Embracing (and my big boobs)

Last night, I had the honour of co-hosting 250 people at a special community screening of the documentary Embrace. It was a truly magical event. All of us came together to share the positive energy in the room and to soak in Taryn’s message of body acceptance.

Embrace movie poster

250 is a big number – but it would be wonderful if the message could spread out to reach a wider audience. And the good news is that EMBRACE is now available to watch on Netflix and to download on iTunes – so you can gather up your family and friends and watch the movie in the privacy of your own home!

I had the privilege of opening the evening with a personal story and I thought I’d share it with my readers:

For those of you who don’t know me – my name is Lori Wilson and I want to welcome you here tonight and thank you for supporting this event.

Before we get started, I want to share a little story:

A few months ago, I hopped out of the shower and I scooted into my bedroom with nothing on but a towel around my hair. My teenage daughter just happened to by lying on my bed watching TV and she turned to look at me. Her eyes scanned me up and down and her mouth fell open – “Oh my god mom!” she started.

I braced myself. How was she going to finish that sentence? Was she going to comment on my blubbery belly? Was she going to gag at my saggy butt or my dimply thighs (that definitely don’t have the obligatory gap between them). Was she going to use the dreaded f-word….FAT! I stood there totally vulnerable.

 I steeled myself in the moment and waited for what was coming. My daughter said – “Oh my god mom! Your boobs are huge! I wonder if mine will be that big one day too?” And she turned back to her tv show.

 I had to chuckle to myself. My boobs! She looked my body up and down and her only comment was on my boobs.

I realized two things in that moment. One – when my daughter looks at me – she isn’t seeing the glaringly imperfect person I’ve constructed in my own mind. She is seeing her mom – a woman with big boobs apparently.

And two- despite the fact that I am passionate about promoting healthy body image, I devour whatever reading I can get my hands on on the subject and I preach it to my kids – if I’m being perfectly honest, I am still deeply unhappy with my body. I catch myself hating how my pants fit or cringing when I pass a mirror. Or recoiling with horror when I go to take a picture with my iphone and the camera is pointed right at me!

And having talked with many of you – I know I’m not alone. I think I could comfortably speak for all of us in this room in saying we all know that we should be accepting, but we have a long way to go in making that shift happen.

That is why we wanted to share this film with you. We want to start that shift in our own mindsets and we want to support this shift happening for our friends, family members and all the females in our lives.

And though one movie might not fix the years of reprogramming that we likely need, it’s a great place to start. 

Enjoy the film! Let’s Embrace!

*If you are interested in building upon a local EMBRACE community – email embracelori@gmail.com to be added to our mailing list.

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Embrace

Last summer we took our kids to a waterpark. It was a stinkin’ hot day and we had a blast zipping down slides and cooling off in the wave pool. At one point, my husband and the older kids decided to try a toilet-bowl style ride geared for an older crowd, so my littlest and I stood at the bottom waiting for them to poop out into the basin below.

As we watched the riders happily splash down in front of us, little K pulled on my arm and pointed to a child exiting the water nearby – “Hey mommy, I don’t like that girl” he stated . “Why not?” I asked. I’d never seen her before. “Because she’s fat” he answered matter-of-factly.

I just about fell over backwards! Body image has been the monkey on my back for as long as I can remember, and I’ve worked hard to overcome my own insecurities and to foster an environment of acceptance and kindness within my own family. And goddamn it – no child of mine was going to shame someone because of the shape of their body!

I knelt down and spent the next ten minutes lecturing my son about the beauty in all body shapes and the importance of never, ever judging other people. Trust me, he got an earful. He listened intently, then ran off with his siblings to enjoy another slide. “Crazy kid” I mumbled to myself. I figured he must have picked up that nonsense on television.

Then a few months later I had dinner with a group of girlfriends- all of them brilliant, beautiful women with high-powered careers, incredible families, strong opinions and the passion and means to affect change in the world.

