Celebrate Climbing YOUR Mountain

I’ve got a mountain.

You’ve got a mountain.

We’ve all got a mountain of some sort.

And we need to celebrate climbing our mountain whatever it may look like.

I’ve learned some valuable life lessons over the last few years. There is no trying to keep up with the Joneses. There is no comparing my level of accomplishment to anyone else’s. I am setting the bar for myself and patting myself on the back along the way. And giving myself high fives – lots of them.

This month I started a fitness ball class…without the ball. And a weight class…without the weights. I am a bonafide athletic superstar.  As Julia Roberts once said in a movie, “I’ve got moves you’ve never seen before.”

Here’s the thing, I look completely normal and am feeling more like myself as each week passes but my body and brain are still learning how to hang out in the same room together even with regular “health homework.” Recovering from Gluten Ataxia autoimmunity that has affected my brain has had me relearning a lot of motor skills. Who needs weights when my arms are still heavy enough to lift? In physiotherapy, simply sitting on an exercise ball was one of the most terrifying acts I have ever done. Crazy right? It felt like hanging off the ledge of a skyscraper about to fall to my untimely death. I cannot print the words that came out of my mouth during those sessions – thankfully my physiotherapists found my profanity amusing.

This week I got on an exercise ball. I wedged it against a wall, but I got on. And then I looked drunk bobbing and swaying as I walked home. It is not fun to walk into a class feeling normal and leave an hour later feeling like you just downed a Pinot Grigio in the middle of your workout but it’s a sign to me that more needs to be fixed but also that more of me is coming back together. And I am thrilled to be at a point that my body and brain can bounce back after about 15 minutes versus days, versus not having been able to do any of it at all.

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And you know what? I feel like an Olympian. With medals. Lots of them. Phelps style.

I am not the fastest.

Or the most agile.

Or very coordinated.

And I have to adapt the entire workout and go slow.

But I am climbing MY mountain…and it feels ridiculously sweet.

PSST! I write weekly on this seriously juicy book loving site.  This article originally appeared there. You can catch this article and my other articles and other really great ones by fabulous writers over here.

Create A Mind, Body & Soul Connection This Year

Each January brings excitement for being able to amp up the energy, clean the slate and start fresh. Change is good. Change is fun.  But most of the ads that bombard us each January revolve around losing weight, focusing on size and counting calories. But we are so much more than just the numbers on a scale! This year, aim to make a mind, body and soul connection that counts all parts of you in.

Here are some easy ways to create some fun, balance and growth this year…

Move your body because you love it – not because you hate it – In the new year’s onslaught of diet ads, before and after photos and pushes for gym memberships, choose to move because you love your body and want to lovingly better it – not because you think it is marred and broken. Stop counting calories and start counting moments – laugh your head off starting a new Zumba class, smirk as you shave a few seconds off your r-e-a-l-l-y long mile time, delight in being a sweaty beast after a gym session. Sign up for a dance class! Or simply have fun playing with your kids outside more. Take more breaks in your day for 15 minute walks. Change your mindset from wanting to fix something that is broken to wanting to improve something that is already ridiculously amazing.

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Dare to be you – It’s about thinking back to when you were a kid, remembering what lit you up, what made you giggle and reclaiming it. Ballet class, soccer or art? It’s about those classes you used to take that somehow faded away with kids and mortgages and bill payments. If your career is not where you want it to be, what tangible steps can you take to create change? Find YOU again and bring her out to play!

Shake up the dynamics – We all tend to get too comfortable in some regards and start doing things on autopilot. Creating new energy sometimes requires taking a step away from a situation to gain a new perspective – or glancing back in time to reawaken forgotten amazing energy. What romantic gestures did you express or which ones won your heart when you and your partner first started dating? Just becauses for no reason? Going to an obscure restaurant? Fun outings? Make a commitment to each other to shake it up! Is it time to create new traditions with your family or friends or revive old ones? You have the power to amp up the energy.

Appreciate the little things – Little things are never just little things! Make a commitment to mindfulness. This could entail something as simple as sitting on a park bench and appreciating a flower garden, taking the time to create a daily 5 second mantra of thanks, quietly appreciating the energy that went into the food on your plate at a meal. Most importantly, pat yourself on the back for every accomplishment you make this year – every “little thing” adds up to big changes.

