Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Workout Experiment: Day 5

So here I was, sharing my Workout Experiment journey in part to bolster my own certainty that taking it slow was the right thing to do... but my inner judgy voice was still secretly thinking 1 minute, 30 seconds on the treadmill was really not enough. Cue Cinder Ernst, fitness coach extraordinaire, who chimed in to say,
"Yay for you. 1.5 min of the elliptical is a big chunk for day 1. I suggest starting w an amount that leaves you feeling good all over, maybe 30 seconds for a few days, then 1 min for a few days etc. You will find if you use the smallest smallest smallest of steps, consistently, your body will start to lean into it."
Thank you, Universe, for all these wonderful teachers and wise women I have been able to bring into my life! Today, without even resting after bringing in groceries - because I knew if I stopped moving I'd hit they hay and not wake up til morning - I did 35 seconds on the elliptical. And it was enough. And the next time, I might do a minute-plus. And hey - the time after that, I might do 30 seconds or a minute again.

One thing I'd fallen into without even realizing it was thinking that each session had to be longer than the one before. Which, once it was brought up to the level of conscious thought, was ridiculous. Consistency is kind of ridiculous to ask of my body - especially when nothing else in my life is consistent! I will have had different days, different levels of activity, different levels of stress... Of course I would have different capacity to exercise. Thanks, Cinder - I needed that!

Edited to add: I know Cinder's point was really to start smaller, more so than the insight I ended up getting to about consistently increasing the time not being the only measure of success. But it was Cinder's point - or rather, her voice of reason saying 1.5 min was probably too much for my body - which allowed me to tune in and really think through my expectations/assumptions. So it's really two lessons here on Day 5: 1) start EVEN. SMALLER. and 2) don't expect the seconds to only increase. They're gonna move depending on how my body feels, and that's OK too. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Workout Experiment: Days 2-4

When we last left our brave heroine, she'd done 1.5 minutes on her exciting new (well, new to her) elliptical machine. There was much cheerleading and many motivational comments were made. And then you didn't hear from her for 3 days. Heh. I don't think it's realistic for me to post every day on this, so I'll do summaries whenever the mood strikes.

Day 2 (Monday) - Went to my parents' old house to pick up odds and ends of my leftover stuffs that had been buried in the attic. Physical labor up and down the stairs, and emotional labor sorting 3-4 boxes of childhood teenagehood papers and momentos. Got home late, ate dinner late, gave myself a pass on the elliptical.

Day 3 (Tuesday) - Had a 1.5-hour meeting with a wedding vendor directly after work, then to a late dinner, making it home about bedtime. Didn't end up going to bed anything like bedtime, but I was worn out from a long day nonetheless. I'm not willing to call this a fail, because I was thinking of getting on the elliptical but was literally falling asleep in my chair instead. Can't explain why, but it feels like an acceptable 'pass' so I'm giving it to myself.

Day 4 (Wednesday) - Was damn well gonna get on the elliptical today. But... the child I mentor on Wednesday nights looked at me with hopeful eyes and informed me that Christmas In The Park was up, and could we go, please? So we walked around browsing nomadic carnival rides and nostalgic-with-a-side-of-creepy animatronic displays. I carried with us the folding chair I always keep in the car, and took lots of breaks. Send her on a ride, sit and rest. Let her play a carnival game, sit and rest. Make her watch the perpetual motion machine in front of The Tech Museum for way longer than she wanted to because a) it's awesome and I wasn't done, and b) sit and rest. It was frustrating to need so many breaks, and painful even with the amount of breaks I took. I prolly didn't get my heart rate up enough for long enough, but I did move my body. And I broke a sweat. (Tho that could've been the pain more than the exertion. Not totally sure. But I digress....) It totally counts as exercise, and yet on the ride home I felt more motivated to get on the elliptical than I did yesterday or the day before! I didn't let myself, though, because my back is not happy from our outing this evening and I want to make sure to give it rest.

A commenter on my Day 1 post suggested the "Don't Break the Chain" model for momentum and motivation, and it definitely appeals. I want to be forming the habit of thinking every day, "have I moved my body today?" HOWEVER, the answer to that question is sometimes going to be "no" or "not in the manner I had planned" -- and that HAS TO BE OK. There are just gonna be days when life gets in the way and I give myself a pass, and/or I do some other activity that "counts" instead.

I may have some thinking to do about what, if any, ground rules I should lay for myself in terms of how many passes, in what circumstances, and/or what alternative activities "count." But on the other hand, that sounds like work. Besides, so far I'm feeling like I'm aimed in the right direction, so I think I'll continue just letting my gut guide me, at least for now. If in a few weeks the momentum is gone, I'll look at taking a less organic and improvisational / more structured and rules-y approach. the meantime, I need to print out a calendar for the month of December so I can start giving myself big red X's (or perhaps shiny gold stars, cause... stickers are totally motivational!).

If you have a workout/exercise/movement routine or goal, how do you decide how many chores, how much walking at the mall, how much pickup soccer with your kids at the park, etc. is a reasonable substitution for your regularly scheduled exercise activity? Would you recommend your approach for a baby beginner exerciser, or modify it in some way?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fat Poz Zone

Howdy folks,

Just a friendly reminder that this is a fat-positive zone. Or - if you can't quite manage that - at the very least, a weight-neutral zone. No discussion of intentional weight loss is welcome here, even if "you're just concerned about my health." That's called Concern Trolling (1) and it's not welcome here.

But how can you support me, if you can't tell me to lose weight, or share your inspiring story of how you lost half your body weight and have kept it off for 10 years and will sleep better at night knowing you've done everything you can to avoid the cancer that killed your mother? Read on, friend... read on.

