Tag Archives: fitspiration

Snarling 12WBT Week One: sweet potato is god & nope I will not measure. Nope. Nooope.


Let your words be anything but empty: why don’t you tell them the truth? Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out.

– Sara Bareilles

This week was the first week of the Michelle Bridges 12WBT, and I started with a very open mind and a resolve to take it all on and discuss it all in myself. To be brave as I threw myself under the trigger bus. Really. And I spent surprisingly less time being angry and rolling my eyes than I thought I would (though those moments definitely *happened*).

I’m not totally sure how to break these posts down, to be honest. There’s so much to be said about fitness and eating programs, so much to be shaken out by the roots – some stuff deserves props, and that spectrum goes right through to “jesus wtf now I’m going to go cry in the shower” kind of awful. So I’m just gonna go ahead and use headers to organise myself and my many meandering thoughts.

My pre-season promises to myself

Michelle Bridges has two stages to her program. There’s the “pre-season” which comes with a whole list of tasks and homework to get you prepped for some of the Round, which took me about four weeks and included everything from pantry chuck-outs to making personal goals. The Round is the 12 weeks in which you are actively following a meal plan and exercise plan.

One of the tasks is, as I said above, making personal goals that are measurable, observable and realistic. From the very beginning I knew the BIGGEST parts of my journey were not around how many squats I could do, or how many veggies I was eating. My biggest challenges were around how I was going to let the program influence my increasingly positive and yet so fragile relationship with my body and not fucking hating it.

So here’s my promises to myself.

  • I will not measure or weigh myself throughout the 12 weeks. Why, you ask? I wrote about that right here. 
  • If the pressures and triggers of the program mean I lapse and do weigh or measure myself, I won’t punish myself for it. I’ll talk to a friend and get a hug and work out how I could respond in a more loving way to myself next time.
  • I will follow the most generous meal plan. I will not engage in crazy calorie restriction. 1200 calorie plan NOOOOPE.
  • I will train my eye away from caloric information, and focus on ingredients. I will continue to view food as experiences, not food as fuel. FUCK the idea that food is just fuel.
  • I will take care to talk back to Michelle Bridges in my head, and my own internal Mean Girl. My internal Mean Girl uses words like “should” and “must” and “bad” and “excuses” when thinking about food and working out. Whereas the loving, Sara Bareilles voice in my head says stuff like “honey you’ve got a headcold, don’t you even THINK about going to the gym. Couch, tea, snuggles and chocolate STAT.” The Sara Bareilles voice doesn’t use shame tactics. She wants me to be happy and well and acknowledges that guilt and shame and restriction are the other dangerous side of the compulsive eating coin. Brain Sara Bareilles is human, and empathetic, and knows it’s all part of a Bigger Picture. Unlike Michelle Bridges, Brain Sara Bareilles doesn’t subtly mock me (yes, she actually does this in the Mindset Video “Getting The Most Out Of Your Exercise”) for feeling shit about dragging my tired ass to a cardio sesh. She’s like “oh boy, yeah. That’s balls. Being tired is hard!”
  • I will note thoughts that focus on weight loss rather than feeling good, energetic. I will note thoughts that focus on results and not inhabiting a state of being. I will try to write them down and think about them.

So, those are my goals. Onto week one, and what it held.

Let’s tackle the first elephant in the room: the goddamned name

Nooooo, Michelle Bridges, whyyyyy. Bodies do not need to be transformed, they need to be inhabited. The word ‘transformation’ is like lighter fuel for delicate, regularly mown over self images in women.

I’m sorry not sorry, but an emphasis on “transformation” when it comes to our bodies is rarely ever helpful and is almost ALWAYS a way to other people, disconnect folks from their bodies, and make shit emotionally hard.

I feel like I would get behind a name like “12 Weeks of Eating Some Rad Food and Moving A Bit Hopefully With Friends and Not Feeling Too Shitty About It” but I guess that’s not as catchy.

The pressure to quantify is on!

Michelle Bridges REALLY wants me to weigh and measure myself. A LOT. And she REALLY wants me to count calories. In both pre-season tasks and round tasks, and Mindset Videos, Michelle is allll about those constant reminders. There’s checkins to be completed and she tells me “you’ll regret not doing this task” and “don’t forget to count every calorie”.

So far I’ve found it pretty easy to step back from this part of things. I guess I’d already done a lot of work before the program kicked off thinking about and acknowledging that this would be present. I know that calorie counting has only ever been negative for me – and honestly, I’m not sure what the point of it is in a program that already has every meal tailored. That’s part of why I actually chose the 12WBT – because I could just eat what was basically provided for, and didn’t have to do any number crunching.

There’s some really contradictory messages too – in her first Mindset Video she talks about how the “overall journey” is what counts (a globalistic, helpful thought) but then counters that one needs to focus on everyday minute details (a bizarrely contradictory, worry inducing and unhelpful, triggering thought).

12WBT is presented as white and abled and mostly for cis women

Every inspiring story is a cis woman. I mean, I think we all pretty much can take it as a given that a program like the 12WBT is popular PRECISELY because women have way more pressure to reduce body mass than men. And 12WBT is so uncritically mainstream that no, I’m not surprised that pretty much all the Inspiring Womenz are cis women.

