Women standing up against a society [that bastardizes] thin and athletic women

[Discussion of fat hate & discrimination]

OK, I wanted to give people the benefit of the doubt.

When Lesley Kinzel wrote about the Kickstarter campaign to raise money for a to stand up for “thin and athletic women” who are oppressed by society’s expectations, I wondered if:

  1. The author of the Kickstarter campaign thought that using hyperbole about “a society that protects fat culture” would be eye-catching, and,
  2. If the author of the Kickstarter campaign had conflated society’s dislike of visible muscles on women as “pro-fat”.

The photo of the author on Kickstarter definitely shows visible abs definition, and yes, “feminine” usually correlates to “few or no visible muscles”.  Some women do fear gaining visible muscle and avoid weightlifting as a result.  Women bodybuilders are sometimes viewed as “masculine” or “freaky”.

From the Kickstarter description of the project:

Collection of images of women standing up against a society that protects fat culture while bastardizing thin and athletic women.

[…]

There are millions of women out there and im sure you know at least one looking for a voice , not from tvs and magazines, not from victorias secret.. but from the ground level , to speak up and tell them that its okay to want to be in better shape.

[…]

But.. if it just makes it into the hands of ONE little girl who feels like she has to be overweight to fit in with the current 70% of the overweight population of America, and it gives her the strength to know that being healthy isnt a bad thing.

Then this whole project is worth all the time and effort i can possibly afford to put into it.

…. ah no.

Obese individuals are highly stigmatized and face multiple forms of prejudice and discrimination because of their weight (1,2). The prevalence of weight discrimination in the United States has increased by 66% over the past decade (3), and is comparable to rates of racial discrimination, especially among women (4). Weight bias translates into inequities in employment settings, health-care facilities, and educational institutions, often due to widespread negative stereotypes that overweight and obese persons are lazy, unmotivated, lacking in self-discipline, less competent, noncompliant, and sloppy (2,5,6,7). These stereotypes are prevalent and are rarely challenged in Western society, leaving overweight and obese persons vulnerable to social injustice, unfair treatment, and impaired quality of life as a result of substantial disadvantages and stigma.

— Rebecca M. Puhl and Chelsea A. Heuer writing in “The Stigma of Obesity: A Review and Update” published in Obesity.

Look, I get that nobody’s life is perfect.  There’s a reason the Romneys believed  their college years were a “struggle”.  There’s a problem with how our society regards bodies, especially women’s bodies, as open to public discussion.  But I have trouble believing that a thin, fit woman is going to be less likely to be hired than a fat woman with the same qualifications.  I have trouble believing that a fit, thin woman is going to be told to gain weight to when she goes to the doctor’s. And I certainly don’t buy this belief that women need to be told it’s okay to want to get into better shape when every women’s magazine assumes getting into better shape is every woman’s dream.

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.

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 http://www.toppotdoughnuts.com/ at Seattle Sounders games.

Not quite a post

So I’d like to write a post, but I’m not sure what about.  At the moment I’m listening to Fatcast and doing leg lifts.

I am pleased that I can lie down and do a couple sets of a dozen double-leg raises — lifting both legs together so the feet are about a foot off the floor, then lowering them in a controlled fashion — instead of one leg at a time.  For a long time I did one leg at a time because I didn’t have the control to do more than 2 or 3 double-leg lifts. I’m also  amused that I end up combining them with Kegels to prevent leakage. ;)

It’s also nice that tummy crunches on the floor are getting easier, though our ball is still fun and gets is share of use.

I also did some side leg lifts and some yoga back stretches and moves to strengthen my back (getting on all fours, lifting left arm and right leg, hold, go back to all fours, then lift right arm and left leg, hold).

…and now I am tired and am going to bed.  Night all.

Thankful Thursday

[a not-always-weekly exercise in gratitude]

Not too hot today, so the HVAC system at work going out for most of the day didn’t lead to sweltering….

Helped the man of the house move some equipment that I distinctly remember was really heavy … only it didn’t seem that heavy when I was carrying it tonight. (The dumbbell workouts are paying off!)

Fun time with friends watching the Sounders game.

I’m getting better at cutting back the blackberry canes in our back yard without scratching myself.  (Blackberries are weeds here.)

Getting enough sleep.  :)

Hm. Not sure if this is good or bad…

On the one hand, going a week without a walk isn’t something I’m thrilled with.  Being inconsistent with exercise is part of how I’ve screwed up my knees in the past.

