Tag Archives: exercise

Exercise, Fattie! (But Don’t Make Me Watch)

Warning: Fit Fatty Crossing!

It is one of the great hypocrisies of the fat hating concern troll.  They tell us to put down the cheeseburger, and go for a walk.  They tell us to get off our fat butts.  They tell us to exercise, but just not where they have to see us.

Honestly this whole issue makes me more than a little stabby.  We don’t exercise because concern trolls tell us to.  Because, let’s be clear about this, concern trolls probably don’t have our best interests at heart.  But we do exercise.  Lots of us at all sizes exercise.  We put on our shorts, and we go outside.  We go to the gym.  We exercise because it’s fun.  We exercise because it feels good and then, we get an anonymous letter like the following piece of garbage (trigger warning–extreme asshattery):

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The letter says:

Dear Neighbor,

I have noticed you working out in your backyard I can see you from my window.  I also see you running or trying to run around the block.  PLEASE STOP SUCH ACTIVITIES. Nobody wants to see your fat bouncing up and down in your shirt.  Thank God you wear a shirt so we do not have to see what’s under.  I am not the only one in the neighborhood who is getting tired of seeing you struggle running up and down the block everyday.  I personally do not wish to subject my kids to having to see somebody so obese outside when they are just trying to play in the front yard.  If you feel you must work out, outside please move elsewhere where you will not bother people.

Sincerely,

A concerned neighbor.

Seriously folks, I barely know where to start with this thing.  Well, let’s start at the top, shall we?  1.  There is nothing dear about this neighbor.  That gentle opening line is in such ridiculous opposition to the rest of this hatefest, that we will just ignore it okay?

2.  Why in heaven’s name is Snooping Sally watching this poor guy work out in his back yard?  It’s his back yard?  It’s his personal space.  Don’t like what you see in the neighbor’s back yard, don’t look!  There, problem solved.  Oh, wait.  There’s more?

3.  Your copious use of run on sentences and complete lack of commas makes me believe you are typing without breathing.  Please calm the heck down.  It’s a fat guy running, not a national emergency.

4.  “Running or trying to run”: ahhhh I see what you did there.  Nope, not even remotely funny.  Let’s move along.

5.  PLEASE STOP SUCH ACTIVITIES.  The writer doesn’t like it.  And clearly, the fact that she doesn’t like it trumps your freedom to do anything.

6.  “Nobody wants to see…” Our letter writer knows this because she is a little bit psychic.  I bet you didn’t know that was going on in your neighborhood.  Here you are, going for a jog and minding your own business, and you’ve got neighbors experimenting with the occult.

7.  “I am not the only one in this neighborhood…”  There is also the writer’s good friend who meets to share malicious neighborhood gossip with her every day.  Also, she’s psychic.  (See above).

8.  “I personally don’t want to subject my kids to…”  Well it’s clear the writer’s children are special, special snowflakes and can’t be subjected to anything other than Baywatch level beauty running down the street.  And clearly the writer doesn’t want to have anything like a meaningful conversation with them about how people are diverse, and it’s not right to stare, and that the entire freaking universe doesn’t revolve around what makes them comfortable.  Nope.  It’s easier if the exerciser doesn’t burden the poor children’s brains with stuff to think about.  It triggers them to ask questions that give the writer a headache.

9.  “Elsewhere where you won’t bother people”.  The writer doesn’t like the way the jogger looks, therefore he should hide himself at all times.  Better yet, he should probably just move.  To Mars.  Clearly he’s not her kind of people.

10.  “Sincerely, A concerned neighbor”  Who is clearly and deeply concerned about what everybody else is doing and how it might impact her feels and the exposure of her delicate offspring to stuff she doesn’t like.  If somebody ELSE (who fails to look, act, think and be EXACTLY what she thinks they should) doesn’t like it, well TOUGH.

It’s easy to see this letter as an isolated incident, or perhaps even a hoax.  (Although the letter was supposedly sent to the friend of somebody I know online, and I tend to believe it is real.)  But clearly this notion of not wanting to look at fat exercisers is fairly pervasive.  In fact it’s enough of a universal idea that a company that sells blinds used it to create a highly offensive ad with a fat, hairy, male yogi.

yogaguy

ZOMG! Fat Yoga Guy! It’s the apocalypse!

