Tag Archives: kids

Proof Please

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So very often these days we hear that the world has deemed to help the portly because they so desperately need help and the world is being nice–and stuff.  Millions upon millions are invested in trying to prove that fat people are unhealthy, and if they would just eat a little less and move a little more, all their problems would be solved, everybody in the world would be healthy, and good, quality health insurance would cost everybody $1.  The fact that despite the millions of dollars spent, nobody has been able to prove these or demonstrate any way to make this magical weight loss happen on all but a fleeting and temporary basis doesn’t seem to deter anybody from testing this hypothesis again and again.

And even when the proof is not available, or indeed the available evidence says that your “weight intervention” causes negative effects and makes people fatter current policy seems to involve simply ignoring those pesky little facts.

Take the current practice of weighing and measuring kids at school and then sending home “BMI report cards”.  Despite showing again, and again and again that shame doesn’t make kids thinner or healthier, showing that shame causes kids to engage in more unhealthy behavior, that shame makes kids fatter, we still do this.  Why?  The National Eating Disorder Information Center issued the following statement regarding BMI testing in schools:

What the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) seems to be ignoring in its advocacy of weighing and measuring the height of schoolchildren is the risk it carries not just to increase body-based bullying from student’s teachers and peers, but the risk to children’s developing self-stigma and poor body image.

Body-based bullying continues to be the most common cause of bullying in youth. 29% of girls and 15% of boys are already teased about their weight at home. By grade seven, up to 30% of girls and 25% of boys are teased by other students. Poor body image has been found to stop youth from engaging in social, academic and physical opportunities. It limits willingness to express an opinion. In perpetuating focus on body shapes and sizes rather than on encouraging health providing attitudes and behaviours in children regardless of size, what are our schools (and public health) teaching?

However, it seems that plans to do BMI testing and BMI report cards in schools is continuing throughout North America.

This also reminds me of another recent situation I had recently reported.  Blue Care of Michigan is still touting the positive results of their “enforced march” walking program for fatties despite the fact that there is no evidence at all that those who participated either lost weight, or had any positive health outcomes associated with the program.  They apparently did nothing to track the original fitness level of the plus-sized participants and had no idea whether or not these folks were already active.  They just told these people that unless they wanted to pay an additional $2,000/year they had to participate.  They also forced those who participated to either be a member of Weight Watchers or wear a monitor which counted their steps during the day.  Just like a prisoner, they were forced to wear a physical implement on their bodies that told their insurance overlords what they were doing throughout the day.  Just because their BMI is over 30.  They declared this project a success even though nearly 1/3 of the 12 percent of participants who bothered to respond to the survey said they hated the program and found it coercive.  For more information, you may wish to read this article from my friend and colleague Jon Robison.

Throughout all this rhetoric about making fat people into “healthy thin people”.  Throughout all this spending on proving that fat people can become thin people on more than a very temporary basis and that making fat people into thin people will make them healthy there is one thing continually missing and that thing is proof.

When the available evidence points to the opposite of the fat people can become thin people, or fat people can’t be healthy people or fat kids just have ignorant parents rhetoric, the powers that be either request more money to re-test the hypothesis or simply ignore the inconvenient facts.

You may have heard of iatrogenic effects in medicine.  Dictionary.com defines them as: (of an illness or symptoms) induced in a patient as the result of a physician’s words or actions, esp as a consequence of taking a drug prescribed by the physician.

And good old Dictionary.com also defines iatrogenic as relates to social welfare: “(of a problem) induced by the means of treating a problem but ascribed to the continuing natural development of the problem being treated”.

Some experts have suggested that the “obesity crisis” is a textbook example of iatrogenic effects in both medicine and social welfare.  But I wonder if the “obesity crisis” isn’t responsible for iatrogenic effects in the economy as well.  If the response to the mounting pile of evidence that “diets don’t work” and “shame doesn’t work” and “fat people can be healthy” is always, “let’s pay for more tests” or “let’s do the weight loss junk but try harder this time” the obesity crisis will continue to be very, very expensive.

