Friday, 26 February 2016

"The Weight"

And don’t put down anyone else’s body either. | 23 Body-Positive Tips That Aren't Garbage:

NOTE: I made a promise to myself long ago that I would avoid, whenever possible, participating in discussion about women's bodies. I don't think it's healthy and I feel that we spend far too much time in this world obsessing about it. It makes me sad for women and for society. So I try not to participate in what I see as a problem. I am making an exception for this post. I hope with this post that we can start a conversation that moves us towards a solution.

People who have a mental illness carry a great weight around with them most days. Certainly, there are moments of brevity and laughter but these are often fleeting, floating away like a butterfly; you enjoy the beauty of the moment but can't quite hold onto it. It's just beyond your grasp. The majority of the time when you are living with depression you feel like you have a dark, heavy wool blanket weighing you down. The weight feels such a burden that you struggle, and often you give in to it. Unable to carry it, you sink into your bed and pull the covers up over your head.

Kind of 'heavy' to read that, huh? It's my truth - it's how I felt the majority of the time that I experienced depression. Then there's the other kind of weight. The kind that we seem obsessed with in Western society.

Weight and depression seem to go hand in hand. You often can't consider one without the other. Some of the symptoms of depression are either weight gain or weight loss. Some people lose their appetite and can't bring themselves to eat. Some use eating (or not eating) as a control mechanism - they have no power over their mental illness so they exert control where they can, with food. And some use food as comfort.

Then there's the side effect listed in the 'small print' when you start a medication for your mental illness: weight gain. The big drug companies don't really want to highlight the reality that you, very likely, will gain weight. Being overweight, or, God forbid, fat, is bad for business. We all know that it's better to look good than to feel good, right?

I developed an eating disorder about ten years ago when I was in the midst of a moderate depression and working in a very unhealthy company (that's another blog post!). I would binge eat once I got home from work and then feel so horrible both physically and mentally that I would then purge almost immediately afterwards. Weirdly, I felt better. Disgusting as it was, and it felt shameful as hell (I kept that secret for a long time), I kept doing it for about two years.

I am telling you all this about weight for a reason. I am mad as hell. Here's why...

For the first time in history, the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue has a 'plus-size' model on its cover, Ashley Graham. Let's save the discussion for why the swimsuit issue is still a thing for another time (I mean, really? It's 2016...). Frankly, kudos to SI for putting the photo of the stunning Graham on the cover. To see a gorgeous model who is both a) an actual adult and b) representative of the average North American woman (and me, to be honest - Graham and I are both a size 16) in a bikini on such an important issue for the magazine is remarkable. I love it. Period.

And then Cheryl Tiegs 'weighed' in.

"I don't like that we're talking about full figured women, because it's glamorizing them. Because your waist should be smaller than 35 inches."

Glamorizing?! Yes, because everyone wants to be 'plus-sized'.

For those of you who have no idea who Cheryl Tiegs is, she is a former 70's supermodel who was also featured on the cover of the SI swimsuit issue in its early days. I understand the point that she was trying to make. While she may be accurate about the guidelines for a healthy waist circumference (there are certainly many studies that reflect that), her comments are dangerous. Let's remove Graham from the conversation for a moment (I am going to assume that she is a healthy and happy human being). It is possible for a larger woman to be healthy. Let's talk about women, weight and society. I have questions.

Why is it OK for us to deconstruct a woman's body and comment on her weight? Why is it that weight seems to be the last socially acceptable form of discrimination? Why do we not subject men to the same standards? And why, of why, do we still do this?

There are many reasons why each of us is the way that we are. Why is the woman who lives across the street 20 pounds overweight? Maybe she really loves food. Or maybe she has other things going on that have contributed to who she is and how she appears. Is any of this really ANY of our business? No, not really.

My body is my home and I will not tear it down - A poem by Anastasia Amour @

I have gained about 40 pounds over the years that I have been battling depression and anxiety. Some of that can be attributed to comfort eating but most of it has to do with medication. Am I happy about that? No. Would I like to lose that weight? Absolutely. Do I enjoy taking meds? No - they are strong chemicals that I would like to do without. But here's the honest, hard truth: I had to make a choice between my mental health and my weight. I chose my mental health. And to be clear, when I refer to my mental health I am talking about life or death. So, overall I am really OK with those 40 pounds. I measure life and my well-being as a whole and not just in pounds.

Every month or so someone that I know will say something to me like, 'Oh, have you lost weight?' (nope - I haven't) or 'That's really flattering on you.' I guess I looked fat before, or you see me as overweight - that's the conclusion that I am left to draw from these comments. I know these people mean well. But I also know that I am overweight - thank you for your reminder. I also see and hear beautiful, slender women talk about the weight that they 'need' to lose. I guess every woman has the same fun-house mirror that they look into each day. I am going to let you in on a secret: it all makes me sad, frustrated and disappointed. But these comments say more about society than anything.

