Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Fat Fatwa: Reasons I Hate Exercise

Image from

The modern consensus is that if you want to be happier and healthier one must exercise. But what I would like to lay out here is the fact that I hate it.  

The cultural push, especially in looks-conscious California, is that if you are going to be anybody you have to be fit and pretty. That's it. If you're not fit, you're not pretty. And fitness requires you to spend hours upon hours in a gym, drink crazy green wheatgrass concoctions, and obsess about your body. You have to get in a certain amount of cardio or one day you will just drop dead.

If you are losing weight, you are supposed to be crazy happy about exercising, and it's supposed to feel like a million kinds of awesome. Instead, I finish and I never feel great. I can sometimes during, but never as awesome as some of my more athletic and able-bodied friends report.

The problem is that as I lose weight, I am increasingly saggy. Before I start to look like a flying squirrel with skin flaps under my arms, I must set about doing something about it. But I also know that I hate exercise. Why?

  • I am and always have been injury prone. Back in Jr. High, I managed to sprain my ankle 8 times in two years. Every time it was due to P.E. class and their instance upon warming up by jogging in a field riddled with gopher holes. This apparently made me a special case, and eventually they assigned me to an Adaptive P.E. class for students with special physical needs because apparently the rest of the population was just fine running on horribly uneven grass.  It was at this time that I discovered that between the horribly flat feet I had suffered from since childhood, and my beefy Irish and German made-for-lugging-hay-bales bone structure being held up by dancer's ligaments, I was always going to have issues. I can injure myself thinking about exercise.
  • I have never been good at sports. Not only did I have these flat-footed issues to deal with, but I also rarely had anyone who would even attempt to teach me sports. My mother was never athletic, and my father was more so, but never available to really teach me anything. I had no older siblings, so school was where I got the majority of my sports training, which meant that if I didn't pick things up super fast I was out of luck. So I spent most of my time in softball's outfield not playing at all, last to be picked for every team, and chasing my soccer ball or basketball up and down the court.
  • It's boring. I have never understood the insistence that being an adult means we must have things as tedious as possible.When we're little, we have recess.  But as we get older, it is methodically replaced with more tedious items. We measure our activities in repetitions and minutes. If only exercise was giant, adult-scale size swing sets and jungle gyms I might be more enthused.  Instead we have repetitions on equipment, or running on a treadmill. Or walking the same route in the same neighborhood or on a track. I find that when I listen to something interesting like a podcast or audiobook while I walk, I lose pace. But without it, if I do just music I can often be bored out of my skull.
  • The things I do enjoy are inconvenient. The two most enjoyable things for me are dancing and water aerobics if we're talking about a really good cardio workout. With dancing, I have to again be super careful. The last time I was doing one of the most effective cardio dance workouts, a few days later I had a pinched sciatic nerve and one of the worst pain incidents of my life. Many years ago I had some success going to regular water aerobics classes at the gym. Now I'm not really in a place financially to afford a gym, and it's always pretty difficult to find one conveniently located with a water aerobics class that is well-timed. So I'm always plagued by issues with these choices as well.
This leaves me in a position of having to do things that maybe aren't as cardio heavy.  I like yoga a great deal for the stress-relieving benefits. I also enjoy the games on Wii Fit that get me a little bit of benefit.  And sometimes I enjoy just randomly light dancing around my room for an allotted period of time to just try to do something semi-amusing, somewhat active, that doesn't make me feel bored and, in the end, icky.

But I want to embrace all of this. I'm tired of the pressure to feel as pumped up and awesome about exercise as others are. I want to yell out, "WE ARE NOT ALL THE SAME!!"  

So why do we have to feel the same about fitness?

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Fat Fatwa: Five Things I've Learned About Weight Loss

 First let me get this out of the way. I have news.

I have lost 14.4 pounds so far!

Ladies and gents, this is amazing. The last time I was on Weight Watchers I believe that it took longer to get to this point, and I had a gym membership then. This is weight loss despite realizing early on that I needed to lose some weight *first* before attempting to rapidly ramp up exercise.

