Good colourful food I receive every week with Oddbox.

My 90 day plan with The Body Coach.

How a lifestyle choice improved my mental health and reduced my gender dysphoria.

And so it ends. The 90 day plan with The Body Coach is saluting me after three months. This is the first time in my entire life that I committed to a program and actually completed it. Joe Wicks already has one big victory for being able to inspire me and to get me to follow through with the plan. The excitement is real as I find myself giving an air high-five and shouting “YES!” in the middle of my living room as if I just cut the finishing line of the Self-Love Olympics Games.

Joe Wicks’s program is not just a diet and it’s not just a fitness plan, it’s much more than that.

With this plan, you’ll understand how moving your body is actually linked to your mental wellbeing. Yes, the endorphins’ boost is real and you’ll soon start craving it. This plan is an invitation to listen to your body and start taking care of it, nourishing it, achieving your goals the way it feels right for you. This program will teach you how to take care of yourself with exercise and healthy food while honouring your strengths and your limits. Finally, this plan has been a great way for me to manage my anxiety as well as a way to reduce gender dysphoria and improve the complex relationship I have always had with my body.

2020. Nothing else to add. For the first time in a long time, I actually stopped and had time to look inwards. The glittering London never-ending funfair was over. No more “I am too busy to exercise”, “I don’t have time to cook”, “I need to be in five different places at the same time because #FOMO”, or “Oh, I love you London, and the zillionth pop-up experience in Hackney I never imagined of and how can I live if I don’t try it”. All gone. After four and a half years of tirelessly trying to surf the London wave, rather than being swept up by it, I was able to stop because the world was stopping.

At first, my anxiety kicked in with great splendour, together with its best friends: hypochondria and depression. Over time it took its toll and I could no longer control my thoughts, which led to continual panic attacks which eventually became the norm.

When I had started to dedicate some paranoia time to actually listening to some thoughts in my head, I started to feel a few things in my heart which I had successfully shut down for most of my life, one of these being my non binary identity. In July I came out publicly, within my workplace and the wider group of friends, and damn it felt good! Saying it out loud allowed me to embrace the real me and I also started to name and recognise struggles I had never been able to define, amongst which my gender dysphoria.

I would spend hours looking myself in the mirror, and not recognising what I was seeing. My identity felt trapped in a female presenting body that was showing some characteristics which made me feel uncomfortable, incongruent, angry, and wrapped in self-loath. My chest and my pronounced hips triggered most of my dysphoria. I could not find an expression for my true sense of self. As a result, I started not caring about my body anymore and started mistreating it greatly with a sedentary lifestyle and bad eating habits. I would then peck at its picture in the mirror every so often before covering it up with clothes too big to hide myself in.

Then, I stumbled upon The Body Coach. I read about the program and looked at all the stories of people who tried it, and I thought maybe that was the one thing that could have helped me navigate the situation. Not only did it seem to have a lot of benefits for both your body and mind, but it also showed many positive narratives as well as pictures of delicious food. Overall, I still felt very skeptical, but it seemed like a new approach to self-care that I was willing to try. It felt that exercise may help reduce my dysphoria and align my identity to my own gender expression. Additionally, it would give me the opportunity to focus my attention on something I was in control of, and that may have been able to make me feel accomplished.

And so I started, mid September. It was hard, it was challenging and overwhelming, but I quickly started to enjoy this new experience. Joe’s workouts felt right, the food was delicious, and I was feeling better mentally. The day I submitted the results of the first Cycle I had a proper boost. I was actually making time to take care of myself, and this was showing amazing results both in my mind and my body. When I finished Cycle 2, I could look at my body and feel it less wrong than it ever felt beyond puberty. My hips weren’t as feminine as they used to be, and wearing a sports bra was enough to flatten my chest and manage my dysphoria. My shoulders and my back were more defined, my posture improved, and leading a healthier lifestyle also improved my hypochondria. And as I was not dwelling into the heavy depression induced by my dysphoria, my mood and approach to life got better and better.

