Fit Friday

Fit Friturday: CTFO

The last two Fit Fridays, I have had to CTFO: Chill the F**k Out.

CTFO is a mantra in my anti-diet, pro-moderation, support group. It’s a veritable alphabet soup around there. Every weekend, members post photos and short posts of their DSS: Do-Something Saturdays, or their FF: Flex Fridays–sharing victories toward personal goals of movement and strength breaking free from the impossible standards of cultural beauty and fitness norms. We share NSVs (Non-scale victories) toward self-care, setting boundaries, meal-planning, taking up space. For those members who are on weight-loss or weight-gain journeys, there are SVs (scale victories). We ETF: Eat. The. Food. Freed (or progressively freeing) from the restriction and rules of disordered thinking, orthorexia, food-group restriction, and fad dieting of the culture around us.

And sometimes, we remind each other to Chill the Frick Out.

When do we CTFO? After an injury. When we’re sick. When we’re feeling the feels. When we feel guilty after a relapse of binge- or restrictive-behavior. When we feel judgement from friends, colleagues, or family members who make unwelcome commentary on our food or exercise choices.

I have a challenging class of students this year. One student in particular is taxing my mental game in a way that stretches me beyond my level of adeptness, and into the game of “Wow. What do I do here?” There have been money woes thrown in the mix, several (four, now, I think) deaths of colleague’s close family members within the first month of school, my roommate’s parents came to visit on their Farewell Tour before returning to New Guinea for four years, my roommate’s older son started school the same time I did (yay routine changes!).

So aside from my Monday silks class and Tuesday 12-Steps, I’ve been practicing CTFO during my evenings. And I’m using my weekends to get out of the house and connect with people; I don’t want to make my depression/isolation feedback loop, well, you know–feedback.That’s how I’m taking care of my body and mind right now. I don’t need to apologize for it or explain to people that “normally” I would be exercising more. I get out of my classroom during lunch or prep to walk a bit. And I think it’s time to add another day of upper body work, because silks has demonstrated I’m a veritable T-Rex… but I’m not going to kill myself trying.

This is what I need right now.


Fit Friday: Side Effects May Include….

Side effects may include weight gain.

When I got my IUD, the thought of gaining 20 lbs. was unpleasant, at the least. In 2013, I was the fittest I’d ever been, playing roller derby and weight-training at the YMCA. Then I had surgery on my ladyparts, got an IUD, filed for divorce. I vowed not to be the n% of women who gained weight with the Mirena IUD.

I now know that 20 lbs. is a small trade for being able to function during my period. A number on the scale means very little to me compared to the the ability to live with severe dysmenorrhea.

Weight is a number indicating the earth’s gravitational pull on my body, not a measure of my health.

Since 2013 (until this summer), my arsenal of prescription drugs had grown to four: Effexor for my depression/anxiety, the IUD for my dysmenorrhea (since the surgery didn’t help and I can’t use estrogen), amitriptyline and Topamax for the migraines. The IUD and amitriptyline both cause weight gain. Topamax has a side effect of weight loss, but I didn’t lose any weight when I started it.

After years of body image issues, battles with food, restrictive eating habits, disordered thought patterns, I have made a lot of progress in just eating the food. Moderation is the name of the game. I’ve maintained a healthy, stable weight since late 2013, after the initial medication-weight-gain. I made one final foray into disordered-diet land when I bought into a Beachbody program, but that didn’t last very long.

Until this summer.

My neurologist changed my medication regimen and started scaling back my amitriptyline this summer. The withdrawal was yucky. I was taking it for migraines, and it’s used for long-term, chronic pain management, but amitriptyline is an antidepressant. I got depressed.

