Wednesday, 8 September 2021

#CBR13 Book 34: "Jeg hater å trene (I hate to exercise)" by Brita Zackari

Page count: 160 pages
Rating: 4 stars

It's frankly embarrassing how out of shape I am. At the time back in 2017 when I managed to get pregnant (thanks, modern science, IVF, and years of costly hormone treatments), I was pretty much walking an hour a day, swimming regularly, and occasionally going to various dance-based exercise classes at my local gym. 

Once the embryo that eventually became my son decided to implant and stick around, I got easily tired and out of breath fairly quickly (according to a colleague, this is how she figured out she was expecting her second child - she was suddenly out of breath walking up a hill that normally gave her no difficulties) and by the middle of my second trimester, my over-eager pelvic region made it impossible for me to walk without the aid of crutches for much of the rest of my pregnancy, which ended in a c-section where they removed my by then nearly ten-pound baby (he was by FAR the biggest infant in the maternity ward for the full five days we stayed in hospital), and I lost about 3 litres of blood due to complications (you really don't want to lose that much - even with the extra amount your body's produced to support the pregnancy). 

By the time my son was a toddler and I had more time to myself to possibly think about getting into shape again, Covid-19 arrived in Europe and by mid-March 2020, Norway went into a lockdown unlike anything we'd seen in modern times, not even during the German occupation during World War II. Which led to far too much time spent indoors, learning to make sourdough (I find it's far too faffy for my liking) and baking a LOT. So much baking. That needed to be eaten. No going out at all, for weeks on end. No trips abroad. Just binge-watching, remote schooling, cooking, baking, and eating. By the time the Norwegian government announced that they were opening up society a bit more, and expected students and teachers to go back to school, I had my first real (and extremely unpleasant) panic attack, leading to me being off work part-time for the rest of the school year. The school year of 2020-2021, which was difficult for everyone due to continued Covid-19 measures, was extra challenging for me, as I had a second minor breakdown, and had to spend much of the school year on part-time sick leave while working on reclaiming my mental health.

I know a lot of people go on about how exercise gives you healthy endorphins and it's a great thing to do while battling depression. It's not something I have ever found able to prioritise. By spring of this year, I was however pretty sick of how out of shape and sluggish I had become and based on some positive reviews, I picked up this book from the library, hoping to inspire myself to do SOMETHING to start getting back into shape. 

Brita Zackari is a Swedish ex-model, TV presenter, and the writer of this book - about how she absolutely and utterly hates exercising, how she first started dieting before she was ten, and how diets are the absolute worst thing you can do to your body, but the patriarchy and modern society pretty much brainwash us into thinking we need to be thinner and fitter and that diets are a way to achieve that. As she says in the book, female bodies very rarely get to just exist, without any preconceptions or expectations. The only time she felt exempt from this in her adult life was when she herself was pregnant, and she found it incredibly liberating. Her book is all about learning to love the way you are, no matter what size or age, and to focus on growing strong because while fat-shaming is a terrible thing, women should still aim to be strong and fit in whatever shape they are.

She includes helpful pictures and diagrams of very simple exercises that you can do in your own home if you so choose, or at the gym if that takes your fancy. One of the exercises is literally 15 reps of lie down on your back on the floor. Get up again as fast as you can. She also includes a six-week fitness plan, where week one is literally pack a gym bag if you do have a gym membership and think seriously about going sometime the week after. Also, do one single burpee. That's it, for the whole week. Some of the exercises, she suggests doing with a box of wine, if you don't want to go out and purchase an expensive kettlebell. Which is simple enough that really anyone can do it, and you don't really get to say that she sets unattainable goals.

The whole book is informative, self-deprecating, and very funny. It motivated me to sign up with the student gym again, mainly to get access to a pool whenever I want it (turns out you can totally join as a non-student, you just pay a higher monthly fee - which isn't really that much of a problem once you're no longer an impoverished student, but an honest to goodness adult with a steady income). Since mid-June, I've been swimming twice a week, and I feel a lot better about it. I've also started building my strength a bit, which is very necessary, as my three-and-a-half-year-old is large, energetic, and likes being thrown into the air and carried a lot. 

Judging a book by its cover: The book is full of mostly black-and-white photos of the author herself illustrating the various exercises and moves. While she may be a media personality, she appears very down to earth and I like that she's not made up to the nines, wearing spaceage fabrics or what have you, but just looks tired and sweaty, wearing an old tank top and some shorts.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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