Thankful Thursday

Things that I am thankful for:

1 The man of the house packed a yummy lunch for me today.  He also cooked each night I was home this week.
2 AC. Most houses in Seattle don’t have AC.  I don’t regret installing ours, even if we barely used it last year.
3 A job where showing up in shorts one day and a dress the next is fine.
4 A boss who reminds me that I have strengths, and who encourages me to use them.
5 Initial “let’s start probate” paperwork has been fixed for accuracy and ready to mail.
6 I fell in love with temperature-controlled computer labs in college one summer term when the temps were stubbornly sweaty &  sticky.  Except the minicomputer lab, which had to be kept cool per warranty.  All of which is to say, taking computer classes to help cool off has served me well & I’m glad.
7 Leg lifts are my friend.
8 Stretching makes me feel divine.
9 Chocolate covered espresso beans are yum.
10 So much enjoying Mira Grant’s book Blackout and how it improves my understanding of the prior two books.  (Feed, then Deadline. They are a trilogy, not a book & two sequels.).

Thankful Thursday

[an occasional exercise in gratitude]

It’s Thursday and I’m thankful for…

  1. Being thanked for work I did on an event.
  2. Being complimented on my writing and this blog.
  3. Between blackout curtains and weight lifting I’m mostly getting enough sleep this summer.
  4. Physically feeling the benefits of regular strength training.
  5. Splurging on a few summer tops & such.
  6. New Donna Andrews book!
  7. I feel like I’m starting to wake up from the last few years.
  8. Reminders that even with my parents gone, I’m not as old as I sometimes think.

What Does It Say That This Is News?

The truth is, getting up and moving is good even if you’re thin.

Seriously, this was included in a Sunday magazine feature on exercise.  Specifically:

I’m perfectly fine the way I am, thank you. I’m not even overweight.

The truth is, getting up and moving is good even if you’re thin.

It turns out being sedentary is a health risk. Period. It’s up there with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, even smoking, according to a 2010 article in the Journal of the American Heart Association. In fact, fitness level is a “more powerful predictor” of survival than traditional risk factors, the journal says. That means an active person who’s overweight can have a better prognosis than a thin, sedentary person.

What does it say that our society is so invested in thin = healthy and fat = unhealthy that it’s necessary to point out that thinness doesn’t indicate health?

QOTD: Health

The debate about what exactly health means goes back to ancient Greece. Does health just mean living a long time? Does it mean feeling strong? Are athletes the epitomy of health? In fact, athletes suffer more injuries and illnesses than the rest of the population because they push themselves so hard. So who represents health? What about spiritual health? Ethical health? It’s amazing how much we project onto body type these days, through our grossly oversimplified idea of health.

Ben Spatz

Things to read

I think a lot of people look to exercise to help them lose weight, and when they don’t lose weight immediately with exercise, they quit. They return to the couch, and they basically never move again. What is lost in that is that fitness is almost certainly more important than fatness. — Gretchen Reynolds, promoting her new bookThe First 20 Minutes.

On the one hand, this is a bit of aduh“. On the other hand, there are clearly a lot of people who don’t get it.  From the same article:

Ms. Reynolds makes a clear distinction between the amount of exercise we do to improve sports performance and the amount of exercise that leads to better health. To achieve the latter, she explains, we don’t need to run marathons, sweat it out on exercise bikes or measure our peak oxygen uptake. We just need to do something.

“Humans,” she writes, “are born to stroll.”

While I’m writing about exercise, you may have seen references to the recent study which concluded “[h]ealthy lifestyle habits are associated with a significant decrease in mortality regardless of baseline body mass index.”  If you’re interested, the full text is here.  (I also realize that not everyone cares ;)

On a different note, Seanan McGuire has a great “Dear girls of the world today” post on her blog:

Collect dolls or knives or books or interesting rocks. Watch horror movies or romances or cartoons. Run races; go to spas. Eat cake or lettuce. Buy yourself a toy light saber and make your own wooooom noises while you wave it around; build a cardboard castle and chuck plush mushrooms at your would-be rescuers. Live your life, the way you want to live it, and understand that no one can kick you out of “the girl club” for doing it wrong, because you’re not.

