What You Can When You Can


I have spent 3 decades now being dissatisfied with my body. Over 3 decades.

For more than 30 fucking years I have looked at myself in the mirror and felt critical or contemptuous of the me looking back. Either that, or I avoided looking at anything other than my face as much as possible.

There were some years in those decades that I looked amazing, but it was never good enough.

It’s not easy to shed our bad thoughts about ourselves. I’ve been working at it, though.

I thought that perhaps in addition to changing that my thinking that I’m a little stupid, not very creative, mostly a failure and not likable, I might as well go ahead and try to shed my poor body image.

I’ve been reading Carla Birnberg’s blog for quite a while now.

I adore Carla. She is genuine. She’s not afraid to show you who she is, even the imperfect parts. She is funny and engaging and madly inspirational. She is the reason for this blog post title. What you can, when you can.

It’s not a complicated thought. It’s very simple. I grasped immediately that adopting this attitude would probably help me get back into shape. But understanding something and acting on it…well…they aren’t even cousins, are they?

Understanding doesn’t get the job done until decisions are made to change. Personally, I believe those decisions have to hold hands with kindness. Deciding to change and then beating myself up or being hypercritical just doesn’t work for me….I’m sure of this. I have years of experience. I also have to let go of the past. I did manage to lose quite a bit of weight a few years ago. I gained it back. Feeling bad about that and beating myself up over it has not helped me lose an ounce of weight. Looking backwards makes me hurt. I don’t want to indulge in that behavior anymore.

What I’ve been finding, is that my new approach to feeling Β better about myself is working. At least it’s beginning to.

I am far from total self acceptance, but I’m taking steps. Itty bitty tiny little baby steps.

I want to feel strong more than I want to feel bad about myself.

I’ve been making time to work out in the evenings.

I’ve been planning meals and snacks so that running through a drive thru is no longer tempting.Β And that is very nearly true!

What you can, When you can.

I read something on Facebook about a 30 day squat challenge and I thought I might like to try it. I was pretty sure I couldn’t follow the schedule in this post. 175 squats in one day? HAHAHAHAFUCKINGHAHAHAHAA. I can’t do that many.

But…I can do 10 at a time. 10 measly squats. I can do that.

When I go to the bathroom at work, I do 10 squats before I leave the stall. I do the same at home. My legs are sore as I type this but they are that good sore. That sore you get when you feels your strongs coming back. Yesterday, throughout the course of the day, I did 100 squats. I drink a shit ton of water, so I’m frequently in the bathroom.

I am measuring my success by how it feels when I run up the stairs in my house. It’s going from ‘never running up the stairs at my house’ to ‘running up the stars and doing a Rocky dance at the top’.

Okay. I’m not at the Rocky stage yet, but I do feel stronger.

I am comfortable with this measurement. My method in the past has never worked, other than against me. My method was this:

by THIS date, I will weigh THIS amount. I will love myself then. Then, one month later, I will weigh THIS amount and I’ll be able to wear my prom dress from high school. Then after THAT, I’ll become a movie star and then cure cancer.Β 

I love my internet friends. I’ve learned from them. I’ve been entertained and inspired. I attribute a large portion of personal growth to the connections I’ve made over the years. But the thing is? Until I am ready to make changes, then shit isn’t going to happen.

I’m ready and it starts with this: Mourning who I was is silly. That girl is a ghost. Worrying about who I will become is also silly because that girl is a figment.

Who I am, right this second, is what matters.

All I can do today is make decisions that will help me continue to feel better about myself and help me feel strong.

Now excuse me, I have to pee.

About the author


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • I was reading a blog earlier….and the person who writes it, planks for 1 minute every time she thinks about it. On the ground usually, but sometimes random places. It’s a great core muscle builder. And it lasts one minute. πŸ™‚ you go girl!!!!

    • You know what? I have been ignoring working on my core. But the thought has been nagging me. I know I need to. Thanks for this. I will adopt a modified version. I can’t do planks at work. They already think I’m weird. But I can do them at home.

