Three years ago I fell in love. I found the love of my life in the first few weeks of university. I put on a few pounds of the freshman 15 combined with the carefree honeymoon stage of my relationship. I went on the pill and my weight spiralled from there. I couldn’t control my cravings and I felt like no matter what I did I kept gaining weight. I tried to give up sugar cold turkey, it worked for a month and then I would binge on sweets and I was back where I started. I was so fed up I went off the pill and after a few months I was slimming down. I was happy.
One October morning I hurt my back. Not “I slept on it wrong” I couldn’t walk. My amazing boyfriend had to lift me into the car. I couldn’t do anything for months. Naturally my weight went up. After I was back on my feet I started training again. I’m a full time athlete on the Canadian National team. I went to training camp and my weight started going down. All of the sudden I started to love my reflection.
Next came racing season. I was more preoccupied with going fast than I was with my weight. It was as if the moment I stopped worrying about the scale the weight started to melt off. It wasn’t until I returned home from a trip to Europe that everyone started telling me how great I looked. I didn’t realize how much leaner I was until other people said it.
This is the difference between September 2015 and July 2016. About 20lbs and 10% body fat separate these two photos.
The next photos are special to me. I love the body on the left just as much as I do the body on the right. The girl on the left worked so hard to lose 7lbs. She was just starting to feel great about herself. Her hard work was finally paying off after two years. The photo on the left I was 180lbs in April 2016 and the photo on the right is me now at 165lbs.
To the girl who couldn’t seem to lose the weight. I love you. I love how hard you’re working even though you feel as if nothing is changing. I love that you were finally able to be honest with yourself about your nutrition. I love that now your athlete persona in your mind finally matches your body. I love that your amazing boyfriend loved you when you didn’t love yourself. I love how proud you feel and I love that you aren’t finished yet.
I love the lead up to the Olympics. Every time you turn on the TV, flip through a paper or look at a Cherrio box you are bombarded with inspiring stories of Olympians from all over the world. Every story is different but they all have one thing in common, they are positive and motivating. I love reading these stories and getting goosebumps as I watch commercials. However, one story caught my eye, an article about the struggles female athletes face when it comes to body image.
I’ve written about this before and it’s one of my favourite topics to discuss. In the spotlight we see the ripped, skinny, track stars with their amazing abs, tiny shoulders and muscular legs. You think they’re confident and proud of their amazing bodies. I can bet that they don’t always love their reflection. On the other side you have weight lifters who are heavier set and walking down the street you would have no idea that they are an Olympic level athlete. Are their skills any less impressive because they don’t have a tiny waist? No, of course not.
To paint a mental picture, I’m almost six feet tall, I have a slender but muscular build which leaves me looking like an awkward and lanky amazon woman. I am powerful, strong and I can move a boat pretty fast. I also carry my weight in my stomach and my long arms look noodlish no matter how many curls I do. In the gym I love every inch of my body and what it allows me to do, it pays the bills (in the least hooker way possible) I’m paid to make my boat go fast. So why do I spend time in the mirror looking at my stomach or feel sickeningly guilty about enjoying ice cream? Maybe it’s because I spend too much time looking at fitness models on instagram, who I know I could run circles around but they have millions of adoring fans admiring their abs. Or maybe its a coping mechanism to avoid the stress of training every day. I can’t always control my idiot coach or the weather or how sluggish I am on the water but I can control how much I eat and how I feel about my body. Some athletes find comfort in running an extra mile or staying on the water a bit longer than their teammates. For me, I take refuge in the fact that I eat healthier. I will say that my body image has improved tremendously in the last year, but I’m not at my happiest yet. That leaves me with the nagging question, is this a journey without a destination?
As I watch the Olympics at home this year, yearning to be there myself I will try to find motivation not from the amazing bodies of the women on the podium but from their impressive feats as athletes. After all, comparison is the death of joy.
