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What’s trending in spring fashion 2017

April showers bring May flowers — and funky, printed outfits. This year’s trends are all about merging your own wild personality with business professionalism. Light colours, flowing moveable materials, and off-the shoulder tops are popular in most retail outlets, but each one has an element that is work-appropriate. Perfect for those who crave the bohemian styles of the 60s while still wanting to impress their partners in the boardroom.

Unleash your inner creativity with these top five trends for spring 2017:

Florals: This spring, embrace the floral. Tops, pants, skirts, and dresses — colourful prints are making a comeback. The colours, the patterns, and the style are all very flowery and young. The key is to find a dress or shirt that doesn’t overwhelm. The dresses shown below, for example, are the perfect example of how florals can work without making a woman look like a young girl. Each one ties at the waist to give shape and the colour palettes are a little more natural, which is a nice reprieve from previous years where it was all about neon colours.

Zara, $68.90s

Jumpsuit: This piece never really went out of style, but it’s making a comeback in a big way. Most women feel like they can’t pull off a jumpsuit, but in fact, it’s flattering on almost everyone. Most jumpers have a drawstring that can be adjusted to your waist, so it can be as tight or as loose fitting as you are comfortable with. There are also a number of styles — there are some that are more professional (as pictured below) and other styles that are floral and fun! Try pairing it with a blazer and a pair of heels for a  business meeting or a pair of strapped-sandals and a chunky necklace for a walk on the town.

Additionelle, $118.00

Light shawls: Keep your blazer in the closet and instead throw on a light shawl or kimono. These are great for the workplace where the air conditioner or heater reigns supreme. There are so many styles to choose from, but remember the golden rule — if you wear a print tank top, make sure your shawl is a solid colour. The opposite is also true. One of the biggest trends is to have a tight fitted shirt and then a loose-fitting, printed shawl overtop, preferably with a funky patterned collar or sleeve.

Anthropologie, $258.00

Wide Leg Pants: These are the hippie version of the dress pant, but do you know what? They work! Most are really professional looking and pair wonderfully with a fitted top, a blazer, and sandals or a flat shoe. In addition to providing a more unique and independent fashion style to the boardroom, the wide leg pant is also a lot more comfortable in the summer.

Anthropologie, $98.0

Urban flat: This spring is all about being comfortable, yet stylish. This type of flat shoe is perfect to wear with jeans or dress pants, making it the ultimate accessory. The urban flat has a slight heel to help with ankle support, but not enough of one to cause actual pain while walking around the office or the streets of your home town all day. They also have just enough of a design to make them more chic.

Call It Spring, $44.00

 

What style are you looking forward to wearing this spring? Let us know win the comments below!

Woman of the Week: Jennifer Reynolds

Jennifer Reynolds, president and CEO of Women in Capital Markets (WCM), thinks there is an ingrained corporate and economic culture that is to blame for the lack of gender equality within the financial industry. The number of women in positions of power has stagnated, and in 2017, that isn’t a good thing.

“I think sometimes people aren’t aware that Canada has fallen behind in terms of women in senior roles, on boards for examples,” Reynolds said. “Our representation is 12 per cent. Europe has representation up to 30-40 per cent. We, as a country, have fallen really far behind.”

WCM is the largest network of professional women in the Canadian capital markets. This group of women try to educate younger generations in the finance industry to consider careers in capital markets and advocate for greater gender diversity on boards and senior management. The organization hosts over 80 events a year and leads a number of campaigns, both in-person and online.

Reynolds became involved with WCM in 2000 and started volunteering for the then-grassroots organization helping educate young high school girls about careers involving math. She also volunteered for the mentorship program.

“When I graduated in 1994, I thought our generation would be the one where women would have leadership roles in the economy,” she said.

Obviously, WCM had an influence on Reynolds because she remained an active member of the organization for 13 years before becoming the president and CEO. The organization is shaking things up a bit under Reynold’s leadership, trying not only educate young women as to the many opportunities in finance and capital markets, but also trying to involve men in the dialogue.

