IT Finally Happened!

What "IT" am I talking about?

I've often talked about wanting to be part of the pack.  For the longest time, I thought I was relegated to the elliptical, unable to put foot to ground because of my bad back. But then the craziest thing happened:  I ignored the doctors and listened to my heart and mind.  I asked myself "but what if I can?" And an amazing thing happened:  not only could I, but it didn't kill me. I was fairly good at it. The last time I had raced (10k) was before my injury, and that was at an average of 13:42/mile.  Many years and injuries later, as well as a spinal surgery, I was expecting 15-minute miles and ended up between 10 and 11 minutes. 

On Tuesday, I woke up in the morning, fed the monsters (as well as myself), got myself dressed, and gave Spike his insulin.  I set out for a run.  I have been using different variations of the same route because I like the slight uphill/downhill and I know that the ground is fairly level.  But I really go for the view.

As I'm rounding 2.5 miles, I see the first other early-morning runner passing me.  
I nod. 
She nods back.

IT happened.

With the simple return of a nod, I felt like one of the pack. A subtle shift in my little heart, in my mind, towards knowing that I'm not approximating running:  I am running.  I may not hold any world records, but I am doing something that doctors didn't think I'd ever be able to do.

In a world where people are looking for "FitSpo" (fitness inspiration), I hope this inspires you to fight for yourself, to listen to your body, and improve upon what you did yesterday.  It may not be a photo of a half-naked female fitness model with a pithy quotation superimposed on it, but I want to leave you with this thought: 

Tricky Treat

This valiant woman in North Dakota has taken it upon herself to inform her neighbor's children that they are overweight/obese by giving them a letter instead of candy this Halloween.

Some initial thoughts: 
  1.  She's giving the letters to kids, but addressing it to the parents.  This, in my mind, is spineless, cowardly, passive aggressive, and just plain cruel. If the woman is so concerned about how a person is parenting then she should have a face-to-face conversation with the parent.  (You know, she should be willing to get punched in the face for what she believes in.)
  2. She's not a doctor.  She's not a pediatrician or a pediatric dietician.  She's just a person with an over-reaching opinion and a sense of entitlement. 
  3. If she doesn't want to contribute to the childhood obesity epidemic, she could give out "treats" that aren't food -- stickers, toys, glow sticks, etc.
  4. This completely ignores the other epidemic -- kids are getting eating disorders at younger and younger ages.  Having a stranger comment and criticize your weight is a very good way to start cultivating a negative body image. 
If you know my full name,
you know why this is funny.
In 1991, my grandmother died.  That was the very start of my weight gain.  Every year after that, I anguished over not being able to fit into all the costumes designed for kids.  My mom tried her best to find something that was age appropriate, that would fit, and that I liked, but it really soured me on the experience.

I knew I was bigger than all the other kids.  I didn't need some asshole neighbor telling me just how much I didn't fit in with all the other kids.  I didn't need some asshole neighbor to add insult to the injury.  And if some asshole neighbor had given me that letter to give it to my parents (1) I would have read it first (cause you know kids can read nowadays) and (2) my parents may or may not have asked me where that person lived.

I'm not saying that this lady should give out candy.  That's her choice as to what to do -- but if you don't have enough to share with the whole class, don't bring in the cupcakes.  Kids are very sensitive to being excluded and ridiculed.

Watson & Crick in my Neck

I think a question that many health gain/weight loss bloggers get is "If you could change anything about your body, what would it be?"  Some people interpret it as a "where do you want more muscles/less fat?" question, some interpret it as a plastic surgery question. But why limit yourself to aesthetics? If I could change one thing about my body it would be this little mofo:

Disclaimer:  I love certain aspects of my genes, and the things that make me uniquely me.  I also realize the futility of this exercise.

So why am I hating on my genes?  (1) my greatest challenge and foe is a hereditary condition (**shakes angry fist at degenerative disc disease**) (2) No matter how hard I try, there are just some things that I cannot change with good diet and exercise. (And don't worry, there are many parts of my genes that I would never want to change...)

Case-in-point:  Last Wednesday, my employer had the annual health care expo and screenings.  You can get assessed for stroke (I didn't do that one), osteoporosis (my bones are very strong! I have a T-Score of +2.5!), body fat (that one came along with a sales pitch to a gym that I didn't want to join), blood pressure (it was high before the blood draw and normal after, per my usual re needles), and a fasting or non-fasting blood test for cholesterol and blood glucose. I also shocked and awed the health screener by knowing my BMI on the dot, but then dismissing it as a poor measurement of health.

Here's where things get fun -- I had a case of the blarghs last week.  My stomach was off, I wasn't eating much, didn't really go to the gym much at all.  Total blarghs.  So I wasn't surprised when my non-fasting blood glucose was 93 (this is in the "normal" range for fasting, but way below normal for someone that just ate--I attribute that to the blarghs).  What I was surprised by were my cholesterol numbers.

