I *hate* the term BBW

Big Beautiful Woman.  (not "Basketball Wives") Nope. Not for me.

I know that when it was originally coined, and in the way people use it for themselves, it is meant to be a positive term of empowerment.  Large and in charge.  I get that.  However, I think the term has taken a turn for the worse, toward the fetishistic and pejorative side of the word.  Evidence? Check out the Google results for BBW.  Porn, porn, and more porn!

Wikipedia's explanation that the term BBW "may denote women who may be considered barely overweight to those who are morbidly obese" cuts too wide a swath.  If a woman chooses to call herself that, it's not my place to judge.  Being "plus size" isn't something women should be ashamed of. In my view, the women viewed as "plus size"—i.e. they have body fat—are the epitome of womanhood and motherhood.  However, I have found that many women that use the term BBW use it to defend/bolster their choice to live an unhealthy lifestyle (sedentary, carrying too much extra fat, eating nutrient deficient diet).  Those women are not my peers, and I do not want to be classified with them. 

So if I need a three letter acronym to describe my lifestyle and my body, I choose AVG.  That's right.... AVG or AVERAGE.

Photo Credit
I'm above average weight (see table 4 on page 8; at 190lbs, I'm around the 77th percentile for a 30 y/o), above average height (see table 10 on page 14; at 69 inches, I'm in the 95th percentile for a 30 y/o), and above average BMI (see table 14 on page 18; at a BMI of 28.1, I'm somewhere in the 60th percentile for a 30 y/o).   To translate:  because I am so tall, (while I cannot hide it....) I can carry the extra weight well.   Ignoring the whole "vanity sizing" controversy/issue, I'm a size 10/12 in pants (a large/XL in tops because of my boobs).  So while I'm above average in terms of my measurements, I'm about average in terms of my clothing and my overall presentation.

This is why I don't like people calling me BBW.  I'm especially offended when people (ahem...men) call me BBW; it's as if they have no clue what most women look like.  (I mean, would there be an acronym for the flipside—underweight women that look skeletal?)  And, in my experience, men also have little clue what women weigh (I've often had men say I weigh anywhere from 140-160lbs).  Dropping 20-30lbs won't change the fact that I'm cut like an Amazon

So call me AVG -- an
Athletic (for those who take both joy and pride in using their body)
Voluptuous (because our bodies are sensual, luxurious, and beautiful)
Goddess (as a nod to our power to create as well as our strength, grace, wisdom, and femininity)

Who's with me?

A journey of a thousand miles...

I test drove the back earlier today for the first time in two months. 

I ran a mile sometime around noon, and waited to see if it'd implode.  It didn't, so I ran 4 more miles at 7 pm, then went home to ice my neck/back (as preventative measures). 

This is the first time since November 30, 2011/since herniating a disc in my neck that I've been able to run.  

Not exceptionally fast, not exceptionally challenging (a 4 incline at 1 resistance for the whole distance), but it's something. 

My legs and lungs remember how to run; let's hope my neck and back remember how to recover.

In the Living Years

I was eight years old when this song was released.  I remember hearing it while reading my mom's version of The Wizard of Oz from when she was a child.  I tell you this because everytime I hear or think of the song, I think of Dorthoy first walking through the Gates of Emerald City. While I might've lacked the maturity to understand all of the lyrics at the time, I think part of me understood that it was a song about discovery and finding a way back to not just your home, but also to the people you love.
Every generation
Blames the one before
And all of their frustrations
Come beating on your door
We are stuck in this cycle of blame, generation after generation. Often our parents try to work out the issues they had with their parents on us.
I know that I'm a prisoner
To all my father held so dear
I know that I'm a hostage
To all his hopes and fears
I just wish I could have told him
In the living years
Psychologist Carl Jung said that  “the greatest burden a child must bear is the unlived life of the parents” -- along with the burden of the hopes and dreams that our parents have for us (which may not be the life/dreams we have for ourselves).
Crumpled bits of paper
Filled with imperfect thought
Stilted conversations
I'm afraid that's all we've got
Working through this cycle and trying to find a way to understand things and people is often a messy, complicated process.
You say you just don't see it
He says it's perfect sense
You just can't get agreement
In this present tense
We all talk a different language
Talking in defense
Sometimes we're so bent on our own perception that we forget to see things through someone else's point of view.  Time changes the imperfect perception into clearer/gentler retrospect.
Say it loud, say it clear
You can listen as well as you hear
It's too late when we die
To admit we don't see eye to eye
There's a huge difference between passive hearing and active listening.  When someone is actively listening, they're not preparing what they want to say next.
So we open up a quarrel
Between the present and the past
We only sacrifice the future
It's the bitterness that lasts
Holding an unchangeable past against a person is a roadblock to forgiveness -- the most important step in mitigating suffering.
So don't yield to the fortunes
You sometimes see as fate
It may have a new perspective
On a different day
And if you don't give up,
And don't give in
You may just be OK
Relationships take work. If you don't have the relationship you want with someone, you both can put in the time and work to understand each other.  It might not bring you closer, but it does contextualize what you can no longer control.
I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say.
I think I caught his spirit
Later that same year
I'm sure I heard his echo
In my baby's new born tears
I just wish I could have told him
In the living years
It is much easier to repair and mend relationships when the people are living. 

