Tag Archives: anxiety

The Holiday Magnifying Glass

magnifierThe holidays are here with all the extra activities and fun and stress. Just to be clear, I love the holidays!  I love the decorations and the visiting and the food and the music.  But I think the holidays also bring special challenges like the one I call the holiday magnifying glass.

I coined this term because it seems to me that everything is just a little bit bigger during the holidays.  Schedules are fuller, bills are bigger, and emotions run higher.  Everything is just a little more intense.  I find my highs are higher.  I can say I’ve experienced true holiday joy (both with and without eggnog).  Unfortunately joy is not the only emotion I find heightened during the holiday season.  I also tend to experience more fear, more stress, more anxiety and more anger.  And I don’t think I’m alone.

Los Angeles is a pressure cooker the whole year through.  But it seems this sense of increased holiday intensity is especially apparent here in La La Land.  The mean people are meaner.  People will risk their lives (and yours) to cut you off on the freeway, to steal the parking spot near the store all to get somewhere fifteen seconds sooner.  The nice people are also nicer.  I’ve had people make room for me to enter the road from the gas station, store keepers be extra nice, gentlemen holding doors.

It seems like the holidays bring more of just about everything.  I think a lot of it has to do with rampant expectations.  Johnny has to have exactly the same number of presents as Sue.  The house has to look perfect.  I have to make my special cranberry chutney and 18 kinds of cookies and roast a whole ox for the next holiday feast.  I’ve talked a lot about managing holiday expectations on this blog.  I’ve talked about it a lot because I think it’s important, and also because it’s something that I personally find extremely challenging.  But sometimes when you’re in the moment under the holiday magnifying glass, when you’re in the middle of opening gifts or hosting the holiday feast and it’s too late to not make the 3 kinds of homemade latkes or simplify your holiday plan you need an emergency technique to get you through.

Here it is.  It’s not exactly earth-shaking rocket science, but it seems to work.  When everything is magnified, when it all seems way too big, just take three steps back.  When you step back and give yourself a little perspective, everything seems a little smaller.  Take a few steps away.  Go sit in the bathroom and take a few deep breaths.  Step back from the holiday table and stop obsessing about the way the napkins are folded.  Don’t just look at the car in front of you, take in the entire road.  Step back from the temper tantrums happening with the kids and realize that this too will pass (probably in much less time than you think.)  When in doubt, literally and figuratively take three steps back and three deep breaths.  And give yourself the holiday gift of just a little perspective.


The Fat Chick

Why You Don’t Have to be the Perfect Example of Anything

On one of the list serves I regularly read, a person came on asking for support.  She has secured some very important opportunities to share Health at Every Size and is herself a person of size.  She is very excited about these opportunities.  She is also, understandably, terrified.  I wrote back to her with some thoughts and have decided to share them with you here.

My dear Chicklettes, I have a confession to make.  My work as an advocate for exercise for people of all shapes and sizes and as an advocate for body love and size acceptance almost never happened.  For a long time, I was paralyzed by fear.  I dipped my toe in the water, but I was very afraid to go public in a big way.  Why?  Because in order to represent people of size, I felt I had to be the perfect example of a healthy, happy, fit and fat person.

I asked myself a lot of questions.  What if I get sick?  What if I injure myself and can’t exercise any more?  What if I get diabetes?  People might point at me and say, “see I told you fat people can’t be healthy!”    People will disbelieve everything about Health at Every Size(TM) if I am not the perfect embodiment of HAES(TM).  People will publicly deride me and call me names!  What if I’m not strong enough?

At one point, I worked with a great coach Mary Jo Thatcher who helped me understand one very important thing.  Even though I represent an idea, and even though I’ve given myself a moniker (The Fat Chick) I am a person and not a persona.  That means I’m not perfect.  I am a living, breathing, individual being who has fears and strengths and problems.  I will get sick sometimes.  My body will age.  I will get hurt both physically and emotionally.  And I will ache.

Being imperfect makes me vulnerable.  Sometimes I am yelled at by doctors, by well meaning relatives and by pumped up (but very insecure) small-minded people on TV.  Some of the comments that I moderate out of my YouTube channel and blog and website are just so unbelievably mean and stupid.  And they hurt–every time.  I am stronger now.  This meanness doesn’t quite hold the same power over me that it once did.  But it still aches.

However, this very thing that makes me imperfect and human also gives me power.  It gives me a way to relate to the other imperfect humans that I work with.  It allows me move beyond the need to be perfect and move into the need to be flexible, and open and LISTEN to those around me.  And it allows me to help others accept their own humanity and right to be loved and respected right at this very minute: not when they’ve reached some arbitrary goal I’ve set up for them, and not when they’ve created a suitable “after” picture to help me hawk whatever product I have for sale, but right now.

So my dear Chicklettes, if you’re afraid to represent for people of size, or if you’re waiting to be perfect in order to earn the right to share your thoughts and your energy I have some sad news.  You will never be perfect.  You will never be the perfect embodiment of anything.  All you can be is you–as hard and as joyfully as you can!  Fortunately, that’s enough.


The Fat Chick

Dealing with Stress

It’s so interesting to me that so many discussions about health begin and end with losing weight.  As I mentioned, the need for a decent night’s sleep is rarely discussed.  And the need for managing stress rarely gets even a passing mention.

This is astonishing to me because there is so much research indicating that how we manage stress can have a profound effect on our health.  There are many kinds of stress.  Some kinds of stress seem to be positive, giving us an immediate boost of adrenalin to deal with something dangerous or just exciting.  But some kinds of stress, especially chronic stress, seem to cause a lot of problems in the body.

Chronic stress has been linked to changes in t-cells and a weakened immune system.  Other studies link chronic stress and anger to higher incidence of cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac arrest.  Chronic stress is also linked to higher incidence and poorer management of a host of other diseases including diabetes, cancer and hypertension.  I’ve heard statistics suggesting that over 90 percent of doctor visits can be linked to stress.  Yet how often has your doctor asked you about stress?  So many of my doctors have repeatedly asked me about how much I exercise and recommended a diet.  I have had doctors repeatedly recommend pills and radical, invasive surgery.  But I’ve only had one, truly amazing doctor, who regularly inquired about the stress levels in my life.

I’m not entirely sure why this is.  Maybe discussions about stress take too long for our overscheduled and overworked medical professionals to manage.  Maybe being “stressed out” is still something of a badge of honor for our amped up, caffeinated, type-A culture.  In any case my little chicklettes, we’re gonna talk about stress here this week.  Because getting your heart thumping because you’re shaking your tail feathers or looking at a particularly hot and sexy bird can be a good thing.  Getting your heart thumping hard all the time because you’re anxious, worried or stressed out–not so much.  So this week we’ll take a deep breath, search for our Zen and cultivate peace.


The Fat Chick