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Recently, the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force recommended that doctors refer all patients with a body mass index of 30 or more to a program designed to promote weight loss. A successful program, according to the panel, combines counseling sessions with concrete weight-loss goals, nutrition advice, and education on setting limits and recognizing barriers to change.  The recommendation was met with mixed reviews from doctors and politicians involved in the healthcare debate. Some cited it as a “long-overdue” prod to physicians while others acknowledged the additional responsibility it would place on doctors who are already facing time and resource constraints.

What the debate skims over, however, and what may be the most important point is not a single study demonstrates the long-term benefits of an intensive weight loss program for health. This oversight is at the crux of the war on obesity and America’s obsession with weight loss.

One of the central misconceptions fueling the task force’s recommendation is that body weight alone is indicative of health. Many studies have indicated that weight, when viewed in conjunction with other lifestyle habits like exercise, is not related to disease or early death except in the morbidly obese. Other studies point out that equal numbers of thin and fat people exhibit unhealthy eating habits and whether or not those habits become externally apparent is largely determined by genetics. To assume all fat people are unhealthy and all thin people are healthy is prejudicial and does a disservice to both groups.

Another misconception is that everyone who is fat must suffer from some form of disordered eating. In reality many people with a BMI above 30 are healthy adults who exhibit moderate eating and exercise habits. Likewise, many people at a “normal” BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 do display maladaptive eating habits. Using BMI alone as the criteria for admission into a free counseling program both sets the stage for further discrimination against fat people and excludes many “normal” weight individuals who might benefit. In short, It is a grave mistake to assume everyone at a “normal” BMI is making healthy choices and everyone above a “normal” BMI is not.

As part of the initiative, doctors are urged to refer obese individuals to programs where weight loss is the primary goal and benchmark for success. There are many problems with this. First, weight loss programs fail for about 95% of dieters and ultimately cause more health problems from the resulting weight cycles. Second, there is not sufficient evidence linking weight loss with improved health outcomes in the long run, which the task force openly admits but appears to dismiss in another classic case of succumbing to popular culture rhetoric about dieting. The task force states that in some cases, programs include exercise sessions. From an evidence-based perspective, this should be priority number one. Research has shown dramatic improvements in health from exercise alone, and obese but fit people are as healthy as fit people falling within the normal BMI criteria. A focus on weight loss over increased physical activity gives people an inaccurate tool for gauging health.

Dr. Jack Der-Sarkissian notes that more than half of all obese patients are never told they need to lose weight, and that’s just “not fair to the patient.” Hmmm…. Let’s talk about what’s really not fair. It’s not fair that doctors assume all fat people have homogenous eating habits and weight loss is the lifesaving miracle panacea. It’s not fair that doctors assume a fat person is automatically unhealthy and on the flip side, a thin person is healthy. It’s not fair that so many medical problems a fat person encounters are attributed to weight with no further investigation. It’s not fair that people at “normal” weights are rarely offered nutritional advice, diagnostic testing, or counseling because they are assumed to be healthy. It’s not fair that so many people with diagnosable eating disorders do not get the treatment they need because they don’t meet certain weight criteria, while the government wants to the foot the bill for every fat person to a enter a weight loss program.

When will health officials come to realize that both physical and mental health are independent of body size and the people who could actually benefit from counseling fall all along the weight continuum.

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DIET: that dirty four-lettered word that is so ingrained in our national vocabulary that it’s mention is akin to discussing the weather.

“What’s the forecast for tomorrow?” you ask.

“A high of 1200 calories with a slight chance of deprivation.” How gloomy.

Dieting has become as American as baseball and apple pie, that is, as long as you make it a slice of sugar free, fat free pie.

Yet despite how often we talk about dieting, very few actually succeed in losing weight and keeping it off. So why do we persist? Are we all insane, as a popular quote would suggest?

“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Or maybe we’ve been bamboozled by an industry that profits off of our failures, an industry that designs a faulty product and then places the blame on the buyer? Today I challenge you all to embark on a different kind of diet: the anti-diet.  Let go of all your complicated food rules and beliefs about “good” and “bad” foods and begin to trust your body to tell you what it wants and needs.

To provide you with some motivation, I’m counting down the top ten reasons to ditch dieting for good.

10. Dieting wrecks havoc on your metabolism.

Dieting slows the metabolism down tremendously, as the body enters what it assumes to be a period of famine. And while fat people who lose large amounts of weight may look similar to a naturally thin person, their bodies are actually behaving more like that of a starving person. In other words, a fat person who loses weight will not acquire the health characteristics of a naturally thin person. On average, the metabolism slows so that a formerly fat person burns about 24% fewer calories per square meter of their body’s surface area than a naturally thin person. By avoiding diets, you can ensure your metabolism is functioning at its optimal level.

