The Fat Chick Works Out – Week 1

I’m going to blog my way through Jeanette DePatie’s awesome exercise book, The Fat Chick Works Out. Jeanette is one of the co-founders of the Fit Fatties Forum, a discussion spot for fat athletes at all ability levels–everybody from the gym rat who does a marathon every few months to the person who just wants to try out this whole “exercise” thing without it being conflated with weight loss.

A main focus of the book is starting slow and not breaking yourself. There are a lot of activities to find out what your starting level of fitness is and guidelines on how to ramp up (no more than 10% a week, *if* you’re feeling good). I tend to do that to myself a lot–I push too hard, I regret it, and I get out of the exercise habit. Then when I come back, I forget that I’m out of practice and expect things to be as easy as they were before, and the lovely cycle starts up again.

So, here we go with Week 1. The first step is to pick an exercise and set up a schedule for yourself. I’m skipping the “Rock the Block” exercise because I’ve done it before, but it’s a really neat way to figure out your current level of fitness. You walk for 40 minutes, or until you’re tired, whichever comes first. Then you take that distance and duration, and that’s your starting point.

My plan is to walk 5 days a week, for roughly half an hour a day (getting my weekly 150 minutes of exercise) with a goal of 5-ish miles per week to start. My standard walking days will be Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, but that will flex a little bit depending on my weekly schedule.

The theme for Week 1 is coping with panic and managing expectations:

We’re terrified of being fat, or out of shape, or headed for serious health problems. We’re terrified that we’ll never be slim enough or fit enough to be accepted by our peers or approved by our doctors. We alternate between despair from the failure of all the previous exercise programs we’ve started and discarded, and wild optimism that this will be the one time that everything is perfect. This time we’ll lose the weight, achieve fantastic muscled bodies like Greek Gods or Goddesses, attract a rich and gorgeous spouse who wants to sweep us off to a fantastic yacht in Monaco where visiting Hollywood producers will discover us and put us in blockbuster movies as long as this time, we don’t make one small mistake and blow everything.

So what happens next? We lose all perspective and fueled by equal parts panic and fantasy, try to do way too much too soon. This leads to pain, injury, frustration, burn out, and ultimately drop out. Which leads to more panic. Which starts the whole thing up all over again.

I love her focus on doing what you can do, then building on that one step at a time. It’s very realistic, and it has a much better chance of helping someone be active for life than a program that asks you to start with a ton of exercise all at once. And I really like the way she shoots holes in the Fantasy of Being Thin right from the get-go.

So, this week, I’ve walked twice so far, Tuesday and yesterday. (I didn’t start on a Monday, darn the luck.) Today is a rest day, but I may get in some yoga and PT stretches. Tomorrow, I’m thinking I’ll walk in the morning before work, hopefully before the temperature cracks 80, since it’s been in the 90s all week. Since I missed Monday, I’m shooting for two walks over the weekend, subject to change if my ankle gets cranky. I’m visiting my brother, four hours’ drive away, so that may make it tricky to squeeze a walk in. But I’m pretty sure I wake up earlier than he does, so I can get in a walk in the morning. He’s even got a treadmill, so I’m in luck if it’s stupid hot there too.

My assignment for the week is to come up with a little mantra that encourages incremental thinking, and say it to myself as I’m working out. Something upbeat, like “Every little step gets me there” or “Each step brings me closer” (the ones Jeanette uses). I’m kind of blanking on that, so I may just shamelessly snag hers. I may also use “I am already an athlete.” Although it doesn’t explicitly have the focus on each little step, it’s a way of accepting the skill level I have right now and working from there.

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My Body Is Not a Sin

I recently read Rachel Held Evans’ post Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony. It’s a really thoughtful exploration of how Christians tend to be super-literal about things that affect *other* people, and much looser and more nuanced about things that affect *them* or people they care about. She wrote it because she got slammed six ways from Sunday when she posted the horribly controversial statement that gay kids should be loved unconditionally. And yet, no one threw clobber verses about materialism at her when she bought a new car, or ones about gluttony when she overindulged on frozen yogurt.

While there are certainly important hermeneutical and cultural issues at play, I can’t help but wonder if something more nefarious is also at work. I can’t help but wonder if biblical condemnation is often a numbers game.

Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.

In short, we like to gang up. We like to fashion weapons out of the verses that affect us the least and then “clobber” the minority with them. Or better yet, conjure up some saccharine language about speaking the truth in love before breaking out our spec-removing tweezers to help get our minds off of these uncomfortable logs in our own eyes.

She is absolutely right on here. It’s very easy and very comfortable to think you’re standing up for righteousness by focusing on the sins of other people.

And yet, I really do hate that gluttony, and her statement that we don’t “[check] people’s BMI before accepting them into the Church,” is the go-to example.

