Take a break from hating your body, it’s International No Diet Day

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Toss the scale, abandon the calorie count and break out the elastic waistbands, it’s International No Diet Day (INDD).

INDD was introduced as an effort to educate the dangers of dieting, emphasize the importance of eating for health, not weight-loss – and encourage body positivity. Stacey Reinsma, Social Worker with the Canadian Mental Health Association says, “people typically diet in an attempt to change and control their bodies, and by promoting a day where they don’t do this, we are encouraging them to let their bodies be as they are.” 

Knowing that most diets fail, and result in disordered eating and eating disorders, Waterloo-Wellington Eating Disorders Coalition (WWEDC) has been promoting INDD for the last 10 years. They do so by reaching out to local store owners, asking them to display messages in storefront windows that encourage alternatives to dieting. This year, WWEDC has distributed to approximately 100 stores in Guelph, Kitchener, Cambridge, Waterloo, and St. Jacobs.

Debra Joseph is the owner of Twice is Nice, Twice the Man, in Uptown Waterloo. She has been participating for five years by placing the signs in her front window and on mirrors in dressing rooms. “We leave them up year-round. It’s just nice to send a positive message to women of all shapes and sizes. We hear so many beautiful women come out of change room with negative messaging and body shaming. We want to reinforce a positive way of looking at themselves.”

WWEDC says when storefronts participate than anyone who walks down the street sees a positive message wherever they look.  They believe that participation will help onlookers feel better about themselves after seeing these messages.

“This doesn’t mean we have to like or love our bodies, but rather we choose a stance of being ok with our bodies that can deeply impact how we engage in our lives and with others,” says Reinsma.

April Gates, registered Social Worker with The Wellness Collaborative and member of WWEDC adds, “store keepers, locally, welcome this one-week campaign and have received many positive comments from the public, applauding the body positive/affirmative messages that are so rarely broadcast in our present-day oppressive diet culture.”

This year, in addition to window signs, WWEDC are also providing stickers for shop owners to place on changeroom mirrors. The positive messaging decals include: “Take a vacation from hating your body.” “Change your mind, not your body.” “Be a good role model – say positive things about your body.” “26, 000 diets have been invented. None work.” “Don’t fight your genes, just change your jeans.”  “Confidence is beautiful. There is no ideal body” and “It takes a lot of willpower to give up dieting!”

Waterloo Region residents are encouraged to participate in the INDD body positivity awareness campaign. Residents can raise their voices on social media, by posting messages throughout the day and joining the fight against dieting, body-shaming and eating disorders using the hashtags: #edrecovery #eatingdisorderrecovery #nodieting #antidiet #losehatenotweight #bodypositive #healthateverysize #HAES #internationalnodietday

Joseph, of Twice is Nice, reiterates her desire to “gently reinforce a positive approach to looking at ourselves. One little store won’t fight the social media tsunami, little grains of sand won’t build a mountain. It’s shocking how many beautiful women need to be more compassionate to themselves. Love yourself, just as you are – not 20 pounds from now.”

For more information on eating disorders, size acceptance and the Health at Every Size movement, check out the following websites: National Eating Disorder Information Centre; Waterloo-Wellington Eating Disorders Coalition; or Healthy At Every Size.

The search for meaningful employment: jobs with impact

Written for Kitchener Today

There’s an old saying that goes, “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life.”

Careers in social responsibility are becoming top priority for job seekers.

To be able to support yourself financially while doing something you feel passionate about is no longer a pipe dream. Employment opportunities in roles that include sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are allowing job seekers to align their career goals with their personal values.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 68% say that CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for government to impose it. There’s been a shift in whom the public deems as trustworthy, with media and government suffering most. Canadians expect businesses to advocate, and as a result this has created employment opportunities in CSR and Sustainability.

From grassroots administrations to organizations who use their brand power to foster change – there’s an emerging work trend that hinges on the importance of a work-life balance, encouraging employees to examine their own core values, while creating opportunities to find meaning in the 9-5.

According to a survey done by IPSOS Reid and Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR) 68% of the Canadian public is paying attention to issues related to corporate social responsibility.

Heather Mak has been working in sustainability for over a decade. Her self-named consulting business, Heather Mak Consulting, was founded on the intentions of acting as an agent of change for sustainability, in food and consumer goods.  She says, “businesses can use their scale and voice to make changes that can affect the everyday lives of people.”

With almost 70% of Canadians as an active and engaged audience, internal CSR opportunities encourages employee satisfaction, increases public reputation, and stimulates support from stakeholders.

