Fat People and Personal Responsibility

I joined a gang – a blog gang.  We are all posting on the same day about the same subject.  You can find the links to the rest of my gang’s (I love saying that) posts at the end. This time our topic is Personal Responsibility. If you know me or read my blog, you know that this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart.  Let me just dive right in.

To me personal responsibility is owning that while I can’t always control my circumstances, I can always control my reactions to them and how I allow them to affect me going forward.  Thus I may not be able to control if someone breaks into my house, but once the break-in is over I choose to take responsibility for how I react to it and how I allow it to affect me in the future. Personal Responsibility doesn’t mean that I think that I can do everything alone.  It means that I take responsibility for asking for help when I need it.  If I find that having my house broken into has left me feeling unsafe, then I take responsibility for feeling that way and, if I want to feel differently, I take responsibility for figuring out what it will take (alarm system, therapy, starting a neighborhood watch etc.) to feel the way that I want to feel, and then making that happen.  That doesn’t mean that what the thief did was ok, or that they shouldn’t be punished – it wasn’t and they should; but that’s a separate thing from how I choose to react and be affected in my life.

To be clear, this is a conscious choice.  I could always just feel unsafe in my home and blame the thief for making me feel that way. That’s a perfectly viable life choice.  If my goal is to justify why I live in fear so that other people will blame someone else and not me for my situation, then it seems like that kind of attitude would be just what I need.   If my goal is to live in my house without fear, I’m just not sure how blaming someone else for the way I reacted to my circumstances and throwing up my hands will get me there.

If I’m not responsible for how my circumstances have affected me, then who the hell is?  And more to the point, how can I change my circumstances?  Do I just have to hope that a group of awesome people shows up at my house to protect me and make me feel safe again? So, what about fat people?  One of the things I hear a lot is that obesity is caused by a “lack of personal responsibility”.  People have said that in comments on this blog. But I don’t think that people really mean that I don’t take personal responsibility. If they read the blog they are well aware that I take complete responsibility for my health and well being, I just don’t happen to buy into the idea that I have to be thin to be healthy. I’ve done tons of research, drawn conclusions, created a strategy, implemented it in my life, and had fantastic outcomes in terms of my health (mental and physical), self-esteem, and body image, and now I offer the option that worked for me to other people.

I think that what people mean to say is that my idea of health doesn’t match theirs and so their definition of personal responsibility is that I am personally responsible for doing what is necessary to make them happy with who I am and how I look.  That doesn’t work for me. I am not the boss of anyone else’s underpants – I get to make choices for me, you get to make choices for you.  The thing that makes being fat different is that people feel that by looking at me they can ascertain that I’ve made “bad choices”  and not been “personally responsible” and therefore they feel that they have right to judge me and say rude, cruel and accusatory things to me about my health and its impact on our society.  Since their guesses are grossly erroneous, I suggest that their assumption is flawed.  You cannot look at someone and tell their level of health, or how much personal responsibility they are taking for it.  Even if you could, it’s absolutely not your business if someone is making healthy choices for themselves – that’s why it’s called personal responsibility.  I can’t stop people from smoking or drinking or being bad drivers or crossing the street without looking or a million other things that  may have to be paid for with my tax dollars.  That’s just life.

I see this blog as an exercise in personal responsibility.  Personal responsibility means that I speak my truth honestly and authentically, or I don’t speak at all.  It also means that I understand that it’s MY truth, not everyone’s truth, and that I could be wrong and I’m responsible for that, too.  I seem to have something that a lot of people want (high self-esteem, great health, great body image, great life), it wasn’t always this way and so I share the things that got me here in case it’s helpful to someone.  The only goal of my sharing is to give  people an option and then respect whatever they choose.  To me that’s true personal responsibility and I hope that it catches on.

Published in: on September 30, 2010 at 6:00 am  Comments (17)  

In Defense of Jennifer Hudson?

Very cool news:  There’s a new version of the Weight Watchers commercial that I blogged about.  More on that in a minute…

Recently my post about Jennifer Hudson’s Weight Watchers commercial:  “Jennifer Hudson, You Ungrateful Little…” created some controversy both on this blog and on Jezebel.com where it was picked up.

