Dissatisfaction and Shame

There is a lot of argument floating around the ‘net about body image and body shaming and the overweight.  As an obese person it is hard not to get drawn into the conflict as it rages across my screen.  The pro-obese crowd want me to lose my shame and fight the brain-washing of the fitness-industrial complex and its “thin=fit” propaganda; the pro-fitness (best case)/anti-obesity (worst case) want me to recognize the horrible, destructive home I’ve created in my own body, and start fixing it now before I doom us all!

As with most arguments that threaten to tear the internet apart, both sides have something right and both have many, many things wrong.  I’ll get into details and specifics about that in a later post (or three, or bazillion), but today I wanted to focus on my position.  Because my situation is the only one I can talk about with precision, without delving into hypotheticals and corner cases.  So let’s talk about something I hold true for myself, so you at least have an understanding where I fall on the issue of body image, fat shaming and fitness.

For today I’ll keep it simple, give you the core belief I hold, upon which everything else I feel about this subject rests.

Dissatisfaction is not the same as shame.

I have been ashamed of my body in the past, and it led to years of crippling doubt and self-loathing.  Until I was about 19 or so I was athletic; I wrestled, played volleyball, cross-country skied, curled, hiked, studied martial arts.  After a period of which I will not speak (personal tragedy can be boring, and is not always for public consumption in any case), I moved out of the city I had grown up in to the city I live in now.  Two things happened concurrently; I stopped being physically active and I fell into bad eating habits centred on emotional eating patterns, and as those habits spiralled my waist expanded.  As my waist expanded my self-worth shrank, and to fill that void I ate more food, which expanded my body but continued to shrink my soul, and thus began the cycle of my own personal Dark Ages.

Long story short (too late!) it is only relatively recently that I have let go of that shame to any great extent.  But, and this was a hard-fought lesson, I am still dissatisfied with my body and that is okay.  Because that isn’t the same as shame, not by a long shot.  Why not? Because shame feels hopeless.  Shame tells you not only are you bad, but you will never be good.  It is really the only true power that shame has, because once you stop listening to that message you start to leave it behind.

(And yes, I’m simplifying and condensing.  If you really want to know specifics about how I started to work passed my shame you can wait for me to write a post or ask me questions in the Comments.  I’ll answer.)

Dissatisfaction, on the other hand, requires an impulse to fix, to make better.  And at least in my case, is driven by the disparity between where I am and where I want to go.  I am dissatisfied with my body because it doesn’t help me do the things I want to do.  What things?  Everything from hike in the mountains without discomfort (and by discomfort I mean fear of heart attack) to standing for long periods without my back aching to the point of spasm.  Basically, there are things I used to do without thinking about them, and I would like to do again without thinking about them, and currently can not.  Now, if I believe my body is the tool I use to move my mind around (and I do) and I am dissatisfied with that tool, I can either destroy the tool (which I was slowly doing, but no longer have a desire to do at any speed), replace the tool (sadly, science isn’t quite there yet, but give them time) or improve the tool.  Of the available options, I choose to improve the tool.

Note that no where in there do I discuss how society views me, or the expectations of people around me.  Because a close examination of this day will discover that not a single fuck was given.  I don’t care.  My dissatisfaction is based solely on what I want and expect from my body.  Nothing else.  If I didn’t want to go hiking or cross-country skiing again, heck, if I didn’t want to spend a day walking around a convention without needing to sit down several times, then I wouldn’t be dissatisfied.  I’d leave my body alone because it was giving me exactly what I wanted.  But I want more, so it is up to me to forge the tool I need.

Okay, so that’s the starting point.  In later posts I’ll talk about other aspects of what I’m doing, the hows and whys.  But I wanted to put this out there first so you, gentle reader, understood what is at the heart of any discussion I have regarding my body.  So if you come at me because I’m “just another ashamed fat person”, I’m going to point you back here.  If you start telling me how “obesity kills, and you don’t even know…”, I’m going to point you back here.