But I think the treatment for the economic effects of the hysteria surrounding the “obesity crisis” may be as simple as this.  Demand proof.  If your insurance company wants to put you on a walking program without doing an intake of any kind or presenting any data regarding the efficacy of the program, demand proof.  If your kid’s school wants to measure their BMI along with everybody else’s and send home a BMI report card, demand proof that this makes kids happier or healthier.  It’s not easy.  It’s not fun.  But the rights of fat people to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness demands that we, the fierce fat folks, demand proof.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

 

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California Gov. Health Organization “Photoshops” Kids Picture to Fight Childhood Obesity

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Good job California.  So you passed Proposition 10 to collect a fifty-cent tax on every pack of cigarettes.  You’ve used that money to create First 5 California, also known as the California Children and Families Commission which is:

dedicated to improving the lives of California’s young children and their families through a comprehensive system of education, health services, childcare, and other crucial programs.

And the commission you created with this money, chooses to use those resources to drastically retouch a picture of a little girl to make her look fat for an ad campaign designed to scare parents into limiting the amount of sugar they feed their kids.

Awesome!

Here’s the original photo, next to the retouched version:

First of all, whatever amount of state tax money that was used to do that image retouching is waaaay too much.  I could get far better design work than that done on fiverr.com for $5 USD.

Next, I have to ask, why would we spend any amount of state tax money on shaming fat parents and fat kids in the face of the fact it just doesn’t work?  In fact  study after study shows that stigmatizing and bullying kids about their weight not only fails to create thinner kids, but also tends to trigger more participation in unhealthy behaviors like smoking, drinking, substance abuse, binge eating and other forms of disordered eating.

So why exactly are we spending state tax money to create ads aimed at preventing childhood obesity that are actually more likely to increase levels of childhood obesity while at the same time encouraging our kids to engage in higher levels of destructive behavior?

I’m sure that some of the fear-mongering, hand-wringing, head-shaking folks that created this glorious ad campaign will ask you to “think about the children”.   They will cite statistics about childhood obesity and suggest that something must be done to protect the health of these poor kids.

To which I would reply, “Yes.  All kids deserve to be healthy.  So let’s focus on stuff that does that.”  Shaming kids does not make them thinner or healthier.  But there are some things we can do.  In fact, in honor of First 5, I’ll give you five suggestions:

1.  How about making sure kids have a safe place to play?

2.  How about reinstating some of the physical education programs that have been cut from schools for lack of budget?

3.  How about making sure that kids of all sizes have access to a variety of high-quality, nutritionally dense foods?

4.  How about we help fat kids learn to accept and love themselves so that they are more likely to exercise and treat themselves well?

5.  How about we add “body size” as a category for school anti-bullying programs.

Sure, these programs would be more difficult than cranking out a basic bus shelter advertisement.  And undoubtedly some of these programs would cost more than hiring the world’s worst graphic designer to “fatten up” the image of an innocent kid.  But given the fact that some of these programs might, I don’t know, help some kids live healthier lives, maybe we should just fund those instead.

As a final note, the folks at First  5 may find themselves facing some pretty well-organized and powerful opposition.  It’s already started in the form of an awesome homemade protest flyer at the site of one of the bus shelters:

Blog2But as some folks in Georgia found out, folks can get pretty riled up and do some pretty amazing things when you shame and frighten their children.

So maybe we should take a step back and a deep breath and try again.  I’m sure, upon some calm reflection, we can find better ways to promote good health for children of all sizes.

Love,

The Fat Chick

 

Like my posts?  You’ll love my stuff!

Buy my book: The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of All Ages, Shapes Sizes and Abilities)–available in softcover and e-book versions

Buy my DVD: The Fat Chick Works Out! (A Safe, Easy and Fun Workout for Klutzes, Wimps and Absolute Beginners!)

Buy a book or a DVD for a friend and save $5!  Just enter FRIENDBLFT in the discount code box!

Check out my Training Programs–both in person and via Skype (Starting at just $25!)

or

Book me to speak at your special event!

Talking about Bullying

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This past Saturday, I  had the great privilege to speak on behalf of the Size Diversity Task Force at the Stop The Pain Anti Bullying Conference in Riverside.  I spoke about all bodies being good bodies and I talked with them about the fact that weight-related bullying can come from many sources including parents, teachers, doctors and coaches.  It seemed like many of them were interested in the topic and I had a great time.  But one of the moments that really touched me, came from a Dad in the back of the room.