A lot of people disliked what I wrote.  Some felt that I mischaracterized Jennifer Hudson and the commercial – asserting that the commercial was about weight loss and that I took it out of context.  I think that those are very salient points. I freely admit that I view the world through my filter and that I may have mischaracterized Jennifer Hudson and the commercial because I see them through that filter. I could be wrong.

That being said, I stand by my interpretation.  I think that saying “before weight watchers my world was can’t” is absolutely including all past accomplishments under the umbrella of “can’t”.  Otherwise, I would expect that you would specify which parts of your world were can’t.  If I am wrong and I mischaracterized her then I sincerely apologize.

Some of the criticism was less… oh, let’s just say it was less salient.  Some just called me names and I was accused of being the cause of the “obesity epidemic”.  I suppose I appreciate the sentiment and with me wielding that kind of power be prepared for a self-esteem and positive body image epidemic because it’s on the way…

Many people accused me of being angry that she lost weight.  That one pissed me off because I thought that I was pretty clear that my problem wasn’t with the weight loss, but with what I perceived to be a revisionist history of discounting her past achievements to sell a weight loss product using shame, guilt and fear to sell the idea that no matter what you accomplish, you’re never truly successful until you’re thin.

At any rate, there is now a new version of the commercial.  In it, Jennifer Hudson opens by saying “When it came to losing weight before Weight Watchers, my world was can’t”.

Thank you, that’s all I wanted.

I don’t know why or when they did it, but if my work played even the tiniest part in it, I’m overjoyed.  Hell, if my work played absolutely NO part in it, I’m still overjoyed.

People got so involved with defending Jennifer Hudson (and I feel that she deserved to be defended) and calling me names (that part seemed less necessary) that I think a lot of them missed the point of the blog so I’ll re-state it here:

Your life does not start 10 or 20 or 50 pounds from now. Your life has already started.  You will never get this time back, this day, this moment, this week – they are all gone. If you want to waste the time you have left waiting to be smaller that’s your option.  But if that’s how you’ve been living – are you maybe tired of that?  You DO have a choice, a choice nobody can ever take away from you – you can live an amazing life right now.

The way I know that is because I do. At 5’4, 280 pounds I have a fantastic life.  I am extremely healthy,  I have great friends, I date, I am succeeding in dance – a world completely dominated by a culture of “thinner is better”.  You can do it too. Even if you are trying to change the size of shape of your body, why not be happy and lead a fantastic life while you’re at it?

If you’re looking for a place to start, you might check out this post on Loving Your Body More in Three Simple Steps.

Note:  No, I will not be posting links to the commercials here.  This is not the place for diet commercials.

Published in: on September 29, 2010 at 1:55 pm  Comments (21)  

The Charmed Life of a Fat Girl

Having blogged on the topic of Health at Every Size for a while and reading all the comments I get back, I think that I can safely say that suggesting that people love themselves and be grateful for their bodies at whatever size they are now, and that one option for those seeking greater health is to focus on healthy habits instead of body size, is extremely controversial.  It seems crazy to me that this would be controversial but according to most of the people I talk to,  it’s a big flaming sack of duh.

I see a lot of people who blog about self-esteem and body image and body positivity take on the people who want to argue about this.  I greatly appreciate that they do that kind of arguing, I think it’s an important thing to do.  I rarely do it- at least not here.  It’s hard for me to walk away from those fights because this issue is important to me and I’m armed with a ton of research and sky-high self-esteem.

The reason I don’t fight here is simple.  This blog is not for them and I will not let it get hijacked for their purpose.  There are more than enough places for people to argue that I should hate myself, live in guilt, shame and fear, and be treated without respect until my picture of health fits their frame.  If those people read this blog and it makes them think, that’s great, but I’m not writing for them.

I’m writing for all of the people out there who have lost hours, days, weeks, months, and years of their lives (not to mention thousands of dollars) that they will never get back feeling bad about themselves and their bodies.  I’m writing to give an option to people who have been sold the idea that they should do unhealthy things to get thin under the guise that they’ll be magically healthy once they get there.  I’m writing for people who have bought into the idea that their size makes them unworthy of respect and dignity.

