Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Fat-shaming as a weight loss tactic?!? Shame, shame, shame

I read an article recently that advocated fat-shaming as a way of helping obese people lose weight. I wish I could say this was a joke, but it's not. This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever heard. Obese people feel ashamed all the time anyway. Trust me, they don't need more. They feel shame every time they step on a scale at the doctor's office and see that number. They feel shame every time someone makes a rude comment about their weight. They feel shame every time they can't fit in a restaurant booth. I am here to say that shame never resulted in anyone losing weight. It only adds weight, both physically and emotionally.

I say this because I know from experience. Many overweight people, me included, are also emotional eaters. There is immense shame and guilt involved in that as well. It just galls me to no end to think that some researcher thinks that by adding more shame to the equation, it will make someone suddenly think that they need to start losing weight. It is way more likely to result in binge eating.

For me, all that shame ever did was to contribute to me eating my way into a dark hole so deep that I didn't think I could ever crawl my way out. It was only when I decided to stop feeling ashamed that I was able to start losing the weight. Did I bear responsibility for the weight I had gained? Yes, I did. I would never try to act like I had no idea how I had gained so much weight, that it must be a sudden massive hormonal imbalance or maybe a gigantic cyst (gross). I knew exactly how I had gained weight. But at the same time, I decided to be kind to myself and lose the shame. Healthy or not (definitely not), the extra weight and the food that put it there served a purpose for me. It was a coping mechanism during the hardest period of my life that I have ever faced. A dysfunctional coping mechanism to be sure, but a coping mechanism all the same. I decided that I was through judging myself and feeling ashamed for using food as a way to deal with all my emotions.

I don't care how many doctorates or other impressive titles you have after your name, you will never convince me that fat shaming helps people lose weight. You know what helps people lose weight? It's not just cutting calories and exercise, though those things are no doubt important. What helps people lose weight is realizing that they are worth something at any weight. Yes, that may sound trite, but it's true. When you don't value yourself as a person, you see no reason to treat yourself well. When you believe that you are garbage, you treat yourself like garbage. You eat garbage. So instead of putting people down for their weight, we should be building them up. Some may say that that will just make them believe they don't need to lose weight at all. I don't agree with that. When people start to gain some self-esteem finally, they also start to think that they deserve better. And so they go out and they work for it.

You know what? Those fat-shamer adovocates are right about one thing. Someone should be ashamed here. It just isn't the fat people. It's them.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Insert witty quote here

 So usually if I can't think of an appropriate (and by that, I mean witty or sarcastic) post title myself, I go to trusty Google and find one. But I am here to tell you that witty and/or sarcastic quotes about photography (the subject of this post) do not seem to exist. There is a lot of touchy-feely stuff about beauty and light and "finding the secret hidden within every person," but not really any material I could actually use. And I've already gone the "worth a thousand words" route in my earlier entry A picture: Worth a thousand words, or merely a reminder of bad hairstyles, teenage desperation, and more than a few body issues? And so, I ended up with "Insert witty quote here." Hey, every title can't be award-winning (well, actually none of mine have yet to win a award really).

As I said before, this post is all about pictures. My friends and family know that I love taking pictures. Some of them hate me for it, and so I have a whole collection of pictures (mainly of my brother and sister) that just consist of a hand in front of a face. I try to tell them that they'll be grateful that we have these pictures when we're old and gray and have nothing better to do than reminisce about the good old days, but it seems to fall on deaf ears. Anyway, I was looking through my digital picture files (that are of course categorized by event, and in some cases sub-categorized by year...yes, I am a freak), and I noticed that I have a lot of pretty similar pictures that are just taken in different years. You know, like family pictures at Christmas or birthdays. Or in the case of my best friend and me, pretty much every single event ever. It was pretty cool to look at the different years and see how I've lost weight. I thought I would share a few here. I think it is interesting to point out that most of the before pictures are actually from about a full year before I started losing weight. I wasn't even at my heaviest in these. The reason I used these pictures is because there are very few pictures of me at all from about a year before I started losing to about 3 months into my journey because the last thing I wanted was a visual reminder of how big I was becoming.

Smoothies May 2011
Smoothies May 2013 (yes, in EXACTLY the same place)

Family pic December 2011
Family pic June 2013

With my cat, Earl August 2011

With Earl August 2013

My best friend Randi's birthday May 2011

Randi's birthday May 2013

Fourth of July 2011 (why did I make the pom-poms look they are attached to my boobs?)