May is Mental Health Awareness month:

Mental health is about more than mental illness. Please don’t hear “mental health” and just think “crazy people”, or even, more enlightenedly, “people with mental illnesses”. Health isn’t only a topic for sick people, and that’s just as true in the psychological as the somatic. — Siderea

I found this lesson in illustrating wheelchairs from someone who uses one rather illuminating.

Also: May the Fourth be with you!

Five Things Makes a Post

  1. New job! I have a new job.  The place I was temping hired me in late December.  I’m not doing exactly the same job, which is both “new and scary” and “cool and interesting”.   It’s also been interesting to note that the things I was looking forward to ending with the contract (the commute, say) are now things I’m stuck with, and the things I was thinking I’d miss (the walkability of the neighborhood) are now things I get to enjoy longer.
  2. According to the New York Times, my household is in the top 48% for the Seattle-Everett area this year (based on my unemployment for the first 3 months + contract for 8.5 months + signing bonus + hubby’s temp gig.)
  3. Asthma has been kicking my butt lately.  My nurse practitioner upped my dose of Advair and OMG I had so! much! energy!  this! week!   I have been enjoying it but also crashing harder at the end of the day.
  4. A coworker was floored that I am able to pick up my father’s wheelchair and load it into my car.  I pointed out that once I remove the back and seat, it collapses into a big flatish bundle.  “But isn’t it heavy?”  About 40lbs, really … which doesn’t seem all that much to me.  So I guess the weightlifting is doing me good.
  5. I have been reading more about caregiver stress and considering support groups.  I feel a bit strange about doing it, since I’m not doing the daily hands-on care.  But I am taking him to doctor visits, making medical decisions, getting his mail, managing his money, and being a supportive daughter.

Bonus: The new blog banner is a chocolate doughnut with chocolate frosting and Sounders green and blue sprinkles.  These are sold by at Seattle Sounders games.

“Peaceful” and “relaxing”?

From today’s Between Friends comic by Sandra Bell-Lundy comes this exchange….

Maeve: How’s your walking regimen?
Susan: Actually, I’m enjoying it.
Susan: Every evening I walk around the neighborhood … it’s such a peaceful, relaxing way to end the day.
Maeve, shocked: “Peaceful” and “relaxing”?
Maeve, accusing: I thought you were trying to improve your health!!

Yes, starting a new exercise program can be hard.

Yes, some people are training for a competition or rebuilding after an injury or illness or surgery. That can be hard.

But it is possible to dance or play basketball or do yoga or walk around the neighborhood and finish relaxed and happy. And it’s still exercise. Even if you your BMI doesn’t automagically register as “normal”.

Maybe if we didn’t all expect that “exercise” is a universal experience with universal results this wouldn’t be so confusing.

The Fitness Question

Suppose you exercised three times a week. Suppose you got stronger.  Suppose your body were stronger and happier, you could lift more, walk further & faster, swim more.  Suppose you had less back or shoulder or knee pain. Suppose you were more relaxed, slept better, and got sick less.  Suppose all those things…but suppose you didn’t lose weight.

Would it be worth it to you to exercise if you didn’t lose weight?  If the only benefits you reaped would be the benefits of physical activity?


I am burly girl

bur·ly  Adjective: (of a person) Large and strong; heavily built.

Saturday I helped my father move into an Adult Family Home — smaller and less institutional setting than a nursing home, but still with 24-hour caregivers.  The home is at the top of a long, steep driveway.  How long?  You could easily park 3 cars, one behind the other. Possibly four cars.  We are talking serious hill here.  My dad also has a dresser with a dozen drawers, approximately 60 inches wide, 40 inches high, and 18 inches deep.

My husband and I carried it up the driveway.

It’s not the greatest feat of strength in the world, but it’s one I haven’t always been capable of performing.  But I did it, and I’m pleased.  I also helped my dad get in and out of the car multiple times, pushed his wheelchair, and stayed calm and positive through it all.

I don’t exercise specifically so I can carry dressers up hills.  But it’s nice to be able to do so.

Research on the Health Benefits of Moderate Exercise

From an article on “what’s the best exercise” comes a concise summary of the benefits of moderate exercise:

The health benefits of activity follow a breathtakingly steep curve. “The majority of the mortality-related benefits” from exercising are due to the first 30 minutes of exercise, said Timothy Church, M.D., who holds the John S. McIlhenny endowed chair in health wisdom at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. A recent meta-analysis of studies about exercise and mortality showed that, in general, a sedentary person’s risk of dying prematurely from any cause plummeted by nearly 20 percent if he or she began brisk walking (or the equivalent) for 30 minutes five times a week. If he or she tripled that amount, for instance, to 90 minutes of exercise four or five times a week, his or her risk of premature death dropped by only another 4 percent.