The room was overfilled and he had stood against the wall for the entire presentation.  At the end I asked for questions and he raised his hand.  He said that he had come to the presentation on behalf of his sixteen year old daughter.  He said that he came with his beautiful wife (and he gestured towards her) because he wanted to know how to help his daughter.  He said that his daughter had always been somewhat heavier, and that she was having a hard time accepting herself.  He said that he and his wife told her that she was beautiful every day, but that she was having a hard time believing it.  He wanted to know what he should do.

I told him first of all, that he should keep telling her that she is beautiful.  That maybe it doesn’t seem like it’s sinking in, but that she’s hearing it.  I told her that sometimes we aren’t ready for that message at that moment in our lives, but that there will come a moment at some time in our lives when we are ready, and we will gather those words and those memories to us at that time and we will treasure them always.  I told him that he could offer help, but that he has to be patient.  She will only accept help when she’s ready.  I suggested that he could direct her towards support groups like the Size Diversity Task Force that could some day help her find her way through the prejudice out there and help her emerge triumphant as a size positive freedom fighter.  And I thanked him for asking the question.

Honestly, I was blown away by this guy and his wife.  They cared enough about their daughter to stand in a hot classroom for an hour and listen to me talk about my journey, size diversity, size prejudice, the near impossibility of permanent weight loss, Health At Every Size and more.  They were able to keep their minds open and see if they could learn something new.  And they were humble enough to ask for help.  Now I have no idea what it is really like for them in their house and in their family.  But I was deeply moved by the idea that there are parents out there willing to buck the status quo to really help their kids and there is hope in this world of size oppression within strong families willing to care for their kids in a way that may not be “socially acceptable” but in a way that works.

I am deeply grateful to Kandee Lewis and the Size Diversity Task Force for this opportunity to speak, but more importantly to listen and learn from other folks who are working to end bullying in their own lives and the lives of others.

Love,

The Fat Chick

For the 100th Time, Shaming People Doesn’t Help!

chalkboard.001This week I ran across even more research that indicates that shaming fat people does not turn them into thin people.  This is hardly the first time this sort of research has surfaced.  I’ve talked about this many, many, many times.  But somehow, it seems nearly impossible to get public policy people and health people to get it through their heads.  They still advocate BMI report cards and singling kids out for special “health interventions” and still do not think they need to add “body size” to any of their legislation about bullying.  And meanwhile, bullying against fat kids is getting worse.

Maybe we should make them all stay after class and write 100 times on the blackboard, “Shaming people does not make them happy, healthy or thin.”  It doesn’t save our country money.  It doesn’t save our children.  Shaming people about their weight does not do anything positive at all.  Shaming or bullying people about their weight:

  1. Makes them more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior.
  2. Makes them less likely to seek medical help.
  3. Makes them miss more school and get lower grades.
  4. Makes them sicker.
  5. Makes them heavier and puts them at greater risk for eating disorders.

Despite a mountain of evidence that dieting and shaming don’t work, and a mountain of evidence that dieting and shaming cause harm, we still have public policy and health experts suggesting that we help kids by shaming them and teaching them to diet.  I think we just might have to give them all a piece of chalk and make them stay after school.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S. Want to learn about a body positive approach to health and wellness?  How about checking out my book or my DVD?

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

 

Joyful Movement Taught by 14 Month-Old Ivo

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Click on the photo to see a beautiful video…

A friend recently sent me a link to this fabulous video on facebook.  Apparently some dancers were looking for some inspiration for their new dance piece.  And as they were dancing, 14-month old Ivo wandered in and started doing his thing.  The dancers decided to let him lead and the result is the above linked facebook video which is rapidly going viral.

And why is that?  He’s not a world celebrated choreographer.  He never danced at the Bolshoi or studied with Fosse or Graham.  So what is it about this little guy that has made him a facebook phenom at such a tender age?

I admit that I smiled and even giggled a little as I watched this video.  Ivo is terribly cute!  But I think what attracted me most is the idea that Ivo’s performance perfectly embodies joyful movement.  Ivo is not calculating how many fat grams he’s burning or working on his “core”.  Ivo is not wondering about calories or carb loading or fast twitch muscle fibers.  Nope.  Ivo is just dancing because he hears some music and because it feels good and because it’s fun.  The fact that all the bigger people joined in is just an extra bonus feature as far as Ivo is concerned.  Ivo is dancing because Ivo wants to dance.

