Tag Archives: injury

The Health Continuum

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The day before I woke up in excruciating back pain, I gave a keynote address at a health conference.  And during that keynote I talked a lot about how we need to make the ideas of health and wellness more inclusive.  We need to have a bigger tent where every BODY can participate.  We need to imagine a spectrum where we can all experience health.

I asked people in the audience to close their eyes and envision health.  What does a healthy person look like?  Then I asked them, if by any chance, their vision of health looked like a skinny white woman eating yogurt?  How about salad?  Does she look like she’s feeling orgasmic over these food choices?  Several people in the audience smiled or laughed.  Yup, that was exactly what their vision of health looked like.  But I told them they shouldn’t be surprised.  As a culture we are taught by marketing and advertising and Photoshop that this is what health looks like.  But what happens, I asked, if you are not white, or a man, or not thin, or not conventionally beautiful? What if you really, really hate yogurt?  Do you not get to be well?  Do you not get to experience health?

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At this point, I took some time to define health and wellness.  I suggested that there is no particular state that a person achieves that call be called healthy or well.  While tons of money is spent convincing us that if we just buy this thing, use this product or service or spend money in a particular way, we will arrive at the ultimate hereafter picture.  There is a place that is nirvana.  We call this place perfectly healthy.  Except there is no such place.  If we are alive, we are aging.  If we are aging we are headed towards our ultimate demise.  No matter what product or service we use, we are still, in the end, mortal.

So I went on to describe health as a continuum.  Or you can call it a spectrum.  (I like continuum because it’s one of the only words in the English language that has to letter “u”s back to back, and like the word banana, it’s nearly impossible to stop saying once you have started.  You know, like continuuinuuum…)  A continuum is a scale.  It is a line with no beginning and no end.  The scale increases in a particular value as we go one direction and decreases in a particular value as we go the other direction.  As we move along the scale towards healthy or well, we get more capacity and energy to do the things we need to do as well as the things we enjoy.  We feel better.  We have more energy.  We sleep better.  We are able to relax sometimes and experience peace.  As we move down the continuum away from health and wellness these things (like energy, enjoyment, peace, sleep) are more difficult for us to access, or we experience them less often.  But again, the line has no beginning and no end.  There is no destination called perfect health where we get to arrive.  And there is also no perfect place which we cannot access.

This is important for a lot of reasons.  One reason is that we are all born at different points on the continuum.  Based on genetics and parenting and socioeconomic status and friends and other family and cultural values and lots and lots of other stuff, we all land at different points on this continuum.  And as we go along and live, circumstances will change our location on the continuum.  We will experience stress.  We will get sick.  We might win the lottery.  We might lose our jobs.  We might get married or be in a car crash or fall down the steps.  Stuff happens.  Sometimes that stuff is wonderful and eases the way towards increased health on the spectrum.  Sometimes stuff is downright catastrophic and vaults us towards decreased health on the spectrum.  Were we to look at health and wellness as a state of being or as a location, most of us just wouldn’t be able to get there, let alone stay there.  Most of us would be on the outside looking in.  And most of us have been taught that we should be consumed with guilt and self-loathing for not being there or staying there.  But if we look at health and wellness as a continuum, there is a sane and guilt-free place for everybody.

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No matter where you land on the continuum, there are things you can do to help ease the way towards better health.  Those things you can do might be wildly different from what somebody else can do.  You might be creeping along towards health at a very different point on the spectrum than somebody else.  But everybody can play.  And we can play with the knowledge and understanding that sometimes fate rolls the freakin’ dice and we land in a different spot on the continuum that we neither desired nor planned for.  But from every place, we can strive.  We can move towards the healthy/well side of the continuum with whatever resources we have at the moment.  This is with the understanding that sometimes those resources will be very low.  Sometimes the movement will be very slow or even imperceptible.  And sometimes, it’s okay to just rest there at our spot on the continuum until we have the resources and/or the desire to strive again.  Sometimes we can be there and just breathe out and in for a while.

You know it’s funny, in a physician heal thyself sort of way, how I gave this talk the day before I found myself tossed violently to a very different spot on my own continuum.  As I woke up, dazed and in pain, I looked around.  Oh, so I’m here now?  This is my spot on the spectrum today?  Okay.  I’ll just have to see what I can do.  Maybe tomorrow.  After I take a pain killer and watch some telly and gather my forces.  It has made all of this a lot easier to bear.  And I offer this in the hopes that it will be a useful visualization tool for you as well.  Or not.  Because we’re all different.  And just as there is no place called health, there is no single immutable path towards wellness either.  There’s just all of us, muddling along in our own way, as best we can.

Love,

Jeanette DePatie AKA The Fat Chick

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Making Fitness About Fun, Not About Weight Stigma

Today, I’d like to direct you to the blog I wrote for Weight Stigma Awareness Week.  BEDA is doing absolutely amazing work in this space, and I am very proud to be called to participate.  You can read the blog post here.

Thanks so much for your support!

Love,

Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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ESPN Hits It Outa the Park with New Cover Model

OMG I am so excited that ESPN chose studly baseball man Prince Fielder as the cover model for their 2014 Body Issue.  Far from the typical wasp waisted, v-shaped Adonis types, Fielder’s muscular and substantial physique is a breath of fresh air.  While the Texas Rangers star shares some concern about a need to fuel his work with healthy eating habits in this decidedly NSFW video here, he also shares some candid thoughts about how he loves the skin he’s in.