There’s also not one single representation or exercise program provision that I can easily find on the 12WBT website or options that takes into account that many women have disability, and have a variety of bodies and thus need to/can exercise in different ways/at all. This is not inconsistent with our culture of ableism around fitspo and health tropes in general – at least the This Girl Can campaign in the UK included one participant with Down’s Sydnrome. Do Lorna Jane and those of their ilk ever advertise with representations of women who use wheelchairs? Or exercise with prosthetics? Women with blindness? Maybe they do, but I have never, ever seen this and while there’s probably some companies and organisations that do attempt inclusivity, it’s probs almost always as exploitative Disability Inspiration Porn. 

Also, with very few exceptions, all the images of women working out and all the “inspiring stories” are pretty much white women.

So, 12WBT fails on an intersectional level, which is a shame because it could have had a bit of a bash at including and representing women of colour and women with disability. It’s not like that’s really very hard. Because Australian people of colour and women with disability are, you know, kind of everywhere.

The Forums

I honestly can’t really do the forums. It’s just an exercise in heartache. It’s like seeing all my worst, fascist body negging thoughts coming out of thousands of other keyboards. MB encourages you to utilise these for support, but it’s more like collective therapy without a guiding, helpful therapist moderating the narratives and reflecting them back.

People here talk in very punishing ways about themselves, and it’s all dressed up as fitspo (fitspiration) and self determining goal oriented enthusiasm. But if you want to know how fucked up most women are by beauty and health expectations they’re conditioned to accept from a young age, just read a 12WBT forum. It’s painful, and like reading my own journal. And it hurts because I have so much empathy and solidarity for these women, and wish I could reach out to them but as I know from experience, that’s not always useful or welcome.

I really wish women didn’t need to get together to collectively bash ourselves in order to move and eat delicious nutritionally balanced foods. But it’s a part of our culture that leaps from the pages of these forums. As far as I can see, there’s not a whole lot of moderation of the community pain by the 12WBT mods, either.

So, no forums for me.

The food: delicious sweet potato and privilege

Is delicious. But not easily veganisable, at all. Vegetarian, yes, but omitting all the dairy is a pretty big struggle with the meal plans. I think a good evolution of the program would be to include a vegan option and I would be VERY eager to jump on that.

Sticking to the Move2 program, which has the most generous calorie input, I’m not really hungry and also don’t overeat (which I define as feeling too full, a feeling I find as uncomfortable as eating too little and therefore not desirable). The meals are pretty rad, and my picky husband is mostly enjoying them too. The best thing this week was the chilli beans and sweet potato which was OH MY GOD DELICIOUS. As a foodie, I’m loving the challenge of cooking new stuff. New yummy stuff! My love of baked beans for breakfast has also been encouraged, and I’ve got time for any program that recognises the Real Ultimate Deliciousness of baked beans.

One thing I really like is that you can pick and swap things in and out, and there’s still lots and lots of lactose free options, so you can minimise and exclude dairy and eggs if you’re fiddly and clever. The plans are realistic for time, the snacks are filling, and MB encourages you to prepare food on weekends and freeze it so dinner doesn’t take forever around work and exercise things.

There is some definite, hard to avoid privilege involved in the food items, and the food for week one (which took into account breakfasts and lunches for me, and dinners that included husband) set me back around $200. I can afford this as a full time worker, who enjoys relative economic privilege, but a single mum on centrelink or a student would NOT be able to afford this. This is something that is almost never acknowledged by health gurus – that “healthy eating” is quite expensive and not an option accessible by a huge amount of people. It’s a bit rich to lay a food guilt trip on someone for whom 2 minute noodles is the extent of their means. I was poor for way too many years before now, so I keenly remember being in that situation.

Anyway, I DID have bundles of energy this week due to a nice balanced meal plan and I work with toddlers. Props, MB. Props.

The exercise is not horrible but then again, I had a head cold

I was actually really pumped to do a bunch of the exercise this week but Monday brought massive relationship issues which demanded my attention and care (no, you do not go and do exercise when your spouse needs you, that makes you a shithouse spouse) and by Wednesday I had a headcold. So I got one workout in, which was a massive bummer.

The exercises laid out for the move2 program mode are actually a bit easy for me so maybe next week I might do some of the beginner mode plans because I do like to push myself a bit with exercise (not too hard, but enough to be like WHEEE, I DID A THING!).

I am not endeavouring to exercise every single day that MB tells me to (five to six workouts a week might make me cray-cray) but I am endeavouring to move as much as I possibly can. I feel like four times a week is achievable, but we will see what I can realistically fit in once I’m over this ridiculous sinus thing. I have PT on Mondays, so that’ll replace one workout. At the moment I prefer the gym to outdoors workouts, though I did feel a bit self conscious when I was there last week, squinting at my paper printout of exercises while nearby a ridiculously fit MB lookalike did step-ups so rapid I felt dizzy on her behalf.

Week one in conclusion?

Feminist eye-roll exercises aside, it’s been ok. I’m very aware all the time that I’m doing this stuff of my privilege, which has been interesting/unexpected. And I’m managing to lol my way through the bits that are emotionally hard, and soooo far, I haven’t been triggered so much that I’ve deviated from any of the goals I stated above. There were a few moments where I teetered on the edges – where I had moments of forgetting that this is supposed to be an overall guideline, not a diet. And I talked back to myself in those moments. And the talk-back worked and my thoughts naturally flowed back to healthier places.

But all in all, my head is on straight, I had a couple beers with my husband on Friday instead of eschewing them for rocket, and I’m not making myself go to bed hungry. When MB is a Mean Girl, I’m giving her a hug in my mind and fantasising about talking to her about feminism over coffee. That helps a lot – remembering that miss Mish is just as much a protagonist in her own struggle too.

I really hope there’s more sweet potato next week though. So much, you have no idea.


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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