As noted in the lyric "every generation blames the one before," there is a cycle between parents and children, a power struggle, an evolution that sometimes doesn't come into focus until the child becomes a parent themself.
(Confession -- I am all teary-eyed even just reading the lyrics. Forget even listening to the song!)

In Karen Anderson's post ("Lovingly Parenting Myself"), she wrote about parenting herself, but I said that "I find that my “inner critical parent” and “inner nurturing parent” don’t have proper role models or scripts to follow."
In Medicinal Marzipan's post, she asked "what you wish you could give to yourself, if you had limitless time and resources." I wrote "The first thing that came to mind if I had limitless time and resources would be to invent a time machine, go back in history, and teach my parents how to be healthy human beings before they had kids. Or to go back in time before my mother died to be able to both confront and forgive her (writing accusatory/forgiving blog posts only goes so far). On a more practical note, I'd probably send my father and brother to somewhere like the Biggest Loser Resort (as they do not have the required ovaries to go to GMFR) to deal with their eating/health issues at large so we can move forward as a healthy family, not just a family doing their best to cope."

It's not that I didn't have parents that weren't constructively critical or nurturing, but it's that they had their own burdens given to them by their parents that manifested in them as kids and as parents. I recognize that, I understand that. I'm not blaming them for the way I am. Blame cannot change things. I do work through a lot of family issues in this blog in the hopes of understanding who I am, how I came to be, and what is necessary to escape the ways I perpetuate some of the harmful behaviors. However, if I did have the opportunity to change my history without changing who I am today, I'd wish more than anything that my parents (both my living father and my deceased mother) had the same opportunity and desire that I have had to discover myself and to work through the disordered eating/healthy living/self-image issues.

Karen also suggested writing "an essay on your blog on the role of self-love in your journey to health." This reminded me of my Love Letter to Myself. The exercise last February wasn't about finding the things I loved about myself, it was about giving myself the permission to look. This is the foundation (I think) of any meditative practice -- the giving of permission to investigate. If we are stuck in "it is the way it is, and I can't change it"-ness, we become stuck in our own suffering. If we are stuck in our own suffering, we will never experience the freedom available to us unclouded by judgment and unfettered from fear.

I feel like any time we have the courage and ability to step away from our stuck lives -- at retreats like Green Mountain at Fox Run, Blue Cliff, Spirit Rock, or even places like the Biggest Loser Resorts -- we benefit not only from what we can learn there, but from the practice of giving ourselves permission to investigate and possibly evolve.

So while this post has somewhat of a universal appeal, I want to end on a personal note:

Dad --

I do love you (and I'm writing it here so everyone reading knows this). You are a really good person as well as a good father. When mom died, you did the best you could to provide for me and my brother. I recognize that (1) you didn't have the best role model on fatherhood; (2) you were learning how to be a single parent on the fly, (3) you had an uphill battle in gaining our trust and respect, and (4) I was (and still am) very challenging.

I want you to know that my blog isn't an indictment of the past. This is the way I've chosen to figure things out for myself. Any time someone tries to work through their issues, it's going to be messy and imperfect. I've just decided to add another layer to it by making it public in the hopes that someone can benefit from my struggle.

Unfortunately (?), I will continue to challenge you when it comes to your health and wellbeing because I want you to be a part of my life for much longer than mom was. I live with the grief of one parent having died young and the fear of your unhealthy lifestyle robbing me out of my other parent. While it doesn't always come out as so, I'm pushing you to lose weight, get fit, and find happiness (rather than asking you) not just out of love but the selfish desire to have you live (and thrive) until you're 100 or more.

