I went to an all girls’ school for 12 years of my existence. That means that every day, for around 2,352 days, I was surrounded by giggling, screeching, enthusiastic young ladies. University was the first time in my life I had ever shared a classroom with men (unless you count montessori.)
In grade one, I met Colleen McGregor Furlan. Colleen is a Highland dancer, with the most intense calf muscles you’ve ever seen. As we grew up together, the two of us would compete in singing competitions, typically in the arena of the Winnipeg Music Festival (where she would constantly. Kick. Butt.) See, Colleen is not just your average singer and dancer- Colleen is a singing, dancing, acting, wonder-woman from beyond the stars with the magical powers of endless energy and poise.
Then, in grade 4, I met a girl named Katie Eva. At the time, Katie had moved from Northern Manitoba to Winnipeg. “Teachers said they couldn’t keep her stimulated, they were struggling,” said Daphne Eva, Katie’s mom. “So, we came back to Winnipeg for Katie’s education.” Katie is a brilliant, fitness-loving young lady who took every AP class in high school, and memorized all the Robert Frost poems we read in English class. She is a dedicated healthy eater, gym-fanatic, and loyal friend. To quote her mom, “She goes by her own beat. She travels her own path. She’s just… Katie.”
In grade 7, I met Chloe Vickar. Chloe is a beautiful, schnauzer-loving, tap-dancing enthusiast with a massive collection of nail polish. I have never met a more organized, attentive individual, who is as obsessed with musicals as I am (I’d also like to point out that I was in musicals with all three of these ladies throughout my high school experience). When I was a prefect (on student council), I had the pleasure of working side-by-side with Chloe. When we won the House Cup (yes, just like Harry Potter), I physically lifted my partner in crime above my head, and practically carried her to the podium (we proudly represented Hufflepuff, by the way).
I met these three young ladies at very different stages in my life, yet they’ve managed to put up with me for this long (Kudos. Really). Colleen, Katie, and Chloe are three wonderful role models that strive for confidence on a day to day basis. When they’re not singing on national television, snuggling their dogs, or going to university, all three of them try to focus on keeping themselves happy, healthy, and body positive.
Colleen is a 20-year-old Vocal Major in the Marcel A. Desautels Faculty of Music at the University of Manitoba. She has won many trophies from the Winnipeg Music Festival for Classical and Musical Theatre Performances, and is a World Class Highland Dancer. In her spare time, Colleen travels, works out, enjoys laughing with friends and family, fashion, long boarding, and eating (which she says is probably her favourite thing to do).
“When I think of body positivity, I don’t just keep the physical aspects in mind; I think of the mental state the individual has towards their body. Everyone has their own body type. There is this thing called genetics, which allows our bodies to vary in shapes and sizes. We can’t all be a size two with C-cups, long legs, and a wicked torso.
Being body positive means that you are happy in your own skin and in your own brain. It’s being smart about the choices you make; knowing when you’ve pushed yourself too far (exercise way), eating right (it’s easier than you think!), and not being ashamed of what you have to offer. Body positivity is not a common thing, and is definitely hard to achieve, but if all of us started to really care for our bodies and took the time to appreciate our little differences, we’d be one step closer to loving ourselves.
I only started being confident with my body a couple of years ago. I used to be scared to talk to people I didn’t know because I thought they would instantly judge me on my appearance… And you know what, they probably did! I learned that if you give yourself that confidence, and find your own beauty, you stop worrying about what others “might” be thinking.
Maintaining my confidence hasn’t always been easy, but it helps to put effort into myself on a daily basis. By effort, I mean getting enough sleep, taking care of my hygiene, eating healthy and regularly, and exercising. You feel so accomplished if you do things like that for yourself, which is a huge step to boosting your confidence!
Eating healthy and being active are two huge parts of my life. It also helps that my mom shares those qualities with me. When I put good food into my mouth, I get good results with how I feel. After I finish exercising, I feel so accomplished and inspired, that it fuels my confidence until I exercise again! I also surround myself with healthy friends who care about themselves and find beauty within each other. If you drown yourself in negativity, it will only do negative things for you. Plain and simple.
I look up to a couple people when it comes to staying positive. My mom is definitely on this list; she is one of my biggest motivators out there. She is not only my dancing teacher and work out instructor, but she is the one who buys all of our groceries (lucky me). Seeing her reach her body goals makes me happy, and inspires me to work that much harder.
Model Robyn Lawley recently just became an idol of mine, too. She is a plus size model from Australia who is absolutely stunning inside and out. She was on Ellen not that long ago, and was talking about body criticism she had received. When you see her, it’s crazy to think someone like her could be called such horrible things. Her confidence was able to help her rise above those derogatory comments- which is incredible. She also discusses how models today are portrayed in an unrealistic fashion, and that models 20 years ago couldn’t model today because they would be considered too ‘hefty’.”
