‘WHEN I LOOK IN THE MIRROR, I DON’T SEE A FAT PERSON’

Charmaine Jennings’ weight loss journey didn’t start because of a lack of confidence

GUEST WRITER INFO

Charmaine Jennings is the owner of Strategic Charm Boutique, a boutique marketing and public relations agency in Winnipeg. She also created Hustle & Charm Community, a group for female entrepreneurs and bloggers to gather, learn and grow together.

She’s an entrepreneur, marketing and copywriting whiz and all around boss bitch.

I ran into someone I went to elementary school with the other day. As soon as she recognized me I knew what must’ve been going through her mind, “Wow. Charmaine’s still fat!”

Now let me be crystal clear, I NEVER call myself fat. Not out loud, not in my head – never. I mean do you know what fat is? It’s yellow globs of gloop (that’s the scientific definition) and I can assure you, I do NOT look like yellow globs of goop. In fact, I’m quite adorable if you ask me. But I’m not ignorant to the fact fat is a word many people use to describe people who are overweight.

Anyway.

I’ve been overweight my entire life. Even when I was just a little kid and it shouldn’t have been that big a deal. Looking back now at pictures of me when I was 8, I wished being 15 pounds heavier than the other kids was something I didn’t notice. Was something no one noticed. 

Charmaine at age 6 or 7.

 

I always had a lot of friends, but there was always someone who had to comment on my weight. Although I was only called fat a few times before I hit puberty, I can’t pretend it didn’t make me sad when I heard it.

Once I hit grade 5 or 6, I started to hear it more frequently. Mostly from grungy boys, but from some of the older girls too. But you bet your booty I’ve always been able to hold my own. Sure I would get sad and upset when kids teased me, but I wasn’t the girl to bite her tongue and go home crying. I mean crying came at some point, but it wasn’t my default reaction. I dished out what I had taken, and kept reminding myself that I was cute, generally a good person (I had my bad girl moments, okay!), smart, and ambitious. And funny. Yes, I was funny as a kid too.

In about grade 7 or 8 I started to notice a bit of a pattern between the people who would call me fat or allude to the fact that I’m eating once again.

“Gotta eat to live gotta live to eat, tell you all about it when I’ve got the tiiiiiiiiime” (name that Disney movie!)

Angry Aladdin GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

By this time the older girls had moved onto high school, so it was mostly those grungy boys in my grade who kept yapping. The pattern I noticed was that these were boys who weren’t happy. Boys who had a hard time with their school work, and who would have a hard time making it to high school graduation. It’s hard to put into words, but I decided that if calling me fat was the only thing that was going to put a smile on their face that day, then so be it. Plus, I was going to spend the summer after grade 8 getting nice and skinny before high school, so who cared what they had to say now?

Grade 9 rolled around and I still wasn’t skinny. I was close to 200 pounds if my memory serves me correctly. Although I was fairly confident in middle school, I was nervous about what might be in store for me with high school kids. I was scared I might get teased more than I was before, and that someone might dump pig’s blood on me at the dance.

I watched a lot of high school horror movies growing up, okay?!

I won’t bore you with all the details of my high school experience grade by grade, but overall I had a blast! Tons of friends, new positive experiences, and I was a total joiner so I had my hand in almost everything. Band, drama, student council, yearbook committee – you name it, I was in it. And you might not know this about me, but booty shaking is one of my not so hidden talents. This talent obviously stemmed from my love of dancing. So what was one of the groups I immediately signed up for? Cheerleading!

Again, I was all about high school movies so being a cheerleader on the field at the big game was totes one of my life goals. And I did it! Sure I was nervous because cheerleaders in the movies were always thin, but thin or not, I was getting myself on the squad. And just like grade 5, the older cheerleaders looked at me with judgment. Like, how dare I think I belong on the squad? But I wasn’t going anywhere so they were just going to have to deal. I defied the odds, but not the laws of gravity so obviously, I wasn’t tossed up in the air or anything. But it felt good to be part of the team.

As far as I can remember, there were only two older boys who teased me consistently throughout high school about my weight. One of them even threw a shoe at my one day as I was walking through the halls, and you know what I did? I picked it up and threw it in the toilet. Boy, bye!

When I dished out what was thrown at me (literally!) some people didn’t know how to react since they expected me to crawl in a hole and hide in shame. Some left me alone after they realized they couldn’t shake me the way they wanted to. Others persisted but with hesitation; they waited to see if others would join in or not before making a move. A select few continued until they dropped out of school – their coping mechanism for dealing with their own anger and emotions.

