It’s International No Diet Day!

ImageIt’s International No Diet Day!  A day I can absolutely get behind as I am convinced dieting, or otherwise known as “Intentional Weight Loss” is a damaging practice.  Why for many reasons…here are a few:

  • frequent weight fluctuation is damaging to your physical health
  • dieting warps your relationship to food creating an unhelpful ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dichotomy
  • dieting weakens our ability to self-regulate…we forget how to tell if we are hungry or full
  • only about 5% of dieters keep the weight off, leaving the rest of us feeling frustrated and convinced we are just not ‘strong enough’ or ‘committed enough’

So, go ahead and celebrate this one day of freedom from restrictive eating. For today, let your body and your soul decide what to eat. Not Dr. Oz, or Jillian Michaels…or even Michael Pollen!

And why not consider taking it beyond today? Once you get to a place where can truly be free of looking at food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, when having a cookie isn’t ‘cheating’, your body will come to a place of naturally wanting a balanced variety of foods that support your health. When the Oreo no longer represents what you are Forbidden to Have, it loses it’s power over you and simply becomes one food choice among many.

If you are thinking it would be great to break free from dieting, but would like some guidance along the way, I highly recommend you check out Intuitive Eating.  I really love this approach to eating because it is about reconnecting with our ability to feel when we are hungry and when we are full and learning to respond accordingly. The two women who developed the approach are nutritionists who are certainly aware of the importance of healthy eating, but recognise we have to be careful because the line between ‘eating healthy’ and ‘dieting’ is a thin one and they provide strategies to identify the difference.

However, I must caution you! There are many folks out there who have taken the “intuitive eating” concept and warped it for weight loss and have essentially turned it into another diet. If you are surfing the net see the words “intuitive eating for weight loss”, in a blog post or article steer clear!

Wishing you the best on this No Diet Day! May we all find peace with food and learn to tune into what our body wants and needs.  For more information about International No Diet Day check out this great article from Adios Barbie.


Adventures in Health At Every Size (HAES): making friends with the treadmill

ImageLooking to add some variety in my fitness routine last fall I took the local YWCA up on a special offer on gym memberships.  Whenever I do take a fitness membership, I always go to the YW because I find it welcoming, and there seems to be a lovely diversity of body types that go there.
Over the winter I did not make as much use of the membership as I would like because my work schedule went back from .5 time to full time and when I work a 9-5 type schedule I rely on my early morning workouts, which I do at home (elliptical for cardio, strength training and yoga).  I’ve always done better when I work out in the morning, because when I plan to work out after work, I tend to spend the whole day dreading it, and by the end of the day I have found a reason not to go.  However, when I was working .5 time, in addition to my morning routine I found I would pop into the gym during the afternoon or on a Saturday and I liked and having the option to take in classes like Aquafit.
The good news is, lately I’ve been managing to get the gym on Saturdays and make use of the treadmills they have there.  In the past I have never been much for treadmills, mostly because I have not enjoyed running…which makes sense.  However, again looking to shake things up I thought I would give the treadmill another try.  And lo…I seem to be enjoying it!  First of, there is the miracle that it is much easier to run on a treadmill, then out in the real world.  I’m not sure why that is, but at least for me, I can get up to and hold a running pace much longer than I can out on the street.  And, being able to run is an awesome motivator for running more!  Today I did a 5 min warm up then alternated between 2 mins of running with 1 min of brisk walking for 30 minutes.  It was awesome!  I felt challenged, sure…but strong too.
So ya, getting to know the treadmill has offered me a chance to unearth a runner in me that I never knew existed.  I’m not labouring under any delusion that I will become a full-fledged runner (doing 5K’s and the like), but I like having exercise options and I think it is good to challenge myself in fun ways.  And who knows…with the weather (finally!) warming up and as my fitness increases I might find myself to speed up my walks.  We shall see.
The other thing I like about the treadmill is that I can listed to any pace of music and it doesn’t affect the pace that I run.  Unlike my elliptical where I know I need strategically play upbeat music to keep my pace up, with the treadmill you choose the speed you go and your feets have no choice to keep up with the moving parts.  I still listen to mostly up-tempo music just because it helps keep the energy up. but it is nice to have more variety of music to listen to, and even enjoying slower songs while on the treadmill.
There you have it… my adventures in making friends with the treadmill.  And, with my work schedule once again moving to .5 time in June I’m looking forward to darkening the doors of the YW more often this summer.

How is energy level tied to body image and self esteem?

ImageAt the BodyRespect support group this week our discussion topic is: How is energy level tied to body image and self esteem?  
What do you think?  Is there a connection?  I think there is.
One link between body image and energy level is how active we are.  Physical activity is a known contributor to how energetic we feel.  The more active we are, the more energy we seem to have.  So what does body image have to do with it?  People with a negative body image often are not motivated to engage in exercise for a couple of reasons.  First, it is hard to find the motivation to take care of something you don’t like (such as your body).  So, someone who dislikes their body is going to find it hard to be motivated to engage in the self care of exercise.  Even with the promise of possible weight loss.  
Which leads to the second reason many people with negative body image tend not to exercise regularly: lack of hoped for weight loss.  Sure, increasing physical activity can help you lose weight, but it often doesn’t.  And when it does, rarely increasing activity level results in the amount of weight people want to lose.  So, although getting active has all kinds of positive health impacts, and will increase how energetic you feel, many people with negative body image will not stick with an exercise program when they are not getting the body-shaping results they are hoping for.
Another link is depression.  Many people who have a negative body image also battle depression, which has been clearly linked to low energy levels.  Again, I think what contributes to the connection between depression and low energy is this negative feeling about oneself.  
What I wonder is what is it specifically about feeling badly about yourself that decreases our energy?  Why is it that happy feelings make us feel perky and active and unhappy feelings make us slow and unenergetic?  Maybe it has something to do with endorphins…I’m not sure…I have more to learn for sure.  In the meantime, however it seems the path toward increased energy and positive body image is finding ways to like ourselves better.  As hokey as it sounds, we need to practice a little self care….or/and, like me, you could do something like take this awesome self-portraiture course being offered this May called Be Your Own Beloved.  Check it out, get happy with yourself and get energized!

