan my bubble baths around the rest of a spa night, where I’ll do hair treatments or paint my nails as well… I really go all out. Once my face mask is on and the bath is ready, I’ll climb into the tub with a good book and soak for a good hour or so! You can modify your routine for a shower as well – I’ve even made rosemary and eucalyptus hangers that I put over the showerhead, so that when it gets hot and steamy, the beautiful smells start to come out and make for an amazing shower!


Spending time with my furbabies is also another go-to in my self-care routine. Nothing makes me happier than snuggling with them! I currently own guinea pigs and a kitten, who are all very eager for love and attention. I love coming home after a long day and being able to cuddle them and spend time with them!


This is a great way to keep track of you and your life. I found that writing myself letters or writing about my day or how I’m currently feeling is very cathartic and can help me work through situations or emotions that are stressing me out. I really enjoy it because it feels like a personal therapy session with myself; I’m checking up on me, seeing where I’m at in my life during that particular day and working through it. Some days when I don’t really feel like writing I’ll draw little pictures or doodles too, or maybe add a few stickers if they’re lying around.

It requires some practice and dedication, but it is definitely worth it! Meditation has helped me relax when I’m going through a stressful time, and helps balance my emotions. I usually make my bedroom into a ‘zen room’ with candles and some calming music, set a timer for 10 to 15 minutes to start and sit quietly, being mindful of my breathing and letting thoughts come and go in my mind. Meditation can be tricky to get used to, and there’s even a bunch of free apps to help you get started!

It can also help with stress levels, but I love yoga simply for the fact that it’s easy exercise. I’m generally not the type of person who will go out for a run or go to a gym – I’m very much a homebody, so yoga is a fantastic way for me to still get my exercise without having to go out. I found it much easier to do than meditation at first because of the focus on the movements and stretching of the body. If you’re the type of person that has a tough time with sitting in one place for too long, definitely try it out!

Hopefully some of these ideas could help you start your own routine! All of these, paired with eating well and getting enough sleep each night really had a positive effect on my life and energy levels, and really encouraged me to put myself first and take really good care of my body and mind, especially during the coldest months of the year!

Question of the Month: How do you embrace a new way of thinking?


It’s been a tough year. That seems to be universally agreed upon if my Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram feed can be relied upon.

Clearly, we can point to so many specific things worldwide that made 2016 tough, but for me personally it was a bit more intangible than that. I could never quite place my finger on what was wrong, I just couldn’t find a way to feel right. And believe me, I tried. I signed up for the gym classes and faithfully went for awhile. I ate right, faithfully for awhile. I took me time, set goals for myself, worked hard and played hard. But mentally, I don’t think my head was ever in the game.

So, leading up to 2017 I found myself taking profound sighs of relief that the year was almost over and a new start could begin. I had this belief that my mindset would magically change and I would be so much better equipped to follow through with my plans and goals. And then I read a novel that made me shake my head. And immediately after I read two quotes on Pinterest that made me shake it again.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves to change? To be something better, lose weight, figure our shit out… immediately. Here’s my advice:

I’ve been tasked to answer the question ‘How do you embrace a new way of thinking?’ and to me that seems to be the best answer. Let it go. Let go of the immense pressure you put on yourself, your year and your future. Let go of the guilt, the weight, the disappointment. Let go of the idea that everything must be just so.

Because it will, eventually. It just may not be the way you originally thought. Expect change. Expect that things won’t go the way you planned. Expect that you will still find a reason to live, laugh, love and embrace life- even with it’s imperfections. Expect yourself to be, and allow yourself to be- who you want to be in that moment. I’ll leave you with this thought as it’s had a profound impact on me when I believe I needed it most this New Year.

Surviving Assumptions

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

-Eleanor Roosevelt

Labels. It’s amazing what they can do to people. The size on your clothing tag. The words others use to describe you… the ones in your internal monologue. FAT. A combination of letters. That’s all it is really, a descriptive word to characterize someone’s body shape. It is the feeling we imbue the words with that determine their power. Not the word itself. Continue reading

Friday “Feud”: Khloe & Amy

I thought I would post this Friday Find because I saw something in the news that really went along with our theme of “Where is the love, Where is the Line?” for this month. I am somewhat ashamed to say that I do watch TMZ every now and then, and follow celebrity news and watch Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Khloe Kardashian has always been my favourite, I’m not sure why, it might be because I find her the most “real”, and definitely the most funny. Unfortunately she has always been dubbed at the “fat” or “ugly” Kardashian sister, because she doesn’t look like the others.