Every summer in high school was the summer I was going to lose a bunch of weight and be thin and greatly desired by all of the popular fellas. But nah. All I did was gain weight year after year as if someone had put an obesity curse on me. Ugh!

My beautiful picture
Charmaine at age 18.

Once I hit my graduating year, I decided this would FINALLY be my chance to shed all the pounds and get it right and tight for university. Guess how that turned out?

Now here I am, 30 years old, still thinking this is going to be the year where I shock the universe and lose 100 pounds.

As you can see, I’ve been on a weight-loss journey my whole life. Last August I decided to make that journey very public by documenting my progress or lack thereof on the gram, using the hashtag #journeyto200 to categorize all of my posts about health and weight-loss on my way to 200lbs. For my first post of my public journey, I shared a video discussing what this journey was all about, and included a picture of me on the scale, weighing in at 327.4lbs. This is the first time I’ve ever disclosed my weight to anyone, and I decided to share it with the Internet. I paced back and forth in my apartment right after posting it, thinking I should take it down. But then I got immediate positive responses to the post, so I figured what the heck – it’s out there now for the world the see. Let the journey begin.

It’s 9 months later and I’m sitting at 315lbs. I haven’t even dipped my toes into the 200s yet. Ugh!

I’m frustrated by a number of things:

  1. I went from 312 to 279lbs in less than a year when I was living in Alberta, so I know I can do this
  2. Pastries are my weakness and I hate that I let them consume me
  3. My confidence about my body is part of my problem

When I look in the mirror, I don’t see a fat person. I see a woman with curves, a juicy booty, muscles, and cheekbones that make my smile cute. I never shy away from wearing a bikini to the beach or a short skirt to go dancing. I don’t go out of my way to cover my arms because they’re almost as big as my thighs. I truly and deeply love my body. And as grateful as I am for the confidence I carry, I can’t help but notice that that very confidence sometimes holds me back from becoming a healthier version of myself.

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Charmaine at age 27.

I’m not waiting until I lose 150 pounds to finally wear that two-piece I’ve been dreaming of or those short shorts that show a little extra cheek. I’m already there and I’m enjoying every minute of it. And I know a dramatic weight-loss isn’t all about how I look and what I wear – it’s about living a longer and healthier life. 

There are times where I want to stop documenting this journey because who the hell cares that I’m averaging a loss of 1.3lbs per month. What I remind myself is that I’m doing this for me — but I’m also doing it to inspire others who are struggling to get their voluptuous booties over the same hurdles. And hey, the feeling of knowing there are other people on a similar journey who can feel even the teeniest inspiration from my story, might be just the motivation I’ve been looking for all these years.


WHAT COMES NEXT FOR CHARMAINE AND HER JOURNEY TO 200

Guess you’ll have to follow her on Insta and keep up with her blog to find out!

✨A N N O U N C E M E N T 🙌🏼 Are you interested in learning more about the Body Positive Movement? Do you find yourself wanting to get more involved but don't know where to begin?! If so, we’ve got just the event for you! It’s the BoPo Panel, a podcast event created by 8 other like minded people who all feel so passionately about the BoPo Movement! We're all on a mission and have one common goal: to expand education on the topic of body positivity and reach a broader audience of diverse individuals in our community, to open up a dialogue about each complex topic under the umbrella of body positivity.🤗❤️ Each time we meet, we will discuss topics such as Diet Culture, Weight Stigma, Eating Disorders, Perfectionism, Language Around Food and Bodies, Media Literacy, the Beauty Industry and so much more! We’ll also be bringing in guests when we meet who are experts/who’s voice will be crucial on the topic!! 🎙 There will also be time for a Q&A period after the one-hour podcast, where you will hear from all 8 of us and our individual thoughts, experiences, and knowledge on the subjects. The first event will take place August 29th at 7PM, at @fhcoffee_ Tickets are $10 💕 And the best part??? Proceeds from this event are going to the Women's Health Clinic (@whcwpg), to support those struggling with eating disorder and other body image issues!!!🙏🏻 You can find more information on how to purchase your tickets from the link in our bios! SIGN UP MY LOVES!!❤️❤️❤️ 👊🏻👊🏼👊🏽👊🏾👊🏿 BoPo Panelists: – @tillieandtrue – @mybodywpg – @_risingstrong – @strategiccharmboutique @hustleandcharmcommunity – @jenihaileyyoga – @nakedskincareapothecary – @blondesovereign – @caseylanxon

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I GOT A JOB WITH BUMBLE BY MAKING THE FIRST MOVE

How I landed my dream job by believing in myself and sending an email.

