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Archive for July, 2009

If you’re not one of the lucky, naturally-thin folks out there who is blessed with a metabolism that leaves you actually wishing you could gain weight, then most likely some form of weight management needs to become a part of your life forever. Unless of course you want to “accept” fatness as a facet of your identity ala the Fat Acceptance Movement. That’s fine and dandy to me. I certainly have my personal issues with the movement, but if people choose and want to stay fat, that’s their choice. For those of us who don’t wish to accept a fat body and would like to maintain a healthy weight, we have to accept that there is no magic fix to weight management and that it’s going to be a lifelong process.

This is why I’ve personally chosen to embrace a life of health and fitness. It’s hard to get fat if the only reasons I miss a workout are being sick or injured, and if I watch what I eat 99% of the time. I make allowance for special occasions and times for treats, but I know that maintaining a healthy weight is within my reach. My attitude before I began this journey was one of defeat. I had sort of decided that while I knew I needed to lose weight, I loved my food too much. I also thought I was eating “healthy” most of the time and that my job was enough exercise. Then, like most of us, I had my wakeup call. The back injury and the crippling and excruciating pain that came after. I can’t remember exactly the day that I started, but there was one day that I decided I was going to eat the way I normally ate for a day, but write it all down. I was astonished to find that I was eating enough calories for 2 days – doubling up.

Some of you may not know this, but I actually managed to lose a good chunk of weight back in 2001-2002. I started out healthy, then got unhealthy as I turned essentially to drugs to help “rev my metabolism” – it’s so embarrassing to think that at one point in my youth I thought that would actually work. It did kind of work, yes, but I felt like crap and looked like crap, too. I also didn’t build any muscle – in fact I’m pretty sure a lot of the weight I lost was muscle. Either way, for some reason my old habits came back and as I got comfortable in my life situation at the time (a new relationship), I stopped watching what I ate, stopped regularly exercising, yet for some crazy reason I didn’t expect to gain back the weight I lost. But I did, with a vengeance.

I’ve vowed “never again” especially after the pain I went through. My petite frame was not meant to carry that much extra weight, especially since I tend to be “top heavy” when I put on weight – no wonder my back went out! I was carrying around the equivalent of several bulk bags of rice on my body. No way do I ever want to go back! But the key mentality to have if you ever lose weight is that unless you stick to what works for GOOD, the weight can, and most likely will, come back.

I mostly bring up this point because a lot of people see weight loss methods as only a means to an end that they’ll get to stop one day, and then just go back to normal, yet not put the weight back on. Or some people slim down quick for an event, say a wedding, then after that they decide that they no longer need to work on it. Also, a lot of these diets focus on omitting an entire food group from your diet instead of working on ways you can permanently change your habits for good health, changes you can live with for life. I’ll pick on the low-carb diets for a second…I don’t think I could live on a low-carb diet for life. I don’t think anyone really could. Also, a lot of people don’t stick with exercise for life. They see it as yet another means to an end, just like they view their diet.

The fact is, watching what you eat and daily exercise are not only good for weight loss or maintaining healthy weight for a lifetime, they are also just generally good for your health. I’m just wondering who wouldn’t want to do all they can to enhance their quality of life into old age? I’ll cite the example of my grandmother who did live a long life, but she was very unhealthy. Sure, she lived to be 86. But she was miserable and sick for the last 15 years of that life. She smoked, was an alcoholic, did not exercise and did not watch her diet – she basically lived on TV dinners from the mid-80’s until she was placed in a retirement home in the late 90’s. She wasn’t fat, but she was very unhealthy. She had emphysema, stroke, and heart disease. I’m wondering if she may have possibly also had liver problems due to her drinking, which she didn’t quit until she was checked into a retirement home. My family found her stash as they were moving her! And my family kept a close watch on her and took turns caring for her each day, she just hid the booze that well! We never found out who was buying it for her because at that point she was no longer driving. Anyway, my point is that people have this mentality for some reason that they will “die anyway, so why bother?” Well, of course we’ll all expire eventually. Healthy people die every day, too. But to me it just seems downright foolhardy not to at least try and maintain good health anyway. When I’m in old age, I want to still have my faculties about me, I want to still be able to move around and go do things. I do NOT want to be sitting on the couch watching television all day when I’m old. I want to be interacting with others. As long as I’m physically able, I’d like to do volunteer work when I’m old. I’d like to still be exercising every day. I’d still like to do a lot of fun things as well. I don’t expect to be hanging ten on a surfboard when I’m 80, but being able to walk and even possibly run at 80 sounds amazing and very doable if I were to continue taking good care of myself. Plus if I have kids, I feel like I would owe it to them to take good care of myself, to lessen the burden on them with my care when I do get really old. Other case in point, my own parents. They’re already experiencing some frailties in their 50’s. I grit my teeth at what it’s going to be like to care for them when they’re older. It’s always hard to care for elder parents even if they are very healthy, but my parents are not as healthy as they could be. The main thing is their smoking, although they’re both putting on weight as older adults.

