My Big Fat Photo Essay

From Dowdy Ass-Kicking Feminist

Photo essays are supposed to speak for themselves, as if the meanings of images are obvious and the same for each viewer. Well I think we all know what bullshit that is, especially after the Family of Man fiasco at the Museum of Modern Art in 1955. All  the same I will keep my comments to a minimum as I document my transformation from angry reproductive rights activist (well I am still one of those) to dehydrated bikini exhibitionist. Enjoy, and as always, I welcome your feedback.

To Hot Ass-Kicking Feminist (Five Years Later) Photo: David Ford

This one photo represents about 1,000 hours of training. DYT is restraining my monstrous traps while I try to grow my lats. Photo: Patrick Reed

I love meat hammer. Photo: Lee Spence

Endless food prep. Photo: Patrick Reed

I have bi- monthly posing lessons (but still suck due to personal limitations). Photo: Patrick Reed

I practice at my gym too, usually wearing only a bra and booty shorts when in the ladies’ area. Sorry ladies. Photo: Audrey Shepherd

G-Smash paints me with Jan Tana the night before the competition. DAD shoots us while precariously perched in the bathtub. Photo: Patrick Reed

First stop: hair dresser. Everyone loves big hair. Photo: Patrick Reed

At this point I look just like French King Louis XIV, with similar dining habits/See what I mean? This makes me very happy. Photo: Patrick Reed

My body is no longer my own. And I like it. Photo: Patrick Reed

My partner tapes my suit to my ass. Too bad we forgot to tape the top! Photo: Patrick Reed

‘Hi, I’m the tits lady!’ I am called back to the front after my bra falls off, deciding to make the most of it. Photo: Patrick Reed

Touch ups in betwen prejudging and the evening show. Photo: Patrick Reed

The ride was great; I learned a lot; I will never compete again. Photo: Patrick Reed

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About feministfiguregirl

I am a 51-year-old professor named Lianne McTavish who receives as much satisfaction from working out at the gym as from publishing my academic research. About eight years ago, I decided to combine my two primary identities (scholar/gym rat) to create "Feminist Figure Girl," a fictional character who both analyzes and participates in bodybuilding. I competed in my first figure show in June of 2011, and then wrote a book inspired by the process, published by SUNY Press in February 2015. In this blog I will write about and consider my ongoing research on the body, while regularly making fun of myself. I recommend that you start reading my first post from August 2010 (available on the home page), instead of backwards from the most recent one, in order to get the full FFG effect.

23 thoughts on “My Big Fat Photo Essay

  1. I love, love, love that pic of you with your blonde French King Louis XIV hair!

    I think you are much prettier without the Thanksgiving turkey war paint – you know, when your skin is a natural color.

    I am very proud of DAD for his fine balancing skills.

  2. I think you looked great 🙂 All your hard work at the gym and deprivation of your favorite foods certainly paid off.

    I am giving a great deal of thought to competing in a figure competition next June. I just want to see what my body would look like after dedicating myself completely to a clean healthy lifestyle. I think the competing part would just be a fun and rewarding life experience as well as giving me goal to focus on.

    Just wondering who you used as a trainer for your diet portion of your body transformation.

    Thanks a bunch…Kim

    • Thanks for your message Kim. I was dieted by Raejha Douzeich, At Your Peak Fitness. She has pro cards in Bodybuilding and Figure, and I recommend her very highly. She got me lean, gave me advice about everything, and returned my e-mails immediately. If you follow her advice to the T, like I did, I imagine that you would have the best body you could possibly have. Good luck with your transformation.

      • Thank you very much for your response. I will definitely look Raejha up for assistance in my transformation and competition preparation.

        I wish you the best on your new book project. I’m sure that this body transformation adventure as i’m sure it was an adventure 🙂 provided you with alot of great research material.

        I look foward to checking out your book once it’s completed. Will you post on your blog once your book is available??

        Have a wonderful day.


      • Yes I will indulge in self-promotion once the book is available. It will take several years, however, to go through the academic refereeing and editing process. Academic books always take a long time!

  3. Very interesting story and photos. The competition seems to almost make caricatures of the contestants. Men to some degree too but women are totally primped as much as pumped, all part of the package I suppose. A trainer at the gym tried to get me interested in competition at one point but I did not have the time, the commitment is incredible as you have outlined in some detail here.

    You are not going to compete again, what’s next for you?

  4. Hi, I just listened to your interview on Q (CBC). I’m inspired. I want to get into body building and eventually compete just one time. Everyone is so against my decision…. but I just signed up with a trainer and will be doing it.. probably next year 🙂 Thanks for the inspiration and yes, I love muscles and I like the pump you feel when you can lift more and more weights.

    U look so good…. keep up the muscle tone and you did a frigging amazing job!!!