I first heard the backstory about Bumble when I listened to an episode of the How I Built This podcast with Whitney Wolfe.

I won’t rehash it for you, but I will say I related deeply to Whitney’s story for a number of reasons. Ultimately, she didn’t get crushed under the weight of an onslaught of online hatred. She took the hit emotionally, but her drive didn’t die.

Most of all, I related to the way she saw the world: it can be a cruel and judgemental place (especially to women and marginalized groups) but that doesn’t mean that’s the way it should be. Whitney used her experience as fuel to create something that is charting the course to radically change that way people connect.

After I heard her interview on the podcast I thought: yeah, that’s how I feel and what I want to do. I related to her vision and her rejection of the status-quo way people treat each other.

So I started following Bumble on social media, and watched closely what they did on the PR and marketing fronts. My background is in PR and marketing, and I was immediately impressed and quickly realized that they walked the talk and did things differently. Few examples: they banned guns in users profile pics after the Parkland shooting and partnered with the L.A. Clippers on a campaign promoting gender equality. 

They take risks, maintain their belief in making IRL connections despite scaling massively (they place a lot of importance on activating at a grassroots level) and speak to their audience in a way that empowers them.

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If you know nothing about the brand, read this letter from Whitney Wolfe about the Bumble philosophy and you might start to understand why I feel so strongly about Bumble.

I remember I had a sticky note on my cork board in my first apartment that said “email Bumble about being an ambassador.” I eventually took the note down when I moved. From my research, I knew they had something called the “Queen Bee” program in the US, but I figured it was a long shot.

With all of that being said, in April 2018 I found out that Bumble had created a Canadian Instagram page. I was excited, to say the least.

I found an email address for the Canadian market lead. There were no job postings or calls for resumes. I just figured “you don’t ask, you don’t get,” so I may as well just sincerely show my cards. I sent her the email below.

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I got an email back from someone at Bumble HQ later that day, and had a conference call later that week. I explained where I was from and why Winnipeg as a market was awesome and unique. I talked about the potential to promote the Bizz and BFF verticals in Winnipeg because most people in the city still think of Bumble as just a dating app, but I knew from experience it represents much more than that.

I remember I took a call with the head of field marketing (for Bumble as a whole) while I was at the library downtown and as soon as it ended I started crying because I couldn’t believe any of this was happening.

After some back and forth with Bumble, I plucked up the courage to talk to my boss to see if there was a way I could keep working in my position and also work for Bumble. It was funny actually because my boss and I both listen to The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, and a few weeks prior Whitney Wolfe had been his guest. He understood it was important to me, and we worked something out.

So now I’m the Community Marketing Manager for Bumble in Winnipeg.

BEING ABLE TO TYPE THAT IS SO SURREAL AND I STILL HAVE ZERO CHILL ABOUT ALL OF THIS.

I am so proud to represent a company that stands for equality, kindness, safety, respect and inclusivity. It’s more than an app – it’s a movement. And I feel so fortunate to be able to bring this brand to Winnipeg.

I could write some whole big thing about how dreams come true to those who work blah blah blah but believing in yourself is the key to manifesting some next level stuff in my opinion. Before, I would have never sent that email because I didn’t think I deserved to work for a company I admired like Bumble. It’s cheesy, but self-love and acceptance can move mountains within you — I can truly say that from personal experience.

Also, don’t be afraid to make the first move.

‘ello London. 👋🇬🇧 @thetimes

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If you wanna stay updated on Bumble events in Winnipeg you can follow my personal Insta or Twitter, and/or follow Bumble’s Canadian Instagram account.

Oh, and download the app, of course.

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HOW I LEARNED THAT DOING THINGS ALONE IS AWESOME

Turns out riding solo is pretty great.

When I was 21, I went on a walking tour of St. Boniface alone. Being a person who grew up caring WAY too much about what people thought of me (to the point where I let people’s opinions shape who I was for many years), this felt like an act of defiance.

I was still really new to being single at the time, and I think it was the first time I purposely struck out and did something without a friend by my side. It was a Saturday morning and I had no plans that day. I remember when the tour guide asked the group if anyone was from Winnipeg and I was the only one who put my hand up.

