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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.