Welcome to Progressive Strength! An “Intraview”

An interview is someone asking questions of someone else, so I’m gonna call this an intraview–me asking questions of myself, as a means to introduce myself to you, my fabulous reader!

Progressive Strength (PG): Let’s start with the basics. Who are you and why did you start writing this blog?

Me: My name is Marjorie, and I’m a recreational bodybuilder, science and health educator, and an avid consumer of evidence-based health and fitness content. I began the blog as a way to share the content that I find valuable, to create community and conversation, and to bounce ideas off of like-minded folks.

I’m an American, and I also see my country and culture leading by an especially bad example in the world these days–anti-science, fascism and bigotry, a pendulum swing away from the progress we’ve made towards acknowledging and beginning the hard work of taking ownership of racism and privilege. There are analogs to each of these dangerous mindsets in the world of health and fitness, and I wanted a place to draw those connections.

PG: But it’s more personal than that to you, isn’t it?

M: Yes. I am a queer woman. Honestly, I’m not sure what the best fit for gender labels are for me, but the world perceives me and treats me as a woman, and I’m not uncomfortable with she/her pronouns. However, getting into lifting has been an important step towards taking ownership of my body and how I want to show up in the world. I consider myself a bodybuilder because I lift with the long-term desire of building a more balanced, muscular physique. Don’t get me wrong, I get a lot of immediate rewards from it, too, but that’s not why I got started, and it’s not the “goal.”

In any case, we’re witnessing a real backlash against queer and trans folks in our society these days, and I feel personally under attack. I also can feel deeply lonely and isolated in gym and fitness cultures. Women are a minority, and then there’s an element of women’s fitness culture that seems to hypersexualize and gender building their physiques–all glutes and narrow waists, seemingly to look more like pin-up models. I don’t relate to that image of a strong woman. I don’t mind it for others if it’s true to themselves, but it’s not me. So, I write from that perspective, and I’m curious about how fitness, especially lifting, is so deeply gendered for so many of us.

PG: What are other themes in your writing?

M: I’m interested in effective training, these days especially in how little I can do and still see progress! Life is busy, and I have some physical barriers that create a need for me to respect my personal limits. I write about working around those physical challenges and mental health challenges, including PTSD and depression, as well. I’m learning to understand the implicit ableism in fitness culture by learning to reinterpret my own limits and possibilities.

I’m always interested in healthy physique management–what most folks would call sustainable fat loss, but since I want to build muscle, too, that’s not really the whole picture. But I’m someone who has lost and maintained a pretty significant fat loss for most of a decade now, so I know there are healthy, sustainable ways to change the shapes and sizes of our bodies. I also know that there are very real limits to those changes, and I’m interested in how we learn to manage our own expectations so we can stay healthful in our mindsets as we set realistic goals.

PG: So, what’s missing in the evidence-based fitness community?

M: There’s two perspectives I’d love to hear from more often. First, I’d like for someone to begin gathering oral histories from women and queer folk about our experiences in and contributions to the world of lifting. I want the dudes at Iron Culture to begin talking to these kinds of folks to share their experiences. Alan Thrall has hinted at some interest in sharing women’s perspectives more, too. I’d be over-the-moon for Dr. Conor Heffernan to talk at length about what we already know about those histories. Honestly, bodybuilding in particular seems so gay to me–I’d love to even just see a survey of the community to know if queer folk are disproportionately represented. And we need more voices with more diversity sharing a more complete picture of who is out there doing the damn thing.

Secondly, I want the evidence-based fat loss/emotional eating and nutrition coaching crowd to sit down and collaborate with the bodybuilding crowd to see what they can learn from each other. Mostly, I think the bodybuilders could learn a thing or two from the nutrition coaches. I don’t think they realize what a select crowd they are, and it means they give advice to the masses as if we all think like bodybuilders. I think their advice would be healthier for more people if they could learn about the mindset and habit-based strategies most of us benefit from in order to more healthfully regulate our eating. For most of us, it’s not enough to have a plan what to eat, we need to learn how to manage uncomfortable emotions and feelings without regularly falling back on food, among other skills.

PG: Anything else you want people to know as they peruse the blog?

M: I would be so stoked if folks began commenting on the posts more often, asking questions, exploring ideas. I’m not interested in becoming a guru or a “sage on the stage!” I learn from talking about these ideas with others, and I’m ok with folks politely disagreeing with me. That doesn’t mean I won’t tell you when I think you’re wrong, but I won’t be an ass about it. Also, if there’s folks you think I should be highlighting, content you found really great and think I should take a look or listen to, I’d love to hear about it, especially if they’re from an underrepresented population. I’m always trying to increase the voices I listen to and highlight here. Finally, if you know someone you think would like something I’ve written, please share it out! I’m looking to create some community and connection, and the more the merrier!

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