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Friday, December 30, 2011

fitness gift guide, top 11 of '11

"Oh, Andrea," you say. "You're a day late and a dollar short as usual. All the major winter gift-giving holidays have come and gone."

To which I say, Feh. Valentines Day is in 7 weeks. Don't you have a sweetheart? And if you don't, isn't that enough time to work on that gym hottie you've had your eye on? Plus, you've got Mother's Day and Father's Day and, c'mon now, the fitness enthusiasts in your life have birthdays, don't they? As do you. There are lots of gift-giving and -getting days in the year. Get with the program.

Disclaimer #1: this is a list of Andrea's Favorite Things, which is kinda like Oprah's Favorite Things except without the clout. Because I like lifting and I like yoga, these gifts are heavily weighed in that direction. I don't run much, don't really bike or swim these days, have played golf once in my life, and haven't held a tennis racket since they were made of wood (srs!). If those sports and activities are more your thing, well, you're just gonna have to find you another gift guide.

Disclaimer #2: because these are *my* favorite things, things that I own and love and use or things I wish Santa had brought me, the items on it that are not unisex are for the ladieez. If you have a penis or are buying gifts for someone with a penis, not all these items will be applicable. Sorry!

Without further ado, I give you eleven for '11.

1.) the Bodymedia Fit

You people have already heard me go on and on about mine. I love it. I will warn you, that sentiment is not universal. Some people feel that theirs was inaccurate for them. Mine seems quite accurate for me. Some people feel that they only had to wear it for a few days or a week to get all the useful data they're ever gonna get from it. I feel differently, because I happen to have wildly divergent calorie burns from day to day depending on my activities, and in long term trends, I am seeing just how many fewer calories I am expending in the winter as opposed to the summer, when I am apparently much more active as far as NEAT goes. Some people disliked theirs because they feel it fed into their OCD or eating disordered tendencies. I think that's a fair enough quibble. If data is gonna make you crazy or even crazee, this product is not for you. But if, like me, you fondly think of your body as a science experiment, you might just love one of these.

2.) a digital food scale

Talk about feeding the crazee. If you (or the fitness enthusiast in your life) are either dieting or bulking, well, hell yeah, you (or they) wanna know exactly what and how much you're eating. A digital food scale is key, especially one that weighs both in grams and in ounces and has a "tare" function. I particularly like the glass topped ones, because they are easy to clean if you decide to just slop a hunk of cheese on there without a plate. Um, not that I'd do anything slightly gross and messy like that. Yeah.

3.) the Iron Gym

Want to do something at home on those days you don't make it to the gym? Or maybe you just wanna get really, really good at pullups and impress your friends and/or that gym hottie. Put the IronGym up in your doorway and grow that back!

4.) Gaiam aluminum water bottle

On days you do make it to the gym, you probably wanna bring a water bottle, if just to avoid having to stand in line at the bubbler behind some douche who's filling up their water bottle. Ahem. But, uh, yeah, hydration is key! I love my aluminum water bottle, because I highly dislike drinking from plastic. Mine, which is orange paisley and matches the straps on my minimalist shoes, is apparently no longer made, but they have other attractive options. I will also warn you on these: reviews are mixed. Not everyone loves theirs as much as I love mine. Some people have complained theirs dented easily or that the design scratched off. Mine's held up just fine. Some people feel theirs gave their water a metallic taste. Eh. I kinda like the very faint metallic taste--it's like mineral water. And it's tastier than plastic, which I hate. Proceed at your own risk.

5.) micro plates

And when you get to the gym, what happens when you go to do shoulder presses and the 25 lb dumbbells are getting way too easy but the 30s are a crapshoot as to whether you can even get them up? Hmmm, you say, if only there were 27.5 lb dumbbells in this gym... Microplates to the rescue, bitches! Seriously, these are genius, and I am envious of anyone who got these in their stocking. Sigh. There's always Mother's Day. Or, y'know, not being a cheap bastard and buying them myself. But, seriously: you or someone you know needs these.

6.) magical miracle yoga pants

Yes, they are ridiculously expensive. Yes, they will make your ass look better than any other gym clothes you own. Case closed.

7.) UGG sneakers

What looks like a pair of Chucks but classier and more grownup and have slightly more support and, not to mention, shearling inside the heels and on the tongue, so your feet are cozy and never blister? These! And you can deadlift in them.

8.) You long-haired chicas who go to the gym know the deal. There's squat hair--a high bun so that you don't get your hair in the way of the bar. There's yoga or benching hair--a low pony or braid so there's no lump under your head when you're on your back. Maybe what you need instead or in addition is a headwrap.

You can go old skool and gangsta:

the classic doorag

You can get in touch with your holistic, spiritual side:

the hippie alternative

Or you can:

glam it up

Wearing one that looks almost exactly like that to squat today. I ain't even lyin'.

9.) the foam roller

And all of us who work out or play sports know the deal on this: you will have minor injuries. You'll tweak this and pull that. X will tighten up and y will spasm. Foam rolling is the next best thing to a massage for working out those issues.

10.) the foam roller on steroids

But if the fitness enthusiast in your life is already foam rolling and has been for awhile, they may just need to upgrade to one of these. Not for the beginner and not for the faint of heart. There may be pain involved. But it's good pain. Shut up.

11.) Or, you can just be a really, really excellent gift-giver and buy your giftee an actual (preferably myofascial) massage!

Pet peeve: as an LMT myself, I cannot tell you how much it irks, trying to find an image online of someone getting a massage that actually looks as if they're really getting a massage. By which I mean to say, with their face in the face cradle, not torqued to the side with a blissful half-smile on. But while I was doing that, I did happen to come across bonus content for my readers:

Snake massage. SNAKE MASSAGE. I did not know that was a thing. I didn't want to know that was a thing. If that seems like the perfect gift for someone on your list, well, uh, bless your heart!