“Most of these initiatives was about women discussing diversity. It took us a long time to get here, but now we are getting there and we have to involve men in the discussion because they are in senior leadership roles and we need to have dialogue with them to encourage progress,” she said.  “We need to give them a voice and an opportunity to see what they can do personally.”

One of the WCM programs Reynolds is most proud of is Return to Bay Street, an award that helps women return to the workforce after a career break. Each award-winning woman will receive a minimum four-month long paid contract with a sponsoring financial institution, $5,000 towards an education program, access to a WCM mentor, as well as a one-year membership with WCM.

Return to Bay Street is in its sixth year and will be accepting applications until April 13, 2017.

“Too often for women, if you need to take a break, it’s hard to come back,” Reynolds said. “You fall off the track because people think your skills are stale. [Return to Bay Street] helps replenish the pipeline for senior leadership. It brings back senior talent.”

Reynolds studied economics and political science at McGill University with the intention of becoming a lawyer. She found herself enjoying her economics classes immensely, and after four years decided she was better off in business.

“I ended up, fortunately, getting to know some people in the investment industry … and it sounded like a great career — fast paced, opportunity to travel, rewarding,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds worked with the Bank of Montreal as director of capital markets for 10 years before moving on to work with WCM. She is also on the board of the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, a crown corporation that works for the federal minister of finance and is responsible for a number of initiatives.

Reynolds thoroughly enjoys working on the board. In addition to her role with the Canadian Development Investment Corporation, she is also the director on the board of Studio 190, an independent, Toronto-based theatre company.  For her, being on various boards allows her to explore different industries and be creative. It’s also a great way to diversify her network.

As Reynolds explains, every organization has a president and CEO that runs the business, but that person reports to a board, “a bunch of senior people with expertise who help guide strategic vision.” This can be everything from where the company should be heading to overseeing financial statements — it’s also why it’s so important that boards be gender diverse.

“So, what does it matter? It matters because I think women should be part of creating strategic missions of businesses and companies in Canada,” Reynolds said. “From a purely data and research perspective, studies that show if you have that gender diverse boards, it makes your business more profitable. But, you need that diversity on your board – and from a common sense perspective, if you are recruiting from 50 per cent of talent pool, you’ve got to be limiting yourself. You are not getting the best. It’s common sense.”

How do companies do that? Reynolds said it takes two steps. The first is to actually hire women in positions of power and the second is to change your business’ culture. It all starts with statistics, ensuring the company counts and measures everything. “How many women in each level of organization, how long does promotion take, wage gap at each level, then you will figure out what the problem is. Is it that your leadership team only brings forward candidates that are men and non-minority, for example,” Reynolds said.

“If you leave it to chance, it won’t happen. But, if I have anything to say about it, it’s going to change!”

 

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Celebrating Women: Entrepreneur Dyana Biagi

Building a business from the ground up is no laughing matter, but it doesn’t mean you can’t do it while smiling all your way to the top. Founder and CEO of Aji Gourmet Products Dyana Biagi is one of the friendliest and most charismatic people out there, and she really defines what it means to build a business with an affirmative attitude.

Biagi sells a Colombian hot sauce commonly known as Aji and it is positively sizzling with popularity along the west coast. She began the business when her family migrated to Canada in October 1999. “I wanted to keep a little piece of Colombia. When we had our own little place, I made Aji. It is a typical condiment in all of Latin America and I thought this would be my little bit of Colombia at meals,” Biagi says. “When parent get-togethers started happening, someone said you bring the guacamole. I told them ‘I’m not Mexican, but okay!’ and I decided to put the Aji in it. The people at the party were blown away. They thought it was delicious.”

From there, Biagi began selling the product at farmer’s markets in British Columbia around the Lower Mainland and quickly noticed that Aji was a hit. Her husband joined in to help sell the product at markets, and after her son, Nicholas Gonzalez, graduated, he joined in as well. Now a family business, Aji has expanded exponentially and is in over 100 stores, including Whole Foods in B.C. and Save on Foods. The next step is to launch into the United States.