I am much less concerned with whether the world thinks that people of size deserve respect than I am that people of size know that they deserve respect and that they can demand it.  I’m writing for the 8 out of 10 women who don’t like their bodies.  For the third grade girls who told a researcher that they would rather get cancer or lose a parent than get fat.  I’m writing for people who are looking for a way to scrape together enough self-esteem to just stop hating themselves for a minute.

I must have written a hundred times that the diet industry makes 60 BILLION dollars a year convincing us to hate ourselves and buy their stuff, even though they have a success rate of less than 5%.

But they aren’t stealing that money from us – we’re giving it to them.  They only make 60 Billion dollars a year because we choose to believe what they say – however improbably, or at least give them our money however dubious we might be.

So I am writing for people who want another perspective – who look around at our culture of failed intentional weight loss, unrealistic expectations, negative body image, low self-esteem and say ENOUGH.

The school bully doesn’t steal your lunch money – you give it to him because he seems big and powerful and you feel small and scared.

I write to show people that you have the option to scrape together all the courage and self-esteem you can muster, stand up (on shaking legs if necessary), look the school bully in the eye, and tell him that you don’t care how big and powerful he is, he cannot have your lunch money any more.

A friend of mine who is a recovering alcoholic once told me that one of the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous is that you can’t keep what you have unless you give it away.  I lead a charmed life – I have friends, health, success, high self-esteem and everything that I desire.  I write because I know that to keep it, I have to give it away.  If you want some it’s all yours.

Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 7:03 pm  Comments (7)  

Jennifer Hudson You Ungrateful Little…

Can't? Really?

NOTE:  For what I think is a very cool update on this see “In Defense of Jennifer Hudson?

I caught Jenifer Hudson’s new Weight Watchers Commercial.  In it she says “Before Weight Watchers, my world was can’t”

This was the most horrifying, angering and frustrating diet commercial I’ve ever seen.

Why?

Before Weigh Watchers, Jennifer Hudson:

Was a finalist on American Idol.

Starred in a major film.

Won TWENTY NINE awards for her debut performance including:

  • Golden Globe
  • NAACP Image Award
  • Screen Actors Guild
  • Academy Award

Was the only person to ever go from a reality show to winning an Oscar

Had a debut album that won a Grammy.

How many actresses have gone an entire successful career without winning an Oscar?  How many singers have been well loved and highly successful without ever winning a Grammy? Let alone winning one each on your FIRST TRY.

So Jennifer, let’s you and me have a chat huh?  If you want to change the size and shape of your body that’s fine. If you reached your goal then celebrate your victory.  If you’re healthier that’s great and if you think that Weight Watchers is healthy and want to try to convince people of that – it’s your prerogative.  But what would possess you to stand there and say that none of your previous accomplishments counted because you weren’t thin?…that before you were thin your whole life was “can’t”.  Discounting not just your work but your fans, and the people who supported you.  I’ve always wanted an Oscar, since it doesn’t mean anything anymore, would you send me the trophy?

I am well aware that Weight Watchers wants us all to believe that there is no such thing as success or happiness unless you’re thin.  The diet industry makes 60 Billion dollars a year by convincing us of that. I am utterly unsurprised that they would write such a script.

What I can’t believe is that Jennifer Hudson is willing to be a part of the message that no matter what you are doing in your life, if you’re not thin it just doesn’t count.  During her Academy Award speech she thanked her Grandma saying “If my grandmother was here to see me now. She was my biggest inspiration.”  Now she is saying that it was nothing.  I wonder how her Grandma would feel about that?

I don’t know what Weight Watchers had to pay to get Jennifer to discount her achievements,  and I don’t  care what she was willing to say for pay. I know that Jennifer Hudson used to know that her life didn’t start 50 pounds from now.  Your life is only “all can’t” if you believe that it is.  If she really believed that her whole life was can’t, she never would have fought for her spot on American Idol.  Never would have won a movie role over hundreds of actresses and singers.  Never would have won a Grammy or an Oscar.