I ended up chatting with the French-speaking guide and found out he was moving to somewhere in Europe the following month and this was his summer job. Then I walked with the tourists (most of them were retired folks) and talked to them about what they thought about Winnipeg so far and what they still wanted to do. I learned all these beautiful and unexpected things about an area of my city that had previously seemed so exotic to me.

Not only did the tour put a dumb smile on my face the rest of the day, but it also made me realize that going it alone was more about attitude than about the activity.

I’m now 24, and I now prefer doing most things on my own. In fact, I travelled through France, Switzerland and Italy alone for two weeks this summer and learned a ton about myself and enjoyed the hell out of it. Obviously, it wasn’t always this way. I’ve worked up to this point.

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?

No seriously. Do you have a list, or something specific that you really want to do but nobody will do it with you on the day you want to do it? That’s an opportunity!

I’ve talked about this before in another blog post, but the summer after I finished my degree I wrote a long list of activities that I wanted to check off before the summer was over. Some of them I had to do with other people, but a lot I could do alone. That was the first time I went to the Planetarium alone — highly recommend it — and travelled on my own agenda to Halifax and had to entertain myself.

My advice? Make a list, or at least identify something you’ve always wanted to try or do. Go at it with fury. Stop waiting for your friends to have time or money or both.

Here’s a list of 50 things to do alone to get you started.

PUT YOUR DAMN PHONE AWAY

It’s tempting to go out alone and just be on your phone the whole time, but it really defeats the purpose and makes you less present. I think a lot of people reach for their phone instinctively when they feel uncomfortable as a reflex now (myself included), but it’s a cop out and we all know it. After watching a famous Simon Sinek video I realized that people are so uncomfortable with the idea of eye contact and looking bored that when someone goes to the washroom at a restaurant they’d rather scroll on social than look around the restaurant for two minutes.

For example, if you’re going take yourself out for food, at least put your phone away (out of immediate reach) while you enjoy your dish. Be present. Chew slowly. It’s really not that terrible.

GOING IN COLD

Fun fact: our tolerance for uncomfortable situations and the unknown increases the more we put ourselves in situations with elements of uncertainty. We can change our threshold for fear (in safe, non-threating situations of course) if we do enough to challenge it.

I like to call it brain blocking, or going in cold. I’m sure there’s a chapter in a sales textbook somewhere about this, but I think it especially applies to doing things alone.

I shut my brain off and start moving my body before my brain has time to stop me or catch up. I learned this tactic when I had to do journalism streeters in college (this is where reporters walk up to random strangers on the street and ask them for an opinion).  My brain would be screaming profanities at me, but I knew the moment I hesitate I would be done for and fail the assignment.

Get out of your car. Stand up. Move your legs. Walk through the door. The first movement is the hardest. Once you’re in the cold, it’s not so bad.

GETTING OVER YOURSELF

The biggest barrier initially was getting over the what-will-people-think mental block I was imposing on myself.

Here are a few tricks I still use when I start to feel this way:

1) I imagine the worst-case scenario: some dickhead makes a comment to the person or people they are with about me, and I hear it.

“Oh wow look at that person eating alone — how sad.”

Lonely Tv Land GIF by #Impastor - Find & Share on GIPHY

First off, I know I have people who love me. No question. Second, their words aren’t bullets unless I load the gun for them. If I take it to heart, I go down. I don’t have to though — because it’s not true.

Second, what kind of dickhead comments on someone minding their own damn business? Don’t be that person. Let people enjoy their time alone in peace.

Here’s the game plan if this does actually happen to you: look them dead in the eyes, smile and take an enormous bite of my food without breaking eye contact. Nothing says confidence like shoving half a sandwich in your mouth in one bite.

2) I laugh out loud. By myself. At myself. Works like a charm.

A recent example: I was zoned out and walking around Toronto alone trying to find a place to eat, full of anxiety about the thought of sitting in a busy restaurant alone. I accidentally walked in front of a car turning when I wasn’t supposed to and I screamed and ran back to the sidewalk and the car honked at me. There was a guy standing on the curb who had seen the whole thing and he said, “he sure told you,” and I started laughing really hard. Like so hard I almost started crying.

I think he was confused but it totally brought me back into the moment and reminded me to not take myself too seriously.

