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What is Fat Positive Wellness?

Transcript from The Radical RMT Podcast #029 - Jamie Boer

The content of this episode includes weight, eating disorders, and diet culture.

This is the radical RMT podcast where I talk to radical massage therapists chat about the unique lifestyle we have in this profession and cover topics we care about beyond the massage table. My name is Krista Dicks. I'm a registered massage therapist with over a decade of experience. If you want an inspiring career that leads to an incredible life, stay tuned.


Krista Dicks: Jamie Boer. Thank you so much for being a guest on the radical RMT podcast. I'm very excited to have you here to talk about a really exciting, interesting topic that I feel is going to be super beneficial to everybody, everybody listening, and I'm so happy that you're here to share it.

Jamie Boer: Thanks so much for having me, I'm excited to be here.

Krista Dicks: Of course, my finding of you was through Instagram, I'm probably following a hashtag or you know, maybe your page. But what I did notice was that your Instagram profile your “Eastwood Wellness” in Toronto is your business. And underneath the description, you were very specific to say fat positive and inclusive for wellness. And that really caught my attention. And so I took a little screenshot and thought that it would be wonderful to reach out to you and discuss this topic about what it means to have a fat positive clinic space, what your journey has been like. It was obviously eye catching for me. So there's probably something there that I need to explore as well, which I'm really excited about. So where would you like to begin? There’s a lot that I want to talk to you about, about how you got into massage therapy, how you developed your practice. And then obviously the topic of what inclusive wellness means.

Jamie Boer: For sure. So I mean, like I can start from the very beginning. I've wanted to be a massage therapist, since I was about 12 years old, like almost too young to know what a massage therapist was that it was a real job. Um, my grandmother was actually a healer in the village in Greece, which I found out actually after I graduated from school, which is super interesting. But she used to do like cupping, and give us massages when we were sick. And so I think that imprinted on me at a very young age. And so I feel like that was just something that drew me to the profession and why I sought it out, like right out of high school. Um, and then in terms of starting my own business, um, I feel like everywhere that I've worked, I haven't like quite fit in. And maybe that's just kind of like my narrative of being in a bigger body of just like having the circumstances where I just didn't quite feel like I fit in. And just this past fall, I started working at a new clinic, I was the first and only RMT they did skincare there. And two weeks in I went to this entrepreneur camp for women. And on the first night we were told to write down something that we wanted to let go of on a piece of paper and throw it into a campfire. And so I wrote down the idea of not fitting in, like I wanted to let that go. And then got back to work. It was my first day back I got called into the manager's office. And she sat me down, she was like, we're letting you go because you're not the right fit. So it was like a very, like poetic It was also the day before my birthday. And so like the timing was just incredible. And so after being inspired at this, like entrepreneur camp, I was like, this is the time I'm doing it. I'm opening my own business and every other option just felt like a big no to me. So like any other like I had a job offer the next week, and they didn't know that I didn't have a job. So I was like this is kind of weird. And then I got another job offer, like out of nowhere from somebody that I didn't know it was just like word of mouth and I was like, and I just kept saying no to everything because I knew that this is what I needed to do.

Krista Dicks: Okay, amazing. So, have you always had that sort of feeling to have a clinic space? And did you always know it was going to be the vision that it is now where you know, inclusive wellness was going to be so important to you? How did how did that become so important to owning a clinic space like that?

Jamie Boer: I would say that wasn't even I mean, even though that was a part of it. In the beginning, I didn't realize the extent that people needed that. And that my story with healthcare practitioners was not rare. In fact, it's very common for people in bigger bodies to have negative experiences with doctors, chiro’s, physio massage therapists, like you name it, like people have reached out to me, and have told me some quite alarming stories.

Krista Dicks: Would you be able to give any examples?