Monday, December 19, 2011

bulking, the results edition

Now that I've bitched about my underwear pictures being possibly objectified, it's time to add new ones! Shall we recap? Started my bulk at 112 in mid-March, ended in mid-November at 125, then dieted for a month and am now 119. Time for the big reveal.

February, pre-bulk, post ~5 months weightlifting:

December, post-bulk and mini-cut, after 15 months lifting:





I weigh approximately 6-7 pounds more in the December pictures than the February ones, and I'm pretty sure I actually look leaner. Bulking, it does a body good! I will tell you that two years ago I would never, ever have thought my abdominal area would ever look that good again.

The plan now is to eat whatever the hell I want for the next two weeks, then resume dieting in January. Originally I thought I only wanted to get back down to 117ish, but I'm kinda curious what I'd look like at 113 now with the muscle I've added. So, we'll see. In any case, another long, slow bulk will then resume...late January, maybe?


Friday, December 16, 2011

there's nothing dirty about my muscles

Oh, kids, I am raging this morning. Apparently the IT people at the large hospital for which I work have decided this here very blog is pr0n. It's blocked on my computer. Seriously? Pictures of a woman in her underwear in which all her parts are covered, underwear that shows no more than would be revealed by a standard two piece bathing suit, and which are posted not to titillate anyone but to illustrate hard-won muscular development (or lack of progress therein, sigh), is pr0n? Maybe in Saudi Arabia or Amish country, but uh, not in mainstream America. I am appalled. Amused, but appalled.

Let me tell you something about the female body. It exists for reasons other than for men to look at. Its main purpose is NOT to arouse/not arouse guys. Do I take it as an insult if a man tells me my muscles are sexeh? No, of course not. But that's not why I'm growing them. They're for me to look at***. They're tangible proof that I'm getting stronger and stronger. I like how they feel beneath my clothes. I like how, even though I'm "a woman approaching 50", they prove to me that I don't have to let my physical body deteriorate completely. And I like to show them to my friends who also lift and who appreciate muscle, hence the OMG! underwear pictures.

Or maybe it was the pictures of Jamie Eason in a thong that got the IT people riled up.

Hint: there's nothing dirty about her muscles, either, but the fact that women (i.e. fitness models) who should probably be considered athletes make most of their money posing in quasi-pr0ny ways just shows how commodified women's bodies really are.


***I have two tattoos, both of them on the back of my body in places I have a hard time seeing, even in a mirror. I've occasionally had people question me about that, and I say, "they aren't there for me to look at, they're there for me to know that they're there." I feel similarly about my muscles; even the ones I can't see are there not for anyone else to look at necessarily, but for me to know that they exist.

Friday, December 9, 2011

time changes everything

So does money, but that's another post. But since I've got the song stuck in my head now, here ya go.

Okay! Now that I have that out of my system...

Anytime you come across a list of anyone's gym pet peeves, you can be pretty sure "old men in the locker room" is one of them. Specifically, the fact that the old men walk around stark naked having long involved conversations in the nude, sit their unclothed persons directly on the benches, and (apparently!) use the gym hairdryers to blow dry their balls. To wit:

Now, I have no experience of men's locker rooms (shut up), but my experience in women's locker rooms is much the same, if a little less drastic. The old ladies are not shy about walking around in a towel or less. In fact, there is probably a directly inverse association between how aesthetic one's body is by societal standards and degree of modesty in the locker room. Most of the teen aged and very young women won't change in the open--they either arrive at the gym fully dressed to work out or they change in a booth or a toilet stall. Most late 20s to early 50s gym goers will change in the open, but very discreetly and quickly, directly facing their locker. Then somewhere around late middle age, something seems to click and the "walking from one's locker to the showers in nothing but flipflops" stage begins. I myself haven't reached that stage yet, but I do find myself lingering more in my underwear without self-consciousness than I used to, so god knows, I'm probably headed in that direction.

And I've been thinking a little about why that is. Why, when you're in the full flower of your youth, with a body that is probably as close to "flawless" as it's ever going to get, are you so self-conscious about other people seeing it as is? Why, after everything possible has wrinkled, sagged, and developed truly fascinating levels of cellulite (sorry, but you put it out there, I'ma see it and be fascinated by it, yo), are you totally unfazed by other people looking? Well, kids, as about many many things, I have developed my own theory.

My theory is this: when you are 20, you can look at all those images in the media--the actresses and models and pop stars, all photoshopped within an inch of their lives--and think that, not only would it be possible for you to look like that, but that you SHOULD look like that. And because, as lovely as you are, you don't--not having a magical photoshop force field around you, for one thing--you feel shame and embarrassment about your body. You don't want anyone seeing the parts of you that you dislike without an opportunity for you to somehow camouflage them.

To take this out of the gym realm and provide you with one of my trademarked boring personal anecdotes (you're welcome!), when *I* was twenty, I surprised my future ex-husband on his birthday by waiting for him to get home from work dressed in nothing but satin tap pants, heels, and a long string of pearls. (It was the 80s, so again, shut up.) I was so self-conscious about that part of my body I most disliked (thighs, of course) that I would not completely expose them in daylight even in seducing someone who frankly had seen them many times before. And whose 23 year old brain was only going to register mostly nekkid chick...indicating she wants sex...awesome! anyway. Crazypants, I know.