Laugh more – If you can’t remember the last time you had a serious belly laugh – like holding your stomach on the floor belly laugh, you need to shake it up! Consciously bring more laughter into your world. Hit up a comedy show or movie, take an improv class, send your loved one funny text messages with a goofy photo attached. Rev up the goofy this year. It’s good for your mind, body and soul!

Create time, energy and space for you this year. Because when you feel alive, you have more to give to those around you and you will find even more goodness comes your way.

PSST! I write weekly on this seriously juicy book loving site.  This article originally appeared there. You can catch this article and my other articles and other really great ones by fabulous writers over here.

Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

The last few years have been seriously filled with a million and one utterly beautiful life lessons. I appreciate them with every fiber of my being. And then some. And then more. I have learned so much about myself, the world and my place in it. While going through and earning my PHD – Personal Health Discoveries – I got down to what really matters on every level. I really could not have asked for better schooling to appreciate this world in every minute detail. But here is the thing…like any serious studying with an incredible reward at the end of the tunnel, there has been little to no fun in the process. Zilch. No laughter. No belly laughs. Lots of pulling hair out wondering when it would all finally be over. (Ok…and with Hashimoto’s, it just kinda fell out on its own…) Let’s be frank here, with as much beauty as I have found and discovered in the pain and frustration of autoimmunity, there were vast swatches of sheer and utter suckage. No laughter. Lots of suckage. And I have become determined to bring the funny back. I NEED to bring the funny back.

I  made a pact to have copious amounts of belly laughs this year. Like rolling on the floor, tears pouring down my face, grasping my stomach, practically peeing my pants, stop-I-can’t-breathe kind of belly laughs.  There has been so much tension – physically, mentally….on a soul level. I needed a comic release. Having taken tons of improv classes over the years and even stand-up, I yearned for the weekly hilarity of the classes I used to take, the crazy, brilliant, quick minded individuals I used to improv with at Second City. In the pain, I forgot how to be funny. In the pain, it was hard to laugh. In the pain, it was tons of work trying to move away from the pain. With a broken and foggy brain from Gluten Ataxia and Hashimoto’s, thoughts were not firing the way they were supposed to if they were firing at all. If my legs and arms didn’t know where to go, neither did any glimmers of humour. My funny bone was seriously broken.

This year I have decided to bring on the goofy.  Bring back stupidity. Bring on the fun. Laugh until I cry. Text my friends ridiculous inside jokes. Have funny banter with strangers. Earlier this year, I took a drop-in improv class. After a few simple hilarious warm-up games, my brain was fried. The room was spinning. My body was protesting and was in a lot of pain. It was like a physiotherapy session with tons of hand to eye coordination needed with clapping and memory games. But glimmers of funny came out from hiding. “We’re still here! We’re still here!” I freakin’ loved it. My body and brain may have protested over the next couple of days but my soul determined we were completely on track.

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This was taken on International Ataxia Awareness Day, September 25, 2016, as I tried to leap in the air. It still makes me laugh. Not only was I thrilled to be jumping which has eluded me for years, to be goofy at the same time proves my mind, body, soul and funny bone are all hanging out in the same room again!

I decided on my birthday in May that I needed to bring in the upcoming year with humour. I believe in setting our intentions for the upcoming year on our birthdays. I took another drop-in improv class.  (And umm….I skipped my nieces’ school recital. Yes, I did. I r-e-a-l-l-y needed to get my humour order in….) Best. Idea. Ever. (Sorry nieces. Love you!) The room was still spinning and if you were to see me try to clap you would crack up.  I figured I could make my drunk-like ataxia actions into a fairly hilarious character. Work with watcha got…

I’ve done some more drop-ins and am taking a public speaking course at Second City. And it IS my physiotherapy. It IS rewiring my brain bringing back the funny. It is helping me tell painful aspects of my story with light and humour. It is recharging my spirit. And I have been laughing my ass off as my fellow classmates share their stories, their jokes, their humour, as we share our collective vulnerability whether we present something serious or light hearted. It is a joy trying out new ways of expressing myself outside the confines of my “PHD.”

I can now flash to several times over the last few months in which I have had deep belly laughs. How many times I have had tears pouring down my cheeks dying over something with a friend. Laughter really is the best medicine and a medicine that we need regularly. I aim to embarrass my nieces with my goofiness in public while teaching them that we must honour all aspects of our personalities.  There is a time for seriousness….but having been stuck in seriousness for several years, I really need to honour fun. Laughter. Goofiness. Our souls need it. My soul needs it.

