So...who's your friend?

My friend's blog entry, "Should Height Matter," got me thinking** about all the prejudices out there in the dating world.  I'm in the "de gustibus non est disputandum" school of thought -- "there's no disputing taste."  We like what we like.  There's no right or wrong.

But that's not the point of this blog post

This post is about the "D.U.F.F." -- the Designated Ugly Fat Friend a/k/a the "Big Fat Friend" a/k/a the "grenade."

Through no fault of my friends (i.e., they aren't/weren't friends with me just so they could look better by comparison, but we were actually people with common interests and mutual affection), I've been treated like a DUFF many times -- the plain friend that's the gatekeeper to the beautiful ladies.  It's not a group of 6 hot bitches, it's a group of 5 hot bitches and their body guard/personnel manager.  Instead of approaching their mark directly, a guy who thinks he's all crafty will cozy up to me and say "That hamburger looks tasty.  So....who's your friend? What's her story?"

In high school, I twice (that I know of) had guys use me to get to my girlfriends.  One of them was especially painful because I was also good friends with him and I would be the one who he'd talk to on the phone, pouring his heart out because she treated him like crap.  And yet, he could never be interested in me, despite being smart, caring, and a great friend.  Completely out of the question.

It didn't stop in college, and it hasn't stopped in my adult dating life.  I'll go to a bar and some guy will chat me up just to ask "When are you going to introduce me to your cute friend over there?" "First, never, because I know she doesn't like guys without balls.  Secondly, stop eating my fries."

The thing is this -- you can have 5 perfect 10 foxes go out together, and invariably one will feel like the DUFF/BFF without having anyone else confirm it.  Heck, maybe all 5 feel like their the DUFF/BFF.  Maybe she's insecure about her intelligence, maybe she thinks she's not as good as a conversationalist as the other.  But trust me, women are comparing themselves to all the other women in the room.  We don't need some douchebag exacerbating the situation. ((Disclaimer -- I know not ALL guys are like this, but the douchebag is ruining it for you too.))

In regards to stereotypes -- I wonder if society regards overweight/obese people as the consummate wingman/wingwoman, the yentas of our social groups.   We're smart, we're funny, we like to have a good time, and society either thinks we're asexual or happy with the leftovers.   We're the sidekicks, the punchlines, the ones left behind. 

Ack this is getting ranty!  Instead of editing, I'm just going to cut it short:  dudes, don't be afraid to look at the DUFF as an actual person that you might consider dating or hanging out with, not just as a means to an end.  You never know, you might find someone you like that will share her fries with you.  And I promise you, I'll try to start looking at short guys as more than just comic relief.

** It also made me think about how we project personality traits onto certain physical types, and how those stereotypes make us have expectations.  Are short people expected to be funny/charming to make up for their lack of height, for example? Do people associate fat people with laziness? How much of body type bias is learned, and how much is intrinsic/evolutionary?

Sitting with It: Mindful Binging

This looks like a pretty awesome day, right? Burned a lot of calories, got some exercise, didn't sleep well, but I've lost some of the weight I re-gained while my neck was rehabilitating.....

But the proof is in the details, right?  You would have never guessed that inside my "Calories Consumed" lurked this monster:

Recommended Serving Size:  4 cookies

I bought them as I was coming home from work.  I know I shouldn't have.  But I wanted a cookie.  I wanted the crunch and the sweetness.  Of all the cookie options at CVS, this was one of the better ones.  4 Lorna Doones has 150 calories.  2 Double Stuf Oreos (my favorite) have 140 calories. I thought I was getting more bang for my buck.  I had the box open before I even got home.  The first four cookies consumed in the time it took to check my mail, go up in the elevator, and go to my door.

But then I continued.

And continued.

And continued.

Until I had eaten the whole box (thankfully I hadn't gone to the grocery store where they have bigger boxes). 

I sat at my computer feeling ashamed and weak.
I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like I had learned nothing over the past few years.  
I had just eaten the same amount of calories in cookies as I burn while running for an hour. 

Then I had the insane thought of "oh man, I wish I were a bulimic, that way the calories wouldn't count."
I fully admit that statement is one of the most backwards and fucked-up things anyone could say. 
Bulimia is a serious eating disorder, not a way to deal with bad choices.

And so I sat at my computer, and logged the 20 cookies that I had just devoured (not even savored).
I sat there saying to myself "it's okay" softly. Repeatedly.
I wasn't giving myself permission to have a binge, I was giving myself permission to learn from it and move on.

I remembered that I had been there before and lived to blog about it.  So I looked up the entry and re-read what I had wrote.  I realized that while I've learned so much in the past two years, that some issues will never go away, and that I need to be mindful/vigilant of them always.