On the other hand, it IS nice that when I finally went for a walk this evening (at 10pm, after work, hoping it would help me unwind) I didn’t have any problems with doing my usual walk.   Yay leg lifts & other strength training.  ;)

An “Oh!” Moment

Today I was reflecting on the history of my knee/leg problems, starting with injuring my right leg and knee when I started an exercise program in July of 07.  I attributed this to starting with a more strenuous program than I could handle.

Why did I start an exercise program in July of 07?  Because:

  • I’d started treatment for my exercise-induced asthma, which had been limiting my ability to exercise previously….
  • I’d started treatment for my vitamin B12 deficiency and was full of energy and wanted to MOVE and DO things.

Here’s where I usually add, “Unfortunately, my muscles weren’t up to handling what I was doing.”   I’d started walking a 1/2 mile a day, working up to a mile a day, and then a mile and a half  — but apparently that was too much.

I’d also recently looked up journal entries from when I’d gone on other exercise kicks, plus other vacations that involve a lot of walking.  In 06 I had noticed feeling fatigued, had mentioned it to my ARNP,* but I’d still had a several walk-heavy vacations without injury.  I wondered how my muscles had been so atrophied in a year, how I’d been so much more sedentary.  Yes, symptoms of b12 deficiency include fatigue, depression, and balance problems….

And weight loss and weakness.  That sounds like muscle loss.   What if I hadn’t lost weight, but what if I’d lost muscle?   That might explain it.  From my diary at the time, 6 days after starting b12 supplementation:

This is getting entirely too weird.

First, I’m nowhere near as interested in meat and eggs as I was. Especially for breakfast. Suddenly I’m eating a banana and yogurt for breakfast, and steaming veggies with garlic and a little chicken for lunch. I haven’t done this in years.

Second, I’m not crashing hard in the afternoon.

Third, I’m less tired in general.

And now … I’m not as interested in caffeine … ? Note, I haven’t stopped drinking it. But instead of a minimum of 7 cans/cups, today I had 2 cans of diet Pepsi and 1 cup of coffee.   I’m craving chocolate less too.

This is all within one week.

A week later:

I feel like I’m bursting with energy and want to move and dance all the time. In reality, I’m ready to sit down – or at least stretch a bit – after an hour. Sitting still and focusing on work? Er…NOT so good. Wanna play!

So…hm. Maybe it wasn’t just that I’d been a lump. By the time I was diagnosed the lab noticed my red blood cells were notably deformed and I was pretty anemic.  I was asked if I’d lost weight, and the answer was no…but that might not mean I hadn’t lost muscle.

At least I hadn’t developed dementia.


*As noted earlier, my former ARNP listened to my concerns, checked my thyroid function, and decided it could be my history of depression or that I was overweight and should consider WLS.   She also upped my Wellbutrin prescription.   The B12 deficiency wasn’t found until I changed healthcare providers.

Bras, Exercise and Other Body Vagaries

My 44DDD Lilyette #908 (also known as Cortland #7101) bras were getting worn and riding up the back.  Riding up the back usually means the band is too long, but as they were also visibly worn I figured I just needed non-stretched-out ones.  My Elomis are fitting better, but the underwires come right up to my armpits, and I like the Lilyettes.

So I bought 2 new 44DDDs.  Which are also riding up the back.  Not in the first 5 minutes, when I might have returned them if I wanted to eat the shipping.  No, after a few wearings.

Bras can really get on my nerves.  When well-fitting and supportive, they’re great!   They let me just get on with my day.  But when they’re NOT well-fitting or supportive, they range from uncomfortable to painful — sort of like not wearing a bra at all, in fact.

Bra shopping is worse.  Most women aren’t my size, which means most bras aren’t made for a woman my size.  This limits my choices in bras, but also in shopping venues.  Real variety is only available online.  As Lesley at Fatshionista memorably pointed out, this is not fun.

The cup size fits fine, at least, and they are now available in a G cup, so I could order a 42G to try (after buying it and paying shipping, of course).

Alternatively … I’ve been so focused on walking and leg exercises that I haven’t been doing any upper-body exercises lately.   One of the things that’s always frustrated me when I start doing upper-body exercises is that I generally end up needing a bigger bra rather quickly.  Bigger how?  Band size.

Changing my underbust size is expensive.  Bras don’t support DDD/G boobs unless they fit well, damn it, and my bras cost at least $25; my Elomi bras are $54, and they’re not the most expensive I’ve seen.  So of course that’s the part of my body that changes quickest when I exercise!  The only other part which would be more expensive to change would be my feet!