Here is my final question on the subject: Why don't we change the conversation? I think we can. And we must, if not for ourselves then for the next generation of women. Live your best, most healthy life - do it for YOU. That feeling of imperfection and that you just aren't enough, that you are 'less than', is an awful weight to carry around. Let's give each other permission to set that down and walk away from it.

Oh, and Cheryl Tiegs? 1976 called - they would like you and your attitudes back...

KB xo

P.S. Here is some positive body-image inspiration:

35 Body-Positive Mantras
How To Raise a Girl With a Positive Body Image

Sunday, 21 February 2016

"The RMT & Me"

{The Classy Woman}: Learning How to Encourage Yourself:

I spent a sensuous hour with a tall, dark and ruggedly handsome man yesterday. His strong, warm hands on my back made me drool, my toes curl and left me in a dream-like state at the end of it all. Um, no - I am not talking about that. This dream man was a registered massage therapist and boy, did he take me to a special place.

Last week was stressful with all the bad and good things that that implies. It was a great week but it was busy and I had to be 'on' at work for most of it - not much downtime or quiet, something that I need to stay balanced. This coming week will be more of the same. And, very likely, the week after that, too. I love my job - truly. It's rare when you find yourself in a place where personal and professional passions meet. I find myself in that sweet spot now. But nothing comes for free in life. If I were to give myself completely to my work, it would be at a cost - a cost to my physical and mental well-being. And that's not something that I am willing to sacrifice after having fought so hard to finally get to a place of mental wellness.

By Friday night of last week my back was sore and tight and my neck was in real pain. My body was pretty much yelling at me to take notice. So off to the body lab I went for that amazing hour of bliss. It was an important and timely reminder of how vital it is to listen to your body. The physical manifests itself mentally and vice versa. For example, did you know that one of the first physical symptoms of depression is often back pain? When you have an ache, whether in your heart or your back, stop and ask yourself why. Then ask yourself what you might do about it. You have a choice; you always have a choice.

I am lucky in that my employer provides a very generous benefits plan to its employees. Massage therapy, along with chiropractic care, acupuncture and more, are covered. In the eight years or so that I have worked there, I have left money on the table; I have never fully used my benefits plan. Not very smart, when you think about it. I have always thought 'I am too busy to go for that massage...' and so I rarely scheduled one. That changes now - 2016 is a new chapter.

As my journey to overall well-being has shifted its focus from just mental health to all that true well-being encompasses, my priorities have shifted as well. I say no to social invitations if I know that they will leave me depleted mentally. I ensure that I spend time with people who add to my life rather than steal all my energy from me. I putter in my craft room. I write this blog (!). I watch the Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein comedy Portlandia online and laugh out loud. I cook healthy meals once a week to put in the freezer so that I can make healthy, inexpensive choices when I am pressed for time or feeling too tired or lazy to cook. And, full disclosure, I still really struggle getting regular exercise but I am a work in progress and that is OK.

So here's the million dollar question; it's a question that can change your life. What is one thing that you can do today that will make your life better? Think big, think small - just think about it. Then do something today that you will thank yourself for tomorrow. You are so worth it.

KB xo

P.S. Here are some great resources and ideas to check out so that you can cultivate a life of balance and overall well-being:

25 Ways To Change Your Life Stat

101 Frugal Ways to Relax

One of my favourite books on this topic is Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. 

10 Ways to Reduce Stress — Improve your mental, emotional, and physical well-being! #infographic #health #relief:

Sunday, 14 February 2016

"Valentine's Day Love Letter"

Inspirational #quote about self-love #valentinesday #motivation:

Valentine's Day for me is never about romantic love. It's about love. Period. Sure, when I was in my twenties and had some tumultuous, passionate relationships (oh, young love!) it was about my boyfriends at the time. One year I received a beautiful bouquet of roses. A few days later I got dumped. Hmm. Kind of makes the roses loses their luster, doesn't it? It also works wonders for a young woman's self esteem. But that is another post (and probably a therapy session or two...). The older that I have gotten, the more I have moved away from the Hallmark card ideal of what Valentine's Day 'should be'. 

My maternal grandmother was a very sweet, generous, loving woman. She taught me, very early in my life, the power of a small, thoughtful gesture. She would make your favourite cookies when you came for a visit (for the record, homemade sour cream cookies stored in a plastic ice cream tub), send you an Easter package with lollipops and an inflatable bunny rabbit in the mail, and cut up an apple just how you liked it. She would tell me, on a regular basis, that she adored me. She was very special. And, just like the rest of us, she also had a challenging life at times. When I reflect on how my grandma lived her life, I see that she cultivated a practice of gratitude and shared her love freely. Was that conscious? I have no idea. Did she wear rose-coloured glasses at times? Absolutely. But she certainly held the key to moving through life with grace.