So I titled this blog post "Sitting with It:  Mindful Binging" because most of us who have had experience with food addiction and binges know that the first response to a binge is usually some sort of panic/anxiety/shame/regret; we disconnect from the emotions that caused the binge in the first place.  I think the lucky people see it happening and feel powerless to stop it.  The unlucky people don't even notice it is happening. 

I believe that if we can be mindful of the binge -- that is, to know it is happening and why -- the greater the chances of stopping/curtailing it.  The slower we experience the physical action of the binge the more opportunities we have to allow the emotions to make an appearance.  Make sense?

I know why I was eating the cookies. 
It's more than just loving the crunchy texture and the buttery shortbread deliciousness.
I needed to sit with the feelings -- not the cookies.

The feeling? I turn 31 in a few weeks and I've yet to experience being in love.
And I don't think my grandpa will live to see me in love.
And that makes me sad.

On the Horizon

I remember my first time running on the elliptical.
It was back in 2006 and I hadn't learned to trust my body yet.

"I need water!"
"I can't do this."
"I'm going to die!'

16 minutes later, I had run just one mile.

My brain was trying to control the process. 
My brain was saying "But you've never done this before, so it can't be done." 
In my panic, I let the lactic acid buildup discourage me. 
I used more of my breath to say "I can't" than to say "I can."

But my body was wiser.
With each mile, my body said "this isn't too bad."
My body went from merely being able to do it, but wanting to run.
My body wanted to go further.
My body wanted to faster.

And so I released the emergency brake in my brain.
I let go.
And I ran further.  I ran faster.
I've completed a few half-marathons on that elliptical pictured above (I nicknamed her "My cruel Mistress").

Two weeks ago I thought I had done the unthinkable -- I ran SIX sub-10 minute miles in a row.  I set a new personal record for myself.  I was fast.

But what followed was frustration.  My body needed to recover after that.  It went from fast to unbearably slow.  Discouragingly slow.  Back to 11-minute miles.  One day was even closer to 12-minute miles.

"A slow run is better than a fast sit. I am displeased by this considering my awesome run on tuesday. #gothedist"
I started talking smack to the same body that had just done something amazing.  And I was wrong to do so.  I mean it's wrong to ever talk smack about your own body, but it's doubly wrong to be so short-sighted.  My body isn't a machine. And heck, even machines cannot always run at their fastest speed all the time.

I needed to change the dialogue -- I needed to remind myself that exercise should be joyful and that I am truly thankful for every day I get to run. 

And once again, when my brain got out of the way, my body responded.

That's right, I shaved a 1 minute and 20 seconds off my PR.
More than that -- I was 37 seconds away from 9-minute miles.

Standing Up for the Little Guy

Growing up, I think it'd be fair to say that I was a sugar addict.  My brother and I could kill all sorts of sweets -- cherry Pepsi, Entenmann's baked goods (the raspberry danish was often considered "breakfast"), you name it.  I remember when we'd make iced tea from a powder mix -- it'd resemble SLUDGE.  We'd have contests to see who could eat/drink the most sludge before it became intolerably sweet or sour. 

The school lunch choices weren't that great (mmmm breadtangle of pizza), but I all too often chose the snack line instead of the line where they'd serve things resembling actual food.  I'm pretty sure that my body is still paying for those choices, such as the Little Debbie Zebra Cakes that I'd eat 4 at a time, or the Little Debbie Pecan Spinwheels.  Without anyone there to regulate my choices, I was the master of my own disaster.

Candy was another one of those things I had issues with.  Unlike food that pretended to be healthy (such as the word "raspberry" causing ooohs and aaahs before the word danish), candy had no health value.  They were empty calories.  The weird thing is that if someone had said "you can either eat 4 twizzlers or have a cup of fresh raspberries," I probably would have eaten the raspberries.  But public school didn't offer that.  But you could get all the Twix you wanted, an Icee, soft-serve ice cream, and just about every snack cake possible.

I was so incredibly pleased to see Jack Sht's blog post this morning -- in which he made not only a great decision for himself, but also for his readership.  He encouraged me to finally reply to this email that had been sitting in my inbox:

Screw your "Confidentiality Information" -- My readership deserves to know the delusional message you're sending around. Besides, I never agreed to maintain your confidentiality.

UM.... WHAT?!?!?  
"a nice treat in a healthy diet"  -- how about a HEALTHY TREAT in a HEALTHY DIET?

My response?

I'm pretty sure the younger version of myself would be proud of me for (1) standing up to the big guy and (2) doing it for the right reasons.

Full Circle

People always ask me "I'm overweight and I don't know where to begin."  I always tell people to start where there's joy. In other words, I tell them to think about their childhood and the types of games they liked to play.  If I didn't have someone to play with (tag, basketball, catch), I would grab my hula hoop, Skip It, or jump rope. 

This is how you start working on undoing the mentality that exercise is a punishment or chore.  It's fun!