Hot urban couple walks by the window and sees hairy yoga guy.  Everybody looks shocked!  Yoga guy goes out and gets new blinds.  Ah, no more unsightly yoga practice.  NamasFREAKIN’te!

(Ragen Chastain does an excellent job breaking down this ad and giving you special activism opportunities in her blog here and here.)

Look, I make no secret of the fact that I believe exercise is for every BODY.  Whatever your weight, I believe that exercise should be a safe, positive and accessible option for you.  That means you should be able to exercise in public–even (gasp) outside.  That means people who don’t like looking at it are welcome to take the extremely simple and cost free option of not looking.  And if those people don’t like it, they are cordially invited to keep their opinions to themselves.  We don’t yell nasty things at fat people exercising.  We don’t throw eggs at them.  We are grown up adults who can learn to act like it.

That’s how a sincerely concerned neighbor really acts.

In the meantime, all y’all keep gettin on with your bad selves.  And if you want to see some fabulous fatties getting into their fitness groove (with fabulous Flying Rhino shirts no less) trot on over to the Fit Fatties Forum and take a look.

And if you’d like to make the world a better and safer place for exercisers of ALL sizes,  Click here to register for the Fat Activism Conference!  I promise it will be excellent.

And as always, if you want to get free stuff including a fabulous newsletter from me, join the clique here.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

 

 

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Exercise and the Brain: Tricks, Treats and Truth

So I came across yet another study last week about exercise and the brain.  I’m frankly more than a little annoyed about the premise of this one, but I think it still has much to teach us about the way we perceive and experience exercise.

The study indicates, that when people think about exercise as “exercise”–an activity that they “should” do, they are more likely to consume a dessert after lunch, than if they think about exercise as a fun and and enjoyable activity.  Here’s how the study worked.  The women were split into two groups.  One group was told they were going out to exercise and were given a card with a 1 mile walking route they were to follow.  This group had six stopping points marked  on the walk where they were to rate their energy level.  The other group was given the same route but were told the purpose of their walk was “fun”, and they were to listen to an MP3 player and evaluate the sound quality at six different points along the walk.  Both groups were told that a lunch would be served after the walk.

After the walk (and before the lunch) the participants were given questionnaires rating their experience as fun and as a form of exercise.  Then the participants went off to eat.  The scientists weighed how much food each participant ate and whether they chose the “hedonistic” option of drink (cola vs. water) or dessert (chocolate pudding vs. applesauce).

Here’s what I found really interesting about the study.  The researchers were determined to find a difference in eating patterns among these exercisers.  They did, but it was really, really small.  If I understand the table correctly the differences among the fun exercisers and the utility exercisers was mostly a difference in how much chocolate pudding they ate.  And from what I see we’re talking about a very small difference in calories.  This finding got the scientists all excited, as they postulated that those who perceived their exercise as exercise (work) felt that they needed to “reward” themselves with food.  Now best I can tell we’re talking about less than 50 calories more of chocolate pudding, which is like an extra spoonful or two.  This is hardly what I would call hedonistic binging, but I digress.

Table1

More interesting to me were the results of the surveys that the participants filled out.  These results were sort of buried within the paper, but seemed the most significant to me.  The surveys indicated that those participants who perceived the exercise as work were more tired than those who perceived it as fun.  And the “fun” group ended the activity in a better mood than the “work” group.  Now, I feel, we’re getting somewhere.  Saying that the “work” group enjoyed two extra spoonfuls of chocolate pudding than the “fun” group and were thus rewarding their 1 mile trek with gluttonous behavior undoubtedly makes better headlines than saying that exercisers who have fun are less tired and in a better mood than those who don’t.  But I’m not sure I’m really all that worked up about 20 calories worth of chocolate pudding.  I am very interested in how people feel after they exercise because I’m pretty sure, based on my years of experience, that if they feel energized and uplifted after their Tuesday workout, they are a lot more likely to return for the Thursday class.

