Technically, my role as a fitness professional is part of the wellness industry that is heavy set into diet culture. And diet culture is a big problem but I want to be part of the solution.
Over the years I have removed the focus on weight loss and instead geared my coaching towards well-being and overall health. I have made the shift away from diet culture and traded it for acceptance, full health and all things feel-good awesome!
I have completely changed my coaching and training to be more positive, body-respecting, and health-centered. I have completed body positive training with The Body Positive and the Body Positive Fitness Alliance (BPFA) to further my knowledge and awareness. My training continues with the BPFA to extend my education to become an affiliate with them and I am focusing on their 8 pillars: Body Positivity, Approachability, Enjoyment, Scope of Practice, Full Health, Accessibility, Growth, and Community. https://bodypositivefitness.org/eightpillars/#1558069643257-821f0bc6-412e
I have changed. My business has changed. For the better.
I don't offer weight loss programs. I don't post about body transformations, before and after photos, clean eating, cleanses or challenges that involve dieting/restricting. I am not judging or shaming/shading others that might. I am making decisions that I feel are best based on my research and in my heart for myself and for the people I work with.
In the last 2+ years of my business I have expanded in a lot of ways. In addition to offering Personal Training sessions, I began offering Group Yoga classes, Private Pilates sessions, Group Pilates classes, Workshops, Fitness Coaching, Speaking and Body Image Coaching. Additionally, since 2010, I have been writing for Optimyz magazine, a national women's wellness magazine writing about running, Pilates, work-life balance, and body image.
These services allow me to be able to offer clients and participants a wide array of options to be able to meet their needs, goals and lifestyle. I am also able to do more of the work of helping others to move towards a healthier mindset for their body image through workshops, speaking, articles and 1:1 coaching.
Some of you who have worked with me in the past or have known me from my earlier years in my career might recall that my approach was more focused on weight loss and how the body looks overall. Of course, health was a huge component of my focus too including building strength and cardiovascular fitness. But overall the focus was what the majority of what clients came to me for: losing weight, "toning up", less body fat, etc. I cringe now thinking back to the marketing strategies I presented, the language I used and all the judgments I made. I am sorry for everyone I hurt, insulted, discouraged and triggered. I know I have said and/or done things that were damaging and I really am sorry. I am doing better and have made a huge shift for the better. And I invite all fitness professionals to challenge their role in diet culture and check how they might be contributing to any damaging effects and see if we can all work collectively to be better together for our clients, participants and community. It’s worth the work. A healthy mindset is imperative to healthy bodies. And diet culture breeds poor body image and when our clients and participants have a poor body image it can be an obstacle to life-long health. There is a vast amount of research-based information available to us fitness professionals to take advantage of to educate ourselves to simply change our language to begin to make the shift away from diet culture in the fitness industry. We can be the change to shift the sails. Please consider visiting https://beautyredefined.org/ and https://thebodylovesociety.com/ and https://haescommunity.com/
(I recommend these websites for anyone seeking information on body image, breaking down diet culture and evidence-based research on diets and weight loss.)
Working in the fitness industry I have always felt that I am under a microscope and held to a different and higher standard. Many comments, assumptions and judgments have been sent my way about my body in my workplace and it's not been easy for me and as a result it’s had an impact on me over the years. I have also have had personal experiences as a young girl and as a young woman that have contributed to my body image issues. Society, diet culture and social media also have played a role as it does with so many.
Over the years I have worked to challenge my own biases and learn more about the importance of inclusion and body diversity. In the last 3-4 years I have felt a huge shift inside myself and the industry towards health, mind-body connection and away from dieting, weight loss frenzy and from the mentality of having to look a certain way. This awareness grew and I used that to guide me to start changing my behaviors with my own disordered eating and body image issues. I knew I needed to begin to heal, do the work to change, move forward so I can make new habits. So, I did.
