Shhh! Let's not talk about our body image issues....

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“I just have to lose another x pounds and then I’ll be at my “goal weight”. “I’m not eating carbs right now.” “That has way too many calories” “I was so bad today having x” “I can’t wear that because it show my .... cellulite/stretch marks/“mom tum etc.” “I don’t want that person to see me because I don’t look good enough” “I can’t go to that event because I’ve gained too much weight” “I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror so I can’t go shopping”

Does any of this sound familiar?

Learning to LOVE your pregnant/post-partum body can be difficult, especially in a society that capitalizes off of shaming women’s bodies. If you feel like you focus a lot on your appearance, weight, or size, read on!

The majority of people talk about body image discomfort and goals for weight loss in a way that normalizes having a dysfunctional relationship with your body and/or food. People DON’T often talk about body image issues in a way that offers support or promotes healthy change.

Have you felt uncomfortable with your body since becoming pregnant or giving birth? Or perhaps carried longer term body image issues into pregnancy and motherhood with you?

Focusing on body appearance and food is an extremely common coping strategy of mothers, sometimes conscious and sometimes not. SO much of pregnancy and motherhood is unpredictable, causing women to feel powerless and out of control. Our bodies can become a very easy target. Controlling food and weight seems TANGIBLE, unlike parenting! But this distraction can quickly become and unhealthy and dysfunctional way of coping with the stresses of life.

What are the underlying causes that contribute to your body dissatisfaction? Where do your beliefs about yourself and your body come from? What are the links between your body image and your self esteem? And…. what does shame have to do with it?

If this post speaks to you, talk to me about my upcoming workshop “Loving your body” which will be followed by an optional 5-part series helping you to break down what’s driving your body dissatisfaction and help you to make LONG LASTING positive changes to the way you view your body and yourself.

Jen has almost 10 years experience supporting women with building healthy and positive relationships with their bodies and she is passionate about supporting women on this topic! Jen’s work with women struggling with body image issues and eating disorders over the course of her career is an asset to this workshop!

What do you want to change about your RELATIONSHIP with your body and food in a healthy way? Comment below.

But it’s normal, right? Part 1: Post-partum Bodies

But it’s normal, right? Part 1: Post-partum Bodies:

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Is it common to have body dissatisfaction post-partum? YES. But is it normal? ...... Often when we claim that something is “normal”, it can trigger feelings of powerlessness... or make us feel defeated or like we won’t be able to change. It can also create acceptance, which is positive in many situations (normalizing, decreasing shame,etc!) , but you don’t have to just accept that you will be uncomfortable and dissatisfied with your body because you’re a mama now. You can dig a little deeper and find ways to connect to yourself to unearth what is really causing your body dissatisfaction in the first place... and I guarantee it’s not all about the way you LOOK. Continue reading more on what’s “normal” vs not on your changing body in the peri-natal period.


Come to my next workshop on “Loving Your Body” for an opportunity to truly connect to yourself and make lasting changes in how you view your body. Offered as an interactive online workshop & In-person in Calgary area.

Register online here:

“I’m keeping my calm, and then I EXPLODE.”

“I’m keeping my calm, and then I EXPLODE.”

Does this sound like you?

Recently I did an interview with my sister Jessica from Birth Takes a Village on Post-Partum Rage. We talked about common presenting symptoms, and not-so-common strategies to make long lasting changes on the way you experience anger and rage in Motherhood. 

In this interview, I talked about how lingering feelings about your pregnancy, birth & breastfeeding experiences can impact your transition into motherhood & your early relationship with your baby, triggering feelings of anger & rage much faster……Oddly, something I didn’t mention in this interview is how common it is to have feelings of anger & rage when you don’t have enough support, when you’re feeling alone, and when your baby consistently cries for what seems like no apparent reason. 

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If you find yourself going from 0-100 in an instant and then feel guilt or shame, please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE! In my counselling practice (The Essence of You), where I primarily work with people in pre-natal, post-partum, & motherhood, one of the most common issues people come to me with are around anger & rage. 

Register for this workshop by clicking on photo!

Register for this workshop by clicking on photo!