Fourth of July 2013 (where I look slightly manic)

As you can see, 2012 is pretty much missing (as far as pictures of me go) from my picture files. That is, until my birthday in September when I finally felt comfortable enough to get in front of the camera again after losing around 50 lbs. I guess I'll have to post a birthday before and after shot next month. However, it may show me looking forlorn, as this will be my very last birthday in my 20's. I'm not quite sure how that happened. But to be honest, although I do have a little trepidation about reaching my 30's soon, the bigger part of me is just ready to make my 29th year the best yet!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Recovering scale junkie masters the art of moderation? You heard it here first!

Today marked the end of my 2 week scale vacation. I had big plans during my scale vacation to work extra hard in order to prove to myself I could lose a lot of weight even without weighing in every day. That did not happen. I started off the 2 weeks by catching a cold and having the asthma problems that go hand in hand with a cold for me. I couldn't work out for 5 days. Things have been busy. I haven't been able to focus like I wanted. Like everyone else, life gets in the way for me sometimes. But for the most part, I kept up with healthy eating. I got in at least my morning run every day after I got well, and most days also made it to the gym. And you know what? I think I may be even prouder of that than if I had had laser focus on weight loss. Because, as you know, I am always struggling against my all or nothing side. I think these past couple weeks have shown that I have gotten a firm grip on the art of moderation. I got sick and couldn't work out, but I went right back to it after I got well. I didn't have time for 2 hour long workouts some days, but I still got in an hour. I didn't eat a completely perfect diet, but I ate a pretty good one. I call it a win!

So I stepped on the scale this morning and to be quite frank, had a momentary crazy spell. I decided my pants felt tighter. There was no way I hadn't gained weight. Probably 10 lbs if I was lucky! Hey, I warned you it was crazy time for Kristen. Then I gave myself a stern talking-to (which may have looked a bit odd). I told myself that I was going to step on that scale, and I was going to own the number, good or bad. I knew how to deal with it either way. So I stepped on it and saw...a 1.8 lb loss. Is that the greatest number ever? No, it's not, but I am still proud of it. Mainly because it shows that I don't need to be constantly stepping on the scale and second guessing myself based solely on a number. I trusted myself and it paid off. From now on, it's weigh-in time only once a week. And when I say once, I mean once. No stepping on the scale 3 times on Wednesday morning to see if the number changes. Not that I've done that or anything.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Strong is the new skinny?

One of my Facebook friends (you should also check out her blog about her own weight loss here...truly amazing!) posted an article last week that was really interesting to me. When I first saw the title, I didn't really agree with it all. But then when I actually read the article, I completely changed my mind. The article was entitled "The Problem with Strong is the New Skinny." A link to it is here.

If you're on Pinterest like I am or like to read fitness magazines, you've no doubt seen the phrase "Strong is the new skinny" numerous times. I have no problem with the actual phrase. In fact, I love it. For so many people, me included when I first started, losing weight is primarily about being skinny. But skinny is really just part of the equation. What about healthy? What about strong? Being skinny doesn't necessarily mean that you are healthy and strong. So I thought it was a great thing when I started seeing motivational pictures that promoted being strong and healthy over being just plain skinny.  The problem comes when you take a look at the girls in those motivational pictures. The ones like this one:

They look pretty much exactly the same as the girls in the motivational pictures promoting being thin. The only difference is that these girls are holding a dumbbell and wearing a sports bra. Until I read that article, I had not really observed this before, but it is true once you take a closer look. The picture kind of dilutes the intended message somewhat. It says "Strong is the new skinny, but only if you're this certain type of strong, only if you look like these girls." And that just made me angry.

It made me angry because I know that I am strong, and the fact is that I don't look like these girls. I don't have 6 pack abs, perfectly glistening skin, and not a single ounce of extra body fat. I may have my doubts about a lot of my personal traits, but I have never doubted that I am strong. Physically, my legs had to be strong to carry 328 lbs around day after day. And I think it's pretty much physically impossible to work out almost every single day for a solid year like I've done and not  become strong. As far as mental strength, I became more and more convinced of just how much of that I had every day that I overcame some obstacle or temptation this past year, every day that I said, "I will not quit." I don't need some picture of a 19 year old girl that superficially carries a positive message, but really says, "You're still not good enough if you don't look like this." The truth is that I don't need those pictures in order to know that I am strong even if I don't look like that. But what about that 14 year old girl reading the fitness magazine or looking at Pinterest? I don't know about you, but when I was 14, I put a lot of stock in what those magazines said I should look like. I think it is very damaging to young girls. Why can't we have pictures of normal women in those pictures, women who are strong and healthy, but may not weigh 110 lbs? Women who maybe have a muffintop or a little extra arm jiggle, but still work hard at the gym to keep the body they have. Women who may not be perfect physically, but are strong enough mentally to know that they are still more than good enough. I don't have a daughter (yet), but if and when I do, that's  the kind of role model I would want her to look up to. Day after day, I realize that perfection is boring, that our imperfections are what help make us who we are. Yet why do we as a society still strive to be perfect? I strive to be better  every day now, not perfect.