 

 

 

The 7 Year Itch: My Ridiculously Long Road To Paddleboarding

Today has pixie dust sprinkled all over it. It reeks of rainbows and unicorns. It is sunshine and cake. (Gluten-free of course because that gluten character is a big part of this 7 year itch…) As my friend Shelli always says, “Today is the BEST DAY EVER!” Today is MAGICAL – and yes, I mean to be YELLING! From the rooftops actually. Today, after waiting patiently – and not so patiently – since 2010, I finally – more yelling….FINALLY….got on a paddleboard!

As I head to the beach most days, in 2010, I started to notice paddleboarders on the lake. There were just a few back then as “SUPping” (stand up paddleboarding) was only starting to take off but I was determined to get on one the next summer and was really looking forward to it. By the summer of 2011 I felt lousy, had zero energy and was struggling just to stay awake. I went from working out 5 days a week preparing for my first 5K run to barely being able to get up the stairs. My body was in pain daily.  In September, 2011, I was diagnosed with autoimmune Hashimoto’s which explained why I felt so lousy.  I was determined to make a swift recovery….(insert rolling of eyes and I-know-better-now smirking….)

Over the next couple years, my arms morphed from excruciating daily pain to having very little use of them from the elbows down. My hands and arms working would be a guessing game depending on the day of the week. Everyday activities felt like they were being done with concrete boots on while walking through quicksand. All my energy was going into simply getting through everyday life – sports were impossible.  And being athletic, it was crushing my soul. In September, 2013, within a couple weeks, I could barely walk, talk, chew properly or think. I was stumbling around, could not put one foot in front of the other and was slurring my words. I looked and sounded drunk. I do not exaggerate when I say my brain and body felt decimated. I was terrified more than I let on to anyone. In December, 2013, I was finally diagnosed with Gluten Ataxia, a rare dis-ease in which gluten causes an autoimmune attack on the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for motor skills.

Since this all started, I have done everything in my power to make myself healthy. It has taken years to get back muscle strength, balance and coordination.  It has taken a long time to do physical motions without body parts severely cramping up or them simply not remembering what to do or going rogue as I like to call it.  It has also taken a long time to do several movements at the same time. I call it Body Jenga – how many moves can I do before my body stubbornly protests I have pushed too much and it all falls apart? Paddleboarding looks so easy and effortless, yet it’s really rather complicated when your sense of balance caused you to fall over for several years simply by standing still – on land. Last year I was looking into motorized scooter prices.

Every day at sunset when I would meditate at the beach, wishing I could be out on the water, the paddleboarders would glide by.  Some days they brought me comfort. Some days I was so angry and frustrated I wished I hadn’t seen them.  And other days my meditation would involve envisioning myself strong and sturdy out there at sunset casually gliding by alongside them. I finally sat in the energy that they were keeping me company until I was ready to join them.

This month, I finally realized I had enough balance, energy and coordination to get up on a board, hold the paddle and stroke on both sides.   I (hopefully) would be able to get back on if I fell off. I also hoped I could make it through an hour class. I could swim with enough strength to not drown which was an added bonus. You can imagine my excitement to get on a board… And then the weather decided to kick up some windy waves delaying this several times. As I repeated,”Patience is a virtue,” over and over in my mind…I wanted to smack patience with a paddleboard!

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Today at 9AM it was a go. I was a kid at Christmas – a Christmas that had been bumped several times! It was a stunningly beautiful day – a full moon lunar eclipse none the less. There were small waves but it’s September and the clock is ticking on how much more time there is on the lake before it gets really cold and a lot more windy. And you know what? I cannot even imagine a more perfect first experience.  I didn’t care if I stood for one second and then got dumped into the lake – hell, I didn’t care if I even stood up because I did not know if I would have the balance. I was happy to be on that board!

My instructor Gudrun of wsup Toronto was beyond lovely and helpful and guided our group on our Blu Wave Sup boards as we paddled into the sun (gorgeous) and then into a quiet, shallow inlet for us to try standing.  I landed in the lake several times – and loved it every single time. It actually gave my brain and body a break from all the movement and balancing.  I needed it! (Was also very thankful as I explore my new energy to be wearing a life jacket) But I also stood several times and got some strokes in before wiping out. I would have been happy to have stood for one second. Every wipe out was joy-filled!  7 years of waiting joy-filled. I love the shot of me paddling above looking like a badass catching a wave…in fact I was just about to wipe out which will forever make me laugh!