Over the past year or so, Khloe has lost around 35 pounds. By no means was she ever overweight, or even unhealthy looking, in my personal opinion. But she didn’t look the kind of thin that Hollywood wants. So now, Khloe is 35 pounds lighter and looks great. Since I follow her on Instagram, I can see that she’s at the gym every flippin’ day (which is more than I can say for myself), and on a recent episode of KUWTK, she was saying how she can’t eat candy. Well, I feel her pain. I think we all know by now that there’s no magic trick for losing weight and getting healthy, you HAVE to eat healthy, cut out the crap food, and work out on a regular basis. Now I obviously I don’t know what Khloe Kardashian does every day, but she looks great and I think she looks healthy and is going about weight loss in the right way. Her Instagram pictures of her at the gym make me think that she really is just working her butt off to feel better about herself. I like that.

This past weekend comedian Amy Schumer (who I usually love so much!) did an SNL monologue and mentioned Khloe. She said that Khloe used to be the average girl’s idol/the most relatable Kardashian because she was “bigger”, and now that she’s lost weight she no longer is. Well, this got people talking. Including Khloe, who tweeted:

“No need 2 tear down others just 2 make urself feel bigger. It actually makes u quite small. I’m on a healthy journey. I don’t care 4the hate”

Once I saw all this online it made me think of the “where is the love” question. I mean, Khloe Kardashian looks great and she didn’t drop 35 pounds in 2 weeks, I don’t see her pimping out special detox teas, plastic surgery, or other crazy methods of weight loss. She has said she is on a healthy journey and loves how she looks now. Isn’t that the GOAL here people? To be healthy and love how you look? Especially for women and girls, when the standards of beauty are so high, this type of joke towards Khloe really upset me. Khloe has a realistic body, one that looks healthy and attainable (to me, at least) and it looks like she works really hard for it. I think that’s a good message for everyone. There’s no magic trick, you have to work hard and stay healthy, and you have to do it for you. I don’t think it’s fair for someone to judge or joke about someone else’s weight loss, especially someone who seems to be doing it the right way. I still feel that Khloe is relatable, and I admire the hard work and dedication she has put into her body. I relate more to her than other celebrities and I don’t feel like she is less of a role model, or less relatable now that she’s “skinny”. I know that a woman’s weight is a very private matter, and a very sensitive matter, and it’s hard for women to love their bodies.

I agree that we should all support each other and congratulate each other on reaching goals and being healthy, and most importantly, loving your body. I wish Amy wouldn’t have made that specific joke, especially because in her show and acts she plays a more relatable character and makes fun or challenges “gender roles” and “female stereotypes”. I wish she would have congratulated Khloe and shown women that we DO need to support each other instead of bring each other down. So I ask Amy Schumer, “Where is the love?”, and I want to tell Khloe, “You look awesome!”


Blog by Marilyn White

My Review of the Nicole Arbour video on fat-shaming

Recently, I was made aware of a video circulating on YouTube by someone named Nicole Arbour. I had not heard of her before, but I was curious to learn more about her because of the reactions of my fellow bloggers. Everyone seemed to have something to say about her video and how negative it was, but they encouraged me to view the video to get the full impact, and to form my own opinion.

The very first thing I noticed about this woman was how obnoxious she was in delivering her message. She was loud and abrasive. She blatantly bullied anyone who is overweight, even though she tried to give a disclosure by saying that her message was not intended for people who had legitimate health issues that caused weight gain. She continued in that vein by saying that this was meant as a wake-up message to prevent the loss of more lives to obesity. She tried to pass off this vicious attack as humour and as a public service announcement.

She tried to pass off this vicious attack as humour and as a public service announcement.

In my opinion, there is nothing funny or helpful in this message or in its delivery. People who are overweight know that they are overweight. They own mirrors; they buy clothes and have to walk around in whatever they wear. They know better than anyone that they are overweight and live with the judgemental looks and rude comments every day. Even
when they are alone, they can still hear the voices of condemnation, in their heads. They never escape the subliminal message that they are not acceptable to society’s standards. The media constantly sends out the message that unless you are young and thin, you don’t matter, you just don’t count. It’s preached in magazines, television, music and radio. We are constantly judged by our appearance, which really isn’t fair! I have been every size from 4-14, and everything in between. My weight has always fluctuated from the time I became pregnant with my son. Before that I was always the smallest and shortest in class, all through school. I got picked on all the time for being small, with bullies making the mistake of thinking I was weak and unable to defend myself. I know how it feels to be ridiculed about your size. Complete strangers often came up to me and told me I was too skinny and that I should eat a hamburger or a steak. I had a high metabolism and endless energy until I was in my forties so my weight was often lower than it should have been. There was the time when I was pregnant with my first child that my gynecologist put me on a 3000 calorie/day diet because I lost 15 pounds within the first 2 months. I had to stay on that diet for the first 2 years of my daughter’s life. I had a really hard time maintaining a healthy weight when I was younger. I guess sometimes I still do. Whenever I am stressed out, the first thing to go is my appetite. Stress wreaks havoc on the mind and body.