First, because it’s not really true. The church does judge fat people for gluttony (and the secular conversation about food and fat often borrows the church’s language about sin and virtue). And Christians absolutely teach that God wants and expects us to be thin. Amazon has over six hundred results for “Christian weight loss”—diet books and devotionals to help people fulfill their Biblical duty to be thin healthy. Back in 2011, I wrote about Rick Warren’s Purpose Drive Life post that turned thinness into a religious obligation and equated fatness with vandalizing a church. One commenter on the Facebook post noted that “A day on this planet in America DOES NOT EXIST where anyone whose sin is gluttony isn’t reminded of how disgusting he or she is.” The church as a whole certainly hates on fat people less than it hates on gay people (which ties into Rachel’s point about biblical literalism being a numbers game), but it’s inaccurate to say that fat people are not shamed by the church, or that a lot of Christians, fat or thin, don’t have their relationship with food complicated even further by preaching about gluttony.

Secondly, because it just adds to the idea that fat is always and only a result of stuffing your face with ice cream and Oreos. Rachel does touch on this some and actually gives a pretty nuanced view of weight:

We have a natural revulsion to the idea of checking people’s BMI before accepting them into the Church, especially when obesity is not necessarily reflective of gluttony (often, in this country, it is a result of poverty), and when we know from our own experiences or the experiences of those we love that an unhealthy weight can result from a variety of factors—from genetics to psychological components—and when some of our favorite people in the world (or when we ourselves) wrestle with a complicated relationship with food, whether it’s through overeating or under-eating.

I appreciate this, though I still think that using gluttony as the example of “the sin the church ignores” and using BMI as a shorthand for gluttony throughout the post still conflates body type with behavior. Especially when Christian teaching about the sin of being fat gluttony is all too common.

I say all this as a complete Rachel Held Evans fangirl, who devoured both of her books and loves her take on evolving as Christians and as a church, and her heartfelt stories about wrestling with doubt. I just wish she’d picked an example that didn’t play into fat hate, or conflate fat with sin.

Why Health Exceptions Aren’t Enough

I made the mistake once again of arguing about abortion on Facebook. I pointed out that SB5, if passed, would harm or kill women who have unhealthy pregnancies. (And gave a couple examples of issues that can occur.) The guy I was arguing with waved that off because he’s talked to more than one doctor who says he’s never seen any reason a woman would need an abortion to save her life, and that it’s just an “excuse.” (I’m sure he’s operating with *no* personal biases whatsoever.)

Well, there you have it. These two medical professionals (and no, he didn’t say that they were even OBs) said it, that must settle it. I’m glad I never have to worry about having an ectopic pregnancy, or pre-eclampsia or hyperemesis gravidarum (extremely severe morning sickness that causes malnutrition, dehydration, and weight loss) because they apparently don’t exist. Though, I’d love to know what Savita Halappanavar actually died of, since it totally couldn’t be the pregnancy.

This is why, even if you think that abortion is immoral if the pregnancy isn’t going to kill or seriously injure the mother, abortion for any and all reasons still needs to be legal. (That’s not my position, but for this particular post, I’m going to focus on health only.) Because if you just have a health exception, those same doctors will be the expert witnesses testifying at some woman’s trial when she ends her pregnancy so she can have chemo. Or speaking to Congress about how those exceptions should be worded.

Not to mention, limiting abortion to only “medical necessity” does not mean that every woman whose pregnancy is likely to kill or cripple her will have an abortion. What it means is that you need to:

  1. Find a doctor willing to bet his medical license and his freedom that not only are you really at that much risk, but that a court of law will back his decision. (That’s a much higher bar than just a doctor’s opinion that it’s necessary.)
  2. Jump through all the hoops set up by a legal system that doesn’t want you to get an abortion—maybe a waiting period, maybe multiple doctors’ sign-off, maybe a court order.
  3. Get all that done and actually have the procedure while there’s still actually time, before the condition that made an abortion necessary in the first place worsens.

I bring up Savita very deliberately, because it was supposed to be legal, even in Ireland, for doctors to complete her miscarriage and save her life. And yet, that didn’t happen, and she died unnecessarily. Just the fact that something is technically legal is not enough to mean that it really is available when it’s needed.

Edit: I added a couple more examples of fatal pregnancy complications, because putting “ectopic pregnancy” and Savita in the same sentence made it sound like that was the condition she had, when in fact it was septicemia that resulted from the hospital’s refusal to complete her miscarriage.

Bye, Google Reader

I’ve received the following from Ang, who runs the Fatosphere feed.

On 30th June, Google Reader will cease to exist. The Fatosphere feed has been moved to Feedly. Until the beginning of July, readers will be able to access NFTF via either Google Reader or Feedly, but from July 1st, you will need a Feedly account to continue to receive the feed.

All you need to do is go to Feedly.com, sign in with your google reader email and password, and follow the instructions to migrate your account from GR to Feedly.

If you don’t currently get the NFTF feed and want to do so, you can sign up at feedly.com for a new Feedly account. You will need either a gmail address, or a Google account for this. Then, once your account is set up, just type ‘notes from the fatosphere’ into the add content box and you’re done.

She also mentioned that blog widgets that show the whole feed in a sidebar would probably be affected too, but as of right now, mine seems to be working. (Please let me know if you run into any issues accessing the rest of the fatosphere from here.)