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: 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: I am Not Broken (part 3 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 Reasons 1 & 2
Click here for Reason 3

Reason 4: The Make-Me-Hate-Myself Workouts

The first part of Reason 4 is connects back to Reason 1: Untrained Personnel. The workouts were high-intensity intervals. The risk with any DVD program is the lack of feedback on form. It is quite easy to do a squat or a lunge improperly; it becomes easier when one is fatigued from doing multiple intervals of challenging, high-intensity reps. This is not a problem unique to this BeachBody program, or to BeachBody workouts. However, the proliferation of their brand of extreme fitness–Insanity, P90X, etc.–and the risk of injury or long-term physical damage from improper form on high-intensity intervals is concerning. And with no rest days, the body has no time to repair itself.

My second concern was the lack of body diversity shown in the videos and the objectification of women’s bodies. The workout videos showed people who were already fit doing the workouts, with the exception of the woman demonstrating the modification. In TV trope language, she was the “token fat friend.” The trainer used different word choices and tone with her. She wore workout clothes that hid the outline of her body, when the other women wore tight and/or cropped clothes that drew attention to their abdominal muscles or upper arms. It’s the opposite of what we see on The Biggest Loser, but it stems from the same place of fat shaming. Former contestant Kai Hibbard has been outspoken about how damaging her time on TBL was, asking in a January article on xoJane, Why wasn’t I allowed to have a shirt instead of just a sports bra until I lost weight? The message is this: It is important what my body looks like, only certain bodies deserve to be looked at, and all other bodies deserve shame.

Most of the people in the “support” group were never going to look like the ripped trainer or the enthusiastic coaches hawking this program all over Facebook. I’m going to cover the specifics of the body shame in another post, but I’ll say right now that not many women in the support group were proud of their bodies, happy with their bodies, or even content with their bodies. They wanted the ripped look, and these workouts promised that. Every person in the videos was ripped and toned and sexy, after all. During the third week, the half-hour Hate Myself Workouts became two-a-day Hate Myself Workouts. And there were many who jumped right into their second or third round of the 21-Day Fix without any rest or break in between, often dropping down to a lower calorie bracket to boost their results.

I found the use of gendered language in the DVDs troubling. The trainer in the video, Autumn Calabrese (whose website I will not be linking), ribbed and teased men in the video for using girly weights, even though she previously encouraged others to make modifications as necessary. This is problematic for so. many. reasons. Smaller weights are smaller. That does not make them feminine (and even if it did, feminine does not equal inferior). It just means they weigh less. Using them does not make one more or less feminine or masculine, or inferior or superior; it just means one is using less weight. And sending mixed signals about whether or not it is okay to modify a workout is a subtle form of psychological bullying that may lead to the at-home exerciser to push herself harder than her body is telling her she should.

My final problem with the workouts is right in the title of the program: The 21-Day Fix. I do not need to be fixed because I am not broken. My body is not broken. Telling women their bodies are already beautiful doesn’t make money, but promising 15 pounds in 21 days does. The workouts are called things like Upper Body Fix and Lower Body Fix, playing on the idea that women have “problem areas” that we are always trying to mask or fix, and perpetuating the myth of “spot reduction.” And because the workouts were so varied and all over the place (thanks to BeachBody’s company-wide obsession with the P90X cornerstone of “muscle confusion”)**, I never felt like I was improving my performance. The only way to track my progress was by tracking my weight and my inches. I hate both of those things. They remind me that as a woman, I am supposed to always be trying to take up less space. And losing weight and inches is not sustainable; at some point my losses will level out. How can I track my progress then? How will I know if I’m taking up a small enough space?

The Alternative:

The anti-diet group celebrates Non-Scale Victories. We take up space. We take pictures of ourselves taking up space. We celebrate ourselves taking up space. We celebrate our bodies doing things.

We exercise. Some of my fellow non-dieters do CrossFit, some cycle, some run. Some birth babies and feed babies and raise babies. I skate and chase children and walk. I used to lift and run. The group is home to thin women and fat women and strong women and anti-fragile women and quite a few men, too. We celebrate how we look, not because we have bikini-model “after” pictures, but because we look amazing and beautiful and strong exactly the way we are today, right now.

Our bodies have outlines that do not need to be hidden. We eat the food. We wear the clothing we want to wear now, not when when we reach our target weight and fit back into our favorite jeans. We take up space, unapologetically. We will no longer be shrinking women. And my #FitFriday wish is that my students take up space now and take up space in the future, loudly and unapologetically.