And yet. Our conversations that night kept coming back to the same thing – body image. We shared stories of how weight has impacted our sex lives, and contributed to feeling too physically disgusting to appear naked in front of our spouses – even with the lights off. We talked about caloric intake and the restrictive cleanses we’d endured – all the while feeling sick and deprived. We discussed our boobs (too small, too big, too saggy) and our butts (too big, too small, too saggy) – and we even dissected our individual diets and compared notes about what foods and drinks (or lack thereof) would help us achieve thinner, happier, sexier, less-wrinkly versions of ourselves.

As I laughed and commiserated and chimed in, something struck me: that friggin’ monkey is still clinging stubbornly to my back. Because for all of my lip service about acceptance and self love – a really big part of me still believes that being thin is equated with being better. And the fact that I have droopy post-nursing boobs and a squishy belly – in my own mind, ultimately means that I am losing at womanhood..and at life.

Then I came across a “before and after” photo on social media that changed my whole perspective. Taryn Brumfitt posted side-by-side images of herself posing with a muscular body-builders physique (before) and then with a softer, curvier body (after). It was revolutionary!

taryn-brumfitt-image_05c57715545da1ac93abb959899947bb.today-inline-large

Here was a woman actually showing off her curves, and rolls, and stretch marks. Proudly! Her impish smile belied the fact that she was actually HAPPIER with her less-toned and heavier body. My mind was blown.

I learned that Taryn had gone on a crusade to  uncover “why poor body image has become a global epidemic and what women everywhere can do to have a brighter future.” She turned her findings into a documentary called Embrace “A funny, touching, at times gut wrenching but above all, life changing documentary, the heart of Embrace is Taryn’s story. How she went from a body hater to a body lover. From being devastated by her perceived ugliness to proudly posing nude for the whole world to see.”

I downloaded Embrace as soon as it was released and sobbed my heart out through almost the entire thing. I could relate to so many of the women in the film who shared feelings of inadequacy and failure when discussing their bodies, and I felt inspired to make a change.

So can I do it? Can I move my body in an effort to be strong and healthy without obsessing over the calories I’ve burned, or whether or not I’ll be able to squeeze into my old jeans after a long run? Can I enjoy food without worrying about each and every bite? Can I show my children that I am a confident and fully-actualized woman no matter what size my body is? I honestly don’t know. But I am willing to try. And Embrace is the perfect place to start.

Taryn - ornament

I am beyond thrilled to be co-hosting a special community screening of the life-changing/perspective-shifting/monkey-on-back-destroying documentary Embrace – right here in Burlington, Ontario.

Please join me and my friends Sue Abell and Joelle Cooling on Thursday, June 1st at 7pm at the Art Gallery of Burlington . Tickets are $10 and are available for purchase by contacting me directly at lori@vaportek.ca, or by emailing Sue at sue@treadpowerfully.com, or by visiting Joelle’s clothing store at 457 Brant Street in downtown Burlington.

Come and enjoy a glass of wine, a bag of popcorn and an opportunity to fully love and embrace your body. Together – we can be part of a movement to create positive global change. Let’s Embrace!

Keepin’ It Real

I woke up feeling on top of the world. I snuck out the door in the early morning light to squeak in a glorious hot yoga class while my husband and the kids slept peacefully and saved time afterwards to pop by my favorite spot beside the lake to meditate.

I closed my eyes for a blissful 15 minutes and when I opened them I had the most spectacular view of the sun over the icy cold lake that I felt inspired to capture the moment. I took a picture and posted it on social media with the caption “my post-meditation view”.

meditation view

The house was still quiet when I returned home so I hopped in a shower and managed to get myself dressed up in something that was NOT yoga pants and apply some grown-up makeup- more than just my typical  finger-full of goo from a tube of lip balm.

Although I felt a tad guilty, I left my husband to deal with the morning chaos and headed off to Toronto for a full day of voice overs. Traffic was light so I cranked up my favourite tunes, hit the drive-thru for a chai tea and belted out Salt ‘N Pepa songs the whole way to the city (Push it…push it good!)

My sessions couldn’t have gone better. The clients were appreciative and kind, the recordings ran on time and my voice was clear and smooth. A person I’ve worked with for years took the time to offer up some encouraging words and my agent texted right after the session with another awesome booking.  I was feeling like a freakin’ rockstar!