Because this is part of a growing group of studies that indicate that how people think about exercise has a significant effect on what they get out of it.  A walk is not just a walk and a sit up is not just a sit up.  The way people feel as they exercise has a significant effect on what they get out of it.  This brings to mind another important study conducted with hotel staff.  The hotel workers all clearly met or exceeded the Surgeon General’s recommendation for weekly exercise.  However, some of the workers perceived that work as exercise and some didn’t.  Even though both groups got the same amount of exercise, those who thought of themselves as exercisers were considerably healthier than those who didn’t.  And as the study progressed and those who thought their work didn’t “count” as exercise started to see their daily work as fitness, these participants began to experience significant health improvements.

So what do we take from this?  Those who think of themselves as “fit” are likely to have better outcomes than those who don’t.  But thinking of your work as exercise might make you more tired and in a more lousy mood than those who think of their activity as fun?  In the end, my hypothesis is that you should tell people they are exercising and that it has value, while at the same time making it as much fun as humanly possible.  That’s where I aim my classes.  And I think, that’s why students come back year after year.

But however you slice it, I think it’s important to remember that one of your most important fitness tools is the one you carry between your ears.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

Want to learn more about the fun types of exercise I have to offer?  Join my mailing list!

Oh the Places You’ll Go (with fitness)

Yesterday we officially launched our Fit Fatties Virtual Vacations with a virtual sunset cruise in Paris.  And it really got me thinking.  Of all the super wonderful and awesome things about exercise, I think one of the things I love most is how exercise can be and can fuel adventures in our lives.  Whether it’s just walking a little further down the path just to see what’s there, or getting on an airplane and exploring the world, I love how fitness can open new worlds for folks.

One of the most fun parts of the whole Fit Fatties Virtual Decathlon project was checking out the photos of the fun adventures people had while finishing their virtual events.  Some folks did a 5K or 10K or marathon for the first time.  Some people tried belly dancing lessons or hula hooping or tap dancing for the first time.  Folks went to museums, climbed mountains, toured college campuses and sports stadiums.  Some people exercised by themselves.  Some created spontaneous dance parties and even met Santa Claus on the beach with their kids.

Another thing that was super cool about the virtual events is the way that people started to see adventure in everyday activity.  Some people got badges for epic snow shoveling (and shoveling and shoveling), massive lawn mowing and wood splitting.  Folks even found adventure in having a temper tantrum and smashing stuff the ex left behind.  Clearly there was some catharsis going on.

I know that as my fitness level increases, my sense of adventure also tends to increase.  I’m more brave.  I’m more ready to try new things–whether it be hula hooping or trying just one more yard sale in search of the find of the century.  None of this takes me away from listening to my body.   However fit I may be, I always allow myself the right to try something and then say, “No, thank you.  This isn’t for me.”  One of my extremely talented students described this as her 10 minute rule.  “I try to be adventurous,” she says.  “But I always give myself an out.  If after 10 minutes, I don’t like it, love it or feel like I’m having fun, I give myself unabashed permission to simply walk away–no guilt and no strings attached.”

How about you.  As we move into summer vacation time (at  least in my part of the world) are you ready to try something new?  How about a water aerobics class, or some gardening, or riding a bike or surfing?  And how about instead of thinking of fitness as a guilt-laden obligation, we start thinking of it as an open-ended ticket to new adventures?

Love,  Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. It’s not too late to join our Fit Fatties Virtual Vacations!  Just click here!

Taking a Vacation from a Common Equation: Calories in, Calories Out

Myrtle, Esther and Bessie take a little trip outside of their comfort zone...

Myrtle, Esther and Bessie take a little trip outside of their comfort zone…

For the past few days, I’ve been back in Missouri.  First we went to Rolla where my husband was presented with an honorary degree for his ongoing work in computer science.  (Seriously, how cool is that?)  And now we’re in St. Louis catching up with some of our friends that we haven’t seen in a few years.  So I thought this morning I would talk about being on vacation and how it might apply to my work in size acceptance.

One thing that being on vacation can do is give you a broader perspective on how people live in other parts of the world.  One thing that I ran across this week (as I was “on vacation” from doing more productive work on my computer) was this article containing 23 photos of people next to how much food they eat per day.