Don’t know where to start? Go to a movie alone — it’s a great way to dip your toe into the pool of trying things by yourself. Plus you can pick the movie, sit in a single seat, and don’t have to split your drink or snacks with anyone.

p.s. The first ever movie I ever saw alone was How To Be Single and I’m such a cliché BUT HEY IF THE SHOES FITS WEAR ITTTTT.

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Do you have something you love doing alone?

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11 PIECES OF SEX AND DATING WISDOM I LEARNED IN MY EARLY 20s

Dick pics, consent, condoms, exes, self-objectification and love. Love in the age of millennials.

I have enough exes that they could all get together and make a ska band. I used to be embarrassed about this fact, but now I know it just means I REALLY have experience in this field. Everything from getting dumped and having my heart broken, dumping someone, being used, being played out and mislead, being a terrible unsupportive significant other, being called horrible things — you name it, I've probably lived it and learned from it.

Taking a step back from dating for last little while has given me a new perspective on certain things and reminded me of others. Millennials are reinventing everything as a generation, including dating. In some ways it’s amazing because we have more ways to meet people than ever before, but all those avenues of communication can make us less connected than ever before.

Buckle up. If you are related to me, please, for the love of god don’t read this.

Mature themes and swearing ahead, kids.


1. Just because someone uses you doesn’t make it ok for you to use someone else.

Sometimes when we are hurt we do dumb things because we feel like causing pain will cancel out our pain. Meanwhile, it only makes things SO MUCH WORSE. Nobody wins when you act out of spite, especially not you.

For example, maybe he used you (emotionally, physically) and now you wanna get a baseball bat out and go to town on him like Beyoncé in the Lemonade film but you don’t want to reveal your rage and fulfill the “crazy woman” stereotype so you internalize it and take it out on some other unsuspecting guy you find at a bar or on Tinder. *deep breath*

A short-term self-esteem bandaid (in whatever form) won’t cover the gaping flesh wound this person left you with. That’ll only heal with time, my friend.

2. Stop playing the game of “who can care less about the other person”

Whoever can come away more untouched and unfazed from a one night stand or a Tinder date is supposedly the “winner” of this game people play now.

Casual sex culture is scary because it can harden us and makes us think that it’s wrong to have feelings. If we don’t want to play the game, we can be harshly judged or cast out. Sometimes we end up participating even when we know it hurts us. I thought about things completely differently after watching Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, and I still believe that adults are completely allowed to conduct themselves however they want — but this whole “I don’t have to show you any respect” thing is just horrible.

The executive director of the documentary said this in an interview for The Bundle Magazine and I think it applies to both genders:

“We live in a world where people wear very scant bikinis just to sell us burgers. And whether we like that or not, we are constantly surrounded by those images. We may be guarding our eyes, but we cannot escape them in culture. We might not be conscious of it, but when we pass a billboard, look at a magazine or turn on the TV, we are being primed to that kind of imagery. That commodifies a human being. It makes them an object. And as soon as we objectify someone, it’s a lot easier disrespect them. Or to not see them for the extraordinary creation that they are.”

— Sarah-Jane Murray

3. When it comes to anything in the bedroom — ask. Never assume. 

I can’t believe I have to say this but y’all would be downright SHOCKED at the number of conversations I’ve had with other women where guys will go to do something in the bedroom without any prior warning or consent and it turns out it’s something their partner isn’t into. In 2018.

ARGUABLY! THE! YEAR! OF! FUCKING! CONSENT!!!!

GO FIGURE SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO BE WARNED BEFORE ANAL SEX.

If you are scared to communicate or ask someone before you do something that doesn’t mean you get to just DO IT. If you don’t know someone well and you assume they are down to do something – that doesn’t mean you get to just DO IT.

This behaviour isn’t gendered by the way. I’m aware that trust, non-verbal communication and being under the influence all play a role in the quality of communications taking place.

People try to argue it isn’t sexy to stop and ask something in the heat of the moment but I really don’t know what’s sexier than safe and consensual intercourse with someone who respects you???

Honestly, Amber Rose said it best when she was on a talk show:

“If I’m laying down with a man — butt-naked — and his condom is on, and I say, ‘You know what? No. I don’t want to do this. I changed my mind,’ that means no. That means f-ing no. That’s it. It doesn’t matter how far I take it or what I have on, when I say no, it means no.”