And then I returned home.

The first thing I noticed (aside from the fact that the breakfast dishes were haphazardly piled in the sink) was that the dog had chewed up the garbage in the bathroom and left a nice selection of used maxi pads ground into the bath math. My charming 4-year-old continuously shot me in the butt with his nerf gun while I tried to clean it up AND the entire time I prepared dinner- despite numerous semi-polite requests to “cut it out already!” I picked a fight with my husband about the state of the kitchen and he fired back with something about “being in the moment” with the kids (jerk!). My older two kids bickered non-stop while we choked down a less-than-inspired stir fry and even though I tried at least three times to start a rousing round of “family appreciations” – the only nice thing my son could muster to say about his sister was “well I guess she doesn’t suck too much.” Sigh.

Soon after dinner my husband had to rush off to hockey (double jerk!) and I was left with a sink full of breakfast and dinner dishes, three cantankerous kids and my own festering bitterness. What went wrong?!

If you had looked at my social media from that day – you might have thought the following about me: I’m uber spiritual (I find time to meditate by the lake for heaven’s sake!), my life is in balance (meditation…..by the lake) and I’m calm and contented (did I mention that I meditate by the lake?)

But the reality of my life is much more layered and complicated than social media would lead you to believe. Due to the miracle of technology, I’m able to carefully edit out the crappy bits and only show the world the very best parts of my life. And because we are so darn busy ALL the time – sometimes even the people who are closest to me check in with my Facebook or Twitter or Instagram to find out how I’m doing. And they assume that I’m killing it. But the truth is- sometimes I am and sometimes I’m not.

Most often we present a version of ourselves online that doesn’t match up with reality. We post our successes and accomplishments and moments meditating by the lake and conveniently leave out all of the fights and tears and vulnerable parts of ourselves. And when we look around and think everyone else has it all together, we can feel terribly alone with our own struggles. Ironically, this vehicle for keeping us connected can ultimately leave us feeling discouraged and disconnected.

I’ve been joking that I’m going to start my own site called “Keepin’ it Real” where we can share not only pictures of smiling children festooned with medals and uber positive motivational tidbits but also things that will connect us on a more honest and realistic level. Because that’s what life is like isn’t it?  One day you are sailing along like a boss and other times you want to hide under the covers all day and only pop out for an episode of the Kardashians and a giant glass of wine (or is that just me?).

So let me get the ball rolling with a selection of postings on Lori Wilson’s Keepin’ it Real account:

“Feeling Conflicted” – trying to reconcile my passion for healthy eating and green smoothies with my cravings for potato chips and caramel chocolates. Hoping that smoothie for breakfast cancels out the small bag of Doritos I just snuck from my son’s Halloween bag.

(smily face) Realized my 5-year-old hasn’t said “bitch” for an entire week. Booyah!

(frowny face) Caught myself standing off to the side of my mirror brushing my hair in an attempt to avoid looking at my own face. How did I go from loving the mirror to not being able to look at myself?

“Teetering on the Edge” – husband away for fourth week in a row and I’m sending out a 911 call to all girlfriends within a 10 km radius to proceed to my house asap with prosecco to talk me off the ledge.

(grossed-out face) Anyone else have a dog who won’t stop eating their own poop? Anyone????

So who’s with me? I’m looking for a new generation of social media superstars- some fellow brave souls who are willing to be more vulnerable and real with each other. Let’s break through the facade that we all throw up on the web and get a bit more honest with each other. Because sometimes we are sailing through life belting out 80’s rap tunes at the top of our lungs and sometimes we’re on all fours in the bathroom picking up garbage with a Nerf dart sticking out of our butts. Hey -I’m just keepin’ it real : )

On Judging Other Women

We are die-hard Dancing With The Stars Fans at my house. On Monday nights we excitedly retire to the basement with drinks and popcorn in hand to revel in two solid hours of ballroom bliss. We love the incredible dancing, the relationships that form between partners, the personal stories that unfold and the fun of watching the pros work their magic on novice celebrity dancers.

