Body Image

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:

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:

But Isn't it Normal to Have Body Image Issues When My Body is Changing?

Have you found yourself wondering if you'll ever get your old body back?

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Many would argue that body image issues in the peri-natal period are "normal" and that there is nothing else going on; but if there was truly nothing else going on, then a woman would be able to notice and accept the changes to her body instead of becoming concerned or pre-occupied with the changes. 

Pregnancy, birth, and the transition into motherhood are all-consuming experiences that impact you physically and emotionally. Our bodies can quickly become a target when other things in our lives are becoming overwhelming or when uncomfortable emotions are being stirred up - which is inevitable during pregnancy, post-partum, or when you are ttc or experiencing pregnancy loss.

It's definitely normal to go through a period of grieving when you or your body goes through any transition, but when you find yourself becoming obsessive or preoccupied with these changes, it is important to ask yourself why you are finding yourself focusing so much on your body image during this time. If you want to get to a place where you feel true acceptance of your body, you have to be willing to look inside and see what else is triggering these feelings of dissatisfaction in the first place.

What is going on beneath the surface?

Come to our next body image workshop to explore this topic further! 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.

 

 

Getting Your Body Back After Baby - Not What You Might Think

This is one of two guest blog posts that I recently did for Dr Gillian Sawyer for her #yourbodyafterbabyproject she is doing to support women transitioning into motherhood. It is an amazing program worth checking out. ;) I also did a video interview for her project, talking about body image & mental health in the transition into motherhood. Contact Dr Gillian to sign up for her program!

In our society, there is a lot of pressure put onto women to return to their pre-baby bodies, and this can make it difficult to accept the changes that your body has gone through. Is this something that you have encountered?

Your body goes through many changes in the post-partum period as you are healing from your birth: Changes in your body’s appearance, uses (breastfeeding/nurturing baby), energy levels, ability to function, sexuality, and more.

Women are often expected to get straight back to their pre-baby self which makes it difficult to settle into the changes that your body has experienced and impossible to give your body the time that it needs to adjust and heal.

The truth is, your body will never be the same as it was before you got pregnant. Your body has grown and birthed a human being, and your body is now caring for that human being! Your body will go through many changes as it adjusts through these monumental stages of life. Will you fit back into your old jeans? Maybe. Maybe not. But your body will definitely not be the same as it was before. This could be perceived negatively, but is it a negative thing? It is important to ask yourself why you are finding yourself focusing so much on your body image after giving birth.

What is going on beneath the surface? In my work as a counsellor, I always encourage my clients to dig deeper to identify the root causes of their presenting issues.

When body image issues are triggered for women during pregnancy and the post-partum period, it is often linked to body image issues or self-esteem issues from your past. When you become a mother, it is common for a lot of the issues from the past to come to the surface.

Pregnancy, birth, and the transition into motherhood are all-consuming experiences that impact you physically and emotionally. It can be overwhelming dealing with all of the changes and emotions that come with these life-altering experiences, and when you are overwhelmed, your body can become an easy target.

If you want to get to a place where you feel true acceptance of your body, you have to be willing to look inside and see what else is triggering these feelings of dissatisfaction in the first place.

Not the answer you were hoping for? In my work I support my clients to explore the underlying issues to their presenting problems. When you go behind-the-scenes to do the deeper work, you give yourself an opportunity for creating healthy, supportive, long-lasting changes in your life. I facilitate Body Image Group Sessions, Workshops & Individual Therapy. Learn more about my counselling style here.

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 3 Favourite Strategies for Managing Anxiety:

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I work with the majority of my clients to manage their [varying degrees of] anxiety. I thought I'd share some of my favourite anxiety management strategies that I have learned over the past seven years in my career as a counsellor.

Some common presenting symptoms of anxiety are: short of breath, racing heart, shaking/trembling hands, sweating, difficulty concentrating or focusing, feeling lightheaded, feeling restless or on edge, difficulty sleeping, worrying and racing thoughts. Do any of these sound familiar? READ ON!

The below strategies can be applied for something small like feeling a little nervous to something bigger like a panic attack.