This is why I think that Joe Wicks is doing something that goes well beyond fitness and healthy food. His plan, his workouts, and his attitude really inspire you to take good care of your body and your mind. He isn’t using a one-size-fits-all approach to fitness or trying to force you to conform to unattainable standards as the diet and gym culture has done for years. He invites you to try a new way to approach life, to nourish your body with good food and exercise, to become mentally stronger and to honour our imperfect human nature.

Now, I am thankful for this plan not only as it helped me to realise exercising and diet can really make your life way happier, but also it improved my relationship with my body as a person with gender dysphoria and helped me find my self-confidence again.

I would also like to offer some advice to anyone considering enrolling in this plan, based on what I have learned from my experience and what I wish I knew before starting the plan.

Invest in some gears to support your journey.

Joe Wicks has created a workout plan that you can do anywhere without any more than a mat, a chair, and a set of adjustable dumbbells. However, if you haven’t exercised seriously in a while I would recommend to get:

  • A lower back belt that will support your back as you work on your abs, squats, and lunges. It helped me to feel warmer in this area and to avoid any unwanted strain.
  • Knees Sleeves: I realised 3 weeks into the program that I have not been using my knees as I should have for the past 31 years. I experienced knee pain and instability when I worked out. Knee sleeves will enhance your stability and ease the pain of stiff joints during your exercise.
  • Push-up bars: when I started the plan I could not do a single push up with wide arms and on my knees or a set of mountain climbers. I bought a pair of push-up bars to help me fight frustration as I was strengthening my back and arms. These have been a real morale booster as well as a useful tool to help me get into the best posture for these exercises.
  • Grip fitness gloves with wrist band: in cycle 2, you will begin incorporating dumbbells into your exercise. Gloves will help you to hold the dumbbells with a firm grip, preventing wrist discomfort and hand calluses.
  • If you can, get an adjustable pair of dumbbells that allows you to change weights progressively (e.g. with 0.5/ 1 kg plates). You’ll be surprised how quickly you’re building muscles that are ready to lift a bit more. I had dumbbells with 1.25kg weight plates. They were ok, but not optimal as I only added one per dumbbell, as adding two would have resulted in a weight increase I was unable to tolerate at that point.
  • Good trainers: I still don’t have a good pair of those, but I see how it would have vastly improved my posture during exercise and prevented some pains I felt in my knee. I’m going to follow my own advice now and get a pair as well.

Trust the plan!

You’ll hear this a lot, and you’ll also feel frustrated at times. However, it’s true. Joe and his team really know what they’re doing. But always listen to your body messages: adjust exercises if needed, if portions don’t feel right get in touch with the Support Heroes, and if anything feels painful, always consult your healthcare professional.

Warm Up and Cool Down.

Always take time to stretch your body before exercise and after. Even if it’s hard to find those extra 10 minutes in your workout routine, I promise you won’t regret it. This will help you avoid injuries and make sure you work through this plan with a healthy and energised body.

Don’t feel defeated.

You might be exercising for the first time since a long time, like I was. Don’t get discouraged if you are struggling during the first weeks, if you cannot do some exercises and need to swap them, or if you are forced to do simpler versions of certain exercises. Every single body is different, and it embarks this journey with a unique story and expectations. You do you. Remember that it is a long-term commitment to well-being that will enable you to lead a healthier life. Every day you learn a new thing, which enables you to get stronger, even when it doesn’t look like it. Moreover, you will also get access to a private Facebook group where you can get support and share your experience with others on the plan.

For example, in Cycle 1, I had to hold myself to the wall to do a reverse lunge, or I just could not do a single push up from my knee. Fast forward to Cycle 3, I can do reverse lunges with additional 15kg on me, and can do a dozen push ups maintaining a very good form…but still on my knees, and this is totally fine! I am becoming stronger and more aware of my muscles, and I know that with consistent exercise I will be able to complete full pushups when my body is ready. It takes time, so you need to be patient. Just like with most things in life, there’s no shortcut.

Food is the best part.