A) Encourage me in my efforts at adopting weight-neutral, HAES(r)-based strategies for managing and improving my health and encourage me in those BEHAVIORS rather than in some perceived or "should" weight-loss goal.
  • Studies abound which show that the positive health outcomes commonly attributed to weight loss will be achieved regardless of weight loss, if the healthy behaviors (movement, nutritious eating, etc) are adopted. (2)
  • Studies also show that when weight loss is the motivating factor to exercise/eat healthfully, motivation tapers and the behaviors are abandoned when weight loss is not achieved or plateaus. On the other hand, when "feeling better" is the goal, incremental improvements provide positive reinforcement on an ongoing basis. 
B)  Even if it seems like weight loss might be the only way to improve how I feel, or if you cannot bring yourself to believe that my weight is not a causal factor in how I feel, resist the urge to suggest weight loss. Long-term, sustainable weight loss is just not possible for the vast majority of people.(3)
  • The reality that doctors and diet programs fail to acknowledge is that somewhere around 95% of weight-loss diets fail. So by having weight loss as a goal, I'm very likely to be setting myself up for failure. 
  • Still believe that I should be striving to be part of that 5%? Fine. Keep it to yourself, and see Point 1 -- you can encourage all the healthy behaviors you think I should be doing, and you are welcome to think to yourself that they'll lead to weight loss if that helps you support me. (Though hopefully you'll go out and read the research for yourself so you can continue to support me even when I don't "succeed" at becoming thin.) 
C)  For me personally, the suggestion that I need to lose weight is particularly harmful due to my medical history.
  • If you really care about me, you will resist the urge to suggest weight loss for the simple and very personal reason that I have a history of eating disorder and the suggestion of weight loss from people I care about is very likely to bring on a relapse. I am tired of throwing up, depression, anxiety, etc. Seriously tired.

(1) On Concern Trolls:

(2) On positive health outcomes independent of weight loss:

(3) On long-term, sustainable weight loss being highly unlikely for the vast majority of people:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Workout Experiment: Day 1

I suffer from chronic back, knee, and hip pain. Even more frightening, it's been getting steadily worse, and increasingly limiting to my day-to-day activities over the past year or so. It's gotten to the point that I can't go to an amusement park or museum, can't go shopping unless there is an electric courtesy cart, can't do SO MANY THINGS. A couple of weeks ago, I reached a crisis point. I was tired of being in pain all the time, terrified of the speed at which it was getting worse, and desperate to figure out what to do about it.

So I dragged my fiance to a local sports equipment shop that carries second-hand and consignment exercise machines. Amazingly, they were far more affordable than I'd thought, and we found one we really liked AND that would fit in the small available corner of our living room. Sold! It was delivered last Tuesday, but with the craziness of getting ready for Turkey Day and then being out of town, today was Day 1.

I've decided to chronicle my efforts, for several reasons. 1) so that I can look back and see how much progress I've made, 2) in hopes that sharing my efforts and getting cheered on by my community will help keep me motivated, and 3) because I believe it's important that we all serve as role models for each other in honoring where we are and celebrating our efforts... even if - perhaps especially if - we're afraid that we'll be judged that our efforts aren't good enough, or afraid of revealing our "shame" at how small our abilities/accomplishments are at first. So, without further ado....

Day 1: I walked on the elliptical for 1 minute, 35 seconds at the lowest resistance and slowest speed I could do while still getting the pedals going in a rhythm. At the end of that time, I was breathing hard enough to be uncomfortable and could definitely "feel the burn" - particularly in the front part of my thighs. Happily, neither my back nor my knees were uncomfortable. When I stepped off the machine, I did feel a little unsteady on my feet and needed to sit down. But recovery was fairly fast. Given that I have little/no experience of exercise since middle school PE torture, I don't feel well calibrated as to how I'm supposed to feel and how far I'm supposed to push myself, so I'm erring on the side of caution. Nothing's more likely to dis-incentivize me to keep up this project than pushing myself too hard and ending up in a bunch of pain.

So there ya go. Day 1. Go me! :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Apparently fat causes uterine cancer...

The following is a letter I sent to the Fat Studies Group in hopes that I can get some answers on this issue. I wanted to go ahead and post it here, because I'm sure anything a doc has told me, other docs have told other fatties. Any helpful responses I get, I'll post here as well (if I can get permission) or at least summarize so that others can benefit from whatever wisdom the Fat Studies Group members are kind enough to share.

Also, hey, I know there are plenty more smart and wise people in the world than can possibly be contained in one Fat Studies Group (even as awesome as this group is)! So if you have thoughts/wisdom/knowledge to add, please do! :)

TO: Fat Studies Group
DATE: 11/16/2012

Hi folks,

I need your wisdom and your knowledge, please. I am in a great deal of distress over some medical stuff and accompanying weight blaming, and I need to arm myself with information in order to navigate my way through.

As have so many of us, I have spent a lot of time, energy, and resources working to unlearn the paradigm that fat=health risk and that lose weight=better health outcomes. I know to ignore docs when they tell me to lose weight to improve my blood pressure, cholesterol, prevent diabetes, etc. I know it's about healthy behaviors, not a weight or a BMI on a chart. I know that when the myriad medical voices and social pressures get too overwhelming and gastric bypass starts to sound like a magic wand, I need to turn to my support system and recharge and remind myself that it is SO NOT the answer. I am a believer in Fat Lib, HAES, the whole shebang.

And yet... I've gotten a new argument thrown at me that I haven't encountered before, and it's thrown me for a loop. Apparently now I need to lose weight or I'm going to get uterine cancer. Let me 'splain...