But that kind of thing fades over time in most of us, leading ultimately to grandma making dinner plans with her friends while nekkid outside the sauna. Judging only from my own experience, I think it is because as time goes on and you see the inevitable changes in your body brought about by time (and for women, perhaps pregnancy), you realize you will not and cannot look like those images in the media. It's just not possible, who could expect that of you? So you stop expecting it of yourself. And you stop being so ashamed that you don't meet that standard. Oh, you might still unfortunately hate some or all of your body, but you stop caring so much who sees it because, Jesus Christ, how can they *expect* you to look like Megan Fox, you're 49! (or 59 or 79).

I don't know how to explain the testicle blow drying, however. I'll leave that to another blogger smarter than me.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

diet, day 9

Sometimes, you wish all you had to do was meditate on it, nomsayin?

The last time I was dieting, kids, I was a lot fatter to start with. This led to possibly a bit more motivation. It certainly led to the fat seeming to melt off effortlessly. I was also in ketosis. People like to hate on low carb, ketogenic diets but, holy crap, do they suppress your appetite. Right now my appetite, being not in the least suppressed, is leading me to do things like put theoretical foods for the day into my fitday log so I can see just how many good things I want to eat I can sneak in under my calorie ceiling while also meeting those pesky protein requirements. If I was obsessed by food and counting and numbers while I was bulking, it at least didn't have the wistful fantasy component this does.

Not that I'm meaning to complain. Not at all. This is my choice. And I'm doing pretty well. Unlike the bulking which is/was a whole new experience, I KNOW how to diet. I've been doing it on and off since I was 10 and hit puberty. (Don't worry, when I did it when I was ten, it lasted a day or two until one of my little friends wanted to go to the Dairy Queen. I didn't have some kind of middle-school eating disorder.) I know what it feels like to be hungry but put that feeling aside and not eat. I know how to say "no" to things that look and smell delicious and tempting. I know how to get off on my own self-discipline and find a certain masochistic satisfaction in it.

Like that only very tangentially related man candy? You're welcome. You really don't want to google image search "hurts so good" at work without the safe search on. You're welcome for that little life tip, too. Full service blog!

To get back to my point, dieting sucks, but it sucks in a familiar, almost comforting way, and past experience tells me that it never doesn't eventually work if I keep at it. New underwear pictures December 18ish. We'll see what happens between now and then.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

the scale's a lying liar

My bulk having come to its end, at least for awhile, I spent the past weekend, Friday through Sunday, not counting anything. It was my birthday weekend and I wanted to eat mass amounts of carbs, very little protein, and however many calories passed my lips, no less, no more. It's been a long time since I've eaten whatever I wanted without regard to its nutritional values, macros, or calorie count for several consecutive days (18 months to be exact). It felt wonderful. It was a prelude, however, to the next four weeks of dieting***. My plan is to diet until the week before Christmas, get off the bulk bloat and whatever fat I've put on, and see if I actually did grow any new muscles under there. In order to have a starting point, a reference number, I felt I had to weigh myself yesterday morning.

Well. After my weekend of just eating "whatever"--in particular, high carb "whatever"--I weighed in at a whopping 125. This may have horrified me had I not been well aware that I am still fitting into all my size 0 and 2 clothes, and the last time I weighed 125, I was a solid size 4. In other words, I *knew* that 125 was a bogus number, all water weight gain and muscles full of glycogen. After one day of eating low calorie, high protein, and moderate carbs, drinking a ton of green tea, and peeing like the proverbial racehorse, I weighed in this morning at 122. See that? Three pounds of ugly fat gone overnight! Oh, the lulz.

I can laugh about this, but in my tenure of reading weight loss and fitness forums on the internet I have seen SO MANY PEOPLE who live and die by the scale and who, against all the known laws of physics, think that they really can gain three pounds of fat from one day of overeating or that those six pounds they lost their first week of dieting was adipose. I have seen people in all seriousness say "I ate [dairy/artificial sweetener/carrots] yesterday and I was up a pound this morning, so obviously that's a 'staller' and I can never eat that." I always want to tell them to go take a poop, weigh themselves again, and add the dairy back into their diet. I have seen people absolutely freak over situations like mine: their clothes fit fine, they look fine in the mirror, but ZOMG! the number on the scale is higher than their "perfect" weight! And perhaps saddest and most nonsensical of all, I have seen (mostly female) people who are attempting to get thinner who refuse to exercise because it will make their scale weight go up temporarily.

Even I, who ostensibly know better, got incredibly frustrated at the scale number not going up during my bulk, even though I had to admit to my weightlifting friends that they were right when they pointed out I was making continuous strength gains and it's impossible to do that without gaining at least some muscle. I didn't care. I wanted the number on the scale to confirm it for me, even as I was rolling my eyes, cursing, and saying that number on the scale meant nothing.

Of course, if there was an easy, inexpensive, and accurate way to measure one's bodyfat percentage****, we'd all be able to more reasonably obsess about that. We'd see that our weekend of birthday celebrating, our adding a different food to our menu, our starting a new exercise program really hasn't made us fatter no matter what we weigh on a particular morning. Unfortunately, most at-home, or in the gym, methods of measuring body fat are inaccurate to the point of being completely worthless. In fact, sometimes they lie worse than the scale does. So, no help there.

I don't know what the answer to this conundrum is other than to obtain the knowledge that your weight will fluctuate from day to day and that only long term trends mean anything and then to not be crazy over it. Obviously, one part of that sentence is easier to implement than the other.


***Yeah, I know. Starting a diet the week of Thanksgiving! Bloody brilliant!

****Um, the ol' buttoning-your-pants kinda actually works for this, but since there's no numerical value to that, it seems woefully inadequate to a lot of people.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

all butt, all the time

If you've been following along, you'll know that I, like many women my age, am infected with the dreaded SOWWA (sagging old-white-woman's ass.) When I was a young girl, my butt was a work of art--not that I appreciated it at the time. But somehow, somewhere along the way, it all went horribly wrong. This reached its apex last winter when, having lost probably a little too much weight, I realized I was not filling out the back of my jeans anymore. As I like to say whenever I reference this, TRAGIC.