My dear cousin Efrat made me this adult-sized hoop two years ago (check out this video on how to make a DIY hoop -- think about having a hoop-making party with friends!).  I love hula hooping (check out this video of me hooping!).  It's something I can do while watching a movie, or listening to music.  It helps me loosen up some of the muscles in my back that get stiff from overcompensating for my spinal injuries.  And it's FUN!

The building where I live has a rooftop with a great view and a pool.  I am a child of the summer, of the beach, of swimming and of the pool.  I'm also Irish and burn easily.  Mea culpa on that one, I shouldn't have been as cavalier about being outside (Instead of 20-30 minutes in the sun without sunblock, I had an hour in the sun before putting SPF40 on).

But what was I doing in that hour?  I was hula hooping in a bikini while listening to music. For the first 20 minutes I was alone, but then I had company.  My first instinct was to cover up.  Who wants to see the fat girl hula hooping by the pool? (And compared to all the other girls that normally frequent the pool, I am the fat girl.) (But yes, lil sis, I'm still working on my body and mind to stop seeing myself as fat... it's a struggle).   

But I sat with that feeling for a second.  Instead of imagining people looking at me and judging me, I tried to change the mental dialogue into them looking at me and being jealous that they didn't have a hoop, or impressed that I have such awesome moves, or even just happy for me that I was doing something I loved.  The anxiety always passes.  The grace always returns.  The sunburn lasts.

My mental process has been up, down, and all over the place.
I have my sights set on undoing the weight I gained from taking my foot off the pedal last year + the four months of inactivity due to injury.  It was so much easier when I had a goal I needed to achieve. 
The biggest part of the my journey has been in trying to find a "new normal." Finding balance. 

I have been hemming and hawing in regards to this -- letting other things take precedence.  "But I don't want to re-aggravate my injury" is a valid concern, but "I want to drink 7 beers and drink fried food" is not.  I need to remind myself of why I undertook this journey.  I want heath. I want weight loss. I want to look at myself in the mirror and know I've done everything in my power to honor the commitment I made to myself at the beginning of the journey.

What it comes down to this:

What can I do to be mindful of my nutrition and mindful of my body?

That's all any of us can ask of for our self and from our self. 

It doesn't matter where we are in our journey -- whether we're closer to the beginning or have reached our goal -- this is always the question that needs to be answered.  It's the question we ask on days we feel positive and feel like we're succeeding.  It's the question we ask on days we feel negative and like we've gone off track.  It's the question we ask when we're on the precipice of a bad decision or even as we're making good ones. 

I know I say this to other people all the time, but I need to say it here.  I need to write it where I can come back and find it.  When you focus on the joy of taking care of yourself, the answers to the question above will be as limitless as the love you have for yourself.  Who wouldn't want that?

So.... what are YOU doing today to be mindful of what you put in your body and how you treat/feel about your body?


Definition of FORTITUDE
for·ti·tude noun \ˈfȯr-tə-ˌtüd, -ˌtyüd\

1: strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage

See that pretty lady on the right?  Yep, that's tennis superstar Venus Williams.  I got to meet her today at the official opening of the new Jamba Juice in Washington, DC (though, technically, I was their first customer on Saturday morning)!  In my 20 seconds of time with her, I told her about my blog and how it's such an inspiration to meet someone who showed fortitude in the face of adversity.  And then she asked me about my experience with adversity.

So, what kind of adversity has she faced?  Sjögren's syndrome -- an auto-immune disease that has forced her to not only change the way she plays, but also the way she lives.  If you've ever had a chronic illness or injury, you know exactly what it takes to summon up the fortitude to press on.  I sure know I do

It hasn't been easy for her.  If you follow tennis, you know that she struggled this year at Wimbledon in the singles tournament, but that she fought back along side her sister, Serena, to capture the doubles win in straight sets.

Venus asked me who I wanted the photo made out to and I said, "I'm going to share this on my blog."  And more than just sharing, I'm going to raffle it off.

How to win the signed glossy of Venus:  leave a comment below about your experience with either adversity or fortitude OR leave a comment about how Venus' story has motivated or inspired you.  I will use a random number generator to pick the winner by August 1st.  Please leave a way for me to contact you -- such as a twitter handle or your email address.  If you don't feel comfortable posting your email addres, email me a copy of your comment.


The other day, Austin Andrews (@RetroFitAustin -- one of the finalists from Season 11 of the Biggest Loser) tweeted the following:


Even after posting a song about loving myself for who/what I am now, I'll admit that there are times when I feel down about my my body, or even my efforts to take care of my body.  I will often read my letters to my younger self and my future self as motivation for what I'm doing now.  They remind me to honor the young child that needed guidance and to continue on the path that will bring me to the person I will be.  I even re-read my love letter to myself if I'm really down.  

