Tag Archives: courage

Try, try again and again and again and again and again…

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Fifth time’s the charm for Diana Nyad

I’ve been meaning to write to y’all about Diana Nyad.  As I’m sure many of you know, Nyad fulfilled a lifelong dream and became the first woman to swim the 110 miles from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.  One hundred and ten freakin’ miles kids!  The swim took 52 Hours 54 Minutes 18.6 Seconds.  (Any of you who have ever competed in an endurance event know why I’ve included this detail in such exactitude…)  This is an amazing feat for any athlete.  Oh and did I mention that Diana Nyad was 64 years old when she did this?  Wowza!

I think the fact that Nyad completed this swim is deeply inspirational.  But I think the thing that I found most moving about the whole thing is that she completed this on her fifth attempt.  Yup.  Five times Nyad assembled a team, got in her swimsuit, called the media and started swimming.  Four times Nyad was pictured in the media being pulled from the boat or sporting welts from potentially fatal jellyfish stings as in the picture below.

Potentially fatal jellyfish stings raise welts on Nyad’s arms in 2102.

And then, at age 64, Diana Nyad got back in the water and tried again.  The fifth time was the charm!  I think there’s a lot we can learn from Diana, and I wanted to share a few of those lessons here with you:

1.  You don’t have to look like a supermodel to be a super athlete:  As you can see from the picture above, Nyad is strong and powerful and unbelievably fit.  But she doesn’t look like she’s ready to hit a runway any time soon.  She even seems to be sporting a little hello/goodbye arm action up there.  But she’s not worrying about that.  She’s not demanding to be photoshopped.  Even after her successful attempt, she looked like hell.  That’s what happens after you swim for over two days in the open sea.  You look like hell.  She doesn’t seem overly worried about it.

2.  Winning Athletes Build Winning Teams:  Diana did not do this thing alone.  She had a team of 35 people working with her during her successful attempt including kayak paddlers who kept watch for sharks and even a jellyfish expert who scooped jellyfish out of her way as she swam.  She didn’t go this alone and she expressed deep gratitude for all the people who helped her.

3.  Treat Failure as a Learning Experience: Diane didn’t simply try the same thing five times.  She learned from each of her record attempts and made adjustments.  In particular, when jellyfish thwarted one of her attempts, she had a special jellyfish mask designed to help her avoid that particular problem.  Even that caused problems on her latest swim, causing her to drink a lot of seawater and risk dehydration from vomiting.

4.  You Can’t Control Mother Nature: One of the things that caused serious problems for Diana in the past was the lightning storm that ended at least one of her record attempts.  By the same token, Diana says that during this last, successful attempt, the gulf stream behaved in a way that was very favorable for her.  You can’t know exactly what the weather is going to do.  Nature cannot be controlled but must always be respected.

5. Even Super Athletes Face Embarrassment: Five times Diana told the media she was headed for Florida.  Four times she didn’t make it.  Four times her name was paired with photos of her being dragged from a boat, falling short of her goal.  Four times the caption said that she failed.  I have a hard time imagining how much grit it takes to try again and how much guts it takes to call the media for the fifth time, at age 64 and say, “yeah, but this time, I’m gonna make it!”  That is some serious, serious courage.

 

6. Sometimes You Gotta get out of The Water so you can Swim Another Day: Four times, Diana had to make the decision to get out of the water and stop trying.  Four times, she had to accept that in order to avoid permanent damage to her body and live to try again she had to stop.  On one of her attempts she had to stop after swimming for over 40 hours.  Yes it’s painful to stop and admit temporary defeat.  But the most important thing is to live to try again another day.

7. Successful Athletes Ignore the Nay-Sayers: I’m sure there were many people both close to Diana as well as complete strangers who told Diana she was crazy.  In fact some accounts suggest that friends and family begged Diana to give up this attempt.  And while it’s extremely important to consult experts on whether it’s okay to go forward, to get cleared by your doctors, to talk with the anti-jellyfish mask people, you don’t have to listen to everybody who’s got an opinion on your body or what you’re trying to do.