And then that little side effect of Topamax kicked in, and I started losing weight. The first time I accidentally lost weight on a medication was the first time I really, really got into trouble with dieting, my senior year of high school. I noticed what was happening this time, and I didn’t weigh myself. That is an important detail. If I had weighed myself, I would have ended up down the rabbit hole again. This is how I knew I needed to call my doctor: I was miserable. The sick/nausea was pretty much past, but I couldn’t sleep, or eat, or focus. Normally a whirlwind of creativity, I was the human embodiment of inertia. I had no motivation. I wanted desperately to go back on the medication. But that little voice in my head said, Yeah, but look in the mirror. Do you really want to gain that weight back? Just hold out one more week, and you’ll see that it’s worth it. You’re barely eating, but you’re not even hungry. Isn’t that great??

I got scared. Really, really scared.

It still took me a month to call my neurologist.

But I still haven’t weighed myself. Weight is a number indicating the earth’s gravitational pull on my body, not a measure of my health. If anything has illustrated that, this summer has painted it in technicolor.

Fit Friday: My Grammy Moves It

I’ve written about my grammy before.

My grammy’s name is Ila. She was born in 1921, which makes her 93½ years old. There is a lot I could say about what she’s seen and done in those years. But right now, today, I am going to show you what she is doing in this second half of her ninety-fourth year, in this video my cousin recorded this week: my grammy showing her great-granddaughter “Roo” the exercises she does every morning.

Movement and exercise and activity that is sustainable and enjoyable is worth doing. My grammy has been a member of TOPS for over 30 years and has taken care of her body and her health with regular check-ups, sensible food, lots of laughter, and help from her family when she needs it.

She has experienced her share of physical pain, sickness, and limitation, but she has found movement that she can accomplish. Her body is a good body.

All bodies are good bodies.

Fit Friday: Tank Tops and Taking Up Space

It’s May, and Idaho has made that quick and awkward transition from cool-and-almost-springy to my-kids-come-in-from-recess-hot-and-smelly. I have third-graders who needed to start wearing deodorant this spring, which is a new one for me. My second year of teaching, I had that fun conversation with my fifth-grade boys about DEODOROANT>AXE**. Their big takeaway was, Ms. Danielle taught us how to get chicks in middle school! But, it got them to start showering daily and give up the Axe in favor of pit stick, so I marked it a success. I’ve had fourth grade girls start their periods before. But third grade… I was just not expecting it this year.

That first group of students I taught? They’re sophomores now, for three more weeks. Most of them are taller than I am. You can insert any number of cliches here about how they’ve grown, and how old I feel. It’s been fun, though, to watch them. That’s one of the perks of working in a small school–I can see them every day, if I make a point to be in the hallways between classes or after lunch. We have high school students who have transferred to our school, too, over the past seven years who have added to the mix of personalities. And to the dating pool. I bring up this last point  because that’s a Big Deal in the middle school and high school. When I taught these students, boys and girls played together and were friends. Now, it seems everything is viewed through the lens of dating and pairing up and sex. This is not just the perspective of the students, but also the staff. When you are teaching students who are preoccupied with who is dating whom and the tangled webs thereof, it’s important to pay attention and to be proactive and involved.

Here is my disclaimer: I am not in these classrooms. I don’t interact with these students much. And there is a lot I’m missing.

What I see is this (in the hallways, staff meetings, and handbook revisions every spring): Girls have been chastised for wearing tank tops; boys are not. Girls’ clothing is sexualized; boys’ is not. Girls try to take up less space; boys try to take up more.

Toxic body image affects girls and boys. Girls see one version of the ideal body, and learn to lose pounds and inches and to take up less space. Boys see one image of the ideal body, and learn to build certain muscle in certain places. Self-perception and self-worth often hinges on these limited definitions of acceptable physical femininity and masculinity. (I’ll expand these more in the future, and provide more nuance).

In my anti-diet support and resource group, we talk a lot about giving ourselves permission to Take Up Space. To wear tank tops, even if our arms are not toned. To wear the clothes we want before we reach our goal weight. To wear the clothes we want without allowing our body parts to be scrutinized or sexualized. Do you know why we have to consciously give ourselves permission to do this, at the age of 20, 30, or even 60?