Today I did 12 wall push-ups, which felt good.   When I’m ready I’ll switch to doing push-ups on the foot of my bed*.   Later I’ll get out the dumbbells for some curlshammer curls, and shoulder presses.   And if the 44DDD Lilyettes still aren’t fitting in a month then I’ll see about a 42G.


*I have a very sturdy bedframe that was made by a friend. The kitchen counter would also work.

Feeling Better

I caught up on sleep over the weekend.  This is good thing, since I turn into a bear of very little patience when I don’t have enough.  ;)

I also realized yesterday that I’ve gone days without taking ibuprofen for my leg.  I passed “Not hurting all the time” a little over a week ago and now I’m at “not hurting unless I misstep / walk to fast”.   This is also a good thing.

Finally, last night I was able to do 20 each of:

…for both legs.  Plus 15 elbow-to-knee raises on each side and some back extensions.  Three weeks ago I had trouble doing any lifts with my left leg, so this is a goodness.

Today I walked a quarter-mile loop around the office park where I work.  It was pain-free for the first 2/3rds of it — stepped wrong, it hurt, recovered, and continued back to my office and rewarded myself with diet Pepsi.  :)

One thing I realized this fall: I thought that increasing my walking meant I could let the strength training slide.   I was wrong.  Looks like I need to figure out how to make exercise a habit, because I’m tired of re-injuring myself!

Starter Strength Training Moves

[In response to the “You weigh 400lbs and you exercise???  How can I start??” emails, I seem to be doing a “how-to” series on exercise.  Skip it if it doesn’t interest you.]

Strength training is often seen as weight lifting, but you don’t have to use weights, so for this post I’m going to assume there aren’t any.  You don’t have to already be able to do pullups or pushups, either!   One of the best ones for me is a simple exercise I got from the physical therapist* that I call chair squats:

  1. Sit down.  (Lower seats are more challenging; higher ones are easier.)
  2. Stand up slowly, using both legs.
  3. Slowly lower yourself back down, again using both legs.
  4. Repeat.

How many times do you repeat?  Depends on where you’re at.  I was told to repeat it 10 times in a row, then try for another 10, and to work up to a third set of ten.   (In exercise-speak this is “2-3 sets of 10 repetitions“.)

BUT…what if you can’t do this ten times?  What if you’re having trouble doing this twice in a row? Then just do it twice. It’s a good idea to stop if you have to speed up — you want to keep your movements slow and controlled.**  Keep doing it twice every day or every other day** and soon you probably can do it three times in a row, then four. You can shake it up a bit, doing 2 sets of 3.***   You can also try a different chair.  Eventually you may not need to have a chair at all — which is a full squat, in bodyweight parlance.

That is strength training in a nutshell:

  1. Pick a movement that uses muscles you want to make stronger.
  2. Repeat it as needed (up to 8 – 12 times).
  3. Rest.
  4. Do this  2-3 times a week, or every other day.

What’s the benefit?  The chair squat is a compound exercise, meaning it’s strengthing multiple muscles — in this case, most of the muscles in your legs — to do a better job of supporting you.  You may improve your balance and joints.  It’s a functional movement, meaning it’s a movement you do in real life, and so it benefits your real life.  You don’t need any equipment other than a chair.

Ah, you wonder, what about the rest of the body?   Here’s where I started:

  • Abdominal crunches**** I’m a desk worker.  These really help my abdominal muscles stay strong enough to support my back when I’m working late.   I had decades of low back pain until I started doing these and back exercises—now I compare crunches to flossing.
  • Bridge Okay, I started with the modified Cobra from Yoga for Round Bodies, but the physical therapist recommended this, and it’s easier to describe without video.
    1. Lay on your back on the floor, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  You want to be fairly comfortable.
    2. Lift your bottom off the floor, so you are holding yourself on shoulders and feet.  Try 20 seconds at first.  You can vary the length or do repetitions.
  • Wall Push-Ups I’d known about these for years, but had never made the leap from wall-ups to full push-ups.  One day Noël pointed out that doing push-ups on the kitchen counter is harder than wall-ups, easier than full push-ups, and it’s still a compound exercise that uses arms, chest, and upper back.   If you’ve got a flight of stairs available, you’ve got even more options to adjust how much of your bodyweight you’re lifting with your arms.
  • Walking. If you haven’t been walking much, walking will be a strength training move for you. After my injury, 4 minutes on the treadmill was a challenge. I got stronger.  One woman began her exercise program by walking around her kitchen using her counters for support, 25 steps at a time, 100 a day. She got stronger.*****

Pushups, BTW, touches on something else.  I have a history of wrist injuries.  When doing upper body exercises I have to be careful to keep my wrists straight and to not overstrain them — which makes any variant of pushup more challenging for me than someone who hasn’t had wrist problems. In this case, I’m doing lots more of the easier exercises (wallups) and not moving onto the harder ones.  Everyone has different histories and limitations — the key is to know your own issues.  If something isn’t working, try a different exercise or an easier variation instead.