For an opportunity to shift how your view your anger and how you see yourself to make lasting changes, come to my next anger and rage workshop next month (BEING OFFERED ONLINE & IN-PERSON IN CALGARY). In this workshop, you will be invited to learn more about what triggers your anger, how to start recognizing warning signs and learn coping strategies to deal with these feelings and the behaviours that come with it. This workshop will also provide opportunity for connecting with other women who have similar struggles in their journey through motherhood.

This workshop is one of my favourites to facilitate. I created this workshop on this specific topic last year when I noticed this theme arising in many of my individual sessions with clients who felt so much isolation and shame in their anger. YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. JEN OFFERS WORKSHOPS AS WELL AS INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING ONLINE & IN PERSON IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

Book into Jen’s Anger & Rage Workshop below:

What’s So Great About Workshops?

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Why do I love facilitating workshops? I was asked this recently in an interview I did with Jessica from Birth Takes a Village on post-partum rage (video being posted soon!)

What I love about facilitating workshops is: bringing people together with what might be an otherwise unknown commonality, and creating a space for safe and empowering discussion and self-exploration.

I am always so excited when I create workshops to be able to share information about topics I am passionate about, and helping others to foster self-awareness and take steps towards their goals.

Workshops are a perfect place to start exploring a topic or area that you are interested in. It can be a gateway to starting therapy or an addition or any work you are already doing on yourself (with or without a professional).

Check out my website for more info on my upcoming workshops: www.theessenceofyou.ca/events

^ Private workshops and Individual Counselling sessions are also available by appointment if you’d rather explore these topics 1-1.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. JEN OFFERS WORKSHOPS AS WELL AS INDIVIDUAL COUNSELLING ONLINE & IN PERSON IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

Book into Jen’s Workshops below:

Maintaining Power when Your Choices are Gone

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Sometimes we have a real or perceived experience of having no choice. And with that, often we feel a loss of power and control... but do we have to feel this way? 

Pictured here is a raging powerful river with no choice of where to go. It doesn’t have a choice - it can’t go any other direction except the direction that is carved out for it. Despite this, it is undeniably powerful. 

This weekend I shared the birth story of my second baby. My experience was empowering, but it also was medically uncomplicated. Everything that happened was in the realms of normal and it was safe. I was in control - and of course this helped me in having a positive experience. 

When you feel like something happened TO YOU, the result is usually feeling negative and powerless. When you feel like you were actively involved, you have an opportunity to feel positive and powerful. 

When things don’t go as planned, when things get complicated, when there is trauma or emergency, it can be so much harder and even feel impossible to find your power in those situations. You can still be an active participant of your birth process in these situations, and if you felt that you weren’t; it is so important to process the experience to identify how you used your power despite the lack of control that you were feeling. Sometimes this involves allowing yourself to grieve the loss of what you wanted/expected. Sometimes it involves going through the details to identify how and when you used your power, and when you lost it - including consciously letting go of things that were out of your control. 

If you birth didn’t go how you planned/wanted/expected... can you see how you still used your power in your experience? Comment below! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

An Empowering Birth

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An Empowering Birth

This past summer, I gave birth to my second child after an exhausting (to say the least!) pregnancy. I now have a new level of awareness as this experience has altered my view once again on pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. I’m sharing this story to create more awareness around how being an active decision maker in your pregnancy, birth and post-partum period greatly influences your ability to have a positive experience through these stages. (Read my article: 3 Ingredients to creating an empowering birth HERE). There are so many different ways to create an empowering birth experience for yourself. The choices that I made for myself won’t fit for everyone, it is so important to listen to your intuition and make the best choices for yourself in each separate experience.

My experience was empowering, but it also was medically uncomplicated. Everything that happened was in the realms of normal and it was safe. I was in control - and of course this helped me in having a positive experience.

My entire experience of trying to conceive, pregnancy, miscarrying and birthing was what inspired me to switch gears in my counselling career after my first son was born to start my current counselling practice specializing in supporting women through this stage of life. After a lot of research and changing plans, my husband and I created an incredible and empowering birth experience for my first birth 3.5 years ago; and we wanted to recreate the same undisturbed environment for this birth too. My husband and I felt so excited about creating the entire experience on our own terms from the BEGINNING this time. After my first son was born, I thought “If I can do that, I can do anything!” I was expecting my second birthing experience to be similar to my first, and I but NO idea what I was in for… Read on to hear the birth story of my second baby!

