Saturday, September 24, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Conquering Writer's Bottom

Harlequin Historical author and PHS editor Michelle Styles explains how she got herself back to a Healthy BMI

 Back in early 2007, I became aware of writer's bottom (partly because of Trish Wylie and her inspired posts on PHS). I joined in and lost weight quickly and then lost interest. I moved into elasticated waists which seemed like God send but are actually incredibly dangerous.  I made it to RNA's fab award lunch that year with the help of Magic Knickers (Natasha Oakley blogged about those and they are a Life Saver!) 
And so began my battle with Writer's Bottom. There were some interesting skirmishes. I lost weight due to taking up rowing, regained it, did the same with walking the collies. In 2009, I learnt that I had lymphoedema in my left arm and my metabolism went south. At Christmas 2009, my husband accidentally got me a pair of tweed plus fours that were my old size  -- UK 14 (US size 10). Actually I didn't have the heart to say that I was really a US 14 now and barely that. By August 2010, I weighed about 200 lbs with a Body Mass Index of 32. I went to the RWA Nationals wearing several pairs of magic knickers. When I returned home, I went on a diet and that helped a bit. I lost about 25 lbs but was very flabby.
Last January World Beat which goes out to all Harlequin authors had pictures from the 2010 Harlequin Party and I finally saw my back. Yuck! I ordered some dvds -- Jillian Michaels The 30 Day Shred and 10 minute solutions.  The Jillian Micheals worked wonderfully. Although I only lost about 6 lbs, I lost inches and discovered I enjoyed sweating. I went from a size 18 UK to a size 14. The plus fours nearly fit. I threw away lots of my fat clothes and vowed never to go into elasticated waists again. I did one of Jillian's dvds every day or a complete 10 minute solution with Suzanne Brockman. I wasn't losing any weight but then I wasn't exactly dieting either. The lymph oedema in my arm had gone slightly but I still couldn't really get my wedding ring off. I started to accept I would be big and never really get into those trousers or indeed some of the clothes I wore when I was younger. My metabolism had changed. My BMI was about 28. Overweight rather than obese.
I attended the RWA Nationals and had a great time. Lots of compliments. When I returned home, I noticed that not only was my wieght not moving, my clothes were starting to get tighter. Rock bottom hit on 23 August. I had eaten pasta and a piece of chocolate cake, my head spun and I knew if I allowed this state of affairs to continue, I would be regaining all that weight. I didn't want to.
Time to try the Tracy Anderson Method and in particular her 30 Day Boot Camp.
I had heard about her and knew she was hard core. I also liked the look of the women who had been through her programme. I have no wish to build weight lifter muscles or look like a gym rat. I have a bad back anyway and so, lifting weights has always been problematic. Also I read in the Times that according the recent study at the University of Newcastle, a diet with purees is good for combating Type 2 Diabetes.  I knew it involved Dance Cardio which I thought I'd hate. I can't dance. I have two left feet, little sense of rythm and a tendency to hit other partcipents in dance classes in the face. Humliations in dance class? Yes, I have had a few. I am the one who always ends up facing the wrong way. But I decided to try. I'd wear my Harlequin socks for luck.
Amazon delivered the book and I made the commitment. I would do it but if I hit a healthy BMI before Day 26, I wouldn't do the Cleanse because it sounded stomach churning. Kale beetroot juice, carrot and parsnip purree, sweet corn and sweet potatoe purree. I wasn't hopeful. But I started, doing the Dance Cardio first and then the muscle strenthening exercises.
The results have been jaw dropping.The first 10 days I lost 14 lbs.  I achieved my healthy BMI on about Day 20 and therefore have avoided the Cleanse!  On Day 30 I weighed 152 and had lost over 25 inches over all. My waist went from 30 to 25, my hips from 40 to 36, each of my thighs from 25 to 20, and my bust from 38 to 36. My upper abs went from 35 to 30.
 The strangest thing is that my heels which pinched are now too big. I didn't know that I had fat feet.
 My plus fours are now almost too large and I can fit into clothes that I made 25 years ago. I actually went out and bought a UK size 10 (US size 6)black  sheath dress because it fit.I shall be wearing it to AMBA at the end of October but with a new pair of heels.
   Most importantly, the lymph oedema in my arm has subsided and gone to very mild. I have to wear the hated bandages while I am exercising but that is all.
I am looking forward to continuing on with her Method of exercising (I ordered the Meta Omni from her website and will start that once it arrives.)  My  writer's bottom has been conquered (for the moment) but I am under no illusion -- after a certain age, you just have to SWEAT.
Writers are prone to writer's bottom and it is up to the indivdual author to do something about it if she so wishes. And it is important to find the exercise programme that works for you. Do your research. Look at before and after pictures. See what is involved. But above make a commitment to show up.
If you are interested in learning more about the Tracy Anderson Method, the video explains a bit and shows some of her moves. It is from her Perfect Design series but the book follows a similar sequence:
All I can say is that the Tracy Anderson Method really worked for me and the time I had to put in each day exercising is worth it. And having conquered my writer's bottom, I can now stop talking about it.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical in a wide variety of time periods. Her most recent book To Marry A Matchmaker was published in the UK in July and in Australia/New Zealand in September.You can read more about her books on


