Small steps

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To those of you who know me well, you may be a little bit shocked about what you are about to read: for the last month or so I have been exercising.

Inspired by a blog post I read on Away From The Noise which was entitled The Smaller The Step, The Greater The Progress, I decided to begin my own health and fitness strategy. I’ve always gone through phases in the past where I’ve decided to exercise or diet, but I’ve usually done too much at once and given up after a few days. This time I decided to take it one small step at a time so that I could slowly get into a routine and progress slightly further everyday.

It started in January when I decided that I was going to drink at least 2.5 litres of water a day. I managed to do it for about two weeks, but then once I started to become busier and had a week away in London for work experience, I soon realised that it wasn’t always achievable. I did, however, get used to drinking more water each day and I could definitely feel the health benefits from it. My head felt clearer and I was getting a lot less headaches, so that was great.

I continued trying to drink a decent amount of water everyday (I now aim for around 1.5-2 litres a day) and decided to take the next step with my health and fitness plan; this time I would tackle the exercise part, and this is where I feel like I’ve really achieved. Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I’m pretty lazy and would usually laugh at the thought of going for a run or to the gym, but I decided to give it a go anyway. I’m doing a lot of work for uni at the moment and I thought that exercise would maybe help to relieve some stress and give me a break in between work.

I knew that if I just let myself decide how much to workout each day, I wouldn’t get very far and would soon enough give up like I had before. With it being January at the time, a lot of people were talking about different apps and websites that they had been using so I decided to download the 30 day abs and 30 day squats apps.

I started off slowly completing just 15 sit ups, 5 crunches, 5 leg raises, a 25 second plank and 30 squats . . . and to be honest I found this pretty difficult, especially the leg raises! I stuck to the apps though as much as I could (I missed a few days but have caught up) and started to add more workouts alongside them so that I made sure I was working out different parts of my body. Yesterday I finished my 30 day challenge by doing 150 squats, 125 sit ups, 200 crunches, 65 leg raises and two 60 second planks (I managed to do 100 seconds at once the other day, but really struggled with it today due to a strained muscle), as well as a cardio routine.

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It may not be much and I know that I still have a long way to go, but for me this is a huge achievement. I never thought that I would have the willpower to actually stick to it and I have to say I’m on the way to getting addicted! The first 10 days were probably the most challenging, but after then I started to get into a routine and could already start to feel the benefits. I feel healthier and have a lot more energy; something which I didn’t have much of before! I liked using the 30 day apps as each day you get to tick off what you have done after each activity. The sense of achievement I get everyday after completing my workout feels great and it’s definitely helping me deal with stress and get through my final year of uni! I’m going to start running and swimming with my flatmate, and now just have to hope that I manage to keep up with my workouts now that I’ve finished using the apps!

I didn’t take a ‘before’ picture, as at the time I didn’t really want to take a photo of my stomach! I’m wishing I had now though so that I could see the comparison. The picture on the left was taken a couple of weeks ago, and the one on the right was taken yesterday. I can see a little bit of progress, but that could just be me! I think I’m starting to see a few little abs trying to come through. . . just got to stick to it now! I’m also starting to get muscles in places I didn’t even know existed!

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I’m already on my way to achieving my next goal – my diet. I’ve told myself that I’m not going to diet, but am just going to be sensible about what I eat. I love food too much to give it up! I have cut out my most favourite thing in the world though, which is crisps! But oddly enough, I’ve found that my attitude to food has began to change as I’ve been getting fitter and healthier; I don’t want to eat junk food all the time and when I do I feel awful about it afterwards! I really think that the idea of taking small steps to progress really works, and would definitely recommend people to try it!

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Gender inequality in Disney

As I’ve mentioned previously in another post, I am writing my dissertation on Disney which is regrettably forcing me to over analyse every aspect of my favourite films. I love Disney and I don’t think that will ever change, but over the last week I’ve stumbled upon some interesting points about the the animated films which have definitely touched a nerve!

I’ve been reading a chapter from a book by Rosina Lippi-Green entitled Teaching children how to discriminate, and it has brought out my inner-feminist. In one section of the chapter, she discusses a study which she carried out on all of the Disney films out at that time (1997); she began by counting the amount of male and female speaking characters that were present. Her findings showed that almost 70% of characters with speaking roles were male, and this is the first issue that I have. As a form of entertainment with such a large audience, both male and female, why are men so overrepresented? Because men are the dominant sex in our society and women are supposed to just ‘fit in’ where necessary.

As well as the unfortunate ratio of men to women in the films, they are also trapped in stereotyped roles. Lippi-Green points out that men typically play men doctors, waiters, kings, thieves, hunters, servants, detectives and pilots; women are either mothers, princesses or daughters – with the exception of an evil villain here and there. Are these the roles that we should be teaching children to aspire to? That little girls should just accept their fate as being someone’s wife and not desire a life of their own?

Similar to this, Lippi-Green also found that men are allowed to change and develop in character; they can start off as being bad, but improve themselves and end up being a good guy. Women, however, do not have the same opportunity. A woman is either good or evil, and she cannot switch between the two.

After reading this chapter, I started thinking about my favourite Disney movies and how these themes were apparent throughout them. Another issue jumped out at me: female characters rarely interact with each other, and when they do it’s often not a pleasant encounter. Is popular culture telling girls from a young age that women should not get along with each other, and that they can only have positive encounters with men?

It’s a shame that gender inequality even stretches to family-friendly, much-loved animated films and television programmes, especially by such a large and prominent company such as Disney. I do have to say, however, that Frozen probably comes the closest to trying to resolve these issues: probably the reason why I love it so much. Even though initially it appears as though the theme of love is going to be shown between Hans and Anna, it takes a beautiful twist and ‘true love’ is shown between two sisters, and not a romantic relationship between a prince and a princess. And even though Anna and Elsa’s relationship gets a bit rocky in the middle, they’re soon back to being best friends and showing that not everything is about guys.