Gabby Sidibe was on the cover of Elle this week.  She says “I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don’t like myself, there’s no reason to even live the life. I love the way I look. I’m fine with it. They try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life, and then I got this role and now I’m awesome, but the truth is that I’ve been awesome, and then I got this role.”

Your life does not start 10 or 20 or 50 pounds from now. Your life has already started.  You will never get this time back, this day, this moment, this week – they are all gone. If you want to waste the time you have left waiting to be smaller that’s your option.  But if that’s how you’ve been living – aren’t you tired of that?  You DO have a choice, a choice nobody can ever take away from you – you can live an amazing life right now.

The way I know that is because I do. At 5’4, 280 pounds I have a fantastic life.  I am extremely healthy,  I have great friends, I date, I am succeeding in dance – a world completely dominated by a culture of “thinner is better”.  You can do it too. Even if you are trying to change the size of shape of your body, why not be happy and lead a fantastic life while you’re at it?

Unless someone is paying you a lot of money to say that your life is crappy, maybe you want to just go ahead be awesome.

Published in: on September 17, 2010 at 1:11 pm  Comments (53)  

Armchair Ironman – Everyone’s a Critic

Every week at my Thursday networking meeting (Hi NBXers!) we have a “press conference”.  One of the members tells us a bit about themselves and then we get to ask them questions.  This particular member is a triathlete and a triathalon coach.  Someone  asked him “Have you ever run an Ironman and what was your time?”

He responded back “Yes I have.  Have you run an Ironman?

“No.”

“Ok, well the deal is that if you haven’t run an Ironman, you don’t get to ask someone who did about their time, because for you it doesn’t matter.”

He said it very respectfully and I thought – Damn skippy!  Why should someone who hasn’t put themselves out there and tried, get to judge the results of someone who has?  Way to set a boundary dude.

How often do people sit on their comfy couches drinking beer and yelling at athletes?  Or trash the talents of actors and singers – or their outfits?

A professional singer has been rejected hundreds or thousands of times.  An actor has endured people laughing at his dream, telling him it’s impossible, rejections, horrible jobs as an extra, work in cheesy commercials, and who knows what else to live his dream.  A Left Tackle overcame unbelievable odds (22,000 to 1 odds by the most conservative estimates I could find), and has been through a level of physical conditioning and injury hell that we can’t even imagine, only to find himself enduring being yelled at by some half-drunk fan to move his feet and for pete’s sake HIT SOMEBODY.

Everyone who has ever pursued a dream that put them front and center has known these people.  Sometimes they are people who choose to make a team or a star part of their own identify; and now they need that team or star to win so that they can feel like they won something – their emotions rising and falling with someone else’s achievements and failures.  Some are people who think that they could have made it if they tried, so they feel justified in trashing someone who did try and succeeded.  Some are people who just want to put someone else down to feel better about themselves.

All of these behaviors are perfectly within people’s rights and I’m not trying to tell anyone what to do.  I’m just suggesting that what they told us in elementary school is true – criticism only hurts the criticizer.

I happen to think that P!nk is an artist doing some very cool things.  Even if I didn’t think that, P!nk is rich, famous, and living her dream so she probably doesn’t care if I or anyone else thinks that she’s a hack (I certainly hope she doesn’t).   But every time we criticize someone who has put themselves out there we are reminded of what can, and almost certainly will, happen to us if we find the courage to step up and go after our dream.  So maybe we don’t. Maybe we shy away from doing something because we’re afraid that people will treat us the way that we treat those who have succeeded. Maybe we let our fear of criticism (grown from the seed of our own criticism of others) reduce us to a mass of excuses, rationalizations and victim mentality.

Maybe we should think more like an Ironman – if you haven’t put yourself out there like I have, then I don’t know who you think you are to judge me, and more to the point,  I don’t care.