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I floated in the lake after staring at the clouds with a huge grin on my face. Then I sat on the beach warming myself in the sun…and started to cry.  From gratitude. From years of pent up frustration and a finish line that just kept stretching beyond my reach. From utter happiness. From relief. From pride. When I looked at these photos later, I cried again. When I spoke with my mom tonight and told her about my morning, I sobbed with gratitude. How could 7 years have gone by not being able to do something so soul rewarding?  I realize why today was so important. For 7 years this has been the carrot dangling in front of me that I really, really wanted…and was always yanked further out of reach. And today I grasped it.

I sat in deep reflection today.  I didn’t just paddleboard. Parts of me came back together. Today I really felt like me. And I can’t think of anything more amazing than truly feeling like who you really are.

 

 

The Body Love Series: How to Help the Positivity Resonate Mind, Body & Soul

How to get from here to there. Sometimes it seems easy. Sometimes it doesn’t.  I often speak of something “resonating” with me. If it resonates, I support it, I buy it, I tell others about it, I BELIEVE in it.  It’s an easy sell because it feels right to me.

When it comes to developing body love, sometimes it is not as easy as it seems to get from here to there. Sometimes doubt creeps in, lack of belief in something being true creeps in. Believing in the beauty of your body or a body part doesn’t ring true.  The body love is not resonating so it’s hard to make changes. And I don’t mean physical changes – I mean changing those doubts in your cranium that keep you from celebrating your body exactly like it is like rocking a bikini, wearing shorts or confidently showing off your gorgeous arms without feeling the need to wear long sleeves. It’s all about creating a mind-body-soul connection that feels unified and true to bring about real change and happiness.

I recently discussed easy out-of-the-box ways to meditate and bring about body love every day with an incredible crowd at Curvy Expo. I’ve had several conversations with women about it since so I know the topic has struck a chord.  I gave the audience easy 1-2 sentence mantras to build up body love.  These are positive affirmations that can be said to quiet your mind throughout your day and send yourself some loving vibes. But here is the thing – we are all on different journeys with different starting points, different experiences that brought us to today. So what might be really basic for one woman to believe in her heart could be very difficult for another.  What really resonates as true for one, could feel totally awkward and wrong for another.

On my healing journey, I would often send certain body parts some TLC especially when they weren’t working properly. I’m human – some days it was really hard to believe my legs were strong when they could barely move to allow me to walk, were cramped and aching. I could say “my legs are strong” several times in my head while the rest of my body would be bellowing,’Not this month they aren’t!” I found ways to get over this disconnect….and you can too.

What if your body image issue is with your arms?  Or what if you arms aren’t moving or working how they used to and you are frustrated? What if they have changed in appearance in some way through an accident, dis-ease, aging, scarring, acne or something that bothers you? How do you tell your arms you love them and how do you truly grow to love them when you are at the stage where all you want to do is cover them up?  In order to have a belief resonate throughout your being, you need to feel it mind, body and soul.

Here is a simple way to grow that belief in the core of your being. I am using arms in the example – feel free to replace with whichever body part of yours needs some TLC. Check out these stages to see what types of mantras resonates with you.

Total Arm Love

You find it easy to compliment your arms, deeply feel that words like “strong” and “beautiful” are true and they resonate with you. If you were to think of the praise as compliments from someone, you would accept them with a big grin on your face – it would make your day and you would walk around all sassy after.  These types of statements not only make you feel comfortable, they make you happy and energetically peaceful.

My arms are strong and beautiful.

My arms are curvy and beautiful.

My muscular arms are amazing. I appreciate what they do for me.

My arms are sexy and strong.

My stunning arms give me gifts every day.

If these have resonated with you, fantastic!  Use them throughout the day or create new ones you love. If the above mantras aren’t resonating with you, if you can’t “take the compliments” you’ll feel it – in your gut, in your heart, in the doubt in your head. And that’s ok.  We just need to tweak the body love TLC a little bit for you!

