What made you get involved in the body positive movement?
I eventually hit a breaking point. My boyfriend had moved in with me and I could no longer keep up my strict routine of exercising (because you know, I wanted to spend time with him!) and I also couldn’t heavily monitor my food intake because we were sharing meals together. My weight started to creep up and I got scared, so I doubled-down. I became obsessive about weighing myself every day, and any time my weight went up my day was ruined. I would come home from work and if dinner wasn’t ready I’d lose it (because I was ravenously hungry!) I started to see what a negative effect it was having on my life and I just wanted to be happy.
I remember doing a Google search on “how not to emotionally eat” and came across Isabel Foxen Duke who is a proponent of Intuitive Eating. One thing leads to another and I found out about Health at Every Size and the Body Positive movement. I devoured everything I could get my hands on relating to this. It was then that I learned that diet culture existed, and I learned the truth (or more accurately the many myths) about weight and health. Once I was exposed to all this information I knew there was no going back, and I began a journey to heal my relationship to food, my body, and unlearn all the myths I had been taught about fat as it relates to body image and health.
Did you always want to be a coach? Or did that come later?
Before I started my body acceptance journey I was regularly practising The Work of Byron Katie. It was life-changing for me to see that my experience could change for the better by questioning my stressful thoughts. It had a really positive impact on my life and I knew that I wanted to be able to help others do the same, so it was then that I decided I would train to become a Life Coach. It was actually at the beginning of my life coach training that I hit my diet breaking point, so I was simultaneously training to be a life coach while my own body acceptance work. As I moved through my recovery from disordered eating (which is what I later learned I was struggling with), it became so clear to me the negative impact diet culture was having on so many people’s lives, that I knew I wanted to focus on life coaching on body acceptance.
You have a degree in Health Studies and Sociology, what made you peruse that as your interest of study?
I found Sociology so interesting, studying the organizations and social groups that make up our culture, and the impact it has on our lives. So I when I was studying this in university I heard of a new, complementary program that was offered called Health Studies – which looked at the social determinants of health, and I was hooked.
In our culture, we most often place individual responsibility on people for the condition of their health, yet much greater social factors have a much bigger impact – such as someone’s economic status, the state of their relationships, environmental factors, housing conditions, connection to the community etc. These factors play such a huge role in our well-being, and yet
Do you think the word fat is an insult?
I think it’s used as an insult, but in and of itself the word “fat” isn’t derogatory. “Fat” has been layered with negative meaning, when in reality fat is neutral. It isn’t bad, it’s only what we believe about it. Just like “thin” isn’t inherently positive or a “compliment” – it’s the meaning we layer onto it. If we lived in a culture that thought the opposite and decided that thinness was ugly, thin would be tossed around as an insult. So by people reclaiming the word fat and using it in neutral or positive ways, it helps to re-shape the meaning we’ve given the word.
What do you think is the most common reason behind fatphobia?
I believe that it’s a combination of a fear of rejection/not feeling good enough and fear of poor health. Fat is so vilified in our culture and we are taught since birth to see fat as bad, that people are scared to gain weight and hence be seen as bad, and rejected by others. Then there is also this very strong belief that its weight that causes poor health (despite no evidence of causation), so people have a fear of getting sick and dying early if they are fat.