It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by Theodore Roosevelt (c’mon you knew that was coming), I’ve copied it in its entirety below but it begins “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong many stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood…”

So I guess we can sit around and trash people who are living their dream if we want, or we could find the guts to step up and go for our own dreams and boost others up in the process.  We can be the ones in the arena, risk having our faces marred by dust, and sweat, and blood.  Stare our critics in the face and say “Come and get me.  Say something.  I dare you.”.  I think you’ll find that Teddy was right – it is not the critic who counts.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Published in: on September 15, 2010 at 2:37 pm  Comments (8)  

Never Put Your Wishbone Where Your Backbone Ought to Be

My non-profit, Body Positive Dance, was honored to be chosen as fundraising recipient for the Grand Opening party of Texana Lane . They are a community for women with spunk, sass, and soul that offers women-helping-women resources and some very cool shopping.  They have stuff locally (Austin, Texas) as well as online.

When I read the website I was stuck by the phrase “…and never put her wishbone where her backbone ought to be”.

The same day I read that, I got an e-mail from a woman telling me about how she doesn’t know what to do because her friends and family are so mean to her about her weight.  She said that they treat her horribly, always say nasty things to her etc.

A lot of us have been here – with families, friends, strangers -  we can be subjected to all kinds of poor treatment.  This is a situation that requires backbone, not wishbone.  As people of size, hell as people at all, if we want to be treated well we can’t wish for it, we have to insist upon it.  Here’s one way I’ve found to do that:

Step 1: Decide what your boundaries and standards are

You get to decide how people treat you – you are in charge.  How are you willing to be treated?  Do strangers get to make comments about your size without you saying anything?  Do your loved ones get to nag you about what you eat?  How does your mom get to talk to you?  Think about it, make a list, write it down. (This doesn’t just apply to size either – you decide what your standards for treatment are in all areas of your life.)

Step 2:  Decide on the consequences

I have found that this can be tough. You have to be realistic here -  there’s no point in having boundaries and standards if you’re not going to enforce them.  Setting boundaries and then not enforcing them will likely end up making you feel powerless and will teach people that you don’t mean what you say.

Personally I typically go with a teachable moment, then a warning, then a walk away.  Sometimes I give more than one warning but in the end I’m ready to walk away.   I’m absolutely willing to walk away from anyone who doesn’t uphold my standards for treatment…better alone than in bad company. I have disowned family members because they refused to treat me in a manner that was in accordance with my standards.   But that’s me. You may not choose to walk away from family or friends or you may not be in a position to right now.  Neither is better or worse, we just have to know ourselves and our situations.  The main thing to remember is that you can’t threaten to do something that you’re not actually going to do.  So if you’re not going to walk away from your mom no matter how badly she treats you, then you need to come up with a different set of consequences – maybe she doesn’t get to see you (or the grandchildren if any) for a certain period of time or until she apologizes.

I hesitated a little to use the word consequences because I am concerned that there is a connotation of punishment and that is not my intention.  For me this is not about punishing people – it’s not about other people at all.  This is about you choosing how people in your life treat you.

Step 3:  Practice

You have to be ready, otherwise you will have a pretty decent chance of falling apart.  Practice in your head, practice in your car, and around your house.  Imagine what is likely to happen and practice your reaction.  Do it out loud, write it out if that’s your thing.  Just be ready.  Create an affirmation around it, maybe “I insist upon being treated with respect in ever single interaction.”

Step 4:  Engage Backbone

Stand up for yourself.  Consider though, that empowerment may not be about screaming at people, and I submit that it’s most definitely not about controlling the behavior of others.  I have found that being empowered is mostly about being calm and assertive and enforcing your own boundaries, rather than trying to dictate the behavior of others.  So not  “You have to behave [in this way]”, but rather “If you continue to do [this] I will do [that]”.

This may mean that it’s time to have an honest conversation with people in your life who currently aren’t living up to your standards and treating you as you deserve to be treated.  Explain that their behaviors (be specific) have not been appropriate for you and be very clear about what you expect of them moving forward.  Explain the consequences.

They’ll probably be surprised.  It’s reasonably likely that they’ll try to make it a debate – to negotiate.  You get to decide if this is a debate, a negotiation, or simply a transfer of information.   You can expect push-back on this, stay calm and remember that you get to choose how people treat you all the time.  They may try to make it about you – tell you that you haven’t been meeting their standards.  If that’s the case offer to have that as a separate conversation and give them the same respect that you want to be given, but make sure that you accomplish your mission of clarifying your boundaries and standards and the consequences for violating them.

