food

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: 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.

Anyway.

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.

Hair (More or Less)

I have a great many follicles. Those follicles produce a prodigious amount of hair. I was born mostly bald, but by the age of three I had thick hair down to my butt.

I have a student whose hair rivals mine in thickness but far surpasses mine in personality and texture. She reminds me of Miyazaki’s Ponyo: she is loud and expressive and loving and mischievous and her hair matches her mood. Also she loves swimming. And ham. Her hair has been long and curly-wavy as long as she’s been in my class, which has now been three years. When she was in first grade, we spent a lot of time using the quiet room and learning how to deescalate; most of our one-on-one rapport-rebuilding time involved me extracting her cochlear implant from her hair, combing her hair, and either braiding it or putting into a ponytail. Like me, she associates tress-TLC with affection, and I applied it liberally. Bus trips returning home from field trips are challenging for her (really, any transition is hard for her), and I still play with her hair to help her stay relaxed and fall asleep. When a child communicates in unique ways, you learn their language as you help them learn the language of the world.

Third-grade Ponyo hasn’t needed the quiet room in two years. Third-grade Ponyo got her hair cut this winter; it was the shortest haircut she’s had since she enrolled here in preschool. It bounced and swooshed and sproinged with every move she made. She looked lighter and brighter with each step. She practically levitated with each step and couldn’t wait to tell me all about her exciting weekend when Auntie cut her hair. Her fingers were flying with the details. KISS-FIST!! she exclaimed. My hair beautiful! My hair fun! I LOVE IT!

This morning, I arrived at the cafeteria to retrieve my class from breakfast and found Ponyo with red eyes and tears streaming down her face. Her jaw was clenched as firmly as the fist holding her hot pink hairbrush. My alarm bells went into overdrive: this was one frustrated and hurting child.

Ponyo is one of our residential students. She lives at school in the cottage during the week and goes home during the weekends. Except last weekend the ISDB Adaptive Ski and Snowboard Club went on the final weekend trip, so she hasn’t seen her family since March 8. And she’s been with her school friends since March 9. School friends become like siblings, and they bicker. And starting tomorrow is Spring Break. And transitions are hard. So bottled up inside Ponyo are a lot of feelings: she misses her mom, but she knows she’ll spend ten days home with only rudimentary communication; she’s tired of her friends, but she knows these are the most communicative people in her life right now; she’s learning not to be a bully, but her friends don’t always trust her yet; she’s exhausted and excited.

And this morning, after who knows what precipitating events, Ponyo refused to brush her hair.

When I got to the cafeteria, I got the abbreviated version of events and a to-go container of her breakfast. Ponyo refused to brush her hair and left the cottage–that is in violation of the morning rules. She was not permitted to eat until she brushed her hair. As she had not brushed her hair, she had stood in the cafeteria gripping her brush for 30 minutes while her friends ate. She refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance, refused to look at any teachers or paraprofessionals in the eye, and now it was time for her 8 a.m. speech therapy session.**

Today the only power Ponyo had was the power to not brush her hair. None of this was about the hair. None of this is about the cottage aide that issued the false choice of do-hair-or-no-breakfast, either.

It’s about the system that told me that fixing her hair after a “blowout” in first grade was denying her the “natural consequences” of her behaviors. The system that labels a child “defiant” instead of “hurting.” The system that invades her personal boundaries to tell her to be respectful to adults. The system that uses or withholds food as part of the behavior management system.

That system is wrong.

It is ableist and dehumanizing to assert that my students can only respond to a reward-and-punishment style of discipline.  They can handle real conversations about expectations and behavior. To insist otherwise is insulting to their intelligence and their humanity.

It compounds the dehumanization to extend consequences beyond the immediate time frame of the behavior; my student will not walk around with unkempt hair all afternoon because she misbehaved in the morning. Teachers are not bullies.

It is harmful to ignore the whole child and focus only on behaviors. All behavior is communication; we need to listen to what our kids are trying to tell us.

It is invasive and hypocritical to disrespect a child in order to teach respect. It’s like striking a child to teach him that hitting is wrong. Or shouting, Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!

It is unhealthy to use food as a bribe or reward; it is unhealthy to withhold or delay food as part of a punishment.

Ponyo felt awful all day. She cried at least half a dozen times. Was brushing her hair worth disrupting her learning today? Was it worth a recess where she refused to go outside because, Heart sad cry?

It’s a complicated issue, all wrapped up in her bouncy, swooshy KISS-FIST hair. Food as punishment. Cult of Compliance. The gendered implications of If you don’t brush your hair, it will look messy all day, as though messy hair supersedes her need to transition home smoothly, feel success in math, and read her favorite graphic novel.

gif animation: Ponyo (as a fish) gnaws on a piece of ham.

gif animation: Ponyo (as a fish) gnaws on a piece of ham.

**The speech therapist was amazing this morning. She always uses a calm voice and clear signing with my kids, provides clear choices and follows through. When Ponyo came back at 8:30, she was doing much better. Another aide saw us in the hallway later having some special teacher-and-Ponyo time and stopped to ask about her My Little Pony shirt, which brightened her spirits right away. There are a lot of positive supports built into our school. There’s a lot that needs work, though, too.

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.