*No, I’m not a physical therapist myself, nor do I play on on the internet.  You know your abilities and limitations much better than I do.

**If you push harder, you will likely have sorer muscles the next day.  Keeping things slow and controlled is a good way to be sure you aren’t pushing, but to really avoid soreness do less than you think you can.  Some tips to alleviate sore muscles:  train every other day or every third day; warm bath or shower; stretching the sore muscles; going for a comfortable walk; ibuprofen or another favorite painkiller.

***More discussion of the terms and how you can vary things is here.   I’ll be posting more on that later, too.

****I remember doing this in high school and my mother complaining that she found it too hard to get up off the floor to do them.   I wish that exercise balls had been easier to find then!

*****Story is discussed on a page that also discusses weight loss here.  Please don’t follow the link if discussion of weight loss will make you uncomfortable.

Why Go to the Gym?

During a discussion on another site, someone mentioned in passing that “many – if not most – people join a gym to lose weight”.

This made me think a bit.

Do I hear gymgoers talking about losing weight or wanting to lose weight? Some.  But I also hear gymgoers talking about getting stronger, or faster, or increasing endurance — and I’m glad I’m not the only woman talking in these terms!

And, occasionally, I hear discussion of wanting to gain weight, or rather, to gain muscle.  Here’s the thing, though: So far, at least at my gym, the people I’ve heard talking about bulking up are men.  Thin men.  Because men are supposed to be big and strong, and women are supposed to be thin and dainty.

Does one have to join a gym to do this?  Of course not.  You can do a lot of strength training with bodyweight alone and a few dumbbells.  Putting on Springsteen and dancing in the living room can be as aerobic as you’d like. If you mostly walk everywhere that can keep you in good shape too!

What the gym often provides is more and varied equipment.  This can help keep you interested and let you try new activities.  It’s also less costy than buying and maintaining specialized equipment. A membership at a gym with a pool is a lot cheaper than building a pool, especially when the weather doesn’t support swimming outside year-round.

In my case, I mostly save time.  At home I’m working each leg individually, so it takes at least twice as long as at the gym — and often more because I can push the resistance up on the machines higher than with my ankle weight.  This lets me do fewer sets for the same amount of muscle tiredness.

Do you belong to a gym?  Why/why not?

Small Pleasures

Tuesday I got tired of feeling stiff each time I got up from my desk.  I started an experiement: even if I’m just getting up to get coffee/tea or go to the bathroom, I “take the long way”.  I walk through more of the office than strictly necessary, then downstairs a flight and back up.

I don’t feel stiff after doing this, and also more awake.

Why is this a victory?  Because ever since I messed up my knee, walking downstairs has been a lot harder and more painful than walking upstairs.  Even when I’d built back up to walking upstairs with both legs, I’d still often only use the “good” leg to go downstairs.  At the office I had months of walking upstairs and taking the elevator down.

Now I’ve built enough strength and control that an extra trip down or two doesn’t bother me.  It’s a small pleasure, but I’m savoring it.   :)

Thankful Thursday…

…just under the wire :)  Today I’m thankful for:

  1. My Making It Big order (BOGO, on clearance) arriving and all four items fit.
  2. I’m taking a long weekend just because I feel like it ;)
  3. Being able to lift some boxes today a lot easier than a few months ago.
  4. Going out to the French place for a Bastille Day special on Tuesday.
  5. New bras that fit.

Speaking of Tuesday: I went with a friend who wears skirts much more often than I.  As it was a “special event” I wore a red straight skirt, black “Marilyn” top, and pantyhose.  I do not often wear pantyhose, because my body is hard to fit.   I have hose which is supposed to be designed for someone up to 6′ and over 400lbs, but I do not think the manufacturer really thought someone would both weigh 400lbs and have a 30″ inseam.  I think it was assumed most women would have a 30″ inseam or weigh 400lbs. But I’ve been dealing with an allergic rash on my calf and the hose would cover it, so I did.

