Sunday, October 30, 2011

Face it: Skinny is an ugly word

I'm part of a weight loss support group on Facebook, and every Sunday the group's originator, who is an amazing and motivational woman by the way, posts that it's Skinny Sunday, time for public accountability of our personal weight loss goals. The term Skinny Sunday has kind of bugged me in the past. Today, I thought I'd say something about it.

I said, "Do you guys really want to be skinny? I find that word just as ugly as fat. Why not something like Shapely Sundays, or even Strong Sundays? I know, I'm being a pain, but I really find skinny a terrible word, and a terrible goal for anyone. Skinny is the down side of a rollercoaster diet. Sustainable fitness is really what we want, right?"

I got the feeling that I was outnumbered when a couple of group members said they weren't offended by the word skinny in the same way that I was. One even pointed out that she didn't really want to be skinny, and was just using the word "lightly".

I know her words were honest. We're all just looking to be fit. Still, I felt it was important to address even the light usage of this word.

I replied, "I really feel words are powerful. I could have never lost 160 pounds without banishing certain words from my mind. Looking in the mirror I still have that script that was ingrained in me over the years regarding my large size when compared to those other boys around me.

"I've come to embrace myself as I am. I'm a fit, firm 270 pounds, and I'm working on getting even more fit. Officially I need to lose 45 pounds just to be considered overweight instead of obese, but I refuse to let anyone else determine what size or weight I should be. My body is meant to be used, to live this life, not to 'look good' for others to objectify me."

She agreed, as I figured she would. And she said she appreciated me putting my perspective out there, which made me happy.

I'm never one to mince words, and sometimes my character has alienated others in groups I've been a part of. So I'm glad that I was able to express myself effectively in this case, and maybe I made a difference for someone who might have been looking in on the conversation.

That's all I really want to do - make things easier for those out there struggling with their weight and let them know that they shouldn't have to change their weight just because others want them to fit in. But perhaps they should change their fitness level so they can live a longer, fuller life.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let's support health education and local farmers!

I'm an adjunct at a local community college. I haven't had health insurance since I was laid off from my full time job in 2008. Back then, I was an educator working with folks on welfare who didn't really want to get off in the first place. Our goal was to train them on how to get and keep a job, which is funny, because I rarely came across a client who actually shared that goal.

Ironically, I make too much money to qualify for healthcare assistance, but not enough to pay for even the basics of my own healthcare (like maybe a check up once a year). Meanwhile, my former clients keep getting free care at emergency rooms and neighborhood free clinics.

It's a good thing they can get care, though, because the crappy food they buy with their food stamps - mostly sugary and refined carbohydrates that are cheap and provide name-brand comfort - is sending many of them to the emergency room on a regular basis to be treated for hypertension, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems. My piddly wages, on the other hand, are spent not on doctors but on preventative measures - whole foods - in order to maintain my health and avoid costly medical bills and a life of chronic illness.

Don't you think there's something wrong with this?

Before, when I had health insurance, I weighed 420 pounds and was a ticking time bomb for many of the health issues mentioned above. But fortunately I read a book back then that was a wake up call. I learned from Michael Pollan's book, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto, that what I was doing to my body by maintaining a healthy diet. More importantly, I learned that by changing my diet I could reverse the damage I had already done.

What's my point? Instead of allowing politicians to fight a battle for more healthcare for poor people, we should be spending money on health education and supporting small farmers so they can provide good, whole foods at an affordable cost to local people. That's the only way to lighten the growing burden currently crushing our health system and robbing health care consumers who are able to pay for care.

Let's shift the conversation - we must do something about this crisis now, before more than 50 percent of our population is officially obese or otherwise chronically sick. If we do nothing, or continue on the path of building bigger hospitals to deal with more and more food related diseases, it will turn us into a third world country.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Dance to Death

by Brian Schwarz

Dying things are all around
As soon as birth, then death abounds
Not just in the devil's touch
But God, through death, has taught us much

To love and care and fill our days
With life and laughs and curious ways
And all the time we've got is ours
Till finally we've marked the hours

So dance to death; fly, be free
March your way down to the sea
Then back again to mountain tops
Take on life with all you've got!

Passionate about hiking - and burning fat!

I'm so psyched to have found a new fitness passion - hiking - out on the trails of eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. On top of experiencing the sheer joy that comes from climbing to new heights and seeing the world from inside the woods, I'm thrilled to see how quickly I'm burning fat and building lean muscle. Playing outdoors beats working out in a crusty old gym any day of the week!

I live in Weston, which, like nearby towns like Lincoln, Lexington and Concord, is replete with conservation lands, some with hills, great for a moderate walks for fitness. My favorite close-to-home hill is Cat Rock. Also Misery Mountain is just up the road. I plan to check it out tomorrow.

In the greater Boston area I've been enjoying the hilly Middlesex Fells north of town and the even hillier Blue Hills to the South.

And at a two hours or so drive I've climbed Wachusett Mountain here in Massachusetts and Mount Monadnock just across the border in New Hampshire.

Before winter sets in, I still hope to get out to the Berskshires in western Mass., up to the Green Mountains of Vermont or the Whites in northern New Hampshire, and to Acadia, on the coast of Maine.

In the spring, I'll be heading out to New Mexico to hike Sandia, the Sangre de Cristo and others as I learn about them.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Flying at 420 Pounds

Just heard today that AirTran will join Southwest and begin charging extra for over sized passengers. The news dug up a lot of previously buried sentiment from me, and I'm sure it will do the same in many others, given that more than 20 percent of the population is now considered obese.

I used to be what you'd call super obese, and I remember flying at 420 pounds. I took American Airlines to Mexico in 2008. I sat next to a friend -  a big guy in his own right - who squished in the middle. And I used a seat belt extender; I'd snagged one of those model seat belts flight attendants use in their safety presentation that barely assisted in spanning my 64 inch middle section (I couldn't really call it a wast at that time, now could I?).

I was anxious and worried they'd kick me off the plane, and I tried my darnedest to keep my arm from blocking the bathroom traffic and service activity along the aisle for the entire trip to Mexico City. By the time I was on the puddle-jumper flight to Acapulco, I just let it all hang out, because once in Mexico, I was seen more as a curiosity I suppose and treated quite well by the single attendant on that final brief leg to the West Coast.

It was a horrifying experience, looking back. But at the time I let my joviality and apologies pave the way to not being treated too badly, though I know my form was inconveniencing to others in such a confined space as a jam-packed international flight.

I still have that extender. I kept it as a sort of souvenir from the old days, to remind myself of those feelings I'd buried even then so I can use my desire to avoid those feelings again as incentive to stay on my path of health, fitness and mental well-being.