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Calling all Brits: Get Off That Rollercoaster!

October 5, 2013

Weight LossFat HealthExerciseMy Boring-Ass LifeFat NewsWeight Loss SurgeryDickweedDiet Talk

Trigger warning: Discussion of rebelling against fat camp.

I want to tell you about my dream and how it came into being.

A couple of years ago, after a lifetime of dieting, weight cycling, and self-loathing, I accidentally discovered Health At Every Size® (HAES). It was a revelation and turned my life upside down. I promised myself I would never diet again and would start taking care of my body in a way that honoured it rather than punished it for being the way it was. At the time, I was due to attend a Fitness Camp (“not a boot camp” according to their bumf). At the time I’d booked it, I have to admit, what attracted me was the promise of large amounts of weight loss. So now I had a dilemma.

But I decided, hey, I’ve paid, it’s not a boot camp, it’s a fitness camp, they promise lots of different types of activities. I’ll go along and try and rediscover my joy of movement. Seemed reasonable.

It was horrific. They treated me like dirt. After my first 6:30 a.m. circuit class, I decided I hated circuits and I would never do them again. Ever. Let alone at 6:30 in the morning. I would never again do anything that I didn’t enjoy. And I’d find something else to do instead. This didn’t go down well.

An old ankle injury flared up the first day — Achilles tendonitis. I was in pain. We went for a hike; a several hour long hike around a reservoir, so once you started you couldn’t stop. I was limping and in pain, bringing up the rear. The member of staff who was supposed to be the rear marker got fed up with going so slowly and left me to my own devices. It was a boiling hot day and I just had to plod on. By the time I reached the end, I was limping badly and in tears. The staff member was there. “See,” he said, “you did it!!!”  “And proved what?” I replied. “That I can walk for two and a half hours on a damaged ankle?” He glowered and ignored me after that.

I nearly left after the first day, despite all the money I’d paid. I drove down the hill to where I could get phone reception and called my husband in tears. And then I popped across to the garage and bought a bunch of chocolate, eating it in my car. “Ha! That’ll show them,” was going through my brain.

But my housemates persuaded me to stay, and I made a decision that from that point on it would be on my terms. I ate the food provided (which was very good), but I supplemented it with fruit and nuts and seeds in our shared room. If I wanted something when we were off-site, I’d have it. One day they were doing something I didn’t want to do, so I found a local council gym that had a climbing wall and went for a climbing lesson instead. They just brushed me off like I was an irritating insect — no interest, let alone any kudos. It was early, so I went to a cafe and had scrambled eggs on toast with orange juice. And coffee. CARBS. CAFFEINE.

Once I stopped paying any attention to them at all unless it suited me, I had a great time. By the end of the week, I had knocked three minutes off my one-mile walk/jog time, more than doubled the number of crunches I could do, and nearly tripled the length of time I could hold a plank position. Come weigh-in day, I actually lost six pounds, despite the eggs on toast and the ice cream that day we went to the stately home (shhhh). But no “Well done”s. Not even a grunt.

Even so, looking at the big picture, it was money well spent for a few reasons. First, it helped focus my mind on how I could honour my body. I had a week away from it all to think about what worked for me, what didn’t, and to learn how to stand up for myself when it came to my well-being. Second, my very active gym-bunny roommate became a permanent friend, and has since moved a little into the HAES camp at least, and no longer worries about her weight, let alone contemplates weight loss surgery (something she had been considering before). But most importantly, because it set me on the path of what I wanted to do with my life at 43 years old, I finally figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

All through that week I kept thinking, there has to be another way. There has to be a market for people like me who want to improve their health and feel better about themselves, but who don’t want to be treated like this. I was a qualified personal trainer, although I wasn’t working as one at the time (or since) and had just about completed my masters degree (OK, so it was in Weight Management), so I had a lot of knowledge. And that’s when I came up with the ideas of the HAES Retreat, a one-week wellness programme covering the background knowledge and all the stuff you’ll need to stand up for yourself to your doctor, your partner, or your mother. I wanted to create a HAES Retreat as an introduction to eating intuitively, an introduction to body acceptance, including dozens and dozens of different types of activities, all of which would be completely optional. I’d get a stylist in and a shopping trip. I’d get make-up artists and a photographer for the last day. No more hiding our light under a bushel. I would help my clients live out loud. And Never Diet Again UK was born.

That was two years ago. The retreats haven’t materialised yet, for a number of reasons, although that’s still what I want to do ultimately. It’s a lot more work than most of my other options, but it’s my dream and one day I’ll make it a reality.

Break the CycleIn the meantime, I created a series of one-day workshops. The workshops would cover the same things as the retreat (HAES, intuitive eating, and body image) although not in as much depth. On the plus side, it would be easier to run and more accessible to a lot of people. If you live in the UK, you’re in luck. I will be running my first workshop at the end of this month in Manchester. I would love to see you there. It’s called “Break the cycle: get off the dieting rollercoaster once and for all.” If you’re interested, you can read more about the day and buy tickets at the website. And if you click the link from this page, you’ll also be helping to support Fierce Fatties.

Never Diet Again Sigs

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2013 10:24 pm

    There’s a place like that in Vermont that I would love to visit if it didn’t cost a fortune, Green Mountain at Fox Run http://www.fitwoman.com

    Best of luck!

    • October 6, 2013 9:58 am

      I’m actually going there in December for some HAES training. Can’t wait. And thanks 🙂

  2. October 6, 2013 12:58 am

    I think you handled the situation with much more grace than I would have. I either would have left the first day, or stayed and been the biggest a-hole on the planet.

    • October 6, 2013 9:59 am

      I’m pretty sure that’s how they viewed me any way. They clearly weren’t used to anybody questioning their methods or refusing to do what they were told. The number of injuries that week was ridiculous.

  3. Dizzyd permalink
    October 6, 2013 7:20 pm

    Cie – I’m with you! NDAUK – you were brave to go through that! I wish I lived in the UK to go to your workshop. (My hubby wants to come to the UK cuz he loves all the royalty and castles and stuff!) Too bad we can’t figure out a way to get over there! And what you said in your last post – seriously, there were all these injuries and they weren’t concerned? What a bunch of idiots!!!

    • October 8, 2013 3:57 am

      What upset me even more than the idiots running the place was that the participants didn’t have enough faith in themselves to stand up to it. They had concerns but subsumed their instincts to the experts. The ones who were there to lose weight no doubt felt they deserved this, but there were slim people there who were more interested in improving their fitness. Actually, they sustained the majority of the injuries. Very sad.
      Where are you based Dizzyd?

  4. fatactivist permalink
    October 6, 2013 10:01 pm

    Sadly these types of camps and retreats are almost always very pricey and not doable for many who are interested. Once you get your retreat off the ground and it becomes a reality I’d love to see a fund raising campaign for it, so that a few people who wouldn’t normally be able to afford to attend can. I’d help spread the word! (:

    • October 7, 2013 4:29 pm

      Golda at Body Love Wellness offers scholarships out of profits. I doubt many people would be prepared to pay money so somebody else could go an a for-profit retreat. I think it’d maybe like to pledge to ring-fence X% of income for scholarships. Something to look at nearer the time. It’s a way off yet!

  5. Pyctsi permalink
    October 7, 2013 7:29 pm

    I think a weekend/summer camp for people who want to improve their fitness without worrying about weight would be a great idea, esp. if you could tailor it to be accessible to people with various disabilities.

    Manchester is a little too far for me to travel, but I hope everything goes well for you.

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