9. Your body produces hormones that fight against weight change.

Your body has a natural set point for weight, largely determined by genetics, at which it feels most comfortable. Deviating much beyond this point triggers a cascade of hormones designed to resist further weight fluctuations. These hormones can stimulate or suppress appetite, decrease or increase metabolism, and encourage or discourage activity. Dieting interferes with the mechanisms that regulate set point and makes it difficult to respond to hormonal cues. Much like a broken gas gauge on a car, dieting makes it difficult to tell when the tank is full or running on empty.

8. Dieting can lead to many psychiatric problems.

Here’s a novel idea: your body, as adept as it is at carefully regulating all your bodily systems, cannot tell the difference between a diet and unintentional starvation. And starvation has been shown to cause a lot of psychological problems. In the classic Minnesota Starvation Study, healthy men were put on 1,600 calorie diets with the intention of losing 25% of their body weight. Over the course of the experiment, the men experienced what head researcher Dr. Ancel Keys came to call “semistarvation neurosis.” They became nervous, anxious, withdrawn and overly critical of their appearance and weight. Many exhibited signs of depression, losing their ambitions, interests, sense of humor, and desire for social interaction. They became obsessed with food and many developed odd food rituals. And to think this all happened on 1,600 calories per day. Many popular diets today prescribe much less!

7. Dieting wastes a lot of time and energy.

As noted by a participant in the Minnesota Starvation Study the act of restricting food “made food the most important thing in one’s life.” Whether your counting calories, weighing out just right portions, or dreaming about all the food you wish you could be eating, dieting can quickly become an all-consuming undertaking, often at the expense of other areas of your life. When we deny ourselves food we enjoy in favor of “healthy” foods we dislike, a lot of time gets spent fantasizing about that forbidden food.

6. Dieting robs a lot of the pleasure from eating and can make for more complicated social situations.

Despite what many popular diets lead you to believe, getting pleasure from food does not make you a hedonistic, weak-willed person. Eating can and should be a pleasurable experience. Think about digging into a big stack of fluffy pancakes on a lazy Sunday morning, eating a slice of cake on your Birthday, or clinking champagne glasses with friends and family on New Years Eve. Food is a part of many of social situations, and when your web of complex food rules keeps you sidelined from digging in with everyone else it can be an isolating experience.

5. 95% of dieters regain the weight and then develop a higher weight set point.

Because of the numerous regulatory checks that your body employs, in the end, dieting is more synonymous with weight gain than weight loss. It slows metabolism, increases the body’s efficiency at getting calories from food, increases appetite, decreases activity levels, lowers your body temperature, breaks down muscle tissue, and increases fat storing enzymes. All these checks ensure you are on the fast track to gaining back any lost weight. And because our bodies are programmed to protect us from weight loss but aren’t too concerned with weight gain, they settle at a slightly higher set point than they were previously at. In other words, the same amount of calories you were once eating to maintain weight X are now how many you need to eat to maintain X+10lbs.

4. Dieting and weight cycling causes a lot of the problems that excess weight is blamed for like heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and liver damage.

It’s a classic case of what came first, the chicken or the egg? Many people see a correlation between excess weight and disease and assume weight is the cause, when in reality the relationship isn’t so straightforward. What often underlies conditions like heart disease is the damage done to the body by losing and regaining the same weight over and over again, the same cycling that leads to higher set point weights.

3. You don’t need to diet to maintain your body’s healthy weight.

Too many people are under the impression that without constant vigilance the pounds will keep piling on, when in fact, this is far from the truth. A scientist at the University of Vermont, Ethan Sims, conducted an experiment that was the mirror image of the Minnesota Starvation Study. Instead of looking at the effects of calorie restriction, Sims put men on a calorie dense diet. In order increase their weight by 20% above their natural set point the men had to eat as much as 10,000 calories for up to six months time. Sims discovered that the amount of weight the men should have gained based on a simple calories in versus calories out equation was much more than they actually gained. Their bodies fought hard to maintain their natural set point, and at the conclusion of the study they returned to these weight without effort. Your body knows the weight it is healthiest at and will fight you to maintain that weight. Ironically, you have to diet to NOT maintain your healthy weight. Watch a documentary that puts participants through a similar weight gain experiment here.

2. Being thin does not necessarily make you healthier. Moderate activity and healthy, moderate food choices make you healthier.