  • Go you! I really need to implement something like this, maybe a yoga pose every time I go. I go a lot. I hurt so much all the time that I’m becoming this sedentary ball of pain, even though I know that gentle exercise is supposed to help.

  • My goddamn yoga DVD’s are gathering dust on the shelf bcz I’ve got such an all-or-nothing mentality… These are great ideas!

  • I started doing yoga last September at the age of 52. Love it. I’m addicted. Even started mixing it up with a couple of Pilates classes. My body is more toned and I’m back in jeans I almost gave up on ever wearing again. I can do a headstand now! Headstands! My husband has been out of town working this past week and I think to myself, hey, won’t it be fun and playful to make a little video to email him. I got dressed up in a sexy matching bra and panty and made of a video of me doing a headstand. It was not pretty. Oh I did the headstand just fine, but when you’re 52 years old and upside down, well let me just say one word… gravity. I deleted the video. I had to give myself a mental pep talk to be realistic that my body will never look like it did when I was in my 20’s, never, but I can be stronger and I am stronger. I agree: Do what you can when you can! Just don’t take any videos doing it upside down.


      OMG that is hysterical. Check. No upside down videos. Although, if I did make one, my husband would still like it. He’s a perv who adores me. πŸ™‚

  • That’s definitely my motto right now. Totally know what you mean and hope I can also stop beating myself up for not being who I used to be. I’ve been trying to do a bit of yoga which is helping a bit. I can’t afford pilates classes or aqua aerobics which I really could do with to get my core muscles and stamina back so doing what I can when I can is really all I can do. When I achieve a little more it really does feel good.
    I know what works for me, the red day/green day diet as a permanent lifestyle drops weight and keeps it off but I’ve got out of the habit of buying shopping with that in mind as budget is all. Must do better!

    • Well sister..let’s just keep moving forward and doing the best we can.

      I’m happy with the exercise part right now, but I still struggle with eating right..especially on weekends.

  • This is so encouraging. I want to be in better shape, want to feel better, look better, ect., but reading the true fitness junkie blogs out there makes me feel like a lazy slacker. I still have a life to live here, and can’t keep up with long workouts consistently. So I have had to come to terms with A Little Is Better Than Nothing At All, and just try to do SOMETHING active every day. We do need to love ourselves more. (I was visiting one of my older boys recently, and I said something or other, to which he replied, “That’s the first nice thing you have said about yourself the whole time you’ve been here.”. I realized that I really don’t think much of myself:))


      It starts to become habit, I promise. I started doing this back in November and it felt so unnatural and silly…but after a while, it doesn’t. And I feel more at ease. Sure..occasional bouts of anxiety and depression aside..but I’ve been dealing with that shit my whole life.

      Same with the small steps. This squatting thing became a habit within a week and I”m feeling a huge difference in my legs just after 2.5 weeks. I have been working out in the evening as well..but it’s mostly just a 30 minute walk.

  • Oh how I HEAR YOU.

    I took Metabolife back in the day when it had fen/phen (?) in it, lost 20 pounds that I DID NOT need to lose, then started blacking out, so I quit taking it. Then my scale was broken for a year, and when I got back *on* one, I’d gained about 30 pounds. That was 10 years ago. It hasn’t come off since. So I’ve spent the last decade looking back at the body I used to maintain with no effort, while eating whatever sounded good, then I look at the scale and see that I am 20-25 pounds higher than my old “Oh my God, I’m a cow” weight.

    Not a fun place to be. I *never* used to have a weight problem, even after both pregnancies–boom–right back at my usual happy weight.

    Since my Metabolife experience, nothing’s right. I have been counting calories since 2009. I ride an exercise bike 4-6 days a week, 30 minutes straight up hill, almost year round. I spent about a year swimming laps for a hour at a time (lost no weight). I sometimes (not all the time) get in the habit of doing 20-40 minutes of an allover workout (core, weights, squats, etc). In the summer months, I spend anywhere from 2-8 hours outside working in the yard, 5-6 days a week.