I hope that someday soon the pictures on those motivational posters truly match the message. Strong is the new skinny, but I don't discriminate about what strong looks like. It comes in all shapes and sizes.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Tales from the Scale: Confessions of a Weigh-in Addict

First of all, how could I not have thought of "Tales from the Scale" before as a title?!? It seems like a no-brainer.

I don't know about you all, but sometimes I will think of things I need to remember or do the next day right before I go to sleep. For that reason, I keep a pad of paper and pen by my bed. So last night, I was thinking about what I wanted to write in my blog today and kept coming up with ideas that I didn't want to forget. However, I decided not to turn the light on because I thought I could write legibly in the dark for some reason. That decision plus being half asleep resulted in my waking up this morning to see random illegible words written all over my pad of paper. Also, "CABLE BILL!!!" was written in huge letters for some reason I'm still trying to figure out since this bill is not due any time soon. Sometimes I frighten/confuse myself.

So since I do not remember any of my "brilliant" nighttime ideas, I'll just have to figure out some more this morning. Luckily, my scale provided me with inspiration. As I looked at the number on the scale this morning and the 0.4 lb loss that it represented, I decided that I was tired of having that stupid scale dictate how I feel. Prior to weighing, I felt great about how my week had gone. But just seeing that number was enough to take the feeling away from me. Or more accurately, I allowed that number to take my good feelings away. Sometimes I just can't help but feel like it is unfair how little results on the scale I see now as opposed to when I first started, because I work out so much harder now and eat so much better. Rationally, I know that it is normal to lose much more at the beginning because there is so much more to lose, but sometimes my brain is not rational. It's emotional. I wish I could go back to being 328 lbs for just one day so I could remember how it felt. Sometimes I see pictures of myself at that weight or read blog entries I wrote then, and it is difficult to remember being that person. I am so different now in every possible way that it gets hard to remember sometimes where I came from. I think it is important that I never forget where I started because it gives me perspective. Somehow not being able to get from a size 10 to a size 8 like I wanted to by the end of the summer doesn't seem quite so bad when I remember being a size 26. It doesn't seem quite so bad to have a little loose skin when I remember being so large that fitting in movie theater seats and restaurant booths was once a challenge. It's all about perspective.

Last year before my Biggest Loser audition, I remember looking at old pictures of myself at my thinnest from 5 years before, which is also about the weight I am now. I had just started my blog and I wrote the following:

I've been gathering up old pictures of me at my thinnest in preparation for my Biggest Loser audition tomorrow. Although when I say thinnest, it is really more like "merely overweight, not obese." Because the thinnest I have ever been in my adult life was 170 pounds 5 years ago. I would kill to be that size again, but then all I could think was how fat I still was.

"All I could think was how fat I still was." That phrase right there is a prime example of why I gained the weight back. I need to always remember to be happy where I am right now and not put myself down about how far I have left to go or how fast or slow I'm getting there. So with that thought in mind, I am taking back my power from the scale (that seems like an Oprah thing to say). It makes me angry that I allow a number to define my success to some extent. My journey has been so much more than a number, but sometimes I get so wrapped up in the number that I forget my own message. Namely, that this is about being healthy, not weighing a certain amount. Now, I am the type of person (Type A!) who likes numbers and who likes to have set ways of accomplishing tasks. For example, the other day my dad was teaching me how to grill steaks (yes, I am a late grill bloomer) and he was all, "You'll know when they're done." I was more like, "Tell me exactly how many minutes to leave them on the grill and at exactly what time to flip them!" x+y=z if you will. Or for me eating 1500 calories a day+exercise 2 or more hours a day=massive weight loss. Except sometimes the scale does cooperate with that equation. So I've decided that I need to take a couple of weeks without having the scale in the equation at all. This is somewhat frightening for me. I have weighed in every week without fail since I first started. This was one of my only inflexible rules, because I never wanted to to go back to what I had been doing, which was completely avoiding the scale for months at a time and being in denial about my weight. But I think right now there is more danger in me becoming too wrapped up in that number than being in denial about it. Lately, I've been weighing at least every other day, and it's just gotten crazy how too many of my activities and nutrition are decided by what the scale says and only what the scale says. That number can be affected by so many different inconsequential things from day to day, or even hour to hour, that it is ridiculous to allow it to have so much power over me. My scale is taking a 2 week vacation over at my parents' house. At first, I just told myself I would keep it under my sink, but then I got real. I would totally have caved in and weighed myself if the scale was as close as under my sink.

I need to trust myself. I need to trust in the fact that I know what I'm doing now. I know what is good for my body and I know what hurts it. I don't need a number on a scale to tell me how I'm doing.