Amber Rose No GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

4. Always talk about testing even if it makes you uncomfortable.

Yeah sex is cool but some STIs and STDs are undetectable friends. I was lucky enough to have a brother who volunteered at Nine Circles educating people about safe sex practices for a long time so I learned a lot — but mostly he told me that most sexually active adults really don’t have the right facts about this stuff.

If you can’t talk about testing you shouldn’t be having sex. Period.

Ask “when was the last time you were tested?” then go from there. It’s specific, direct and doesn’t pry into past partners.

5. Don’t shit talk your ex. 

No matter how it ended, it ain’t worth it. It reflects more poorly on you than it does your ex. Also, they don’t deserve that.

6. A smiling selfie is way cuter than a picture of your penis.

I know what you’re thinking: “Raegan, does that really need to be explicitly stated?”

YES. IT DOES. BECAUSE PEOPLE ACT LIKE BARN ANIMALS.

ALSO, INSTAGRAM AND SNAPCHAT EGGED ON THE FUCKBOIS BY MAKING IT SO THAT YOU CAN SEND PHOTOS THAT DISAPPEAR FOREVER.

There are people who like dick pics. They exist, and you may have met one. But there are also many women who don’t.

7. Don’t string someone along just because you want attention. 

I see people make jokes about this on Twitter and it’s cold. But I’ve gone through this — I’ll admit it — I’m no saint. But thinking about how it makes the other person feel snapped me out of it. Are we really so used to be stimulated that we can’t stand to go unacknowledged for one night? You can’t outrun that fear forever.

I get that it’s easy to avoid ever feeling lonely with dating apps, DMs and Snapchat BUT dating and messaging people shouldn’t be a hobby. If you are only texting someone every Friday night, shut your phone off and go to bed fam.

8. Do believe that you deserve love.

I can’t believe how much of my life I wasted believing I didn’t deserve love. How much I believed that I was just lucky someone would put up with me. How much I would turn into a puddle of shitty self-esteem when someone even remotely cool, attractive or interesting would pay attention to me. How I would just assume how it was a matter of time before that person found out too much and RAN because apparently I was such a monster???

Imposter syndrome is a bitch.

Speaking from experience, don’t waste another minute thinking that. If you’re lucky enough to find love, know that it walked into your life because you deserve it. If you can find it in your heart to accept yourself, you’re gonna give off this bright shiny light that’s gonna pull in some winners. If you haven’t found someone, love yourself like your life depends on it (as Jen Sincero says at the end of every chapter of ‘You are a Badass’).

Which one drives you?

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9. Life is too damn short to not have great sex because you are worrying about how you look.

Remember when I talked about objectification earlier? Well when people self-objectify it can actually lead to sexual dysfunction…amongst other issues. Translation: the more you see yourself as a sex object, the less fun you tend to have during sex. Sad but true.

We’ve all felt lackluster about our self image at one time or another (or always, for some people), but it can sideline you from sex for a LONG time if you let it. That breaks my heart. But we gotta stop being so afraid of not looking perfect and embrace imperfect pleasure.

We don’t get much for free in this life other than orgasms and library books so make the most of both if you can.

Also:

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10. If you ghost someone, you deserve to run into them looking like a potato. The universe is gonna take their side on this one.

There’s a way to be polite, direct and kind. Find that way. Use it. Next time, put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask how you want to be treated.

*Mutual ghosting is the ONLY exception to this rule.

11. Put your damn phone away when you are spending time with someone.

Nothing says modern romance on like sitting across the table from someone watching them text someone else who isn’t part of the present moment. Not face up on the table, not face down on the table, not in your pocket with vibrate on, not in sight…

A

W

A

Y.


Love people. Use things.

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THE STORY OF MY BODY AND MY BUSINESS

How Brooke Ryssel came back after an accident and built a health and wellness company around body positivity

GUEST WRITER INFO

Brooke Van Ryssel is the owner/creator of My Body Fitness + Nutrition, Winnipeg’s first company dedicated to fitness, nutrition and body positivity.

She is a 25-year-old entrepreneur, fitness trainer and Registered Holistic Nutritionist.

In August 2016, I moved away from my partner, family and friends to study Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver. Everything was going swimmingly, I was enjoying school, excelling and working a part-time job at a group fitness gym.

Until one morning when I was driving to work.

On May 16, 2017, someone went right through a red light and hit my car on the drivers side at full speed resulting in another impact into a lamp pole.

