Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation Program
Inspire Healthy Kids is not only about focusing on what we feed our kids. There is so much more to it. And a lot of that “more to it” lies in how we treat ourselves. As parents, and particularly as mommies, we are primary role models. How we eat, our lifestyle, and our attitudes all affect kids’ health and diets. In Australia, as elsewhere in the developed world, obesity is rapidly on the rise among adults and children alike. To respond to this trend, diet and exercise regime gimmicks have flooded the market. One of those is Michelle Bridges’ 12 Week Body Transformation (12WBT) program. But if we as parents are following this are we presenting healthy models to our kids?
My good friend Kylie Ryan recently referred me to a blog post by a friend of hers reviewing the 12WBT program. (And any friend of Kylie’s is a friend of mine! Kylie is a huge positive force for good so please check out her site.)
So, what is Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT? It’s a diet and exercise program based on the principle that if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. Programs like this one take this to the extreme, by encouraging extreme dieting and lots of exercise. Participants are told to restrict caloric intake to 1200 calories a day. Anything less than this is considered starvation – 1200 is the minimum you need to survive. The problem with consuming this kind of restricted diet for a long period of time is that your body goes into “starvation mode.” If your body ideally requires, say, 2000 calories a day to maintain body weight, and you only consume 1200, plus you begin exercising and therefore burning more calories, you are in essence starving yourself!
When your body goes into starvation mode the instant you start consuming extra calories, your body immediately stores them away for future use, in case the starvation scenario recurs or gets worse. This is a natural biological survival mechanism. This mechanism is how humans survived throughout our long history of “feast and famine” cycles and seasons. Unfortunately, dieters actually stimulate this survival mechanism in themselves, which leads to them ultimately gaining more weight after the diet finishes.
“THE RESEARCH SHOWS OVER AND OVER THAT ANY KIND OF DIETING INCREASES YOUR PROPENSITY FOR GAINING WEIGHT, BECOMING OBESE, DEVELOPING AN EATING DISORDER, BECOMING PREOCCUPIED WITH FOOD AND EATING WHEN YOU ARE NOT HUNGRY.” BRIDGET JANE THOMPSON, NUTRITIONIST, DIETICIAN & PSYCHOLOGY OF EATING COACH
- Polycistic ovaries,
- Insulin & Leptin resistance,
- Adrenal fatigue
- Underactive Thyroid
- High stress & Cortisol levels
- Disordered eating
- Low self esteem
- Food Intolerances
- Chronic Inflammation
And none of those are addressed by dieting, certainly not by a crash diet program like Michelle Bridges advocates.
The worst part is that when we as role models for our kids engage in unhealthy dieting behaviors, we are teaching our kids to do the same. The best way to get our kids to eat a healthy, balanced diet is to eat a healthy, balanced diet ourselves. And the Michelle Bridges 12WBT is not a healthy, balanced diet.
Other criticisms of a program like this is that it takes over your life. As mothers, we need to dedicate time to our kids and our families. Of course it is important to focus on ourselves and our health! But it shouldn’t be so all-consuming that it takes away from our kids. We want to inspire healthy kids, not ignore them!
To make matters worse, programs like Michelle Bridges’ 12WBT can lead to development of eating disorders or can at least really screw up women’s relationships with food. As a woman myself, I know how looking at yourself in the mirror loads an extra 10kg of weight on you that nobody else actually sees. The long term impacts of something like this can be drastic. For instance, what happens if a woman falls pregnant? If she diets like this during the pregnancy in an effort not to gain too much weight, the baby will suffer as well. And what about if she does this program for the very long term – say, 5 sessions in a row? Long-term exposure to a famine-like state can have long term impacts on the baby. Babies whose mothers had previously been exposed to famine are more likely to not only have a decreased birth weight, but also to develop type 2 diabetes later in life. (See, e.g., David Barker, The Malnourished Baby and Infant Relationship with Type 2 Diabetes, Br Med Bull (2001) 60 (1): 69-88.doi: 10.1093/bmb/60.1.69)
Of course, a program like the Michelle Bridges 12WBT does have its benefits. It gives women a community, group support, and a financial impetus to do something about the extra weight they’re carrying. But women can easily find those same supports via healthier regimens.
Studies show that a healthy vegan diet does wonders for both adults and children in terms of all diabetes and heart disease risk factors, including weight loss. And the vegan community is strong, passionate, and supportive. If women are looking for other women to connect with as a support on a weight loss quest, this is a great way to go. Eating a healthy vegan diet may be a much slower way to lose weight, but it is a sustainable lifestyle change that can be carried on indefinitely. It also has a lot of other health benefits due to the higher intake of fiber and other nutrients.
Another positive option is to hire a mind coach and a nutritionist to help you learn how to eat a healthier diet. A mind coach like my friend Kylie Ryan can help you to view yourself more positively and determine root causes of unhealthy dietary habits, like binge eating, searching out junk foods, and emotional eating. A nutritionist can teach you what foods are healthy for your body, given your lifestyle, budget, and sensitivities.
And of course there is the exercise aspect of the 12WBT. Exercise is really important! Hire a personal trainer to learn how to use equipment and get exercises personalized to you. Or join a gym with group classes. My gym, Goodlife Health Clubs, is amazing – they offer shorter term fitness challenges, small group training, large group classes, and even exercise classes for kids! I love the classes because I’ve made lots of friends there, which leads to accountability: If I skip a class, my friends will inquire as to why not.
In order to inspire healthy kids, we first have to inspire a health us. As parents we need to model good behaviors and choose holistic ways to improve our health. The Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation program is not a healthy model of good dietary and weight loss behavior.