Joe created a plan which aims to educate you on eating better, without demonising food. When you open the plan for the first time you’ll feel overwhelmed, and it will feel like you’ll need to give up a lot of time to “prep like a boss”.

There will be time spent preparing and planning your meals, however, in that time you’ll take care of yourself, so it is well spent. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t try to buy all the ingredients at once. Select the recipes that feel right for you (taste, time, affordability) and stick with them as you start a new culinary routine.
  • Don’t forget to create your personal recipes using the Create Your Own Meal functionality. These will be your lifesavers.
  • Try to batch cook as much as you can, and dedicate a couple of hours a couple of days in the week to prepare your meals. This is quite relaxing and I love my future self when I find those Tupperwares in the fridge ready to be warmed up.
  • You may feel bloated during the first week of every cycle. This is normal, don’t panic. Your body is becoming accustomed to the new food. If this is still a concern after a few days, then reach out to the Support Heroes.
  • Yes, you can adapt old recipes to a new cycle. Just double-check the ingredients’ quantity with the Support Heroes first.
  • You’ll feel a lot of social pressure. All of a sudden everyone will remind you how hard it will be to not drink, or to not have all the food you can dream of and actually really hardly have, or “how can you not have a pizza on lockdown?”. First things first, there will be pizza in the plan and Joe, I salute you for this. Secondly, this is not a punishment, or a deprivation. You’re just changing perspective on how you can nourish your body, which kind of food can be a healthier, yet extremely delicious and satisfying alternative. Don’t be discouraged when people around you question your choice. Again, you do you.
  • If you are cooking with someone else, recipes are easy to adapt. My partner was not on the plan, but he loved all my recipes, and he sometimes just pumped them up with a couple more ingredients.

This is not about weight loss.

The combination of exercise and healthy eating will not only change your mindset, it will also teach you how good it feels to take care of yourself. It will make you feel physically and emotionally stronger. At the same time, you will lose some weight, but that is not the point of the plan at all.

This is a long term journey.

Some days you’ll be super motivated, while others you’ll feel highly unmotivated. There will be days of joy, days of sadness, days of anxiety, holidays, and celebrations. You must learn to embrace this variety and not fight it. This plan does not aim to control or avoid any of the above. The purpose of this program is to help you develop a new awareness on how you can live your life focusing on your physical and mental well being. Don’t demonise food, there’s not cheat day, there’s not bad food. There’s you who decided to conduct a healthier lifestyle. I never wanted this to feel like a punishment or a burden. I changed my perspective on exercise and nutrition, I got to know my body, allowing myself to discover it and cherish it every day, beyond the 90 day limit. This is something that hopefully will stay within me moving forward. After the plan you can decide to complete the post-graduation cycles or to subscribe to the new Body Coach App (for now available only on Apple devices). I choose the latter and I am already in love with the experience it offers and I can’t wait to enjoy the live workout sessions.

Try a few different combinations of workout and Refuel Meal.

Joe thought about everything, and the plan offers you delicious Refuel Meals (the ones you need to eat after a workout) that are perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner. Try different combinations of workout time and recipes to find the best moment to exercise within your day.

You’ll never regret a workout.

This is another Joe’s mantra, but oh well, it’s so true. Try and make time for yourself and self care is always a good choice, and most of the time, nothing is more important than that. Some days I struggled a lot finding the motivation to even press play or just go through all the circuits. Well, it’s true that every single time, I always felt better than when I started. My mood was lifted as I sweated my anger/sadness/anxiety away.

Why are you doing this?

Understanding why you’re doing this and setting your own goal is fundamental. This is not a competition, a one off shortcut to a more Instagrammable summer life. This is a choice to start knowing more about you and your body, and to conduct a healthier life. After each cycle, look back and realise how eating healthy, moving your body, and generally taking good care of you made you feel. Also, feel proud when every day you choose to take care of yourself.

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Cori Chinnici

Cori Chinnici

They/Them — Music Business Professional, Passionate of LGBTQI+, D&I, Space, Humanities, Literature.