Tag Archive | Fat

Healthy Living: An Ongoing Journey

1997? The delights of the 19 year old metabolism!

1997. The delights of the 19 year old metabolism!

It seems that I have always had a complicated relationship with my weight and my body in general. I was a bit of a pudgy child who turned into an overweight teenager. After I graduated high school, I did drop about 50 pounds over a 6 month period (oh, the delights of a 19 year old metabolism!), and I managed to keep it off for a while. But then, well, life interfered–I started a new relationship, I moved, I got engaged, I moved again, I got married, I moved again, I traveled, I moved again, and then I moved again, I traveled some more, I graduated college, I had two kids, I got a new (real) job, I started grad school, I got an assistantship, I quit grad school, and then I got back with my old (real) job. Yeah, that pretty much covers it. During all that time, I was always either starting a diet, on a diet, or coming off a diet, yo-yoing back and forth between 140 pounds and 170+ pounds.  I also alternately hated and did not hate my body. When I was close to the magical 140-pound number, my body was spectacular and wonderful. I looked younger. I fit into more trendy clothing. I received more attention and life was just generally easier when thin. But, the further north my weight climbed from 140, the more my body was the enemy; something to be battled and triumphed over. During those times, my body was nothing more than a shell that needed to be beaten into an acceptable shape by any means necessary–because doesn’t society determines a woman’s worth by how skinny/pretty she is?

It was so freaking hot that day!

July 2013. It was so freaking hot that day!

Regardless of the larger societal issues with which I am still struggling, that brief history brings us up to July 2013, when my family and I took a mini-vacation to Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun. At that time, I was in my “off diet” phase of life. Honestly, I’d been “off diet” since prior to the birth of my youngest son in 2010. The trip itself was great; the kids met Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, they rode new rides, played at the waterpark, and most important to this blog post, we took lots of photos and videos. When we got back, I was sorting through the digital files and deciding what to share. Up until this point, I had become a master at hiding my “off diet” body in still photos by strategically placing my youngest in front of me, or in my lap, and then peeking out from behind him. But, there was one waterpark video where I didn’t know my husband was filming. I was coming down a kiddie waterslide behind my son and in the video I was having fun, but

April 2013. You totally can't see how huge I am. Hooray children!

April 2013. You totally can’t see how huge I am. Hooray children!

watching the video, I just horrified at the state of my body. I was not only fat, but also just clearly flabby and unhealthy-looking. I looked old. And fat. I could not deny it—I was a fat mom. At this point, I am sorry to say that I deleted the video just as fast as I could, but I do still have this gem, which gives you an idea of my body state 10-ish months ago. Watching that video was a real wake-up call. I didn’t want to be a fat mom…a mom who had clearly let herself get so very unhealthy after having kids. After all, my “baby” was 3.5 years old at the time, sleeping through the night, potty trained, and just about to go off to preschool; thus, I really didn’t have any excuse not to be taking better care of myself.  I didn’t feel fat or old inside, but if I’m truthful with myself, I DID feel unhealthy. I wanted to feel healthy. I decided to take control and go “on diet.” Again. For what felt like the 100th time.

food

Yummy new foods!

Of course, deciding to take control and become healthier is always the easy part. Actually taking control, getting healthy and staying that way, well, that’s the not easy part. Unlike times in the past when I have been “on diet” and lost weight, this time felt different. I felt different. I wanted this go-round on the diet wheel to be more than a diet; I wanted a permanent lifestyle change. I wanted to feel better and not just look better. I really didn’t want to be on some fad diet or magic bullshit Dr. Oz weight loss quacky-mcquack-quack pill. I knew there was no way I was going paleo (yeah, let’s eat like people did when they died at the ripe old age of 20! sounds great!), or giving up refined sugar and carbs (I’ll cut a bitch who tries to take away all my sugar), or going on a gluten-free diet (mmmmm….cardboard!), or slathering everything in some kind of disgusting powder (have you seen this shit? WTF is it?). I wanted to learn how to have a healthy relationship with food. ALL food. I wanted to stop the on-and-off-again diet cycle. I wanted to learn how to be a healthy mom who eats well and exercises regularly to show the kiddos how to live a healthy lifestyle. There’s really only one way to do that–I started eating better. More veggies. More fruit. Less chocolate. More lean proteins. Fewer crackers. I began drinking more water; a friend recommended drinking half of my body weight in ounces of water. That meant drinking 90 ounces of water every single day. It is difficult, but it’s doable. I also downloaded the Loseit app, a calorie-counter that automatically calculates your needed intake based on your gender, age, and current weight, and I began tracking what I ate. Slowly, very, very slowly, my body began to change from unhealthy and icky to healthy.

run crop

It’s always so fucking hot during August in Iowa.