Because this kind of body shaming and sexualization starts in high school. When we talk about the dress code, we talk about girls wearing tank tops, and the boys getting distracted. We talk about the girls not having enough “self-respect,” about the girls using their clothes to get attention, about it detracting from the learning environment. When we talk about the boys wearing tank tops… we don’t. We have not, in my recollection, talked about boys wearing tank tops. A former student wears tank tops and sleeveless muscle shirts almost daily. I have never seen nor heard him told to cover up or change shirts during the day. I have seen multiple girls forced to wear t-shirts or hoodies or zip-ups over tank tops that were deemed inappropriate.

It starts before high school, when I am expected to tell a second grade girl that she cannot wear a tank top on a 90ºF day because of the dress code. Second grade girls (generally) do not have bra straps or breasts, and they definitely do not have sexy shoulders. Second grade children do not think about their own bodies in that manner, unless the adults in their lives create environments where those aspects are amplified.

Are there adult men and women who find shoulders, breasts, cleavage, or clavicles attractive? Yes. Are there adult men and women who find well-defined biceps, triceps, and pectorals attractive? Yes. Do we objectify every adult human that walks past us in a tank top? I sure hope not. Why can’t we teach our high school students to do the same?

Why can’t we teach our high school students to do the same? I might raise a stink if the dress code comes up again. I might bring it up myself. Our girls should be allowed to take up space; they should not have to “hide” their bodies. The boys should not have free reign to take up as much space as they want by wearing shirts that reveal their entire torsos from a profile view, especially if we’re using the idea of “professionalism” as the rationale behind other pieces of the dress code. Melissa Atkins Wardy at Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies had a pointed piece about reframing dresscodes as “Don’t Wear Saturday on a Wednesday.” It strikes a sensible balance between allowing girls to retain agency of their bodies and clothing, respecting boys’ ability to control themselves and treat girls as humans, and teaching students to dress for the situation and venue.

Happy Spring! I’ma go garden in a T-Shirt while it’s still cool enough to do so. Once it’s mid-June…sports bra. Lots of sunblock. Not because it’s sexy, but because it’s just too hot. Also I have six-foot fences, soooo..

**I have to credit my sister Katrina with the approach to this one. This was said in a very kind manner. I am not the Takes No Prisoners teacher with my kids.

When you rub an onion and an orange together, it doesn’t make the onion smell better, it just makes everything smell kinda gross. Trust me, you don’t smell good. I used to be a middle school girl, and the people around you would much prefer you to shower daily and wash your hair than to smell like a can from a commercial. This is your homework for the next two weeks: Shower every day, wash your hair, wear deodorant. There will be a test, and it will be the asthma of the para across the hall who cannot breathe after you spray that stuff in the boys’ bathroom.

Fit Friday: Epilogue

Content note: body image, body shame, disordered eating, diet & exercise

I did it. I finished my series. It took a year, weeks, days, depending on how you look at the process. I’m not done with the recovery process (because one is never done with recovery), but I’ve expounded six major reasons Beachbody’s 21-Day Fix program and associated (but unofficial) “support” groups are unhealthy and reinforced the very disordered thinking from which I was trying to recover.

Reason 1: Untrained Personnel

Beachbody “coaches” pay a fee into a multilevel marketing structure to attain the coach designation; they do not have any special training qualifying them to offer fitness or nutritional advice. The “support” groups were rife with bad advice from people not qualified to offer it, when people should have been consulting doctors or dietitians.

Reason 2: Migraines

When I got migraines, I was encouraged to “power through,” and some participants attributed my migraines to “sugar detox” from the meal plans. In the anti-diet group in which I currently participate, we prioritize self-care. It makes a world of difference.

