Made on a Generous Plan is here!

come-visit-generousplanI’m thrilled to announce the launch of a new website for my diet recovery coaching business, Made on a Generous Plan.

If you have tried repeatedly to lose weight and keep it off, I want you to know that the problem is not you. You are not weak, you are not lacking in willpower, you are not lazy. It turns out that our bodies actively fight weight loss — and they fight it hard.

After more than 20 years of fighting my food and my body, I finally learned how to make peace but still be healthy. It changed my life so dramatically that I actually decided I needed to share this new approach with as many people as possible. Thus, this website, laden with resources ranging from an exhaustive list body positive podcasts to a body positive artists gallery, and soon-to-be brimming with coaching advice was born.

I’d love if you would visit Made on a Generous Plan and let me know what you think.

Dear Non-Fat People

I have been seething about the Nicole Arbour video for three days. I have never seen anything online so hateful and prejudiced.

It feels like Nicole is attacking me personally, and people like me. She is making assumptions that are completely wrong, and spewing hate based on her ignorance.

I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions about overweight people, because people who’ve never struggled with weight have positively zero idea what it’s like.

These people often assume:

  • People are overweight because they’re slovenly, stupid and weak.
  • Overweight people are not aware that their weight can lead to health issues.
  • Shame can stimulate people to change their habits.

None of these assumptions are the slightest bit true.

Read the rest of this post on Medium >

“Will you be my mentor?”

It’s time to reconsider formal mentoring relationships and the need to have an official “mentor”. You simply can’t force mentoring relationships. The best relationships are those that grow organically over time and develop into a deep mutual respect.

When I first read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In”, the chapter on mentorship made me uncomfortable. Entitled “Are you my mentor?”, Sandberg argues that people who want to be mentored should never approach another person and ask them to mentor them outright.

I was pretty sure I had asked at least one person to do this in the past, and had certainly had people approach me with this question, so my first reaction was defensiveness: “Why is that question so wrong?”, I thought.

Upon much more reflection, I’ve figured it out: you can’t force a mentoring relationship. Unfortunately, many start out in this way, and therefore I encourage you to start off slow and grow your mentorship relationships organically.

The reason? Mentorship relationships involve humans, and humans are messy. To have a successful mentoring relationship, there has to be a strong bond between the two participants. They have to find each other intellectually stimulating, have compatible temperaments, and be genuinely interested in each other’s wellbeing.

I have had this fail in both directions. I have asked people to ‘be my mentor’ and later realized that we just weren’t compatible — it felt like their advice was coming from their place of truth, but wouldn’t translate to me. Likewise, I’ve had people ask for me to mentor them that I didn’t really gel with or see much potential in. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly hard to invest in a ‘mentee’ when you aren’t genuinely interested in their career development.

My point is this: if you’ve only seen someone speak at a conference, or met them briefly at an event, or have only seen what they produce online, you can’t possibly predict whether a bond will form between you. So why would you commit to having a certain type of relationship before you know if you’re compatible?

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t reach out to people you find exciting and interesting. Not in the least! What I’m saying is that you shouldn’t try to formalize something too early (or perhaps, ever) before you actually know if you two are a good match.

My recommendation is this: consider starting — and keeping — things casual, until they potentially evolve into something more. If you’re interested in learning from someone, great! Approach them and ask them:

Would you be willing to go for coffee with me (or meet online) to discuss X topic?

It’s as easy as that. It’s best to give a specific topic so that the potential mentor can decide whether they have something of value to share.

Once you meet and start getting to know each other, that’s when you can start deciding whether this is someone whose opinion you’d like to call on again. But stop — this doesn’t mean you ask them to be your mentor at the end of the meeting! This is just where you gauge your mentor’s reaction. Ask them if they might be willing to do this again sometime. If the answer is yes, fantastic. This means that you should just file away a note in your brain that says, “Hrm, that was really helpful advice. Perhaps I will call on ________ to help me out next time I need assistance.”

Really, there is no need to formalize at this point. In fact, I would argue that there might never be a need to formalize. As long as you’re clear about whether the person you’re asking advice of isn’t feeling imposed upon, and is willing to continue giving their time, that’s all that matters.

The fact is that if you start calling on this person for advice periodically as you move through your career, and over time you develop a professional closeness and investment in one another: that person is your de facto mentor anyway. The more close you become, the more time the person will be willing to invest. There’s no need to ever even call them a mentor, necessarily. Doing so might put unnecessary pressure on a fragile human relationship.

Simply reach out to people you think you can learn from, whether they are ‘peers’ or people more senior to you, and see where the relationships evolve. I think you’ll be happy with the results!

(An aside: the key here is actually reaching out. Speaking as someone who has struggled with self-confidence and shyness in the past, I know how difficult this can be. But the more I’ve moved in user experience circles, the more I’ve realized what fantastic and giving people work in this field. Everyone is always on the look-out for new people entering the field who are motivated and bright. Costa Rica . Know that if you reach out, you will almost always be welcomed with open arms. Try it!)


Toronto User Experience / Interaction Design / HCI Groups

All of IxDA Toronto‘s email comes to me, and I’d say a good 75% of it is from newcomers to the city, recent grads, or people investigating a career change. Everyone wants to know what UX resources are available in Toronto.

I respond to each query personally, but it has occurred to me that it would be good to have this kind of information up on the web – who knows how many people don’t think to email me, and go on unaware of all the great groups that meet in the city? How tragic.

So, here’s the list:

  • IxDA Toronto – the Toronto chapter of the Interaction Design Association(Since I help run it, I get to put it first.) :)IxDA Toronto meets roughly every month. We have no formal membership (absolutely everyone is welcome, whether they are an interaction designer or not), and events are always free. We try to have a nice mixture of workshops, panels, lectures, social events, and weird things like “Mentorship Speed Dating”.  We try to focus more on the design side of UX, but we really cover the full spectrum. After each event, we invite everyone to carry on the conversation at a local bar.To join: Register on the IxDA website, go to the IxDA Toronto page, and click “Join This Local” to get email notification of events, or follow us on Twitter.
  • TorCHI – the Toronto chapter of the ACM‘s special interest group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI)TorCHI runs a monthly lecture series focused on HCI topics, and they occasionally bring well-known UXers into town to run workshops. TorCHI’s presenters are a combination of leaders from industry as well as academia. They usually meet at the Bahen Centre at the University of Toronto.To join: Purchase a membership online. Says the website: “One year membership is CAD $20 and gets you free admission to our monthly events.  ACM Members can join for $15/year and students for $10.”
  • UXIrregulars – a long-running social group for UX professionalsUXIrregulars is currently run by Kaleem Khan. It meets the second Tuesday of every month (a little less frequently when Kaleem gets busy) at a local restaurant / bar. Everyone is welcome – it’s a great place to chat with people in the Toronto community. I love pointing out that I got my first job through UXIrregulars!To join: Find out about events through the Google Groups mailing list.
  • UX Practice Group – an interactive UX training seriesBrad Einersen founded the UX Practice Group a year or two ago. He takes fledging (and more experienced) UX designers through a series of free tutorials about practical UX skills, like usability testing and creating personas. Events are held at Brad’s offices at Klick.To join: Sign up for the UXPG LinkedIn Group to be notified of events.


Any of these groups would be pleased to have you attend an event – please don’t be shy. If you have any questions (or ideas of any groups I’ve missed), let me know in the comments!