I’ve also been a bigger size throughout different times in my life and I remember the thoughtless comments thrown my way disguised as jokes. And usually it was done by a family member or a friend. When I was pregnant with my son I had an insatiable appetite after the first couple of months of morning sickness. I was always hungry and if I didn’t eat every couple of hours I felt weak and nauseated. When my son was born he was 9 pounds 3 ounces, and I was 25 pounds heavier than my pre-pregnancy weight. I remember how hard it was to find clothes that fit comfortably but were still somewhat stylish. I remember the stares at my 44DD chest, and how hard it was to find shirts that didn’t pop open at the slightest movement.  I remember my father telling me that I was getting fat, one month after delivering my son, and him laughing like it was the funniest joke he’d ever told. I will never forget the comments so-called friends made about the urgency I should feel about losing the excess weight to prevent my husband from cheating with someone thinner. I will never forget how much my self-worth was dependent on the size and shape of my body.

The pressure to fit into a certain mold brings on the worst anxiety. Sometimes women eat when their emotions are out of whack.  When we ostracize or shun someone, for ANY reason, we slowly and systematically tear down and destroy their self-worth. When someone feels empty and worthless they turn to anything that makes them feel better for the moment. For some people that’s heroin, cocaine, alcohol, cigarettes, etc. For others it might be of a sexual nature, such as an affair or one-night stands. Some people turn to gambling or shopping to induce a feeling of euphoria that temporarily makes you forget about the pain or problems in your life. Having an eating disorder or being addicted to food would be extremely difficult to deal with because of its accessibility. Food is everywhere and is legal to buy in whatever quantities or quality you want.

I wonder if this woman realizes that she will not always look the way she does now. I wonder if she understands that some day, someone will make fun of her for something. If her self-worth is tied up totally in her external appearance she is going to have a really hard time with aging. We all change in one way or another in our lives. It happens to everyone, and this woman is no exception. There’s no guarantee that she will look like she does right now, forever. There are so many variables that could change a person’s appearance, sometim
es without warning. Appearances can change because of many things; it may not even be due to overeating. Throughout our lives there are many things that could cause or contribute to being overweight or underweight, such as: illness, surgery, hormones, pregnancy, stress, injury, etc. The thing I learned throughout my journey so far is that no matter what size, shape or age I’ve been, I’m still the same person on the inside. It really hurts to be judged solely on your appearance and nobody should have to live that way. What the world needs more of is acceptance and tolerance and less judgement. Everyone has their challenges in life and unless you’ve walked a mile in someone else’s shoes, you really have no business of passing judgement on them. Kindness and encouragement go a long way to motivating others. Tearing down others speaks volumes about a person’s character. So, while this woman gets her 15 minutes of fame, she might also be labelled a bully.  In time, I think she will suffer a backlash for this verbal assault and will look back on this time with regret when she realizes how superficial and shallow it really makes her look.  Hopefully, one day she will have an epiphany and realize that we are all so much more than just a size and a number on a scale.

Skinny Shaming – The Other Side of the Coin

I honestly can’t believe that this is a “thing.” When did it become acceptable for us to criticize each other  based on our shapes and sizes? I honestly can’t even remember. More often than not, the shape that we have is not something that we can control. Some women have larger hips and are curvier, while other women have a slim “stick-like” figure. In this blog, I will share a few stories with you regarding the skinny body figure of a few of my closest friends.

I had a really good friend who was really, really skinny. She used to eat all the time to try and gain weight but nothing seemed to help. She would eat all sorts of unhealthy foods throughout the day and sometimes, well into the early morning hours. She read online that these were the reasons for why people gained weight so quickly, and that’s exactly what she wanted. The only problem? Her body is naturally different from the rest of these women who posted on the forums. Her body processed things differently, so it was very difficult for her to gain weight. The huge problem with her approach was very obvious – even though she did not physically look any curvier or more “shapely,” she was poisoning her body. So, you may ask, why did she did this to herself?

