GUEST WRITER INFO
Brooke Van Ryssel is the owner/creator of My Body Fitness + Nutrition, Winnipeg’s first company dedicated to fitness, nutrition and body positivity.
She is a 25-year-old entrepreneur, fitness trainer and Registered Holistic Nutritionist.
In August 2016, I moved away from my partner, family and friends to study Holistic Nutrition in Vancouver. Everything was going swimmingly, I was enjoying school, excelling and working a part-time job at a group fitness gym.
Until one morning when I was driving to work.
On May 16, 2017, someone went right through a red light and hit my car on the drivers side at full speed resulting in another impact into a lamp pole.
I can still remember the exact feelings I had after the second impact: shock and disbelief, quickly followed by panic when I couldn’t open my door and realized I was covered in glass.
Am I ok?
With the help of some pedestrians I was able to get out of the passengers side door. I tapped each foot into the cement to see if I was able to stay standing, and began touching my body from head to toe as if I was giving myself an airport style pat down. As I did this, I was crying hysterically and a paramedic started asking me questions and guiding me towards an ambulance.
The woman who hit me casually walked over, travel mug in hand, and said she was glad I was ok. I didn’t say anything because I barely heard her.
I was sitting in the ambulance when I felt the first tinge of pain under my left thigh. I reached my hand underneath my leg, and when I brought it back up it was covered in blood and little shiny shards of glass.
“So I guess I’m bleeding,” I said to the paramedic.
We got to the hospital where I was assessed and laid on the table bare butt up while a medical resident pulled shards of glass out of my leg.
It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that I could barely walk and my body hurt all over. It was a deep aching pain that seemed to be just as bad when I was moving as it was when I was still. I went upstairs and called everyone to tell them what happened.
I told my mom that I was fine and that no one needed to fly out from Winnipeg to take care of me. She didn’t listen to me and left that evening. I am grateful every single day that she came because I was completely useless and unable to do most things myself for the following three months.
I began my recovery with a chiropractor, physiotherapist and occupational therapist. I kept attending school and I was determined to not fall behind and have to delay my certification. I missed one day of school total — the day of the accident.
My life became riding in cabs to school, home and various rehabilitation appointments. I became a recluse; unable to do anything I had done before. I went from teaching 13 boot camp classes per week, working out three times on my own and walking everywhere to no activity at all.
For the first two months of recovery I couldn’t walk more than one block without the pain becoming too overwhelming or having my leg swell up like a water balloon.
It was in the darkest period of my recovery that the idea for my business came to me. My body had started to change as a result of my injuries and lack of activity. I looked in the mirror, and for the first time in a long time, I truly hated my body.
I felt so helpless, depressed and out of control. After about a week of this I thought to myself, “some people feel like this every single day and I need to do something about it.”
I began to acknowledge the privileges I had. First of all, I’m alive. I could’ve died in that car! Second, I am a certified trainer and almost a Registered Holistic Nutritionist with an education in injury recovery that I can use to help heal my body. Third, pain is temporary. There is an end in sight, and I’m a small-medium sized white woman living in Canada and am fairly able bodied.
Lastly, I was asking myself why I feel the way I feel about my body in the first place?
This is when I began what I now call the “research” phase of my body positivity journey. I began looking internally to discover where my feelings about my body were coming from. My body isn’t working normally and I have cuts and bruises, butI will heal. I have more squishy bits, cellulite, scars, and flaws…wait why are they flaws? Who told me that cellulite was a flaw?
Answer: the beauty industry, diet culture and other media. In other words, I realized that this was something that I was taught and not something that was true or factual. Flaws don’t exist; they were created by someone who was profiting off of me hating my body!
This was when I began to make the connection between body positivity and the health and fitness industry. This was very foreign territory because after working within the fitness industry in some form over the past six years body positivity had literally never come up. No one seemed to know how to make the connection between the two.
How can you love your body and still want to change it physically?
The truth is that body positivity and body health are completely interconnected; you cannot have one without the other. Why do you move and exercise your body? Is it because you are punishing yourself for something you ate yesterday or will eat today? Flipping the switch and changing your mindset on why you exercise and nourish your body is an incredibly difficult and slow process, which is yet another reason why the diet industry makes billions of dollars every year.
Since starting My Body Fitness + Nutrition in January 2018, I have been called a hypocrite, had someone say I’m “not a real trainer” and been told I am promoting obesity. While I strongly disagree with what was said, I can see where they are coming from, because this has never been done before.
Body positivity has been either completely absent or just unwelcome in the health and fitness industry for far too long. The focus is always on “get rid of your stubborn belly fat” or “get your summer body ready”. Essentially do this, change that, look like this person and then you’ll be happy.
You must start with accepting and loving yourself exactly as you are in order to make any kind of positive change in your life. It’s not about throwing away your goals, just changing your perspective. Why are you doing it? Take time to notice what your body is capable of, more than what it looks like, because in reality body positivity has nothing to do with what your body looks like. Every single inch of you is worthy of love, acceptance and celebration! You are worthy because you exist.
The tagline for My Body Fitness + Nutrition is Because I Love My Body. I am bringing the body positivity movement to the health and fitness world. My ‘aha’ moment, my calling, this was what I was meant to do!!
After this revelation my recovery became easier to deal with, and to this day even though I’m still living with chronic pain, I know that the car accident was meant to happen to me.
What comes next for Brooke and her business
Can you imagine walking into a gym knowing that you are already flawless as you are? Walking in, knowing it is a truly judgment free environment where everyone is there sweating, laughing, learning all with the mindset that they are there because they love their body? Sound like a dream?
Winnipeg’s first ever body positive group fitness gym and nutritional consulting service will be available Fall 2018. Stay tuned!
For more bo-po power and info about Brooke’s business follow @mybodywpg on Instagram.