Since I started this mission back in January, I didn't know how far I would come and how fast. I just figured it would take as long as it took this time and I told myself I would press on and continue even if it didn't seem like it was working sometimes, and even if I felt miserable sometimes it had to be better than the state of health I was in at the start.

This means I reached my first default weight loss goal set by the Weight Watchers software. Woohoo!!

So what have I learned so far?

  1. Don't fall off the bandwagon when things got tough. I seem to recall other times when I was trying to do this without the benefit of Weight Watchers, that I would spiral out of control. I ate more than I intended, and would kind of go "Oh, my diet's shot for the day anyway" and just pile on. And want to quit soon after.Not so, now. Have I had a couple of unexpected setbacks on certain days? Yes. But that didn't mean throwing in the towel. And I didn't quit when personal problems and depression and all sorts of things happened to shake my emotions and my psyche. I nursed myself back, but I didn't stop doing the Weight Watchers program. I did have some comforting things, but tried to treat my body as part of the whole unit undergoing stress and feed it nourishing things not just comforting things. And I am constantly in the process of learning to not be so hard on myself if I struggle one day.  It's just one day. The great thing about life is being afforded a new start every 24 hours.
  2. This is YOUR journey.  It is very helpful to start to get into the mindset of this being YOUR journey and so therefore it doesn't have to be at a rate or pace of anyone else. I believe that when you own it, and realize that it is going to be super difficult and don't let any weight loss program or any advertising convince you that it's not. You may not even have some grand epiphany like they do in the commercials. And your friends and family may have swifter weight loss success than you do. That's okay.  They are not you. Your body is yours and your relationship is very individual. Embrace being you. I have heard many weight loss experts extol the virtues of buddying up for exercise and weight loss. But I don't believe this is for everyone. If you are the type of person that wants to compete with someone else toward goals, I applaud you for your efforts. But that isn't for everyone. The friends I have that have been most supportive have been the ones that have been saying, "I have these struggles too." Where we share articles and talk about things together. For me, a support group of people that I know that have known me for years is much more therapeutic than a meetup say at a Weight Watchers meeting with total strangers. And I don't have to pay a weekly fee to have a total stranger judge my weight loss success or failure.
  3. Listen to your body. I had been listening to my body complain in other ways before the weight loss started. Now, instead of just the usual joint aches, back aches, fatigue, and ill health, I have days where my body tells me "I'm hungry" all day long. Why? Sometimes it's as simple as having too carb-heavy a breakfast, and sometimes I think it's just a matter of my metabolism taking another shift and burning more fuel. Or a whole combination of issues. Whereas in times past I may have drunk a glass of water and told myself the hunger was only in my mind, and "no pain, no gain," this time around I have learned it's better to satisfy hunger, just do so sensibly. I will feel like crap all day or all night if I don't take care of it. I have a wide array of healthful snacks and snack bars that provide me more balanced energy. I will have a very fitful night's sleep if I don't take care of the hunger, so if that means I go over and deep into my WW weekly bonus points allotment, then so be it. I am much more likely to be on track and feeling better the next day if I don't go to bed feeling like I am ready to eat my pillow.
  4. Try something new. I have realized that the key to giving up some things that are less good for you and moderating your diet requires trying some new things.  On my periodic pilgrimage to Trader Joe's I like to pick something out that I haven't tried before. So far I have managed to put into my repertoire a delicious rice medley, a Proven├žale cod dish with Ratatouille Rice, and Kiwi Berries (also known as baby kiwis). I also tried kumquats and discovered they are disgusting.  But the point is to add some things that really spice up your life. 
  5. Learn how to celebrate. I think we all celebrate in the language of food. I don't think that's entirely a bad thing, depending on the food. But I also know how to celebrate victories with non-food or food items. So celebrating with a whipped cream topped drink may be out, but a yogurt or a square of chocolate is fine. Or treating ones self to a new book.  Or a manicure. Or a nap. But celebrating the small victories is crucial. Realize even .2 of a pound is still a victory.
Know, my dear reader, we are in this together. And I thank you to those of you who continue to encourage me along the way, and who share conversations and articles that can help each other and your contributions to my life are such a blessing!

Keep on my fellow soldiers! Keep on!