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I can still remember the exact feelings I had after the second impact: shock and disbelief, quickly followed by panic when I couldn’t open my door and realized I was covered in glass.

Am I ok?

With the help of some pedestrians I was able to get out of the passengers side door. I tapped each foot into the cement to see if I was able to stay standing, and began touching my body from head to toe as if I was giving myself an airport style pat down. As I did this, I was crying hysterically and a paramedic started asking me questions and guiding me towards an ambulance.

The woman who hit me casually walked over, travel mug in hand, and said she was glad I was ok. I didn’t say anything because I barely heard her.

I was sitting in the ambulance when I felt the first tinge of pain under my left thigh. I reached my hand underneath my leg, and when I brought it back up it was covered in blood and little shiny shards of glass.

“So I guess I’m bleeding,” I said to the paramedic.

We got to the hospital where I was assessed and laid on the table bare butt up while a medical resident pulled shards of glass out of my leg.

It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that I could barely walk and my body hurt all over. It was a deep aching pain that seemed to be just as bad when I was moving as it was when I was still. I went upstairs and called everyone to tell them what happened.

I told my mom that I was fine and that no one needed to fly out from Winnipeg to take care of me. She didn’t listen to me and left that evening. I am grateful every single day that she came because I was completely useless and unable to do most things myself for the following three months.

I began my recovery with a chiropractor, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. I kept attending school and I was determined to not fall behind and have to delay my certification. I missed one day of school total — the day of the accident.

My life became riding in cabs to school, home and various rehabilitation appointments. I became a recluse; unable to do anything I had done before. I went from teaching 13 boot camp classes per week, working out three times on my own and walking everywhere to no activity at all.

For the first two months of recovery I couldn’t walk more than one block without the pain becoming too overwhelming or having my leg swell up like a water balloon.

It was in the darkest period of my recovery that the idea for my business came to me. My body had started to change as a result of my injuries and lack of activity. I looked in the mirror, and for the first time in a long time, I truly hated my body.

I felt so helpless, depressed and out of control. After about a week of this I thought to myself, “some people feel like this every single day and I need to do something about it.”

I began to acknowledge the privileges I had. First of all, I’m alive. I could’ve died in that car! Second, I am a certified trainer and almost a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with an education in injury recovery that I can use to help heal my body. Third, pain is temporary. There is an end in sight, and I’m a small-medium sized white woman living in Canada and am fairly able bodied.

Lastly, I was asking myself why I feel the way I feel about my body in the first place?

This is when I began what I now call the “research” phase of my body positivity journey. I began looking internally to discover where my feelings about my body were coming from. My body isn’t working normally and I have cuts and bruises, butI will heal. I have more squishy bits, cellulite, scars, and flaws…wait why are they flaws? Who told me that cellulite was a flaw?

Answer: the beauty industry, diet culture and other media. In other words, I realized that this was something that I was taught and not something that was true or factual. Flaws don’t exist; they were created by someone who was profiting off of me hating my body!

This was when I began to make the connection between body positivity and the health and fitness industry. This was very foreign territory because after working within the fitness industry in some form over the past six years body positivity had literally never come up. No one seemed to know how to make the connection between the two.

How can you love your body and still want to change it physically?

The truth is that body positivity and body health are completely interconnected; you cannot have one without the other. Why do you move and exercise your body? Is it because you are punishing yourself for something you ate yesterday or will eat today? Flipping the switch and changing your mindset on why you exercise and nourish your body is an incredibly difficult and slow process, which is yet another reason why the diet industry makes billions of dollars every year.

Since starting My Body Fitness + Nutrition in January 2018, I have been called a hypocrite, had someone say I’m “not a real trainer” and been told I am promoting obesity. While I strongly disagree with what was said, I can see where they are coming from, because this has never been done before.

Body positivity has been either completely absent or just unwelcome in the health and fitness industry for far too long. The focus is always on “get rid of your stubborn belly fat” or “get your summer body ready”. Essentially do this, change that, look like this person and then you’ll be happy.

