Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Change Stations Now!*

I am incredibly lazy. I hate exercise, I really do.  My idea of exercise is raising a glass, lifting an eyebrow, or running late.  But there comes a time when even the laziest of us have to admit it is time to get moving.

When my son left to live with his father last year, I found myself with extra time on my hands (as well as devastated of course).  My counsellor told me I had to find a new routine.  So I started at Curves, near my home, and surprised myself with how much I enjoyed it.  Three times a week, 30 minutes per day, all women, and no mirrors!  Thirty minutes a day is something that even I can do.

A few months after I started, Curves started advertising their Curves Complete program which involves a diet and exercise plan for 90 days.  I had a look into it and thought it looked like something I could do. It also wasn’t hideously expensive (just under $200) so that was an added incentive.

So I signed on and started.  Now, I have done a lot of diets in my life - up down, up down, classic yo-yo dieter - I have done everything from having had a dodgy doctor in the city in the 80s inject my bum full of who knows what, to the classic Weight Watchers diet (and associated public humiliation of in-front-of-everyone weigh-ins and the odious meetings), as well as trying every fad from the Israeli Army Diet to the dreaded soup diet (hi mum!), to the CSIRO Low GI diet and of course, Atkins.  Most of them had some benefit but I always felt “on a diet” and self sabotaged.  But to my great surprise, the Curves Complete "diet" was something I was actually able to stick to.  Maybe because it is fairly protein-rich (eggs! lots of eggs! I love eggs! And what’s not to love about peanut butter toast for a snack?!) and a lot of food is involved.  A lot of food .  I feel like I’m always eating!  You go to the gym and do your work out four times a week (except I can never manage to do four but I do do my three workouts each week), wear your pedometer to count your steps (I often forget to do this too!),  And once a week get weighed and talk to one of the consultants about your progress and once a month get measured.  All very non-stressful and easy.

The program online is very interactive, with a well-designed, easy-to-follow plan and website.  You log in each day, check your meal plan (fantastically easy and you can tweak it to very exact specs that suit you) and watch a short video - and it is at this point that I must digress a little and remind you that the Curves franchise is owned by people heavily involved in the Mormon Church in the US (does Mrs Mitt Romney go to Curves I wonder?).  I have no problem with this except when it starts to encroach into areas where religion has no business being, such as diet and exercise.  And unfortunately it encroaches here.  I found myself getting increasingly pissed off with the religious undertones and in a few cases quite blatant tone of some of the videos.  Prayer this, higher power that, even one video commencing with the word prayer in big capital letters across the screen.  Nauseating.  As an atheist, I find this intrusive, not to mention utterly irrelevant and incredibly arrogant (and I wonder how the Muslim women feel about it, and those who subscribe to one of the various other religious flavours?).  I briefly joined the online forum to express my frustration and disappointment and to query why this sort of personal, private religious business was being peddled to the Curves clientele around the world by sneaking it into their program, but it didn’t meet with much support.  Most of the respondents to my post were American women, many of whom seemed to rely quite heavily on the faith aspect of the program.  This is incredibly disappointing because as we know, faith has nothing to do with it, much less some supernatural being taking a personal interest in some woman's weight loss journey (there’s that tremendous egotistical arrogance of religion again!), and it has everything to do with the person themselves so to my mind, they’re giving away their achievements by ‘thanking god’.  For me, every triumph and every disappointment begins and ends solely with ME.  If I achieve my goals, I have done it by myself, with my own strength and purpose.  Likewise, if I slip back, it has nothing to do with anything other than the fact that I am naturally lazy and slacked off.  God’s will be buggered - if I’m a lazy bitch, I’ll own it and likewise, if I do really well, no imaginary being’s going to take credit for it, believe me!

Mainly though I wanted to know why they felt it necessary to include it at all.  I wanted a clear explanation as to what relevance religion could possibly play in a diet and exercise program (but of course I really knew the answer, all religious adherents are charged, indeed are duty-bound, to peddle their brand to everyone any way they can).  Needless to say I did not receive any definite explanation (surprise!), only vague mutterings about the Curves company being known to be religious, blah blah blah.  Or, the advice to "take what you like and leave the rest".  It made me laugh to see one response start with the huffy words “people like you”.

