Tag Archives: body positivity

Snarling #12wbt: One month in – what’s stuck?


I’m now a month into the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation. What’s the verdict so far?

Not as triggered as I thought…but by design.

I knew going into this program that there would be loads of triggering shit in the videos and the forums and the articles, so I’ve chosen pretty carefully and wisely what I read and when. I’ve basically avoided reading anything on days I’ve felt like crap, and just followed the food plans and done a bit of moving.

I’ve definitely had more “weight loss-esque” thoughts and feelings than I’d like, and there’s definitely moments where I’ve been more focused on my moderately shrinking body and how it looks in the mirror than the joy of moving and eating with joy and structure. But I would say those moments have been in the minority. And because of the intentionality with which I approached re-ordering my eating (I’m surprised at actually how big a part that has played in making me not go off the compulsive deep end), I think I set up some good decisions that have shaped my approach throughout. I’m coming back to my mantra of “happy habits” (doing things that make me happier in the short and long-term) rather than worrying about my waist.

For instance, I’ve worked out that I just generally do not want to work out five to six days a week. I get that some women doing this program “religiously” follow the exercise plans, but I can’t be fucked. Really, if that’s your bag, go for it. But ill health and exhaustion aside, I simply just cannot be bothered getting to the gym full time. I’ve discovered that it is more important to me to be ENJOYING and WANTING the movement I engage in, than to go hard and slam myself. I am just not interested in that.

I’ve also discovered that unlinking my brain from any kind of feeling of obligation to the program (oh I’m paying for this! I should be following everything it says!) is of less value to me than being a grown ass woman who makes decisions for herself based on what she can and wants to be doing, guilt free. Don’t want to go to the gym? Want to go for a short walk instead, or crochet and decompress from a crapper of a day? Don’t mind if I do. We are not obligated to move. It should be a joy. And when I’ve done it over the last four weeks, it has been increasingly a joy, not an obligation.

I like exercising with people AND THEN AGAIN, alone.

Oh the duality of this! I have discovered that some days I want to be walking and chatting with my honey, and some days I want it to just be me and the cross trainer. Makes sense that movement can be a lot of different things, and that it doesn’t also have to be the focus but instead a backdrop to social engagement, chatter, thinking aloud, laughter, or time alone. Just as eating is more than fuel, I’m discovering that movement is more than reps and time goals.

My eating is radically fucking different and BETTER.

Biggest differences to eating in this house for both myself and my husband include:

  • Low sodium cooking. I never realised how much salt I used in my cooking until it wasn’t there. I rarely use salt in my cooking now, and when I do I only use a very very small amount, and I really notice it when food had added salt (such as the presence of soy sauce, or when I eat a meal out). My husband says he’s finding some meals a bit bland (but then he can add salt. I choose not to and am perfectly happy). I’m enjoying how food tastes without being massively salted – it seems like my palate has reset, and I like it.
  • Much less oil, and when it is there, sparingly and deliciously enjoyed because it is appreciated for it’s own unique flavour rather than being the baseline of my cooking that drowns out a lot of other stuff.
  • Way more fruit and veg. WAY. It’s a joy to open my fridge and BAM, there’s so many pretty colours to look at.
  • A sudden influx of new recipes has meant I’m never bored, and I’m more creative in the kitchen. The cook in me is very happy with new ideas to tinker with, new ways to play with food. None of the food is boring or unattractive. It all looks very pretty indeed in my plate (especially things with red cabbage and snow peas. And we’ve covered my weakness for sweet potato.)
  • Satiety. I feel more full more of the time and the temptation to snack is covered by the two snacks a day inbuilt. I’ve finally broken my habit of eating all of my food in one go at lunchtime – the gorge effect – and I’m learning to pace myself so I can idle along at a nice rate of fullness most of the time. My pattern is somewhat addled by shift work, but mostly not too bad. I eat around 6:30am/7am, snack on fruit around 11am, eat my lunch at 12:30/1:30 and then have a proteiny snack when I knock off, as I’m catching the bus home. Then dinner happens around 7.30/8pm. Eating every few hours means I’m not hangry and much less likely to compulsively eat or teeter into weird ethereal low blood sugar highs which lead to fucked up OMG I’M SO INVINCIBLE WITH MY DIGNIFIED HUNGER, LOOK AT ME, I COULD STARVE LIKE THIS FOREVER. (Yeahhh…disordered eating thoughts are FUN.)
  • I always always always pack my lunch. And our wetbags from Planet Wise arrived so we can kiss disposable glad bags a big fat goodbye.
  • Husband is learning to cook, and is quite good at it. That man can really rock a wok. I love having dinner made for me!

kebabs

Veggie kebab skewers and a couscous salad (above) and our new PlanetWise wetbags for taking lunch to work - no spills!

