Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fat and Back: Watch out, I'm gettin' my rant on

I watched a show on TLC the other day called Fat and Back. I found it to be truly appalling to the extent that I felt like I needed to address it on here. It really got my goat (I was just looking for an excuse to use that phrase). Basically the show chronicled this woman in the U.K. who was out to prove that all fat people are simply lazy and all it takes to lose weight is moving more and eating less. So she purposely gained 43 lbs to go from 125 lbs to 168 lbs in 3 months, and then tried to lose the same amount of weight in 3 months. Her weight loss plan involved her taking 20,000 steps a day and still eating what she wanted when she was hungry, but just keep it to about 1700 calories a day. And she got a group of 4 people ranging in size from a little chubby to pretty overweight to follow her plan as well.

Here's the thing: I don't disagree with her that a major part of losing weight simply involves moving more and eating less. In fact, I get annoyed when some people ask me how I lost weight and I pretty much give them the same answer (that I work out a lot and eat a clean diet) and they act disappointed upon hearing there is no quick fix. I even agree with her weight loss plan. It seems totally doable. My problem with her is that she is seriously oversimplifying the issues associated with obesity. She also has seemingly no empathy or compassion at all for overweight people, believing that all of them are fat because they choose to eat a ton and be lazy all the time.

There are multiple issues I want to address about this show and this woman and I think probably the most efficient thing to do would be to lay it out in bulleted format (ya'll know I'm serious if I'm breaking out the bullets).

  • This woman completely disregards the fact that there is a world of difference between a woman that has been thin her entire life purposely gaining over 40 lbs in a short period of time by eating an extreme amount of junk food and then deciding to lose the weight, and someone who has been overweight their entire life and slowly packed on the pounds every year. I'll be the first to say that I hate it when people use genetics as an excuse for their weight, but the truth is that genetics does play a role. Actually, about 30% of a role to be precise and scientific. My entire family has had weight problems, past and present. Does this mean I can't be thin? No, it doesn't, but what it does mean is that I will always have to work harder at being thin than someone who is graced with better genes than I am. I had a friend in college who never worked out at and ate crap all the time. She weighed 105 lbs. Seriously.
  • She also disregards any other emotional issues associated with obesity. Many seriously obese people have equally serious emotional eating issues and emotional issues in general, like poor self esteem. They don't eat that stuff only because they have no self control. They don't not exercise purely out of laziness. I am an emotional eater myself. I know all about using food not as a substance that tastes good, but as a band-aid to deal with issues you just feel you can't deal with any other way. And I know all about not exercising,  not because I was super lazy, but because I basically just felt like I wasn't worth the effort.
  • Yet another area she disregards is health and knowledge about health. She started this process healthy. And when she gained 40 lbs, she was still relatively healthy, as 168 lbs is not seriously obese or even seriously overweight. And what's more is, she had knowledge about healthy eating. Many overweight people not only have serious health issues that make exercise very difficult (I know at my heaviest, my joints hurt so much that even walking short distances was difficult at first), but also have very little knowledge about a healthy diet. When you have eaten junk your entire life, it's quite difficult to suddenly know all there is to know about eating clean. Not that they can't learn or also find some exercise that they can do, but just that it is irrational to compare that person with this woman that starts out at a totally different place. 
  • I feel like it is offensive to act like weighing 168 lbs is a grotesquely overweight amount. I currently weight about 159 lbs. I've worked my ass off to get there (literally). Are there parts of my body I'm not a fan of? Most definitely. Do I feel like I still have about 20 lbs to lose? Also a yes. But I don't feel like I'm grossly overweight the way that woman was acting. And to compare her weighing 168 lbs and someone who weighs over 300 is laughable in its absurdity. It's just not the same at all. 
  • She stated that you can't be overweight and healthy. To a certain extent, I agree with that. If you weight 300 lbs and believe you are healthy, you are deluding yourself. If you don't have health problems now, it's just a matter of time. But she seemed to believe that being healthy at 168 lbs was impossible. I weigh just under 10 lbs less than that. And I am perfectly aware that by the BMI standards, I am still overweight, even obese, because according to the BMI, I should ideally weigh 105 lbs. If I weighed 105 lbs, I would be sick and anorexic looking (but that is another rant entirely). But I am also extremely healthy and fit, much more so than many people who are thinner than I am. Weight isn't the only thing that matters in health.
  • There was no mention at all that her "Fat Club" (seriously, that's what she called the group of people that followed her plan) had significantly less success than she did at losing weight, despite several of them having much more weight to lose and so should have consequently lost more weight than she did. She seemed to regard them losing any weight at all as proof that her hypothesis was correct, when really I think it seemed to prove that while chronically overweight people can lose weight, it is a very different matter for them to lose weight than for someone like her to lose weight. And also, on a tangent, I find the name "Fat Club" extremely offensive.
  • She is an advocate of just telling random people on the street that they're fat, and even worse, telling overweight kids that they're fat. I guess she hasn't done much research, but fat-shaming has been proven not to work. People don't lose weight because they are made to feel worthless by others because of their weight. They decide to lose weight because they decided they were worth something. I find cruelty like hers completely disgusting. Childhood obesity is a topic that must be addressed, but in a much more compassionate and constructive way than by informing kids that they are fat. That's not helpful; that's schoolyard bullying. 
Basically, I am so disgusted by this woman mainly because she thinks she knows someone purely because of a number on the scale. She doesn't know these people. She doesn't know their stories, their problems, their work ethic, their successes, their eating habits, or anything else. They could be truly wonderful, hard-working people who happen to have a weight problem. Are there lazy fat people in the world? Sure, I'll be the first to admit it. But there are lazy thin people too, just like there are thin people who eat junk food all the time. On a personal note (and a braggy one too lol), I graduated as valedictorian from high school and magna cum laude from college.You don't accomplish those things being lazy and undisciplined. But hey, I weighed an average of about 230 lbs during that time too.  You just can't look at someone and know all about them. It's not right to make such a broad generalization that all fat people are lazy bums with no self-control.