1) Literally GROUND yourself. Plant both of your feet flat on the ground, push them gently and allow yourself to feel the weight of your body resting on your feet. Not enough? Try alternating your weight from one foot to the other, or from your toes to your feet, and back again to both feet firmly on the ground.

2) Belly breathing. When you are anxious, you are usually taking short, shallow breaths. Belly breathing brings your energy down, deep into your body, which can help alleviate your anxiety - when you are anxious, almost all of your energy is way up in your head. First, notice your breath. Is it shallow? With your next breath, bring it deeper into your body, and your next breath deeper again, until you are breathing all the way into your belly or lower back. Continue until you notice your symptoms of anxiety easing up.

3) Connect to all 5 senses. Name 5 things that you can see, 4 things that you can physically feel (eg: your clothes against your body, your breath moving in and out of your nose/mouth), 3 things that you can hear, 2 things that you can smell, 1 thing that you can taste.

All of these can be used together! Start with grounding your feet on the ground, move into belly breathing, and then connect to all 5 senses. What I like about these strategies is that they bring your focus and energy into your body and they connect you to the here-and-now. Anxiety is often linked to fear of something that has happened in the past or fear of something in the future, so doing anything to bring your focus and awareness into the present moment can be helpful.

Another strategy to consider: get a reality check around what you are feeling anxious about, or check in with yourself if you need to be thinking about whatever is causing the anxiety in that moment. Give yourself permission to come back to it when you are adequately supported to deal with what came up.

If you tried these, I'd love to hear how they worked for you! Please leave a comment below. :)

Something to keep in mind: these are not one-size-fits-all. Every person responds differently to their triggers and to their grounding strategies. I recommend testing a few out and finding the ones that work best for YOU. For long-term management of anxiety, I recommend seeking support from a professional to help you address the underlying issues of your anxiety.

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.

 

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Comment on a Woman's "Pregnant" Body

We've all been there. You see an old friend, a colleague, an acquaintance, or maybe a total stranger and notice that they are pregnant...or so you think.

Depending on your boundaries on that given day, you might hesitate, double check, wonder if it is appropriate or not to comment. Or you might just blurt it out without any consideration. Boundaries tend to disappear when we are busy, tired, distracted or overwhelmed.

Regardless of how you have handled this in the past, don't you think that as women, we deserve better? Our bodies are under constant scrutiny throughout our lives from so many sources - the media, friends, family, (strangers!). When women are pregnant or have just given birth this seems to escalate - many people seem to believe they get a free ticket to comment on or even freely touch women's bodies when they are in this sensitive and vulnerable stage of their lives. When if you really think about it, this is a time to stand back with more respect than ever; instead of a time to move in for the kill releasing all of your burning thoughts on how this "pregnant" woman's body looks.

It is so common for women to have body image issues, anywhere from the occasional negative thought to having a diagnosable eating disorder. When women are questioning and criticising how they look on a regular basis they do not need someone else commenting on their bodies - pregnant or not!

Here are a few reasons why you should never comment on a woman's body regardless of whether you *think* or KNOW that she is pregnant.

  1. She might be pregnant but isn't ready to tell people or talk about it yet for reasons that are none of your business (or else she would have told you already!)
  2. She might be pregnant but is worried about the pregnancy for more reasons that are none of your business (again, or else she likely would have told you.)
  3. She might be pregnant but doesn't want to talk about how you think her body looks.
  4. She may have an eating disorder and commenting on her body could be extremely triggering - pregnant or not.
  5. She might NOT be pregnant! Maybe she never was, maybe she is unable to get pregnant despite trying, maybe she just had a miscarriage or stillbirth, she might have just given her baby up for adoption, had her baby taken away from her, maybe she was a surrogate. No matter what the scenario is, nobody wants to be caught commenting on a woman's pregnancy when she is not pregnant, am I right?

And then there are exceptions to this. Some women will love it when people are commenting on their pregnant bellies and get excited when their bellies get noticed. Or maybe they have had something bad happen, but welcome the conversations and get support this way. Or maybe they just won't be impacted by your comments regardless of whether they are pregnant, in the post-partum period or have never been pregnant - but these women deserve better too.

