Being Fat and Female in a Gym

When I walked into the gym yesterday morning it was delightfully empty save a few guys and one gal. I was there to lift some weights and then meet up with one of the girls from my small training group to do the stepmill. I don’t know what is about deadlifts that I like, but man, I like them and I was excited to play. The stepmill, well, it makes me feel accomplished.

It didn’t take me too long to notice one of the gym’s trainers working out*. He noticed me too. After my workout, he approached me and introduced himself. Nothing wrong with that. “If you ever want help with exercises or nutrition, I’m a trainer here. Feel free to ask to me any questions. Are you just trying to lose some weight or tone up? You really don’t want to do a lot of that (pointing to the stepmill and meaning cardio.” He was nice and non-aggressive in his tone, but he immediately assumed I was trying to lose weight. Being fat and female in a gym must automatically mean you’re there to lose weight. Or fat. Sure, I wouldn’t be upset to lose some fat, but that’s not my focus anymore. Part of rejecting the fat phobia and diet culture is realizing that there is nothing wrong with being fat. Yeah, guys. That’s right. It’s okay to be fat. It’s okay to love a fat body. What’s not okay is wasting your life hating yourself and your body, not living in some pursuit of the cultural expectation of the ideal woman. (Men of the world, I know you are not excluded from this, but I am a woman so I am writing about women.)

What was really exciting about this encounter, is that I didn’t immediately retreat to a place of shame and self-loathing and “gee, I really do need to lose weight” or “I must have looked dumb working out.” Nope. I say it again. NOPE. I was able to evaluate the situation and take it without emotion. Hey, this guy is still in the mainstream diet world. The world where everyone desires to be thin and thin equals happy and you can’t have happy without thin. He wasn’t trying to hurt me. He was trying to help (and maybe get a new client.) I told him honestly, I was working out to feel good. That’s what exercise is about. It’s a reward for your body. It’s fun. It brings out a primal drive. It makes other parts of day to day life better because it makes your body, heart, and soul happy. And it just feels good.


*I work at this gym, though I’m currently taking a summer sabbatical while working on recovery. My gym is pretty great. I’ve met this trainer once or twice while I was working, but it was long enough ago that I probably look different. Also, I wasn’t dressed in my gym uniform (which is seriously the best work uniform ever. It’s a black logo t-shirt with whatever pants I want to wear – yep, yoga pants.) Since I’m talking about my gym, I would be remiss not mention that there are great trainers there. I’ve been lucky to work with one of the best in KC. Yesterday, I even caught myself correcting my wrist position on a lift.

Here are a couple of great blog posts that deal with a similar theme.


The Eater

A good friend of mine posted an article on Facebook today called:

“The Picky Eater Who Came to Dinner”.

Take a minute. Read it. I don’t want to censor it, but I do want to express my opinion about it.

The writer was successful in crafting an article that generates conversation and reaction. So, here is my unfiltered, stream-of-consciousness reaction.

I take offense to logic that people are changing their diets based on the economy and a need for control in a quest for identity. As someone who has “valid” (I’m sorry, the fact that I even feel I have to justify my needs) dietary restrictions that comment sincerely pisses me off. I’m sure there are people out there who are experimenting and proud to pronounce it. But for a lot of us, we just want to fit in. We just want to participate. We just want to be invisible. I sure don’t want my identity to be the soy-free, gluten-free, vegetarian. I’d rather be known as that healthy girl who likes exercise and healthy food and takes care of herself.

I am very likely to turn down an offer to go out or to join a dinner party these days. I get irritated in the grocery store because I have to take the time to read labels, which means my cart and I are in the way for a while, so back off. It’s not a fad for me. It’s my health. I am increasingly defensive when not alone in the aisles of the store that contain the few options of packaged foods. And I try to avoid these foods anyway in favor of whole ingredients that I can you know, COOK (or not cook if I want to follow raw recipes.)

If someone invites me to dinner, then they invite me – and that includes the fact that I will get sick if I eat soy or gluten and that I’ve chosen not to eat meat (and at this point, it would probably also make me sick.) I don’t want to explain it to everyone. But if you are inviting ME to dine, then you should know what you are getting and you should be prepared to deal or you should tell me to bring my own.

And you know what? It won’t kill anyone to expand their culinary palette. It won’t hurt to try new things. And I’m sorry that the author bought something she thought was extraordinary and was disappointed when no one wanted to eat it. That totally sucks. It really does. But more for her? And maybe next time, I don’t know, tell people what the menu is and plan ahead so you don’t spend money and put heart into something that no one is going to touch?