Biagi believes family is imperative to the success of her business. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the support of my family,” she says. “Starting a business on your own is really tough. If you start a business, I think that it would have a greater chance of succeeding with family support.”

The social climate of the farmer’s markets are also like a big family, according to Biagi. Instead of the typical competitive cut-throat attitude that exists in many business markets, the grassroots approach in the farmer market community in Vancouver is very inclusive and accepting. “At the farmer’s market, we are a family. We see each other every Saturday and Sunday, and there is always a little bit of time to talk to each other,” Biagi says. “We are all there rain or shine and I’m open to helping anybody who needs. I don’t doubt in helping them find jars, labels, information, or grant money.”

Despite the obstacles of building up an organics product in a competitive market, Biagi is a mentor to other women on how to never give up on your dream. “Persistence is definitely important. You need to keep going and not give up after the first mishap,” Biagi says. “I’ve gone through a lot of ups and downs, but I believe in my business. I want Aji to become a staple in North America and I believe in it.”

Aji regularly gives silent auction items to several charities, including the Parkinson Society B.C. Ronald McDonald House Spinal Cord Injury B.C. CBSA UBC Land and Food Systems Society, Crossroads Hospice Society, and JDRF Rocking for Research Gala for diabetes. Biagi and her family also foster exotic birds from a rescue called Grey Haven in the Lower Mainland area. They have had one of their Macaw parrots, Hobbes for seven years, something that reminds Biagi of being back home in Colombia.

In her spare time, Biagi loves to horseback ride and has a degree in Equine Studies. She is also an avid photographer and loves to cycle. Biagi is an example of a female entrepreneur that has embraced her culture and passions and fused them into making an amazing product that is becoming successful. She also reminds us of the power of family and persisting through obstacles with a winning smile. Aji truly is an inspiration for all product entrepreneurs working hard at farmer’s markets across Canada. Follow your dreams, you never know what can happen next.

“The day I walked out of that store with my supplies when I first decided to make Aji, I never thought I’d get to where I am, but yet here we are.”

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Jessa Crispin regains focus in new book “Why I Am Not A Feminist”

Feminism is the new black. And although that’s not necessarily a bad thing – not at all, actually – there are a few concerns with this not-so-new concept of women’s equality. Unfortunately, instead of a movement, feminism has largely become a brand, a buzzword albeit. And it’s being used on literally everything. Hats, sweaters, mugs, and even stickers for your laptop. Your laptop. So, it’s no surprise that the definition of feminism is losing its meaning between the merchandise and arguments between you and bae about ‘who pays for dinner’ next.

Nowadays, everyone is a feminist. Jessa Crispin, however, argues otherwise. In her new book, “Why I Am Not a Feminist: A Feminist Manifesto”, Crispin explains the importance of bringing back the true meaning of feminism.

Her inspiration behind the book was simple. After reading up on modern feminist writing over the past five years or so, Crispin claimed to be constantly filled with despair on the content of the writing. And with the ongoing issues around the world, including the rise of the far-right worldwide, mass deportations in America, the shutting down of abortion clinics, she noticed that feminist writing still continues to be mostly concerned with lifestyle choices and pop culture. And that’s not the main priority right now.

“It led to occasions where I had to scream into a pillow. So writing this book was just my way of doing something with that anger so I wasn’t overwhelmed by it anymore.”

“Why I Am Not a Feminist” reminds readers what feminism is really about. As a feminist, men and women should be fighting for the political, economic, and social equality between the sexes. A feminist should recognize that women are oppressed by complicated systems. A feminist should realize that the oppression of women is not limited to the wage gap in North American society, or the prevention of girl on girl hate, or on dress codes that dictate what women should or should not wear.

Upon first glance, one may come to the conclusion that the book is actually calling out ‘white feminism’ – a concept which has gotten an increased amount of attention in recent years. While not outright exclusive, white feminism is about the failure to consider the problems faced by the “average woman” who are often alienated due to their colour, sexuality, cultural practices, and religious beliefs.

Be careful though. It’s not. In fact, Crispin hates the term “white feminism” as she so boldly told Women’s Post.