WHEN IT STARTED:

The contractions first started when I was out for a walk at 35+2 weeks pregnant. It was the middle of summer, and the air was tainted with smoke from forest fires. The contractions were strong, but not painful. I wondered what was happening as I noted that it was much too early for labour to be starting. At this time, I didn’t know about prodromal labour... But over the next 6 weeks while I impatiently waited for my baby to come earthside, it turned out I had a lot of time to learn all about it.

Every single night the contractions would start at around 5pm. They were strong, they were close together; and they lasted for hours until I would eventually fall asleep after they subsided when the sun started to rise in those early summer mornings. Four or five times during those 6 weeks, the contractions didn’t stop in the morning and just kept going through the day. These times I thought, “this is definitely it!”

I was exhausted from not sleeping; and coffee barely helped me make it thorough each day with my increasingly energetic toddler. My mood and patience were low. I stopped making plans, thinking I would just have to cancel because surely baby was coming at any moment. 

My husband re-arranging my affirmations during my labour for a better view!

My husband re-arranging my affirmations during my labour for a better view!

Then somehow, when I reached 40 weeks, I was able to let go. I started making plans again and just accepted that sleepless nights with strong contractions were just a part of my life for now. Well-intentioned advice to get induced was coming from every direction, but that didn’t feel right for me. I was determined to allow my baby to come on his own terms because that’s what felt right for me (for others it can be different and there are so many different “right” choices here!). To help myself cope with the wait, I convinced myself that baby wouldn’t be coming anytime soon… and I did this so well that when it was finally happening, I barely believed it.

WHEN IT ACTUALLY STARTED:
Finally, at 41+2 weeks, it began. It was an early hot summer morning and although I felt uncertain if this was “it”; the contractions continually increased in strength, so my husband started to get things ready. After a few hours of the contractions getting more and more intense, I headed down to the birthing space that my sister Jessica (Birth Takes a Village) and I had created several weeks earlier (when we thought I was going into labour the first time!) We had set up a cozy spot with fairy lights and birthing affirmations all around where I would be labouring. Having a space that felt safe, comfortable and empowering was important for me. My birth team arrived over the next few hours.

The contractions were stronger than ever - even stronger than throughout my entire labour and birth with my first. I was finding them incredibly painful and so difficult to make it through. Jessica (Birth Takes a Village), Andi (Offbeat Doula), and my husband supported me by keeping me fed and hydrated, and helped me to relax through contractions by physically supporting me and saying my birth affirmations to me & with me. I kept saying “I can do this!” And Andi would say “You ARE doing this!”

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When my 3 year old son woke up from his nap, he came downstairs and said “Mommy are you pushing the baby out?” And during contractions he would hop on my back (the pressure actually felt amazing) and he would say “I’m here for you mommy. I’m going to help you push the baby out.” I had prepared him by watching lots of birth videos with him and talked a lot about what would happen at the birth.

Finally, I got into the birth pool. The hot water felt incredible. The contractions continued getting stronger and my birth team continued supporting me through them, including my son leaning over the pool with his arms extended out towards me saying “I’m here for you mommy!”

My puppydoula and sisterdoula.

My puppydoula and sisterdoula.

I was determined to catch this baby myself this time. Keeping my hand down low, I breathed my way through the contractions. Jessica (Birth Takes a Village) coached me through each breath when I started to tense up which made a world of difference by reducing the intensity of the surges. She helped me to be more mindful of my breath and the process which reduced the pain dramatically.

It was getting more and more intense and although my son was being cute, I felt that I needed him out of my space. I knew I needed to get my needs met in this moment, so  I asked my husband to take him outside so that I could have a quieter environment. Jessica seemed unsure of this and told my husband to stay closeby because the baby was coming soon. Almost as soon as he got out the door, Andi ran after him because Jessica was right...my baby was making his entrance!

Moments after my baby’s arrival.

Moments after my baby’s arrival.

