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!

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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!

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!

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

Overcoming My Fear of Bootcamp

The term “bootcamp” never fails to strike fear into my heart. It seems to be such a buzz word lately – fitness bootcamps, parenting bootcamps, diet bootcamps, business bootcamps…..it all sounds so hard-core and intense. I always picture a drill sergeant standing over me pointing out my flaws and demanding that I do 10 more push-ups to atone for my wimpiness.

bootcamp 1

And to be honest, I’m more of a “if it’s too hard I’ll pass” kind of exerciser. Pushing myself outside of my comfort zone is not my strong suit and I’ve never bought in to the run-till-you-puke workout mentality.
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Dear Mum

Every week I learn something new and interesting from doctor and writer Yoni Freedhoff. His blog “Weighty Matters” always make me think, challenges my beliefs and forces me to question conventional practices in the fields of health, diet and medicine.

This past weekend he included a link in his post to an article written by Kasey Edwards that I literally cannot stop thinking about. This piece is part of a book called “Dear Mum“- a collection of letters from Australian athletes, musicians, models, cooks and authors communicating what they would like to say to their mother’s before it’s too late, or would have said if only they’d had the chance. The book is published by Random House and all royalties go to the National Breast Cancer Foundation.

dear mum

Far too often, I hear even my fittest and thinnest girlfriends complaining about their weight and their appearance. What we sometimes forget when we complain about our “fat ass” or refuse a piece of birthday cake at a party because we are “watching our weight” or drink a protein shake for dinner because we need to “cut down” or refuse to go swimming because we don’t want to “be seen in a bathing suit” or work out obsessively to lose “that last 10 pounds”- is that our children are watching and listening. Our daughters, granddaughters and nieces are taking notes from us- their most important role models – about what it means to be a woman in today’s society.

Every girl, woman, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, cousin and friend needs to read this brilliant article. Even if you can’t 100% relate to Kasey’s letter, I’m willing to bet you’ll learn something about yourself by the time you’re finished reading:

WHEN YOUR MOTHER SAYS SHE’S FAT      

BY: Kasey Edwards

Dear Mum,  

I was seven when I discovered that you were fat, ugly and horrible. Up until that point I had believed that you were beautiful – in every sense of the word. I remember flicking through old photo albums and staring at pictures of you standing on the deck of a boat. Your white strapless bathing suit looked so glamorous, just like a movie star. Whenever I had the chance I’d pull out that wondrous white bathing suit hidden in your bottom drawer and imagine a time when I’d be big enough to wear it; when I’d be like you.  

But all of that changed when, one night, we were dressed up for a party and you said to me, ”Look at you, so thin, beautiful and lovely. And look at me, fat, ugly and horrible.”  

At first I didn’t understand what you meant.  

”You’re not fat,” I said earnestly and innocently, and you replied, ”Yes I am, darling. I’ve always been fat; even as a child.”  

In the days that followed I had some painful revelations that have shaped my whole life. I learned that:  

1. You must be fat because mothers don’t lie. 2. Fat is ugly and horrible. 3. When I grow up I’ll look like you and therefore I will be fat, ugly and horrible too.  

 Years later, I looked back on this conversation and the hundreds that followed and cursed you for feeling so unattractive, insecure and unworthy. Because, as my first and most influential role model, you taught me to believe the same thing about myself.  

With every grimace at your reflection in the mirror, every new wonder diet that was going to change your life, and every guilty spoon of ”Oh-I-really-shouldn’t”, I learned that women must be thin to be valid and worthy. Girls must go without because their greatest contribution to the world is their physical beauty.  

Just like you, I have spent my whole life feeling fat. When did fat become a feeling anyway? And because I believed I was fat, I knew I was no good.  

But now that I am older, and a mother myself, I know that blaming you for my body hatred is unhelpful and unfair. I now understand that you too are a product of a long and rich lineage of women who were taught to loathe themselves.  

Look at the example Nanna set for you. Despite being what could only be described as famine-victim chic, she dieted every day of her life until the day she died at 79 years of age. She used to put on make-up to walk to the letterbox for fear that somebody might see her unpainted face.  

I remember her ”compassionate” response when you announced that Dad had left you for another woman. Her first comment was, ”I don’t understand why he’d leave you. You look after yourself, you wear lipstick. You’re overweight – but not that much.”  

Before Dad left, he provided no balm for your body-image torment either.  

”Jesus, Jan,” I overheard him say to you. ”It’s not that hard. Energy in versus energy out. If you want to lose weight you just have to eat less.”  

That night at dinner I watched you implement Dad’s ”Energy In, Energy Out: Jesus, Jan, Just Eat Less” weight-loss cure. You served up chow mein for dinner. (Remember how in 1980s Australian suburbia, a combination of mince, cabbage, and soy sauce was considered the height of exotic gourmet?) Everyone else’s food was on a dinner plate except yours. You served your chow mein on a tiny bread-and-butter plate.  