Of course I understand that there is no way for me to be objective about this show. I'm not oblivious to that fact. I am always going to have more compassion and empathy for overweight people than the average joe simply because I've been there myself. I'm glad for that. I think people are more apt to ask me for help because they know I have been in their shoes. But this woman has not ever walked in these particular shoes. She may believe she has simply because she put on some weight for 3 months, but she has no idea. All she proved on her show was that she is a cruel, ignorant person who makes snap judgements about people under the guise of trying to "help" them.  And while that makes me mad, on a deeper level, it's really just sad for her. I would hate to be that kind of human being.  

Friday, January 16, 2015

When life hands you lemons, draw smiley faces on them and start juggling!

I have had several lemon-inspired titles on this blog before, so I decided it was time to come up with one of my own. I'm pretty into it. I kept getting ideas for this post last night, and weirdly, instead of writing them down on a notepad like a normal human being, I scribbled them all over my bathroom mirror in dry erase marker. And this was in the dark, so many of my ideas were barely legible and I had to decipher them this morning. I often leave myself reminders on my mirror, but sometimes I need to be a bit more descriptive. For example, the other day I saw that I had written "Clothes!!" and I was left thinking, "What does it mean?!?" and also wondering if it was something really important or not. But I digress.

Ah January, so we meet again. Not my favorite month, as I explained last year in this previous post. Four years ago this month, my life changed in a pretty traumatic way. It was the darkest period of my whole life and it has taken a long time for me to heal from it. Heck, I'm still healing from it. In the Lifetime movie version of my life (where I would be portrayed by Kristen Bell because a) I like her and b) she already has the right name), I would fearlessly face down my obstacles and demons from day 1 and rise like a phoenix from the ashes to inspire all who know me. I would also probably hate men, as all Lifetime movie characters do. But in real life, while I did face down many obstacles and demons, I coped with them by eating for about a year and a half after things fell apart for me. Pizza was my therapy, and it showed in the 80 lbs I added to my already overweight body. So yeah, real life isn't all rainbows and inspiration sometimes.

