Hi, and welcome to this episode of the intersections on the spectrum podcast. The intersections on the spectrum podcast is the brainchild of Doug Blecher and Kelly Bron Johnson created to discuss intersectional issues within the autistic community and give visibility to commonly marginalized, repressed, underrepresented, or erased identities and issues. We aim to introduce you to the people and stories you didn't know about, but needed to hear and hope that by seeing yourself represented in the community, allows you to feel seen
Doug Blecher (00:41):
And today, thrilled to welcome Katrina Liew Pilkington, Katrina. Thanks so much for joining us.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (00:48):
Thanks so much for having me here.
Doug Blecher (00:51):
We wanted to start off and just by learning about your identities, what would you say are the identities that you're mostly connected with?
Katrina Liew Pilkington (01:00):
Well, I would start by saying that I am a black and Asian woman than presenting, my pronouns are she her, they and them, and I use them interchangeably.I also identify as being and just nonconforming. Um, but also I'm a partner, a wife and a mother. So it just depends on the day.
Kelly Bron Johnson (01:21):
I, I love that you share all those identities. Cause a lot of times people forget those aspects of identity or, or not really forget, but when we ask, I would say people who are not a member of the global majority, a lot of times they'll forget that being a wife or a mother, is an identity it really, I think it really depends on what spaces you're in, where, where people will really heavily cling to that identity and there's others
where they kind of forget that that's one of their identities.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (01:54):
Yeah. I can't really forget every, every day.
Kelly Bron Johnson (01:59):
So you recently completed your master's of science degree in exercise science. So congratulations. Thank you. Exercise science and health promotion. Sorry. So why was that important for you to pursue that path?
Katrina Liew Pilkington (02:16):
Well, it's interesting because I didn't even go back to college. I didn't finish it my first try. It was just a little too overwhelming and I didn't really go back to college until my daughter was two and I just decided to follow this accelerated program where I was like, okay, if I can do the bachelor's, I can do the master's and it wasn't for any other reason, other than just for me to finish what I started. I'm heavily passionate about exercise science in regard to focusing on health equity and making sure that we are making the best opportunity to make fitness accessible for those who need it the most. Coming from
being someone who grew up very, very food insecure, very, very low income and finding fitness way later in life. Not as a means of like changing myself physically, but as a way of coping with life and also finding my best healthiest self on my own. So I just wanted to use that as a way to pay that forward and create a wellness industry. Hopefully one day that is accessible for all.
Doug Blecher (03:19):
You were mentioning, food insecurity. I know between the pandemic and inflation, we're probably facing unprecedented levels of food insecurity. So are there things that we can do to help those that are dealing with these extremely serious issues?
Katrina Liew Pilkington (03:37):
Yeah, it's really interesting. I was listening to a podcast the other day. I, I can never remember what I'm listening to, um, all day, but it was talking about the fact that for the first time, in a very, very, very long time, a lot of folks that are using food pantries and other options to obtain nutrition for their family are actually employed like full time. And it's kind of scary because I think people tend to maybe take
advantage of the fact that they can just, for me, even me, I can order Instacart. I could have groceries come to the door, my kid can ask for something and I can get it. But I remember being really young and eating whatever my mom could afford. So I think people just need to be mindful that we can't create stereotypes around what food insecurity looks like. It doesn't have a look, it can look and feel different for every person, depending upon their family size, you know, their current financial situation. And possibly just be more mindful of if you have than give, you know, whether it is to go through your pantry and making sure that you're donating or that you're enabling yourself to contribute to these different means that people need to utilize now more than ever.