As you sat in front of that pathetic scoop of mince, silent tears streamed down your face. I said nothing. Not even when your shoulders started heaving from your distress. We all ate our dinner in silence. Nobody comforted you. Nobody told you to stop being ridiculous and get a proper plate. Nobody told you that you were already loved and already good enough. Your achievements and your worth – as a teacher of children with special needs and a devoted mother of three of your own – paled into insignificance when compared with the centimetres you couldn’t lose from your waist.  

It broke my heart to witness your despair and I’m sorry that I didn’t rush to your defence. I’d already learned that it was your fault that you were fat. I’d even heard Dad describe losing weight as a ”simple” process – yet one that you still couldn’t come to grips with. The lesson: you didn’t deserve any food and you certainly didn’t deserve any sympathy.  

But I was wrong, Mum. Now I understand what it’s like to grow up in a society that tells women that their beauty matters most, and at the same time defines a standard of beauty that is perpetually out of our reach. I also know the pain of internalizing these messages. We have become our own jailers and we inflict our own punishments for failing to measure up. No one is crueller to us than we are to ourselves.  

But this madness has to stop, Mum. It stops with you, it stops with me and it stops now. We deserve better – better than to have our days brought to ruin by bad body thoughts, wishing we were otherwise.  

And it’s not just about you and me any more. It’s also about Violet. Your granddaughter is only 3 and I do not want body hatred to take root inside her and strangle her happiness, her confidence and her potential. I don’t want Violet to believe that her beauty is her most important asset; that it will define her worth in the world. When Violet looks to us to learn how to be a woman, we need to be the best role models we can. We need to show her with our words and our actions that women are good enough just the way they are. And for her to believe us, we need to believe it ourselves.  

The older we get, the more loved ones we lose to accidents and illness. Their passing is always tragic and far too soon. I sometimes think about what these friends – and the people who love them – wouldn’t give for more time in a body that was healthy. A body that would allow them to live just a little longer. The size of that body’s thighs or the lines on its face wouldn’t matter. It would be alive and therefore it would be perfect.  

Your body is perfect too. It allows you to disarm a room with your smile and infect everyone with your laugh. It gives you arms to wrap around Violet and squeeze her until she giggles. Every moment we spend worrying about our physical ”flaws” is a moment wasted, a precious slice of life that we will never get back.  

Let us honour and respect our bodies for what they do instead of despising them for how they appear. Focus on living healthy and active lives, let our weight fall where it may, and consign our body hatred in the past where it belongs. When I looked at that photo of you in the white bathing suit all those years ago, my innocent young eyes saw the truth. I saw unconditional love, beauty and wisdom. I saw my Mum.  

Love, Kasey xx  

How I Look

I recently had some new headshots taken. I’d last had them done way back in the 90’s and even though in my mind I’m fairly sure I still look 20 – realistically I knew it was long past time for an update. It was a fantastic experience complete with a makeup artist and a well-known photographer in Toronto. I was thoroughly pampered and entertained during my half day session and I loved the easy and thought-provoking conversations that flowed between Helen (photographer), Cathy Ann (makeup artist) and myself. They are both beautiful and interesting women and it was a pleasure to spend time with them. I was nervous about how the pics would turn out but I decided to surrender to the experience and let the experts take charge of the situation.

A week after my session I received a link to all of my photos. I put the toddler down for a nap, poured myself a cup of tea, steeled my courage and opened the link. And it was hard. Really hard. At first glance, I hated every one of the 100+ pictures that stared back at me. “I look  chubby” I immediately thought, “and old and unattractive”. I’m not proud of myself but those were the things that immediately sprang to my mind. I was upset and that led to me being grumpy and out of sorts with my husband and my kids for the rest of the day. And I didn’t tell a soul – I just wasn’t ready to share yet.

A few days later I had the opportunity to talk with my sister in private. I told her about how I was feeling and she listened and sympathized. I agreed to send her a couple of the shots in return for  her honest opinion (and trust me, I know she’ll always give it).

Her response  came back almost immediately-  “Not a word of a lie….my gut reaction was beautiful.” So I decided to look again. And again. And again. And after a quite some time spent looking, I started to sort of like a few of them and to appreciate small things like the maturity and wisdom in my 41 year old face.

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I stumbled upon this video recently and it made me think about my experience with the pictures and how we view ourselves. About how hard  we are on ourselves and how we can unknowingly pass along our insecurities and obsessiveness to our children. This 4 minute video brought tears to my eyes and made me realize that I am much harder on myself than anyone else ever could be. Are you? Have a watch.

(email followers you may have to go to my site at www.lorileighwilson.com to view the video)