Working Up To Total Arm Love

It’s sometimes easier to see what gifts your body & its parts provide outside of you.  Thinking of your everyday life, how much joy, love and resourcefulness do they bring to you daily? What functions – even bare bones basic – do they provide for you every day?  How do they help you do your job and thus make a living?  Interact with your family and friends?  Pursue hobbies you  love?  Start celebrating everyday “little” actions to see how many amazing gifts you receive on a daily basis.

My arms are strong. They allow me to hold my beautiful baby.

My arms are amazing. They let me hug my beautiful children.

My arms are powerful. They allow me to work at a job I love.

My arms hold love. They let me hug my partner.

My arms create healing. They allow me to make healthy meals for my family.

My arms bring me gifts of movement every day. I am blessed.

My arms allow me to do my job and provide for my family.

My arms hold knowledge. They help me cook/paint/sew/knit/play the piano.

My arms create fun and laughter. They allow me to push my child on a swing.

I promise you, if you can tweak your way of thinking, you can tweak your way of believing allowing yourself to appreciate the powerful, beautiful gifts your body brings you daily.  If you start thinking of all the gifts you receive daily, all the tasks you are able to do, your perception will change. And this doesn’t have to take long. This could literally change your life in less than30 seconds a day!

Please let me know if you create a body love mantra for yourself. Would love to hear about it!

 

The Body Love Series: Monday Mantra

I spent the weekend writing and recording meditations that I am looking forward to releasing and sharing with you all this year. The more I wrote, and the more I listened to my recordings, the more I felt the need to KISS – keep it so simple. I tried to speak slower using less words, in a calmly energetic, soothing voice, trying to keep in mind what makes me relax. After several recordings of a particular track, once I listened to it and really felt myself sink into the meditation, I knew I was onto something.  So I guess you could say I was doing a meditation within a mediation?  (Ask me about this theory after about 1000 attempts at recording!)

I started to write down some simple mantras that I have shared before.  These really helped me reconnect my mind-body-soul connection when none of them felt like they were hanging out in the same room due to massive levels of pain and having limited abilities from Hashimoto’s and Gluten Ataxia. When I was frustrated and my mushy mind was all over the place, when I was exhausted and my body wasn’t working, I told myself to keep it simple. And I would repeat the same phrases – or mantras – over and over willing my mind, body and soul to come together and hang out again. And the more I would repeat them, the more the energy of these positive words would resonate with me throughout my entire system. I felt better after. I literally could feel the positivity oozing into my cells. My cells were believing these words. My fractured brain was believing these words. My heart was believing these words.

Send yourself some body love with simple mantras – or if you can’t wrap your head around that word, tell yourself you are going to create one or two simple sentences that will be your positivity-go-tos that will help create a positive shift in your life. Close your eyes and listen to this simple mantra for a great example. Repeat it in your mind a few times in the shower in the morning. Close your eyes on the subway on your way to work and say it in your head. When you look at yourself in the mirror, say it out loud. Feel it resonate throughout you. Feel your body accept it.  And just KISS – keep it so simple. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated.  We survive on hugs – think of this as giving your body and soul regular hugs.

Looking forward to creating many mantras, meditations & guided manifestations to share with you all.  I know they have helped me and I know they can help you. Body love starts with us loving ourselves and magnifying that love to bring others in.  Just KISS and be kind to yourself.

The Body Love Series: Dancing It Out In Meditation

I meditate every day. It feeds my body and it feeds my soul. Sometimes it’s only for 5 minutes but other times like today, I start my day with half an hour or more.  And some days I stop, drop and meditate a couple times. Depends what I feel guided to do.

Yesterday I started my Sunday with a really deep meditation.  I do visualizations to help heal my body and send it energy and this one went r-e-a-l-l-y deep. I have been feeling really run down for the last 2 weeks after catching a bug while travelling and pushing myself too hard. I find travelling with time changes with autoimmunity and the stress of trying to find places to eat gluten-free tends to wear me out way more than the average person. I should not have kept bragging that I haven’t had a cold in 6 years….

I envisioned energy seeping into my cells and my body filling with bright sunlight. I infused swirling beautiful colours into my body and brain.  I went to town on the healing and after about 45 minutes, felt more energized and alive.  I wanted to go for a walk which was a great sign that I had upped my energy.

I sat at the beach and had a great chat with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while on my cell phone. I told him I wanted to take him to the beach with me as I watched the sunshine hit the waves. After our chat, I sat in the sun for quite some time feeling the vitamin D seep into my skin. Even though my body’s energy was still low, I felt it increasing with everything I was doing. I closed my eyes and put on some more relaxing meditation music…and then… had to switch it up!