Not every woman is the same, but every woman deserves to be treated with respect. Of course pregnancy can be a very exciting time and many people want to talk about it and celebrate it by commenting on your body - which likely comes from such a kind a loving place.

What I'm really suggesting that the next time you see a woman who *looks* pregnant, please consider all of these above scenarios. And if you DO choose to comment after careful consideration, please comment with grace, love and as much respect as all women deserve!

*The inspiration from this post came from an interaction I had recently. I am very passionate about respecting women's bodies, and a way that I practice this is by refraining from commenting on how women's bodies look. I take great pride in this. However, recently I met a woman and I thought she was pregnant. I exclaimed "You're pregnant!" without a glimpse of consideration. She very gracefully told me that no, she is not pregnant. She seemed to be completely confident within herself and not even a little bit rattled by my tactless comment and she accepted my apologies without hesitation. 
Despite her calm and admirable reaction, I was mortified and disappointed in myself. This made me reflect on my own boundaries. Do I give "pregnant" women the same body-respect that I aim to give all other women? Or do my boundaries fade in these circumstances like so many other people? I will be very mindful of this going forward, and I'll be sure to not repeat this same mistake again. I am very fortunate that this being my first (and last!) time in a situation like this was with a woman who did not get offended or take it personally. I have learned something from her and for that I am grateful. And in this moment I am going to accept myself as a flawed human being and forgive myself - while also giving compassion to all of the other people out there who have made mistakes and learned from them! But let's do better!

Feeling Good in Your Body

Last week I had an opportunity to give a presentation on Feeling Good in Your Body at a Self-Care Event put on by Calgary Goddess Groups. The evening was full of inspiration with what I experienced as women looking for deeper ways to connect and care for ourselves. Isn’t this what we all need?

I think this concept of connecting and caring for ourselves in a deeper way can apply to so many areas - including the topic of body image. I've been working with women struggling with body image issues since the beginning of my career when I started working at a trauma/addiction treatment centre in Australia, and I am very passionate about this subject. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies - it's no wonder there are so many women with body image issues. After all, how can you feel good in your body if you aren't in tune with it? I believe that we must respect, love and nurture our inner-selves to be able to respect, love and nurture our outer-selves (our bodies) – and vice versa!

There is so much emphasis in our society on body image, especially for women. This can lead to obsession with appearance, weight, food, exercising & dieting with a goal of body satisfaction & higher self-confidence. However, research shows that what this obsessive and unhealthy behaviour leads to is less confidence, lower self-esteem, less satisfaction with your body & appearance. Why?? Because when you are only treating external issues, you can’t fix the internal issues – which are the real cause of the external issues in the first place. I’m not saying don’t exercise and make mindful food choices – I’m saying have a look at what’s going on and if what you are doing is a part of a healthy lifestyle or if it has become and unhealthy way of trying to change or to fix something.

Having a deeper look at your self-esteem & connecting to your emotions are essential aspects of feeling good in your body. If you don’t feel good about yourself from within, you will never feel good in your body. Some things that I have seen impacting self-esteem in my work with clients experiencing body image issues: Shame, perfectionism, control issues, boundary issues (more blog posts to come on these topics!). Does any of this sound familiar? So what’s the answer? How can you reach a place where you feel good about yourself from within, and start feeling good in your body?

Becoming aware of your emotions is the first step, and the next step is giving yourself time to actually feel, process, and share your feelings. Stop holding it all in, stop stuffing, distracting, and suppressing . This is SO much harder than it sounds.

To become aware of your emotions you must first start re-connecting to your body. So many of us are disconnected from our bodies because our world is full of distraction and disconnection.  But our emotions are stored inside of our bodies and so we need to re-connect and re-establish our awareness of our bodies to be able to really access our emotions.

You’ll probably find that when you start taking the time to do this that a lot of memories will be jogged that are painful and difficult to manage – so make sure that you take your time and get lots of support so you don’t have to do this alone. Becoming aware of your body and getting in touch with your emotions isn’t the ONLY thing that you need to do to feel good in your body, but it’s a really good place to start.

What do you think of this perspective on Body Image? What do you do to connect, care for & feel good in your body?

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.