My husband got back into position, supporting my back and hips. Soon I felt the top of my baby’s head. What an incredible feeling! I felt his hair, and my own skin as it stretched around the top of his head. I was in total awe of my body at that moment. Although incredible to feel, the pressure that came with those next contractions was extremely painful. I felt like I had to let go of my baby’s head to support myself so I asked my husband to take over baby catching duties. Then the rest of his body shot out, just 33 minutes after entering the birth pool! I swung my leg up and over to grab my baby and leaned back against my husband. My older son jumped into the pool to meet his baby brother up close. He was so excited!

The contractions for birthing the placenta started almost immediately and surprised me with their force. I held and nursed our new baby in the pool over the next hour as I endured intense and painful contractions as the placenta made its way out.

Although it was incredibly difficult and painful; I felt strong, capable and confident throughout my labour and I credit this to my amazing birth team for having complete faith in me, as well as my own trust in the process which I built up as I prepared myself during pregnancy for both of my births. Alongside childbirth education, I believe that emotionally preparing yourself for your birth and carefully selecting who you will allow to be present for your labour and birth is detrimental.

My birthing choices are not for everybody. There are all types of ways to have empowering births! I strongly believe that as women, we must listen to our bodies and trust our intuition to make the best choices for ourselves. For some, that means varying degrees of medical support & assistance at home or hospital. For me, this is what it looked like. I made conscious and well informed decisions throughout both pregnancies and births. What is best and safest for everyone in each birth can look so different. I chose what felt like the best and safest options for myself, my baby, and our family.

I am also very fortunate to have a husband who learned about birth alongside me ever since we began TTC with our first, and my sister Jessica (Birth Takes a Village) has been educating me as she has journeyed through the last 8 years attending births. Jessica’s knowledge and support is invaluable and I am so grateful to have had her attend both of my births.  When I started talking with Andi from The Offbeat Doula about birth, I knew that she was a great fit for us. Having carefully selected my birthing team, I was able to have an incredible and empowering birth experience and I will be forever grateful. 

POST-PARTUM

Post-Partum Bedrest!

Post-Partum Bedrest!

During my pregnancy I was feeling anxious about what my post partum period would be like this time around. I was feeling confident and prepared for this birth but I was worried - not only about how I would manage post-partum, but I was also worried that my anxiety about the post partum period could impact my birth experience. So, I decided to practice what I preach (in my Counselling practice, I support women to prepare for birth & post-partum), and I sought out therapy for myself to process my concerns. After working through my anxiety with my therapist, I felt much more prepared. I realized that despite how hard it is to ask for help, getting support so that I could rest during the weeks following this birth was more important than anything. I made it clear to my husband how important this was and he supported this plan by arranging to have the first 3 weeks off of work - despite this being “frowned upon” amongst the men in his industry. I also arranged with my mother to have her come help out for the first week, and spoke with friends to make sure I had back up. Since then, there have been plenty of ups and downs, but I had a wonderful first 3 weeks as I rested and allowed my body to heal while my husband, my three year old and I adjusted to life with our new addition. I am so grateful that I pushed through my discomfort and vulnerability in asking for help and so grateful for the help that I received. The “fourth trimester” is real, and rest and support go a long way in the first weeks and months after birthing.

What is most important to you when you think about creating a positive birth and post-partum experience for yourself? What helped you the most to feel in control and empowered in your births in the past?

I hold Birth Preparation Workshops regularly and love supporting women to create positive and empowering birth experiences! (Online support offered over video calls for people not local to Calgary area). For info on my upcoming dates, go to: www.theessenceofyou.ca/events. Private Workshops also available.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BOOKING A SESSION WITH HER OR ATTENDING ONE OF HER GROUPS OR WORKSHOPS, VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY.

My Summer of Prodromal Labour

“Prodromal labor is a type of labor that happens prior to the onset of full active labor...the contractions are real but they start and stop. So basically, it is real labor in terms of pain, contractions, and regularity but it comes and goes.” (Source: wellnessmama.com).

This past summer, I gave birth to my second baby....after 6 long, exhausting, unbearable weeks of prodromal labour.

I was exhausted from not sleeping; and coffee barely helped me make it thorough each day with my increasingly energetic toddler. My mood and patience were low. I stopped making plans, thinking I would just have to cancel because surely baby was coming at any moment.

