- The F Word -
1 October 2019
Talking diet culture with resident body positivity guru, Leisha.
How would you feel if someone called your bestie the F word (not fuckable. fat)? You’d be appalled, perhaps consider attacking – stiletto heels, claws, nails everywhere, hair extensions flying all over the place. You’d picture yourself serving jail time. You can’t pole dance in a prison jumpsuit, so pull your head in.
Now hands up if you’ve ever called yourself fat.
Girl, what would Lizzo say about that?
I’ve dieted like a madwoman for years. I counted every calorie (twice before a show)but I was still unhappy with my figure (and fucking starving) and you guessed it, still calling myself fat. The penny dropped when a student asked about slimming down for a competition. I realised the way I spoke about my body was impacting the way others felt about their bodies. Not today Satan. So, I set out to start unraveling my unhealthy habits and start living a fuller life. Only one problem there, I had no idea where to start.Luckily, I like to lurk @_unleished_ on the gram.
For those not following Leisha, she’s a Pole Dance Academy Instructor whose pioneering positive body image, and she’s been kind enough to share her insights about all things diet culture with us. Here’s what she had to say.
Charlotte: For those of us not in the know, what is diet culture?
Leisha: Diet culture is more than just ‘being on a diet’. It’s living in a society that values being a certain size, weight, and shape over being truly healthy, promoting the notion that health equals to thinness (it doesn’t, BTW). You don't have to be on a diet to be caught up in the culture of dieting.If you feel like you can’t escape conversations about weight and dieting, you continually see exercise being advertised as a form of weight loss or punishment for eating, are plagued with before and after photos, thin ideals, fit ideals, things that generate fear of fat or positions large as less valuable, or catch yourself praising people for vigilant eating or weight loss, you’ve been exposed to diet culture.
Charlotte: How’s diet culture impacting Pole Dancers?
Leisha: Promoting pole dancing as a form of weight loss and physical fitness is definitely an effect of diet culture. It puts pressure on us to look slim and toned to gauge how good at pole we are. This an deters curvy and larger bodied people from starting pole dance, often people say ‘I need to lose weight to start pole dancing’ because we rarely see bigger bodies as spokespeople, on promo posters or in competitions.It is so important teachers are mindful of how they talk about their own bodies; complaining about their weight can leave students feeling like they can’t be good at pole until they fit the body criteria. They might stop coming altogether for fear of judgement.Pole is not about losing weight - it’s about feeling like a f**king badass, doing amazing things with your body and leaving feeling better than when you came in.
Charlotte: As a key organiser of many large-scale pole comps, what's your opinion on slimming down for a show?
Leisha: I feel the same way about slimming down for comps as I do about ‘shredding for the wedding’. It’s bullsh!t and has diet culture written all over it! Diet culture makes us believe that to ‘be the best’ we need to also look the best. Competitors feel the need to look at their physical peak to be taken seriously. God forbid you get your photos back and your gut is hanging over your pole shorts or you can see your dimples in the video. I've seen and organised countless competitions, no one remembers you for your thigh gap or chiseled abs. I get the pressures of being on stage and having hundreds of people seeing you semi naked, but the fact still remains; the way you look has nothing to do with your ability. You don’t need to look a certain way to prove yourself to anyone. Let the execution of your tricks, lines and floorwork speak for themselves.We don’t have weight categories, so there’s no reason your weight needs to change for a competition. In fact, with increased training your body is likely going to require MORE food, not less. The audience won’t notice that extra few kgs you fought for madly in the weeks leading up to the comp. If your hungry - eat damn it!
Charlotte: What was the turning point for you to ditch diet culture?
Leisha: The deeper I get into this world of body positivity and intuitive eating the more I have been able to reflect back on all the different diets and fads I put my body though, oh man there was so many!I’ve always been passionate about this topic. My Mum worked hard to instill some important foundations in me about my own body growing up which planted the seed, but I think it was Michelle Shimmy who helped put the idea in my head that I could be more vocal about it.