That was part of the impetus to bulk. Build some glutes, yo! It's been coming along, I think. The jeans are snugger in the right places these days. Squatting helps. But, of course, there are always other things one can do. Bret Contreras, aka The Glute Guy, is a big proponent of the weighted glute bridge or hip thruster.

Believe me, I have tried to find a way to do these in the gym. It's not like I myself have any shame. SLDLs (or RDLs***) with my back to the rest of the male-dominated gym****? No problem. Yoga hip openers that occasionally look like something out of the kama sutra in the stretching area? No problem. Why would lying on my back on the floor thrusting my pelvis up embarrass me? C'mon now. The problem is that there's no room in our weight room to do these with a barbell, I can't really figure out how to get the bar all the way down and get under it in our (apparently mutant) Smith machine, and every other solution (plates or kettlebells on my pelvis) isn't enough weight for me to feel like I am doing anything. My glutes may be a shadow of their former selves, but they're actually still pretty strong. It's a thick group of muscles!

Well, let me tell you. A couple weeks ago while I was walking around the entire periphery of the weight and cardio and stretching areas doing my farmer's walks, I saw a woman using a machine that I had never realized we even had. In my defense, it's near the Bad Girl machine, and while I have no shame, I do have enough dignity not to go near that. (Besides, I pretty much "sumo" everything. My adductors need no additional help, thanks.) The machine the lady was using was a glute press. "Oh!" I said to myself, "These dumbbells I'm carrying around are friggin' heavy." No, no, no. Actually I said to myself, "Oh! I wanna try that!" And since I have, it's become my new favorite thing. I can barely restrain myself to using it only two times a week on leg days.

I looked at a lot of video online trying to find one that looks exactly like our glute press and I couldn't. Apparently, it is as mutant as our Smith machine. But this comes pretty close.

The other day I did a couple sets at 100 lbs after squatting and I felt pretty close to puking. Good times! I am, however, convinced that, contrary to my previous post, this contraption and its judicious application will overcome time, my genetics, (and possibly the laws of physics) and give me Ines Sainz's ass. Please don't disillusion me.


***I still have no idea whether the exercise I am doing is an SLDL or an RDL. Liz taught it to me as a stifflegged deadlift but some things I've read online disagree and call it a Romanian deadlift. I start at the top and don't go all the way to the ground. Whatever that is really called, that's what I'm doing.

****When Liz first taught me these (with 20lb dumbbells...awwww), she said that when taking her personal training course in order to get Y certified, she had to "teach" two different exercises and this was one that she picked. Apparently the instructor, while fine with her technique and coaching, cautioned her that some women would be uncomfortable doing these because it involved bending over in front of other people (i.e. maybe guys.) Oh, we laughed and laughed.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

ch-ch-changes, part 2

Or, more on accepting your own body type, with celeb pictures.

Yesterday on, one of my favorite websites, they posted the following picture of JLo Hewitt.

They posted it to illustrate that the woman is always photographed in bandage dresses, and that she needs to switch up her wardrobe choices. They asked that readers weigh in on what they would like to see her wearing instead. To my particular chagrin, seemingly half the comments focused instead on the fact that she had "fat" legs or "ugly" legs or "cankles." Someone opined that she should stick to wearing pants at all times.

Cankles? She has tiny little ankles in that picture. She's also a short little woman with some calf muscle, much like, oh, I dunno, me? My immediate thought in reading those comments was, OMG, people are looking at my legs every time I wear a skirt and thinking I should put those things away. Which is not a thought I have ever much had before. In fact, I have always considered my lower legs to be one of my better physical features. IN FACT, one of my exes, the first time we were, um, intimate, actually told me my calf muscles were beautiful, which only reinforced my prior lurve for them. It's only in very recent days, since I've been doing calf raises that I really probably don't need to be doing, that I've even questioned whether my calves might be becoming *too* muscular. But even so, I would never consider them fat or canklish.

But compare this picture of Amanda Seyfried, also on gofugyourself yesterday.

That is, presumably, the socially acceptable lower leg? I mean, to me, they look like you could snap them like twigs, but I suppose if that is the beauty ideal, JLo Hewitt and I do have hideous "cankles" and should hide them under full length jeans at all times so as not to frighten the populace. Sigh.

The thing is, I could never look like Ms Seyfried. My calves were more muscular than that when I was 12 years old. If I were a drumstick, you'd be getting a full meal, is all I'm sayin'. So I'm better off believing what I think when I look in the mirror: that short muscular legs are just fine. Or even what my suitor said: that they're beautiful. Because I ain't ever gonna make them into what they genetically are not, and I don't intend to wear long pants every day of the rest of my natural life.


Friday, November 4, 2011


You know I'll take any excuse to post Bowie video, because me n' David are like this: X.

But what I would really like to talk about today is changing your body. Often when people are losing weight or beginning to work out, they have in their head (or posted on their refrigerator) a goal body. The idea is that if you just have enough discipline and work diligently enough, you will end up looking like Megan Fox.

Or Jamie Eason.

Or Jennifer Lopez.

Or Dana Linn Bailey.

Or Tracy Anderson.

Or maybe all you have to do is wear something that barely covers your butt and give a fierce, sultry look over your shoulder at the camera. Let's all try that and post our results! Um you go first.

As my friends know, my original (joking) goal was to look like Ines Sainz.