Veggie kebab skewers and a couscous salad (above) and our new PlanetWise wetbags for taking lunch to work – no spills!

Gone are the days of eating at all hours, relying on takeaway, eating lakes of dhal and feeling sick aftwerwards, giving myself heartburn from using so much damn oil, and never kind of understanding what it meant to stop eating when full. Gone is the scavenging for protein at work and coming up with noodles. Gone is the snacking on random sugary shit from the seven eleven.

Just goddamn decent cooking and plenty of it. Pow!

I’ve still got eight weeks to go and I plan to start saving lots of the recipes and menus so I can keep at it once this round is done. I am beginning to get the inkling that doing the #12wbt will have been a game changer for me in many wonderful ways.

Bring on week 5!


Snarling #12wbt: fertility and self image


I’ve been struggling so much to love my body on a fundamental, deeply emotional level in the last six months.

As many folks know, my husband and I are trying to have a baby. And we got pregnant easily last October; ridiculously easily. Within a few weeks of trying. We were both excited/terrified to be parents and spent a solid two months prepping and planning for our little jellybean to arrive (who from the start we named Elliot.)

And then, as easily as they came to us, bub was gone. We lost our little Jelliot bean in early December. It was my second loss, and my husband’s first – I lost my first baby, August, in February 2009.

Since then I’ve been incredibly angry at my body. Deep down, undeniably, bone achingly angry. I feel broken, and terribly incapable.

And now, undergoing fertility testing, my body has just become a site of emotional and physical trauma. It feels like all it gives me is pain, and heartbreak. I have felt, more than once, that I’d replace it with a new one if I could.

So doing the 12 week body transformation is about way more than just eating and moving for me. It’s about starting to get to know my body again, to try and get pleasure and health back. To forgive it, to enjoy it, and to start quarrying these massive stones of anger out, so that something beautiful can flow in.

Wish me luck! 


Snarling #12wbt: Fat yoga & the importance of body listening


yoga mat

One of the things I love the most about being connected with movement, is really “listening” to my body.

I know this sounds like hippy dippy bollocks, but I woke up this morning early and didn’t fall naturally back to sleep, so I got up and did a morning yoga routine with Adriene over at Yoga With Adriene. She came highly recommended to me (along with Curvy Yoga and Yoga Glo by many friends – everyone has a great yoga favourite! I like her because she’s laugh out loud funny sometimes and makes me feel ok to experiment and trust my own instincts – which as a beginner, is important, because I have a LOT of anxiety about getting yoga movements “right”.

Fat yoga is hard, though. My body just isn’t a flat thing that can glue itself like a board to the mat. Laying prone is hard because I have an ass, and that ass gets in the way. I’ve finally kind of found a way to lay flat, which involves drawing my shoulders way back and in, and pulling my butt up to my knees. It took me a while though. Many yoga movements are not designed for fat bodies, but they should be.

I’m going to have a deeper look at Curvy Yoga and see if it’s for me. I really enjoy it when someone comes up with an idea and is like “hey! I’m going to make this accessible!” Accessibility is golden, man.

One of the things that I think could be encouraged and talked about more is “listening” to bodies, rather than wholesale listening to external messages. Bodies are not always, but often, good at telling us what we need. Mine said “wake up! do yoga!” and often it says “eat! I’m hungry!”. And learning to listen when full, or tired, or too sore to exercise, or about to pull a ligament, is really important too.

It may sound like crunchy granola nonsense, but I’m trying to get more adept at this.


Snarling 12wbt: disrupt the skinny narrative already


A comment that Mish Bridges made in one of her mindset videos last week has stuck in my brain like (as Josie Packard from Twin Peaks would put it) “some haunting melody”.

She talked about people who exercise but don’t lose weight because they eat more than their calorie burn. She cites the example of people who are “fit and strong but they’re not losing weight”.

Hold the phone, MB. What exactly are you saying here?

This encapsulates so much of what’s wrong with fitspo. It claims to be about health, but ultimately, unavoidably, inextricably, you have to WANT to be skinny too, or you’re not committed to your health. And there’s apparently something so objectively BAD about fatness that even if you’re super fit and strong, you’ve still failed. Being small is just that important.

This is an utterly toxic message. As a teacher, and a person who wants to have a child, I’m absolutely furious at the idea that fitness is not enough. Well, I actually don’t think it should be a value in itself upon which we judge people’s worth or success. But really? A fit strong fat person is always a failure because they’re…well because they’re fat?