After about a month of Loseit and drinking more water in a day than I ever thought possible, I was down almost 10 pounds. I was thinking about the food I was eating and how eating that food made me feel, both physically and emotionally. It was interesting. I am definitely an emotional eater-when things get rough, I eat. But, eating when you’re upset doesn’t soothe the pain away. Emotional eating just makes you feel guilty for impulsively eating crap food you know you shouldn’t eat. So, instead of eating away pain, I decided to take up exercise. I don’t live too far from one of our city’s biking/running paths, so I took up running. It sucked. I have seasonal allergies and I hate the heat and humidity of an Iowa August. In fact, to be honest, I hate running.  I only kind-of-sort-of like the idea of getting ready to go for a run and most definitely like being  done with a run. But the run itself? Nope– that’s fucking torture. Regardless, running was/is a relatively cheap exercise that I could do almost every day. To keep my motivation, I signed up for a 5K and printed out a free training plan.  It wasn’t terrible. In fact, I did have some fun both

October 5, 2013. First 5k...Color Me Rad.

October 5, 2013. First 5k…Color Me Rad.

training for and running in the 5K. After that, I trained for a 10K, which I finished in March 2014. I have plans for running two 5Ks later this month and another in July. I think I might like to try a half marathon sometime next year, but my knees have been rather tender lately, so I’ve been taking it easy. At this point, 10-ish months into my life overhaul, I’ve lost almost 28 pounds and I’ve run close to 400 miles. My single mile time has decreased from over 18 minutes for a mile to 10:20 per mile, and I can maintain that new pace for almost 6 miles. I have about 10 more pounds to go to make it to my healthy weight, and I’d like to run another 400 miles, as well as drop my single mile time below 10 minutes per mile, before the end of this calendar year.

It's SOOOOOO easy!

It’s SOOOOOO easy!

Of course, the description above makes getting healthy and losing weight sound simple. I ate better! I tracked what I ate! I ruminated about food! I drank lots of water! I exercised! BING BANG BOOM—HEALTH & WEIGHT LOSS, BABY! It’s so easy…why doesn’t everyone do it? HA! HAHAHAHA! I think we all know and understand that being healthy and losing weight isn’t that simple. It’s not as straightforward as my previous paragraphs make it sound. Weight loss itself is a numbers game (creating a 3,500 calorie deficit will create a 1 pound weight loss), but it’s so much more than that, too. It’s willpower and sweat and frustration. It’s plateaus and triumphs. It’s eating carrots when what you really want is Cheetos. It’s being gentle with yourself when you eat the Cheetos instead of the carrots. It’s allowing yourself to eat the Cheetos without guilt because you have XXXX number of calories you can spend any way you want to every day (I really love Cheetos). It’s going to the gym instead of laying on the couch and watching another Futurama rerun. Once you get off the couch and into the gym, it’s running another quarter-mile at 6.2 mph on the treadmill instead of cranking it down to 3.0 mph or quitting. It’s all these things and more. It’s hard.  It’s so so so so very hard. But it’s worth it.

Compulsory comparison collage.

Compulsory comparison collage.

Ultimately, weight lost and health gained is a difficult journey and it never really ends. I think that for long-term health and maintaining any weight loss, you have to look at your novel eating and exercising habits as the new normal in your life rather than something you’re doing on a temporary basis to achieve an end goal. Personally, I’m approaching my desired weight, but I don’t plan on doing anything differently once I finally get there. And when I do arrive at the magical 145 pounds, I’ll still need to continue eating healthy and exercising. After all, it’s not like we arrive at our goal weight and then stay there if we revert back to the lifestyle that made us unhealthy in the first place. Plus, I’m still an emotional eater and I probably always will be. Over the past 10-ish months, I’ve learned a lot about healthy eating, exercise, and my food relationships. I’ve also learned to appreciate and accept myself and my body.  I no longer see my body as something that I have to beat into submission by any means possible, but rather a vessel that will change as I age. And the health of my body is what matters; no matter the number on the scale.

This doesn't matter.

This doesn’t matter.