Alas, all my dieting and all my working out have not made my body look anything like Ms Sainz's. Squatting has not given me that butt, nor have lat pulldowns given me that width in my upper back. However, I have way more definition in my arms and shoulders than she does. I'm not going to end up with her body, kids. I'm just going to end up with a different version of my own.

And in the spirit of that, I would like also to discuss some of the changes that I have seen lately. Unfortunately, I have no "smouldering at the camera" shots to illustrate, so you are going to just have to take my word that I'm not lyin'.

For years and years and years, I would see women's magazines in which some probably-made-up reader would ask, "Are there exercises that will make my breasts bigger?" and the answer would always be, "No! But if you do chest exercises for your pecs, your breats will look higher and perkier." And for years and years and years, I thought that was a load of bullshit, designed to placate all those boob-dissatisfied girls. Well. In the last year, I have been working my pecs a lot. DB bench has been one of my better lifts, and I would always joke to Liz that I probably have really nice pecs, but I can't prove it, because they're covered with boobs. But just recently, when I've gotten out of the shower and caught a glimpse of myself drying off or whatever, it's occurred to me that, holy shit, my breasts really are sitting up higher on my chest than they used to. I never, ever believed that could happen, but it has. Woohoo! And a hearty eff you to gravity. On the downside--and some of you all have probably already heard me complain about this--all the squatting and deadlifting and rack pulls I've been doing have built up my core like whoa, which is great for my overall health and fitness, but I'm pretty sure it's making my waist wider. Even though I *do* stubbornly refuse to ever do targeted oblique work. But my lower erectors, my abs, and my QLs are all thick now. I can feel the thickness of the muscle in there. It's making me not quite as dainty as I used to be. Higher boobs, pretty flat stomach, but no tiny waist. You take the bad with the good, I suppose! But if you think you can plan exactly how you're gonna look, you will be sadly disappointed.

That's today's life lesson. But I gave you Bowie video and pretty pictures, so don't complain.


Monday, October 24, 2011

first world problems

Don't think it doesn't occur to me that all my bitching about "having" to eat all this extra food I'm eating in order to grow muskles isn't semi-obscene in a world where too many people are going hungry. I am not a clueless, totally self-absorbed douchebag. Most of the time. No, in fact, most of the time I am acutely aware that all this focusing on my body, what it can do and what it looks like, *is* a very selfish and spoiled pursuit. But as selfish and spoiled pursuits go, it at least isn't harming anyone. It's not as if I stopped eating whey protein powder, starving children in Somalia are going to have more to eat. It's not as if I stopped eating whey protein powder, hungry children in fuckin' Boston are going to have more to eat. But sometimes I look at all the time I spend in the gym or taking freaking progress pictures and obsessing over them or, y'know, writing crap about fitness on the internet, and I think, "Andrea, that time would really be better spent doing volunteer work." But, alas, I am not Mother Teresa in a tanktop.

It is with all that being said that I convey to you my absolute frustration that, looking back at my records, it seems I have not really gained any weight in the past 3 months, and so to call what I am doing a "bulk" is perhaps overstating it. I am trying to be okay with this. I am trying to remind myself that the fact that I am, and have been, borderline obsessive with the logging my food and wearing my bodymedia and writing down my workouts and reaching for some kind of nebulous yet real-in-my-mind goal is a self-soothing technique. Kinda like some severely autistic children like to bang their heads on hard surfaces. I *know* that. In fact, since I have been embarking on this miserable online dating experiment, I have had lots of prospective new acquaintances ask about how I got into lifting weights, and I always give the same glib answer. To wit, the second half of 2010 I had a whole bunch of bad things occur in my life and my way of coping with it was to get in really, really good shape. And I always follow that by saying (because I'm so effin' witty) that as dysfunctional coping mechanisms go, it's probably less destructive than, say, drinking heavily or running up massive credit card debt. Glib, witty, but honest at its core. I use focusing on my body as a way not to focus on the hurt inside of me that comes from finding my father dead on the floor, from the breakup of my relationship with someone I adored, from the goddamn cat dying two days after Christmas just when it looked like she was gonna beat the odds.

First world coping mechanism! I suppose if I were starving in Somalia, my drive to try not to starve would be distracting me from any grief I had about losing loved ones. Do human beings ever really process loss without distraction? I dunno. This post is already too deep for me. I do better when I'm bitching about gym douchebags or tearing apart books that suck. People like me when I'm cranky and superficial. Don't fret. We'll return to that shortly.

But right now I'm kinda making a resolution to stop being invested in whether my "bulk" works or not. I like lifting weights. It's fun even when you're not using it to obsess. I like going to the gym because it's "me" time (and while doing charity work would be the better thing to do, having a little me time isn't overly selfish.) I'm going to make the effort to just lift and go to the gym for fun and cut down on the obsessing about it. I know I've probably said that before, but this time I mean it. Lulz.


Monday, October 17, 2011

scolding the populace

I saw this article referenced on someone else's blog, popped over to read it, and then realized I had things to say about it. Things that were too long to fit in a comment on someone else's blog. So here we are, kids.

First of all, I have nothing against Mr Bittman. I have his giant cookbook and refer to it frequently. I use it so much that I gave my niece the vegetarian version for Christmas. From reading Mr Bittman's giant cookbook, I know this is his shtick: it's easy to cook simple, healthy, tasty meals at home, and everyone should be able to do so. I honestly can't argue with that, either.