Reason 3: The Food

I was constantly hungry, and the rules about food played on our already obsessive and disordered tendencies toward food. It was unsustainable.

Reason 4: Make-Me-Hate-Myself Workouts

Fat shaming. Gendered language. Perpetuating the myth of spot reduction, and that women have “problem areas” that need to be “fixed.” Tracking progress in weight and inches, which is not sustainable in the long term.

Reason 5: Shake it off

Shakeology is not a magic elixer.

Reason 6: I Am Shame

The body shaming runs deep. So so deep.

Next week I’ll get back to posting on various topics related to body image. Perhaps a nice piece on how it impacts children, or a confuzzled observation of an elementary student who had already waxed her upper lip.

Fit Friday: I Am Shame (Part 5 in series)

Content note: body image, body shame, disordered eating, diet & exercise

Purpose: This series has been a long time percolating in my mind. It has taken me a year to decide to write. The writing process has taken days. I think this will become an important resource for future #FitFriday posts as I continue to examine the messages students of all ages internalize about women, diet, nutrition, and fitness, and how it can severely and negatively influence their lives indefinitely.

In which I expound on why I quit Beachbody’s 21-Day Fix program (because it perpetuates disordered thinking and unattainable, unsustainable ideals)

Click here for Reason 1: Untrained Personnel & Reason 2: Migraines
Click here for Reason 3: The Food
Click here for Reason 4: Make-Me-Hate-Myself Workouts
Click here for Reason 5: Shake it off

Reason 6: I Am Shame

In the past posts, I’ve referred to the (Unofficial) 21-Day Fix Facebook groups as “support” groups. Here’s the thing: even using quotations marks around the word support is being generous. A year’s worth of distance between me and the group, with 12-step work under my belt and counseling tools and a better grasp of what disordered thinking looks like, I can see that the group was not supportive, not in the way it claimed to be. Not in the way the group to which I now belong is supportive. It didn’t build us up.

It used shame.

I didn’t take data, because I was in it and had no idea I would be writing these posts. So while I can say that some members of the support group did seem supportive, I can’t give ratios of supportive-to-shaming comments. But I say with confidence that the overwhelming majority of posts and comments were not healthful, and I could recognize that in the slightly-recovering-but-still-disordered place I was at the time. I recognized it enough to leave. I am not only speaking about the bulk of us who were participants in the program, but also the coaches. Remember: Beachbody coaches are no more than participants who have paid money into the multilevel marketing system to earn the label of coach. They do not have special training or credentials that qualify them to offer fitness or nutrition advice. There is no screening process that determines whether or not they will be passing on their own habits of disordered eating, exercise, and body image.


We were encouraged to post our “before” pictures so we would have documentation of how much better we looked after three weeks. Some women spent three hours working up the nerve to post theirs, using words like “disgusting” and “gross” to describe themselves. And it wasn’t I look gross; it was I am gross. Many comments reinforced that kind of thinking by reminding the participant how much happier they would be with their body at the end of the program. Beachbody has competitions for the best before-after transformation photos, and when participants would post their after photos, the competition was mentioned. A lot. I have a problem with programs that focus so heavily on appearance. It perpetuates the disordered thinking about food and exercise. It reinforces fat shaming. It focuses on how we look, not what we can do. It’s anti-woman.

I guess one could ask what I expected. The name of the company is Beachbody. The program has the word Fix right in the title. And I did wrestle with buying it right off the bat–I don’t think I need to be fixed, and I resent the idea that any woman needs to be fixed. But even with those misgivings, I was appalled at how deeply the shame was rooted.

I remember one woman vividly. After losing five pounds the first week, she gained a pound the second week. She posted in the group, looking for support, because she was devastated. She was in tears, inconsolable. Did she get the support she sought? NO. She got scolded. Shamed. Berated. The comments followed a similar pattern: You must have deviated from the program because the program works. You ate too much ____. If you followed the program, you would lose, not gain, guaranteed.