Fit, active people are much healthier than sedentary individuals, regardless of weight. In fact, fit obese people are healthier than thin sedentary individuals and just as healthy and thin active individuals. When fat people exercise, they reap all the benefits even without an accompanying weight loss. In other words, losing weight will not make one healthy but exercising will. Several studies also indicate that fostering an active lifestyle increases self-confidence and acceptance while dieting often has the opposite effect. Read more.

1. Dieting is NOT about loving and respecting your body.

How many times have your heard someone say (or said yourself) “I’m trying to lose weight because I want to take care of myself?” While the intention is good, dieting is a misguided attempt at promoting health and well-being. Choosing a healthy, varied diet, staying active, and accepting your body in its present state sends a lot more powerful message if you ask me. You wouldn’t tell your partner or your best friend, “I’d love you more if only you were….(fill in the blanks).” So why do we repeatedly tell ourselves this message by trying to lose weight? Love and respect come from an understanding that I am a complete, whole person as I am.

For a great resource on the research behind these reasons check out Big Liberty’s blog. Or pick up a copy of the book Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, The Obesity Myth by Paul Campos or Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata.

I hate to admit it, but I was wrong.

Back in April of 2010 I wrote a blog entitled “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Fatness” discussing the fat acceptance movement. I questioned its motives, pointed the finger at what I thought were its unreasonable claims, and flat out refused to believe that being fat could be healthy. You see, like most people who have grown up in the “fat is bad” era, when I heard news reports claiming we are drowning in a nationwide obesity crisis (talk about a loaded expression), I jumped on the lifeboat.


It took a good amount of critical research, reading between the lines, and turning a deaf ear to the popular media fat-bashing machine before I would be willing accept the possibility that all my nutritional indoctrination might be wrong. But wrong I was.

A lot of current claims about the obesity crisis are based on misinformation. In 2002, Richard Carmona, the former surgeon general described obesity as “the terror within, a threat that is every bit as real to America as the weapons of mass destruction.” And how could it not be when the Center for Disease Control reported that more than 400,000 Americans die from being overweight or obese? This shocking statistic became the headline for thousands of popular media articles and pumped millions of dollars into scientific research aimed at curing obesity.

But in 2005, an updated report from the CDC acknowledged that the previous analysis suffered from computation errors and reduced the estimate fifteen-fold, taking the 400,000 deaths down to 26,000. Further separating “overweight” and “obese” individuals from “extremely obese” individuals (BMI over 35) decreases the number even more, as most deaths are clustered in the BMI over 35 category. When “overweight” individuals (BMI 25-30) are compared to “normal” weight individuals (BMI 18.5-24) an even more interesting statistic surfaces. Overweight individuals actually live longer than normal weight people.

Research from a Canadian national health survey following more than 11,000 adults looked at the relationship between BMI and longevity. Compared to people who fell into the normal-weight category:

– Those classified as underweight were 73% MORE likely to die
– Those classified as extremely obese were 36% MORE likely to die
– Those classified as obese had about the SAME risk of death
– Those classified as overweight were 17% LESS likely to die

Eric Oliver, a political scientist at the University of Chicago says the obesity epidemic is really “a relatively small group of scientists and doctors, many directly funded by the weight loss industry, (who) have created an arbitrary and unscientific definition of overweight and obesity. They have inflated claims and distorted statistics on the consequences of our growing weights, and they have largely ignored the complicated health realities associated with being fat.”

“So what?” you may be thinking. “Just because people are living longer doesn’t mean they are living healthier lives. Everyone knows fat people are unhealthy.”


While weight is a causal factor in a couple diseases, say osteoarthritis or sleep apnea, there isn’t much evidence that excess body fat itself causes disease. Instead other variables might be at play. For example, most overweight individuals report weight cycling at some point during their lives. A single weight cycle, think a failed crash diet, has been shown to damage blood vessels and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Rat studies indicate that obese rats that have weight cycled have very high blood pressures compared to rats that have maintained a consistent weight.

Additionally, there is a weak association among obesity and hypertension in cultures where dieting is uncommon. Could the “cure” for hypertension actually be the “cause?”

Research also finds that overweight people report feeling more stress and anxiety, both of which are a risk factor for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. In countries where there is less stigma attached to weight, overweight individuals are not prone to the same diseases associated with obesity in the United States. Additionally, when researchers looked at a group of more than 170,000 U.S. adults, they found the differences between actual weight and perceived ideal weight was a better indicator of mental and physical health than BMI. In other words, feeling fat has a stronger implication for health than being fat.