Earning a sustainable living, while genuinely loving the process, was once reserved for the elite few. Leaping out of bed in the morning, anticipating the day ahead, wasn’t something the average human could afford. Dream jobs were for those who were either born into them or had the good fortune of becoming wealthy – but meaningful work is no longer wishful thinking, it’s a human right.

Unique job opportunities include cause marketing, communications, ethical hacking, impact investing, engagement, and philanthropy roles. Experience levels embrace entry-level, to senior leadership roles – with commitment levels encompassing everything from part-time, to full-time and even work from home.

CSR roles rarely necessitate nonprofit experience, but requirements do include some variation of communications or marketing experience, as well as a form of secondary education – a fraction require a Master’s degree.

Do what you love and you will never dread another Monday. Here’s how to get started with your own meaningful job search:

Welcome to the career site that helps you connect purpose & paycheque. (Yes, it’s a thing). Resources, job listings, and profiles of companies where you can bring your values to work. Canada-wide job listings.

Find your next position on Canada’s favourite site for nonprofit professionals. The CharityVillage Knowledge Centre is where you can find free resources to help guide your career in the nonprofit sector along with industry news and information about CharityVillage.

Canada’s premier environmental job board. Environmental Careers Organization of Canada (ECO Canada) is a not-for-profit organization that was founded in 1992 to help nurture Canada’s growing environmental sector.

A sampling of such job postings, from across Canada, found recently on They’re listed in ascending order of experience required, from none to five years or more.

Top 20 Corporate Social Responsibility jobs in Ontario. 

Grand River Hospital’s POGO Satellite Clinic: a place of healing for local children battling cancer.

Written for and published by Kitchener Today

Beyond the revolving doors, past the wheelchairs, resides the entrance to the POGO Satellite Clinic. Like a parent’s bedside after a bad dream, it’s a place where children go to feel safe. These children are battling cancer. The clinic is one of eight in Ontario.

Pediatric Oncology Group of Ontario (POGO) offers financial assistance to families to help ease some of the burdens associated with a childhood cancer diagnosis. POGO Satellite Clinics bring care closer to home for these families, also easing the burden of travel.

POGO Satellite Clinic Coordinator, and Resource Nurse for Children’s Outpatient Clinic, Cristina Peter has been with Grand River Hospital for eight years, “this was always where I wanted to be, in pediatric oncology.” She describes the best part of the job as “seeing the kids coming in looking well – able to receive their treatment, leave, and return to school.”

“Kids go through this and it’s the hardest journey of their lives, but many times they’re happy, singing, dancing and playing. It’s just amazing.”

The GRH POGO Satellite Clinic is the only hospital that sees children from all three tertiary centers; The Hospital for Sick Children, London Health Sciences and McMaster Children’s Hospital. Kids come to the clinic for anything from bloodwork, to chemotherapy. Clinic staff remain in communication with pediatric oncologists from the referral hospital.

Peter says all of the children are special to her, although; the ones that are diagnosed in the clinic hold an extra emotional connection. “Jonathan (J.T.) is one of the many families in our area that came in with symptoms and was diagnosed in our clinic. So, we were there when he had his first bloodwork done and results come in. Watching the family go through a cancer diagnosis is heartbreaking, but at the same time when you see them coming back feeling well and happy then it just helps us deal with the grief as well.”

Leanne Kukla, J.T.’s mom, recalls their cancer journey, “J.T. hadn’t been well for months but we didn’t know what it was.” Eventually they were referred to Sick Kids. On January 31, 2018 Jonathan’s family received a cancer diagnosis; non-Hodgkins’s T cell lymphoblastic lymphoma, stage 3. He was 10.

Childhood cancer affects the entire family. During critical stages of his treatment, J.T. and his mom lived at the Ronald McDonald House, in Toronto – separated from his dad and sister; Amber. Once he was in the intermittence phase, he was referred to the GRH POGO Satellite Clinic.

Again, they found themselves facing fear of change, “we were comfortable with the team in Toronto. We didn’t know what to expect or who we’d be working with.”

During their first visit they met Cristina. Leanne knew it was going to be ok when J.T. turned to her and said, “you know I think it’s going to be nice here.”

With treatment now 15 minutes from home, J.T. can attend school and sleeps soundly in his own bed – under the same roof as his mom, dad and sister.

“I can do anything, pretty much. I play hockey, I have a tournament this weekend, I’m excited for that.”

The Kukla family has also accessed POGO’s financial support – including meals and accommodations. “It’s not something you expect to have to spend, you have to and you don’t think twice about it but having the extra support, it’s been helpful.”

J.T. is in treatment until June 2020.

Find out more about POGO here.

KW Run for POGO happens early fall, find out more here.