No two people are the same. No two women are the same. My body responds differently to food and exercise than my sister’s body; we even responded differently to the 21-Day Fix. My sister felt excited and satiated while I was famished and exhausted. I struggled to lose a couple pounds and they were just falling off her. And I can think of one reason immediately why I would gain and not lose while on the program: dysmennorhea. Here’s a little TMI: among other problems, I cannot poop the five days leading up to my period. I also cannot have dairy that week. But even if I avoid dairy, nothing moves. Then, one day, everything is fine and my colon is happy again. My medication list also makes it difficult to lose weight, but especially during my period.

Back to the group. First, I was heartbroken–what has our culture done, what did the people in her life say or do, that gaining a pound has left her inconsolable? Second: the women who chimed to “help” in included coaches. And they were not chiming in to help her, even if they thought they were. They were chiming in to reassure themselves. The repetition of It works! was a chorus of women reassuring themselves that the program worked. If it didn’t work for that woman, if she really had followed the program the second week and gained a pound, if her body had put the brakes on after losing five pounds in a week, then the same could happen to them. And they were not okay with that fact. The program had to work.

The Alternative:

The moderators of the anti-diet, pro-moderation group consist of doctors, scientists, and health professionals, NONE of whom will speak outside their scope of practice. That means they do not offer individual counseling or advice beyond reminding us to speak to our own physician team. They provide us with encouragement and resources. We share resources for understanding the roots of disordered thinking, emotional eating, and body shame. We celebrate non-scale victories. If we feel shame about something, we share that, and we remind each other about the truth: we are not broken, we are on a journey, and tomorrow will be better. When we share pictures of our bodies, those pictures are kept private, and they are celebrated. Our muscles, our tummies, our stretch marks, and our baby bumps… all of it. Every size. Every shape. Every bump, bruise, and wibblely bit. We know that how we look is not an indicator of our health or our wholeness.

The day I quit the not-a-support group was a hard day. I had another migraine, but I was trying to power through my work day. I had just read the verbal barrage that woman was going to have to read after opening herself up in a moment of vulnerability. I could hear my students playing outside. I told myself that I could be a positive voice on those posts, I could be a voice of reason. But I was tired, I was hungry, and I was out of carrots. I could see the damaging, disordered thinking… and I could not be part of a program, part of a company, that fed upon that level of shame and self-loathing to prop up its business model and make money.

I quit. And I went to retrieve my red-faced, happy kids from recess.

Fit Friday: All Shook Up (part 4 in series)

Content note: body image, body shame, disordered eating, diet & exercise

Purpose: This series has been a long time percolating in my mind. It has taken me a year to decide to write. The writing process has taken days. I think this will become an important resource for future #FitFriday posts as I continue to examine the messages students of all ages internalize about women, diet, nutrition, and fitness, and how it can severely and negatively influence their lives indefinitely.

In which I expound on why I quit Beachbody’s 21-Day Fix program (because it perpetuates disordered thinking and unattainable, unsustainable ideals)

Click here for Reason 1: Untrained Personnel & Reason 2: Migraines
Click here for Reason 3: The Food
Click here for Reason 4: Make-Me-Hate-Myself Workouts

Reason 5: Shake it off

Shakeology. Shakeology? Shakeology! Known colloquially as “Shakeo” (or at least in my support groups it was), Shakeology® is Beachbody’s proprietary shake mix. I learned quickly that if one refers to it as a mere protein powder, the True Believers will quickly correct such a slip of the tongue and remind one that Shakeology is no mere protein powder, it is a Super Food! It is Clinically Proven! It is the Healthiest Meal of the Day!

Beachbody is a Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) company, and they generate a lot of their revenue from Shakeology. Customers buy a workout program once; but Shakeology is a consumable product and must be purchased over and over again. A one-month supply is $130. That’s $4 per serving. For a scoop of powder.