At the start of this year I made it my new year's resolution to promote confidence and self-love. Since then, every post on my Instagram feed has remained body positive focused. For the most part the feedback I’ve received has all been pretty good. There’s always someone who feels it’s their place to comment on my body, but I tend to just brush them off. My goal has been to spread a message that I feel passionate about, so even if just one person is gaining something from my posts, then I’m happy.
Charlotte: What's been the biggest obstacle you've had to overcome through all this?
Leisha: I lost a significant amount of weight a number of years ago when I opened my own studio. I felt pressured to ‘look the part’. While I looked fit and healthy on the outside, I was so unhappy (and hungry) on the inside. The worst part was that everyone kept validating how good I looked.My biggest obstacle has always been that I would not be taken seriously in our industry because of my size, and because my body didn’t reflect my skills. I know now that this is a lie and as an experienced pole dancer of 10 years, I have a wealth of knowledge and skills worthy of being shared. The biggest obstacle is always ‘what will other people think of me’ but once you realise that it’s not about other people but about you, then the journey gets easier.
Charlotte: Do you ever ‘relapse’ into diet culture?
Leisha: Not as much as I used to, if anything it’s just a passing thought that I brush of pretty quickly. I practice what I preach, so everyday gets easier.
At the start I had good and bad days, it’s important to acknowledge the bad days then focus on coping mechanisms to get through them until they happen less and less.
Charlotte: What are your top tips to becoming more body confident?
- Start small by acknowledging the things you DO like about yourself
- Stop saying unkind things about yourself
- Start noticing diet culture and begin to filter how you let it sink in.
- Remove unhealthy accounts from your social media or unfollow people who make you feel negative about yourself (even if it’s your friends)
- Start following accounts that make you feel good or don’t focus on appearance at all. I share lots of inspiring accounts on my Instagram @_unleished_ all the time
- Stop body shaming other people in your head.
- Not judging others is the best place to grow a loving inclusive community where size is just a number
- Read books and listen to podcasts that promote self-love. Immersing yourself in this kind of material provides as a shield for everyday life. And lastly;
- Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Over 90% of women don’t like their bodies and revert to various diets to try and change their genetic size, this can even turn into an eating disorder.
If you need help, reach out to a professional (like a registered dietitian/nutritionist who specializes in intuitive eating – I’m happy to provide recommendations) who can safely guide you back to a healthy path full of self-love and worth. You deserve to be happy, don’t let the way you see your body change how you live your life!Hopefully you’ve found some inspo here to quit the body shaming and start taking steps towards being more body confident, I know I have.
A big thank you to Leisha for sharing these insights with us!
Till next time, Charlotte
- The pursuit of pole-iness -
1 April 2019
Why I can’t hang out, and why I’m not sorry.
We can all get a little Torrance Shipman from Bring It On (that scene where she says ‘I am only cheerleading!’ except, you know, with Pole dancing) as we get more serious about our sport.
And who can blame us? The pressure we put on ourselves to be amazing, or at least not to look like a dick on stage, is intense. We put a lot into this shit.
Firstly, there’s the training. Dear lord is there the training. Strength, flexibility, cardio so you don’t blow a lung mid combo on stage… I’ll stop here, I don’t want to scare the virgin comp babes.
Many nutritionally balanced meals go into fuelling a healthy, strong pole bod that can keep up with a hefty training schedule. While we should never feel ‘hungry’, depriving oneself of Krispy Crème donuts and Margaritas can leave you feeling pretty unsatisfied, and a bit left out of the social scene too.
Unfortunately, someone’s gotta pony up the dough for all those classes and shoes, and that someone is likely you. Luckily, you’re saving a tonne of cash on cocktails now that you’re a meal prepping hermit that feeds on chicken and broccoli on Friday nights, presumably while bedazzling a costume. So it kind of all works out.
I could go on listing the things that go into becoming better performer, but I’m on a word limit so please, be a doll and insert your top ones here for me.
I used to feel really bad about saying no to people, places, dinners, drinks, more drinks etc. so I could focus on dancing.