Research indicates that activity level, combined with other lifestyle choices like sleep and social habits, are more related to health than body fat percentage. For example, one study found that obese men classified as “fit” based on a treadmill test have similar death rates as lean men classified as “fit.” The obese fit men actually had death rates one-half those of the lean but unfit men.

What about type 2 diabetes? This disease, characterized by a reduced sensitivity to insulin, is much more common among obese individuals, and thus, obesity is often blamed for its emergence. But is it possible that insulin resistance causes obesity? In this classic which came first scenario, research suggests that high levels of insulin appear before weight gain in future diabetics.  This finding is consistent with the “thrifty genotype” theory, which views insulin resistance as a helpful adaptation for storing more fat during times of famine. Because fat cells do not develop insulin resistance as readily as other cells, they allow glucose and nutrients to enter, promoting excess fat storage and weight gain. The added weight gain further increases insulin resistance and the cycle continues. So is weight loss the answer?

I’ll give you a second to guess what my answer is going to be (cue the Jeopardy music).

What is a resounding NO!?! A review of controlled weight loss studies for type 2 diabetes shows that initial improvements were short-lived, and study participants returned to their starting values within eighteen months, even when they maintained their weight loss. In another study, women who underwent liposuction resulting in an average loss of twenty pounds of body fat did not show improvements in insulin sensitivity. What have been shown to improve diabetes time and time again are changes in nutrition and increased activity, even without any resulting weight loss.

What’s most unfortunate about our culture’s association between body size and health is that it paves the way for fat bashing, prejudice, and discrimination. We demonize fat, and as a result, view the people carrying it around as vessels for evil. In our quest to cure obesity, we ostracize a segment of the population. We confer them with labels like lazy, sick, bad, stupid, and unhealthy. We spend so much time trying to rid the world of “fatties” that we lose sight of what is really important: health. If we could refocus our attention on finding health at any and every size, and let go of the notion that only “average” or “normal” weight people can be healthy we could start to see actual improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and a slew of other conditions previously linked primarily with weight.

In the end, by focusing so much on weight, we are preventing people from finding what every weight-loss venture promises to deliver: a long, happy, and healthy life.

Note: For further reading please check out the book Health and Every Size by Linda Bacon or refer to her blog at www.healthateverysizeblog.wordpress.com. Another great resource that promotes health and every size is thefatnutritionist.com. If you would like more information on the research I am referencing please comment or send me a message.

Another blog prompted by a comment from a stranger at the gym. I’m starting to consider intrusive strangers my new muses.

During a recent trip to the gym, I found myself dragging my pregnant, lethargic, still-sore-from-yesterday’s-workout legs onto the elliptical to get in my recommended cardio for the day. About fifteen minutes into the heart pounding, sweat inducing torture I knock the resistance down a little and give my normally primed for speed interval legs a rest. Today was simply not my day for pushing it. The older gentleman on the elliptical next to me, upon seeing the slow-down, felt obliged to interject some grade-A motivation.

“You’re slowing down already?” he asks. “You gotta give it 100%.”

Note: actual man was not wearing suit and tie at gym.

He smiles sweetly and turns back to focus on his non-sweat producing, resistance level one workout. Really?

I fake a smile and continue chugging along at my slower pace. Just say no to peer pressure! Does he not realize how hard my workout was yesterday, I think angrily. No, probably not. Does he not realize how poorly I slept last night because it takes hours of tossing and turning to find a comfortable side-sleeping position for my pregnant belly? No again. Oh yea, and does he not see I’m clearly pregnant? Hopefully that last one just a little. (Unless he’s conspiring with Jeff from my previous post)

I don’t say these things to make excuses for my actions; I hate making up excuses as much as I hate needing an excuse to begin with (unless of course it’s why my husband is out of clean boxers once again). But sometimes it just isn’t practical to always be going full-throttle or giving it 100% effort, 100% of the time.

I made this unfortunate mistake in college. I knew if I studied enough studied until I memorized the textbook, I could get a near 100% on anything. I tortured myself with multi-day study sessions for 10-question quizzes. I became a shut-in at times with only my coffee pot and sugary snacks to keep me company. Friends would invite me out, but I’d be too busy memorizing the name of Abraham Lincoln’s childhood pet (a pig named Fido in case you were wondering) or the diameter of Mars. I believed that if I could get a %100, I should, no matter how much it interfered with my (sometimes nonexistent) life outside of school. Try my best I did! I tried and I tried and I tried until trying my best became who and what I was about. By senior year I had trouble grasping the idea of “enough.” What do you mean when you say give it “enough” effort to get an A? What is this elusive, mystical word you speak of? It’s either all or nothing. I either succeed or fail, and anything less than all my effort is decidedly failure.