No, my bones to pick with this article are thus: First of all, though he pays some lip service to the concept of food deserts, he seems very out of touch with what they really mean. For instance? "Still, 93 percent of those with limited access to supermarkets do have access to vehicles, though it takes them 20 more minutes to travel to the store than the national average." We seem to be forgetting the cost of gas in this little equation. If you have to drive an extra 15 miles to get to the supermarket, but you drive right past the Taco Bell on the way home, it is indeed cheaper to get the fast food. We're also forgetting the value of a person's time. If it takes you two hours and three buses to get to the supermarket, as it might for many inner city dwellers, the ten minutes it takes for them to go to McDonalds instead is cheaper. But I suppose poor people's time has no value. Sigh. It's all a very classist argument. I'm lucky to live in an urban area that does have a lot of supermarkets. (We don't refer to one of them as the Ghetto MarketBasket for nothin', yo. I myself won't buy meat or produce there, but the prices are cheap and it's directly on a couple very popular bus lines.) Poor people in my neck of the woods can buy decent, cheap food to cook at home. But a lot of poor people don't have that option.

The two passages that really got to me in this article, though, were these: The real challenge is not “I’m too busy to cook.” In 2010 the average American, regardless of weekly earnings, watched no less than an hour and a half of television per day. The time is there. and The smart campaign is not to get McDonald’s to serve better food but to get people to see cooking as a joy rather than a burden, or at least as part of a normal life.

You know when cooking is a joy? When you have lots of time and you're doing it because you want to, because you're trying out a new recipe that looks great or because you've invited someone you like to dinner or because it's a rainy day and you are home and you've got the ingredients at hand to make something you really like. You know when cooking is not a joy? When you've worked eight hours and commuted an hour and a half and maybe gone to the gym or ran errands or picked up and dropped off the kids somewhere besides and you're starving and tired. Then cooking is a miserable chore and I think most people can be forgiven for occasionally getting takeout and spending an hour and a half eating it in front of the TV instead without us getting all high and mighty over it.

(Yes, yes, I know some people are so self-disciplined and frugal and organized that they make all their meals a week ahead and just nuke them or whatever. Those same people probably floss even more than their hygienist tells them to, never forget their mom's birthday, and report all their cash tips to the IRS. There are perfect people and then there are the rest of us. God.)

But what this really made me think of was this: why do we not see anyone saying something like "let's get people to see walking as a joy rather than a burden, or at least as part of a normal life." People with an hour and a half to spare watching TV? If they live three miles or less from work, they oughta be walking each way. Not only would it be as good for their health as cooking at home, it would be good for the environment, and it would greatly cut down on the traffic for those people who live further from work and have no choice but to drive. Where's that campaign, huh?

"But...but...but, Andrea, you can't expect me to walk six miles a day in lieu of watching TV, that's unreasonable!" Eh. For some people it is. For some people it isn't. Just like cooking all your meals at home, yo. We all have the right to decide how much convenience vs how much uber-virtuous behavior we're willing to engage in. Without being tsk-tsk'd at. In my extremely humble opinion.

For the record, I'm planning on going to one of my favorite hipster cafes for chicken salad after the gym tonight because I have no un-frozen meat at home and I like to support the local economy. People who own or work in restaurants, sub shops, cafes, and fast food joints need jobs too.


Friday, October 7, 2011

mermaid/whale/blah blah

This post is not going to be funny. It's not going to be lighthearted. Hell, it probably won't even be entertaining. Bail now if you're just here for the lulz and the occasional underwear picture.

Okay! Am I talking to myself now? Cool. Here we go.

You may have seen this elsewhere. It's apparently being passed around Facebook and blogged and commented on in lots of places. It gets fervent praise or rabid censure. It's causing controversy, is what I'm saying.

Bit of background. Some of you may know and a lot of you may not (oh, Andrea, writing as if they haven't all gone away after you warned them to, tsk) that for a while a couple years ago, I was very into reading the "fat bloggers", i.e. the champions of the fat acceptance movement and Health at Every Size (HAES), even though I was not clinically fat myself. Except for a brief period circa 2000-2001, I have never been outside a normal BMI. I have been, at most, cosmetically fat and, even more often, just thought I was fat because of my warped body image. Reading the fat bloggers was very therapeutic to me, in seeing people who accepted, even loved, their bodies despite not looking like the media or society told them they should. That was point one.

Point two was that, even with my own bodily hatred, I had long believed--known!--that much of what the fat bloggers said was true. Not all fat people are fat because they are shoveling Twinkies into their mouths 24/7 while refusing to get out of their recliners, and treating people as lazy slobs due only to what you (think you) know about them by looking at them was both unfair and stupid. My own late mother was obese, and I knew for a fact that she ate less than I did and I weighed 100 pounds less than she. And while she wasn't running 5ks or going to the gym, she, for most of the time she was obese, worked a job where she was on her feet for 6 hours straight and at home, from spring through fall, spent hours a day gardening. It was obvious to me that something more complicated was going on than simply "calories in, calories out."*** But I'm sure people thought she ate a box of donuts a day and washed it down with liters of non-diet Coke and did nothing but sit on her fat ass all day long. Similarly, my son gained over 80 pounds in probably less than 3 months when he went on a medication that otherwise saved his life, but which is known to eff up one's metabolism. That anyone would look at him and judge him negatively because of that made my heart break a little when I thought of it.****

Furthermore, I knew that the principles of HAES were true. Some people are overweight and all their lab work is just fine, thanks. Some people are overweight and very fit. Some people are thin, have triglyceride levels of 500 and can't run to catch a bus. OTOH, I do, and did, think that the fat bloggers were overselling HAES. Many of them who were adamant that they were in perfect health despite their obesity were young women in their 20s and 30s. I'm not so sure that as many people who are obese in their 50s can say their blood tests are all stellar and they don't have any joint problems. (Though how many people in their 50s of any weight can say that? Time catches up with all of us. I do think it may catch up with the obese in the form of type II diabetes a lot quicker though.) Also, I think there's a ceiling. I don't find it hard to believe someone who weighs 250 is both fit and healthy; someone who is 450? Eh. They would be a huge outlier. No pun intended. Okay, a little pun intended.