“It doesn’t really convey the meaning it’s trying to. What it should be is “power feminism,” a kind of pro-woman stance that is interested in the amassing and holding of power. Yes, white women have the most power these days. But the problems related to power feminism — a kind of blind selfishness, a focus on individual success over societal reform, a value system based on money and power and greed — are problems with our whole culture.

Maybe just call it patriarchal feminism!

But yes, feminism has been blind for too long to issues of class and race and sexuality, and it has been reluctant to look at the times when feminism and feminist leaders were racist, homophobic, and xenophobic. You still see this nonsensical resistance to associating themselves with the trans advocacy movement because they can’t move past a biological view of gender, or their lack of empathy and solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. And that’s a symptom of anxiety, that if they admit the humanity of other people — despite the fact that they themselves are begging to have their own humanity recognized — there won’t be enough attention for their own issues.

We’re all in this together. We are suffering under the same system. There has to be a solidarity that transcends race, sexuality, religion, class, and every other marker, so that we can fight effectively.”

So what exactly does Crispin hope you take away from her manifesto? Well, that’s not her job to figure out.

“I write the thing, then it’s up to people to manage their own responses. I’m not trying to abdicate responsibility for the work, I absolutely stand by it. But I don’t really have any expectation that this is going to change feminism. I think the best thing a writer can do is simply to write the material and then get out of the material’s way.”

She’s unapologetic. She’s pertinent. And her new book is a reflection of that. It’ll leave you feeling rather angry, and Crispin’s gallant, at times ranty way of explaining her point of view will only fuel this anger. This is not the type of book you’ll want to read with a cup of tea in your pajamas. It’s the type of book for when you’re looking for that extra jolt of passion required to seek the change you need.

Whether you agree with her views or not, readers should admire the Crispin for her unconventional, yet highly relevant, way of thinking. Essentially, “Why I Am Not a Feminist” is a not-so-friendly reminder that being a feminist isn’t just about wearing a “this is what a feminist looks like” shirt or about re-blogging a gif from a Taylor Swift interview on Tumblr. It’s about looking past that, and focusing on what is important to truly bring about the change towards equality.

“Why I Am Not a Feminist” is now available on Amazon!

What are your thoughts on the book? Let us know in the comments below! 

Forcing women to wear heels at work is abusive

Requiring a woman to wear high heels at work isn’t just sexist — but abusive.

Heeled shoes are painful. Despite how awesome they look and how powerful or pretty they make you feel, there is no scenario in which women will say, in relation to their heels, “these shoes make me feel like I’m walking on a cloud.”

Some women just don’t have the feet for high heels. They may have no arches, wide soles, or legitimate medical problems relating to feet or ankles, all contributing factors in not being able to squish into a narrow and pointy piece of plastic supported only by a skinny rod on one end. The result is blisters, sore callouses, and the potential of a sprained ankle.

Like I said. Forcing women into heels can be harmful. Personally, I only wear high heels to fancy events, job interviews, and sometimes on a night out — but only if those events, job interviews, and evenings out don’t involve a lot of walking. Honestly, I don’t even know why I bother half the time. I can’t imagine wearing heels eight hours a day, every day. Nor would I want to.

British Columbia parliamentarians have taken notice of this fact and are pushing forward legislation that will ban requirements for footwear dress codes based on gender, or more simply put, it would make it illegal for employers to force their female employees to wear high heels in the workplace.

Who wants to move to British Columbia? I can tell you my hand went up.

I am constantly disgusted by the mandatory dress codes in certain industries. When servers or restaurant hostesses are forced into skimpy dresses and clunky high-heel shoes, I always wonder about the safety factor — is it safe for these women to be balancing five drinks, a plate full of steak and potatoes, and a side order of fries, all the while wearing shoes that could be used as a lethal weapon if taken off the foot and thrown at a person’s head?

Or how about when a receptionist for a large law firm is sent home for not wearing the correct foot attire, as happened in the UK. Apparently, this offended the many people who actually stare at a person’s toes while they speak with them.