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Gwynnie Bee & Self-Image

**This is a self-reflective piece about body-image, juxtaposing models of average-ish weight against the wafer-thin models we normally see. Both types of models are lovely and needed. This is an exploration of my own thoughts on the issue.**

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad “fashions” being foisted upon the unsuspecting public. Although I did not address the issue in the last week’s blog post, I have continued my quest to find something cute, wearable, and reasonably priced in my new sizes. After being so thoroughly disappointed in every store in my city, I began searching the internet for a viable clothing alternative. I came across Gwynnie Bee, which is apparently the Netflix of clothing. Like Netflix, at Gwynnie Bee you pay a monthly fee, create a list of desired items, and, based on the plan you chose, the company sends you a certain number of clothing items at a time. You wear them and when you decide you’re done with the items, you send them back in a pre-paid envelope, and then the company sends you the next items on your list. The website even has the measurement charts for all the manufacturers they carry, thus minimizing the vanity sizing issues. So, to recap…clothing delivered to your door for a monthly fee and you can send back and get new items an unlimited number of times each month. Sounds great! How much? And what do they have? I went to the Gwynnie Bee website, clicked on the “Fresh Looks” menu tab, and started perusing the clothing items (which were no uglier and sometimes less ugly than what’s in stores now), but I couldn’t help but notice something…the models on that website are…FAT. Fat by typical modeling industry standards, anyway. Why are there fat models on a clothing site? I investigated more closely and saw that Gwynnie Bee caters to women’s clothing sizes from 10-32. Well, okay, so the company offers fashions to women who are usually ignored by clothing brands. But why are there fat models who are showing off the clothing? Don’t wafer-thin models schlep all the clothing sizes? And, wait, are the models on this site really fat or do they simply depict a more realistic picture of an average woman? These models are curvy and pretty, wearing nice clothes, and they all have hair and skin that I’m extremely jealous of. Why am I so distracted by their body types?

I first visited Gwynnie Bee’s website about 2 weeks ago. Since then I’ve been popping over to the site daily and I’ve random modelbeen thinking a lot about why I’m bothered by larger models showing how clothing made for larger women will fit said larger women. I don’t quite understand why my brain is stuck on this. Is it simply because I’m so used to seeing the standard, highly-photoshopped, blend-into-the-background young, pretty, skinny, perfectly toned model that when I’m confronted with a more middle-of-the-road body type I can’t deal? Has my brain been so warped by the photographic imagery of women (and men, too) that we see in the media every day? A few weeks ago, I would have said no, but clearly, my questioning of the models on the Gwynnie Bee website show that I’ve been deeply affected by how the media depicts women and what body characteristics give a woman “beauty.” Are the women modeling for Gwynnie Bee not beautiful (of course they are)? I wear usually wear a size 10 or a size 12 depending on the clothing manufacturer…sizes offered by Gwynnie Bee. Am I not beautiful (of course I am)? Am I more beautiful now than I was when I was 25 pounds heavier?

 

In which photo am I most beautiful? That depends on whose standards you use.

In which photo am I most beautiful? That depends on whose standards you use.

While I’ve never really consciously thought about the social norms of body types, I’ve struggled with my both my self-image and weight my entire life. When I was a young woman in my 20’s, I never really thought of myself as beautiful—I was overweight, freckled, occasionally pimply, and had/have stretch marks and cellulite marring my body. Now, as I approach middle age, I’m more confident about myself (still freckled, still occasionally pimply, still with stretch marks and cellulite) in general, but I still fret about stupid body image issues. Even with my weight loss, I am constantly wondering if the clothing I wear is acceptable for someone my size and age. I worry about the bumps and bulges that occur in more fitted items and although I’ve been eyeing 2 lovely swimsuits on the Victoria’s Secret website, I hesitate to buy either because I don’t know if I can “pull it off.” Why do I care? I like the swimsuits, I think I would look good in either of them, I have a rewards card that needs used soon, and so I should buy one, but I don’t. If I do buy one and I look nice in it, does that validate my weight loss? I like the borrowing terms and clothes offered by Gwynnie Bee, but I don’t sign up. If I use Gwynnie Bee’s services, and the clothes fit and look nice, does that make me average/fat? And why am I letting someone else’s idea of beauty and worth cloud my own thoughts?

I can’t help but wonder if, as a rather reflective 36-year-old woman, my brain is so addled by the typical images shown by the media on a daily basis, how will my sons end up defining beauty? Will they think that all women are Coca-Cola-Clothing-Spring-Summer-2011.12-MaleModelSceneNet-02supposed to be magazine perfect with smooth skin and no bumps or imperfections? That all men should aspire to six-pack abs and chiseled arms? If they were to look at a website that shows perfectly lovely women modeling nice clothing, would they, too, be thrown for an existential loop? How do we solve this? Is the solution as simple as ensuring that all body types are equally represented in media or does this problem call for a more drastic solution? I don’t know, but I do know that visiting the Gwynnie Bee website multiple times over the last two weeks is helping my brain normalize body types that differ from the typical modeling industry standards. I may or may not order that swimsuit from VS. I may or may not sign up for Gwynnie Bee’s clothing service. In the end, it matters not. The only things that really matter are:

(1) Being newly aware of prejudices I didn’t know my mind held

(2) Working to change my those perspectives

(3) Helping my sons realize that people come in all shapes and sizes and they are all beautiful.