You think you know me?  Well, if you actually read this without dismissing, yeah, you do a little.

As always, your comments are welcome below.

Rock on, Princess Leia!

Carrie Fisher has been in the news recently because of her weight-loss success story, dropping 50lbs since last December.  I remember when I first saw her appearing as the spokesperson for Jenny Craig, and I thought, “Good for her! I hope that works.”  Well, apparently it did, because she is now just one size larger than her daughter, as she reports in an interview.  And in another interview she jokingly mentioned a desire to fit back into her old metal bikini, circa Return of the Jedi.

And I say, good for her!  I don’t really know much about Ms. Fisher beyond what I’ve read on her blog and in her excellent book Wishful Drinking.  But I know she’s had a fair share of personal demons to overcome, and she has done so with wit and grace.  I won’t lie; as someone in the process of overcoming my own demons, she is somewhat of a new inspiration.  And as anyone working at weight-loss and fitness will tell you, you can never have enough inspiration.

The one of Ms. Fisher’s quotes that really struck a chord was, “I thought that was getting old. It turns out it was mostly getting fat.”  There is a tendency, especially for men, to accept a certain “thickening” of the body as we get older.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t ascribe the 100lbs or so that I’m over-weight to aging.  But as I got older, I started to feel easier with the idea of being a “comfortable size”.  Or fat, as the doctors call it.

Even after deciding to do something about my fitness level I still have moments of, “Well, is it so bad if I carry a few extra pounds? Maybe I could just lose 60-80lbs, that would be okay, right?”  But reading and listening to her recent interviews has helped me cut away some more of the excuses and little white lies I tell myself.  No, I don’t need to lose 60-80lbs, because I am 100lbs over-weight. So that is what I need to lose.  And if age does mean getting a bit thicker, well…$@#% aging.  Maybe it’s time to exceed my body’s programming a little.

So thank-you, Princess Leia, for giving me some much-needed inspiration.  I still stumble a lot, but its helpful to follow other people on the path.

*     *     *

There seems to be a moderately vocal minority who take exception to the idea of Carrie Fisher wanting to fit back in her “Slave Leia” bikini.  Most of it seems to be a mix of lazy feminism and ignorant ageism. Let me say this: Carrie Fisher is the only woman on the planet with the right to wear that costume.  Anyone else who has dared to do so since has done so as a privilege, and, at least through my eyes, has been mercilessly compared to the original. Now, I am almost certain she was joking for effect when she made the comments, but if she wasn’t then so what?  If Harrison Ford decided to get in shape and wear his old Han Solo costume around the house, would anyone be having even half a fit?  She is Princess Leia mother-#@%&ing Organa of the Rebellion, and she can wear what she Force well pleases.  That is all.

Questions? Concerns? Dirty Limericks? Fire them off in the comments below!

Back on the Fitness Train!

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrote a pretty compelling (if I do say so myself) post regarding my ongoing fitness.  And I’d love to report that everything fell into place and here I am, coming up on three months later, and I am down x lbs…but I can’t. Because I’m not. I’m actually fairly certain I gained some weight in there.

Now I could write a fallen-evangelist sort of post, flagellate myself for my many sins and weep bitter tears all the while begging forgiveness.  But bitter tears are in short supply right now and I prefer my self-flagellation in private (hey-oooooh!).  And really, what good would that do?  I know well enough by now that talking myself down is not going to change anything, or motivate me to make the choices I need to make.  I’m also going to avoid boring anyone with a laundry list of reasons or excuses.  They exist, no question.  But due to some work and struggle and tears on my part (and a little bit on others) they are also mostly past tense, and those that aren’t I’ve figured out how to manage.

I’m reaffirming my commitment to getting healthy and start fresh.  I’ve worked out what I needed to work out, my brain is sitting right, and it is time to get this train out of the station.  I have plans for the future, short and long-term, and oddly enough none of them include a cardiac episode or cerebrovascular accident (the $5 term for stroke).  Of course they could still happen because, well, I’m alive.  But I’d like to minimize them in the equation, so it is time to act as smart as I am and get back on track.