I needed to dance. Meditation dance that is. I flipped on some 90s music. Perfection.

And just as my calm morning meditation helped heal me, closing my eyes and meditatively dancing it out while seated healed and energized me as well. After years of limited movement from Gluten Ataxia and Hashimoto’s,  it’s necessary for me to unify the mind-body-soul connection. When my soul wants to dance and my body doesn’t have the energy, I need to find a way.  I honour my body when it needs calm and I honour my body when it needs energetic movement. I hit my 90s Mix on my iPod and started to bob and sway with my eyes closed while feeling the sun shining down on me. I didn’t really care who was watching – I was too busy dancing it out in my mind, throughout my body. My movements weren’t too crazy but I am sure I amused everyone walking by.

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Here are some of my 90s meditative-perk-me-up-dance-like-nobody’s-watching songs:

#1 It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ EZ Rock

#2 Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) – CC Music Factory

#3 Jump Around – House of Pain

#4 I Like to Move It – Reel 2 Real

#5 Bust a Move – Stone Cold Rhymin’

I believe what we can visualize we can make real. I believe what we feel in our bodies, in our cells, we can make real. Our bodies need to feel the love in various ways and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate one’s body than through dancing. I danced my ass off on the beach yesterday. It felt great. I was smiling the entire time. And after all my dancing (about 10 songs worth) I had more energy to walk home. I stood taller and my legs felt sturdy. My legs didn’t buckle like they often do. They didn’t go all ataxia wobbly. I walked home energized with a strong body.

So who says your meditations have to have rules?  That you have to sit in silence for hours on end with no thoughts entering your mind?  If the word “meditation” feels overwhelming, don’t use it! Take 5 minutes out of your busy day, throw on your iPod and dance. Smile. Feel energized. Feel connected to all your body parts. Feel your mind-body-soul connection.  Just dance.

The Body Love Series: What Do You Want to Be When You’re Older?

What do you want to be when you’re older?

A jockey.

You can’t. You’re too big.

What do you want to be when you’re older?

A ballerina.

You can’t. You’d be taller than all your male partners.

What do you want to be when you’re older?

I don’t know.

I flashed back to my childhood career aspirations the other day. I seemed to want to pursue professions that came with society-created body parameters. It occurred to me…how many times did we, as children, put ideas out there only to be told NO based on our size, our shape? Interestingly enough, my career found me when a model scout stopped me in a mall and asked me if I wanted to be a plus-size model – a career based on my size and height. I have spent my career celebrating that size and height and in turn work to break down barriers in fashion to embrace people of all sizes, shapes, backgrounds and abilities.

In wanting to be a jockey, I realize at almost six feet tall that my frame would considerably slow down a horse in a race. Fair enough. Probably would not come in first place. Ok, probably would come in last. But what if society didn’t tell me no?  What if I had pushed ahead based on all the aspects of this potential career I loved…where would I be?  I wanted to be around horses, I wanted to ride fast, I wanted to feel the wind whipping in my face. What if there was another outlet to achieve all of this without a flat out NO? How many doors were closed based on one aspect of a future possibility?

And maybe I never wanted a male dance partner.  Maybe that thought never occurred to me. Maybe I could have been the tall solo ballet dancer. Maybe my ballet dreams would have morphed into other forms of dance, other forms of artistic expression. What future events and experiences were closed off based on the one-track assumptions of a certain ballet teacher whose word I took as concrete truth?

Children are bombarded by info daily. Let’s always remember to explore their dreams with them – all aspects of them.  And let’s always aim to fling as many doors open as possible when the rest of the world is trying to slam them shut. Our bodies are capable of many things – at all sizes, shapes, heights and abilities. Let’s not put ceilings above those bodies where children don’t see them existing.

The Body Love Series: A Real Woman is Every Woman

I have heard the term “real woman” for years.  As in, this woman is real, that woman is not. Who, exactly gets to decide this?

I have worked with many plus and straight size models for many years and we’d see each other regularly sometimes even weekly depending on our bookings and a lot of them were (and still are) sizes 2-4. They were healthy, happy, smart, incredible women.  We didn’t see size – we were all there to share fashion inspiration and do our job. I admired the models of various ages and sizes I got to work with over the years.