Lily Myers – “Shrinking Women” (CUPSI 2013)

**I did not link to any articles debunking the claims of “muscle confusion” because they were all on websites with horrible, sexist, objectifying advertising.

¡La tarea de español me enojó anoche!

In addition to my graduate coursework, I am taking Spanish 102 at the local community college. This is my completed homework from last night, practicing comparatives and superlatives:


I can tell my Spanish is improving because I nearly shit myself with frustration at the content of this assignment. I’ll type my best attempt at a translation in just a bit. Please bear in mind that I do better just reading for meaning; even in ASL (with which I have over a decade of experience) I prefer to simply converse and not translate/interpret.

Eugenia Hello, Carolina, you are as thin as your sister. How did you do it?

Carolina Thanks, Eugenia. See, I started eating more vegetables than fat, and I eat smaller portions than you have there. I also go to the gym as often as my sister.

Eugenia I think you look better than her.

Carolina Maybe, because my sister sleeps less than me, and she likes to go dancing until late. And you, why do you not start your diet (or Why don’t you start eating better)?

Eugenia Thanks for your advice. See you.

Carolina See you soon.

Then I got a bit rage-y and vented all over my Facebook timeline. I was Facebook friends with my prof for a couple years before I took the course, so he witnessed my rage and suggested contacting the textbook company.


Another post: Holy Snackwells, is this ever ludicrous! keyboardfacesmash

Now, slightly more contained, here is my breakdown, in English, even though my prof also suggested channeling my anger into a well-constructed Spanish business letter. I prefer to spout my frustrations in my first language, not my third.

  • The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women chronically dieting or trying to lose weight. The first complete sentence after the greeting Hola, is a comment on the Carolina’s weight loss and asking how she did it.
  • The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women comparing themselves to other women. Eugenia compares Carolina to Carolina’s sister, and Carolina does it to herself (refer to FOUR examples in the green text above).
  • The dialogue is based on the stereotype of women judging other women. Caroline says that she eats smaller portions than Eugenia is eating right now, and later asks Eugenia why she doesn’t start eating better.
  • Weight loss is all they talk about. Eugenia asks about her friend’s diet immediately after saying hello. The entire conversation is based on how Carolina looks; not one mention of her health or well-being is mentioned.

Surely we can come up with better ways to practice comparatives and superlatives than to resort to tired stereotypes of women, appearance, and weight loss.

Fit Friday: A Tale of Two Fitties

Content note: food, body shame, exercise, disordered eating, BeachBody, body image

This is not my most clever blog title.

This may, however, be my most in-depth and vulnerable blog post to date. And it’s part of what I anticipate will be a five-part series. So there’s that.

Background: I have a long history of negative body image and disordered eating habits. Thrown into the mix are GERD/IBS, a miscarriage, chronic pelvic pain, a surgery, a divorce, and (more recently) chronic migraines. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with food for most of my life. Roller derby helped me begin conquering the body image demons. Years of counseling and my 12-Step program chipped away at them, too.

Context: I purchased 21-Day Fix, a fitness/meal plan program from BeachBody®, and joined an unofficial Facebook “support” group and two recipe-sharing groups. I quit all of them. I am now part of an anti-diet, pro-moderation support group on Facebook.

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. The introductory post can be found here. 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.

Thus it begins.

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

Reason 1: Untrained Personnel

In the Unofficial BeachBody 21-Day Fix Group, several women were postpartum and still breastfeeding. After calculating their food intake for each day, several of them posed questions to the group about how much to increase their food consumption to compensate for lactation. The two most common responses were, a) Ask your coach! and, ii) Go up to the next calorie level.

Neither of these responses are acceptable if the first priority is the health of the woman asking the question. In BeachBody, the requirement to become a “coach” is a fee. No training, no classes in nutrition or physiology. Nothing to qualify a person to answer a question about proper nutrition for a breastfeeding momma. As for people in the group answering the question–well, none of us had the credentials, either. I was already on my way out of my disordered thinking patterns, which is why a lot of this advice set off my alarm bells. So many of the women in the group (including, and sometimes especially, the coaches) were still firmly locked into disordered and destructive thought patterns. They passed those habits on to other women, under the guise of nutrition advice and coaching. This is not unique to BeachBody, but this is the realm of my experience.

The Alternative:

In the Anti-Diet Group, a woman asked for advice about macronutrient ratios for her post-eating-disorder refeeding. Every single commenter not only declined to answer her question, but also emphasized the importance of her medical team: dietitian, medical doctor, counselor/therapist. Food is important (for babies and mommas, too!), and eating disorders are deadly serious. None of these things should be taken so lightly as to accept the advice of a random person on Facebook.