It’s so comforting knowing you have time. Whether its you’re training for a marathon, nationals, or you’re applying for a job. Really any time you leave your comfort zone and go after a big goal. You will eventually be looking the moment between you and achieving your goal in the eye. How do you stay calm? For me it’s national team trials. In the sport of canoe you train 6 days a week all year round for a racing season that last two months and maybe consists of 10 big races if you’re lucky. I say if you’re lucky because if you miss a stroke it can be the end of your season. How do you stay calm and steady your hands in order to give yourself the best chance to succeed? Confidence in everything you’ve done to prepare.
The moment before a race or the moment before you get the call that you got the job or made the team or the band is like christmas morning. Anything can happen, the box you’re opening could contain anything. You could be world champion or you could fall and come dead last. The key for me after racing at a world class level for 4 years is doing everything for myself. If I line up knowing I did everything in my power to be the best I can be then I can enjoy a calm moment of clarity before I race. I know that no matter what happens this is my best. Even if my best isn’t good enough there is always something to learn.
If there is one piece of advice I can give whether you’re just starting to compete or you’re struggling with defeat it’s this, there is always something to learn. It’s never going to sting as much as it does in the moments after a “failure”. Think back to the moments before the start horn, think of how proud you are of the work you put in, make a plan and get ready to attack the next competition. You know more now than you did before you started.
I hope you found this helpful whatever obstacles you may be facing! Please excuse the lack of posts in the coming weeks as I will be racing at Olympic trials!
They say it takes 21 days to break a habit, that’s the premise of the 21 day challenge. The idea is to give up all refined sugar and gluten and by the end you should crave it less. I have done this two times within one year. Each time I did it a bit differently and each time I learned something new about my body. On top of this I learned one big fat lesson that I will take with me on my nutritional journey I call life…IT DOES NOT WORK FOR ME!
It all began in 2014, I always ate healthy but I was prone to binge while watching netflix. I’ve talked about this before but I’m a very all or nothing type of person. Balance does not come naturally to me. I read about this 21 day fix on pinterest and I figured whats the harm in trying. There is a ton of info on pinterest about this essentially paleo diet. I was living off eggs, rice cakes, nut butters, trail mix and apples. I wasn’t doing it correctly. I was tired all the time, my training was suffering and I was so grumpy. I’m a very competitive person so I was determined to finish the 21 days despite how horrible I felt. After finishing the diet I craved sugar more than ever, and I had way less will power when it came to snacking. It was like I wore out my will power muscle. So my solution to my now even worse sugar addiction? Another 21 day fix of course! This one actually lasted well over a month until I got mono and decided I might need some more substance to my diet. An important thing to point out here is I’m not eating this way and sitting at a desk all day, I train full time at a world class level. I was starving and really messing up my metabolism as a whole.
It’s over a year after the 21 day fixes and I finally feel like I’m in a good place. It’s so funny to me to look back on the challenges compared to what I eat now. I eat overall 80/20. 80% of the time I follow the guidelines for the 21 day fix without thinking about it. As soon as I restricted I wanted sugar and put it on a pedestal. Now I have a great relationship with sugar and it doesn’t feel like the end of the world when I indulge my sweet tooth.
Looking back, it all comes down to perspective. It’s a lifestyle and a 21 day fix is not a sustainable lifestyle. Treat yo self, ladies!
One of the biggest problems I had as a healthy eater was the idea that I could do better tomorrow. If I slipped up and splurged early in the day I would think to myself, today is already ruined what’s the point of having a healthy dinner later on? I would find peace of mind in the fact that I could eat well “tomorrow”. When tomorrow came generally the cycle would start over.
There is no tomorrow. You have to take it meal by meal and snack by snack. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you’re going to slip up but the faster you learn to hit the reset button the better. Don’t take it day by day because that’s too big of a window to begin with, too much wiggle room. I’m at my healthiest and happiest with this mindset. I don’t wake up every morning thinking I’m not going to eat any chocolate today. I wake up thinking I’m going to do my best to make good choices in the kitchen. I don’t punish myself if I get ice cream. I enjoy myself, hit the reset button and I’m back to making good choices.
