19.2.19

WHY I STOPPED
FAST WALKING IN LONDON


I often get asked how do you like living in London? 

I frequently reply with I love it, I hate it, it's everything and anything, it's chaos, it's beauty and there's nowhere else I'd rather be at this point in my life. 




From the very first time I visited this city in 2014 to now — six months into living and working here — I've always been hyper aware of the chaos that ensues. Despite evidence stating that London remains one of the world's least dense big cities in population terms, there are still over 8.7 million people living here. Which is still six times more people than my Canadian hometown of Ottawa (1.3 million people). 



My perspective is unique — coming from THE land of vast, open spaces. Even after spending six months living in London, I am still in awe of the amount of people, the narrow streets, and THE. TUBE

I started to notice a trend on the streets and on the underground. 


People. 


Walking. 


Very. 


Fast. 




Whether it's on the way to work or to meet friends, switching platforms on the underground, choosing a cashier line at the grocery store, or walking running up and down the escalator. These people are SWIFT! 


At first I thought ah, they must all be very late for work or an appointment. But then I started to notice it wasn't just a few people. It was a collective rush. Every single person is LATE!? This can't be. There's no way they rush from place to place just for fun!


In London, especially within public transit, it's not uncommon to see everything and anything. I feel like I've ~almost~ seen it all but nothing amazes me more than this constant buzzing phenomenon. 




London often gets compared to its American equivalent, New York. While NYC is famous for it's fast walkers, it turns out that they've been out-run by some of the European cities. A number of years ago, a study was done that ranked the fastest walkers in the world by city. Turns out New York ranked number 8, with London at number 12, and Ottawa, Canada OF ALL PLACES actually made the list at number 20. I guess fast walking isn't such a foreign concept to this Ottawa-native after all. 


Fast walking didn't actually seem that bizarre to me until one day I noticed that I, too, was fast walking. I felt like a fish that got swept up in a school of fish in a current that I couldn't escape from. It wasn't until I was sweating and panting — after manually climbing up the entire escalator — and realizing that I wasn't late, I didn't even have a job yet, and I was rushing for no reason — that I noticed a problem. 


Here's the problem with rushing. When I rush, I become hyper focused on the destination. My brain jumps to the future. I feel anxious and nervous about not arriving at said destination on time. This can sometimes lead to a spiral of negative thinking — and coupled with the heavy breathing and lack of mindfulness — makes me feel kinda shitty. 


For what? 




Ok, I've been late. Many, many times. And I know for sure that by the time I realize I'm late, there isn't that much I can do about it. When I'm late for something, it's almost always because I took too long getting ready and lost track of time. Rushing to my destination will only ever save me minutes. Mere minutes. That's all I get. And I've gone and rushed — putting my body through stress. 




As someone who's had a history of anxiety, I've figured out that fast walking is not for me. I have to work everyday at improving my environment to be as conducive to wellness as possible. Alas, this is why I've stopped fast walking in London



Sometimes I get caught up in the collective wave of rushing but I'm getting better and better at stopping myself. I'm aware that when I rush, I lose touch with the present moment and I become less mindful. I forget things more easily, I stress over pointless things that are out of my control, and it makes my breath fast and shallow. And if my yoga journey has taught me anything, it's that the speed of my breath dictates the speed of my thoughts. For me, the antidote to chaotic and catastrophic thoughts is slowing down my breath. 



PHOTOGRAPHY // LEANNE DIXON 
I've talked about how London has been the best teacher for me. Living here has forced me to face myself in a way I've never had to. It's been humbling to start at square one and I've had to rely on me, myself, and I to figure this big dream out. Living and working here has brought my anxiety levels to a place I hoped I'd never see again — but it's also cemented my self-care routine to the top of my priority list. It's never been more important for me to do the things that keep me feeling well. I'm still not very good at asking for help but by doing what I can to stay well, I'm feeling better. Starting with walking at a slower, more mindful and relaxed pace. And I don't care who passes me.