Recently we were enjoying a DWTS episode when I made a flippant comment about the way plastic surgery has altered the face of one of my favourite childhood actresses. My daughter immediately took me to task: “What do you mean mom? I don’t see anything wrong with her face. She’s pretty.”

I immediately regretted my words. I work hard to practice acceptance and kindness (with varying degrees of success apparently) and here I was mouthing off about another woman. How can I expect my daughter to be non-judgemental with her peers if I am so darn quick to jump in to comment on the private decisions that another woman has made about her appearance?

I quickly apologized for my thoughtless words and admitted that my daughter was absolutely correct – the actress is pretty….and she is also fully entitled to do whatever the heck she wants to her own face and body. Because the truth of the matter is that it is only out of the insecurities I have about my own aging face and body that I would dare to pass such critical judgement on another woman.

This incident reminded me of a powerful blog post written by one of my favourite authors in the world- Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love). I have this post printed out and I have read it and reread it and reread it again. And I will keep on re-reading it until the message is fully embedded in my far-from-perfect, sometimes-judgemental and often insecure brain. It is an incredibly powerful piece and reminds me that as women we need to embrace our differences and accept each other just as we are. And that goes for our friends, our family, strangers,  celebrities and every single one of the actresses on Dancing With The Stars.

**(follow the link below to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s piece. Email subscribers – you may need to go to my site at http://www.lorileighwilson.com to click the link)

 

 

1 Year Later & My Top 10 from 2013

One year ago I sat down and published the very first post on my blog titled “I’m Gonna Look“. And I was terrified. I had absolutely no idea about the ins and outs of blogging and I was sharing a very vulnerable piece with an unknown audience. Pretty scary stuff.

But I did it. And in pushing through my fear I connected with a community of bloggers, family, friends and like-minded individuals who indulged me in a journey of self-discovery. My initial intent was to simply use my blog as a vehicle for sharing family friendly recipes but it quickly evolved as I changed and learned and mustered up the courage to write about my successes, failures, insights and discoveries.

Thank you to everyone who has followed along (861 of you and counting!) and especially to my family and close friends for allowing me to write so candidly about our experiences. The creative process of writing for this blog has brought me more joy than I ever could have anticipated at this time last year.

To celebrate 1 year, I thought I’d share a Top 10 List of my own personal favourite posts from 2013:

1. Family Day Busy-ness

2. Vegan No-Bake Chocolate Caramels

3. Garbage In Garbage Out Featuring Scooby Doo

4. The Importance of Making Mistakes

5. A Manly Vegan Meal

6. How I Look

7. Why I Love My Vitamix and a Starter Green Smoothie Recipe

8. 10 Hilarious Ways to Lighten Things Up

9. My Summer of Indulgence

10. Kids Cook Night

If you have the time take a browse through some of my totally brilliant and insightful posts from last year ; )

And now for the big question: …….did I look? Well yes I did. And although I didn’t always like what I saw (oh hi new wrinkles), the more I  stared the more I came to realize that loving my image is just the first step in the journey. As much as I learn to adore my reflection in the mirror, the even bigger challenge is to love the person I am when I am sitting in stillness- to be brave enough to really get to know and love myself and to sit quietly in an effort to know my own mind.

So here is my personal intention for 2014: silence and discovery. And don’t worry if this seems to woo-woo for your tastes – I promise to keep posting my plant-based recipes and family friendly holistic discoveries.

But I do have a small favour to ask of all of you for this new year: please stay in touch! Write in the comments if you agree or disagree, share your own successes and failures and let me know if there is something you’d like me to write about. I appreciate your silent support but it would be even nicer to hear from you : )

Happy new year and cheers to a healthy 2014!

5 Strategies to Become Less Judgemental

“We judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. If I feel good about my parenting, I have no interest in judging other people’s choices. If I feel good about my body, I don’t go around making fun of other people’s weight or appearance. We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived deficiency.”

Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

My own personal journey of letting go of judgement is an ongoing and evolving process. If I’m being completely honest, I have certainly been guilty of passing judgment on others in the past and it is something I continue to work on. I have come to realize that my judgment of others is less about them and more about myself and my insecurities and feelings of lack in my own life.

The first step for me has been learning to love and accept myself- including all of my wonderful and not-so-wonderful bits and pieces. It’s easy to pat myself on the back for my efforts in the kitchen and the recent strides in my career and much trickier to embrace my belly that’s still jiggly 3 years after my last baby was born or my tendency to flip out and lose my cool with my kids. But I’m much more likely to be kinder and gentler to those around me if I can be kind and gentle with myself.

Here are a few other things that help me on my journey towards becoming less judgemental:

1. Pause, take a deep breath and look inward. When a jugdgy thought pops into my head (“how can that mom berate her child in the grocery store?”, “why is that 13-year old smoking?” “what kind of parent feeds their children such crappy food?”) – I catch myself as quickly as I can and simply take a deep breath. If the thought persists, I make a note of it and when I have a quiet moment I reflect on the judgment and how it may mirror my own fears and insecurities.

2. Reframe. I first learned this strategy from Dr. Stephen R. Covey and the chapter on “paradigm shifts” in his Seven Habits book. If I see a person who I’m tempted to judge – I’ll rewrite the negative script that starts unfolding in my head and change their story in my mind. For example, that goth-looking teenager with multiple piercings might be a lonely child dealing with the devastating death of a parent or the man freaking out on his kid at the playground may have just lost his job. This is not to excuse or ignore bad behavior but only to free my mind from judgment and to look at situations in new ways. It also allows me to approach people with more genuine compassion.

judgment quote 2

3. Be cautious of stereotypes (especially those perpetuated in the media). My 12-year-old son recently told me that he doesn’t want to become a teenager because “all teenagers do drugs, drink and get into trouble.” Pretty harsh! We are constantly bombarded by media images that portray individuals and groups in very stereotypical ways. There are bombshell women, housewives, businessmen, nerds, jocks, musicians, gangsters, terrorists (and on and on)- and each one calls to mind a particular person with a certain way of behaving in the world. Repeated exposure to these very warped and limited depictions of human beings can be very damaging- especially for children. I had a long chat with my son about the amazing and positive things teenagers are doing in the world (thank you Kielburgers!) and I reminded him to do his own research before buying into an image put forth in the media.

4. Read, research, listen and learn about others. If you are feeling judgemental about a particular person or group, it can help to dig a little deeper and learn more about their particular story or set of beliefs. This could mean taking the time to chat with a new person or doing some research in the library or on the internet. This has come in very handy recently in my own family when we’ve been curious about different religious groups, political figures, celebrities and even sharks!

5. Find a role model. I am fortunate to be married to one of the least judgemental people I’ve ever met. As long as I’ve known him, my husband has been very accepting of all people and always makes friends easily and often. When I feel the urge to stand in judgment of someone else, it can really help to chat with him and get his perspective on the situation. I encourage you to seek out a non-judgemental person in your own life who can act as a sounding board and mentor when those judgemental inclinations pop up.

As a mom, I am particularly aware of the example I set for my children and I strive to model both self-acceptance and acceptance of others. At the end of the day, we all would benefit from spending less time judging and more time becoming kinder and more loving towards ourselves and each other…..jiggly bellies and all.

judgement quote 1

An Open Letter to Youth Competitive Dance

Dear Youth Dance Competition Organizers and Judges,

First of all, I would like to start by thanking you for providing a forum for my daughter to express her passion. At 10 years old, she revels in the opportunity to move her body and pour her feelings and creativity into music and movement. Even when she isn’t training, she will most often spend her free time choreographing new routines and practicing the moves that have turned her into a strong and athletic young girl. And make no mistake, she is an athlete. And this is in no small part due to the focused training she undertakes in preparation for competition.

Like any competitive sport, there are things that I don’t love about dance – the incredibly high cost, the countless hours that make family dinners all but a distant memory from September to June and the scant costumes (many of which will come in handy if my daughter ever parlays her dance training into something involving a G-string and a pole). But like all parents who agree to enroll their children into competitive endeavors, I appreciate that I sometimes have to take the good with the bad and these are the issues I will grit my teeth and contend with as long as my daughter continues to love this sport.