Lest you think that these rules only apply to ultra-endurance athletes, I can say that I have used each of these lessons in a much more humble way in my own athletic endeavors.   I only completed a marathon after the third attempt.  When the training for earlier marathons led to pain and cortisone shots and stress fractures, I took time off and healed completely.  I learned from each try and adjusted before trying again.  I ignored lots of people who said I would never make it.  I enlisted the help of some truly amazing people to get across the finish line.  And when I crossed that finish line, I looked like poop warmed over.  It wasn’t pretty.  But I did it.  And each time I told everybody in the world I was gonna do a marathon, and then had to tell them that I was taking some time off to heal but would do a marathon next year, I was embarrassed.  But I got over it.  The third time I tried I told everybody.  I solicited donations for the Arthritis Foundation.  I took the risk of being embarrassed again.  But I have to tell you, crossing the finish line was worth all the embarrassment I ever felt.

At this point, I’d like to offer one more lesson Diana Nyad has to offer us:

You’re Never Too Old for Fitness!  And those of you in the Bay Area will get a unique opportunity to show this to the world on September 18.  Learn the menopause mambo and then come on out to dance a Hot Flash Mob for menopause awareness.  Show the world that women of all ages can shake their collective groove things!

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

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Thursday Theater: Dancing Queen

It is difficult to describe just how happy this video makes me. You guys already know I have a thing for videos featuring spontaneous dancing. But unlike this video, in which the girl clearly carefully set up her video camera or phone to capture the moment, the “Dancing Queen” video subject doesn’t seem to know she’s being recorded. She’s just rockin’ out because she feels like it. She’s simply gettin’ down with her bad self! I especially love the punches at :43 and 1:41, the sassy finger move at :51 and the collection of awesomeness at 1:50 and 2:07. It makes me so sad when she finally gets on the bus and it all comes to an end.

It makes me feel so hopeful that in this world of stigma and shame and hate, people still find a way to let their inner groove thing out. Because this sort of spontaneous expression, this is what so often dies when people are shamed. This is the bit of ourselves that learns to hide when the bullies come out. This is what we lose when we insist on using shame and bullying to try to make everyone’s body conform to a single impossible standard.

This loss of our sense of wonder and playfulness and spontaneous joy is one of the great costs of a society that bullies people. And that is why I am so excited to be participating in the Stop The Pain Anti Bullying Conference this Saturday in Riverside with the Size Diversity Task Force. I’ll be giving a speech called “All Bodies are GOOD Bodies–Learning to Love the Skin You’re In” and participating in a panel discussing bullying. The event is already sold out, and over 600 young people aged 12 to 20 are expected.

I am hoping that I can help in some small way to help young  people learn to protect themselves from those who would teach them to be less than, to stay under the radar, to go unnoticed.  And I hope in small way to help them stop bullying themselves and one another, so they can take that ability to dance and live fully in the moment from when they were very small,  grow up to start whole spontaneous dance parties like this guy, and still be dancing like this lady when they are old and grey.

Because at every time and at every age, I hope you dance.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Want me to come speak at your school, business or special event?  I speak on a wide range of topics related to fitness, self acceptance, bullying prevention, body love, Health At Every Size (R) and love your body week!  Click here or just send me an email to learn more!

The Courage to Try

dance_pictureIn putting together my new college “Love Your Body” speech and in reading Ragen Chastain’s awesome blog post, one thing has been coming up over and over again.  That thing is how being uncomfortable with our bodies tends to rob us of our ability to reach our full potential.  Ragen talks at length about how many people in our society react with genuine surprise when they encounter a fat person with talent.  I have to admit, it’s really got me thinking.

I think any time a person performs in public or even simply raises their hand in class or is willing to take a definite side in a public debate, it takes a lot of courage.  Anyone putting themselves out in this way is open to somebody calling them out, calling them names or simply laughing at them.  As a fat person, simply walking down the street can be enough to fuel criticism, catcalling or cruelty.  Is it any wonder then, that many fat people don’t want to call additional attention to themselves by raising their hand, taking part in a debate or getting up in front of an audience to dance, recite poetry, act or sing?