Leanne Kukla, J.T. and Cristina Peter (left to right)

Former police officer releases third book in detective series: The Devil’s Portrait

Written for Kitchener Today

The third installment of the popular John Cooper crime series has been released. Written by former police officer, Geoff (G.S.) Marriott, the novel follows the same characters as the first two books, with a brand new twist. The Devil’s Portrait explores a number of murders happening in the Los Angeles art world – with all leads pointing to a world-renowned painter.

As an ex-officer, he offers a unique insider perspective, giving his readers a realistic idea of “life on the streets.”

Marriott spent 10 years as a uniform patrol officer, later becoming a detective; covering criminal investigations, and finally landing in the Special Services Branch – Intelligence Division of the Ontario Provincial Police, downtown Toronto. During his time with the O.P.P. he served as an undercover officer of an elite unit, “targeting organized crime in Ontario and Upper New York.” Marriott describes this as the highlight of his policing career – but not without cost.

“Men and women who wear the uniform deal with the streets on a daily basis, bringing all the cerebral trash of the day home with them.” He says repressing these experiences eventually takes its toll.

Marriott started experiencing symptoms of PTSD, “it would stay for about three weeks and leave for a couple of months before returning. I wrote it off as a virus at the time.” Reflecting back, he says there was “no one thing” that changed him, “more of a compilation of events and scenarios which occurred over time.”

Each time the symptoms returned they came back stronger. He describes self-medicating with alcohol and realizing then that he needed help. Seeking medical support aided his decision to leave policing after 20 years.

Detective John Cooper became his outlet.

“Writing a novel was something I always thought about, but it wasn’t until I started that I found out how cathartic it would become.”

His first book, A Dish Served Cold was supposed to be a “one-off.” He wrote it, published it, and placed it in a local book store just so that he could take a photo – referring to it as a bucket list project. To his surprise, people bought the book and enjoyed it so much they wanted more.

“John Cooper, essentially, is me and I am John Cooper,” he explains. He found that by assigning his own personality, character and wit to his main character, it made the story much easier to write. Throughout the series, Cooper also experiences PTSD due to his traumatic past. “I decided that it was getting more difficult to explain Cooper’s problems knowing they were really my own.” His hope is that by being honest about his own battle with PTSD, and sharing these experiences through John Cooper, he will help others.

When asked about his process of recovery he says he’s “really not an obstacle kind of guy,” choosing to perceive it as a secondary challenge. He admits that he still has “issues, but they have dissipated substantially over the years,” and are more easily managed.

The series includes A Dish Served Cold, The Dealmaker, and most recently, The Devil’s Portrait. Marriott says, “although gruesome in spots, the books aren’t gratuitously explicit,” attributing the mild language to “how bad guys talk.” When asked if there will be fourth installment, Marriott eludes that John Cooper still has work to do.

The books are available through Amazon, Volumes Publishing, The Book Express, and Indigos in Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.

G.S. Marriott currently lives with his wife, Linda, in Cambridge, Ontario. Find out more here:

An open letter to my daughter

As your mother, I worry.

I grew up in a much different world than you will, one that allowed privacy and encouraged imagination.

You will be inundated by over-stimulation, and at times, intruding transparency.

My childhood was riddled with wardrobe faux pas and cosmetic malfunctions, that thankfully never saw the light of day.  You, on the other hand, will have access to editing and filters that will disillusion your self-image and derange your definition of beauty.

And as your mother, I worry.


When I was growing up, I didn’t know what people thought about me unless they said it to my face.

You are being raised in a society that defines likability with social analytics, and the sentiments of online trolls who find courage behind a digital curtain.

And as your mother, I worry.


Underneath the facades and the high expectations of a digital world I want you to be able to see the truth.

I loved you before I knew the colour of your hair or the length of your eyelashes.

I was rooting for you before you took your first step.

I have respected you since you uttered your first “no”.

Remember this, because this is what unconditional love is.  There weren’t any filters that made me feel this way about you.  My adoration has no price or limitation.

Long before #metoo daughters were conditioned to accept less, inundated with belittling mantras that said those who hurt you do it because they like you.

Find the ones that don’t use demeaning tactics to gain your affection.

Please don’t accept less.

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For now, you reside under my protective wing.  I have control over the direction of your life, but it won’t be long and this season will pass.

I will have to let you go.

And as your Mother, I will worry.

So, remember this –  strong women have brave ideas and purpose is not fulfilled while hiding behind filters.

You are not the words that others use to define you.

When you can, break the mold.

Seek unconditional love and create a life that makes you want to pinch yourself because this is what dreams are made of.

And as your mother, I will try not to worry…