But I did take the advice to ignore what I didn’t like.  I completely and utterly ignored the stupid religious videos, however it actually stopped me watching many of them as it put me off so much (and I wouldn’t be the only one - if they are serious about promoting this program, they really need to look at this).  I would open one in the morning, and the second the presenter started wibbling on about prayer or faith or God or some other bullshit along those lines, I simply closed it.  If I could offer the Curves company any advice, it would be to drop this aspect of their program because it’s exclusionary, presumptive, assuming, arrogant and marginalising.  It starts from the proposition that everyone believes as they do, which of course they do not.  Get rid of this aspect and trust me, you’ll reach and appeal to a much wider audience.

Back in the real world, to my delight I started losing weight and centimetres.  Sometimes quite a lot. I stuck to the program probably 90% of the time, never really feeling like I was dieting, but definitely knowing and feeling that I was making progress.  It’s a wonderful feeling to have people you have not seen for a while see you and exclaim how great you look.

In the 90 days since I started the program I have not done quite as well as I had hoped, mainly because I had a few blowout weekends and some ugly personal stuff which saw me really fall off my wagon, and I take full responsibility for this, but I have managed to lose about 5 kg and quite a few centimetres (awesome result for me) and it shows.  My energy levels are up, I know how easy it is to follow the program when I put my mind to it, and best of all, I have thrown out two pairs of jeans that no longer fit me and recently bought two pairs of size 14 jeans which I did not even have to struggle into.  One pair are actually skinny jeans! Who’d’a thunk it? I have even gone down a bra size.  Not a cup size (they’re still enormous!) but an actual size.

I was never massively overweight, but I was definitely heading up into a weight range quite appalling for my short stature.  I tend to carry my weight all over, so it doesn’t look as bad as it really is, but as I approach the dreaded F word next year (er, that’s 50…shhhh!!)  I knew that I had to start doing something prior to that in before The Big M well and truly sets in.

So I am just about to finish my 90 days.  Apparently there is a phase 3 maintenance phase where your food intake is increased but to be perfectly honest I don’t want to increase it!

I have some short-term goals to get rid of more kilograms: a 50th birthday party in Launceston in mid-July, and a trip to Kuala Lumpur and Borneo in late August.  I know that if I put my attention into it, I can easily shift 4-5 more kilograms by then simply by sticking to the Curves Complete program (sans the religious nonsense of course!).

I have not been paid to write this blog post by the way.  I just wanted to write about a diet and exercise program that has actually worked for me.  It might not work for everybody, but I am really impressed with it.  The women at my local Curves are great (the owner, Melinda, lives, eats, and breathes Curves and is very enthusiastic and approachable, which can make all the difference in a gym environment, especially for those of us who hate the places like a vampire hates the sun) and Isobel, whom I actually knew from years ago when I was involved in theatre - which means we share memories and laugh a lot.  But most of all, to my great surprise, it has become a habit.  If I don’t go three times a week I feel funny and "wrong".  It has definitely done things to my metabolism and my mindset.

At the risk of sounding like I’m spruiking, remember that I am a cynical sceptic by default, so no one is more surprised than I am that I am extolling the benefits of such a program, let alone one run by a company fundamentally based in religion (and I admit that I do have to exercise cognitive dissonance in this case because unlike Gloria Jeans , which has strong ties to happy-clappy Hillsong (you can read more about the Gloria Jeans boycott here) and thus I choose to never to spend money in), I actually really like the Curves program so I try to keep in mind that each franchise is individually owned and that the views of the Mormons (there seems to be an extra M in there…!) at the top are not necessarily those of the franchise owners down here in places like my local Curves.

If you are looking for an exercise and weight loss program, I highly recommend Curves Complete.  You can check the programme out at the website or drop into your local Curves and get shown around.  You really won't regret it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I’m off to the gym!

* the post title is a laugh at the recorded voice that tells you when to move onto the next machine at Curves. You start to hear her in your sleep!