This is all getting a bit ridiculous, don’t you think? Especially in 2017, as more women become decision-makers and obtain positions of power.

I agree that sometimes a dress code is necessary. But, can we also agree there is no job that can be performed better in 5-inch stilettos? What’s wrong with a simple black flat or a working shoe with a very small and thick platform? For goodness sake, what’s wrong with being comfortable AND professional in the workplace?

All of the other provinces in Canada should follow British Columbia and create legislation of their own. There is no need for ridiculous and sexist dress codes in the workplace. If legislation banning them is what’s needed for companies to change their policies, then so be it.

Although, it’s worth being said, that if we need legislation to mandate companies not to force their female employees to dress a certain way, Canada probably isn’t as feminist as it claims to be.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below and sign up for our weekly e-newsletter:

What Buffy the Vampire Slayer taught me as a feminist

**Warning: May contain show spoilers.

Over the last few months, I’ve slowly been re-watching one of my favourite science-fiction television shows — Buffy the Vampire Slayer (BTVS). Little did I know that just as I opened the first episode of season five (thanks Netflix), I would be surprised by the following announcement.

It is the show’s 20th anniversary.

The 1997 television drama merges high-school comedy and supernatural horror into one successful package. The storyline follows Buffy Summers, “one girl in all the world, a chosen one”, who has the strength to kill vampires and demons and save the world from multiple apocalypses — the plural of apocalypse has never been confirmed, even in the show. “I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.”

Also, did I mention she is 16 and simply trying to get through high school in one piece without revealing her secret identity?

I realize this description may sound cheesy — and ultimately, the first few seasons of the show were just that. But, it was also good television. Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, knew how to merge all these great themes together in a way that made you laugh, cry, and yell at the TV with each plot betrayal. Many of the monsters Buffy fights are metaphors themselves for real-life high school issues. Inappropriate teacher-student relations, peer pressure, online dating, physical abuse, and, of course, teenage romance. All the while kicking serious vampire ass in high heels and a halter-top. Now, that’s female empowerment!

As Buffy grows older, the show introduced a lot adult themes like casual sex, employment, and the effects of alcohol. The characters viewers spent years getting to know started to change and grow. They went off to university, dealt with career transitions, and experienced intense loss. Buffy’s best friend Willow starts to build a relationship with fellow witch Tara in what was my first introduction into lesbianism as a teen. This exploration of sexuality was done in such a subtle and honest way that it just seemed a natural transition for the character, and for the viewers.

What does this all have to do with feminism, you may ask? The whole idea of BTVS was that a young girl, someone who is often overestimated in intelligence and strength, has the ability to conquer the worst evils the world has ever seen. She has boyfriends, sure, but usually she is the one doing the rescuing. As she tells her sister Dawn, “no guy is worth your life, not ever.”

In the end, Buffy becomes the idealistic female superhero. Sure, she has a few male sidekicks and a British father figure to offer guidance, but at the end of the day, it’s Buffy’s plan, her leadership, and her sacrifice that saves the world.

And then, there is the last season (note: serious spoilers ahead).

As Willow and Buffy work together to break the “one chosen one in all the world” curse, her strength and power is transported into all the potential slayers around the world. From the young teenagers fighting the ultimate evil to the six-year-old playing baseball in the park, that energy flows within them, making them stronger and more capable then ever before. Now, it’s up to all of womankind to fight the battle. Could there be a more perfect symbol for female strength and unity?

At the end of the series, she doesn’t get the guy. In fact, she is independent, standing among the rubble of the apocalypse she helped prevent, with her friends and family by her side. She is strong, stoic, and just plain awesome.

If I wrote an article about all the things I learned, and continue to learn, from this amazing 90s television show, it would result in an essay over 10,000 words in length. Every few years, I re-watch BTVS and find something I previously missed. I usually watch it when I need to rejuvenate my sense of purpose or when I’m feeling down after the end of a relationship. Buffy the Vampire Slayer isn’t just a quirky teenage drama with lovable characters and a few evil vampires to fill in the space. It is a coming of age tale that represented all of the good and bad elements involved in growing up. Underneath the supernatural magic of this television show, BTVS is able to accurately portray the effects of death and trauma on a group of young kids, while still instilling hope in those who were watching it.