    I have tried going caffeine free, fat free, gluten free, wheat free, sugar free, dairy free, vegetarian, you name it. I grow and preserve almost all of our food. I have been off processed sugar and flour almost completely for most of this year. All the fun stuff = no.

    THE SCALE STAYS THE SAME. Except for the days when I give up and myself to eat even small amounts of foods I love, for a day. Then it goes UP.

    I have basically decided that this is where my body wants to be. I have the same basic all-over “silhouette” I always had, just 25 pounds heavier. I hate it, but I am learning to let it go. I can’t restrict my diet any further, and I wouldn’t want to. I am too lazy (face it) to work out til I’m dripping sweaty wet for an hour a day, everysingleday forever. I could literally exist on carbs, so it’s a nightmare trying to choose to eat cucumbers and carrots, when I really want a bowl of pasta with some garlic bread. Or have a spinach salad (again) while making my husband homemade mac n cheese (boy that SMELLS GOOD).

    This year I’m ready to be like, you know what? Fuck it. I’m 25 pounds heavier. I feel great, I feel healthy, I’m active, and my husband thinks I’m smoking hot. If that’s not enough, then fuck that too.

    The end.

    • YAY!!!!!!

      This is awesome Steph. You’re right. Be happy with the big bad self that you are. Strong means a lot. That’s what I want. I want to be S T R O N G

      And you’re awesome anyway. No matter what size you are.

  • Thanks lady! Some days I think I should toss the scale. And the old size 4 jeans. I am quite possibly never going to fit in them, AND they’re out of style now anyway, right?

    Other than my weight, I love my whole life, so why should that stupid digital screen decide how I feel about myself??

    I may even hang up the bikini and buy a one-piece bathing suit this year. Just to make it official.

    • yes ditch the scale..it’s all about how you feel -! I haven’t had one in my house since my daughter was a teenager (she’s 27 now) and when I get weighed at the Dr.’s office I am always the same….128.

  • I love that idea, With exercise, any at all is so much better than none, and simple things make a huge difference. Like walking. I walk with a cane, so walking for me is more than exercise, it’s a challenge to improve. So in the spirit of what you can when you can, while I’m visiting at a friend’s house in the mountains, I’ve been walking laps around the house, which presents the added challenge of uneven ground, gentle slopes, and some sticks and pine cones to navigate. Today will be the fourth day of thirty laps, five at a time. I couldn’t do this when I got here, and now I can. I feel trashed when I’m through, but it’s not a bad feeling, really.

      • Thank you. When it got to be time for my last five laps, I was already tired and Sara had just baked cinnamon muffins and I really didn’t feel like doing them… But then I thought no way dude, you already bragged to Michelle about doing thirty, so get your butt out there in the sunshine and do them. And this is how we help each other without even trying.

  • Oh my gosh. I am pulled over in a parking lot stealing a slice of me time to finally read your post.
    I swear it has been a do what I can when I can Saturday and for me that has applied to every single thing from Parenting to movement.
    Progress not perfection.
    Truly reading this post made my day. I saved it until I was alone and could savor.

  • In the last few years, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been my own worst enemy. I constantly talked down to myself, hating who I was and, therefore, my life. I’ve been making progress (slow progress, to be sure — but I’m heading the right direction) — focusing on the behaviors I have that make me feel badly about myself — why do I do them, what payoff am I getting, what damage am I doing, and what changes can I make to modify them? I’m learning to love myself — because I’ve come to realize that I MUST love myself, as that will allow me to be more loving to others (and accept love from them) — all of which will make my life worth living — no matter my size, or age, or wealth, or relationship status.

    PS, Michelle — 100 squats a day???? Damn girl!! You must have legs of steel! If I do twenty, the next two days I can barely walk down stairs or sit down on the toilet! I’m impressed — and inspired!

  • Small steps AND second chances! It is always a good moment to start again. And practicing feeling good about oneself until it comes as naturally as the hating.