Marble Moahi, Mother Living with HIV/AIDS, Botswana – 900 Calories

What struck me so much about these pictures, besides the fascinating variety of different types of food consumed was the drastic differences in calorie consumption among these people.  The Botswana woman above is pictured with the meager meals she eats each day totaling just 900 calories.  Compare that with the picture of the man below.

Willie Ishulutak, Soapstone Carver, Canada – 4,700 Calories

This fellow is pictured with over 4,700 calories which he eats each day.  Notice anything interesting here?  How about this.  Willie Ishulutak eats over 5 times as many calories as Marble Moahi.  Now there is little question that some of Willie’s calories are, um, liquid.  But he clearly consumes a lot more calories than she does.  And while Marble is somewhat thinner than Willie, neither of them appear to be particularly fat.  This goes against the grain of what many of us have been taught about bodies and nutrition right?  If we use the old adage of calories in calories out, Willie should appear a whole lot fatter than Marble.  But lo and behold, it just ain’t so.

I would like to invite you to explore this article and these photos with me.  And I would like you to join me on a vacation over the notion that if fat people just ate less and exercised more they would be thin people. These people could be lying about what they eat.  I’d love for you to take just a little time off from the adage “calories in, calories out”.

Now to be fair, this photo essay hardly constitutes a formal study on the notion of calories in, calories out.  The photo subjects could be lying about what they eat.  The photographer could have selected an atypical day’s worth of food for the photo shoot.  But we’re on vacation right?  So what if we took just a little time off from assuming that fat people lie about what they eat or that thin people exaggerate how much or how little they eat?  What if we just took a little time to assume that both Marble and Willie are telling the truth?

The next logical step might be to assume that Willie burns 5 times as many calories as Marble.  While this is certainly possible, it seems unlikely in the extreme.  If we assume that Willie is a 150 pound man (which is a very rough estimate), he would burn approximately 430 calories per hour walked at a brisk pace.  Willie consumes 3800 calories more per day than Marble.  Taking brisk walking as a calorie burning exercise, he would need to walk 8.8 hours more per day than Marble in order to burn all of those extra calories.  I suppose it’s possible.  But let’s just take a little trip past the notion that Willie walks a marathon or two every day in order to “keep his figure”.

Look, I am not suggesting that there is no relationship whatsoever between calories consumed and body size.  It seems logical to assume that some relationship is there.  But I wonder if we could agree, at least temporarily that it is not that simple.  So many of us have had “calories in, calories out” thrown at us from so many directions.  Sometimes it seems that everybody from our online haters to the surgeon general of our nation is eager to suggest that if we ate just a little less, and exercised just a little more we would be thin.  But I’d like to invite you to punch the time clock and walk away from this notion for just a little while.

I am far from expecting that I will change the world or even change your mind with my little blog over here.  But I do hope that from time to time I am able to “give you pause”.  I hope I can help you step outside of our culturally held beliefs about weight, food, exercise, health and more.  Because sometimes just a little time away is all we need to reenforce the idea that the world is quite a bit more complicated than the advice offered around the water cooler.  Sometimes life doesn’t fit into neat and tidy axioms–no matter how much money is spent trying to make them.  And while we might not be ready to give up some of these simplistic ideas completely, maybe you could try a little time off and see how it feels.  Who knows, after a few weeks you might be ready to adopt some of these new ideas full-time.

Love,

Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. I would love to invite you to take another Virtual Vacation with me on the Fit Fatties Forum!  We’re moving our bodies as we explore the world.  And tomorrow is the last day for super early bird pricing!  CLICK HERE to learn more.

Also, if you’d like to learn more about fitness and health and get FREE STUFF, be sure to join my mailing list here.  Let’s keep in touch!

 

Why the First Ten Minutes of Exercise are the Hardest

DISCLAIMER WARNING STUFF FIRST

It’s very important to know your body.  There are certain warning signs that may let you know that your body is in distress.  I talk about some of those signs in this document here.  I call them the dashboard indicators.  If you are new to exercise you should read up on these signs before you begin.  If these dashboard indicators appear, you will need to STOP and figure out what’s going on before you continue with exercise.  If  however, you are not experiencing these dashboard indicators and just hate the first ten minutes of your workout, then please read on.

WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED BLOG…

It’s a common theme with my exercise students.  They often say, “After about ten minutes of working out, I feel pretty good, but those first ten minutes, really SUCK!”  First of all, let me assure you that the first ten minutes are fairly hard for everybody.  And there’s actually a pretty clear and well-understood reason for it, too.

WARNING…SCIENCE TYPE STUFF AHEAD

When we go from standing or sitting still to exercising, our body demands far more energy in the form of oxygen than our body is ready to supply.  Our muscles need a chemical called ATP in order to contract.  But the aerobic systems in our bodies only have about ten seconds worth of ATP laying around at any given moment.  After ten seconds your body needs to start making ATP.  Your anaerobic systems can supply maybe another two or three minutes worth of ATP, but after that, your body needs to switch over to the aerobic system again to start producing more ATP.  Your body doesn’t know that it needs to switch over to the other system until your oxygen is significantly depleted and your carbon dioxide levels have started to go up.   And even after your body knows to switch to the aerobic system, that switchover from the anaerobic system to the aerobic system can be kind of rough.  At this point, you begin to breathe harder and your heart rate rises.  But by this point, you not only need to create enough ATP to keep moving, you have to repay your “oxygen debt” where your body’s need for oxygen lags behind your body’s ability to make oxygen.

This sloth may be experiencing an oxygen debt.  Or not…

This period of time, while you are working through the “oxygen debt” can feel pretty yucky.  You may feel a burning sensation in your legs and feel significantly out of breath.  Your heart rate will ramp up pretty quickly and after just a few short minutes, you may feel like running right back home.  But if you stay with exercise for just a few minutes longer, you may well find that your efforts “smooth out”.  Your body’s need for oxygen lines up with your body’s ability to deliver oxygen and you feel a lot better.

Many, many exercisers (including me) experience this sensation.  Being really fit may help you move through this transition a little more quickly and smoothly but won’t necessarily help you avoid this “oxygen debt” altogether.  But there is something you CAN do to make this transition a little easier–a proper warmup.

Doing a gradual ramp up to exercise, starting slowly for a few minutes before you start to run or cycle or dance away can really help you through the “terrible ten” minutes at the start of a workout.  Start with a walk, or a very slow roll on the bike or a very slow dance.  This signals your body to “start the aerobic energy pipeline” without creating such a huge oxygen debt.  Less oxygen debt means less discomfort and a shorter period of discomfort.  Try a warmup before your next workout and see if you don’t feel better.

But it can also be extremely helpful just to realize that this is perfectly normal.  It doesn’t mean that your body is defective.  It doesn’t mean you suck at exercise.  It just means that you have to get your body to accept, “hey, we’re gonna exercise now.”  Your body may respond like a seven year old kid saying, “I don’t wanna go to school!”  You may find it helpful to sneak up on your body by starting out with a warmup and gradually working into the whole exercise thing.  But you may just have to accept that the first few minutes are gonna suck and slog through it.  Better miles are ahead!

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

Want to learn more helpful stuff about exercise?  Why not check out my book?

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The Unwritten Sports Stat: Female Athletes Must Be Gorgeous

A friend forwarded me a link to an interesting article in the Guardian about how female athletes fear that how they look may outrank how well they perform in terms of their careers as sportswomen.    The article chronicles the results of a major study commissioned by BT Sport.  The study was commissioned after the 2012 Olympics partly in response to Olympic Gold Medalist Rebecca Adlington’s very public admissions about body insecurity after the games.  The study included over 100 elite female British athletes.

To those of us who study body image questions, it’s probably not that surprising that 89 percent of the athletes polled felt that they could relate to insecurity about body image.  67 percent felt that the public and the media valued their personal physical appearance over their athletic prowess, and over 70 percent said that it affected their diet and training regimes.  Let’s take a moment to ponder here.  We are talking about professional athletes who make their living from the capabilities of their bodies who are making training decisions based at least in part on how they will look in their singlet.  It makes you wonder if their performance might have been even better if they could allow their training and nutrition to be focused exclusively on what pushes their bodies to their best performance.