Most of us in the 21-Day Fix unofficial support group had trouble eating the requisite amount of protein (remember how hard it was for me to eat my “four Reds” every day?). One scoop of Shakeology counted as a Red; it took two scoops of plain-old protein powders to equal the power of Shakeology! Many people in the support group lamented the cost of Shakeology and asked for alternatives. I was using Sunwarrior Vegan Chocolate which cost me roughly $1/serving because I had free shipping from Amazon Prime. I shared this in as many threads as possible because I wanted to help people save money and still be successful in their health journeys.

I got yelled at. A lot.

A lot of the “coaches” watched those threads like hawks and put a lot of pressure on these women who questioned the importance of Shakeology to the overall structure of the 21-Day Fix program. Most of the pressure relied on one of the following well-rehearsed and repetitive sales lines:

  • Four dollars is not that expensive. Just give up your daily Starbucks. Your health deserves it and will thank you for it. (I would like to point out the inherent class privilege and health shaming here of assuming that everyone drank daily Starbucks and could always afford what their health “deserves.” I had to save up for 2 months to afford the half-price 21-Day Fix.)
  • This is a Beachbody group and you should NOT be advertising for other brands of shakes! (It was an unofficial group that wasn’t affiliated with Beachbody; some of the groups were recipe sharing groups and we were sharing shake recipes, technically.)
  • You cannot compare plain protein powders to Shakeo! It is clinically proven and contains superfoods! (I would like to direct you to this thorough and well-researched take-down of those claims by Pharmadaddy. Also, there is no such thing as a superfood).
  • Four dollars is totally worth it because Shakeology is full of superfoods and [insert other claims made by company here]. It’s much higher quality than anything you can buy in a store. (Bollocks).
  • Get three people to sign up under you and Shakeology is free! (This is how MLM companies make their money: building your down-line. The reason Shakeology is so expensive has nothing to do with the quality of the product and everything to do with making sure the upline can make a profit after accounting for all the discounts and commissions for everyone else. Does no one remember Amway??)
  • I cannot live without my Shakeology! If I miss it for even a day or two, my digestive system is all out of whack and I feel unhealthy and depressed and fat and [insert additional health-fear adjectives]! (Wow. If the only thing keeping your pooper pooping is an overpriced shake, you might not be eating enough vegetables. If you are so caught up in the Cult of Shakeology that missing your shake for a day or two causes you actual anxiety, you might have too much wrapped up in your shake.

Here’s the reason Shakeology is really almost necessary for long-term success for long-term Beachbody clients: in a state of chronic calorie cutting, it is incredibly difficult to get enough vital nutrients for the body to maintain and repair itself. With macro-ratios like we were eating, there was almost no way I could get the whole-grain fiber I usually ate. Shakeology provides vitamins, minerals, and the poo-poo help that provide the illusion of health and vitality while you’re losing up to double the recommended maximum number of pounds in a week.

The Alternative:

In the anti-diet, pro-moderation group this week, someone asked specifically about Shakeology, and then about shakes in general. The moderators replied with a simple statement: We do not advocate for the use of meal-replacement shakes unless under the direction of your personal doctor.

It seems that simple to me: Shakeology cannot be the healthiest meal of the day because it is not a meal. It’s a shake.

I have made it a priority for my students to see me eat. I cannot eat a lot of the same things they can: I’m a lactose-intolerant vegetarian who has food-triggered migraines. But they see me eat real food. Often. Every day. And even when I was on the 21-Day Fix, they never saw me drink a shake as a meal replacement. I brought a couple smoothies to school a few times, but I talked about all the foods I put in it: banana, peanut butter, soy milk, kale, Greek yogurt. I wasn’t replacing a meal so much as making it easier to consume on my commute. But watching me pour a scoop of powder into some water and drink that for lunch? I don’t think I could do that and then tell them how important it is to eat a variety of colorful foods. And I don’t want to turn my disordered history into their futures.