I’m doing the 12wbt to get fit and strong and yet I’m working hard to be in love with the body I have. Because you know what, I deserve that. I deserve to be totally happy as I am. And I downright refuse to value skinny for skinny’s sake.


Snarling 12WBT: A feminist takes on the Michelle Bridges program. Week by week.


2014 MTV Video Music Awards - Fixed Show

[Harvey Keitel:] Ms. Third ward, your first question – what is your aspiration in life?
[Beyoncé:] Oh… My aspiration in life… would be… to be happy.

(Pretty Hurts, Beyonce, The Visual Album).

As part of my journey at the moment to understand my body and my relationships with food and exercise, I’ve been seeking structure.

Sometimes in life I think it’s powerful to admit when you just aren’t strong at organisation. For instance, at work I bring a lot of creativity and passion to leadership in programming and pedagogy, but organising locker tags? A big fat nope. I’m never going to be the lady with a neat and tidy bedroom 100% of the time (unlike my neat freak partner whose love of order is Sheldon-esque).

And having a history of disordered eating is as it sounds: dis-ordered. Disorganised, chaotic, subject to the whims of emotion and external/internal/historical influence. I swing all over the place and cycles of restriction and binging are often exacerbated by being time poor. Exercise, which I love, also goes out the window and gets complicated by emotions and life pressures and plain tiredness. My job is high stress and emotionally/physically/intellectually exhausting. And my relationship and baby making plans have demanded a lot of me lately, and they have definitely pressured my relationship with my body as well.

I’ve sought structure in the past from nutritionists who’ve left me always wanting more, and I don’t have the cash to afford coaching intensives from expensive dieticians and they only vaguely address exercise. “Move more and eat less” is the vaaaaaguest statement ever when it comes to the huge complexities of how we inhabit and understand our bodies. What does that mean day to day? I know eating nutritionally balanced food and enjoying movement (having fun!) are things that make me feel great, but finding a structure to follow has always eluded me. I just cannot generate that shit on my own.

So I started looking for a program I could follow to help me get a handle on disordered eating and start to get into regular exercise patterns, and as a feminist, pretty much every choice sucked. Pretty much NO PLAN allowed you to eat without calorie counting, and had exercise coaching, and everything made me grumpy. Everything seemed to have fat shaming built into it and it was all about goal-orientation – the goal being to reduce body mass. Because that’s like, everything, amirite?

So, left with few truly good choices, I decided to live in the grey. Perhaps I could take what I needed from a program and critique the unhelpful bits. If I worked on my self talk at the same time as benefiting from some structure around eating and exercise, and used this as a chance to actively trigger myself and work on more helpful internal responses to those triggers, I would actually grow a lot more than if I avoided using any program. What if I used the benefits found, and challenged the problematic messages with critical reflection? It’s not a common approach, but it is a pretty genius one.

After lots of thinking, I found the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation and decided to give it my money – at around $19 a week for 12 weeks, it was a shitton less expensive than seeing a dietician and would probably have similar content.

This program is something you could have a body posi feminist field day with. Alongside the (really delicious, filling and nutritionally balanced) meals and (not too horrible) exercise plans, there is both some truly helpful and truly triggering content and thinking.

My intention? To complete the program and reflect in this blog critically as a feminist to de-construct it as much as I can and give some idea of what it feels like to be inside it. I will live out loud here, in the grey, taking good bits and critiquing the bad bits – from recipe discourse to discussion of body types. Hopefully this will act as a self reflection tool while acknowledging the nuanced reality that I live in: that to access health support, we have to work very hard as feminists on our mental health to disassemble body fascism as we encounter it all “mixed up and in” the very support we are accessing.

I refuse to be a blank eager canvas who slurps up what health gurus dish out. Nooope. Maybe, just maybe, we can talk back to the messages and triggers, pull them apart, and put them back together in ways that make more sense to us and are less punishing. Maybe having these conversations about moderating rather than rejecting health narratives is super important. I think so.

I’m going to be talking once a week about, in real terms, what it feels like to work through health messages mixed into much needed support. As well as stepping through how this negatively and positively impacts my relationship with my body, and everything in between. As a fat, queer, non neurotypical woman with disability and a history of disordered eating, who is time poor and has a real, busy life – how does the 12wbt feel in application?

In the words of Queen Bey, pretty hurts. And so very many health gurus are, underneath or even on top of everything they preach, mixing in some very painful ‘pretty’ with some good advice.

I hope other feminist women who may also be utilising some of the tools provided by the 12WBT program can follow along, and those enjoying journeys with their body in general.

I’ll also be tweeting a feminist critique throughout the process using the hashtag #feminist12wbt and you can follow me over the 12 weeks – @geekhag

Here’s to squats & snark!


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