So, yeah, this current controversy? I don't begrudge the author for loving her fat body. I also think that the people attacking her with claims that she is promoting obesity and OMG! obesity epidemic! booga booga! don't have all their facts straight, or indeed, that deep down they really are worried about fat people's health. No. Be serious. They think fat people are ugly and lazy and they hate them. Or at least dislike them intensely. Or at least need to feel superior to them to make up for their feelings of low self-worth on other matters.

However, I don't think that the message that thinner people are too uptight to eat ice cream with their children or whatever is fair. Feeling superior to thinner people to make up for one's feelings of low self-worth on whatever matters is uncool as well.

In summary: try to be happy with yourself. If there's something about yourself you dislike and you can change it, try to do so. If it turns out that even with your best efforts you can't (see: my thighs), learn to accept it, all zen-like. Exercise because it's good for you and it's fun. Don't exercise in order to chase some grim specter of unattainable perfection. Eat some really crappy food once in a while and don't feel guilty. Don't eat copious amounts of really crappy food every freaking day. Even if you're bulking. Ahem. If you're not an alcoholic and you want a beer, drink the damn beer. Don't criticize other people's bodies. Try not to criticize your own body. Live life. Have fun. Don't be a hater.

The end.

Random lolcat for your pleasure:


***Turns out, by the time my mother went into the hospital to die of cancer that could have been caught earlier had she gone to the damn doctor, she had absolutely no thyroid function al all. Like, literally. No thyroid hormone. Which obviously could have been found earlier had she gone to the doctor in the past 30 years, but that's a whole nother head-->desk. My theory is she croaked her thyroid by all the crash dieting she did when *she* wasn't fat but thought she was.

****After five years on this medication, he's been, for reasons that are unclear, recently losing weight without trying very hard. He's down to 195, which takes him out of the obese category into merely overweight. This is a good thing.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

men and muscles

Your esteemed blog hostess is a single lady.

(As an aside, your esteemed blog hostess is still pondering where Beyonce buys her maternity leather booty shorts, but that is indeed a subject for another blog.)

As I was saying, your esteemed blog hostess is a single lady (and is it any wonder, because dear sweet Jesus, is there a man alive who wants to listen to her inane nattering about how pop divas cover their expanding uteruses?), but you could probably infer that from the fact she is writing this shit to entertain you at 11pm on a Saturday night instead of getting laid like a normal, coupled-up person. She loves her readers with every fiber of her being, but if the choice is between you and sex, she'll choose sex. Just sayin'. And no offense.

In her attempt to maybe, y'know, find a date, she has just recently made herself a profile on one of your popular online dating sites. (Do people confessing their secret shame usually write about themselves in the third person? Probably. Okay, let's knock that shit off. Ahem.) So, um, yeah, she--I mean *I*--used that very picture to the right of your screen as my dating profile avatar. I dunno. It was a better choice than the 500 pictures of myself in my underwear, taken solely to examine my cellulite, that I also have stored on my computer.

It has been an interesting choice however. It invites a lot of comment. There are the gentlemen that find it oddly sexy. Others just write to say, "Nice guns!" One guy with an extremely well-muscled shot of his own torso sent a very brief missive: "Let's talk." It took extreme self-control NOT to write back, "About what? How swole we both are in our profile pictures?" (Actually, I still might. That's hilarious. And, uh, do you see why I can't get a date? No one loves the sarcastic.) One nice man, after some back and forth, asked whether I'm a competitive bodybuilder, bless him and his absolute ignorance of what those chicks really look like compared to me. I reassured him that I do not have any clear plastic stripper heels in my wardrobe, which in retrospect was probably not so much reassuring as disappointing.

But one of the most interesting responses, to my mind, is that of the men who make jokes about how I could probably snap them in two/kick their ass. As a teeny tiny, pocket-sized and very quiet woman, beloved by small children and most animals, it is somewhat amusing to think that a picture of me flexing translates to Xena the Warrior Princess or some such shit. And of course these guys don't seriously think I could take them down--there are very few guys who think they can get their ass kicked by a woman even if they can--they just don't know how to react to a woman with visible muscle. Thus the reflexive joke. I find it sociologically interesting. I mean, almost as interesting as Beyonce's sexy ass maternity wardrobe.

I will report back with further developments. Unless of course one of my internet dates pans out. Oh, hush, I'm only kidding. Men my age don't have that much stamina. I'll still have plenty of time to type.


Friday, September 23, 2011

and then i woke up and weighed 140

A good friend of mine spends a good portion of his "work" day forwarding me articles he thinks I'd be interested in. For the past two days, these have been solely depressing and infuriating stories about our baseball team's epic collapse and how much John Lackey sucks. Which is a topic for another blog and don't get me started. However, before all that, he sent me this tidbit from the NYT.

I won't bore you with my own theories about the relevance or lack thereof of "calories in, calories out." I will tell you that, on this my first official and intentional bulk, I have been amazed about how difficult it is to actually gain weight when you want to. As previously documented, I've managed about a pound a month and I am eating all the damn time.