The hose sort of fit, in that it did go on — all the way up to my waist — without going up to my boobs.   But it only sort of fit, because the crotch of the hose was a few inches below my underwear.  At least, until I put on…*gasp*…my panty girdle.  Yes, I have a Flexees 10x panty girdle to hold up my pantyhose.

But the hose did cover the rash.  We both looked good. I ate lamb chops with fava beans and lovely French sauvignon blanc ;)

Side Benefits to Exercise

…and I’m not saying anyone has to exercise.   Goodness knows a lot of the “Exercise Shoulds” do nothing but spoil the party.  But as I’ve tried to let go of the Shoulds and exercise for my own reasons, I’m discovering some things I didn’t expect.

  • I’m generally sleeping better.
  • Less low back pain.
  • Walking or aerobics tends to get rid of my nervous energy; I find weight lifting and yoga both help me meditate.  Both cause stress to dissipate.
  • I often get semi-“alone time” with some favorite tunes.
  • I usually have a warm, relaxed feeling after a workout.

My muscles get warmed up and feel happier, though I wouldn’t call it a “runner’s high”.  Perhaps that’s because I’m not a runner.  Or, to quote someone who was a runner and eventually a racewalker:

I’d spent the previous two decades ingesting various mood-altering substances, and I damn well knew what it was to be high, and that you couldn’t manage it by running around in circles.

Lawrence Block wrote that in his engaging memoir Step by Step. I certainly don’t have grounds to disagree with the man.  :)

I also want to note that feeling good when exercising is only something I’ve found when I’m choosing to exercise, myself — not when I’ve been pushed to exercise (by teachers, by parents, by other relatives).   Let’s face it, it’s hard to feel GOOD when you’re feeling BAD about not losing weight.  If your emotions are on overload you may not necessarily notice how your body feels when moving around.

What about you?  If you choose to exercise, do you find yourself reaping benefits you didn’t expect?

Day in the Life: Returning to Fitness World

(I think that’s my new name for the gym, and not just when I’m doing a body fat test.  ;)

Yes, I’ve been putting it off.  Partly because I’m easily the largest woman I’ve seen there, partly because dealing with the tech during the body fat test did rattle me a bit, and partly because I had a fairly serious asthma attack Monday night.   I’d used my inhaler in prep for going for a walk.  Walking uphill I was gasping and stopping to catch my breath for over a block, not sure if I wanted to use my inhaler again.  Then the tightness in my chest got tighter and painful.  I  remembered that it’s a symptom of asthma too, and used my inhaler.  Almost immediately the pain subsided and I could breathe better.

But still.  Chest pain?   Scary.   Tuesday I got my 2nd preventative asthma prescription filled and contented myself with my home weight routine (there’s a lot you can do with dumbbells and an ankle weight.)

And tonight I stopped by the gym on my way home.

If Curves is very “girls work out” and the Y has a “family vibe”, my gym is more “serious workout” — partly due to the wide range of free weights and different lines of weight machines.   That variety is one of the reasons I joined this particular gym, in fact.  Each manufacturer makes their machines for particular body types; more lines and manufacturers makes it more likely I’ll find machines that fit my body.

So, tonight, I used my inhaler 20 minutes before exercising, as recommended.  I walked on the treadmill for 20 minutes to warm up and moved onto weights. Usually I start with leg presses, but today I tried a new machine that more closely approximates a squat.  I ended up deciding that it has me crouch at a bad angle for me, at least right now, but that’s a good thing to learn.  I moved on to the seated leg extension, leg curl (basically the opposite of the extension), seated row, shoulder press, and pulldowns.

Not the world’s biggest workout, but I feel comfortably tired and glad I went.

Thankful Thursday

1) Friends and family who listen to me whine about work and general stress.

2) We are at the peak of sunlight here … so it won’t be getting worse, and I will be (hopefully) getting better sleep in a few weeks.

3) Continuing fun with weightlifting.

4) Getting faster at walking.

5) I’m sitting by an open window and there’s a nice, soft rain starting outside.  It smells wonderful. :)

Thankful Thursday

1) Back at the gym with its many different sorts of weight and cardio machines …

2) … and my knees are NOT hating me.  :)

3) Not getting embarrassed when I start sweating and breathing hard before my workout partner (who’s on the next treadmill over). 

4) A good weekend away from work.  

5) The man of the house…just because.