Not many television shows nowadays can make that same claim.

All of this is to say, happy 20th anniversary BTVS! I have no doubt that, in another 20 years, people will still be talking about this iconic and empowering series.

Are you a fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Let us know what the show means to you below!

Are Canadians investing in women?

March 8 is International Women’s Day. During this time, it’s easy to think back to all of the trials and tribulations women have experienced. Just last week, there was a tragic case in Halifax in which the victim of sexual assault was wronged thanks to an outdated definition of consent. There has been a large investigation into “unfounded” sexual assault cases by the Canadian police. And of course, there is the incredible sexism women are facing in the United States from their own politicians.

No, Women’s Post is not going to focus on that this March 8 (at least, not too much). Instead, Women’s Post is choosing to celebrate this important day by speaking with successful business women, gathering their advice for other women, and learning about who they invest in. Here is a teaser with some of the results:

 

Visit our women of the week page for profiles of successful Canadian women.

What is consent?

“A drunk can consent.” This statement was said by Judge Gregory Lenhan following a sexual assault trial in Halifax in which he acquitted a man who was practically caught red-handed trying to have sex with an unconscious woman in the back of his taxi. Those four words have caused a public outcry, and a petition signed by 34,000 people is circulating asking for an inquiry into the judge himself.

Apparently, this whole idea of consent is rather confusing. So confusing that a judge, a man that has dedicated his life to justice and the law, thinks that sexual assault is something that can be decided be given without actually being conscious.

I know — I don’t get it either.

To help, let’s actually define the term consent.

Consent, according to the Oxford dictionary, means to give “permission for something to happen.” In the case of a sexual relationship, both parties must clearly agree to a sexual act and each person has the right to say no. Consent should never be assumed or implied. Seems simple enough, right?

What people tend to forget is that consent is continually. At any point during a sexual encounter, a woman or a man may tell his or her partner to stop — and that partner MUST stop. That is the nature of consent.

Therefore, considering that very basic definition, a person who is incapacitated through alcohol or drugs cannot give true consent.

In the Halifax case, the woman was found unconscious in the vehicle vehicle. She was naked and the taxi driver was found stuffing her pants and underwear into the front seat of his car. His pants were undone. The woman had an alcohol level of 241 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood. This would have severely impacted short-term and long-term memory. Staff at the bar where the woman was picked up said she was incredibly drunk and was turned away at the door. That is when she hailed a cab.

Did I mention that her DNA was found in the accused’s mouth?

All of those details together should have resulted in a guilty verdict. Instead, the judge said there was no way to know whether the woman gave consent prior to her losing consciousness, and therefore the man could not be found guilty.

In essence: “a drunk can consent.”

This verdict verges on the ridiculous and unbelievable — and yet, it does not shock me. It doesn’t shock me because, as a woman, I know the judiciary system is not on my side. I know that, in the event of an unwarranted and unsolicited sexual act, it will take even more persuasion to convince a police officer that it was not my fault. And that’s a real shame.

Using the above definition, it is clear, without a doubt, there was no continual consent in the Halifax case. Even if the woman in the taxi urged the driver to have sex with her, the fact that she was unconscious nullifies whatever consent was originally given. The consent, at that moment, cannot be continual as the woman is not awake to give it.

Let me run through a few other scenarios in which consent is implied, but not actually given:

  1. A woman dresses provocatively, and that implies she is “looking to get some.”
  2. A woman invites you into their house or hotel room following a date, she is implying she wants to have sex.
  3. A woman asks a man if he has a condom. He puts it on. That means that sex is inevitable and what happens afterward is a consequence of that act. No one is allowed to change his or her mind at that point.
  4. A woman is intoxicated and their judgement blurred. That means they are looking for a fun time.

In all of these scenarios, a woman – or a man for that matter – has the right to change their mind and say no. None of these acts should be able to prove consent in the court of law, as consent is continual.