I want to give the gift of self-love to you. I can't wrap it. I can't hand it to you. I can only hope that I've given you the courage to look. I want you to feel the same freedom, confidence, and joy that I have felt. This is how you become the best parent possible -- by living a passionate, exceptional, and inspired life. And if you need it, this is my permission for you to explore how to define yourself as your own person, not just as my father.

With all my love,

Stupid Back

My physical therapist said "this isn't the back a 30 y/o should have."
To which my reply was "I know, STUPID BACK."

I keep on saying "stupid back" to just about anything -- like when I have trouble bending, moving or walking, getting out of a chair, why I'm late to work, why I don't want to go out for lunch, why I don't do anything when I come home, when rehab hurts, when someone touches me in a way that hurts -- it's just the offhand shorthand of saying "I really have this long and complicated history with my back that is part genetics and part trauma and I'm physically and emotionally tired of it."  My "Stupid Back" is what is depressing me and making me feel miserable.  My "Stupid Back" became enemy numero uno. 

On Sunday, I was feeling moderately okay (about a 3/4 on my 10 point pain scale), so I decided to go for a little walk while listening to my favorite podcast by Tara Brach.  Before I realized that it was on shuffle (instead of listening to the most recent one), my iPod landed on "Remembering Love."  The universe was trying to tell me something, to remind me of something.
(roughly quoting) We actually do perceive it like we're struggling against something that's bad.  That is one of the ways that we contract.  Like we're kind of at war with something bad in ourselves.  One of the greatest truths that we always forget is that if we don't regard this life, right here, with love, we can't be happy, and we can't really love our world..... We don't realize how we're turned against ourselves... Every one of us, we're all casted by forces beyond our control.  Just casting.  When we believe that the imperfect cover to our being is what we are, we're in trouble.  Every one of us has these same conditionings, to want to grasp, and to be afraid, and to push away, and to pretend, we all protect.  We all have those forces in us.  The description that the Buddha gave to how we get ourselves in trouble, the First Arrow, this casting, these conditions that we all have, is absolutely inevitable. Our nervous system is rigged, just geared for fight or flight.  The First Arrow is a given; the Second Arrow is optional.  We don't have to react and take personally this conditioning.  I've translated it to "Leaning is a given; knocking ourselves over is optional."
I don't want to quote more because I think it's worth a listen -- but I needed to be reminded of the Buddha's teaching that suffering (the First Arrow) is unavoidable.  Adding judgment and the insult to the injury (Second Arrow) is optional.

My wanting to have a healthier back is (I think) of a normal desire (to want to be healthy) -- but it puts me in this cycle of wanting things to be other than they are.  Having people say "i wish it wasn't like this for you" is kind, but it adds to distancing myself from "what is."

Saying "Stupid Back" distances me from the healing because it makes it seem like my back is the enemy, when my back is what suffers most (I know the brain steers the ship, but the epicenter of the damage is my spine, not my brain).  I've been shooting the second arrow straight into what needed the most compassion and love.   I turned my back...on my back.

To that end, I've amended the goals I keep on my whiteboard in my apartment (see right).  If you can't read the very last line, it is "forgive the injury." 

I'm going to try and catch myself more when I'm doing this.  It's definitely not helping me to have this adversarial relationship with my injury.  It needs care, love, and respect in order for it to get the healing it heeds.

While I feel "broken," I'm going to choose to say that my "repairs are in process."

Test Driving a New Twitter Avatar


Choices choices choices

1.  So I've had 2 epidurals.  I experienced a great deal of relief (especially regarding the radiating pain down my left arm) after the first epidural.  I feel much the same as I did before the second epidural as I did after the second epidural.  Today was the first day of physical therapy.  The question is whether I have the third epidural or not.  I don't know if I'm in a diminishing returns situation, or if more steroids will help at this point.  There are pros and cons either way. I just don't know where I stand.  What would you do?

2.  I just booked a hotel room for Fitbloggin.  I requested a room with two double beds.  This means that I could have anywhere between 1 and 3 roommates. I've reserved a room from Sept 20-23.  I'm thinking about extending that reservation to September 19th (this rate isn't included in the Fitbloggin price).