Lately it seems everywhere we turn we see talented people being publicly ridiculed for their weight.  Recently, star actress Melissa McCarthy was skewered by film critic Rex Reed, not for her performance, but rather for being a “cacophonous, tractor-sized, female hippo…who has devoted her short career to being obese and obnoxious with equal success…”  This woman, with her “short acting career” spanning a mere 17 years, currently stars in a hit prime-time network television show and a movie that opened number one at the box office, has been nominated for over 15 major awards including an Oscar and boasts a Prime Time Emmy on her mantle.  Apparently that’s considered a short, gimmicky career if you happen to be fat.

And regardless of how you might feel about Governor Chris Christie’s politics, here’s a guy who’s had a hard time in the public eye.  Apparently being a governor who has done yeoman’s work in helping rebuild New Jersey in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy is not enough to quiet the noise about his weight.  Christie faced criticism from Former White House physician Connie Mariano who recently told  CNN that she’s worried Christie might die in office were he elected president.  When Christie pointed out that Mariano has never examined him or his medical records and therefore has nothing upon which to base this prediction, a wave of sympathy was unleashed–towards the doctor.  Mariano responded to Christie’s criticism asking whether he is acting presidential.  However, it doesn’t look like anybody is asking whether Mariano is acting like a real doctor by diagnosing a person based on the way he looks in a suit on TV.

So what happens when you are a talented fat person, taking those first tentative steps towards sharing your gifts with the world and you are confronted with these stories?  Does it help you feel more courageous?  Are you eager to be creative and make yourself vulnerable in a world like this?

I have no doubt that there are millions and millions of deeply creative people in the world who happen to be fat.  But in this climate, in this environment, I think it’s a wonder any of us step out into the light.  Even those of us who have had tremendous success face constant criticism for our size. We are constantly dismissed because we don’t fit an exceptionally narrow standard of beauty.  And so we learn, at a very young age to keep our talents to ourselves, to hide our light under a bushel basket, to be quiet, to be small.  And many of us, for fear of being laughed at, may not even try.  We may not dance.  We may not sing.  We may not even speak.

I wonder what we can do to help encourage the young people around us.  It’s a tough world out there filled will bullies.  Are there kids around us that we can nurture?  Can we help the kids around us learn to reach deep inside in this world filled with hate and give it all they’ve got? Can we encourage them to lift their lights out of the bushel baskets and let them shine?  We can, if we only have the courage to try.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

Dance Like Nobody’s Watching–Even at the Airport

DanceLikeNobodyWatchingOkay, first you gotta watch the video.  Grab a cup of coffee and click the arrow.  It will only take a minute.

Wow, how cool is that?  We’ve all had the experience  of standing in the bloody baggage claim area after a long flight, watching that little belt go around, straining hopelessly to catch a glimpse of our long lost underwear.  But not this girl. Oh no.  She just put on some tunes and rocked out!

When was the last time you did something like that?  I think maybe it has been years and years for me.  I used to regularly engage in PAI (Public Acts of I-don’t-care-what-you-think).  When I was a kid, I was an endless source of humiliation for my poor sister.  I wore crazy hats.  I was kicked out of grocery stores.  My cousin regularly reminds me of how we used to ride around town in her convertible with the top down and me singing opera at the top of my lungs.

What happened?

Is it just because I’m older?  Have I grown wary and frightened?  Or is it because I got bigger?  Were I to dance around at the airport like that today, would people around mostly ignore me or smile gently like they do at the girl in the video?  Or would they hurl insults at me and call me names like they did a few months back at the restaurant?

But I often wonder if this is one of the most insidious repercussions for those of us who have been bullied.  How many insults can we endure before we shut down?  How many of us have had our bright, bright lights muted under bushel baskets for years and years because we have been traumatized, battered, and bruised by very public opinions about our bodies?  I continue to wonder about the squandering of those most precious resources.  Resources we desperately need in our society like energy, inspiration, spontaneity, creativity, courage and joy.  Can our world afford to throw these precious gifts away in order to sell more diet pills and gain more research funding for take home bulimia kits?  I don’t think it can.