It just seems like everything takes more effort for me in January. It's hard for me to work out. It's hard for me to continue to eat healthy, when really sometimes all I want to do is drown my sorrows in ice cream. It's hard for me not to dwell on memories of four years ago. But for the most part, I keep on trucking, if for no other reason, than to prove to myself that I am a drastically different person than I was four years ago. But I've noticed that with each passing year, I do dwell less and less on the person I was before and my bad memories of that time. I think that's because I have more and more positive things and people keeping me grounded here in the present.

What happened to me four years ago changed the course of my life. And sometimes when I'm throwing myself a one person pity party, I think to myself, "This isn't the way my life was supposed to go." I think we are all guilty sometimes of having a picture in our head of how things are supposed to be. I had things all mapped out before, a timeline for everything. I was rigid in my plans for myself, and believed that any kind of detour would mean failure on my part. I couldn't even have told you what I really wanted, what would really make me happy, because I was so caught up in what I should do, what I was expected to do.

I lost a lot four years ago. I grieve for what I lost even now. But I know that regret serves no purpose. The past is just that, the past. You can't change it. I do my best to keep the past from haunting me, and the best way I know to do that is to forgive myself for the mistakes I made then and to keep focused and grateful for all that I have now. Because while I did lose a lot, I have gained great things since then. The truth is that life doesn't go as planned sometimes. But you know what? Maybe that isn't a bad thing. It would be easy to think, "If only this hadn't happened, everything would be perfect." But you can't control cause and effect. You don't know what bad times ultimately caused a good time to come about. I think the bad times I faced in 2011 caused me to become stronger and tougher than I ever could have been otherwise. It made me mentally strong enough to shed 168 lbs eventually. I don't think all the positive changes I have made, all the incredible experiences, and all the amazing people I have met these past few years would have happened if my life hadn't taken a detour then. You have to take the bad with the good. And plus, now I have confidence that I can face anything life throws at me.

January will never be my favorite month. But gradually, month by month, and year by year, the past is loosening its hold on me.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

I pour freezing cold water over my head 'cause that's how I roll

My first post of 2015 comes courtesy of me conking the back of my head after falling off the balance beam during my morning run. Okay, I don't actually know if that's what gave me all the brilliant thoughts (cough, cough) that I'm about to share, but I prefer to think that instead of just thinking that my inaugural run of 2015 began with my very own special blend of athleticism and simultaneous clumsiness. It's a mystery even to me.

So apparently the "in thing" to do this year is to think of a single word that represents what you want the new year to be for you instead of a resolution. And we all know I'm nothing if not cool (again, cough, cough). Actually, the thing is that when I looked at my list of goals for this year (I am not just an extreme weight loser, I am also an extreme list maker), they all had one word that tied them together. That word is courage. 

Courage is not something that I am unfamiliar with, though in the past I would hesitate to think of myself as brave or courageous in any way. If I am honest, it's not something that comes naturally to me. Sometimes I feel like as a society, we fail to recognize courage in any form other than to the scale of beating cancer or climbing Mount Everest or running in a burning building to save someone. And it's without a doubt true that those things require immense courage. But there are all different types of courage. Sometimes courage is represented just by a single small step. I like this one quote (you know there had to be a quote in here somewhere) by Mary Anne Radmacher that says, "Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the tiny voice at the end of the day saying, 'I'll try again tomorrow.'" In 2012, I had the courage to start to change my life. Not just by losing weight (though undoubtedly, that was an important and highly visible part of it), but by changing really everything. I went from being a miserable person that I really despised, to being someone who, even though I am not perfect and even though I still have more self-doubt than I would like, I can really respect. The person that I feel like I was meant to be. In 2013, I continued that journey and had the courage to start to realize my own self-worth.  In 2014, I had the courage to keep on dating even after eHarmony was a massive failure. I had enough faith in myself to realize that just because  I didn't find someone on eHarmony didn't mean that I wouldn't find someone eventually. That it didn't mean I wasn't good enough or that there was something wrong with me. And let me tell you, that was a pretty huge realization for me, because at the beginning of 2014, I couldn't say I felt that way. Pretty much, I thought that maybe some people just didn't get to find somebody to be with. That maybe it just wasn't in the cards for me and I needed to learn to live with that. But last summer, I decided I owed it to myself to keep trying. And I found someone really amazing and supportive, someone that sometimes I still can't believe I am lucky enough to get to be with. It's pretty freaking incredible. 