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3.2.19

FROM COUNTING CALORIES
TO COUNTING MEMORIES



A friend recently described me as someone who is very comfortable with who they are. I think it's so rare to receive honest feedback about ourselves and I truly appreciated them taking the time to think about how they perceive me. The best feeling was not only hearing this but actually resonating with the feeling of being comfortable with who I am. 

This whole journey over the past six months (packing up my life and moving to London, England) has really tested my self-worth. It's made me confront so many fears, lingering insecurities, and negative self-talk. Even within just one aspect of this move —the process of finding a job— I had to analyze every detail of what I had to offer and sell myself; and in turn, I've had to face a lot of rejections. This whole experience has given me a stronger sense of self and a huge appreciation for who I am as a person. 




Everything has happened at such a speed that only now am I realizing how much I've changed. One area I've noticed a huge shift in is how I eat, how I feel about my body, and my relationship to food. 



I've shared my past experiences with dieting (specifically being on the Keto diet), poor body image, and disordered eating. I've only recently realized how relaxed I now feel about food and can enjoy eating without feeling guilty. I'd like to say it was hours of self-reflection and meditation that brought up this realization. But truly, in London fashion, it was my cashier at Sainsbury's (my local grocery store) who truly made me think. 



A little story. 

I was in Canada for three weeks holidays over Christmas and returned back to London on January 10. During my first grocery shop since being back, my cashier struck up a conversation based on what I put on the conveyor belt. She looked at my selection of fruits and vegetables and said Wow, very healthy! I smiled and humoured her comment as she began scanning the items. Then, she looked at me and said Ain't nothin' wrong with a lil jiggle and shake, though! You be careful. I don't want you to wither down to nothing! 


I don't doubt her message was rooted in anti-dieting and body positivity. Loving what you got and what not. Sure. But what struck me more is how shocked and concerned she was that by simply buying healthier foods, that I was starving myself and trying to lose weight. I have come all this way and genuinely am in a place where I am happy with my weight, my body, and all that comes with it — jiggles, shakes and all. 



What if I had waited to lose weight before following my dreams?

A few years ago when London was just a dream, a someday, I used to think I had to be perfect before I moved. I remember thinking that I wanted to lose weight before I moved. If I had still thought that, I really don’t think I would be where I am today. It makes me think: What if I had waited? I'd still be waiting. 



I used to have these kinds of thoughts all the time. I used to see weight loss as a destination to happiness. When I decided to put my happiness first, I started to see dieting as something that would get in my way of achieving my dream. When I was dieting, I was constantly thinking about my next meal, how I would cut calories, and many of my thoughts revolved around feeling guilty for something I ate. This took up so much mental space that I didn't have room for anything else. 



It's taken me years to move into a space of self-love, non-guilty eating and body positivity. However, living in London, has taught me to eat slower, to live actively by walking everywhere and taking the stairs, I quit weighing myself, and I only wear clothes that fit me and feel good. If I'm craving an almond croissant, I have one and fully enjoy every bite. I eat anything I want and it's that simple. The thought process ends there. Whereas if I craved a croissant before, there would be hours of negative self-talk and reasons why I am not worthy of eating that.



I don't eat based on events, hashtags, opinions of others, or strict schedules.

Today, the conversations that go on in my head revolve around how delicious a meal was or how it was prepared or how much fun I had with the people I shared a meal with.  For me, eating has evolved from being a game of restricting and binging to revolving around people, culture, flavour, indulgence, love, care, and enjoyment. 




Do you ever step back and reflect on how you've changed? 


I think it's so important to do. We may not always notice the little victories until it's a big victory and then we celebrate. If you need some help, start a conversation with your friends and ask for their feedback and if they have noticed anything new with you. Supportive, compassionate and thoughtful friends have been a major part of my healing my relationship with food. 


PHOTOGRAPHY: LEANNE DIXON

If you're into hearing more on the topic of body positivity, I'd encourage you to listen to a podcast I recently stumbled upon: The Sunday Social: Do we still diet? 





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