TIPS FROM A PRO:
People think that starting dance late is impossible and embarrassing. It’s not, trust me.
It is an incredible form of exercise done in a wonderful and expressive environment. I have so many friends who recently just started dancing as adults, and they are so happy and proud of themselves. I even joined an adult tap class! I am the youngest by far, but you know what?- it’s a blast, and I am not one bit ashamed.
There are SO many studios across Winnipeg that have started up adult classes (not to mention Zumba classes). It gets your body moving, and does it with fun music at that!
Work out classes are literally everywhere. I do realize everyone has certain comfort levels while working out, and that’s totally understandable. There are options. Personal trainers, boot camps, gym memberships, small classes, big classes. My mom even teaches a work out routine called Tabata. It is the most effective class I have ever done in my entire life. It takes 30-45 minutes and it feels like you have been in the gym for two hours. I have become addicted to it. If you do decide to go to a gym though, please do not be one of those people who runs on the treadmill for an hour. You are not doing yourself much good if you are looking to tone your muscles or lose weight. Sure, you’re being active which is a great first step, but you could be doing so much more for yourself.
You need to switch up your exercises daily to stop your body from getting used to things. If you do squats, add in some weights and jump in between the squats to make it more challenging. If you are doing bicep curls, add in a twist across your body while doing a regular lunge or jump lunges.
Katie Eva is a 20-year-old, University of Manitoba science student who has lived in Berens River, Wasagaming, Kuujjuarapik, and The Pas. She is fascinated with the brain, making insanely delicious healthy food, and “eating cheese because it makes me have crazy dreams.”
“To me, body positivity is about having a healthy mind. It’s not about under-eating to look thin, or over-eating unhealthy foods even if you can ‘get away with it’, it’s about being happy with where you are mentally in the present moment- the way you look, but also the way you feel. Body positivity is a mental thing. Respecting your body starts with respecting yourself. Your body will be with you your whole life, and the negative things that you do to it now will definitely hurt you in the long-run. It’s like a car, of course any gas will do to keep it going, but if you want it to last, premium is the way to go. If it’s always running on empty… It’s not going to take you very far.
I think that perspective is important. If you are feeding your body the right amount of nutritious foods, with the occasional treats (because what’s life without chocolate?), your body will naturally become a healthier version of itself. Although society may attempt to persuade us otherwise, the healthiest version of your body is the most attractive one. If it’s about health, mental and physical, your goals will be easier, because you won’t want that chocolate bar everyday, you’ll want the quinoa salad with edamame and ground turkey. Healthy foods can make you feel good.
It won’t kill you to have a cookie today, but it won’t help you either. The way I see it is, if I only have 2,500 calories allotted for my entire day in order to give my body what it needs, I don’t want the McDonald’s meal. Serve up the protein, the kale, the omega 3’s, polyunsaturates, antioxidants, greens, complex carbs, and I will be a much happier camper.
Starving yourself doesn’t do that. No matter how skinny you can get yourself, fitting into that size zero will never, ever feel good if you have a headache from low blood sugar, or are so dizzy you can’t think, or your stomach is grumbling and empty. It’s an unhappy life. I’ve been there before, and I honestly hope I never go back.
It really does require a shift in the way you think about food, and life. Trust me, if I could do it, anyone could. Although I’ve always loved working out, I was the kid who bought out the entire bake sale at lunch (and that isn’t even an exaggeration). But I stopped feeling good about myself, and although I was never large, I just felt sick.
It was preventing me from being able to have the energy I needed to be active; running and dancing, moving your body, finding that rush of adrenaline, feeling alive. Essentially, in an apocalypse, I was the one who was going to die.
And then, when I became obsessed with being thin, working out became a chore. Eating became a fear, and I was probably the most unhappy I’ve ever been in my life. I was never happy with the way I looked, ten pounds down, 20 pounds down. Nothing made it better. What I realized is that my problem wasn’t on the outside as much as it was on the inside. I wasn’t happy with myself, and until I changed that, I would never be happy with the way I looked.
So I started working out consistently. Every day I told myself I would go to the gym (within reason of course). I wasn’t going to starve myself anymore, I wasn’t going to feel dizzy during exams, or skip out on anymore dinners with friends. I would respect myself, do the best I could. Work on my mental strength and my physical strength.
What happened was incredible. Going to the gym wasn’t a chore anymore; I began to crave it. The first few months were hard, but when you begin to feel stronger, it becomes an addiction. There is no better feeling in the world than doing something that was once exhaustingly difficult, and finding it easy. Not the physical progress, or the differences in the way you look, but rather feeling what your body is capable of.