But there are even times when I'm stuck in the cycle of scrutinizing and self-judgment.  If I cannot awaken from the trance, I find myself going even further back into my life to snap out of it.  So to Austin, I replied:

Now, I'm not trying to toot my own horn here, but in that moment—when my parents first held me—I was perfection.
PERFECTION per·fec·tion noun \pər-ˈfek-shən\

1: the quality or state of being perfect: as (a) freedom from fault or defect : flawlessness (b) maturity (c) the quality or state of being saintly

2 (a) an exemplification of supreme excellence (b) an unsurpassable degree of accuracy or excellence

3: the act or process of perfecting
In that moment, all that mattered was that I was breathing.  There were no expectations, no judgments, just relief and joy because I was alive.  Having 10 fingers, 10 toes, and being in perfect health was a gift.  Even if I had arrived early, had 9 toes, and/or screamed incessantly for hours, it didn't matter.  There was a time in my life when my parents called me perfection. 

There has been a lot of time in between now and those first moments (almost 31 years), and lots of things have either succeeded in convincing me that I am not perfect or tried their hardest.  Self-doubt.  Letting society tell me how I should feel about myself.  Striving and failing.
Allowing myself to feel the love in that moment is not vanity. 
Reflecting on being called "perfection" is not self-centeredness or conceit.

and so....
I want to re-define "perfection":
It will no longer be a word that holds me hostage to constant comparison, judgment, or scrutiny.
It will no longer be a word that allows me to compare myself, my journey, or any other part of my unique experience to someone else, someone else's journey, or someone else's unique experience.

Perfection will be the word I use to remind myself that there is joy in just being alive.

To that end, I am, and will always be, perfection.

The "Dreaded Advice Song"

I know that you're in there I can see you 
You're saying you're okay I don't believe you
And now that the gig is off, the spell is broken  

The fat lady sung, the President has spoken  
These days that you were waiting for will come and go 
Like any day, just another day

There's never gonna be a moment of truth for you  
While the world is watching  
All you need is the thing you forgotten  
And that's to learn to live with what you are

So freak out if you wanna  
And I'll still be here  
Don't call me for years and when you do  
Yeah, I'll still be here

I'm not saying the effort is a waste of time  
But I just love you for the things you couldn't change though you've tried  
These hours of confusion they will soon expire 
Like everything does

There's never gonna be a moment of truth for you  
While the world is watching  
All you need is the thing you've forgotten  
And that's to learn to live with what you are

Sometimes everything you've ever wanted floats above  
He's sticking out his tongue and laughing  
While everything that anyone could ever need is down below  
Waiting for you to know this

There's never gonna be a moment of truth for you  
While the world is watching 
'Cause all you need is the thing you've forgotten  
And that's to learn to live with what you are

You got to learn to live with what you are  
You got to learn to live with what you are

Momentum and/or A Fresh Start

Six months ago, I threw down the gauntlet -- a one-year challenge
-- and we're half-way through the year. 

1.  Congrats to all those that have met and/or exceeded their goals!
Emily (@FitandFreeEmily), Tracy (@iknowitsforreal), Jordy (@itsjordylive),
Kafi (@kljmemories), and Derrick (@dfdx2)!

2.  Congrats to all those that got very very close! (80% to 99% of their goal)
Michelle (@michellecj), Cari (@travellingcari), Vena (@phatterri), Sue (@PhoenyxRysyng),
Xani (@x_factor) and Robby (@FatGirlvsWorld)!

3.  To all the people meeting less than their goal:  do not despair!  Yesterday was July 1st -- the start of the Quarter 3 (a/k/a the start of the second half of the year).  Just because you didn't hit 100% of your goal doesn't mean you're a failure.  It matters what you do next.  Do you give up on the whole challenge or do you see what you can do to salvage your goal? 
All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me...You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.  ~ Walt Disney
4.  Please leave a reply to this post if you're part of the #GoTheDist challenge with your weekly target number -- what's the breakdown for you?  What do you need to do in 26 weeks to either hit your yearly or half-year goal?  (I need to run 19.23 miles a week to hit my yearly goal, or 17.3 if I am going to hit my 6-month goal.  Both are entirely attainable) Talk to me! Talk to each other! Let's support each other through this.  If you've seen success, give back to someone that needs help.

5.  Check out the questions on the end of the original #GoTheDist 2012 Challenge -- and perhaps answer them in a blog post, or even just for yourself.  I've found those questions to be very helpful in keeping my head in the game -- especially the question of "where's the line in your mind between success and failure?"

6.  Meditate on how you want to feel on December 31, 2012.  Let that be your guide.  Meditate on how you felt on your worst day.  Let that be your inspiration to do better, even if it's only 10 feet more, 10 minutes more.  Breathe deeply, you've got this.  #GoTheDist isn't meant to cause anxiety, it's meant to help you feel free and victorious.  Forgive yourself if you need to.