Yeah.  If you don’t exercise at all, working up to 30 minutes of something (like walking) 5 times a week may very well reduce your risk of death.  Increasing beyond that?  Not so much.

This isn’t always what you read in the fitness / personal improvement press. Frequently exercise is presented as something that can’t be overdone, or as an obligation to improve one’s health, or to cause weight loss.  I disagree.  Yes, moderate exercise is generally good for health.  No, that does not mean it’s a requirement, or that doing more is necessarily better.  Period.

In my case,  I have found that if I do stomach crunches regularly, my back doesn’t hurt.  I do stomach crunches.  I’ve also found that squats and leg lifts prevent knee pain for me, so I do them.  Those things matter to me.  I know people who do other special exercises and stretches to avoid injury; others love a particular activity, be it swimming or tennis or triathlons or hiking or tai chi or yoga.  (I do yoga for fun m’self.)

People tend to assume that someone who does ultramarathons is healthier than someone who walks to work.   That isn’t necessarily so.  Stronger maybe, or faster on their feet, or more practiced.  But healthier?   You can’t know.  And that’s okay.

Things That’s Up

New job is going well.   It’s my first completely non-managerial job in years.  Even when I was a “department of one” I was was still doing a lot of project / process management. I’m enjoying just doing things.

I also like this “getting paid” thing.  ;)

My commute is about an hour each way, sometimes longer, depending on bus connections. This is longer than I’m used to, and I’m glad I get to read or noodle on the computer during the long bus ride.

On the fitness front, I’m adapting well to the daily walking-between-buses routine, even with my backpack weighing 16lbs once I add the work equipment I may need at home.  (I carried a heavier backpack in college, but I was more used to it then.  I’m being careful while I adapt now, and doing more tummy crunches and other core work.)

I’m also focusing on being sure I can do tomorrow what I did today — in other words, I’m totally agreeing with Noël on her recent “go hard or go home” rant.

My work desk situation isn’t perfect from an ergonomic point of view, but I’ve made some adjustments that help (raising the monitor & getting a mouse pad).  I also find getting up and walking around a bit every few hours does wonders.  I’m in a rather large office building, so a trip to the bathroom or to refill my water bottle tends to get the kinks out.

I am also dealing with some family stuff.  My father’s been sick lately, and I finally convinced him to see a doctor, so I’ve been ferrying him to and from various appointments.  I wish he’d been willing to see a doctor before, when I was unemployed, but no.  Le sigh.   I’m also finding that being paid hourly makes me worry less about taking time off than when I salaried.  Interesting…

What is frustrating is that 8 hours of work + lunch + 2 (or more) hours of commute  = more of my day that I’d like.  Meeting the man of the house for dinner and a soccer game at the pub?  Fun.  Also takes up most of my “down” time.  My schedule has also been shifted earlier than I prefer.   The temptation to short myself on sleep is strong in the evening, but I know damn well I won’t be happy (or productive) if I do.

So. Off to sleep.  Be good, y’all.

QOTD: Fitness and fatness

From Reuters, on a study in patients with coronary artery disease that looked at fitness levels and BMI:

[Heart specialist and study leader Dr. Francisco] Lopes-Jimenez said, the lesson for patients is clear: try to improve your physical fitness. “It is much easier to become fit than it is to become slim,” he said. “Anybody who has gone into an exercise program would agree with that.”

While Lopes-Jimenez seems to presume his patients want to exercise (or otherwise take action to improve their health) it is radical to see a heart specialist stating that a person can improve their fitness without being slim.  Or that exercise doesn’t automagically cause slimness.  Or that it can be easier to become fitter than to become thinner — which has certainly been true in my case.

Some things I’m glad about today

1)  Riding the bus to my new job means I’m walking daily again, at least on weekdays. Funny how walking even a 1/2 mile or so every day can feel good, even if it’s spread throughout the day.

2)  Yes, I have a temp gig.   At the moment it’s a better fit than the old place.