I’m a happier person because of the gym. I started eating much more, and although I was no longer break-ably thin, I felt so much better about my body, and comfortable with myself and who I was. I eat for health, but it doesn’t scare me to eat that chocolate bar anymore, and that, more than anything else, is why I’d recommend this kind of lifestyle to absolutely anyone who had eating issues in the past, or just a bad body or self image. Eat healthy and workout because you want to. Because you love yourself and that is a reward.
I personally believe that a person who loves themselves, who doesn’t obsess over their healthy eating or constant exercising but has actually come to enjoy it, is more attractive. Not because of the way their bodies look as a result, but because of their confidence. Happy people are beautiful. You can obsess over your looks, but its a paradox because you’ll never be the most beautiful version of yourself until you are happy with who you are on the inside.
Love your curves. Eating enough Omega 3’s changes the ratio of omega’s, which apparently can help the body to store less fat around the mid-section and more around the hips. Omega 3‘s = Smaller waist + bigger hips = health = hot.
But I would say more than ANYTHING, the most important thing is being a person that you are proud of. The minute you become happy with yourself and who you are, you will like yourself more as a result. The right people will never love you because of the way you look, they will love you because of who you are. You should never want to be with someone who just wants to be with because you’re skinny. Be with the guy who loves to see you happy.
Who do I look up to when it comes to staying positive? Oh God, I don’t know. Probably Elizabeth White, but that’s my answer for everything.”
TIPS FROM A PRO:
Get a gym membership. Go everyday. You have the time.
Stick to it for a few months- it will be hard. Do a little cardio each day and educate yourself about resistance training. If you miss a workout though, don’t hate yourself. But if you stick to it, you will find yourself enjoying it in time, I promise.
Your body needs time to create new neural paths for your muscles before you will really be able to notice a difference in strength or endurance. Stay focused on health, not the way you look. Don’t become obsessive. Muscles aren’t manly, they raise your Basal Metabolic Rate, which is basically the number of calories your body uses in a day if you were lying in bed. More muscles means that even on days you don’t workout, you can eat more. Also, lifting weights will never make you look like a man~ it’s actually really hard to get there as a man or as a woman without a surplus of supplements, because we just don’t have as much natural testosterone in our bodies to make that happen.
Don’t step on a scale, it’s just not important. Make it fun. If you start to get bored with your routines, switch it up. Try new things: join a sports team, maybe hot yoga (which I’ve recently come to love), or if your gym offers free classes, try some of those!
If there’s an automatic button to open a door, pull it open yourself. If you can take the stairs, do it. Change your perspective. It will honestly change the way you live your life in all aspects. Do something active everyday. No matter who you are, or where your starting point is, you always have the ability to change the way you’re living your life. Make it about health, and really try to pair it with healthy eating and nutrition.
This is, as cliche as I can put it, a lifestyle. You’ll start to look different as a by-product of being healthy and respecting yourself. You’ll be happier with who you are on the inside, which will always be more important than the way you look.
Rather than wanting to be the girl people are jealous of because of what she has or what she looks like, be the girl people want to be friends with because she’s so happy, and because she respects herself. It will be worth it.
Chloe Vickar is ‘twenty years young’. The Winnipeg born, gluten-free, schnauzer lover spent her early years at Brock Corydon before she joined us at Balmoral Hall. She currently spends her time at the University of Manitoba, “trying to figure her life out”.
“To me, body positivity is being in love with my body. The days when my makeup looks just so, the days when my hair reaches a crazier level of curly, and the days when I wonder where my butt got lost in my jeans… Absolutely all of that. Body positivity is a package deal — one simply cannot have the good days without the bad.
Having a beautiful face is lovely, but I believe in inner beauty. Unconditional inner beauty is rare. Having utmost respect for oneself, those around them, and their environment is the best way to achieve body positivity. I believe confidence is a shared commodity. Surround yourself with confident people, and have an open mind to it, and confidence will come; and mascara helps. A lot.
I look to my grandmothers. Both women are beautiful inside and out. They are both incredibly smart, thoughtful, generous, kind, and empathetic women; the qualities of utmost positivity.”
TIPS FROM A PRO:
Eating gluten-free is how I keep myself healthy, and nothing else is more important than that.
Maintaining my gluten-free lifestyle requires a large dose of perseverance. Learning curves are steep, but nothing is ever impossible. Anything that requires hard work is worth it.
Except long division and pantyhose.
If you’re looking to eat gluten-free in Winnipeg, my favourite places to go are Unburger, Cocoabeans Bakeshop (bakery), Corrientes (pizza), Sukhothai & Sabai Thai (Thai), Sushi Hon, Organza & Vita Health (groceries).
These three young ladies continue to search for their definition of body positivity. Their focus on clean eating and working out has given them confidence throughout their lives. Through the power of a workout and a healthy meal, Chloe, Colleen, and Katie find themselves a little closer to total self acceptance.
This is how these workout warrior women stay body positive.