    • It’s not an easy task. But I really am making some strides. Little strides..but a stride is a stride is what I always say.

      Okay, I never say that. This is probably the first time I’ve said it.

  • I’ve been beating myself up lately too, going so far yesterday as to give in to the flub and buy a “fat girl” bra … because I’m too thick to fit in the “Under age 25” bra anymore.
    I’m going to try the squat thing. That’s a good way to look at it! I start thinking about everything I need to do to lose weight and I end up trying to hide from it – it’s too overwhelming.
    … and I hate the new bra. I feel like a war horse saddled up for a battle. “The Girls” should never bring to mind war horses.

    • yes..do little things instead of NO things. I have two goals right now. To not shop at the fat girl store (one size away from that) and to be able to tuck my clothes in and be comfortable doing so.

      I’m sorry you feel bad about the bra. I have a bad relationship with bras..I can never find one that fits right.

  • The sad thing is, I’m with you on having looked absolutely AWESOME at various times in my life and not having thought so. I find old pictures and think, “I thought THAT was fat? Was I fucking insane?” And of course, I had the “five more pounds” mindset–if I could just lose FIVE more pounds, I’d be at the perfect weight and then I could do everything I wanted to do that I was “saving” for when I lost the weight. I started doing Crossfit a couple of years ago and I’ve been a sort of pathetic participant–once a week, maybe twice. Then I noticed there was a woman who was going three times a week, every week, no excuses. She has kids, she has a job, and I thought, “Well, if she can do it, so can I–I just have to stop with the excuses.” (You know, oh but I’m tired, oh but I have a busy day ahead of me, oh but I have so much to do–right, and I’m going to get how much of that done between 5:30 and 6:30 a.m. if I don’t go to the gym?? Exactly none of it.) And the thing is, I actually really enjoy Crossfit. It’s hard as hell, and I get out of bed like a 95 year old every morning (creaking and moaning), but I actually ENJOY that pain. It’s that good pain you’re talking about. It makes me feel like I’m making progress.

    My mantra is similar to yours–mine is, do your best. And know that some days, my best is going to be not great. And some days it will be awesome. And some days I can push myself to be better by asking, “Is this REALLY the best I can do?” Because sometimes the answer will be, no, I can do five more thrusters, or stop eating the candy. And other days the answer is, “Yep, that’s it.” And most importantly, when my best isn’t so great, NOT REAMING MYSELF OUT FOR THAT. “Oh, come on, you didn’t need that glass of wine on the ferry–why did you cave and have that? Stupid. Weak. Wimp. Asshole.” I tell myself to shut up a lot.

    You go girl!

    • I love this. I truly do!

      And you DID TOO need that glass of wine.

      I didn’t do shit yesterday. Today I did a lot of gardening, so I am counting that as my work out. I’m good with this. I know I’m taking steps and that is good enough for me.

      • Steps are what counts. It’s when you stand still that you stagnate. If you’re moving forward, you’re still moving, no matter how slowly. Forward is forward! We all need to remind ourselves of this!

        • YES! And all you can control is what you do now. Yesterday doesn’t matter anymore. I”m saying this because I didn’t do shit yesterday.

          Well, some gardening. I guess that counts.

  • I like this idea. A Lot. I try to do crunches and stretches in the morning when I get up, but have been neglecting my legs. I, too, go to the bathroom often. This is a perfect way to get started. Thanks!

  • I wish I could hit “like” 700 times on this post!!!!!! This speaks so deeply to me because I’m going through the exact same thing. It was a literal divorce for me. I divorced hating myself. I decided to like myself – as I am – today. Since I made that decision (about 6 weeks ago) I almost can’t believe myself how consistently I’ve been exercising! But I do sometimes have to remind myself, I’m not exercising for a goal. I’m not doing it to look “better” or love myself more, or to prove I’m worthy. I’m already all that. I’m doing it because it’s healthy and it feels good. That’s the ONLY way I can allow myself to think.