Ever since she was a child, she was told that she would never find a husband because no husband wants such a skinny wife.

From the outside, I never really understood it either. It wasn’t until her and I had a heart-to-heart talk that all of her insecurities came out. Ever since she was a child, she was told that she would never find a husband because no husband wants such a skinny wife. Could you imagine hearing that at the very young age of 4? Thinking that you won’t be loved not because of your personality, interests, etc. but rather because of your looks? Right off the bat, she was being trained to be more concerned with trying to gain weight (and as a result, curves) instead of making and working towards achieving goals related to her education and career.
I was horrified when she revealed this to me. But that’s not where it stopped. She went on to tell me that sometimes when she’s studying on campus, her peers would ask her if she was doing okay because she looked “very skinny and ill.” People constantly told her to eat more and that she should “take care of herself.” The worst part was that she actually was taking care of herself; she was very healthy! The words of these strangers, the same ones that she’s heard her whole life, was what drove her to become unhealthy.

It is not okay to comment on somebody else’s figure. After hearing my friend’s story, I’ve realized that you will never really know how you are affecting the person that you are speaking to. You may think that it’s just an innocent, passing comment but it very well may not be just that. I am personally very guilty of this…

I was chatting
with two other friends and we were talking about the “thigh gap” trend. For those of you who don’t know what the thigh gap phenomenon is, it’s basically when a woman has a gap between her thighs when standing up straight with her knees touching each other. I laughed when I heard about this and said to my friends that I wouldn’t want that because I personally did not find it attractive. I also mentioned that it was impossible for me to ever have that because genetically, I have thicker thighs. I didn’t realize this right away, but one of my friends fell silent very  quickly while the other agreed with me. I later talked to the friend who went quiet and asked her if she was okay and she just brushed me off. I realized a few days later that she had a thigh gap. As you probably guessed already, I felt terrible…my heart sank and I instantly regretted that conversation. My friend is naturally very skinny. She doesn’t work out and she eats whatever she wants, whenever she wants. She just happened to have a thigh gap.

What I realized from this situation is that I am very guilty of putting another group down purely because I know it is a look that I could not possibly achieve. Instead, I quickly dismissed the idea and claimed that it’s not something that I want anyway. I have seen this happen time and time again with a number of different individuals. To be absolutely honest, I don’t think that a thigh gap is unattractive. I actually really don’t care at all. I do not have a preference one way or another, so I question myself… why did I say what I said? Ever since I came to realize this mistake, I never made it again.
There is no need to put down other groups in order to empower yourself.

In the words of Emma Stone, “my great hope for us as young women is to start being kinder to ourselves so that we can be kinder to each other.”

The Perfect Body is… Skinny? Curvy? Fit?

“But I think the first real change in women’s body image came when JLo turned it butt-style. That was the first time that having a large-scale situation in the back was part of tina feymainstream American beauty. Girls wanted butts now. Men were free to admit that they had always enjoyed them. And then, what felt like moments later, boom—Beyoncé brought the leg meat. A back porch and thick muscular legs were now widely admired. And from that day forward, women embraced their diversity and realized that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Ah ha ha. No. I’m totally messing with you. All Beyoncé and JLo have done is add to the laundry list of attributes women must have to qualify as beautiful. Now every girl is expected to have Caucasian blue eyes, full Spanish lips, a classic button nose, hairless Asian skin with a California tan, a Jamaican dance hall a**, long Swedish legs, small Japanese feet, the abs of a lesbian gym owner, the hips of a nine-year-old boy, and the arms of Michelle Obama.” – Tiny Fey

Women’s bodies have been under scrutiny for centuries. There are plenty of videos that we can find on Youtube that show what was thought to be “beautiful” at a specific point in time and place. This Buzzfeed video shows what the ideal woman body would look like in different parts of the world during different time eras. There are many differences between these descriptions from waist sizes, to skin tones, to even feet sizes.

Not too long ago, I noticed that we were all about being skinny – growing up, I remember how girls my age would be battling with themselves to try and be very, very skinny. This could lead to unhealthy and even deadly habits  and diseases such as anorexia and bulimia. Skip forward ten years later, we’re all about the curvy body types – thick, toned thighs, a nice, big butt, and a full chest.