Lipid PanelNormal Ranges
Cholesterol, Total100-199
Triglycerides (want lower)0-149
HDL (want higher)> 39
LDL (want lower)0-99

My total cholesterol was 163 (2012 physical was 142), my HDL (good cholesterol) was a 41 (2012 physical was 44), which puts my LDL + triglycerides (bad cholesterol) at 122 (2012 physical was 81).  So the total was within "normal" range, but the ratio of HDL to LDL was off.   Good news is that I won't die anytime soon (considering my maternal grandpa died from a heart attack this is good to know).

It gets better from there -- a very nice person from the health screening company sat me down with a concerned look on his face:  my cholesterol was distressing him.  He asked me "So, do you know what kind of foods cause high cholesterol?"  Okay, fine, we're going to play the "fat person needs to be educated because they clearly don't know how to operate their body" game **eyeroll** "foods that are high in saturated [animal] and trans [packaged foods] fat....but it is more complex than...." and then he cuts me off to say "Cheetos, Twinkies, and McDonalds."

But since this was at my place of employment, I didn't let my inner snarky person go to town and educate the educator on health care bias OR how feeling sick can skew a test.  Granted, I do like some Cheetos once in a blue moon ( moon beer), but I never put crap like Twinkies or McDonalds in this high-performance machine.  Don't look at me, see someone who is overweight, and assume that I do, okay? Then he threw out the possibility of meat being the issue.  I'm not a vegetarian/vegan, but I don't feel the need to eat meat at every turn and in massive quantities.  [I will say though, that if you love red meat, think about trying some buffalo/bison.  It's much better for you than beef because bison are angry sons of bitches that will tell you where to put it if you take their grass from them.]  So I whipped out my phone, went to my Google Drive where I keep all of my health records and showed him the past few blood tests and shut him down.  It really was the blargh skewing my numbers.

This is why I got so mad at the "fit mom" story -- you can't rely on one photo, or one blood test to make a definitive determination as to a person's health or fitness.  Case in point--a friend of mine at work had a cholesterol reading a bit higher than mine but she's a marathoner with an amazing resting heart rate. On the other side of the spectrum are people with amazing blood test results but who aren't physically active and eat things other than rabbit food.  It's about metrics/blood tests, behaviors, and being able to outrun/outfight the zombies.

So much of how our body operates owes to how we are hard coded.  We can work within the parameters that our DNA allows, but some things just can't be overcome.  If you have a family history of something like high blood pressure, you can exercise all you want and you can decrease your blood pressure, but it will always be an issue and a consideration for you.  So, if you can, talk to your family candidly about your shared health risks.

[After the health educator, I got into it with the ergonomics people giving bad advice about how to sit in chairs.  One of the people, who was also a physical therapist, also agreed with me that passive vs. active sitting is an issue that their pamphlets don't address and that she was encouraged by my rage.]


After a busy short-week, including running around helping my boss with an alumni party, I was absolutely spent/tired/used up.

I could try to explain this, but this says it all:

And to put it in context?  This was the day of the party:

I've also been bad and not food logging. I should do that, eh?

So do you ever just need a weekend on the couch doing a whole lot of nothing to recover from a busy week?

"What's your excuse?"

This morning, I was listening to the tail-end of The Bert Show's discussion on the Maria Kang photo below:

He asked the question "...What's YOUR excuse for not being in shape like her? Does she have a point...or is she bullying/body shaming?"

Now, I don't think that's something that could be answered in a 140 character tweet, or even in a Facebook status message/reply.  So I'm going to address it here:

1.   You have to go to her Web site/Facebook page to know anything about her.  Did she lose weight? Is she maintaining weight?  What did she look like before the kids?  Does she have help?  Who's watching the kids while she's exercising?  Considering that many people won't investigate, I feel that it is important to say that FitSpo photo lives in a vacuum. There's too much left up to the viewer's perception, and thus can be perceived as bullying by some and inspiration by others. I think people should be more inspired by a person's struggle and/or process than by any particular result. 

2.   Sometimes the "excuse" is actually a very good reason.  Many times I've written about how I believe that most people are obese because of some sort of trauma.  For some people it's emotional, for some people it's physical.  In the case of emotional trauma, normal coping mechanisms have failed and are replaced by things that flood the brain with serotonin (food, alcohol, drugs). The "excuse" is that people haven't confronted these issues in a safe and nurtured environment.  Some people aren't ready to do that.  In the case of physical trauma, such as my bad back, exercising isn't always an option.  Even now, there are limits to what I can and should do.  Sometimes the reason is that there are other parts of a person's life that are more important than making sure they are aesthetically pleasing.  People should not feel guilty about taking care of themselves the best way they know how, even if it means not being in a gym every day.