1 person = $654.89
2 people = $654.89 (or $327.44 each)
3 people = $679.89 (or $226.63 each)
4 people = $704.89 (or $176.22 each)

Problem is that I met soooo many wonderful people last year at Fitbloggin1that (1) I don't know who to ask,(2) I don't want to offend anyone by not asking, and (3) I'm hoping my room becomes a bit of a party/kitten pile room, wine and pajamas kind of thing.

Anyone down for the chaos?

ALSO -- just a reminder, pack an extra suitcase/bag for all the swag.  Trust me, you'll need it or be faced with making some tough decisions.

3.  Part of me really wants to make a #FitBloggin12 "yearbook" -- everyone's face to make for easy identification and so we can write messages to each other.  If I were to make one, would people want to print it/pay to have it printed?

4.  The FatGirlvsWorld/#GoTheDist was a pretty successful gimmick -- do you think I should do it again (different color?) or go the route of business cards?  Identifiable gimmick vs. lots of info??


I chose my college based on one thing:  Dr. Douglas Ubelaker.

I wanted to be a forensic anthropologist because it combined all my nerdy interests -- archaeology, osteology, population genetics, geology, crime scene analysis, and the pursuit of justice. It just so happened that not only is Dr. Ubelaker at the top of his field as well as the curator of physical anthropology at the Smithsonian, but he teaches at GWU.   

My application to GWU was the only college application I prepared.  I was accepted as an early decision student.  I couldn't wait to share the news with Dr. Ubelaker, with whom I had begun a correspondence my senior year in High School.  I developed a 5-year plan where, after the first three years, I would have a degree in Biological Anthropology, and after two more years, I would have a masters degree in forensic anthropology.  Or so I thought.

Standing in my way was Doc Rowley and Chemistry for Science Majors.  Okay, those weren't the obstacles, but rather a touch of dyscalculia and my TA's (teaching assistant who ran the lab sessions) thick accent (she was from Tobago).  For the first time in my life, my grade at the end of a semester was a C minus.  I was beside myself. 

Instead of getting a tutor, or applying myself harder (because I never had to work hard to understand things in HS), my first instinct was to quit.  I went to Doc Rowley (who was not just my professor, but the dean of the school of forensics at the time) and asked to withdraw.  He cited my perfect attendance to his class, my eagerness to participate, and my facility with the material.  We looked at my tests and it was obvious that it all came down to numbers.  He said "I know you know what you're talking about, but you need to quantify it."  We struck a deal that if I didn't pass the first test of the second semester, that he would grant me the withdrawal.  I got a D on that test.  I don't know if it was because I didn't try hard enough, or because I just wanted out of something I had no natural gift for.

When I went to him with the paperwork for the withdrawal he said to me "Come back any time.  I'll be here for you when you're ready."  My copy of the withdrawal slip is one of the few momentos I have kept from college.  A reminder to myself that someone believed in me more than I believed in myself.  In retrospect, I am very proud of that C (though it kept me from graduating summa cum laude) because it has come to represent struggle, not failure.  My failure was not getting the help when I needed it.  Pride got in the way.

I would go on to major in English, with minors in creative writing and biological anthropology (and had I taken some music theory classes, I would have had a minor in vocal performance).  My degree has served me well, especially in light of the surge in interest for forensics that shows like CSI and Bones has created (thus deflating the salaries of most lab monkeys).

So, you're wondering how this applies to weight loss and my blog in general?

Confession:  I have gained 11 lbs since the end of November. I'm now over the number I said that I would never go over.

Caveat:  I also haven't had a proper bowel movement thanks to Percocet in a few days, so that might just be artificially inflating the gain.  And yes, I've been drinking lots of water and getting fiber in my diet. 

Truth:  Even if 11 isn't the exact number, my behaviors have failed me.

(1) I'm not allowed to exercise at all until I have been cleared by my doctor/physical therapist.  I'm only allowed to walk, and I have a 30-45 minute window before my back/neck starts to hurt.

(2) As a class of drugs, steroids (in this case, Depo Medrol) are known to cause increased appetite and weight gain (among other things). Oh, it has been known to cause depression as well.

(3) I've been insatiable.  I know that is more a mental feeling than a physical one.  I've chosen to quiet the beast by giving it what it wants instead of doing the work of mindful eating.

(4) I've been making bad choices as well as not tracking what I eat.  My choices are based on whim, proximity, and availablility.

Game Plan:
(1) Think about getting a membership to the local YMCA -- they have a pool, go to rehab, negotiate pool privileges with doctork.