However, in many of these situations, lines are blurred and the judiciary system falls on “implied consent” rather than actual consent. There is also a double standard when alcoholism is thrown into the mix. How many times have you heard the defence say the following: “He was drunk, he didn’t know what he was doing. Let’s not ruin the reputation of this person based on one stupid choice.” The accused is then acquitted. When a victim of sexual assault says they were drunk, it is used to imply guilt and irresponsibility. This should not be the norm in our judiciary system.

That simple four-word verdict “ a drunk can consent” shows an ignorant and naïve understanding of the term itself. I am absolutely distraught and offended that a judge, someone who is in a position of power to determine whether or not a victim of sexual assault was in fact a victim, thinks it’s okay to make such generalized and harmful statements like this one.

Canadian women deserve better. They deserve not to be discriminated against in the court of law. They deserve to feel safe — and this can’t happen unless everyone is taught the real meaning of consent.

#HealthAtEverySize: Big Fit Girl

As a plus-size woman, I rarely read self-help books. I find them degrading and useless. They make me feel like I’m not good enough. The authors, most of whom are tiny celebrities that can afford personal trainers and in-house chefs, put an emphasis on weight and size. They suggest cutting our carbs, eating only low-fat foods, exercising seven days a week, and attending boot camps to ensure your body is “bikini ready.”

For plus-size women, these recommendations can cause anxiety and depression, and 90 per cent of the time result in fast weight loss and even faster gains after the fact.

Big Fit Girl is an exception to that sentiment. This book follows the personal story of author and plus-size athlete and personal trainer Louise Green on their journey towards athleticism. The book is full of body-positive messages and completely dismisses the idea that health is related to a number on a scale.

For example, did you know that about 40 per cent of obese men and women have healthy blood pressure and normal cholesterol? And yet, most of those people are judged by the size of pants they are able to squeeze into.

 

Green runs through how the fitness industry as a whole discriminates against size and fails to meet the specific needs of plus-size women. Athleticism, according to Big Fit Girl, doesn’t equate with weight or size. It is something that can be measured by ability, strength, and endurance. In essence — a healthy body doesn’t necessarily mean a bikini body and the fitness industry needs to come to that realization.

I’ve been struggling with my own health journey for a while, and reading this book gave me the inspiration I needed to keep going. It begins by shattering stereotypes and discussing the lack of body diversity in advertising, media, and branding. Green asks her readers to make a number of pledges, including avoiding companies that don’t provide options for larger body types and eliminating negative, body shaming messaging.

As encouragement, Green lists the social media information of a number of professional plus-size athletes who, despite their size, have become award-winners in their field. The book is slam-packed with stories and quotes from plus-size athletes, outlining their peaks and valleys, as well as their success.

Big Fit Girl is a wonderful combination of athletic and nutritional advice, motivational success stories, and myth debunking. In between the storytelling, Green includes a number of recipes, simple stretches, her favourite workout playlist, and a training regime for a 5k race.

Green wants her readers to succeed, but not only because she wants them to accomplish their personal goals. Instead, she wants to start a movement: plus-size women have a prerogative to prove to society that they can be healthy and active. The more people that see plus-size women on the racetrack, the more it will be normalized.  “Whether you are an avid walker, a triathlete, a ballroom dancer, or an Olympic weightlifter, or if you aspire to be al these things and more, your presence as a plus-size woman working out in our society is creating a much-needed shift. And because we don’t see women of size as much as we need to in advertising, television, movies, or other media, it’s up to us – you and me – to inspire others to join our ranks.”

Ultimately, this book taught me a number of things, but these three stand out: Don’t be afraid of trying something because you think you will be limited by your size. Aim for health and fitness above weight loss and dieting. And practice self love, because you ARE an athlete.

Big Fit Girl will be available in stores on March 18.

Celebrating Women: Amy Symington

There are many reasons why people choose to adopt a vegan lifestyle — whether its for ethical reasons or to inspire a healthy lifestyle — but avoiding meat and dairy may have other perks, including preventing chronic disease. Nutritionist, vegan chef, professor, and owner of Amelia Eats, Amy Symington, focuses on teaching individuals how dietary choices can actually impact overall health and contribute to saving lives.