Kelly Bron Johnson (04:43):
I think you, you touched on a really important point. So I'm, I'm in Montreal and we have here in, in Montreal, we actually have Canada's largest food bank and it operates, you know, it, it operates in, in, I'm not gonna say like in obscurity, but it, it does a lot of great, amazing work, but people don't, um, a lot of times they just don't equate for whatever reason, food insecurity with being in a major metropolis or in Canada, you know, we have these ideas that, oh, well, everything is peachy keen here. Um, but you know, we have extremely high rates of, of children going to school hungry. You know, we have breakfast clubs and things that are, that have been created to try and help that. But it's almost like food insecurity is like an unseen or like a hidden kind of social issue that unless you look it, look for it or you're living it, right. People kind of don't seem to realize it exists. You know, the amount of number of kids that are going to school hungry and things like that. People don't you know, oh, well the kids they're wearing their, their clothes are fine. Or they're, they're they're and they're doing well in school, but they don't realize it's child is starving. Right.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (06:03):
Yeah, it's in interesting, cuz like I always it's twofold. I try to always tell people to not always go based on what you see, you know, what, what a child or family is going through on the outside is never really indicative of what's happening inside but also reminding people that just because it's not happening to you doesn't mean it doesn't matter to you. I mean, many of us I'm sure are just one paycheck away from possibly being food insecure. And it's about just staying humble every single day to, you know, do the best you can with what you've got, but also reach out into your community. How can you help? Whether it's through volunteering or donation, even if you don't have a lot of means yourself, can you, like I said,
look through your pantry. Are there items that you maybe haven't cleared out that somebody else could be using? I do a lot of education to try to teach people who are perhaps food insecure too. Like how to, I guess you can say shop as frugal as you can. You know, I'm very much focused on being plant based for health reasons and there's things like bulk beans and frozen foods and canned foods that people think are so unhealthy, but that's the healthiest that some people can access. So we have to just do the best we can with what we have.
Kelly Bron Johnson (07:06):
Right. Exactly. So you've been, you know, working in the health and wellness space for a while now, um, when it comes to things like diversity and inclusion, how have you seen that developed? Do you think things are getting better <laugh> or staying the same? What have you seen?
Katrina Liew Pilkington (07:26):
Well, I will say, you know, I got really busy after the awakening, I call it of 2020 and I think, I always think that folks are very well intended and they, they mean well, but one of the things I was talking about with a friend the other day that I see in the fitness industry is it can be very much a challenge to encourage folks to focus on these types of initiatives. When the primary focus for fitness typically is profit, right? So like how the fitness industry was created was profiting off of people's, you know, self-conscious issues and trying to form some sort of aesthetic, which is something I almost fell into but quickly realized that was not a box I was going to be able to check. So there's been some progress I've seen, there's more conversations I'm seeing being had.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (08:09):
but I think it depends for me to teach people on centering the most marginalized of individuals. When you think about DEI, not just, oh, we wanna be diverse and we wanna make sure we include everyone or who are we centering? Are we centering the folks who are historically the ones who have not been able to access health and wellness and making sure that we put those folks as priority? Or are we just trying to make sure that everybody's happy and gets along in a workout space? There's like a vast difference for me in that.
Doug Blecher (08:43):
And when I think about health promotion, I often will think about diet culture. So how, how do you look at diet culture? Me, especially, you know, within like the framework of the intersection it has with the autistic experience.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (09:01):
Yeah. It's, it's interesting cuz I, you know, as I was recently very late diagnosed myself, I, I noticed why I had so many different food aversions and issues with certain types of textures and things like that. So I know that when I mentioned earlier that like when I was growing up, I had to eat what I had to eat. It was like going against everything that was probably deeply within me. But I think as I evolved in the world of fitness and started noticing that everything was focused on, you know, was it back in the nineties and the two,thousands fat free, low fat, all the different, like I said, profiting off of people's need to fit a trend. And so I think there's a huge debunking going on right now with many folks of breaking down what diet culture has done to them.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (09:43):
And when it's done to the industry to create this need to care about things that really shouldn't matter primarily. And instead, like I said, like teaching people that you can eat, what you can with balance, you have one life to live. So don't really restrict yourself to a place of resenting what you eat and not enjoying food at the same time. But on the flip side, you know, if you wanna live healthier, here are some things to consider. I think it's just a matter of kind of maybe restructuring the way we teach people and promoting the right knowledge versus some of it that is very rooted in not just bias, but not factual information.