Let me start by explicitly stating that I have no issues or preferences when it comes to my body being skinny, curvy, larger, petite, flat, full, etc. I am me. I have been all of these shapes at different points in my life and I haven’t even hit 25 yet. When I was a little girl, I was really skinny. It couldn’t be helped. My parents just thought I wasn’t eating, but oh man was I eating. I LOVED food, and still do (look at these delicious donuts I got from Beechwood Doughnuts!!!). IMG_0372When I was younger I would sometimes eat until I got sick because everything just tasted so darn good, and being a kid, I didn’t exactly know my limits hahaha. As I started to grow up, my body started to develop and I lost my very thin and straight-like figure. I now have rather large hips as compared to some of my friends, and thick thighs. I am totally okay happy with that. Having moved out to pursue a degree in Business away from my home, every time I went back, my weight fluctuations were always commented on. Guaranteed. Somebody would say something. Not that anybody was trying to be hostile, but it was just a “fact of life” as I was told. Comments are made, and they just happen. As you can probably imagine, being the very blunt person that I am, I refused to accept that my family members were going to fall into the category of thinking it was okay to comment on my weight regardless of how it may have made me feel.  I have never been too insecure about my shape and weight, but I was not totally confident in myself either – sure, I’ll IMG_0354admit that now, but that wasn’t the case 2 years ago. I would try and whip my body back into shape as best as I could before visiting home. I got into a really irregular (and possibly unhealthy routine) trying to overwork my body a few weeks before going home and then binge eating once I got there. Not okay. I had a talk with my family and I told them that I would really appreciate it if they would stop commenting on my figure – good or bad. If I was in really good shape, I didn’t want to hear about it either. I had finally become comfortable enough in my own skin to just be happy knowing that I am healthy. I am never going to have a small bum or small thighs (or the “thigh gap”) – it runs in my family and I’ve come to love it. I’ve also come to realize that I will never have washboard abs — even when I was on a strict, healthy diet and worked out about 5-6 times a week. It just wasn’t going to happen and that’s perfectly okay with me.

I am so tired of people saying which body is perfect for whatever reason. Why not just focus on being healthy? For some, it is VERY difficult to lose weight/fat, and for others, there are “problem” areas where it is far more difficult to lose the fat as compared to other parts of the body. Now that the fitness trend has kicked in (seriously, it’s all over Instagram), there’s scrutiny about how a woman who is TOO muscular looks  way too “manly”. Let’s talk The Bachelor (yes, it’s my guilty pleasure!). If anybody watched the season with Chris Soules, they would know Jillian – the girl that works out well, whenever she can. Other girls in the house were bashing her for how much she worked out and how she was more of a dude than Chris. Like, really? The girl takes pride in her body and working out, and she’s happy being fit. jillianThat’s awesome! We should all aspire to be active and healthy! Instead of bashing on each other, we should be supporting each other. Granted, this is a television show after all, so who knows if it’s scripted or not… But it happens far too often in real life. We tend to shame women with body types that are not the same as ours. For some reason, instead of promoting all body types and health, we promote our own body type by saying stuff like “I love being voluptuous/curvy (or skinny), I wouldn’t want to look like a [insert some sort of rude name here]”. Why do we do this to ourselves?

On the other hand, I am sure we can agree that we have a lot on our plates too when it comes to school, work, cleaning the house, taking care of a family, volunteering, etc. It can be very difficult to make time for exercise, and even if we have time, we may be exhausted from our daily routinhappy-healthyes already. But there are small things we can do here and there to get active. My aunt  moved into a new apartment over summer and instead of taking the elevator all the time, she would take the stairs. She’s definitely lost a lot of extra weight, but more importantly, she tells me that she feels much more energized and that she is a lot happier. Exercise helps boost endorphins, promotes a good night’s rest, and increases stamina (more energy for everyone, yay!). Bonus: exercising also helps with depression thanks to the feel good endorphins!

At the end of the day, just be healthy. Make small changes that are manageable and won’t make you change up your entire lifestyle. Drastic changes may work for a short period of time, but your body and mind might not be able to adapt to it in the long run. Make sure your blood pressure is where it has to be, that your blood sugar levels, fat content, and cholesterol are at the right levels. Try and eat healthier, but remember to enjoy your guilty pleasures too. Being healthy is very different from trying to be what others consider as “beautiful” (what is that anyway…). If you are healthy and have achieved your own health goals, then you will be happier. Don’t ever let anybody take that away from you and don’t ever let anybody tell you or make you feel that whatever shape you are is not “good enough”.

And here’s a beautiful quote from my one of my favourite movies, The Help:

you is kind