  5. Just finished listening to your interview with Jian Ghomeshi. Interesting and enlightening. What a strange subculture. The amount of work and dedication is admirable. The intentional dehydration and bronzing body-paint required for these competitions is horrifying though. Enjoy the strength and health of your *new* body. Cheers!

  6. Oh my goodness, Lianne,

    You were my Honours History prof at UNB! I’m enjoying an extra long weekend, listening to Q for the first time in a long time, and *hoping* that this Lianne McTavish that Jian is interviewing is my long lost favourite history professor.

    Wow! I’m inspired by your dedication to your research. I had no idea you were up to something so daring. I often think of you whenever I dream of pursuing a PhD. I have such fond memories of your cultural studies seminar and pop culture course. My dear friend Jeff and I first bonded in your seminar back in 2000 or 2001 and filled out the UNB contingent in York/Ryerson’s Communication and Culture Masters. We both wax poetic about those formative years in your courses — he was over for dinner two nights ago and your art history lecture in UNB’s Arts 1000 course came up.

    Do drop me a line when you’re next in Toronto so we can catch up with Jeff over coffee, or a Fresh protein smoothie 😉

    All the best post-competition!

    • Hi Andrea,

      It’s good to hear from you. That was the best group of Honours students I have ever taught. I sure miss UNB students. I hope to be in Toronto soon and will give you a call. Thanks! Lianne

  7. We just listened to your interview on Q and just had to find your photos. What an impressive transformation. Few people understand how much dedicated hard work it takes to build up strength and muscles. It’s far easier to give up at some point in the beginning.
    A point that was not made on the broadcast we heard was the one big difference between beauty contests and bodybuilder competitions is that for beauty contestants for the most part owe their overall looks to genetics (there is not all that much one can do to make significant changes), compared to bodybuilder contestants whose final looks owe less to genetic gifts. Bodybuilders can make significant changes to their appearance and strength. This ability to make real changes to your appearance can be tremendously gratifying and liberating in my opinion. It’s a freedom to choose and through hard work to create a real improvement improvement, which can go a long way to improve self confidence which of course is crucial to psychological well being. How nice for the chance for a member of the “weaker sex” to be much stronger than the average man. Perhaps you make this point in your book.

    Thanks for showing all of the listeners what a huge change people can make in their looks and stregnth. The more you know about things the less ready you become to jump to “stupid” uninformed conclusions.

    Chicago, IL

  8. I read the article about you in the Globe and Mail. I hope that you receive full support for you idea revolving around using strength and conditioning to empower abuse victims.

  9. Hello, Lianne – I just discovered your blog via a story in today’s Globe. What a treat! I’m also a prof in a Cdn university and just spent last year training at a gym. It transformed me, and I loved feeling strong and muscular (you look great, btw). For a while, I had fantasies about taking it more seriously and competing. Due to other priorities (like research, what a bother), I gave it up. I’ll never look that way again but hell, it was fun while it lasted! A great deal of what you write on your blog resonates: too much to list here. It’s great to ‘meet’ you and I wish the best of luck. Now to read, ‘what’s next with ffg?’

  10. Great to hear about your journey, started watching back in 2006, when they held Canadian Figures Nationals at the University of Alberta. Only a chance talk with the fellow who runs the hamburger joint in the Student Union Builiding did I decide to go. I was honestly thinking fitness girls/cheerleader doing routines and I am a guy. So took my shiny new digital camera to take pictures. Let say it was indeed a shock, back then fitness competitor were more muscular and I just sat back took pictures. If not for the wonderful people who spoke to me about, judging, swimsuit selections, its politics and personal side from a trainer, a husband and a mother, giving me an insight into the sports from both personal and technical aspect I would have stuck to my misconception and bias about women bodybuilding and the people who watch them. Interestingly enough the overall winner was a U of A Alumni, Jamie Senuk if I remeber correctly.

    I tried convicing Profs and students at the University to come and check out the yearly events as the Northerns and Provincial are held in Edmonton. Saying how beautiful all the women were, even the grandmas. No takers after two years of prodding, I just gave up. Most say they look like men and I would say that these women were just like any other women out there, they were teachers, mechanics, office workers, housewives, they just trained hard. I mentioned that in the earlly days women tended to be more muscular but since then they were a little more tone down, to try and commercialize a fitter physique which is more acceptable to the general population. If only they went out, took a chance to see, meet them, they have change their minds. Okay, a few may have change their minds. Iam so glad you write about your experience and hopefully people take notice, these days young women need to look up too a role model, looking up to a fitness competitor and a prof to boot is not to bad at all.

  11. I am having a blast reading your blogs! I will be entering my very first figure competition at the end of the month and another one in May! Eags…..42 year old single mother of one. Something I want to do for ME!!! To show ME I can do it! BooYa!

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