Reason 2: Migraines

I started my divorce process in August of 2013. I had laparoscopic surgery in October, and the migraines started in December. Prior to that, I had been exercising five days a week and playing roller derby. Once the migraines hit, we had lost our derby practice space and the YMCA held all kinds of emotional baggage for me, so I stopped exercising.

I began the 21-Day Fix in March, thinking that getting back into an exercise routine and eating more reasonable portions would help quell what was at that point only a four month experience with migraines. The program was supposed to last 21 days; I never made it past day 7. I would push myself through the hunger (discussed further in Reason 3) and the Make Me Hate Myself Workouts (discussed in Reason 4). And then I’d get a migraine that would last for a week; I’d keep up the meal plan, but I couldn’t exercise. Frustrated and seeking support, I posted about my constant setbacks in the “support” group. The response?  Oh, it’s just your body detoxing and adjusting to real whole foods! Just keep pushing!  Or It’s your body getting over your addiction to sugar. You’ll be fine in a couple days. If you quit now you’ll always be unhappy and addicted to sugar!

Um, what? The migraines preexisted the BeachBody program. Detoxification is not a thing. I was already a whole-foods vegetarian and had been for seven years; my goal with the meal planning was to retrain my eyes and stomach to normalize smaller portion sizes. Sugar is not an addictive substance. And I was trying to sever the connection between food and un/happiness, not reaffirm it. This was not the kind of support I needed.

The Alternative:

In the Anti-Diet Group, we emphasize self-care. It is not a reward. It is not something we “earn” by eating well enough or exercising enough, it is part of our regular routine and a weekly feature on the page. My self-care involves specific nights set aside to spend time with friends, my 12-Step group, sleeping as much as I want to sleep on the weekends, calling my grammy, and my one trip to the coffee shop each weekend. If I get a migraine, my self-care includes dark rooms, extra sleep and/or extra coffee. I don’t have to power through a diet, or a workout, or even work if it’s a really bad one. I take care of me.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness WeekI grew up in a culture of shame, moralizing about food and exercise, and a profound fear and hatred of fatness. So this week, and for the next several weeks, I hope to deconstruct how I started to recognize that culture in the systems and programs and media around me, and the conscious choice I now make daily toward a different outcome.

I do not engage in body talk…unless it’s to tell you how I came out of disordered thinking and into a place where I do not engage in body talk.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please consult one of the following websites for further information about getting help:

Resource Post: In Preparation for a Fit Friday Series

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness week. As such, this week I will begin a multi-week series on why I quit a BeachBody fitness and diet program, as part of the larger story of bodyfoodhealthstuff, and the alternative approach I have taken since leaving the land of restriction and obsession.

I’ve had to stretch out the series into a series in part because I am not the most concise of writers. I have stretched it out to make sure I give enough attention to the many reasons I found that community to be not just a poor fit for me, but to be actively damaging for me and a number of other women. I have stretched it out because it is hard work digging into some of this. I have stretched it out because this culture of internalized shame, moralizing about food and exercise, and fear of our natural bodies is so deeply ingrained that it takes a careful hand to excise it, and I am not so sure my hand is careful enough.

Below are a number of websites and resources I read and share. I will return to this post to add more resources over the coming months.

  • Beauty Redefined is “all about rethinking our ideas of ‘beautiful’ and ‘healthy’ that we’ve likely learned from for-profit media that thrives off female insecurity.” Their Facebook page and blog are excellent sources for well-researched articles and discussion.
  • Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is the founder of Ottawa’s non-surgical Bariatric Medical Institute – a multi-disciplinary, ethical, evidence-based nutrition and weight management centre. He advocates sustainable changes to diet and sustainable exercise for long-term weight management. He frequently reviews diet books and fad diets and doesn’t pull punches on the ones that offer little more than recipes for disaster. His blog and Facebook are great.
  • Two Facebook pages that take a different angle to sharing fitness articles, especially in regards to the myth that women of size are not healthy women: Fit is a Feminist Issue and Fit and Feminist
  • And the one that started it all for me: Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies. From the blog: “Using our blog, parent community, critically acclaimed book, and online shop we create meaningful change by educating people on media literacy and how marketing, sexualization, gender stereotypes, and body image impact childhood.” The Facebook page is an amazing community for discussion and sharing. This is where I got my mantra Colors are for everyone.