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A Little Catch Up

Hi! Apologies for not blogging lately (and yes I KNOW nobody cares, whatever! ;-) It's just been one of those months where I have like five half written blog posts, plus I joined the gym, plus we are going on vacation in two weeks, excuses excuses!

Anyway I sit here today, not gymming it, on Friday the 13th, with an absolutely grotesque case of pink eye. I seriously look like Quasimodo. (Thanks gym with no germ spray for member use, I so called this, and yes I have written a really perturbed email to said gym). On what planet do they think having employees half heartedly spray the equipment a couple of times a day is sanitary?! I am super annoyed, because I am/was getting into the whole gym thing, but now I am super paranoid about how filthy and gross this one is. I accept that is is vaguely possible I caught it somewhere else, but it seems highly unlikely.

So I can't get in to see the eye doctor until tomorrow - so far I have tried aloe vera gel and green tea compresses, with zero effect.

Anyway this is what I've been up to the past few  weeks, for anyone interested (yes this post is mainly just me procrastinating walking into broad daylight looking like this!):

-Going to see Ryan Adams play in Edinburgh. I'm not going to lie, while the performance itself was amazing, it was my least favourite Ryan Adams show (it was our third time seeing him) for many grumpy old lady shouldn't go to concerts on a Friday night reasons. DRUNK PEOPLE YOU SUCK. And yes I had a couple of glasses of wine before said gig, but I have long passed the stage of being blotto at a concert - like why would you spend £30+ on a concert ticket to not remember any of it? Anyway I'm glad it wasn't my only time seeing him, and hopefully next time I can get seated tickets and bring a blanket and slippers because apparently I can no longer tolerate humanity! ;-)

Kinda blurry, soz. There was a giant flailing drunk man in front of me for the most of the gig so I did the best I could!

-Celebrating my wedding anniversary -16 years whaaaat. Crazy. My wedding was a funny one, it was planned in three weeks, because we were star crossed transatlantic lovers and all of that fun stuff, so basically it was get married or leave town (it is really supercalifragilistic extra hard for Americans to get work visas in the U.K.). My husband and I had known each other for just over a year when we got married, half of which had been long distance. Looking back it seems sort of crazy and whirlwind and I'm sure not many people thought it would last. But we're doing ok so far, knock wood spit spit. :-)

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We went to Rustico for our anniversary meal, they have the BEST calimari!

-Writing numerous to do lists for the holiday. I am an excellent list maker. Actually doing said list in a remotely orderly fashion is another story! The main things I need for the holiday (aside from the obvious meds and such), is a spare swimsuit (or "cossie" as they say here!), and maybe some sandals. And maybe some cropped trousers, because I seem to have accrued several pairs of shorts in the sales which I'm not 100% look remotely decent on me.

I find shorts a real struggle - my legs aren't terrible, although I do have the middle aged podge knee thing going on now, and I'm working on the whole loving myself as is thing, but like, when did shorts get SO short, is it just me that wants some semblance of thigh coverage? Why is it so hard to find cargo shorts that hit the knee (I don't care if they are "mom shorts", they are my safe zone). I hate bermuda shorts, as well, so it's legitimately a fashion quandary, they are nowhere to be found these days. I have a ratty old pair I am hoping to squeeze into.

-Reading the Amy Schumer book "The Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo". It's quite good, a lot more reflective and poignant at times that I had anticipated. I am a sort of medium Amy Schumer fan, I like some of her sketch comedy show very much, but didn't find her latest Netflix special to be that hilarious if I'm honest. But she is a smart and engaging writer, if a tiny bit self congratulatory at times (I know it's probably just her schtick but it's a hard thing to get right in print). But I would definitely recommend the book, it's told from a strong and unashamedly female persepective that is powerful at times, and the sections where she mocks her old journals is pretty hilarious!

-Watching: The Good Place on Netflix. I had seen a couple of episodes in America last year, I am a Kristen Bell fan since Veronica Mars, and this quirky show is both fun and sort of mindless/non taxing. It's about a woman who accidentally gets sent to a heaven-type place, The "Good Place", when she should have been sent to the "Bad Place". It is light yet sort of dark, and I admit I did not see a fairly major twist coming. I am caught up to U.S. pace now, it is super bingeable!

Anyway I have some blog reading/catching up to do - how are things with you?

Body Positivity and Exercise

Hello! So I joined the gym, for real (I had a 7 day pass bundle last month, which I wrote about here). Those first few visits felt like baby steps back into living in the land of gym culture while trying to maintain a body positive/non weight loss driven mind set.

Now that I am going to be seeing the weight loss package posters and other potentially triggering stuff on a regular basis, I do think it’s important to exercise fairly vigilant self-care about keeping my mind free of diet culture and outside pressures to "fix" my imperfectly perfect body ;-).

Much of the body positive attitude to fitness is “do what you love/what gives you joy” type thinking when it comes to movement. Which in a perfect world, yes, I would just dance my little heart out all the time. But I have dodgy knees that need a more pragmatic attitude to rebuild them, so I can hopefully dance more in the future (mostly in the privacy of my living room, but still! ;-)).

I do feel like there is a common misconception that people who are body positive don’t work out. I know when I did a Twitter search looking for articles/resources, 99.9% of the results of the word “body positive” combined with “exercise” were derogatory and rude tweets. People are just so dang ignorant and cruel sometimes.