Part of the problem I think is that for generations people were told that total decay and frailty is just a part of getting old. Losing your memory, losing your faculties, losing your ability to care for yourself, were all seen as inevitable. I think the baby boomers were also told that, which is why I think my parents never really considered their health when they were younger. Right now I’ve made a conscious decision to not repeat the same mistake. I refuse to accept health problems as inevitable things that can’t be prevented. Yes, I acknowledge that there are cases where a person was very healthy and still got sick. But I’m still not willing to gamble and just lie down and accept it. I’ll be proactive.

Which brings me back to weight loss. I’ve made a promise to myself that once I do reach my goal weight, I will remain on a maintainence plan. Part of that plan includes weighing myself once a month. If I start to creep over a certain weight, I will look into why and change my habits. I am not one of those people who has a fast metabolism – I accept that if I want to be a certain weight I’ll always have to watch it. I’d much rather do that than end up unhealthy and unhappy like I was. Plus, I’m young now and it’s easier to deal with this now than it is when a person gets older. I’d so rather get a handle on it and master the good habits now than wait until my 40’s to be proactive.

Some links that help strengthen my point: http://www.latimes.com/features/health/la-he-exercise13-2009jul13,0,6577878.story
http://www.nytimes.com/1989/11/03/us/exercise-and-longevity-a-little-goes-a-long-way.html
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise/hq01676
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10074

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Being sore after a good workout is not anything to be worried about, in most cases. Usually the pain is an indication that your muscles are working to repair themselves (and make more of themselves, yay!) after you worked them hard. Furthermore, it’s good to note the difference between sharp, stabbing, acute pain and just the dull ache. The sharp, stabbing pain does indicate that you should rest the injured muscle. Usually a pulled muscle does need to be rested, and iced as well to reduce the inflammation. However, if you get a dull ache after a workout, it’s nothing to be alarmed about and you can still exercise the next day – and sitting around being inactive really doesn’t actually help with the dull aches in my experience. Your muscle was made to, and wants to move.

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OK, I just had to comment on this because it made me laugh. It’s been awhile since I thought about it because I tend to ignore the stupid, but a somewhat dim sorority girl wrote a very long-winded editorial on why it’s so wrong when women don’t shave their pits, and this was all brought to her mind because she was riding the bus and saw a girl with hairy pits! ZOMG! Stop the world, we’ve GOT to focus on this one!

Confession time: I don’t shave my armpits. Why? Because I have insanely sensitive skin and always, ALWAYS break out in a horrible rash when I shave them. Believe me, I’ve tried everything over the years to alleviate that condition and still get away with shaving. Tried Nair and a whole host of other products, when I was younger and more insecure about such things. These days I forego all things that which do not work, and stick to the one thing that does, which is NOT shaving them. Big deal, right? I guess it really is a big deal to some people. But why? It’s a pretty personal choice. But for some reason, human beings (particularly other females, and rarely males from what I’ve found) take it very personally when other people don’t shave their pits. Sorry, other women. It’s because it’s what we’re “supposed” to do in our culture. But in other cultures, no one shaves anything. In some, both men and women remove all their hair! It’s funny how that works.

I did have one ignorant male, one time, say that he thought it was a hygiene thing. It’s not, though. It’s an aesthetics thing. He considered a woman who doesn’t shave to be slovenly and have poor hygiene. But really, you only have poor hygiene if you neglect to bathe, brush your teeth, etc. I bathe every day, sometimes twice a day depending on how work went. I also use a clear deodorant on my hairy pits, and I’ve never had a problem smelling like B.O.

So I ask the people, SO FUCKING WHAT? I personally don’t care. I don’t avoid shaving to make some feminist statement, either, and I do consider myself something of a feminist. I just find body hair removal to be both a waste of time and a detriment to my skin’s health. I’m clean and well-kept otherwise, so what is the big deal? I think it comes down to a culture where women in particular feel a need to cut each other down for some crazy reason. A woman like the one who spent a good deal of time writing the editorial piece against hairy pits felt the need to cut down other women based on a personal choice regarding the removal of something as stupid as body hair. I’m serious, I’ve never had any males come up to me and comment on my pits, aside from the one guy. I’ve had numerous females make some rather snarky comments about it, as if it had anything to do with them or they had any reason to be concerned.

End point: mind your own business, take care of yourself, and don’t try to be the body hair police. Be a real woman and grow the fuck up! If you like to shave, great! More power to you! But if you see another woman who chooses to be hairy, don’t make assumptions about her personality. And if it absolutely repulses you to see a woman with hair on her body, just don’t fucking look.

I will actually say this…I think if all women everywhere are expected to remove their body hair, I think it’s only fair that men be expected to do the same. Guys can get away with being uber-hairy and doing nothing about it. I would hopefully never attract the kind of male who would demand this, but if some guy I liked demanded that I be absolutely hairless, I’d say, “OK, but you must do the same.” Seriously.

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