Kelly Bron Johnson (10:28):
Yeah. You, that's another thing that you bring up a lot of the so-called science behind a lot of, issues like BMI and things like that, or the not approaching that we need. Those were very outdated research and, and, and not done on a wide variety of people. Right. It was done on very strict one profile of, of a type of person and, and that's not that's not really reflective of society, so right. Yeah. There's a lot of that.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (11:02):
Like breaking away from that, like I, I teach fitness professionals to be very objective in their assessments of people to get away from the pinching of, you know, pinching of people's skin and yeah, just making them feel bad out the gate, like asking people, using actual conversation to find out what do they need from a fitness professional? Why are they seeking, you know, fitness or nutrition guidance? Like what is their deep, why versus what we assume that somebody needs. And like you mentioned, BMI, I also talk about like cultural foods. Like I, again, I grew up a very diverse household with not just very black food, but also very Chinese food and being taught that that was bad. You know, being taught that fried is bad, but that's what I knew. And I think we have to be mindful and have higher awareness of people's cultural differences so that we don't ostracize people from what means the most to them when it comes to how they eat too.
Kelly Bron Johnson (11:57):
Exactly like that comfort food or soul food, you know like we, there's, I've so I'm I'm part Bajan. So we make we make fish cakes, which are fried, it's like a fried doey fish. I've had to be gluten free. So I've had to adapt my traditional recipe to be gluten free. Doesn't look exactly the same. It's not exactly the same. It's definitely not like my aunties, but you know, finding ways to, to still, I can still eat and enjoy it and not have a stomachache at the end of it. <laugh>
Katrina Liew Pilkington (12:32):
Yeah. And I, I feel you cuz I mean, we grew up what eating like egg rolls and fried rice with a different type of oil. And I just use different oils. Now my daughter still learns about her bazillion different cultures by the way that we cook together. But I just tweak things to make them more health focused so that, you know, I can try to maybe shift this cycle of chronic disease that has run in my family by just shifting the recipe just, just a smidge
Kelly Bron Johnson (12:58):
<laugh> yeah. So, so on your website, fitty cat.com. You talk about the end of isms. So what are some ways every human can take responsibility in their lives to achieve this? That's a big question.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (13:12):
Yeah, I know it's huge. It's it's like the isms and the phobias that I think, you know, and I think growing up very intersectional, like I said, all those different identities were part of who I've been my whole life. I've always tried to find what I have in common with somebody else cuz everyone was different from me. Whereas I feel like when I teach people about bias and understanding DEI and anti-racism really looking inward to understand here's how I grew up, here's my lived experience. But also here are some you know, biases. I could carry out into the world as a result of my exposure as a result of my influence. So it kind of really starts with people looking inward and doing so without getting defensive. It's the number one thing like everybody's biased. They're able to be duped because our beautiful brains are meant to compartmentalize information.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (14:01):
They don't know any better. So getting past the fact that you're not a bad person, unless you're, you know, a hurtful person, but you're not a bad person. Just take a good look inside, assess where you are, find out what are some of your blind spots when it comes to what you think about other humans and just chip away at it a little bit. And especially people like myself who are caretakers or parents, making sure that you increase the aperture of exposure for your kids so that they're not growing up in homogenous environments and then fearful therefore of things that are most different. That's how we got here. And that's kind of the only way that we're really gonna slowly, unfortunately, intentionally get better so that we don't just fear what's different and we actually lean into it and understand it and advocate for the folks that need it the most.
Kelly Bron Johnson (14:52):
I've certainly I've noticed that a lot of my travels were there are people who grew up in uniquely, let's say white neighborhoods who never interacted with anybody else ever. And to me it's such a shock cause that's completely the opposite of how I grew up. Right. And I'm in a very multicultural city and um, the schools I went to were always multicultural and embraced that it was in fact one of the tenants of my elementary school and I really believe, you know, sometimes parents have asked me, they said, well, what are we supposed to do then? Are we supposed to just move. Yes, yes. You can. You can, you can move to that other neighborhood that has a little bit, you know, a little bit more color to it, a little splash here, you know?