3.   Thin doesn't necessarily mean healthy.   If her goal was to encourage people to be healthy (she has a fitness non-profit), she'd post her blood tests, as they're the most accurate gauge of a person's health.  I would HATE for someone to look at me, assume that I'm lazy and unhealthy just because I'm overweight, when my own doctor lauds the improvements that I've made on the inside of my body.  I've worked very hard to be overweight (instead of obese) and I still don't look like her (nor do I want to).  I also know that there are plenty of women and men out there that are getting positive feedback on their bodies as a result of eating disorders.  If you read anything about her, you'll find out that she struggled with eating disorders.  Is her desire to drop the pregnancy weight so soon after giving birth the healthiest thing for her to do? (see below)

4.  Mothers should not be shamed into losing their pregnancy weight immediately after giving birth.  I've never had a kid.  I know many people who have.  And some people have lost the weight easily and returned to their pre-pregnancy body easily and while many others have needed more time to get their pre-pregnancy body back.  Some women actually enjoy the "permission" to enjoy their post-pregnancy body.  It's the first time in their life that they are able to lose their food rules, get off the treadmill, and enjoy their body.  They're also taking time to enjoy motherhood instead of scheduling their time at the gym.  Again, that's a choice, not an excuse.  And dare I even mention the rise in stories regarding the pressure for moms to drop the weight triggering eating disorders?

5.  Fitness is her job.  It was to her benefit to lose the weight -- as she's a fitness model, runs a fitness non-profit, etc.  She makes money off of her image.  The controversy is just getting her name out there ("there's no such thing as bad press").  Imagine if the quotation was "What's your motivation?" instead of "What's your excuse?" -- we'd very clearly assume that aesthetics and profit are her motivation (wouldn't it be nice if her kids were her motivation).  Not everyone makes money off their body (not everyone wants to).  

Now, she's replying to the media storm over the photo, and I don't really buy it.  She did a "Sorry, I'm not sorry."  But I'm glad there's some dialogue happening about why her picture with caption was so misguided. I'm glad that people are talking about why FitSpo photos and slogans are negative to all the hard work that people are putting into body acceptance in their own lives and in the world.

What say you?

Stage Fright

So I have been working on that whole running thing...

I've been having an on-going conversation with a neighbor about fitness and running.  The first time we talked about it, he tossed out the idea of being run buddies.  That sent me into full panic mode because I still think that I look like QWOP when I run:

When I really look like this...

Am I the fastest runner in the world?  No.  Especially when contending with stop lights and French tourists asking me where the nearest Capital Bikeshare location is. I'm not the fastest person when I took a little break between miles 3 and 4 to chat with a woman that was walking along the Potomac (she was around mile 13 that day) in preparation for walking an entire marathon. I'm not the fastest person when I stop to take photos.

Key Bridge between miles 2 and 3
Flood Gates along the Georgetown Waterfront
But I think that's what I was getting at in my last post.  I have this fear of not being good at something (*ahem* or at not being the best at something) and therefore hiding it away and not letting my friends see it.  Okay, I may not be the best runner, and may not be able to keep up with my friends that run 8-minute miles, but maybe they don't want to me to run their pace, their race.  Maybe they want to run my pace, my race. Maybe I wasn't giving them the benefit of the doubt that they wanted to show me how to shave seconds off my time, or how to be more consistent, or how to work through foot pain (seriously, right foot? what was with the cramps?).

So this weekend, I asked my neighbor what his normal mile time was and he said "Low 10s with a weighted vest."  Zomg... weighted vest?? 30-40 additional pounds?  Wait what? 10 minutes?  You mean that I could probably run a mile or two with you and (1) keep up and (2) not look like death doing it? And so I said "let's make this happen." 

That person is a far cry from the FGvW who was afraid to ask her friends how to start running, what she should be feeling, how to adjust gait, etc.  That person is a far cry from the FGvW who is stuck in a rut on the elliptical.  That person is the FGvW that isn't letting doctors scare her in to worrying about possible injuries when her body is asking for something. 

Last night he sent me a text and asked me if I wanted to go for that run.  Unfortunately, I was asleep (at 6:30 pm) with a doozy of a migraine.  But I'd like to think that I would have said yes.  That's growth. Not bad for a girl the doctors didn't think would be able to stand up straight.

Everybody Hurts.....(sometimes)

I've written about the D.U.F.F. before (Designated Ugly Fat Friend).  In that post I kind of alluded to what I want to talk about here -- I said that in a group of girls, there's a good chance that each girl feels like the DUFF in one way or another -- or insecure in some way that makes them feel less attractive or worthy (of their needs, thoughts, opinions, etc.).