  1. Michelle, thanks for this post - it's truly inspirational, and you look fabulous! I'm sitting here feeling much the way you did all those months ago, and reading your post has made me want to get up off my writers' butt and do something about it!

  2. Oh, boy! You look fabulous, Michelle and you're making me such a diet and exercise nerd. I've got the diet nailed, but the exercise... (and yes, that's my wii over there looking sulky!)

  3. Fi and Liz -- I am pleased it inspired you!
    TAM did work for me. I never thought I'd enjoy Dance Cardio as much as I do. It is the non stop performance cardio that melts the fat. Jumping is also supposed to be good for the pymph system. There are star jumps and a lot of bouncy about in the DC. The exercises target the accessory muscles and aim to pull you in rather than bulk you up. I am currently in awe at the way my thighs have slimmed down.
    It becomes a bit like brushing your teeth or doing the dishes. Exercise is easier if it is done regularly. I feel so much more alert.

  4. You look great! I've definitely reverted to dough girl status over this last year and even those clothes from that forbidden box marked "big" in the back of the closet are getting tight. So I've been doing the 30 Day Shred for the past couple weeks. I like that the total time investment is 30 min a day, but I will admit that aside from some severely sore muscles, I'm not "Seeing" any results yet. Probably has as much to do with my eating habits as anything else, but out of curiosity, how much time do you spend working out a day? I'm intrigued after watching the clip.

  5. Mira --
    I did the 30 Day shred in Jan and lost inches rather than weight. Then as I liked JM so much, I bought some of her other dvds which are 45 -50 minutes long and rather plateaued even though I was doing them 6 days a week. After about March, my inches stopped dropping and I was just holding steady. My muscles were still sore and I was sweating and trying really hard.
    Therefore I was desperate enough to try TAM including the diet. What I liked about the diet was that it was all fresh foods rather than adding mixes or powders or speacial low fat foods. Just lots of excellent fresh fruit, veg and high quality protien.
    Ideally it is 40 minutes Dance cardio plus 40 -60 minutes of muscle structure work per day for 30 days with the bootcamp. With her other programme which I am about to start once the bloody dvds get through customs, ideally it is 30 minutes Dance Cardio plus 30 minutes muscle structure 4 -6 x per week. HOWEVER she does give ideas about how to do it if you only have 15 min free.
    The big difference is in the Dance Cardio. It is no talking or instruction, just follow along as she discovered that if you do stop and go, you don't lose. She went to dance school and gained 40 lbs.
    I like the TAM body shape much more than I liked JM's basic body shape. I have also seen my weight and inches really move with TAM. I was desperate on 23 August. I really felt like I was at a deciding point -- either I was going back up or I was going to get small. I opted for the getting small and have sweated bucketloads, even though it meant doing Dance Cardio. I got the book off Amazon and started on 25 August. She said in a month my body would be changed and she was right. Anyway I am now a HUGE believer in TAM and plan to keep doing it. My muscles are no longer sore, and never the way they were with JM, plus you don't use weights.
    Does this help?

  6. Yes! I'm going to finish with Jillian, but am mentally slotting TAM in for after, lol. Thanks for all the great info!