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Grégoire-Trudeau speaks out on girls, fitness and self-esteem

Sophie Grégoire-Trudeau jogged around a downtown Montreal block Thursday to give a First-Lady sized publicity boost to a foundation that encourages teenage girls to embrace active, healthy lifestyles.

*Watch video here: montrealgazette.com/news/local-news/gregoire-trudeau-speaks-out-on-girls-fitness-and-self-esteem

Clad in a coral hoodie and black running tights and runners, Grégoire-Trudeau announced she is the official spokesperson for the FitSpirit Foundation, which encourages girls aged 12 to 17 to get physically active to boost confidence and self-esteem. After the news conference at a downtown Montreal fitness club, Trudeau led a dozen teenage girls from École Sécondaire Mont-Royal on a short run around the block.

FitSpirit’s flagship program, FitClub, sends volunteers into high schools to persuade girls to commit to an eight to 10-week program of three workouts per week, two at school with friends, and one on their own. The program, which includes motivational speeches on self-esteem as well as zumba and yoga classes, culminates in a five or 10-kilometre non-competitive running event. The idea is to introduce girls to the benefits of physical fitness through fun activities they do with their friends.

“Too often, girls between 12 and 17 abandon physical activity, because of a lack of role models or resources, or because their bodies are changing and they fear the judgment of others,” said Claudine Labelle, founder and president of FitSpirit.

The program has attracted 110,000 participants in Ontario and Quebec since it began nine years ago, and Labelle said 70 per cent of girls who participate continue to be active after completing the program.

Grégoire-Trudeau, who suffered from bulimia as a young woman and has long advocated for more awareness of eating disorders, said she sees FitSpirit as a natural complement to that work.

“Everything is a question of balance,” said Grégoire-Trudeau. “Yes, I talk about eating disorders and you know, excessive dieting and excessive exercising can be a sign of a mental illness … but when we talk about eating disorders, … the issue is not the food or the exercise, the issue is a lack of healthy conception of self. That is the issue.

The FitSpirit program does not emphasize exercise for weight loss, but instead stresses the proven positive effects of regular exercise on quality of life, such as improved quality of sleep, stress reduction, and improved ability to concentrate.

“The message is about balance but it’s also about giving tools to young girls, giving them information,” said Grégoire-Trudeau. “We are dealing with scientific evidence about the impact of healthy nutrition, healthy exercise, healthy sleeping and healthy living on an individual’s mental and physical state of health. This is crucial. It is truly vital.”

Grégoire-Trudeau, a certified yoga instructor and former television and radio host, regularly speaks and volunteers for various groups that advocate for women’s self-esteem and overall health. These include: Anorexia and Bulimia Quebec (ANEB), BACA, Sheena’s Place, Dove’s “Pay Beauty Forward” campaign, Girls for the Cure, the Canadian Mental Health Association and Women’s Heart and Stroke Association.

“It’s about a holistic approach to health,” she said. “A healthy lifestyle includes exercise, nutrition, healthy sleep patterns and a healthy group of friends. And with FitSpirit, what we are celebrating as well is the fact that at that moment in our lives (adolescence), the intimate relationships that we sustain really have an impact on our self esteem. I would come back to the word balance. It really is about creating balance in your life, so you can fall back on that when it gets tougher.”