My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Four of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

Suddenly, my English mind and my French mouth came together effortlessly. I was able to speak to my young interviewer passionately and forcefully (although certainly not perfectly) about my convictions: that we women use fat for protection, dieting for control and distraction; that weighing ourselves on a scale belies our desire for social approval in spite of protests to the contrary; that our physical hunger is trustworthy and our spiritual hungers are important; that the reasons we eat when we’re not hungry (or we don’t eat when we are) are the jewels that can give us insight into the most precious parts of ourselves.

 

Our personal stories of pain are planted as seeds that take root in the fertile soil of a patriarchal, fat-phobic society. And the patriarchal, fat-shaming society creates personal stories of pain. So it goes. This version of patriarchal society limits women by equating our worth with our size, and then shames us when we dare to step out of that equation. Just look at gossip magazine images and their finger-pointing headlines. We get called out both for being too big and too small, too sexy and too plain, wearing clothes that cover too little and too much. It is a contradictory, confusing, confining and crazy-making world in which to have a female body. It creates the situation where we want to run for the cover of fat and the numbing power of food. Sometimes we eat just to get out of the line of fire. We rebel through fat; we conform through dieting. Either way, we sacrifice ourselves by sacrificing the wisdom of our hunger.

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My Year of Blogging Shamelessly: Part Two of Six

One woman’s journey from her body to her soul letting her relationship with food show the way.

 

My mum had had a handful of boyfriends since her divorce. Not a high number for a single woman, but for a girl who missed her dad, who liked the men her mum was with, and who was devastated every time one of her relationships ended, it was too many. It was like having my already tentative heart opened only to have to close it again—hardened with a new layer of scar tissue each time.

 

To make matters worse, my dad was not someone I could rely on emotionally. I have learned in adulthood that I am Métis through him, and that he spent grade five and grade eight in care with the Catholic Church in Moose Jaw and in Edmonton. I have heard stories that my grandparents drank a lot and partied a lot, and were desperately poor. My dad won’t say much about that time except “you knew which priests to stay away from.” But his elder sister recounts memories of neglect at home and being left for long periods of time in the convent. On the occasions when she was finally picked up by her parents, she would arrive home only to meet new siblings.

 

My dad is a much better parent to adult children. I get that. And in my youth, when I needed him most, he was carrying a lot of shame from my mum’s leaving him. That likely only exacerbated the scars from his own parents’ eventual divorce. One thing I knew then, my mum was all I had.

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The Quest for Women’s Equality: How Much of What is Stopping Us is in Our Heads?

I was grateful to be the keynote speaker at the Soroptimist International Club of Edmonton. In case you cannot follow the audio in the video, I have provided the transcript below:


Hello. Happy International Women’s Day! I welcome all the women who are here, and all the men supporting all the women who are here. It’s great to have everyone. Can you hear me alright?

(No!)

Happy Women’s Day. Happy International Women’s Day! So thank you so much to everyone for being here. We are here today on International Women’s Day, in my opinion, because there is still work left to do; equality still hasn’t been achieved. We come together every year to commemorate this and to see what we can do to change the world.

(applause)

The theme this year is women in history, women making history and, for me, women not making history. I say this because I am a philosopher. Occupational hazard is I look at this in generalities and ask big questions: What can we do so that women can make more history? To my mind, making history means great achievements in the public realm: social, economic and political as opposed to our historical limitation to the private realm. The realm of childbearing, child rearing and while you’re there housekeeping.

To have more women making history we need to have more women taking a place in the public realm. This is precisely what the Soroptimists do. We’ve already heard today that they try to help women in a social economic way, especially through education. And this is fantastic and this necessary work. But my question is, and I think there is a deeper question going on, is why with so many more opportunities today, why is it that some women don’t take the opportunities that are there for them? And that is the question I want to talk about.

As I see it, part of the answer is that it is something that is, is that it is something in their heads. I know that doesn’t sound quite right yet. So bear with me. I think you’ll be with me by the end of it.

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How mindful eating changed my body, mind and life

I had always been a slender and active kid, never giving a second thought to my weight until puberty, when I suddenly realized I became fat. At age 14, I tried various diets. One high fibre and low fat diet worked well for me—so long as I stayed on it.

 

At age 17, I found a life-changing book called Thin Within. It was my first exposure to what I term intuitive hunger eating principles: eat when you’re hungry, eat exactly what you want, do so with presence and intent, and stop as soon as the hunger goes away. The book also explained that if you eat outside of intuitive hunger signals, you are likely eating for emotional reasons. It was as though a light had been switched on for me. (It had already occurred to me that if diets were so great, why did people gain weight back? I wondered why some people manage a “good” weight their whole lives yet eat whatever they want? It occurred to me that if people eat a lot but get hungry again, haven’t they burned off all the calories?) The intuitive eating philosophy ultimately led me to ask myself why I was turning to food, which sparked a healing journey in me that continues to this day.

 

A few months later, I had some bad experiences with my mum’s boyfriend. I felt unsafe around him, and unheard and unsupported at home. Anxiety and confusion overwhelmed me. My body, unprotected by fat, felt too unsafe. I literally could not stop eating, and over the following weeks my weight climbed from 120 to 180 pounds. I remember not recognizing my reflection once, in a mall mirror . Thick red stretch marks stared back at me unapologetically from all over my body. My family judged me and made verbal swipes. Intuitive hunger eating seemed beyond my control. I felt humiliated and unworthy. I see now that I was trying to protect and care for myself through the weight.

 

When I left home things got easier. With the help of therapy, I gained significant insight into my personal and family history, and what the weight was voicing for me. I lost much of the weight. But my size would still fluctuate a bit based on the love and security I was feeling at any point in my life. Food was my “go-to” for warmth and stability.

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