If only I were as enlightened then as I am now.

Following college I started and stopped a couple different graduate programs and a handful of sub-stellar jobs, all of which I was less than enthused about. I would begin a program with my college ambitions and attitude, realize I didn’t feel driven or passionate enough about what I was doing to put forth 100% effort, and because I couldn’t put forth 100%, well I might as well not even try. I became a habitual quitter. I felt awful, like a flat out, no-good failure. The fortunate thing about hitting this low is that it afforded me the opportunity to reflect on how I had somehow gotten things so wrong.

For me, this light bulb moment came on a warm summer day when I was out running in the park.

In the park on a not so sunny day, do something that is decidedly not running.

After submitting yet another resume to potential employer # bajillion, aka, “another employer who won’t even send me a rejection letter,” I was desperately needing to vent my frustrations. I hit the path with the intention of going full-speed-ahead until all my anger and pent-up despair was lying in sweat puddles under my feet. Only a couple minutes into the run I felt tired, and my lead laden legs begged me to slow to a jog. This apparent weakness annoyed me and I pushed on in defiance, forcing my legs to keep the steady pace. An internal soundtrack played through my head.

Dana’s Motivational Soundtrack

1. The You’ll Never Be Good Enough Blues

2. Give it All or Give Up Boogie

3. Baby Say Bye Bye Bye to Your Dreams

4. You’re not a Survivor

5. Oops I Messed Up Again

6. Rumour Has It You’re a Failure

I couldn’t put it on mute or flip the station. I began to cry. Cry, sniffle, inhale, exhale. Cry, sniffle, inhale, exhale. Cry, sniffle, cry, sniffle, cry, sniffle. Must. Stop. Running. To. Catch. Breathe. I came to a halt about a mile down the trail and hobbled to the nearest bench to sit down.

I can’t even run well anymore. I’m horrible at everything. I used to be so motivated and dedicated, what happened?

What did happen? I asked myself. Why was I so unhappy?

I thought back over the last couple years about the effort I put into pursuits that didn’t interest me. I thought about the all or nothing attitude that usually led to nothing and about how tired and defeated I felt from putting 100% effort into everything I did. What would happen if I didn’t always try my best? What if I gave 100% effort only to those things I really care about and 90% to everything else? What if I let the situation I’m in and my abilities at that moment determine how much effort I put forth? Is it okay to be less than my best?

I got off the bench to finish the last two miles of the three-mile loop, continuing on at a slow but steady jog. I took in the smell of the woods around me, the light glinting through the tree tops, and the sound of squirrels running across remnants of dead leaves. I reached my car feeling calm, happy, and accomplished. I hadn’t given it my all; I couldn’t finish the run saying I put forth 100% effort, but I could say I finished. And finishing, feeling happy and at peace, was more important at that moment than fast.

Today I live by the 90% rule. I give 90% effort, 90% of the time and save my 100% effort for the 10% of the time when it really counts. What I’ve discovered time and time again is that while my effort levels may have gone down 10%, 90% of the time, my enjoyment of life has gone up 100% almost all of the time.

I now let my effort level be determined by the situation I’m in and the amount of passion I feel for a given pursuit. If I’m having a hard day or I’m physically and emotionally drained I let myself slack a little. Ah, “slack,” it used to sound like such a dirty word. If I’m forced into a task I feel less than thrilled with, say a boring project at work, I do it well enough.

How I’m usually feeling at work.

I’ve detached myself from the belief that nothing but the best will do and attached myself to the notion that “good enough” often leads to more happiness. And I’ve learned over time that when I’m happy, it’s much easier to put my good foot forward and be at my best.

After 30 minutes on the elliptical, I hit the stop button and step off the machine. “You’re giving up already?” the nosy man next to me asks.

“No,” I respond, “not giving up, just accepting that good enough is my best for today.”

 

I’m minding my own business at the gym the other day, happily meandering around the weight room when one of the “fitness consultants” approaches.

(How bad-ass I imagine I look) Source

“Hey, you’ve been working out here for awhile now, but I don’t think I’ve ever learned your name,” he says casually. Hmmmm, I think to myself, it’s probably because I have no desire for you to know my name. My antisocial, just leave me alone and let me work out in peace attitude starts to surface.

“I’m Dana,” I politely respond stifling my inner bitchiness.