Jamie Boer: Absolutely, yeah, so I had some knee pain a little while ago, I went to see a chiropractor, and he told me to lose weight. There have been many circumstances where my body has not fit in waiting room chairs, chairs with arms on them. And even growing up going to my doctor for various reasons, no matter what I went in with if it was pain, or if it was because I was sick or whatever. I was always told to lose weight by my doctor, no matter what. And so I feel like a lot of times with health care practitioners from my own experience, and from stories that I've heard from people reaching out to me is that our pain isn't believed by doctors. We're not given the same care as someone who is in a smaller body. And it's very kind of consistent across the board.

Krista Dicks: And so when you opened your own massage clinic, this is obviously something that you wanted to put at the forefront that every body was welcome in your space and would be treated the same?

Jamie Boer: Absolutely. Yeah. So in our clinic, there are no arms on chairs, I made sure that all the massage tables and the chairs that we do have, have a very high weight capacity. We have a small waiting room. But it's kind of like a banquette bench seating kind of like in the window. And so it is very accessible. And yeah, I just wanted to make sure that anyone could walk in our space in any body. And that it would be a judgment free zone, that we wouldn't judge them based on their body and believe their pain.

Krista Dicks: And it goes beyond just the clinic setup that you just described. You know, there is certain conversations that don't happen within your, your clinic space as well. Can you elaborate on those?

Jamie Boer: Yes, yeah. So, um, there is no diet talk allowed in that space. And it can be triggering for someone who's had a history of disordered eating or eating disorders. And even just talking about that, like about ourselves and people overhearing it, I know, in my own situation, when I do over here, it is quite triggering for me. Um, we also, obviously, never comment on someone's body. And it like it's become this automatic thing, this thing that we're kind of brought up with is to praise weight loss. And so sometimes, especially when we build these long term relationships with our clients, like oh, you lost some weight, you look great. And actually, that can be quite negative for someone who might be going through trauma that we don't know about, or that struggling with an eating disorder. And so commenting on someone's body, when it's not in the context of a treatment is something that we will never do. And then also for healthcare, or sorry for homecare, we always ask permission, we ask consent to give homecare and we generally try and stay away from the word exercise and try instead to use the word movement or strengthening or you know, just kind of get more specific about it.

Krista Dicks: How does a massage therapist who sees bodies all day long. How do we address these topics with our clients? What is our appropriate response when a client, you've set those standards for your clinic that this is what does not happen in our clinic. But a lot of us don't have that niche. You know, we're like, we want to embrace that. But we might not have that as our, our main, like, advertiser as lack of a better word. So what's our response when somebody does start talking about those topics in our own clinic space? What should our response be?

Jamie Boer: Generally what I say, because I obviously don't want to make my client feel uncomfortable, or like, I'm not listening to them. And so depending on our history, if they're a regular client that I've been seeing for years and years, I'll say, do you mind if we not, you know, like, take this topic off the table? Because it's actually triggering for me. And like, what I'm going through currently. Or if I don't know them so well, I would say that this is a, like, safe space for all bodies. And so we want to limit the amount of the use of diet culture language, or weight loss. This is not what we're about here. But then also, you could also say that this is out of my, like, scope of practice, plainly. Because any kind of like nutrition or weight is absolutely not in our scope.

Krista Dicks: Right not as an RMT. Not in our scope of practice. And what about I mean, it's pretty similar. But another question about when clients are describing their pain, say low back pain, and just automatically, it's all I could, you know, I understand I could probably use lose a few pounds, and that will help the back pain go away. And they, you know, they might kind of chuckle. Is there a separate response that we can give or basically, like, what you just said would also work?

Jamie Boer: Generally, what I say is that all bodies have pain, big and small, all sizes can experience pain. And so, a lot of the times it doesn't have to do with your weight at all.

Krista Dicks: Right? Okay, the big smile, that's good. That's lovely. Was your mindset always like this as someone in a bigger body? Was your mindset always to be inclusive and positive?