There is however one thing I just cannot wrap my brain around. One thing that makes me sad and frustrated at the same time. Here’s my problem – can you please tell me why I am required to plaster my beautiful daughter’s face in layers of gaudy makeup and absurdly long false eyelashes in order for her to compete on stage? And why every dancer from the tender age of 6 must endure hours in front of a mirror layering on powders, blushes and lipsticks only to come out looking like ridiculous overly sexualized young women?

Here is why I have a real issue with this – you are essentially telling a group of young athletes (the vast majority of them girls) that they are not good enough just as they are. That all of the hours of sweat and training are not quite enough to prepare them to compete in front of a panel of judges. Instead of celebrating their natural beauty and athleticism, they must further prepare by slapping on face powder and body glitter and hairspray themselves to within an inch of their lives to make themselves presentable. In order to fulfill the advanced requirements of the sport, they must transform themselves from beautiful innocent young performers into sexy made-up temptresses.

When I’ve asked around, I’ve been informed that the makeup enhances the quality of the performances. And I can understand this point only in relation to particular themes – perhaps a zombie dance would require ghostly white faces and fake scars or a smurf song would lend itself to blue faces and costumes. But I’m talking about the lion’s share of dances that regardless of the theme or music require all female performers to apply obscene amounts of eyeshadow, mascara, foundation, blush and lipstick.

Now I’ve also been told that the thick and often garish makeup is applied to allow the judges to see the girls faces better. But if that were truly the case then why don’t I see bright pink gloss or spidery lashes on the equally talented male performers? Maybe I’m missing something but I’ve yet to see a young man dance across the stage in a belly shirt with rouged cheeks and a head full of laughable attached ringlets.

Can you imagine any other competitive sport where the athletes would have to endure such indignity before competition? Would we send our children who play rep level soccer or hockey or football or lacrosse onto the playing field wearing ruby-red lipstick and purple blush to better appreciate their athleticism? Are gymnasts, swimmers and track stars forced to spend hours in the mirror pre-comp carefully affixing 1-inch lashes to enhance the visual aspect of their performance?

And am I the only one who finds this completely nuts? Because I’m really starting to think I am. I have always been shocked by how few of my friends share my discomfort with this requirement. “Oh Lori” they say “it’s just part of the sport.” “The girls will lose marks if they aren’t wearing makeup” or “My daughter loves getting all made up.” To this last comment I say yes – my sister and I spent many an hour as young girls slopping piles of my mom’s discarded makeup all over ourselves and having a ball. But it wasn’t mandatory to any activity we were participating in. It was simply for fun.

I do not consider myself a dance mom any more than I’m a soccer or hockey mom to my sons. I’m simply one mother stumbling my way through parenthood trying to do what is best for my children. And like most parents I will support them in their choices as long as they are reasonable and not life threatening. But I also want to teach my children to speak up when something feels wrong and to challenge conventions when they are outdated or unreasonable (and you can bet I’ve had many frank discussions with my daughter about my feelings around makeup and dance).

And please don’t misunderstand me – this is not meant to be a dig at any particular person or studio. I happen to love where my daughter dances and her talented teachers and I’ll be the first to admit that I had a blast watching her on stage at each and every one of her competitions last season. I’m only asking that as a collective – moms, dads, kids, studio owners, teachers, competition organizers and judges – that we take a good hard look at this particular requirement and perhaps decide that at least for these young athletes- dance should be appreciated as a sport and an art form that ultimately needs no artificial embellishment.

To the organizers of the competitions and the judges, I can tell you this for sure- if you lose the makeup you might not see bright pink lips or electric blue eye lids but I can guarantee you will have a much better view of the pure and unaltered joy on the dancers faces. You will see natural smiles and cheeks flushed with effort and excitement. You will see their eyes lit up with happiness and passion. And at the end of the day – isn’t that what it’s really all about?

Sincerely,

Lori