Step 5:  Stick to It

For me, this is where the work really begins. Over and over again you’ll have to decide if upholding your standards is worth whatever the consequences are for doing so.  I personally find that the consequences for not standing up for myself and what I deserve are always worse than the consequences of being inauthentic or not standing up for myself, but that’s just me.

I notice that true freedom in my life has meant realizing that:

I never:

  • Control all of my circumstances
  • Control the behavior of others
  • Control what others think of me
  • Control who I’m an example to

I always

  • Choose to take responsibility for my reactions to circumstances
  • Choose how I will deal with behaviors that don’t meet my standards
  • Choose what I think of me
  • Choose what I’m an example of

I’ve drifted a long way from Texana Lane and the cool work that they do, so I’ll end by thanking the fabulous Lane Ray for the inspiration and the fundraising help, and saying that if you’re in Austin on Sunday 9/12/10 anytime between 12 and 5, come hang out with us at the Grand Opening Party.  It’s free, family friendly, Sara Hickman and other local musicians are playing, there will be cool local businesses and a really fantastic time!

TEXANA LANE GRAND LAUNCH PARTY
September 12, 2010
At Mesa Ranch Restaurant
8108 Mesa Dr. 3 C-100
Austin, Texas 78759

12pm – 5pm

Details are Here

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 12:25 pm  Comments (3)  

You’re Right Diet Industry- I Give Up!

I was working out at the gym a couple days ago when a person I don’t know came up to me and said  “Don’t give up, you can lose that weight”.

So I said back “Don’t give up, can learn what is and is not appropriate interaction with strangers”.  I know it probably would have been wise to go for the teachable moment but I’m not made of stone and sometimes when you catch me offguard (like when I’m doing high intensity intervals, sweating like a farm animal, monitoring my heart rate, my speed, my incline, and trying not to fall off the machine as I test the upper limits of how fast it can go) you get the first thing that comes into my head.

I continue to be frustrated that we are constantly sold…sorry, I mean told… that we need to lose weight – something that nobody can prove is possible, for a reason nobody can prove is valid.  Trying to do that and failing for your whole life is not healthy (in fact more and more studies show that yo-yo dieting is more unhealthy for you than being obese).

Mark Twain said “If at first you don’t succeed – try, try again.  Then quit, no use being a damn fool about it”.

Look, when I was a little kid I wanted to fly because I hated riding the bus to school.  A couple falls off our big metal fence and a quick physics lesson from my mom helped me understand that flying wasn’t possible for me – no matter how badly I wanted to do it or how much better it would ostensibly make my life.  Even if everyone in the world would have said that my life would be better if I could fly, it was just never going to happen.  So I could keep falling off the roof, or I learn how to work a bus ride.  (It turns out, for example, that you can’t do your homework while you fly – but you can sure as hell do it on the bus.)

For me, choosing Body Positivity (or Health at Every Size, or Size Acceptance or whatever you call it) is not saying “I give up on my health”.  It’s saying that I care about my health – mental and physical. I care about it enough to do some research and from that research I conclude that dieting doesn’t work.

So I care enough about my mental and physical well being that, even thought people tell me it’s crazy,  I’m going to check out of this ridiculous cultural norm that we have where everyone hates their body and spends their whole life talking about how awful it is, and trying to change the size and shape of it.

I give up alright.  I give up on doctors who tell me to lose weight to cure whatever is wrong with me BEFORE they do any tests (like the time when My Doctor Tried to Kill Me).  I give up on the diet industry- I think I’ll keep my money and my sanity, you bloodsucking leeches.  I give up on the diet industry’s message that unhealthy behaviors (liquid diets, starvation, stimulants, double double bacon burger extra cheese, hold the bun) will lead to a healthy body.  I give up on starving.  I give up on ignoring my body’s signals for things like hunger and fatigue.  I give up on  treating it like a limitation instead a trusted friend. Most of all, I give up on hating myself.  I am many things, but I am not a damn fool.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 2:33 pm  Comments (4)  

My Friends are on Diets

I have friends on diets.  Friends who read my blog and tell me how much they like what I say.   Friends who read the research on dieting (for a bunch of research you can check out this post.) I have friends on food restriction diets, reconstituted soy protein diets, weight watchers, Atkins etc. Somebody asked me today if it bothers me.