I know that I can exercise several times a week and feel stronger and better for it, but unless I have a weight loss or results type “after” photo to show off as “proof of fitness", not many people will cheer me on. At least not with the same unbridled support they direct at people on extreme diets who are dropping pounds and fat shaming their before pictures.  

And it’s not that I’m looking for anyone’s approval, truly, but it does sting a bit sometimes to know that this way of life is not one that has a built in support system of understanding, not in the way that the weight loss and diet industry have conditioned us to blindly worship reducing our size. It means that we have to seek support from other places, if we need it.

So far I am getting a lot of help and feeling a sense of community from Body Image coach Summer Innanen and her Facebook group, Break the Rules: Body Positive and Anti Diet Community (it is a closed group but anyone is welcome to join who is on the body positive/neutral/intuitive eating track, there are many people at different stages of it participating).

What I appreciate most about the intuitive eating/body positive attitude to exercise is that it is completely kindness/self care driven.

So many people begin fitness routines and get sucked into feeling guilty for not exercising hard enough or often enough or having enough to show for their efforts. Which for me personally, now sounds crazy demotivating. How does beating yourself up/only rewarding yourself for losing weight or inches ever end in anything but eventual frustration and disappointment?

But who can blame us, it's all we know/are taught. Most “fitspo” revolves around NOT respecting or listening to your body in most cases, i.e. “Exercise even if you feel like sh*t, you will feel so much better about yourself after you work out”/no pain no gain nonsense.

I’m not disputing that sometimes you can feel better after exercise, of course you can, but listening to our bodies seems to be something we are encouraged to forget about.

Most everything to do with mainstream fitness motivation is geared at the outside. The “looking good will make us feel good” type fitspo I find particularly sneaky, because what, we cannot feel good about ourselves unless we fit a certain societally prescribed weight limit or size?!

I have mentioned Body Positive Memes before, but truly check out this Instagram and Facebook page by Michelle Elman if you find traditional fitspo frustrating or demotivating. She is great at turning it on its head with humour, showing how insidiously harmful to our self-worth so much of it can be.

I don’t know if it was a conscious decision or also laziness(!), but for whatever reason I went through a phase of not wanting to exercise much over the past few months, despite having a relatively fun run with exercise last year with my Monday Motivation series.

I think, looking back on it, maybe I was letting go of residual feelings of disappointment that exercise and vague calorie counting didn’t magic away the pounds. If I’m being 100% honest with myself some part of me did still hope to lose weight "accidentally". But at the same time I luckily discovered body positivity when I was beginning to feel a bit negative about my "failure" to lose weight once more (thanks universe!), not to get all hippy dippy on you!

It can be very hard to not treat exercise as a weapon or punishment for food consumed. Even now, for me it is hard not to compile the calories burned at the gym with the calories I might be consuming in my brain, because they are on the displays of most machines. 

It’s why they don’t actively encourage women who are recently coming out of eating disorders to pursue exercise when they are first committing to body positivity and/or intuitive eating/health at any size (so many descriptors, I know!). 

Last week I accidentally started rowing on a machine setting that didn’t display the calories, and it truly felt like a relief (now I just have to figure out how to find that setting on purpose!).

I also felt a bit weird when a young woman weighed herself in the locker room and the machine was saying “This is your fat percentage” – it didn’t say it out loud but you know, just being aware there was a machine that did that did make me remember how crappy everyone felt in high school when the gym teacher would publicly pinch our fat to get our BMI, which is widely dismissed by many nutritionists now anyway!

I thought about how at most times in my life I would have had an urge to get on the scale myself and see what it had to say about my weight and fat percentage, and how much that no doubt would have depressed me and ruined my post workout mood. And I felt genuinely no urge to do that to myself, which was pretty cool and liberating.

So yeah, that’s about it, I guess I just wanted to say that you can TOTALLY be body positive/anti-diet and still exercise if you feel like it, maybe most people know that but I admit when I first got into body positivity it was something I wasn’t sure about myself.

I do think it is important to approach this from a place of feeling relatively secure in your own skin if possible, which I know, can be daunting, much of what we read and hear from body positivity is about the awesome, feel good "after" stage of self acceptance. We are all still going to have bad days, we all have to start somewhere.

For me personally, having plenty of body positive and intuitive eating reading material and other (mainly online) support is essential to maintaining my feelings of self acceptance. I have cleared my social media of most everything that does not help me - apologies clean eaters and dieters, but I have to protect my own mental health above all else with this thing.

I would love to hear if you have had any experience of exercising without dieting, if you are interested in it yourself here are a few links that I found super helpful! :-)

-Christy Harrison: Food Psych podcast #82:  Intuitive Exercise & Overcoming Deprivation
(ok I admit I haven't listened to this one yet, but every Christy Harrison podcast I have listened to has been amazing, this one is next on my list!).

-Malinda Diel (txshortcake): There are lots of awesome plus sized yogis to choose from on Instagram - but I'll be honest, just as with thin yogis, I find a lot of their feeds daunting/impossible seeming. Diel describes herself as a beginner yogi but she has lots of daily, accessible seeming postures. I find her pictures inspiring and (in theory!) achievable.

-Michelle Elman: How to Get Started in the Gym: Body Positive Exercise: 10 minute video from the always cheerful and sassy Michelle (of aforementioned Body Positive Memes) - I really like what she says about "exercise until you get bored" - because I have naturally been doing this lately, before I even watched this, so I guess I am on the right track!

Thanks for reading!