“Hi Dana, I’m Jeff**.” He extends his hand. You really want to shake my hand right now? Can you not see how sweaty I am? I politely shake his hand, intending to end our little exchange and get back to lifting. But Jeff persists, “I can’t help but notice you look like you’re losing some of the definition in your stomach. If you want to set up a session with me I can show you a great workout to tighten that area up.”

I glare at Jeff with my “I can’t believe you just said that, I’m ready to go all psycho on you and rip your head off” eyes. He doesn’t seem phased. I muster up the gumption to interject but Jeff continues.

“A lot of women notice that has they get older (excuse me, when has 27 ever been classified as old?) it’s easier to accumulate fat around the midsection. But if we go over your diet and exercise plan I’m guessing there are some simple changes we can make to keep that from happening.”

Can your diet and exercise plan remove this baby from my midsection? I’m sure that would tighten things up quite a bit you ass. I almost say this out loud, but I decide to let him continue knowing that once I do reveal I am pregnant, not just the fatty he is implying I am, he will feel like an even bigger ass. Sometimes I can be a little evil.

Jeff continues on about the importance of high intensity interval training for fat burning and avoiding sugar because it turns to fat. “Do you want to go downstairs with me for a consultation?” he asks. “We can get some baseline measurements for weight and waist size. Give me four sessions and I’ll bet we can knock a whole inch off your waist and 5lbs off the scale.” Do these aggressive, make you feel like shit tactics really work on most women?

Source

I finally decide to spare Jeff any further humiliation, plus he set himself with that last statement. “Well Jeff,” I say “I don’t think my doctor would approve of me losing 5lbs right now, but if you want to wait until mid July, I’d be more than happy to drop say 6-8lbs all in one day and you can take full credit, although my husband might not like that.” I’m relishing in the confused look on his face. I wait long enough for there be that cinematic, dramatic pause. “Yea, I’m 19 weeks pregnant.”

A flash of understanding crosses his eyes, and I’m expecting him to apologize and wander off to find some other girl with an expanding midsection to torture. But instead Jeff surprises me. “Oh, you didn’t really look pregnant.” He laughs a little too confidently. “In that case, definitely look me up later in the summer and I can help you get off all that baby weight.” I cannot believe this guy. Oh Jeff, yes of course the first thing my former anorexic midsection wants to do after giving birth is come find you to be ridiculed and shamed. It would be the start of such a beautiful relationship.

I desperately search for something snarky to say, but in the end all I can think of is “no thanks,” and I walk away.

The world is full of people like Jeff: well intended but clueless. They make comments that lead you to question your self-worth, your beliefs, and your inherent goodness and beauty. They’re ready with a snap judgment or inappropriate remark that can bring you down even when you’re feeling on top of the world. You can’t avoid them because they’re everywhere. And unfortunately, despite my desire to mark this Jeff with a big, flashing neon sign that read Unintentional Jerk, they don’t come with any warning label or exterior sign of inner thoughtlessness.

The best remedy for a Jeff is to educate and move on. If you’re feeling brazen enough (which I was not at the time) tell him or her that, while you’re too confident to be brought down by their comment, other people not as tough as yourself might find it hurtful. Your advice might register with them, but since I don’t call them “clueless” without reason, it probably won’t. In that case, just walk away. Everyone views the world and the people in it through a unique lens. The way one person sees you does not truthfully reflect who you are as a person. It only reflects who you are through the personal experiences and biases of the person looking. Work on creating the most favorable, forgiving, and loving lens through which to view yourself. In the end, that’s the only perspective that really matters.

In the meantime, if anyone does come up with a good “jerk tagging” system, please let me know. I’ll spearhead the campaign!

**Name has been changed to protect the identity of said fitness consultant (you’ll see why he needs protection in a moment).

The shirt I contemplated buying but decided it wasn’t worth spending $20 to flaunt my insecurity:

Source

I broke my foot exactly 1 month ago, and with it, all my dreams of losing too much weight, overdoing it at the gym, and once again reclaiming my eating disorder glory. Let me explain.

About 2 months ago, I stumbled upon the website sparkpeople.com. Much like diet and exercise trackers I’ve used in the past, it allows you to set a goal weight and a day at which you would like to achieve said goal weight and POOF…. it pumps out a daily calorie allowance and suggested exercise program.

