Jillian was introduced to La Petite Écolière when her daughters participated in the photoshoot with Alabaster Jar Photography. Jillian teaches girls and women how to have positive relationships with food and their bodies - and most importantly that all our bodies are different and beautiful! Jillian's daughters are wearing the "Love to Learn" T-Shirt in Youth Small - click the photos to see the products for sale.
Can you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us a bit about your formal and informal (outside of the classroom) education.
I have a Bachelor in Science in Kiniesiology and my ND (a four year program in naturopathic medicine). I have additional training in many areas including acupuncture, herbal medicine, injury treatment and prevention & bioidentical hormone therapy.
But where my heart (and all my current formal education efforts) lie is in the psychology of eating and treatment of emotional eating, binge eating and body image issues in women.
Informally, I think I've learned the most from traveling and being a mom. I took a year off in the middle of each of my degrees and those two years have really shaped and directed my life. In addition to opening up to other cultures, people, and points of view, I learned about responsibility and independence, adaptability, resourcefulness, and "going with the flow" (one of the most useful - difficult for me - skills EVER!!!!).
What is the most important lesson or skill you learned inside the classroom?
I think active listening (how to really listen to others) is one of the best skills I ever learned in a classroom. That and calculus. Haha - just kidding.
What is the most important lesson or skill you learned outside the classroom?
That I can handle almost any situation. Moving to Europe from a small city at 19 years old, with very little money in my bank account, meant that I needed to quickly learn how to "handle things". I did it and, from then on, I've always trusted that I could handle whatever came my way...even if every step is a struggle.
Who was your most memorable teacher?
I have a few: an enrichment teacher from elementary school, a biology teacher from high school, a biochem prof from university, a running coach... the common theme is that they all had very high expectations of me - they taught me to set the bar high. Also, they were all very funny. I think everyone learns better when they're having fun.
ell us a bit about how you got into coaching girls and women on body positivity and forming positive relationships with food?
In university I developed orthorexia - not diagnosable at the time - but now a better understood eating disorder where you are very obsessed and anxious about eating "clean". This was quite awhile ago, clean eating wasn't a thing yet, nor were eating disorders that revolved around health obsession. I found it very hard to get help. I had to pull my way out of it on my own - reading books by Geneen Roth, turning to yoga, and seeking help wherever I could find it. It was a long road. The whole time I was recovering, I was in naturopathic school. And, while there were so many amazing things about the education, I had this deep belief that something about the way we were learning about food and health and weight was "off". I just didn't quite have the vocabulary for it... so, I continued to play around with it and worked hard to teach my patients about healthy, balanced eating in a non-restrictive way.
After having children - finding myself in a body that was very different and not at all interested in losing weight or obeying the rules of diet culture - I found myself starting to back down the rabbit hole of restrictive eating, over-exercise, and body image issues - I was working so incredibly hard to get my old "healthy" (read: thinner) body back...and then one day I stopped. And I looked at what I was doing. And I said to myself: "This is NOT health".
I dug deeply once again into this work. I learned from newer, better books and an incredible mentor who helped me develop the vocabulary for all the issues I'd had for years with the way our culture teaches women about their bodies, weight, and health. I slowly transitioned my naturopathic practice into a full-time practice focused on helping women who are struggling with body image, emotional eating and binge eating. It's incredible, life and health-changing stuff!
Why is nutrition important for girls growing up?
As Ellyn Satter says, my goal is to raise "competent" eaters not "good" eaters. I want my girls to be in touch with their bodies, their appetites, and cravings. I want them to understand when food fuels them and when it's making them feel bad - that ALL foods have the ability to do both, depending on the way we consume them. I want them to understand and see the value in eating for mental and emotional health as well as physical health. Ultimately, I want them to be flexible with food, so they can always make the best decision for their bodies from a place of true connection and abundance instead of out of fear or lack of not having the "right" body or eating the "right" way.
I think we all know the eating basics: eat mostly unprocessed foods, lots of plants, etc. It's important for young girls to have the nutrients they need for their brains and bodies to grow. But it's also important for me to raise girls that can navigate a world filled with ALL KINDS of foods and to understand that FOOD is not the only determinant of health. That we can care for ourselves in so many ways beyond food.
Why do you believe so many women suffer from negative body image issues?
Because of The Beauty Myth (a term coined by Naomi Wolf in her 1990-ish book of that title). The myth that, as women, our worth is dependent on our looks. That our access to health, wealth, success, love, and belonging hinges on how well we fit the current beauty/body ideal. An ideal which is typically only available to 5% of women. We absorb this message EVERYWHERE. You can't NOT absorb it... all I try to do is teach women (and girls) how to exist within it. How to strengthen themselves against a thin-is-best and healthiest culture that does not acknowledge or validate the biological fact that is body diversity. A culture that, in addition to telling us our bodies are wrong, then gives us TOOLS to help make our bodies right - tools (like food restriction and punishing exercise) that trigger a wide range of negative, compulsive, health-hurting behaviours...and then blames us when we "can't get it right" or stick with it. When our unique, diverse bodies won't comply.
I want to insert a funny joke here. To lighten the mood. But this is the harsh reality. (sigh)
What values do you try to instill in your daughters?
I think we try to instill the values of empathy, understanding, adventure, passion, and fun. It feels a little shallow when I look at it... but our kids are inherently quite driven and perfectionistic and worried. So we try to balance it out.
What specifically do you do and tell your daughters so that they know they can achieve anything?
When they are feeling scared,nervous, or tentative about doing something new or hard I always look them in the eyes and say, "I know you can handle this". And I mean it. I learned that from Barbara Colorosso. In one small sentence I tell them over and over again that I know they have the capacity to handle something difficult. I love that.
What did your daughters learn today?
My eldest just ran her first 2km cross-country race - she learned she can do it, and she can do it quickly!
My youngest learned to put her hair into a "half" ponytail. She's very fashion forward!
What did you learn today?
I learned to double check my day planner. Ha! I rushed around all morning, prepping for a podcast recording I thought was happening at 10am. And then I sat here for 15 minutes wondering what was going on before checking to see that it is, in fact, booked for tomorrow. #classic
Jillian accepts appointments via phone, skype or in-person, and has an e-book available at her website!