Jamie Boer: No, actually, this only, I mean, like I've struggled with diets and weight since I was very young, probably went on my first diet when I was around 10. And so have kind of been on that like cyclical journey since. I did this workshop about a year ago and it was all about intuitive eating and movement for joy, which I didn't know could exist because I only used exercise to lose weight previously to be in a calorie deficit. That's the only reason why I would move my body. Um, and so I've been on an active journey to kind of heal the relationship with my body. And since then, so like, I mean, before that I would have a lot of negative self-talk about the way that I looked in the way that I moved and and… And since then, since I've like shifted that. So like, I no longer judge myself. And the way that I talk to myself isn't a very different way. It's very positive at times, but also very neutral at others, like why can't my body be accepted in places just like everyone else, just like people in smaller bodies. And so it's been like this, like radical self-acceptance. And then since then my judgments of others have completely dissipated. The way that I see other bodies has completely changed for the better. And so I really do think that comes from healing your own relationship with your body. That'll change the way that you see other people as well.

Krista Dicks: Right. Absolutely. It's very common, how you perceive yourself are how you feel about yourself can very much project on others. So when you heal that part of yourself, that makes make sense. That's lovely. You described your clinic space as a little dream written in a notebook come to life. Can you elaborate on that at all? Was that an actual, like, little entry that you you've written down in a journal?

Jamie Boer: Absolutely. So it kind of goes back to that entrepreneur camp that I was at just last October. And I'm not really a journaler. But I did have a book to just write down my thoughts about what this business could be. And like a list of names it could be, and just, and so it really was just, like a thought written on paper just over six months ago.

Krista Dicks: Wow. And your clinic space is not that, I mean, it's fairly new. Um, you know, it's in the way that you speak of your clinic space in the way that I see it on social media, it really seems like it's a very established clinic location. Um, and you obviously have a wonderful supportive following and clientele. But it's not that old?

Jamie Boer: No, so we just opened in February, and we were open for six weeks before we had to shut it down. And I mean, that was probably the most incredible six weeks of my life, we were like, We were fully booked more days than not. The neighborhood, the community, the support was just like, overwhelming to me. And it was like, it is like, our location is just down the street from where I kind of built my practice over the years. And so it did kind of stay in the same neighborhood. So I was able to see my regular clients there as well as a lot of new ones.

Krista Dicks: And you don't work alone, you have other therapists working at Eastwood as well?

Jamie Boer: Yes, so we have 4 other massage therapists working there. And it was supposed to be 5. She was supposed to start in April, obviously, that didn't happen, but will happen when we reopen.

Krista Dicks: Okay? And how, with the values that clinic space holds? How do you choose which therapists are the, I was about to say the right fit. So how do you like, how do you, um, make sure that that they are a therapist that will be appropriate and respect the values?

Jamie Boer: Absolutely. So, um, I had a few of the therapists come to me with just like, I love what you're doing, I want to be a part of it. Um, and then a couple of the other ones, I mean, during that, that interview, that little chat before they start, because they already have a feeling if they are going to work well, in this space, I am very open, and very specific about the things that can and cannot be talked about in the space. And, um, you know, just very detailed and what our values are, and everyone who works there aligns with those values.

Krista Dicks: Good. And you support a lot of local businesses as well within your clinic space. And it's seemed very particular to female entrepreneurs in that space, as well?

Jamie Boer: Yes. So like women and women identifying entrepreneurs, all the things that we carry, so we have a very, like thoughtfully curated, like retail space with all kinds of self-care goods. So the idea is that you get your massage, and then you can get some therapeutic bath salts to take home with you to carry on with your self-care. Um, and so we have like beautiful natural hand poured candles, natural soaps. These like sustainable like massage ball things. Just yeah. And so it feels really great to especially during this time to support small makers and small businesses as well through our online shop.

Krista Dicks: And has that been successful for you then through this time just to help support the clinic as well while you're not there to actually be able to massage?

Jamie Boer: Absolutely, yeah. So um, being able to kind of pivot to this like online shop has been, I'm not going to say great for business, but it does help. I mean, as a lot of people know, rent in Toronto is expensive. And so it does definitely help. But it also feels good to be able to provide these things for our regular clients and customers too.

Krista Dicks: Yeah, absolutely. And what are other ways that you've pivoted just to stay connected to your community but also to earn some income as well for your business?