Starting tomorrow morning I’ll be back on myfitnesspal.com daily.  It was a really useful tool and now that my life is a bit more stable I’m going to use it again.  And once again, if you are looking to track your own fitness goals I highly recommend it.  And yes, if you join up I will still friend you.

Workouts, though they never fully stopped, will now happen regularly again.  Sporadic exercise can be almost as detrimental as no exercise, so to train my body right I need to stick to a schedule of exercises that I will actually do.  For me right now that means increasing the strength training and a stepping away from formal cardio work-outs.  Since I was avoiding them anyway, and then getting myself in a BS cycle of, “well, I didn’t do my cardio so I shouldn’t do my weights until I do the cardio that I didn’t do because I hate it…”, I might as well just drop it until I find cardio I want to do (anyone want to buy me a bike? Just kidding…but seriously, just a basic mountain bike?).  I am, however, increasing how much walking I do every day. Not only is that some good fitness right there, but it gets me out in the sun, and vitamin D has been an issue for me recently.

And Pizza 73 will have to erect a statue to another Best Customer, because they are once again on the no-fly-into-my-tummy-you-delicious-wings-and-pizza list.  I’m sure this will cause them no end of consternation, but it is for the best.  They, and all the other fast-food delivery joints I frequented, will have to soldier on without me.  Besides fitness, this decision is in no small way influenced by my need to cut costs, and the grocery store is always a better bang for the buck than the restaurant.  So until further notice I will not be hitting their order pages or dialing their delivery lines.  But I will be stocking up on plenty of stuff I can cook right here in my kitchen, plus a bunch of healthy things I don’t have to cook.

In short, I’m back in the business of getting healthy.  And business is about to start booming!

So what about you?  Had any troubles sticking to your fitness plans?  What got you going again, and what kept you inspired?  Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear about it!

Three Ways to Start Getting Gamer Fit!

It is no secret that many table-top gamers are, let us say, big boned.  Husky.  Jabba-esque.

Fat. There, I said it.

I’m not judging, I’m about 100lbs north of my ideal weight my ownself.  It isn’t hard to see how it happens.  Sitting around, shovelling in junk food, and gaming til all hours does not lend itself to a high level of fitness.  And ff you are a 40+ gamer like me you also have a metabolism that is starting to wind down, so your ability to sock away the cola-and-cheezies with impunity is dwindling.

What can you do?  There are two main areas you can change to counter the “RPG spread”: activity and eating.  I’ll look at both in more detail in later posts, because they really are huge topics.  But everyone needs to begins somewhere, gamers, so here are three easy things you can do to get started:

  1. Take your game books for a walk – Throw your gamebooks in a knapsack (or if you switched to .pdfs, use bricks) and take them for a 20 minute walk every day. Ten minutes out and ten minutes back to the house will go a long way to getting your metabolism back on track. Just skip “rewarding” yourself with a cola after; try water.  And when 20 minutes gets easy, add 10 minutes to the walk.
  2. Stand during combat – Whether you are playing or game mastering this is a good one. Not only does it add some activity to a normally sedentary hobby, but I find it helps my focus; I am less likely to derail the combat with tangents while I’m standing, if only because I want to sit down sooner.  And with the latest studies questioning the health risks of sitting, there may be other reasons why staying on your feet is a good idea.
  3. Balance your television watching – Spend a few hours a night in front of the flat screen?  Buy a Swiss ball (yoga ball, exercise ball), and sit on it while you watch your favourite show(s).  This will engage the muscles in your core (abdominals and back muscles) because they will have to work to balance you.  Start with a half-hour sit-com, and work your way up to the Dune mini-series.  Make sure to sit up straight with both feet on the ground; slouching defeats the purpose.  If you don’t want to invest in a Swiss Ball quite yet, start with a stool or sitting on the edge of a straight-back chair.

Let me know if those work for you.  Have some ideas of your own? Share them in the comments section below…