You can imagine my frustration when reporters would label me a “real woman” and ask me questions about the other models I worked with implying their smaller size made them less real than me. I remember one line of questioning in which the reporter asked if I wanted to see every runway showcasing real women like me – all a size 14. I can’t remember my exact quote but my answer went something like this:  “The women in my life – my friends, my family, are all different shapes and sizes. I want to see all shapes and sizes in fashion because that reflects what I see and know around me.  Putting all size 14s on the runway would be just as wrong as putting all size 0s on one, it doesn’t reflect reality. All my friends aren’t the same size as me.” I also remember the reporter really didn’t like my answer! Implying my smaller counterparts – women I greatly liked and admired – were not real drove me crazy. I have skinny family members, I have curvy family members and everything in between. I have friends that are a size 0 and friends that are a 24 and every size in between. When they see models that look like them in all shapes and sizes – and yes, there needs to be way more of this, THAT is real. Diversity is real. Seeing someone like them allows them to know how a garment will fit on their frame.

Lately there have been ahhmazing leaps & bounds made in fashion.  Campaigns are including a lot more diversity and more sizes and ages are being represented. Fashion bloggers of all shapes and sizes have pushed the industry with their creative images and fashion style. I recently spoke with a first year fashion class at Ryerson University and told them there have been more changes in plus-size fashion in the last 2 years than there have been in the last 20.   But the flip side of this positive wave of curvy acceptance, is the use of that dreaded “real woman” saying in all forms of media.  As in:

Finally, a real woman on the cover!

We are finally seeing real women in this magazine!

Thanks for putting a real woman in this campaign.

Real women only from now on please!

Does fashion still need to change? Absolutely.  There are still way too many models in one size range representing a lot of women who do not look like them.  But putting them down in order to celebrate another body type is not the answer. Including a variety of ages, sizes, backgrounds and abilities is the answer.  Getting designers and companies to create several sample sizes so various sized models can be used will help immensely. Fashion schools that are changing the way students think about and create fashion will make them the leaders of tomorrow that will create the diverse media we need to be seeing more of. Applauding companies for making change with social media comments, letters to the editor or sending in an email or letter makes change. I have seen it happen.

a-real-woman-is-every-woman-liis-windischmann

A real woman is every woman. Skinny?  She’s real. Curvy? She’s real? Slim? Real. Fat? Real. Tall. Short. Somewhere in between. Real. Whatever weight, whatever size, whatever age. Still real. Let’s keep pushing for change knowing we’re all real and we’re all beautiful.

The Body Love Series: Ode to a Sock

What the hell does a sock have to do with body love you are probably wondering… For me, a lot. I am often asked how I have such positive body image. It really comes down to being so damn amazed at being able to do little actions every day. Little actions as magical as putting on my socks.

If you would have told me several years ago I would be celebrating the actions of my feet I would have thought that was crazy.  But I also would have never foreseen myself trying to do something as simple as putting on a sock, and face planting flat onto my bedroom floor nearly missing my dresser. Yes, trying to put on a sock was enough to cause me to completely fall over. I am still shocked I didn’t break my nose or a hand – or my dresser! Once I got wiser to the pitfalls of Gluten Ataxia, I would sit to try to put on my socks (and pants and tops and bras and shoes), an action that would take less than 30 seconds normally and it would sometimes take up to 10 minutes. Some days I would just go sockless out of frustration.

I am still mastering pointing my toes again. This week I can’t feel half of my left foot. This changes frequently. It used to be half of my leg and almost my entire foot so this is progress. If I walk more than 20 minutes, I usually can’t feel the front half of both feet. Then my walk becomes a really sexy stomping kinda thing. I haven’t worn high heels since 2014 and then I was cheating them on TV for 5 minutes and got help walking onto the set or put them on once seated.

I had a long luxurious bath recently and stared at my toes peeking out of the bubbles for quite some time. I guess you are at the ultimate level of body love when you can stare at your feet in wonder!  Being able to stand and walk and move is everything to me – my size isn’t. Being able to feel my feet enough to walk is more important to me than my weight. There is so much joy in being able to point a toe again! And being able to put on a simple pair of socks is the ultimate gift – in pride, independence and accomplishment. For me, body love literally starts from the tips of my toes up to the top of my head. And every morning, after my meditation, as I am getting dressed for the day, I am grateful for the simple action of putting on my socks.