Katrina Liew Pilkington (15:33):
Kelly Bron Johnson (15:34):
Um, and that, oh, but that, that has lower value, you know, they, they, oh, well, it's, it's a bad neighborhood. Well, right. You know, maybe that's an impression that you have <laugh> or, or maybe it's not, I don't know. But, um, yeah, there are solutions to it, you know, I'm, I'm looking for schools for my own children and making sure that I, I go in, I ask administration, how many, you know, do you have other children that look like my, that look like mine? you know, and I wanna walk around and I look in the classrooms and, and I'm that parent who's looking around and going, okay, are the teachers staff, are they also multicultural? Like, you know.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (16:09):
Yeah. It's important. I mean, it's, it takes, and I tell parents, friends that are parents. Yes. It's a very conscious effort you have to take. And it's it's quote unquote work. But if I can at least do my part as a
parent, and if everybody else would do their part as a parent, you know, and I was even talking about this during the pandemic. And I was saying, we all are scrolling through social media or online every single day. Why not use that time to increase your aperture? Then you can follow other creators. You can follow other educators. You can. I tell people go under my people that I follow because I follow the most diverse types of fitness professionals you could ever think of. And when it comes to that specifically, but just in general, like using intentionality, when you find things to watch or books to read or podcast tolisten to just like this one, making sure that you don't always lean into what you're familiar with and comfortable with, maybe listen to something or learn from someone that's different from you as a means of creating discomfort that can change who you are to be more open-minded
Kelly Bron Johnson (17:10):
Yeah. A hundred percent and you have to seek it out. You have to actually go and make the effort to seek it out, to find those people and find those pages. Yeah.
Doug Blecher (17:20):
They're not hard to find though.
Kelly Bron Johnson (17:23):
No, no, they're not. But you have to actually put in a little bit of five minutes of Googling and go and go and find it.
Doug Blecher (17:28):
Katrina Liew Pilkington (17:29):
Yeah. Yeah. I tell people all the time when I watch the news or I see things going on in the world, I'm like, what do people do with their time? You know, like I'm constantly, you know, listening and learning and just trying to like fill my cup with, with knowledge, not necessarily gossip, you know? And I want to learn as much as I can, especially being, like I said, later diagnosed and especially it comes to like history and the things that are going on in the world. I always tell people like, don't trust what you learned when you were eight. Like learn now, stay in a growth mindset and never stop pursuing that so that you don't become complacent.
Doug Blecher (18:05):
Now, Katrina, from my understanding, you are a runner and as a runner myself, I always love to hear from other runners about what they get out of running all the benefits. So how's been, how has running been helpful to you in your life?
Katrina Liew Pilkington (18:21):
Sure. I mean, I haven't been running as much lately. I mean, I been walking a ton. I think it's, I've been slowing myself down as I get older. Um, but I do like run a few times a week and I've always told people that running for me was a catharsis to deal with life. It was not because I, this feels great. I just wanna keep going. No, most of the time, I'm sure you can agree. Like it's hard. It's, it's not easy. It's very difficult. Most of the time when you had to wake up, when I've had to wake up to train, when I was doing races, I didn't want to, um, but it created a discipline in me to finish what I started to of course,
show my daughter that you can have goals no matter what age you are. But for me, especially when I go outside, it's just about taking in scenery and allowing myself to take in that sensory input in a way that that movement can heal me. And movement's always been something I've leaned into. So whether I'm running or working out movement is like therapeutic for me. And it it's like a stim to me running is like a stim.
Kelly Bron Johnson (19:24):
Is that how it is for you, Doug?