For instance, The Truth About Cats and Dogs:  Smart woman is insecure about her looks; beautiful woman is insecure about her intellect.  Cyrano De Bergerac:  Christian is a beautiful idiot and Cyrano is a soulful poet with a big nose. 

But somehow we seem to never be able to get past our own insecurities to realize that other people are feeling the same way.  We see the beautiful person walking down the street and think they have everything they want (and the things we want as well).  They see us and long to know the satisfaction of the soft serve ice cream cone with sprinkles that we're holding. 

I have sold and sell my friends short in thinking that because they were/are thin and beautiful (and they were/are) that they had no care in the world, and more to the point, that they couldn't sympathize or empathize with me.  My misery had no company.  It would take many years and getting over myself to realize that my friends had their own issues and insecurities (though I won't expose them here). 

Not everyone is going to understand what it's like to live with and inside an overweight/obese body.  Not everyone is blessed with this opportunity for personal growth and character building.  There are things that my fellow obese/overweight friends will understand a little better than my "normal"-weight friends but even then everyone's experience is different.

Everyone suffers.  Everybody hurts.  We may not experience the same flavors of suffering, but we know what suffering is when we see it.  I think there's a substantial amount of grace in allowing someone to try and understand how you feel.  It might be easier (on some level) to say that no one else understands what it's like to be you, in your skin, with your problems, and with your hurt, but that's a very lonely life, eh?

I'm not sure whether this post is an apology to my friends for pigeonholing them, a lighthouse's beacon for people who feel like their adrift and alone, or a call to action to allow people to be vulnerable and insecure without needing to be changed, controlled, or fortified.  Heck, I'm not sure that I even had a point in writing this.

Okay, well after leaving this alone for a few minutes I realize that I do have a point:  don't make assumptions about other people based on your perceptions and what you observe.  That's your filter, your bias, your narrative.  But do get to know people...they may just surprise you. 


I'm nowhere from the "final part" of my story, of my life, but there's so much of me that wishes that I had a crystal ball, that I could see how all of the threads of my life are supposed to weave together.  I think deep down everyone wants to know that any struggle or suffering they've had in their life served some purpose -- to learn or grow, or to reveal a universal truth.

It's hard to think about purpose when you're in the middle of the darkness, when you're struggling.

I recently wrote about the 19th anniversary of losing my mom, and how the "growth" came at the steep price of losing my mother. Would I give up the person that I am now (who I think is pretty awesome) for a chance at having a few extra years growing up with mom?  Emotionally, I'd say yes.  Would it mean giving up some of the parts of myself that I'm most proud of?  Probably.  It's impossible to know how changing one detail will effect everything (and no, I've never seen the movie the Butterfly Effect.)

I've been struggling lately.  From the outside looking in, there's a benign tedium to my life.  But living through the tedium ad nauseum is maddening.  I know something needs to change.  I know that for "something" to change, first I need to change.  I also know I've been here before.  The only excitement seems to be the cats getting sick (FLUTD for Jack, pancreatitis for Spike) and injury for me. 

This time around, I'm going to work on coming up with a better plan to get myself out of the rut.  The guiding principle is going to be "well, what you were doing before didn't work, so why not try something else."  I'm hoping that it opens me up to the possibilities of what could be versus trying to control the outcome, the denoument.  Maybe life isn't a "choose your own adventure" -- sometimes the adventure chooses you.

I've been reading "Choose More, Lose More" -- and while I'm not a fan of some concepts (i.e., I don't think food should EVER be a reward, as it creates an emotional relationship with food), I dig the idea that by living with integrity (keeping our promises), we maintain our dignity and self worth.  So I'm going to make some promises.

Some initial thoughts:
1.  I'm willing to give carb & calorie cycling a try.  This will require me food logging to a more consistent degree. I need to sit down and learn how to meal plan.
2.  Finally going to let @amandap show me what she loves so much about Epic Yoga.
3.  Finally going to get back in the saddle and let @Zanewicz take me for a ride at @RevolveDC
4.  A coworker told me that she loves going to PureBarre.  She said she got muscles in places where they never existed before.  I'm intrigued.  And it's a few blocks away.
5.  If I go out to a bar with friends, I'll make it a point to meet a new guy.  Gotta be in it to win it.
6.  Going to get back into volunteering at the animal shelter.  That helped bring me more joy.  I'm also going to play more with the cats.  More crumpled up pieces of paper and catnip!
7.  I'm going to let go of some of the physical things that have been weighing me down and stifling me.  I don't like a messy apartment, and it will feel good to streamline.  Clean space, clean mind.
8.  I'm open to suggestions.  If you were my life coach, what would you have me do?  If you were my personal trainer, what would you have me do?