The thing is, everything has a price. Being successful is really about what you’re willing to sacrifice to get where you want to be.
If your out there feeling like an asshole for ditching another night out in favour of training, I hope this blog helps you feel proud and #notsorry.
Remember, the juice is definitely going to be worth the squeeze (and you can add some vodka to that freshly squeezed juice once you’ve slayed your routine on stage).
Til’ next time,
- POLE GOALS -
1 February 2019
How do you eat a bird of paradise?
One bite at a time.
As I type this pole dancers across the globe are carefully curating a list that will no doubt be covered in blood sweat and dry hands come December 31.
Whether you write em down or paste them on a vision board, Pole Goals are a big part of our sparkly, pleaser clad New Year.
But what about those of us who are starting out a little deflated? It can be easy to fixate on the things you didn’t tick off the 2018 list, or to be salty about things you nailed then lost (if anyone sees my Iron X, tell it I miss it). Add an Instagram filled with girls who make deadlifts look more effortless then drinking a bottle of Prosecco yourself at family Christmas and you have a recipe for some serious ‘shoulding’.
I should have trained harder, I should have stretched daily… Before you know it, you’re ‘shoulding’ all over yourself.
If this sounds like you, it’s time to stop and take a moment to appreciate some of the things you did tick off last year. Maybe you performed, even though it scares you. Maybe you were kind to your body and took rest. Maybe you made a small change towards a healthier body or mind. Maybe you did get your unicorn move – you go Glen CO-CO!
Goals are a fantastic motivator and without them we wouldn’t progress. I don’t have all the answers, but this year I’m trying to approach my list a little less ‘pass / fail’ and a little more ‘you’re a goddess no-matter what’.
In lieu of any fail safe goal reaching wisdom to impart, I just want to encourage you to thank yourself for every training session, every invert and every lunge. Even your worst day in the studio brings you closer to that amazing trick you will no doubt one day make your bitch. After all, how do you eat a bird of paradise? One bite (or stretch session) at a time.
Til’ next time,
- HOT CHILD IN THE POLE ROOM -
8 December 2018
For those who brave the brass, chrome or stainless steel in the Australian summer.
When Charles Dickens wrote ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ I’m pretty sure he was referring to pole dancing in the sizzling Australian summer.
There are some definite pros to dancing under the great southern sun. Trotting into the studio in hotpants with a glowing tan is undeniably delightful.
Working on your flexibility goals? Warm muscles are less prone to injury, the more the mercury rises the easier it is to show some tendon loving care and get those ligaments feeling loosie goosy.
Before you get too chuffed with your splitty, scantily clad floorwork (complete with fan blowing your hair ala’ a Beyoncé film clip) I have two words for you: sweaty betty.
I’m not talking about a sexy glisten, I’m talking Niagara Falls baby – and I know I don’t need to tell you what that means (hot tip for young players, it means zilch in the grip department).
So, how can you beat the heat this summer? Here are my top 5 tips on saying no to slippage:
- Apply your dry hands or grip of choice at least 30mins before you start training to give the active ingredients time to do their thing.
- Choose an antiperspirant that will reduce sweat over a deodorant that just masks odors to keep things dry; apply the night before and morning of training for best results.
- Not that many of us would fancy a spinning combo after a night of prosecco, but backing off the booze can help reduce sweat. The day after the Christmas party might be best reserved for a stretch sesh off the pole rather than a day of deadlifts – your hangover will thank me!
- Ample sugar consumption (while deeply satisfying in the moment) can cause your body to produce too much insulin, leading to unpleasant side effects including perspiration. Try a piece of fruit over a can of coke to satisfy your sweet tooth instead.
- Choose great pole wear! Different fabrics and designs will go a long way in wicking moisture away from your skin, so invest wisely in active wear designed with polers in mind (like KONTORT Apparel) to keep you looking and feeling cool.
My final verdict on poling during the heat wave that is Australian summer? For me it’s a no brainer, I’ll take a hot mess over nipples so stiff you could key a car with them any day of the week!
‘til next time,