The fact that I searched out this website to begin with says something about my general mental well-being. I’ve been struggling a lot lately with grieving the end, or death if you want to sound more poetic, of my anorexia. I’ve been struggling to fill the void it’s absence has created. At one point in my life eating disordered behaviors could be the answer to almost any question or problem. Feeling bored? Turn to ED. Feeling stressed? Turn to ED. Feeling overwhelmed? Turn to ED. Feeling angry? Turn to ED. You get the idea. Lately, I’ve had to admit to myself that anorexia is no longer my coping method of choice. I’ve had to admit that even if I wished to develop anorexia again, I don’t think I could. Just as much as I didn’t control its onset the first time around, I can’t magically will it into being now. And all that makes me sad.

I liked having an “easy” answer to all life’s problems. I don’t like having to deal with issues in a mature, adult way. I don’t like having to look for alternative coping mechanisms, or what most often happens, not cope at all. Over the past year I have fallen into quite a depressed state, and without my fixation on weight loss, or the sense of accomplishment I get from sticking to a diet, I’ve been hanging out at the bottom of this dark hole for quite some time.

Enter sparkpeople.com. I became hooked on its community based approach to weight loss and point system very quickly. I loved entering my food for the day and seeing the ticker land right between my designated calorie allowance. I loved watching the calories burned bar far surpass the calories consumed bar. I especially loved watching the slope of the line graph indicating weight steadily become steeper and steeper.

In about 1 month’s time I had lost 7 pounds. The depression was starting to lift, and I was feeling on top of the world. I was feeling like a somebody instead of a nobody. And then in a seemingly innocuous fall while playing tennis I broke the base of my 5th metatarsal (aka: a Jones fracture for all you medically minded people). The moment I heard the doctor say it was broken I knew my weight loss plans were over. The tides had been turned and I was bearing straight toward a sea of home alone binges, uncontrollable crying sessions and irrational, nearly suicidal thoughts.

It’s always been that way with me. The moment my plans are disrupted I can no longer stay on course. In effect, I do a complete 180. It’s my all or nothing mentality at its finest. And sitting on that cold, paper-lined hospital table I knew it all too well. I started to cry, not because my foot was broken, but because I knew that meant I was heading into a period of compulsive overeating, purging, and depression. And despite having complete awareness over what was happening, I had no control.

It’s been one month since that accident, my foot is still cast bound, and my follow-up appointment isn’t until September 6. I’ve completely abandoned my sparkpeople account, except for the rare occasion when I wake up committed to track for the day and make it through lunch. Those half days only make me feel bad when I look back over them…reminders of my failure. I’ve tried telling myself that this broken foot was a relapse intervention; it was some higher power’s way of telling me to cut it out. Or it could have been the universe’s way of showing me just how ill equipped I am at overcoming obstacles, how little drive and perseverance I have.

Despite the cast, I still make it to the gym 3-4 times a week, my weight is “only” up about 2 pounds, and I’m managing to eat a more balanced diet than I normally would were I in a typical binge and purge period. I’m hoping once the cast comes off and I get the go ahead to apply weight I can flip the switch again and get back into tracking and out of this funk. I know I should hope for a future that isn’t centered around any extreme eating and exercise behavior, but frankly, I have a hard time imagining what that would look like.

Because it is the thing that makes me most miserable that I also need to find any joy at all.

October 2011 Update: I am completely managing all eating disorder behaviors and have taken this incident as an opportunity to deal with some of the latent emotions I have surrounding the “death” of my eating disorder.

To be resolute or not to be resolute…that is the question. As someone who frequently breaks her New Year’s resolutions (and by frequently I mean 100% of the time), I’m always a little hesitant to make any lest I disappoint myself once again. This year, however, I’m taking a different approach to the whole resolution thing. Instead of viewing my pursued goals as achieved or not achieved, or categorizing them as successes or failures, I’m choosing to view my goals on more of a continuum of sorts. What do I mean by this? Let me give you an example.

A common New Years goal for a lot of people, and I embarrassingly admit for myself too, is to eat healthier and exercise more. So when January 1st rolls around I wake up committed to not eat junk food anymore and to get to the gym at least 5 times a week. By January 3rd I inevitably find myself sitting in front of the television with a bowl of ice cream, wondering how the ice cream even ended up in the apartment since it was not on my list of approved foods. In the past it would be at this point that I admit defeat, throw in the towel, and tell myself to just wait for next year so I can begin my resolution anew.