Not at all.

We hear a lot about taking the road less traveled by -  which is the one I’ve decided to take. You can also take the one most traveled by – and that, too, will make all the difference. Either way it’s always your choice.

I’ve talked in this blog about my take on inspiration.  You can read the full post here – basically I believe that you can never inspire or empower anyone.  All that I think any of us can do is present an option and  people can choose to walk toward it or away from it, So all I ever want to do is present an option.

Here is my option:

  • You could love yourself, right now.
  • Your relationship with your body could be healed.  You could start being grateful to your body for everything it does instead of buying into a bunch of marketing designed to make you feel like that you are the wrong shape and size and that you are flawed and unattractive.
  • You could reject the diet industry and the message that makes them $60,000,000,000  a year and decide to pursue health through healthy behaviors, and stop worrying about what shape or size it comes in.
  • You could take the time to learn what food and drink and movement and how much you and your body like (by trial and error if necessary) instead of allowing someone else (Jenny Craig?) to decide that for you.
  • You could decide that you are the only person who gets decides how you feel about yourself.  It’s called SELF-esteem.  Not my-mom-esteem, or boss-esteem…
  • You could love yourself right now.  Right. This.  Second.
  • You could decide that there is nothing in the world that can stop you from loving yourself and your body because that’s what you choose and you are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

That’s my option.  It’s not easy at first – at least it wasn’t for me.   I have found it to be worth it.  You could try it out and if you don’t like it, you could go back – you could choose something else.  I’m not about making other people’s choices for them.  My choices have lead to a place of  health, happiness and where I love my body, and I love how I look naked.  I hope everyone else’s choices get them exactly where they want to go.

Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm  Comments (5)  

Is the Elite the Enemy of the Healthy?

Today I watched a documentary called Spirit of the Marathon on Hulu.  I had previously seen it in the theater and loved it both times. It follows several people from training through their marathon. From elite athletes who run the marathon at an unimaginably fast pace (every mile faster than the treadmill at my gym goes), to runners who are “doing it for the t-shirt”.  There’s even a runner who advocates running as slowly as possible “You paid for this course to be open as long as it’s open – take your time and get the most out of your marathon dollar…”  I also watched a recording of an Ironman. The former Ironman winners who were interviewed, to a person, said some version of  “This is a thing that the human body just isn’t supposed to do.”

We celebrate this in our society – people who run farther, go faster, push the boundaries of human endurance.  As a professional dancer I endure a level of training that very few people would probably want to do.  (Not many 33 year old women are pulling muscles working on their splits or training to do a back handspring).  Those of us who push the boundaries tend to be proud of the level of our athleticism.

But do we need to do this to be healthy?  No!  Abso-freaking-lutely not.    Athleticism and health are not necessarily the same thing at all.  Over a lifetime of playing sports as hard as I could and especially as a dancer, I’ve had any number of injuries that a normal healthy  person would never have.  I’ve also ignored my body’s signals in order to compete.  My second year dancing I started to feel a twinge in my ankle about a month before Nationals.  But it was a month before Nationals so I didn’t feel that I could stop training and it wasn’t that painful.   At Nationals during waltz the ankle bent completely in (so that the inside of my foot touched the inside of my ankle I later saw on the video), causing me to fall hard on the opposite knee.  I got up and finished the dance.  I danced there more dances that day and eight dances the next morning in a lot pain – mostly from my knee at the time.  Turns out that the knee wasn’t that hurt but  I had very seriously injured my ankle – so much so that I had to do a year of medical massage, acupuncture, pilates and rehab to be able to dance on it. The whole thing probably could have been avoided if I had taken a couple days off when I first felt the injury, but I’m a boundary pusher, which doesn’t always equate to smart decisions or common sense.