Speaker 2 (19:27):
It's definitely a stem I'm so I'm so happy to hear you say that. I always tell people, well, people will ask me about running cuz I've run several marathons and stuff and they'll say, and I'll always tell my favorite part of running is when it's over.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (19:43):
Yeah, Right? Yeah. Like that's not like we like you're smiling the whole time. Like I was actually just looking through race photos this morning. For some reason I ran the LA marathon right before the, the world shut down in 2020. And you know, you pick these cute race photos, but most of them, I'm not very happy nor cute. And, and it's hard. It's, it's like this roller coaster of emotions and feelings, but as long as I'm in motion, I'm happy. So I just keep going. Um, and I don't stop typically
Kelly Bron Johnson (20:15):
I love race photos. I used to have a friend that would share his face photos, but like the worst ones, like he would like, you know, and they catch him and he's like, oh, okay, well on a podcast. So people can't tell, um, <laugh> I can't see what I'm doing, but just like the most like awful painful face possible <laugh>.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (20:32):
Like that's, that's the journey. People always see the end with the medal that's are usually with the RA and that's not no, no. Be there for the, you know, like when I did run that race, it's funny. I ran it with four friends. We ironically ran it together. We somehow might have known that it was gonna be the last race we did for a long time. And we laughed because there was like a bazillion bathroom stops, you know, cramps, encouraging one another to get through to that landmark. Like it's so much more, it's deeper than what people see on the outside.
Kelly Bron Johnson (21:01):
Yeah. I mean, I commend, I commend you both. I, uh, I, I don't run unless something is chasing me. So <laugh>
Katrina Liew Pilkington (21:07):
I don't think of knew I haven't done it a ton lately. I just noticed, you know, when we talk about health, like as you get older, like once I crossed 40, my body was just kind of telling me like slow down a bit, you know, like I'll walk, run, but I'll, I like to kind of slow down and look around me too and be more aware of my surroundings. and it's extremely hot right now, so I will walk .
Doug Blecher (21:28):
And for me, like sometimes when I'm not running and things are not going so well in my life, I forget that how important that sensory need is for, for that movement that I get from running and how much it regulates me.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (21:42):
Mm-hmm <affirmative> absolutely. You know, and I'm, I probably look like a, a interesting person cuz I've been practicing sign language. And so like I'll use it as an opportunity to look at a sign and I'll practice a word or it's just like constantly staying in motion and letting my brain get that time so that I can kind of come back and feel more grounded.
Kelly Bron Johnson (22:00):
Oh yeah, I've done that too. I talked to myself in sign language now <laugh> oh, fun.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (22:06):
I mean it works,
Kelly Bron Johnson (22:07):
You keep it up. You're walking down the street and your hands are going. And people probably like, well, okay. I don't know what's up with her, but <laugh>
Katrina Liew Pilkington (22:13):
But, and you're happy inside, you know, that's all that matters.
Kelly Bron Johnson (22:18):
So Katrina has been so good talking to you. We just want to ask you to share some of these people, like more people like you, more stories that you think we should highlight as we go forward on this podcast. Um, you know, maybe share some of the people that you follow as well. I would love to hear more ideas, give people options so that they don't have to do their five minutes of Googling <laugh>.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (22:40):
sure. I mean, I follow so many. I mean, mostly I think what people need to understand for me personally is the female or fem presenting autistic phenotype. And the difference between those that are assigned male at birth and those that are assigned female at birth. So some of my friends in the, I guess you could say field have been, Dylan and they are trans teacher tales on Instagram. They were huge part of my self discovery journey, encouraging me to find if I could get an assessment and kind of the differences there. Um, you know, autie Nelly, Laura, Melissa is a great person to follow who shares a lot of information
about stimming and like she'd stim dances. And like, what does it look like to be, um, you know, even gray, sexual gray, romantic, and how many people live in that non-binary space in the autistic community.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (23:29):
every other day she's in the UK, but just our experiences, like I said, being late, diagnosed, but also being a black woman. And what does that look like unmasking to people. I don't know how Danielle pronounces her handle on Instagram, but it's Z E L U E. I dunno how that we pronounce she was also just
recently diagnosed like life black, female, um, just shares a lot about, you know, our issues we have with trying to decipher social situations. And like what it, what it looks like in our head compared to what people see on the outside. So those are just five I can think up the top of my head or four.
Kelly Bron Johnson (24:15):
Great. Thank you. Thank you so much. Yeah.
Doug Blecher (24:18):
Thanks Katrina. Thanks so much for joining. Enjoy us today. It was a great conversation.
Katrina Liew Pilkington (24:23):
Thanks so much for having me. I appreciate this space to create community with y'all and just to share a little bit about my life.