On the left: Sitting up straight, flexing, smiling, digging my green smoothie. On the right: Slouched, relaxed, smiling, still digging my green smoothie. BOTH = WORTHY ❤️🙌🏼 • Learning to love your body in all the shapes it can make can be tough but try and find the beauty in your squishy bits and all those other little things that society told you were flaws! It’s all a giant load of crap in order to profit off of you hating your body.💩 Rebel beauties, Flaws do not exist! Also now I can’t stop singing this in my head. 🎶They see me rollin’ they lovin’ 🎶 and honestly I don’t hate it. 😘 Have a fabulous day Body Lovers, and remember also that WORTH has NO size, number, shape, age, gender, race, etc. There is no limit on humanity, you are worthy because you exist. 💕💕🙌🏼🙌🏼 #thelimitdoesnotexist #worthy #theyseemerollin #theylovin #worthybecauseyouexist #flawsdonotexist #mybody #becauseilovemybody #bodypositivity #bodypositive #holisticnutrition #nutritionist #fitness #bodylove #selflove #selfcare #love #nofilter #mybodywpg #mybodyfitnessandnutrition #health #wpg #mb #supportlocal #lovelocal #wpgglow #soundslikemybody

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You must start with accepting and loving yourself exactly as you are in order to make any kind of positive change in your life. It’s not about throwing away your goals, just changing your perspective. Why are you doing it? Take time to notice what your body is capable of, more than what it looks like, because in reality body positivity has nothing to do with what your body looks like. Every single inch of you is worthy of love, acceptance and celebration! You are worthy because you exist.

The tagline for My Body Fitness + Nutrition is Because I Love My Body. I am bringing the body positivity movement to the health and fitness world. My ‘aha’ moment, my calling, this was what I was meant to do!!

After this revelation my recovery became easier to deal with, and to this day even though I’m still living with chronic pain, I know that the car accident was meant to happen to me.

The moment you realize that you were born naturally flawless, is the moment you become free. • Free to not only accept your body as it is, but love it completely. • Free to celebrate your body for all that it is and all that it can do. Rather than punishing it for what it is not. • Free from all the negative images, words, and thoughts thrown your way every day that tell you that you are not enough. You will know that you are more than enough. Don’t let the people who created flaws to profit off of you hating yourself win. Say it loud for the people in the back!! Flaws do not exist!! 🙌🏼💕 #mybody #becauseilovemybody #bodypositivity #bodypositive #bopo #inspiration #holisticnutrition #nutritionist #fitness #bodylove #selflove #selfcare #love #nofilter #mybodywpg #mybodyfitnessandnutrition #health #wpg #mb #supportlocal #lovelocal #wpgglow #flawsdonotexist #effyourbeautystandards #free

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What comes next for Brooke and her business

Can you imagine walking into a gym knowing that you are already flawless as you are? Walking in, knowing it is a truly judgment free environment where everyone is there sweating, laughing, learning all with the mindset that they are there because they love their body? Sound like a dream?

🚨THE MOST IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT OF ALL🚨 Announcing the location of the first ever BODY POSITIVE GROUP FITNESS GYM!!!! Aka MY BODY FITNESS + NUTRITION!!!!!! Opening its doors FALL 2018😍😍🙌🏼🙌🏼 3655 ROBLIN BLVD, just past the Assiniboine Park + the Zoo. This has been a dream of mine for soooo long to create a space for ALL people and ALL BODIES to come together, sweat, laugh, and learn together all with the mindset that they are all there Because they Love their Bodies!! This space will host 30 minute Group Fitness classes 6 days a week Monday-Saturday, 8 classes per day, and 4 classes on Saturdays! As well my Nutritional consulting office for 1 on 1 holistic nutrition consultations! Both available for monthly memberships! Plus monthly community events hosted in the space on Sundays! Everything from workshops, Body Positive meet ups, fundraisers, other community building events and so much MORE!! To say I can’t wait to open and share this space and labor of love with all of you is an understatement!! I am ecstatic, and now it’s time to get to work!!!! I’ll be posting behind the scenes looks at the progress of the location on here so stay tuned!! And if you want a sneak peak inside check out my stories today!! My Body is bringing Body Positivity to the Health and Fitness world!! IT’S HAPPENING!!!😭❤️ Do you want to be a part of the My Body community???❤️❤️ #mybody #mybodyfall2018 #mybodylocation #bodypositivegroupfitness #becauseilovemybody #bodypositivity #bodypositive #holisticnutrition #nutritionist #fitness #bodylove #selflove #selfcare #love #nofilter #mybodywpg #mybodyfitnessandnutrition #health #wpg #mb #supportlocal

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Winnipeg’s first ever body positive group fitness gym and nutritional consulting service will be available Fall 2018. Stay tuned!

For more bo-po power and info about Brooke’s business follow @mybodywpg on Instagram.