I have written before about the fact that I love the Olympics with a big old passion.  I have also expressed before, my deep disappointment over how we could spend time skewering the very best Olympic gymnast for the quality of her hairdo, or why we need to make Olympic uniforms look like outfits for cheerleaders.  (Another group of highly trained athletes that are hypersexualized to the point of ridiculousness.)  And don’t even get me started on Olympics advertising that looks like softcore porn.

And we’re not just talking about Olympians here.  Anyone from tennis stars to golfers are expected to look runway perfect these days.  Maybe that’s why I’m so excited about our Fit Fatty Virtual Events this year.  It allows you to complete all kinds of fabulous physical activities wearing what you want, wherever you want and on your terms.  We have had several incredibly inspired entrants who have completed significant tasks wearing pajamas.  We have had entrants complete events and perform community service simultaneously.  We have met Santa Claus on a 5K and performed epic, family-style, living room dance parties with kids of all ages.

Because Ragen and I are crazy enough to believe that physical activities should be about moving your body and having fun.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

Searching for Reality among the Dummies

So this week, American Apparel hit the news again with some brand new mannequins.  Apparently they are causing quite a stir because THESE mannequins are sporting prominent nipples and a prodigious crop of pubic hair.  Now some folks have applauded American Apparel for showing women that are more “realistic”.  But I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree.

These mannequins are completely in line with everything else I’ve seen from American Apparel.  It seems that their ads are not only focused on women as sex objects, but I’ve always felt that there was a gritty, DIY Internet porn, especially inelegant focus on women as sex objects.

In any case, I see very little here that makes these mannequins look more like real women.  They are still all the same size and shape.  They are still very tall and impossibly willowy.  They still portray a body that would probably be unlikely to bear children or even menstruate.  Nope.  What I see here is a dirty little boy with a magic marker drawing pictures on his sister’s dollies just to get attention.

And it’s gotten plenty of attention.  Which I am quite sure was the point.  The sad thing is that there are others making a real effort to make mannequins look more like real people.  There was THIS post I did a while back, about a shop in Sweden making more realistic mannequins.  And then there’s this video.  It portrays special mannequins being created from some very unlikely models.  The video is beautiful.  Please watch.  I’ll wait.

I can’t say everything about that video is perfect either.  But I can say that it seems a whole lot closer to the sort of work towards inclusiveness that we need in this space.  I’d love to see a mannequin that shows how clothing looks on a short, modified hourglass with apple shaped tummy body rather than the plus-sized mannequins that are 7 ft. tall  with perfectly flat stomachs.

And how does all of this relate to fitness?  I think so many people go into exercise trying to look like those bodies in the Macy’s store windows.  So many of us have spent years not working at FITNESS (being fit, being able to do certain things that we’d really like to do), but rather working at “FitThis” (being able to fit this pair of jeans, this image, be accepted by this crowd).  And so what?  Is there something wrong with having fitness aspirations for having a “better body”?  The thing is that for most people, physical fitness does not create an overly dramatic shift in the way their body appears.  Only a very small percentage of genetically gifted folks are even physically capable of sporting a visible “six pack” or “eight pack”.  Exercise doesn’t change your body’s bony structure.  It doesn’t make you taller.  And for most of us, it doesn’t make you significantly thinner.  The problem with aspirational “FitThis” is that it takes our attention away from what exercise is very likely to accomplish in our lives (better sleep, better health, better mood, better self esteem, better sex, better sleep…) and focuses our attention on an area where exercise is a lot less likely to succeed.  It sets us up for unrealistic expectations.  It sets us up to fail.

MannequinMe

So I’d like to encourage you to put yourself into your elegant, pricey, fitness store, right at the front, behind the huge glassy windows.  See yourself, happy, healthy and feeling fabulous as the epitome of what you are hoping to accomplish.  Because you are amazing.  You are inspiring.  And you are the ones who keep me doing what I do.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. Want some more amazing real life inspiration?  Check out what we’re doing with the Fit Fatties Virtual Event and Decathlon!  We’ve already had our first decathlete!  And there are some truly amazing pictures including our recent 5K finisher who walked the beach with her son and met Santa (an honorary Fit Fatty), a woman who lifted literally a TON of weight wearing jammy pants and lots more gorgeous happy people.  Sign yourself on up!