    It’s hard. But it’s WAY better than beating myself up every day. Nothing’s worse than that. And I’ve been actually choosing exercise that’s FUN for me. It can never be “work” again. (I love to do the treadmill while watching GoT or House of Cards;) I also like to jump rope, and of course I LURVE me some yoga.

    Anyway, GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!!! I’m excited for you, because you deserve to feel great about yourself. And that’s the damn truth. We all do.

    • I watch Buffy and Dr Who and Supernatural on the treadmill. πŸ™‚

      Yes! I love this. You’re right..We’re already awesome and we love taking care of ourselves because we must preserve al that awesomeness.

  • Oh man – I hear you so loud and clear it just isn’t funny !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You don’t have enough space on this blog for me to tell you about my up and down weight loss /gain experiences, the reasons for them, the reasons they did and then didn’t work, or any of the other cr*p that has contributed to where I am today. I am only about 2kgs off my heaviest weight right before I delivered my ‘baby’ – 22 yrs ago !!!! But in the meantime, I have been down 30kgs and then put that plus more back on. This isn’t an excuse but I have to say that menopause doesn’t help. IT was the thing that started this last lot of weight gain- I had cut out sugar, wheat and dairy and put in 23 kgs in 6 weeks.
    I hate myself. I hate what I look like. I hate that I self sabotage myself so badly. I hate that I continue to put cr*p into my mouth that I don’t even really want. I’m tired of feeling like a failure by Wednesday – when I start off ‘being good’ on Monday – and it never lasts.
    I want to get back to being happy in my skin. I will never be the 45kgs that I was when I got married, and that’s OK – I’m 27yrs older – I don’t expect to look the same BUT I would like to be happy with how I look and being 30kgs overweight means I don’t like how I look. And I would like to be fit and healthy – I don’t want to die because I’m over weight and get sick and have a whole bunch of health issues.
    I’m off to read Carla’s blog and tonight I’m going to spend time working out how I can be nice to me – and see what plan I can come up with while A is away. It will either be a good opportunity for me to lose weight and get healthy or go the total opposite way because while I’m while by myself, eating is a good way to get through the night until bed time and it won’t be healthy meals plus veg !!!
    Keep up the great job that you are doing – it sounds like it’s working well for you.
    Me xox

    • I’m sending you ALL MY GOOD THOUGHTS from the other side of the world.

      I think you’re awesome. I don’t care how much you weigh. I still wish I felt differently about myself..the way I look doesn’t matter….I want to be strong. The rest is secondary.

      I really hope you get soe inspiration from Carla’s blog!

  • Michelle,

    I REALLY needed to read this. I too have hated my body since I was a child. Even when I was at my skinny weight, I was chubby. A few years ago, I lost 26 pounds. I have gained 20 back. I have been on My Fitness Pal logging everything I eat and everything I do. The results are disappointing.
    So, my husband and I bought and exercise bike and rigged a desk on to it. I intend to ride while I work on the computer. I also intend to stop eating when I’m full instead of going for seconds. πŸ™‚

    I also intend not to see Jabba the Hut when I look in the mirror. That may take more work.

    • Good luck, sister!

      I think a lot of us have this issue. I think once we change our perspective, the rest will be a little easier. It’s easier to take care of something you like.

  • My reading list in my feed reader had gotten really long and overwhelming, so I just read this today, but this part:

    “by THIS date, I will weigh THIS amount. I will love myself then. Then, one month later, I will weigh THIS amount and I’ll be able to wear my prom dress from high school. Then after THAT, I’ll become a movie star and then cure cancer.”

    really spoke to me. I KNOW that I am not going to be a better person when I am thinner. But I still can’t let go of the idea that a lower weight and smaller pants will fix EVERYTHING. I am working on it. But it’s SUCH a long journey.

    • I am taking that journey with you..it is a long journey..but we need to just like ourselves RIGHT NOW.

      Thank you for reading, sister. That makes me smile.

By Michelle


RSIH in your inbox