My focus these days is on creating a nurturing, loving world in which to live. As I have become much more intentional about recognizing all that I am grateful for in my life, I have reaped some pretty fabulous benefits. When you view your glass as half full, you shift how the world appears to you. It changes the energy around you. A horrible day becomes just one day out of so many full of promise; with gratitude comes perspective.

If I think back over the past two decades of depression and anxiety, I have to say that the most impactful thing that I have done has been to change my attitude. Simple yet hard. I had a choice to either let mental illness rule the roost or I could take control of the things that were in my power. Identifying negative thoughts and patterns was a big part of that. 

A friend at work pulled me aside the other day when she was having a moment of anger towards herself. She had eaten something unhealthy and was feeling both physically and mentally bad about it. My response:  it's OK - you are a human being. Don't be harder on yourself than you would be on a friend. I love that she said how she was feeling. She recognized the negative impact that this was having on her and, I hope, was able to let it go. As the world-wise Taylor Swift sings, "Shake it off!"

This might seem like a small thing - eating some junk food and feeling bad about it. But our beliefs and thoughts hold great power over us. The good news is that we can rewire our brains. Start by spending just a day really listening to your inner dialogue. How many times do you tell yourself that you are dumb for making that mistake or too fat to wear those pants? How often do you berate yourself for saying that 'stupid' thing in conversation at work? You do it. I do it, too. But I do it a lot less frequently than I used to. It's usually when I am tired and feeling less than resilient. Gratitude, awareness and perspective have helped me move along this path towards self-love. My daily life is much nicer, as a result.

"Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway." ~ Mary Kay Ash

On this Valentine's Day my wish for you is a life full of love and self-acceptance. Believe the best in yourself. You ARE good enough. You are capable of great, wonderful things. Be your best friend, your own personal cheerleader. Be that bumblebee and fly!

KB xo

P.S. Here are some great reminders and ways to love yourself!

Check out the fabulous list of things that self-loving people do differently via MindBodyGreen

Saturday, 6 February 2016

"Merci, Gracias, Thank You"

Gratitude Chalk Art - Please consider enjoying some flavorful Peruvian Chocolate. Organic and fair trade certified, it's made where the cacao is grown providing fair paying wages to women. Varieties include: Quinoa, Amaranth, Coconut, Nibs, Coffee, and flavorful dark chocolate. Available on Amazon!

Thank you. How often do you say these two words? I truly believe that these words hold the key to unlocking contentment and happiness. Does it sound like I am about to launch into a Pollyanna-ish post about all things rainbows and butterflies? Perhaps. Stay with me...

The American author Melody Beattie describes gratitude and its transformative power like this:

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

I am in a chapter of my life where gratitude comes easily to me. It's second nature for me to find myself in a random, yet intentional, moment when I am simply thankful. It might be at night when I tuck myself into bed and a smile creeps over my face as I feel how cozy my bed is, how comforting my bedroom is. It might be at work after a water cooler chat with a colleague about something silly or perhaps deep and meaningful. I walk away feeling really lucky and grateful to have a pretty great group of people to work with on a daily basis.

It hasn't always been this way for me. I think I have always been a positive person but I didn't always take a moment to recognize all that I have. In my twenties I wanted to be slimmer. I wanted to be smarter. I wanted to have 'more'. In retrospect I had all of that. I didn't need to lose weight or be smarter. I was already those things. I just didn't see it. And, I am certain, major depressive disorder played a big part in that. Youth probably had a hand it it, as well.

As depression tightened its vice-like grip on me, mentally and physically, my life became almost unbearable. I often wondered why I was alive, what was the purpose of any of it. I considered death. I developed bulimia. I withdrew even more from the world. And then something changed. At some point in my early thirties I realized that I had a choice: I could let depression and anxiety run my world or I could take control of a few things.

It was through cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that I learned some truths about mental illness, the big one being that depression is a lying bastard. It tells you all sorts of bad, wrong things: you aren't good enough; life is too hard; give up. Lies, all lies. Working with a psychologist and then, eventually, a psychiatrist, I was able to begin retraining my brain. I began to understand the power of living in the moment, recognizing and stopping negative thoughts, and the incredible benefits of gratitude.

"Fear is why we don't take action and anger is why we get stuck. You can't be grateful and angry simultaneously. You can't be fearful and be grateful simultaneously. So it's really the reset button." 
~ life strategist,Tony Robbins

Gratitude has definitely been my reset button. By focusing on appreciating the big and small gifts in my life I am much calmer and happier. I find myself at a place in my life where I am much more in control of my mental health. I still have anxiety attacks but I am learning how to better manage them and, when possible, avoid them. My depression is in remission. And, for the first time in my life I truly believe in myself and my ability to live my best life.

As Ms. Beattie said so eloquently, "Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." Yes. Thank you.

KB xo

P.S. Check out these great gratitude resources:

"To New Beginnings"

Christmas and Hanukkah are over. The new year is just around the corner. Most of us are considering how we are going to get back on track...