Fielder: You don’t have to look like an Under Armour mannequin to be an athlete. A lot of people probably think I’m not athletic or don’t even try to work out or whatever, but I do. Just because you’re big doesn’t mean you can’t be an athlete. And just because you work out doesn’t mean you’re going to have a 12-pack. I work out to make sure I can do my job to the best of my ability. Other than that, I’m not going up there trying to be a fitness model.

And it takes even more courage to say these things in light of the fact that he’s recovering from surgery to repair a herniated disc in his neck.  He talks about the path of his physical therapy and says, “I can’t do much of anything right now.  I just have to let the process of healing take place.”

I think I might just be a teensy bit in love with Fielder.  He represents so much of what I think is important about fitness.  He’s way more focused on what his body can do than how it looks.  He understands the need to rest and heal from surgery and injury.  He’s lovingly caring for his body so he can get back to using it to do stuff that he really loves.  And he’s quite okay with the fact that he doesn’t look anything like a male underwear model.  *Swoons.* 

While every magazine can always do more to promote body diversity, I’m pretty impressed with the step ESPN took with this cover model.  And as long as you make a firm commitment with yourself not to read the comments (no feeding the trolls) I think you will derive a fair amount of encouragement from this as well.  Sure they’ve got Michael Phelps.  He’s a beautiful athlete.  But his body is trained to do something very different than Fielder.  So of COURSE Phelps and Fielder are going to look different.  That doesn’t mean that they can’t both be beautiful.  And as the French say, vive la difference!

Love,  Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S.  Learn more about making the world safe for folks of all shapes and sizes at the upcoming Fat Activism Conference here. P.P.S.  And don’t forget to join my mailing list and get free stuff!

Star Trek and the Two Minute Chair Workout

Best exercise chair EVAR!

One of the things I hear quite often on the Fit Fatties Forums or in emails is, “I can only do two minutes of exercise or I can only exercise in a chair.  Sometimes I feel like why bother.  I used to be able to exercise a lot and now I can just do this much.  I’m so embarrassed.”

First let me say, I feel ya.  Sometimes it seems like everyone around me is doing marathons or ultra-endurance events or walking for three whole days in a row for a cure.  Sometimes it seems like everywhere I look, somebody is dashing off an effortless 2 hour workout, glistening and smiling while climbing mountains, lifting huge weights and cycling the Great Wall of China.

And I have to remind myself to feel happy for them.  That it’s not kind or productive to feel jealousy or hatred towards them or to sit on them until they stop looking so athletic-y and agree to sit and watch re-runs of Game of Thrones with me.  And I have to remind myself that every athlete, and I mean every athlete had to start somewhere.  And every athlete has had setbacks that have made them slow down, go backwards in their training and build gradually back up.

I have had several major injuries, surgeries and illnesses over the years that have put my training on hold or brought it to a screaming halt.  I have had to go back to exercising one or two minutes at a time and gradually come back to a higher fitness level.  And you know what?  It kinda sucks.  It really kinda sucks to have to go backwards in your training and slow down and start again.  It kinda sucks to remember how easy exercise was when you were twenty and to feel what it’s like start up again at forty, fifty or eighty.

But you know what, we don’t all START as starship captains.  And starting is way better than dreaming about imagining the process of starting.  Two minute workouts are way, way better for your body than no workouts.  And exercise in a chair can be a safe and wonderful starting place if standing workouts aren’t comfortable or safe for you right now.  And if a two minute chair workout is something that you can do safely  and consistently and relatively comfortably at this point, then I would say that a two minute chair workout should ROCK YOUR WORLD RIGHT NOW!  And I’m going to let Captain Kirk and Spock tell you why.

If we look at this exercise thing with cold, Vulcan Spock-like logic, it’s fairly plain that one of the most important things is to live to exercise another day.  Now I don’t mean that you’re actually going to die after your workout (at least I hope not).   But it’s really, really common for beginning and returning exercisers to do way too much too soon.  If you’re lucky, you simply hurt all over the next day.  This does not inspire most of us to do another workout.  If you’re coping with a chronic illness or condition, you may find yourself so weak and exhausted that you can barely move the next day.  You may find that you have inadvertently used up a whole week’s worth of “spoons” in one go.  If you’re recovering from an injury, you may find that you have severely aggravated the injury site.  Or if you are even less lucky, you’ll re-injure yourself or have a brand new injury to deal with.  All in all, doing way too much too soon is not something to be proud of or wear as a badge of honor.  From a cold logic standpoint, it’s kinda stupid.

Because there is an alternative.  If you start small, at a level that is comfortable to you, and if you increase gradually, at a level that is safe and sensible, you don’t have to go through massive amounts of pain and injury and frustration.  You can progress in your fitness efforts without having to quit and go back to zero all the time.  You can spend a whole lot less time visiting your doctor or sports medicine specialist.  You can integrate exercise into your life without it taking over your life.  You can expend a reasonable amount of “spoons” on working out and still have some left for washing your hair and taking the kids to school.  Exercise will feel great and you will feel like doing more.  And if you ask your inner Spock, he’ll tell you that this is the smart move.

After that, you just have deal with your inner James T. Kirk.  First you have to tell your inner Captain that he needs to calm the heck down.  He will tell you to run out, phasers blasting, smart mouthing and fist fighting every sassy alien that comes along.  But let your inner Spock remind him of the need to live to fight another day.  Then let your inner Kirk remind you that you can cope with most things with a swagger and a smile–including a two minute chair workout.  Stubbornly refuse to be embarrassed by it.  Have fun with it.  Rock it out.  Gradually, increase.  And before you know it, you’ll be exercising more than you ever thought you could, feeling better and having a better quality of life.  And then you can truly, live long and prosper.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

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