3) The commute is a short bus ride and a longer bus ride – if I make connections badly it can take 90 minutes or more.  I am getting better at making connections, though, and the long bus route is conducive to reading books or surfing the net (many of the buses have wifi).  De-stressing on the way home is a good thing.

4) The trees are blooming, but my meds are keeping my asthma largely under control.

5) From s. e. smith’s thought-provoking post on what our culture means by  “taking care of yourself“:

They don’t care about my health. They don’t care whether I am happy, whether I enjoy my body, whether I like moving and living in my body. They care that they don’t like looking at me and wish that my body would go away, would shrink, would dwindle away so that it will no longer offend their eyes. This is what people mean when they ask me if I’m ‘taking care of myself,’ when they give me a sidelong glance while I eat a doughnut, when they scrutinise me if I start to wheeze on a hike, because of course, I must be wheezing because I am fat and out of shape, not because I have asthma.

6) Hugs, kisses, and dinner from the man of the house.  :)

Plus-Sized Athletes (with heads)

There’s a story making the rounds on “plus-sized athletes” reacting to the US “Let’s Move” campaign.

The fitness community has embraced the first lady’s ‘Let’s Move’ program, but many health experts balk at equating improving health with lowering weight.

Fat aerobics instructor Sandy Shaffer and physical trainer GeMar Neloms are interviewed.  Dr Kenneth Cooper, a longtime supporter of measuring fitness independent of body weight, comments.  All suggest that body size is a poor measure of health. One bit of wording I found curious was “a robust body need not mean poor health”. Robust is an adjective meaning:

  1. (of a person, animal, or plant) Strong and healthy; vigorous.
  2. (of an object) Sturdy in construction.

What does it say that “strong and healthy; vigorous” or even “sturdy” is assumed to mean poor health?

The Age in Australia went a step further and paired the story with a photo of plus-size women (with heads) doing aerobics.

Fat women doing aerobics

Image from The Age

Yelling Out The Car Window

Today a young(ish?) male passenger in a car yelled something at me out of the car window. I was walking down the sidewalk at the time.* This isn’t common around here, perhaps because Seattleites are reserved (or unsocial, take your pick) — and/or because it’s the suburbs, so not a huge number of walkers anyway.

I could tell by his tone that he was yelling rather loudly and angrily. But between the speed of the car (30mph zone) and Bono singing from my iPod, I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch the words.** Poor boy, here he got up the gumption to speak out against the fat oppressors*** and I didn’t even hear what he said!

*This sort of street harassment is not uncommon in the fat experience. It’s also interesting that it’s often targeted at fat people who are exercising, to the point that fat people cite fear of social stigma as a reason to NOT exercise.

**Possibly a triumph of tech over hate?

***Yes, sarcasm is strong here. Also a shout-out to Brian’s alternate world theory.

Update: Yelling is not physical violence.  I do not consider yelling to justify physical violence or vandalism.

On Decoupling Exercise and Weight Loss

From obesity researcher Travis Saunders comes this excellent post on how Canadian public health efforts to increase activity work against their own aims by tying exercise with weight loss:

[T]he average weight loss in response to a moderate increase in physical activity levels is very modest, and it’s likely that many people would see no weight reduction of any kind.   Even if it’s in the range of 5% of body weight (which is unlikely over the long-term), it’s probably substantially less than most people are hoping for. In which case the individuals who are only exercising for the sake of losing weight are going to get discouraged pretty quickly […]

Further, this overwhelming focus on the relationship between inactivity and obesity may lead some lean individuals to conclude that they have no reason to be physically active since their body weight is already in a normal range. […]

[A] single session of aerobic exercise results in measurable improvements triglyceride levels, HDL (good) cholesterol, and insulin sensitivity, even though it has no real impact on adiposity.   Further, it has been noted that mortality levels are lower among obese but fit individuals, as compared to lean but unfit individuals, suggesting that we really do need to be promoting physical activity as a healthy behaviour for everyone, not just those who are overweight or obese.

Travis writes at the Obesity Panacea blog.  Obesity Panacea focuses on the science (or lack thereof) behind popular weight loss products and discussions of the latest news and research regarding obesity, nutrition and physical activity.   It isn’t an explicitly size-acceptance space.

[Bolding and links within the quote are from the original.]