I wrote Exercising Like a Girl back in early February, about starting out on a feminist and feminine self-care gym routine.
I’ve been at this for about 6 months now, so this is checking in, and also sharing some other awesome blog posts on the topic which you might appreciate too.
The caveats of the last post probably need reiterating: Warning: Today I’m going to talk about going to the gym and femininity. Moreover, I’m going to talk about my personal, embodied experience. I’m a feminine, cis-gendered woman, with an hourglass figure (when I have a figure). There’s stuff about lady bodies and makeup and sweat. I struggled to find a post that spoke to me in a helpful way about my body, and my experience, so I know this isn’t going to help everyone, but it might help some of you in your self-care journeys!
Where other people are at:
Here is Fat Girl Learning Curve on Satiety, the BS of “Eat Less”, and Why I Couldn’t Get Full, an awesome post on how eating actually works.
Trying simply to eat less without restructuring what we Americans tend to think of as a well-balanced meal backfired for me for a long time. A lot of what we eat are the things that are designed to make us want to eat more (with little care as to whether this is good for us). Fighting your biology isn’t an option; even if you perfectly portion out your spaghetti and you don’t initially overeat, and even if you switch from cola to natural fresh-squeezed vitamin-filled juice, the underlying issues with satiety and blood sugar remain to undo our efforts. The spiky blood sugar will have you running back to the kitchen no matter how resolute you are.
Here is Anne Helen Peterson on how Hot Yoga Changed My Life, Body, and Spirit Animal:
Before yoga, I exercised not because I liked it but because I thought I needed it. I liked to run, sure, but most of the time I went to the gym because I felt that an hour on the elliptical was necessary just to maintain my figure. In other words: me and exercise were in a shitty relationship. There was a fair amount of begrudging and boredom, and a dearth of gratifying results.
And here is Adeline Koh on Skincare as Feminist Selfcare:
I’ve started to see skincare as emblematic of this feminist self-care. Beauty and skincare is not frivolous, silly and vain. As Salli Hughes says, “appearance is a crucial part of our identities; grooming is a form of self-care that allows us to feel like ourselves when our worlds become unrecognisable.” Beauty is not an artificial, fake “layer” which we use to lie and hide from the world; beauty facilitates the way we think of ourselves, how we present ourselves to others, how we interact with one another. While Beauty isn’t extrinsic to our humanness, it is integral to it.
Georgie at the Mecca Cosmetica in Myer, Melbourne says:
Bare Minerals primer is fine if you have dry skin, but if you have oily skin, go for Nars instead.
Where I’m at:
- My muscles are stronger, my back isn’t hurting as much, I’m getting sick less often, I sleep a bit better, and my shoulders are less tense.
- I’m not getting that much smaller, but I am continuing to get stronger. And my size is turning from flab, bloat, cramp and water-retention, into muscle.
- My job is actually physically hard. I race up and down 3 flights of stairs, across the college green, across campus, carrying heavy books. It’s not particularly balanced excercise, but it’s tiring and that affects what I can achieve in the gym. That’s okay, it’s not about the gym, it’s about the whole of my life.
- I’ve cancelled my trip to the gym 3 times since I last posted, each time for really good reasons (like I’d had less than 6 hours sleep, or I was too sick to go to work). Each time, after a couple of days, my muscles really really hurt in the bad old way. I’ve finally reached that tipping point where it hurts more to stay away from the gym than to go.
- For that reason, I’ve revised my original plan to cut down on the gym in semester time–I’m still going twice a week mostly. This is a good life choice.
- New programs really hurt. Never as bad as those first months, and not as bad as the back pain that comes back when I miss the gym, but they still hurt. I still have to remember to be kind to myself for 48 hours.
- Most people think it’s totally legit to go to the gym instead of working longer hours. As a form of socially acceptable self-care, the gym is probably the most effective strategy.
- Slow progress is fine. It’s not about striding into a gym and picking up weights as big as my head. It’s about making that step over a few visits from 10 reps to 12. And then up to 15. It’s about going from 1kg weights to 2kg. I don’t have to be good at gym, I just have to be a tiny bit better than I was last month. And the reason I need to keep getting better is not because there is an ideal end point, but because you need to keep making an effort for your muscles to work, for it to be a work out.
I hope this keeps you going, as you go towards being well and being whole. Keep up the good work, you are doing so well and I’m so proud of you!