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Then somehow, when I reached 40 weeks, I was able to let go. I started making plans again and just accepted that sleepless nights with strong contractions were just a part of my life for the time being. I convinced myself so well that baby wouldn’t be coming anytime soon, that when it was finally happening, I barely believed it.... FULL BIRTH STORY COMING SOON!

Pictured: Myself, my sister Jessica (Birth Takes a Village), my oldest son, and my dog during one of her false-alarm trips to Calgary this summer! We thought I was in labour so she hurried over to attend my birth but when my labour stopped ... we headed to Banff to go hiking! Thanks to my sister Jessica for #toddlerwearing and thank goodness for #bellywrapping which got me through that hike!

Don’t get me wrong, the prodromal labour was TOUGH, but I did have lots of good times along the way! On the bright side of all the false alarms... we scored a lot of quality sister time!

Check back on my blog soon for my full birth story. www.theessenceofyou.ca/subscribe

New Year 2019!

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Happy New Year!

2018 was a big year for me. Most noteworthy being that I made it through an exhausting pregnancy and gave birth to an amazing little human on my own terms and grew stronger and more empowered through that experience than I thought possible.

Learning to balance the needs of two little humans as well as my own has proven to be extremely challenging but I’m finding my groove and realizing more than ever that I need to be patient, ask for what I need, not try to do it all... and let go of what other people think.

I’m so excited for what 2019 has in store: focusing on my gradual return to my counselling practice, being true to myself, and being the best mother and partner that I can be.

What were your best moments of 2018? What’s your focus for this new year? Comment below!

www.theessenceofyou.ca

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA WITH OVER 7 YEARS EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH WOMEN WITH BODY IMAGE ISSUES AND EATING DISORDERS. VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY TO FIND OUT ABOUT UPCOMING WORKSHOPS.

I am Flawed

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I am flawed. Are you? When you notice your flaws, does this generate shame? Or are you able to hold yourself in a positive regard despite your imperfections?

When shame arises from our *perceived* flaws and imperfections, it can become toxic. It can spread through us like a disease and feel impossible to get rid of.

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I used to personalize everything and feel intense shame for any flaws that I noticed and couldn’t bear it when others noticed and pointed out my imperfections. I held this shame in my body alongside anxiety and it took a lot of therapy and self-exploration for me to work my way out of it! It’s still a work in progress but I now can honestly say that I can acknowledge my flaws and still think highly of myself. Yes, I make mistakes. Yes, I’m imperfect. And, yes, I’m still important, worthy, and acceptable.

Often when we feel shame it gets projected onto our bodies.... without us even noticing the connection. I would like to invite you to ask yourself: How is your body dissatisfaction connected to any shame that you are carrying?

And how can you notice and accept your flaws without allowing shame to manifest?

This topic will be discussed in 2 of my upcoming workshops:

Exploring Body Image

&

Authenticity & Healing from Codependency

Details online: www.theessenceofyou.ca/events

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA WITH OVER 7 YEARS EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH WOMEN WITH BODY IMAGE ISSUES AND EATING DISORDERS. VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY TO FIND OUT ABOUT UPCOMING WORKSHOPS.

Back to Work!

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I’m excited to announce that I’ve started work again after taking some time to welcome my second baby into my family! If you’ve emailed me over the past 4 months and haven’t gotten a response yet - please be patient with me as I work on catching up on my emails over the coming weeks.

Me and my two boys ❤️

Me and my two boys ❤️

Since being off, I’ve been missing my Counselling practice and feeling ready to start back (slowly).

I will be prioritizing past clients for individual sessions and only working weekends for the time being. My first workshops will be “Body Image”, “Post-Partum Rage” and “Codependency” as requested! More details online: www.theessenceofyou.ca/events

In the new year, look out for more information on my upcoming workshops, and keep an eye out for my son’s birth story that will be posted on my blog soon.

JEN IS A COUNSELLOR AND PSYCHOTHERAPIST IN CALGARY, ALBERTA WITH OVER 7 YEARS EXPERIENCE WORKING WITH WOMEN WITH BODY IMAGE ISSUES AND EATING DISORDERS. VISIT THE ESSENCE OF YOU WEBSITE OR CONTACT JEN DIRECTLY TO FIND OUT ABOUT UPCOMING WORKSHOPS.

Photo cred: Alyssa Truong Photography