(2) The side effects aren't "get out of jail free" cards -- stop treating them like one.  They aren't justification or free passes.  I know the possible side effects.  I don't need to play into them.

(3) Start doing the math again.  Make logical and thoughtful choices based on what I know to be true versus letting my emotions run the show.

(4) Make better choices.  Plan better. 

(5) Learn the lessons from the story above:  (a) enlist help; (b) admit shortcomings; (c) realize that I haven't unlearned anything; (d) come back to it when I'm ready.

and most importantly...

(6) Don't give up without a fight.

Shared History

I am lucky that my mom wrote the story of my birth and homecoming in my baby book.  She wrote that she had white powered donuts before going to the hospital, that my dad called me his "Bright Eyed Bobbi," and that my brother fell in love with me the instant he met me.  There are photos of him playing the part of big brother (he's 17 months older than me) all throughout the family photo albums. 

I remember my parents (or someone) once saying that the best reason to love my brother is because there is no one genetically more alike to me in the world than he is.  In other words, we should bond because we inherited some of the same traits from our parents.  This memory made me chuckle when I learned how much shared DNA humans have with chimpanzees and bonobos or the rest of the hominids in general.

In the years since, I've come to realize a different, more compelling truth:  that there is no one in the world who shares more of my history with me than my brother.  He was there when I was born, and up until he went to college, there were only a few days (school trips, mainly) where we didn't see each other.

I couldn't see that truth while we were growing up.  Whether it was intentional (on my mother's part) or unintentional (on my father's part), my parents engineered comparisons and competition between my brother and I, instead of fostering a relationship that would draw us closer.  My mother used this to her advantage when it came to chores, school, and all-over behavior.  (Keep in mind, we weren't bad kids at all -- just sometimes our intellect got in the way of blindly following what our elders told us to do.)  I think she felt like we couldn't gang up on her if we were rivals.

After our mom died, there were other issues that caused tension between my brother and I.  Most of the tension I would chalk up to not having much guidance about how to grieve for her and how to get on with the daily business of living life.  Suffice it to say that we had different priorities and visions of how to just get through things.

But then a wonderful thing happened -- college.  My mom always liked to joke that our first words were "scholarship" -- but the serious truth about the joke is that my mom didn't escape the manipulative clutch of her mother until college.  I think mom wanted the same for us, without admitting any shortcomings on her part.  She wanted us to be independent.  Once we both went away to college and started differentiating our fields of study, the wedge that separated us began to falter.  No one was asking us to compete with each other.  No one compared my brother to me, or me to my brother.

We were free to become friends and not rivals.

I don't want to put words in his mouth, but from my own experience and observation, I think we both used our time in college to sort through and contextualize each of our first 18 years. It was a time of understanding, growth, forgiveness, and a lot of gut-wrenching hard work.  For me, a large part of that was learning how to let go of pain and hurt that expressed itself as anger (i.e., I stopped being a heinous bitch).  For both of us, I think it was a time to come into our own in trusting our intuition and intellect when it came to how we wanted to be as people and how we wanted to live our lives.  

But this post isn't about how we became different people.  It's about how there's no one else in the world who knows me better than my brother.  And I'm not just talking about knowing me, knowing my heart -- but I mean being able to summon up the context for who I am, what I say, how I think, and what I do.  Even better is that sometimes I need not say a thing and he just gets it.

On Monday, he helped me get cat supplies (litter and cat food that weighed a total of 46lbs) -- one of the hardest things to do for myself while my neck/back is injured.  We grabbed some dinner while out and he even helped me get it upstairs and into my apartment.  My cats practically tackled him upon opening the door.  We eventually got to talking about life, work, and my back injury.  I took out my Human Osteology Field Manual and showed him where my herniated discs are, where the bulges are, and how it affects my nerves.  I even drew (badly) on my whiteboard the difference between a bulge and a hernia.  As he was about to leave, I broke down into tears, finally admitting the thing that has been weighing on my heart the most -- "I don't want to end up like Mom."  In his eyes I could see he knew exactly what I meant by comparing myself to our mother.

In the movie version that is my life, there either would have been some exposition as to what that meant, or flashbacks showing what I meant.  But as this is not the movie of my life, I'm just going to leave that comment about my mom where it is for the time being because the point of the post is that I'm thankful that there's at least one person out there I don't need to explain anything to.   I'm lucky to call him "brother."