Courage for 2015? I need to have courage in many areas of my life this year. I need to have the courage to actually get to my goal weight. Even though that may sound silly (I mean, who wouldn't want to get to their goal weight?), it will take courage for me to do this because getting to my goal weight and starting the maintenance phase is something I've never done before. It's something that may take trial and error, something I won't be perfect at (and we all know how much I have to battle my perfectionist tendencies). I need to have the courage to get my career back on track. I still have some conflicted feelings about nursing, but if I am honest with myself, I know that is what I am meant to be doing. But that doesn't mean it will be easy. 

I also need to have the courage to cast aside my "fat girl" fears and set new fitness goals. I believe I am supposed to complete a triathlon. I have had many people suggest different kinds of races to me and I have also thought myself about many different kinds of fitness goals, but I keep coming back to the triathlon idea. A sprint triathlon to start, of course. I'm not crazy enough to think I can do an Ironman or anything right away (although, in the future...). The thing is, I'm the type of person who needs a tangible goal all the time. 2014 was all about running. And that was no small thing. I went from running a 5k every day to consistently running 8 miles a day, and sometimes a total of 16 miles a day. But now I'm stuck in a rut with that. My body is used to it, and it's not responding like it did in the beginning. And I'm kind of bored too. So a new challenge like training for a triathlon would serve the dual purpose of getting me out of my rut, and changing things up so my body will hopefully cooperate with getting rid of the last of my extra weight. The thing that is holding me back is my lingering feeling of inadequacy in the fitness arena. It sounds silly, I know. Rationally, I know that not just anyone can run like I run every day. I have no reason to feel not good enough. Rationally, I know that it is well within my ability to train for and do pretty well in a triathlon. But there is still that thought in my head that I am not good enough. That people like me, fat girls like me (because sometimes I do still think of myself that way), don't complete triathlons. And that if they try, they will look ridiculous. I need to have the courage to think, "Do it anyway." Worst case scenario, I do look ridiculous. Maybe I don't finish. Maybe I finish last. At least I will have had the courage to try. I need to tell myself that it's okay if I am not the best at something. 

On my run today, I heard one of my very favorite songs. It's kind of corny, but so am I. The song is called Walk on the Water by Britt Nicole. These lyrics really hit home for me.

You look around, staring back at you
Another wave of doubt, will it pull you under? You wonder
What if I'm overtaken? What if I never make it?
So what are you waiting for? What do you have to lose?
Your insecurities, they try to alter you
But you know you're made for more, so don't be afraid to move

So get out, and let your fear fall to the ground
No time to waste, don't wait, and don't you turn around and miss out
Everything you were made for, I know you're not sure
So you play it safe, you try to run away

Step out, even when it's storming
Step out, even when you're broken
Step out, even when your heart is telling you
Telling you to give up
Step out when your hope is stolen
You can't see where you're going
You don't have to be afraid
So what are you waiting, what are you waiting for?

Today I listened to that song 3 times in a row, just because I needed to hear those words. Or maybe I just needed hear it before I poured freezing cold water on my head. Please enjoy the video of this below. Originally, I had planned to jump in the ocean on New Year's Day, but I just haven't had the chance to make the trip there. So I decided to pour freezing cold water on my head a la the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which I was pretty sure would accomplish the same sensation (actually, it may be colder since it's been about 70 degrees lately here). Does it take courage to pour ice cold water over your head? Nah, I mean that was just a choice I made that maybe took some balls (for lack of a better word)  or some would argue, some insanity, but didn't require true courage. But I liked what it represented to me. It represented just going for it. After all, life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Yeah, maybe it's cold and uncomfortable, but it also made me feel, without a doubt, alive. And who could ask for more than that for 2015?