(This morning I was up another pound to 119. However, I am very suspicious that it's only water weight from yesterday's SLDLs as my hamstrings are seriously screaming at me at the moment. I wish I were one of those people who knew how to make cute little stick-figure cartoons in Paint, because I'd illustrate. It goes something like this. Hamstrings: "Andrea! You think you were all hot shit throwing in the 135lb SLDLs yesterday, don't you? Well, you just try to get up from your chair now. SUFFER!" Andrea: "Ow." That would be much funnier illustrated. [Talking stick-figure hammies are hilarious. Trust.] Apparently this is NOT a full-service blog. I did, however, manage to put a parenthetical inside a parenthetical, and I know you all love that. Also? I have industrial strength arnica at home and I am too stupid to use it, even though I push it on all my friends. Sigh.)

In any case, the disturbing part of that linked article is, to me, the statement that an extra 100 calories a day will put on x amount of weight, but it won't show up immediately. Really? This is what all of us bulkers fear in the dark recesses of our hearts. That we'll be gaining weight (musclely muscle!) at a slow and reasonable and controlled way but then, oops!, all of a sudden we'll wake up obese. I may have even had a bad dream about this, but the one I had the other night about contracting head lice was even more horrifying, so I shouldn't really complain about what my subconscious vomits up.

I promise you this. If the worst comes to pass and I continue eating and eating and eating and eating more because I apparently am not gaining, and then suddenly one morning find myself three sizes too big for my pants, I will spare you all the underwear pictures. You're welcome. More full-service than you thought!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

workout fashion throughout the ages

Okay, not "throughout the ages". From 1977 to now. Whaddya think? People hit the gym in 1393? They were too busy dying of the plague, yo. And the ancient Greeks hit the gym nekkid, all the better to ogle each others' junk. 'Cause you know how they were. Look up "sodomy" in the dictionary.

Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah. You would think that workout clothes wouldn't go through trends and fads. They're just supposed to be functional, right? But human beings are chimps that like shiny stuff. We generally are compelled to throw some bells and whistles in with our function. And thus it is with athletic clothing.

When I was in high school in the late 70s, we wore these running shorts in gym class:

If there exists a garment that is less flattering on a woman with short little legs and Bulgy Polish Catcher's Thighs, I dunno what it is. Thus I hated changing into my gym clothes and avoided it whenever possible. Luckily, our gym teachers were there solely to collect a paycheck and couldn't care less about our physical fitness or lack thereof. I didn't have to wear my ugly green gym shorts very often.

But free from high school gym class, I did actually have an interest in becoming fit. I made some abortive attempts in the early 80s to go to the gym, usually joining up with a girlfriend who swore they would go, then bailing when they bailed. I was shy. The thoughts of taking my leotard-clad, uncoordinated self through the gym alone was too daunting. Leotards? you say. Oh, yes. This is what Jane Fonda wrought:

I KNOW! With belts and everything! As I love to remind y'all, you cannot make this shit up. As horrifying as this is, it was a step up for me. Those leotards were a lot more flattering on my particular body type than the running shorts. The tights on the bottom kept the thighs in check and you know my waist looked good under the belt. (Seriously, WTF? How did that not cut off our circulation while we were "pulsing" or whatever the fuck it is we were doing?)

In the late 80s and early 90s, I became a gym rat for awhile. It was all about the Stairmaster and the recumbent bike. What did we wear to drip our sweat everywhere while pretending we were climibng to the top of the John Hancock Tower? Why, bike shorts, of course!

Do you know how else we deployed our bike shorts in the early 90s? We wore them peeking out under our babydoll dresses. I also wore a lot of red lipstick, but I didn't smear it all over my face like Courtney Love. If pictures exist of this, you will never see them. But I'm getting off topic. Unlike the spokesmodel in my example picture, I generally was too self-conscious to wear just a sports bra with my bike shorts in the gym. (Yes, yes, I know. I just posted a crapload of pictures of myself in my underwear for anyone to stumble across on the internet. I have come a long way in vanquishing my shyness since 1992.) Back then, I usually wore my bike shorts with a hugely over-sized Ocean Pacific t-shirt:

My personal favorite one was lime green. Don't judge.

You know what else we wore a lot of in the early 90s, when we weren't wearing our babydoll dresses? Leggings! This translated to gym fashion in the form of the unitard:

I had one almost exactly like the one on the right. Do you know what's scary? This image is of garments for sale NOW. Apparently the kids are wearing these things to the club. Damn hipsters. Excuse me while I clutch my pearls.

I became disenchanted with the gym, bought some home exercise equipment, and didn't exercise anywhere other than my house or the great outdoors for fifteen years or so. When I came back, it was all different.

Yoga pants had been invented:

This was a good thing.

Sports bra technology had advanced to the point where even chicks like me with big boobs on tiny frames could run in comfort.

This was also a good thing.

Clothes promised to wick away your sweat.

I suppose this is a good thing. I myself prefer to go old skool and wear cheap beaters from Tarzhay:

I take the big sweat stain that I get across my abdomen as a sign I'm doing something right.

But bike shorts are back! Or maybe they never went away. However, they are now available in magical miracle fabric spun by fairies and if you are willing to pay Lululemon prices, they'll make you look better than you have any right to look. And by "you" obviously I mean me. This is a very good thing.

I stand by my decision to waste money on these things.

What will we be wearing to the gym in 2020? Your guess is as good as mine. But if they bring back leotards with belts, I'ma sit that one out.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

now with more underwear pictures

I've been bulking for six months, boys and girls. Mid/late March to now. I've put on six pounds, 112 to 118. Time to compare pictures.

February pre-bulk back pictures:

September back pictures:

(the honesty shot of how bad my legs look, with bonus tag showing!)

February front:

September front:

February side:

September side:

So what have we learned from these comparison shots? Only that all I've gained in six months is fat plus a bodymedia fit surgically attached to my left arm. Sigh. Seriously though, I'm getting way stronger. There's gotta be muscle under there somewhere. SOMEWHERE.