There are a lot of problems with this situation. First, since when has one bowl of ice cream ever been the downfall of a diet? One bowl of ice cream everyday for an entire month–maybe, but surely not one bowl on one day of one week. Second, I’m applying that all-or-nothing mentality that has served me and my eating disorder all to well in the past (I’m hoping you can detect the sarcasm but just in case I’ll insert this disclaimer). It’s either 100% healthy eating 100% of the time, or I’ve failed. I either go to the gym with the intention of working out for 2 hours straight, or might as well not even go. If I’m forced to eat an unplanned meal out with my family, I might as well go ahead and binge. You get the idea; this way of thinking is neither productive nor healthy. Lastly, if it’s January 3rd and I’m already “breaking” my resolution, it probably wasn’t a very reasonable or sustainable resolution to begin with.

And now you see the purpose of the continuum. Instead of saying I must eat healthy all the time, I am working toward eating healthier most of the time. I’m also redefining what eating healthy means to me. If I do decide to eat that bowl of ice cream on the 3rd, I’ll just be sure to balance it out on the 4th with a little extra cardio and a couple extra servings of vegetables. I’ll strive for balance in my life instead of perfection. Better yet, I’ll redefine perfection to mean balance so that it meets my unique goals;  instead of my all-or-nothing thinking of the past. I’ll take baby steps toward my goals and not unrealistically expect that on January 1st I’ll muster up the determination and will power to push myself to the finish line. I know now that the resolutions I set for myself are a work in progress and along the way I will expect to encounter some roadblocks. Instead of viewing those roadblocks as dead ends, I will look at them as part of the struggle to reach my goals and continue on knowing that taking the time to navigate around them is far more productive than turning around and heading back to the starting line.

My New Year Resolutions

1) Run the Cincinnati Marathon on May 1, 2011! http://www.flyingpigmarathon.com/

2) Find a volunteer opportunity I feel passionate about and volunteer!

3) Get married on May 28, 2011!

4) Everyday write down one reason why that day was GREAT! Stay positive!

5) Write at least one new blog a month.

What are your New Years resolutions??

Have you heard? There’s this fitness craze hitting the nation and it’s called Turbo Kick. For those unfamiliar with Turbo, it’s a group exercise class that combines a hip/hop style of dance with kickboxing for a 60 minute series of punches, kicks, high intensity intervals, and a whole lot of booty shaking. After doing Turbo for the last 4 years or so and hearing from the instructor that I should really get certified to teach, I finally decided to take the plunge.

What ensued was a grueling 8 hour workout. And to give you an idea of just how grueling it was… the class was on Sunday; it is now Thursday, and the pain that courses through my triceps every time I try to pull my pants up is just starting to ebb. The former workout junkie in me though loved it, and it was easy to see how I’d become such an exercise addict in the past. I’ve outlined a few of those reasons below:

1) I imagine that the feeling I get after intense, extended periods of exercise combines both the adrenaline rush of sky diving with the feeling of success one gets after accomplishing something big- say winning the Tour de France or becoming President. I feel like I am invincible, like I am on top of the world, like I’m so out of my mind happy I could watch that commercial for rescue cats and dogs and still not get down. (Okay that last part may not be true- that commercial is just depressing).

2) After exercising for 8 hours all the inner demons I have that egg me on about my body imperfections and my character flaws are silenced. I can move through my day without thinking about my fat thighs rubbing together or my newly developed muffin top rolling over the edge of my pants. I feel like I am an okay, acceptable person. I am not a failure because surely someone who can workout for so long must be a good person. Clearly physical appearance, strength, and endurance directly correlate with goodness and worth. Duh.

3) I am so utterly exhausted that just sitting on the couch and watching TV is not only acceptable; it’s fun. Call me crazy (because really I am), but it’s hard to enjoy watching TV or doing anything sedentary for that matter when I know I haven’t been to the gym yet. For some reason, I believe I must earn the right to be still and to rest. Thankfully, 8 hours of working out earns me that privilege.

4) In the same way a crazy workout justifies rest, it can also sometimes justify indulging in food. When I’ve burned an estimated 4,578 calories so far (thanks heart rate monitor!) I think I can eat that Hershey’s bar and that slice of pizza without feelings of guilt creeping in. I think… although that’s not always the case.

Unfortunately/fortunately (I’m not sure which it is), that 8 hour workout and the resulting euphoric feelings didn’t revert me back to my exercise crazed self of the past. I can firmly attest that my butt was glued to the couch for the 3 proceeding days. It did remind me though why and how it was, at one point, so easy to get swept up in 2 a day workouts, 13 mile treadmill runs, and back to back cardio classes. And if I’m being completely honest with you, which I always try to be, it also reminded me how good it feels at times to get lost in that exercise obsessed world. Because sitting here 4 days later, with all the old feelings of worthlessness, laziness, and guilt over eating resurfacing I’d rather be there than here.

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