Jamie Boer: Absolutely. So we have a couple’s massage that's available online. That's a fairly I want to say like reasonable price, it's $25. It's about a half hour video that anyone can refer back to. And it's really meant for couples to massage each other at home. Just to relieve like those regular aches and pains, and also just to like, connect, as well.

Krista Dicks: Lovely. So massage therapy is your first and only career so far. Right? So how long have you been in practice?

Jamie Boer: This is a little bit of a loaded question. So it's going on 10 years? Yeah. Like it should have been. It should have been longer. But anyway, that's another podcast.

Krista Dicks: Awesome. Can we break down, we talked earlier that the original posts that I saw for your Instagram site said that positive and now your page more says inclusive wellness, but also the acronym HAES so Healthy at Every Size, right?

Jamie Boer: Yes that hays movement or Health at Every Size means that, you know, you can be in a bigger body and be healthy, you can be in a smaller body and, and not be as healthy. And so that's the idea is that everyone, like who comes in is treated the same. So when I first started, I actually use the term body positive. And this is a broader term, it started as a movement for larger marginalized, like black and people of color. And now it's kind of transformed into this term that everyone can use. But it's the most, I would say, relatable, it's the most popular term. And so I almost use that to connect with a broader audience. And then we kind of transition to this more fat positive space, even though it always has been to describe ourselves. And now I'm transitioning to a more body neutral. And so we don't necessarily need to be positive all the time about our bodies. But just this idea, is that on the spectrum, from small to bigger bodies, that they are all valued the same and respected the same, and that they all deserve the same quality of care.

Krista Dicks: You have a niece as well. And how are you educating her on how to be body neutral, to be inclusive to make it not a big deal about how, what size she is and what size other people are around her?

Jamie Boer: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I feel like it's so important. I mean, like the children in our lives are so easily influenced by the way we talk to ourselves. Like they hear and they see that, and so, not that I do this anymore, but I mean I was definitely at this point, we were just kind of like, oh, like, I feel fat, or I feel this or I felt like, you know, like, I'm using that kind of language or talking about change, like wanting to change different parts of my body, like, those things never come up. Um, there was a time a couple years ago, where my butt didn't fit into a chair was kind of going over the boundaries of the chair. She was like, oh, yeah, she's like, you have a big button. I was like, yeah, totally. And that's fine. You know, like I didn't like it wasn't like, oh, that's bad. Because it's not. The word fat isn't bad either so I mean, I would never kind of correct her on, on that language. I mean, it's merely a descriptor. Um, and when she's here, I mean, I do let her in on the conversation about like, what we're going to eat, and I give her options and I let her choose. And I let her eat until she's full. And like, there's lots of options for her here. And so there's, there's no kind of counting how many fries you're going to eat, or anything like that. So you know, like, very balanced meals. And like, I kind of let her tap into her intuition and ask her what she wants to eat, without running the show, but still giving her options.

Krista Dicks: Yeah. So when you say intuition, and the term intuitive eating, as well as something that you've said before, and intuitive movement. Can you describe a little bit more about intuitive eating, and what that would feel like, for somebody? And then intuitive movement, same thing.

Jamie Boer: For sure. So, um, for me, I think everyone has a different, like definition of intuitive eating. But for me, that means asking my body what I really feel like eating. Um, if I really like, if I'm craving a really big salad, or if I want chicken fingers, or whatever, have you just kind of like tapping into what my body's asking for. And then just being okay with that. Another aspect of that is just this food freedom. So generally, in my own experience, and I feel like this is pretty common, is that when we restrict food, when we say like, no sugar, our body will crave that. And sometimes that can cause us to potentially binge eat on those things, and then restrict them and then cause that cycle. And so, for me, if I allow myself to eat all of that stuff, whenever I want, I actually don't want to eat that all the time. Like, it's like, I don't want super sugary things all the time. Um, and so a lot of times people think that like intuitive eating, if you just trust yourself to make the right choices, then you will.