But as an invitee and potential guest, I owe it to you to be up front and honest. But if you invite me then I expect that you will have something I can eat other than a tray of sad vegetables and fruit.

But also, if I say no to something, please accept no and move on. Please don’t make me extra uncomfortable by having to say no repeatedly. And please don’t make me explain why. I’m already uncomfortable. I don’t want to be singled out. I don’t want tell everyone. I don’t want to be defined by what I don’t eat or drink.

I grew up in a family of food allergies. Life and death for some, severe discomfort and internal damage for others. No one was ever excluded. No shellfish, no peanuts, no tree nuts, no gluten – NO PROBLEM.

The whole topic confuses me because my life experience has been one of inclusion or abstinence.

Is it really so wrong or bad for people to experiment with new ways to eat? Okay, if you change your eating habits as often as you change your underwear then, yes, you probably have issues. But don’t we all?

Bring on the potluck. If you have dietary restrictions – medically imposed or not – bring something you can share that you can eat and enjoy. And if you’re hosting a gathering, I do think it’s your responsibility to welcome people. If you aren’t willing to do so, then don’t invite people, change the type of gathering, or make it a bring your own or potluck – or make sure you disclose what will and won’t be on the menu and give people the choice to come or not come and figure it out for themselves.

Me? I try to have something for everyone. And if I do go somewhere else, I have a plan. I always have a safe snack bar in my purse, I eat first, or I plan how long I’m going to stay and eat after. Also, please expect me to drink water and probably decline other beverages. I have reasons and they are all related to my health and how I feel, so can we just leave it at that? I’m actually VERY happy with a nice glass of water. I’m sorry if my water loving habits make you feel like a bad host/hostess. You aren’t. I actually like water. I’m an easy guest in that way.

Yes. I chose to give up meat. That was something I did because I don’t like advocating for animals and looking cows in the eye and then eating their kin for dinner. I’ve read, I’ve watched, I’ve been stuck behind a chicken truck. I don’t agree with certain practices, so I abstain. I can better look my cats in eyes everyday too. It also didn’t hurt that I was sick after eating meat and it lost any of it’s appeal.

Yes. I chose to give up soy. Because if I eat soy? I can’t be around people. I don’t want to be around myself. It’s a lot of “blame it on the (non-existent) dog” and wondering when my insides will stop feeling like the inside of a washing machine.

Yes. I chose to give up gluten. If I eat gluten? Good God, I honestly don’t know how to describe how it feels. Sometimes it feels like my insides are being filled like a balloon and then someone is pushing and twisting that balloon – testing its limits to see if it will pop. And there’s the burning. And the churning. And the ache. And the headache. And the gross throat. And the itching. And the tiredness. And the anxiety. And the depression.

So yeah. That’s why I don’t wanna talk about it at your dinner party.

I’d rather just make my own food. Things I can enjoy. That I know are safe and won’t make me feel like something ran me over.

Dining out is not fun anymore. It’s a chore. It’s unfulfilling most of the time. I don’t do it for the food. I do it for the socialization.

I must stop because this has just turned into a rant.

Anyhow, that’s my reaction. At least it doesn’t stink.

The Best Cleanse Ever

It really works!

Okay, a new year started and suddenly the word “cleanse” is all over my internets: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.

Cleanse is a marketing buzz word. That’s it. It’s not magic, but it’s not hype either. A good “cleanse” will actually help you lose “weight” and feel better.

Here’s why:

  • They cut coffee and caffeinated beverages:  In addition to adding cognitive clarity and boosting energy, caffeine stimulates appetite making you feel hungrier, and caffeine speeds up the digestive process – and not necessarily in a good way.
  • They cut soda (pop) and carbonated beverages:  Regular soda is full of sugar which is terrible in excess. All soda is full of acid that is awful for your teeth and chemicals that your body has trouble processing. Soda and carbonated beverages also cause bloating – you’re drinking gas, expect to be gassy. It takes up volume in your gut. Also, I hate artificial sweeteners.
  • They cut alcohol:  Empty calories. No real nutritional benefit (aside from wine which when consumed in moderation has been shown to be beneficial.) Other than its direct impact, alcohol is almost always a gateway to eating more, and often not the best choices. It also screws with digestion and liver and kidney processes. I like booze. I do not like hangovers. Or eating an extra meal because I stayed up late drinking.
  • They cut processed foods:  If your food doesn’t get moldy you probably shouldn’t be putting it in your body. All those chemicals interfere with nature. Processed foods are laden with sugar, sodium, fake color, and preservatives. They strip foods of the natural things that make them well, natural, and they add things that aren’t meant to be consumed (I’m a non-fan of foods with “added” fiber. There are great sources of natural fiber that won’t leave your gut feeling like someone is stabbing it and making you and anyone near you wonder why your ass sounds like a giant sheet of bubble wrap.) No thanks.
  • They focus on vegetables: This is one of the most basic things you can do to boost your health. If I had to pick two things off this list to tell someone to change immediately, this would be second only to drink more water. Once you focus on veggies you will likely naturally cut some of the processed foods (and then you can cut them altogether.)
  • They focus on lean sources of protein: Filling. Healthy. Yay muscles!
  • They focus on adding vitamins, minerals, and pre/pro-biotics: I put all three in one. These are things your body needs to work properly. Focusing on veggies will help with this. Building and repairing cells is helpful in oh, I don’t know, staying alive. Getting more of these things will improve your skin and vitality.
  • They focus on drinking lots and lots of water: This is step number one for anyone looking to increase health. The more water you drink the less other crap (like soda) you will drink. Trust me, you really can give up soda. I drink it maybe twice a month if even that often. I won’t preach here. I’ve already been leaning that way. We all know drinking water is good for our bodies. (and stop adding all those artificial sweetener flavor packets! Yes, they taste good, but they are fake. blarg. Squeeze some lemon or lime instead. And yes, I have a bunch of the packets. I caved and used them but they make me feel awful so I stopped using them. Really, they made my face all hot and red.)
  • They “encourage” you to move:  Who knew moving burned calories?

Guys and Gals, this is what we should be doing anyway.

I’m fat. I got and stayed here for a lot of reasons. Well basically, not doing enough of the the things listed above consistently enough. I have been extra sensitive to this the last week or so because of the changes in my routine. My whole schedule of working out, cooking, and eating was thrown off when my mom died. Like I said in my last post, I’m trying to “get back on the horse.” I wish there was a magic bullet. But getting back into cooking and doing all the stuff above is hard. I find myself eating breakfast and then not eating again until dinner. Terrible for my metabolism. I don’t feel good this way. I’m bloated. I keep reaching for sugar but my body doesn’t want it. Anyhow, today, so far so good.

I’m not saying you should completely cut all of these things all of the time. I drink coffee. (I did give up caffeine early in 2011 for a while. After the first days of fogginess, I actually felt great. Caffeine influeces your system for up to 5 hours after you consume it. Not sleeping well at night? What are you drinking and when?) I occasionally eat things like “bars” from Kashi or sweets or drink a pop.

I just think it’s funny that people think “cleanse” is a noun. It’s a verb. Always was, always will be. Cleanse yourself. Put good things in your body. Stay clean.

So, people who have done a “cleanse” – did I get it right? What am I missing? Am I full of shit? Thoughts and comments are welcome.

South Beach in My Belly

One of the things the dietitian told me was to use the South Beach Diet way of eating. Focus on proteins first, veggies, and good carbs. That’s pretty much how I eat 75% of the time now. Anyhow, I bought the book and read through it and decided I’d start at the beginning. There are 3 phases: Phase 1 is built to reduce cravings for sugar and subsequently, does not allow you to eat breads, pastas, grains, starches, fruits, or sugars. Phase 2 reintroduces fruits and grains and even allows for wine and dark chocolate. Phase 3 is about maintenance.

I haven’t felt ridiculously hungry today, but I realized through my food logging on LiveStrong that I ate only 712 calories. Oops. I also burned somewhere between 300 and 500 through walking, running, and yard work. Double oops.

So, Day 1 is done – only 13 more on the restrictive Phase 1. My one big hope out of this crappy phase? That the claims are true and I lose some of my belly fat.

Listen Up

A man once told me I would never be skinny. He wasn’t trying to offend me or put me down in any way. In fact, he found my body, soft, squishy, and full of pooches to be sexy. That relationship may be over, but his words creep up more often than I’d like.

Feeling good mentally, emotionally, and physically usually correlates directly to action. If I make choices that make my body hum along, I tend to want to hum along with it – all day. with a grin and, yes, even a cliched skip in my step.

Whenever I think or write about how I feel, I always come back to two truths:  It’s about what I tell myself I can do, and what I actually do. That’s life. If I sit around on my couch crying and saying, “I’m scared” or “I can’t” or even “I will never” then I won’t. But if I tell myself I can, and I get off the couch and try, I chip away at the fear.

Yes, I fear the repetition of mistakes and a never ending cycle of trying and never quite reaching my goals. The goal takes time. A lot of time. I can’t expect to lose 120 lbs in 3 months. But as my counselor used to tell me when I poured out my teenage, fat girl heart, “the time is going to pass anyway.”

So, will I ever be skinny? I guess that’s really only up to me.