In order to do these crazy things that we do, we ignore our body’s signals all the time and work well past what we would need for general health.  So I wonder, does celebrating this level of athleticism discourage people who could be healthy if they just moved 20 or 30 minutes a day on most days?  Do they feel like they need to run a marathon or they just shouldn’t bother?  I wonder what would happen if  society would glorify dancing around your livingroom or gardening or whatever kind of movement you would like to do, instead of pictures at the gym of people at their physical brink, trying to push past.

There are people for whom testing the limits of their bodies is part of what they love about movement.  I’m one of them.  That’s fine. It doesn’t make us better or worse than people who don’t want to see how hard they can work before they vomit and how hard they can work after.  If we really thought about it, it’s not really about our health – we could have health without stress fractures, muscle strains, sprains, pulls etc. and all manner of overuse injuries, and ignoring our bodies when they are screaming at us to stop.  That’ s not particularly healthy at all.

One of the Ironman competitors said “To make it through the Ironman you don’t need to be the best, you just need to be consistent and keep pushing forward.”  It would seem from a lot of the research that health and physical fitness can be acquired in roughly the same way. If you feel like you’re not getting enough movement in your life, find some stuff you like to do and do it.  Try some new stuff – if you like it do some more of it.  If not, you don’t need to do it ever again.  If you like to run and feel like you’d like to try a 5K,  or whatever – try it.

It’s important to remember it’s not about your weight (I talked about this in my blog “Is it Cause I’m Fat?”)  It’s about realizing your current level of physical fitness and what you’ll need to do to get where you want to go.  You can be healthy and happy even if you never run a mile.  Move and have fun and see what happens.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 6:41 am  Comments (3)  

Very Special Guest Blogger – Daisy!

This is Daisy, and this is what Daisy did when I walked away from my computer for a minute.

Daisy belongs to my friends Mel and Brian. A few weeks ago Mel and Brian got new neighbors.  The new neighbors meant new dogs for Daisy to meet.

One of the dogs didn’t like Daisy very much.  She would run up to the  fence and bark viciously.  Daisy is an awesome dog but is not, in any way, the brightest bulb in the box.  She didn’t understand that the dog didn’t like her.  So the interaction was basically like this:

Jasmine:  I DON’T LIKE YOU AT ALL  :( !!!!!!

Daisy:  I LIKE TO BARK AT THE FENCE  :) !!!!!

Jasmine:  I MEAN I REALLY, REALLY DON’T LIKE YOU AT ALL :( !!!!

Daisy:  OH COOL, WE’RE GONNA BARK LOUDER NOW  :) !!!!!!!

Jasmine:  I WANT TO BITE YOUR FACE OFF  :(  !!!!

Daisy:  AWESOME, WE’RE GOING TO JUMP AT THE FENCE NOW :) !!!!!

I can always have a good conversation with someone who is willing to talk, even if they don’ t agree with me.  But I’ve always struggled at how to deal with someone who just wants to call me names.  I think I’m going to take Daisy’s tactic and just act like I don’t understand what’s going on.  I’m imagining something like:

Person:  You fat bitch!

Me:  I like flowers.

Person:  I’m mean you are a big fat fatty!

Me:  Flowers are pretty.

I wonder what will happen?

In the meantime, Daisy took over my blog to give you a message about body positivity:

Hi, my name is Daisy and I have something important to say (obviously because if you think typing without opposable thumbs is easy then you have another thought coming).   There are some things you have to know about me.

  • I’m not super bright, almost everything confuses me
  • I destroy my toys, then I’m sad that I don’t have them.  But I can’t make the connection between destroying my toys and not having any so I do it every time.
  • I don’t have brakes – often the way I can come up with to stop is running full speed into something more sturdy than I am
  • I don’t meet the “Breed Standards” for American Staffordshire Terriers – I don’t look right at all
  • When I run around my face and body turn pink – it looks kind of silly.
  • My dads say that I’m made of rubber bands and poo and not much else

I’m not the perfect dog, but my dads and their friends love me and that’s all that’s important.  I think I’m awesome and that everybody wants to be my friend.  If they don’t that’s their loss.  You should think about thinking that way too.

Published in: on September 6, 2010 at 11:49 pm  Comments (9)