So my friends, let’s see if we can’t find a way to get our collective mojo back.  I think exploring our inner child is a good start.  And so is collecting for radically awesome events like A Fatty Affair.  And joining fantastic groups like The Size Diversity Task Force can’t hurt either.  After being part of the SDTF, inspired me to shoot this video on a busy weekday at my local thrift store. I’m committed to doing whatever it takes.  Because hiding our light under a bushel basket doesn’t just diminish us personally, it deprives the world of our fantastic, glorious, gorgeous light, which is a crime against humanity.  So let’s see if we can’t find even more ways to pull those bushel baskets off and dance like nobody’s watching.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Size Acceptance Young and Old

I recently ran across this photo on Facebook and was floored by the brave beautiful young woman staring at me.  And when I read the post from Stella Boonshoft that went with it, I got even more excited.  And the longer story, was also touching and interesting.

I’m so amazed at the brave and amazing things that young size acceptance heroes and heroines are up to these days.  They are putting themselves out there in new and exciting ways.  They are making a significant impact on the movement and on peoples lives at younger and younger ages.  They are getting it done!

To a certain extent, I think young people in the size acceptance movement are very fortunate.  They’ve grown up in the age of computers and the internet where the concept of size acceptance may be available at a much younger age.  Even if they are the only fat kid in the class, they can connect with other fatties all over the world via facebook and tumblr and twitter.  After all, I hadn’t even heard of the notion of size acceptance until I was nearly 30 years old.

We older folks have a lot to learn from the younger set when it comes to body acceptance.  We can see what a life is like when size acceptance begins in high school, junior high or even elementary school.  We can see the energy savings that come from not beating yourself up for 40 years before you start to feel better.  We can marvel at the bravery of a college girl posting a revealing picture of her body with rolls and stretch marks and all.  We can be encouraged by her direct stare and her challenging words:

MOST OF ALL, this picture is for me. For the girl who hated her body so much she took extreme measures to try to change it. Who cried for hours over the fact she would never be thin. Who was teased and tormented and hurt just for being who she was.

I’m so over that.

THIS IS MY BODY, DEAL WITH IT.

and FUCK YOU ALL who tried to degrade my being and sense of self with your hurtful comments and actions.

GUESS WHAT IT DIDN’T WORK HAHAHAHAH

But if we read between the lines, we see that growing up today as a fat person is no picnic.  The same technology that allows young people of size to connect with one another, subjects them to the potential for 24/7 bullying–often from anonymous sources.  Stella’s story has generated relatively positive results–receiving hundreds of likes per minute when first posted and launching her blog on a national stage.  But she has also had to shovel through some of the nastiest vitriol the Internet can serve up.   And it’s not hard to imagine that Stella’s story might have had a very different ending.  In our visual world, the pressure to be stick thin and look like a television show/rock star/supermodel/celebrity is greater than ever.  And maybe we, who grew up in a different time, have already endured decades of lumps, can offer some perspective to the younger generations as well.

They say hindsight is 20/20.  And I find myself having more and more hind to my sight these days.  So I can offer Stella some thoughts and advice.  I can say things like:

Enjoy your day in the sun.  They are rare but beautiful.  But know that rain will come as well.

You  don’t have to read every comment.  There’s only so much nasty a body can endure in one day.  Let your friends help you filter through and find what you really need to know.

You are not a persona, you are a person.  That means you will not be perfect.  But that’s okay, because what makes us human makes us real and allows others to relate to us.  This allows us to do good in the world.

There’s a place for folks of all ages in the size acceptance movement.  The generations are different and face very different challenges.  But those differences ultimately make us stronger.  We are better when we learn from one another.  Here’s to using our differences to unite, to share and to build a better place for all of us.

Love,

The Fat Chick

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