As soon as we stop punishing ourselves for indulging the sooner we can improve our relationship with food. There doesn’t need to be cravings or binging. If you fuel your body with the nutrients it’s truly craving the dangerous cravings won’t sneak up on you. Allow yourself your treats, don’t cut out food groups and try to stay a happy, healthy human…right now!
I spend a lot of time in the sun, canoeing is a water sport. We race during the summer but seeing as we live in the great white north we migrate down south to train during the winter. This means I lather on the SPF a couple times a day before I hit the water, but I didn’t always. I love a good tan, I could lay in the sun all afternoon. I love the sun but it doesn’t love me back.
As a teen I always wanted to be tan. My dad is a redhead so I am pretty sensitive to the sun. I would lay in the sun all afternoon and nurse my sunburn all evening. I took comfort in the fact that my burn would turn into a golden tan. I didn’t stop to think about what a tan really is. It’s all sun damage. As I head into my 20’s I’m more aware of what sun damage really means. I stay out of the sun as much as possible and I spend a large amount of my morning applying sunscreen. I want to avoid premature aging and of course the always terrifying cancer. Most of my fellow athletes are aware of the dangers of the sun and have a well executed plan to avoid the harmful rays. It’s my friends who head to the sunny south for vacation each year that worry me.
The spring breakers who decide they need a base tan before they hit the beach are the people I’m worried about. Base tans are total bull. Using sun damage to prevent sun damage is like using a lighter to put out a fire. A base tan is when you roast in a tanning bed before you hit the beach. The idea is that once you’re tan you don’t need sunscreen anymore. The only way to completely avoid sun damage is to stay out of the sun! If you must leave the safety of your house lather on the SPF. Rethink your your tanning appointment and get a spray tan, or better yet embrace your pale skin!
The reason for this little rant is to remind myself of the importance of protecting my skin! I’m at a two month training camp in Florida and I can sometimes get caught up in the desire to darken my complexion. I hope this will keep me in check and keep me sun safe!
I am notorious for having those “I hate my body” moments during the day and I spiral. I start listing off everything that’s wrong with my body and suddenly I’m crying and cursing my own reflection. These moments are so toxic and unproductive. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea that health is a journey and there is no destination. We should never be satisfied with our life, we should always be striving to be better. That said, hating your body should not be part of the journey. Taking time to love yourself is just as important as taking a shower and yet, somehow we don’t have time.
I know in the hustle and bustle of life we don’t have time to drop everything and mediate in the middle of the street, but there has to be a way to incorporate some self love into our daily lives.
As of the new year I have been writing in a gratitude journal each night. I have found it to be really helpful in winding down after a busy day. I find I’m more thankful for the little things in life as well as the little things I love about myself.
I get antsy through the day if I feel like I haven’t done enough physical activity. As an athlete this is engrained in your brain at a young age, always do more. It isn’t always ideal to go for a run in the middle of the day. I have found a few youtube videos of yoga flows that are only 15 minutes. I try to do these when I don’t feel like I’ve done enough. I get the satisfaction of feeling like I’ve done extra without exhausting my body. This is one of the links I love: here . I always feel refreshed and appreciate my body after I do this flow.
Meditation can be an intimidating word. When I think of meditating I think of sitting cross legged for hours, but it doesn’t have to be so intense. Meditating can be as simple as using that colouring book you got for Christmas for 20 minutes, or taking 5 minutes to think about your breathing. Just slow things down for a few minutes each day and think about what you love about yourself, think about the beach, or better yet don’t think at all.
Journalling was one of the best things I did for myself in 2015. I did it for a few minutes before bed everyday and I found it so beneficial. I was able to slow things down and think more clearly, my stress made more sense and I was sleeping better. Sometimes it was as simple as making a list of what I needed to do the next day and I would feel more relaxed. Invest in a cute journal and a fancy pen and I challenge you to journal every day!
Sweat It Out
Take your stress to the gym and use it! Let your worries about your body fuel you in a positive way. Go to bed every night knowing you did everything you could to work towards your goal. Get some colourful gym clothes if that will motivate you and hit the ground running!
There’s no time crunch for a better frame of mind. Try to go to bed loving yourself and wake up with the drive to be better.