Symington is a multi-faceted woman actively involved in the vegan health community. She is very warm and easy to approach and is intelligent in a non-assuming way. Symington started her career as a vegan chef seven years ago and now teaches nutrition and culinary classes at George Brown College. “There is a stigma to vegan food being not flavourful,” Symington says. “The other chefs try it and they are shocked at how good it is. I like to focus on converting people to a plant-based diet through food.”

Alongside teaching, Symington runs a business called Amelia Eats that does catering, nutritional consulting, and creates recipes for various publications and businesses. She provides vegan nutrition expertise through her website and will also provide deluxe vegan catering dinners at request.

Symington’s interests go beyond simple cooking. She is researching how plant-based fare can help people who are suffering from life-threatening illnesses such as cancer. “My mom had breast cancer. During her treatment, I focused on plant-based foods and nutrition,” Symington says. “During my mother’s treatment, I found there wasn’t an option for people with cancer to be provided with a nutritionist or dietician. It was more like an assembly line with pills. There is no tender love and care in our system when it comes to cancer. There are wonderful doctors and nurses, but when to nutrition there is a gap. Processed red meats in particular, sausage, and bacon is directly linked to an increased risk of cancer and also breast cancer. The World Health Organization (WHO) came out with a statement that shook people last year.”

After learning more about these risks, Symington began a vegan supper club program on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Gilda’s Club Greater Toronto, and provides social and emotional support to cancer survivors. The program involves preparing and cooking vegan fare for cancer patients and their families twice a week. “Gilda’s program focuses on cancer survivors. There are 50 different cancer care affiliates in North America and the vegan supper club programming is very popular,” Symington says. “People were very skeptical at first and would jokingly ask for steak instead, but they came around to the vegan meal and now they love it. It is all about winning people over with really flavourful food.” She focuses on a menu with fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes. “They are most nutrient dense foods out there with high fibre, healthy fats and high antioxidants. Antioxidants fight off ‘free radicals’, osteoporosis, and diabetes and help with chronic disease prevention in general.”

Symington’s mom focused more on a vegetarian diet when she was in treatment, and her doctor became concerned if this was the best choice for her health. This later inspired Symington to start a community guide about how plant-based diets can positively influence good nutrition if you have cancer. It is proven that fruits and vegetables are filled with phytochemicals, fibre, and health promoting nutrients and tend to be healthier than meat and dairy products. As an expert nutritionist, Symington is creating a plant-based guide to cancer nutrition for people who would like to prevent cancer, those going through treatment, and those who are in recovery from treatment. Symington received funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) award to create the guide and this will help fund the project. “There will be three components, including a literature review on what to consume for cancer prevention, then large quantity recipes focusing on foods mentioned, and the third part will focus on how to run your own supper club programming,” Symington says. “The students at George Brown are helping create recipes and then we test the recipe at Gilda’s on Tuesdays.”

Along with her husband, Beaches-East York MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, the couple plan to raise their son as a vegan.  “Generally. babies are vegan. You exclusively breast feed them, which is recommended. The first things that are recommended are cereals and fruits and vegetables. From there, use calcium-fortified tofu, lentils, and whole grains to get your complete proteins,” Symington says. “As a parent, you need to be informed about specific nutrients including vitamin D, DHA, probiotics, B12, iron, and calcium.”

When Symington isn’t working, she enjoys cooking on her own time and making delicious vegan food. Her guilty pleasure sounds absolutely delicious: “My death row meal is a good burrito or taco equipped with avocado and sweet potato with tempeh, and turmeric or tempeh tacos, always with hot sauce.” When she isn’t working, She also loves running and soccer, and is currently reading “Healing with Whole Foods” by Paul Pitchford.

Symington is leading the way in disease prevention with a compassionate approach to food and health. She is inspiring and her knowledge about vegan health foods gives people vital information about living a healthier lifestyle. Check out Symington’s recipes through Amelia Eats and if you get a chance, enjoy one of her vegan meals.