I started with reading articles online about positive body image and my research grew from there into books, podcasts, courses, etc. I stopped buying into the diet books and the diet culture headlined magazines, and the endless labels and language of the diet industry. I curated my social media by unfollowing accounts that I found harmful to me and I started following accounts that made me feel good that also aligned with body kindness. I also began to let go of my grip on my unhealthy behaviors and adopted a new mindset of health and fitness-based goals replacing my weight focused goals. As time went on, I found guides online that led me to a lot of helpful self-reflection tools, new language and concepts including thin privilege, intuitive eating and H.A.E.S. I also have worked hard at identifying diet culture to break it down, noticing my negative inner narrative to re-frame it and also writing and movement have been two key elements to my body image healing work.
It was hard work at first and it continues to be. I have had setbacks and no doubt I will continue to but I know what to do to come back to the place I need to be to continue to feel good inside my body and mind. It's worth the work.
Working almost two decades in this industry now, I have heard so many folks talk badly about their bodies and themselves and I no longer am standing for it. I am now taking a stand and taking action. Here's what I am doing as a professional to guide others to get closer to body acceptance and improve their own body image. I started offering body image workshops last year, and since have continued to offer them in my community throughout the year. I have written an article on cultivating positive body image as well as one on dismantling diet culture with Optimyz magazine. This summer I was a guest on a podcast for a discussion on improving body image. Early this year I was a presenter with Teen Esteem PEI where I hosted a workshop for a group of teens on improving body image. My blog posts include information and resources on body image and I regularly post helpful articles and information on my social media platforms on the topic of body acceptance. When I work with personal training clients, I share with them that I am a body positive trainer and that I will be speaking kindly about my body and food and I invite them to do the same. I also changed (and continue to evolve) my language in classes and in my promotional materials, being careful to place value on people and not bodies, shape or size. I am also working on a goal to make my website accessible and currently enrolled in a course that is guiding me to become more knowledgeable to make my fitness space and services inclusive and body positive. I am actively working towards using images that ensure all bodies are represented as well as make everyone feel they would be welcomed in any of my classes or workshops. Recently I created a Facebook group with a focus on body acceptance for anyone wanting a safe space to explore this for themselves. This October, I am presenting at the Recharge 2019 https://www.facebook.com/rechargeatlantic/ women's retreat and will be talking about moving towards body acceptance through self-reflection. My next body image workshop will be in November, stay tuned on my Facebook page for announcements on when to register. https://www.facebook.com/DorisWardPEI
In 2020, I will be continuing to offer my Body Image workshops and one on one body image coaching sessions.
Body positivity doesn't mean we have to love every part of ourselves but it does mean that we can be better at not being be mean or negative about our bodies or demonizing food. It serves no purpose to speak unkindly about ourselves and in fact it is damaging. And food has no morals, there is no such thing as good or bad food, it’s all just food. Labeling foods as good or bad can lead to feelings of guilt or shame that may develop into an unhealthy relationship with food. This can grow into to a negative body image so it’s important we view food as simply food with no moral obligation. If you are struggling with disordered eating, or would like to explore your relationship with food please reach out to your family doctor or mental health professional. https://nedic.ca/
Outside of my workplace, I do my best to work on my own narrative to re-frame to be more positive and work on my own body acceptance especially during my workouts by appreciating what my body can do. In my own home, I continue to work on my language and inner voice. I continue to evolve my thinking and challenge my own biases and misconceptions. I humbly remind myself of my thin privilege as well as my other privileges.
I also take action when I hear others speak poorly about themselves and I speak up on their behalf or perhaps in a group of friends I might invite a friend to re-frame words or reconsider their thoughts on how they might be impacting them as well as the others hearing them. These are forms of body activism and it's important that we not only do our own work to heal towards body acceptance but that we help others too if we so choose and are ready to. We will all benefit long term if we can speak up to support others speaking kindly about themselves and help them to remove the negative narrative we are so used to hearing. This will slowly dismantle the diet culture talk that sneaks into our dialogue.
Let’s let go of the judgments, shame, guilt and comparisons. This creates space for respect, joy, freedom, healing and growth to begin. Together we can be better. We can fight diet culture and be healthy both in mind and body. Let's work to change for the better. I'm in, are you?
#BodyImageWeGotThis Check out my Facebook Group under this title!