BodyRespect Group: Topic Schedule for Spring 2013

I am very happy to facilitate a weekly BodyRespect Group at the Avenue Community Centre in Saskatoon.  Over the last couple of sessions we have come up with a list of topics that we plan to explore together in the coming weeks.   If you are tired of feeling bad about your body and are looking to foster a more positive body image I hope you will consider joining us at any or all of these sessions.
This is an open group, and people of all gender and orientations are welcome.  The Avenue Community Centre offers the BodyRespect group at no charge to the community.

For more information 0r to sign up please contact Sydney Bell:
306-880-5566 (call or text)

BodyRespect Group Topics:

1. April 3/ Physical Health: How can taking care of our physical health support an increased positive body image?
2. April 10/ Weight: What is a healthy weight?  Dealing with changes in body weight.
3: April 17th/ Fun with Garnet! Syd is away for this session.
4. April 24th / Energy levels: How is energy level tied to body image and self esteem?
5. May 1st/ Our Relationship with Food, Part 1: Dietary needs: how do we know what is healthy and what isn’t?  How do we make healthy choices?
6. May 8th / Our Relationship with Food, Part 2: Emotional Overeating
7. My 15th / Body Acceptance: self acceptance and celebrating body diversity.

Hope to see you there!
Sydney Bell, RSW

Kathy Kater and The Four Toxic Myths

HealthyBodiesBook3D-190x250I had the honour last this past week to meet and take part in public presentations and workshops lead by Kathy Kater. a body image therapist from Minnesota with many years of experience supporting people of all ages who are battling a full range of body image, eating fitness and weight concerns. Realizing that intervention at an early age could prevent such body dissatisfaction in adults, Kathy has written books on kids and body image.  Her latest book, “Healthy Bodies, Teaching Kids What they Need to Know” provides a curriculum for grades 4-6 to offer in schools that supports children in making a shift away from focussing on weight as an indicator of health and attractiveness.  Instead, the children are taught that body diversity is normal and that if they eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise their body will automatically be at whatever weight is healthy for them.  A truly radical notion In this day and age of extreme media pressure for everyone to conform to an increasingly thinner ideal, and the fearful messages we hear from health professionals of the ‘obesity epidemic’  and its supposed health consequences.

Kathy prefaces her Model for Healthy Body Image and Weight by highlighting Four Toxic Cultural Myths that she believes underpins most of the concerns many of us have about our body, eating, weight and fitness:

1) Image is valued over substance:  “How I look” is more important than ‘who I am”.  An essential criterion for the ‘right’ look is a thin/lean body.

2) Denial of Biological Diversity:  Anyone can be slim if he or she works at it  Fatter people inevitably eat too much or are inactive  Fat is bad/wrong.

3) Denial of the effects of externally prescribed hunger regulation:  diets don’t work.

4) Discounting the value of health:  complacency about choices that do not result in the desired look or BMI.  “If it doesn’t’ make me thin, what’s the point?’

ImageThis image came across my Facebook feed today and I think speaks to Toxic Myth #2 listed above. We seem to have forgotten that people naturally come in a variety of shapes and sizes and have become convinced that a thin body is simply a matter of will power and the right diet/exercise plan. A good portion of our everyday conversation centres around our varied successes and failures in achieving the desired uniform thin look and a good portion of the comments and concern that we hear are fat stigmatizing (“fat is bad”).  The irony is much of the fat shaming commentary is offered as misguided ‘help’ to the people we care for in our lives, i.e.: “you have such a pretty face, you should lose some weight” or “I’m worried you might get diabetes (etc) unless you lose weight”.  Research shows fat shaming often leads to behaviours that could likely *increase* weight (overeating, yo-yo dieting, inactivity).  What supports increasing healthy behaviours (eating well and exercising) is supporting people in feeling okay in their bodies, no matter what size they are.  And to do that, we must accept biological diversity.

In her session Kathy reminded us of this biological diversity of body sizes.  Some people will be very fat, some very thin and most of us will fall somewhere in between.  By waging a ‘war against obesity’ we are telling a whole group of people that we are trying to eliminate them…that they are not welcome.  I am hopeful, with visionaries like Kathy, that message can change, that people of all sizes will feel valued in our society, and feel supported in caring for their bodies to the best of their ability.  That’s all we can ask of anyone.

I will continue to explore these Toxic Myths and Kathy’s Model for Healthy Body Image and Weight in upcoming posts,

BodyRespect: Body image support group starting soon in Saskatoon!

ImageNegative body image got you down? Looking for support in your journey to body acceptance? I am pleased to offer a 12 week BodyRespect support group in partnership with the Avenue Community Centre in Saskatoon. This support group is free of charge and open to anyone, no matter your gender or orientation.

Together we will navigate the waters of bad body feelings, and learn to move away from our destructive body-loathing patterns to more helpful ways of viewing and appreciating our bodies.

Facilitated by me, Sydney Bell, BSW/RSW.

Wednesday evenings, 7 to 8:30PM
Feb 25th to May 8th, 2013.
Avenue Community Centre

For more details and to register shoot me an email or give me a call:

It’s going to be a great 12 weeks…join us!