I think children have so much to teach us about what joyful movement is and what if feels like.  I was inspired by a talk given by the ever-fabulous Deb Burgard at last Saturday’s A Fatty Affair in San Jose (which totally rocked by the way).  In her talk, Deb talked about how as an adult, she wants to bring recess back.  She asks us to remember how great it felt to hear the bell ring and run outside and jump on the swings or the merry-go-round or teeter-totter.  She reminds us of the release that came from just moving our bodies because it felt good, because it was a reprieve from studies and books and because it was fun!

Outside of borrowing a 14-month old kid to teach our fitness classes, I wonder how we can find our way back to this feeling again.  Can we just hop on a swing and pump our legs as we taste the sky?  Can we feel the whoosh of air going by as we spin on the merry-go-round?  Can we respond to an elegant Cello solo by flopping on the floor and kicking our legs in the air?

Look, I’m a fitness professional.  Obviously I believe there is a time and a place for integrating exercise science into our workouts.  Science can help lead us to exercise and help shape our exercise plans so we can exercise safely and effectively.  But I don’t think it’s the science that keeps us exercising.  I think it’s the sky tasting, whoop and swoop and kicking that does it.  So that’s the challenge I’d like to offer you right now.  I’d like to invite you to let Ivo, and your old playground self to inform your next workout.  Then, if you like, you could drop me an email or post in the comments to let us know how it went.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Biggest Loser: Part Two Corrective Guide Based on Exercise Science

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If you are doing as the advertising suggests and watching the latest season of The Biggest Loser with your family, you may have seen some stuff that is pretty disturbing.  In the first episode, we’ve got folks falling off treadmills, needing emergency medical attention and the usual Biggest Loser Barf Fest.  We’ve also got trainers yelling, screaming, insulting and bullying contestants in the hopes of helping them get in shape.  But as I suggested yesterday, this is “reality” television.  And a lot of the techniques you see on this show are the exact opposite of what we are taught as fitness professionals.   A lot of that stuff is just plain wrong.  And some of it is downright dangerous.

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, there is just so much misinformation about health and fitness on this season of The Biggest Loser, I just can’t fit it all into one blog post.  So here on Thursday Theater day, I bring you part two.  (Click on the photo above to see a short YouTube clip for this week’s Thursday Theater).  Let’s talk just a little bit more about what you and your kids might have “learned” on the show and why it’s a really bad idea to make it part of your fitness practice.

4.  The best way to motivate somebody to get fit is to yell, scream, curse at them, and bully them.

There’s an awful lot of evidence out there that bullying, yelling, screaming, shaming, cursing at and frightening people is a terrible long term strategy for motivating them to get and stay in shape.   People tend to be drawn to things that give them pleasure and shy away from things that cause them pain.  Being publicly shamed is extremely painful for most people.  In addition, there is ample evidence that people stick to exercise longer if they are intrinsically (internally) motivated rather than those who are extrinsically (outwardly) motivated.  So a person who identifies herself as an exerciser and works out because of the benefits she sees for herself (and also happens to enjoy the workout) is far more likely stick to exercise than someone who is motivated by shame and fear, especially if that shame and fear is applied by someone outside of themselves.  After all, what are you going to do when there isn’t a crazy mean lady who gets paid millions of dollars to scream at you every day.  Eventually you have to do it by yourself.  And you’ll have a much better chance of doing it yourself if you’ve built up the inner strength and self-esteem to be your own cheerleader.

And lest you be tempted to bully your kids into losing weight, let me tell you right now that this is likely to backfire.  Recent evidence indicates that kids being bullied from any source, be it school playgrounds, teachers, coaches and parents is likely to make kids engage in healthy behaviors and may make them gain more weight in the long run.  Not to mention the fact that kids who are bullied tend to have lower grades and poorer school attendance.  Being bullied frankly messes kids up, sometimes permanently.  If your kid is being bullied at school because he is fat, the last thing you should do is be another bully in his life.

5.  It is normal, feasible and desirable for a person to lose 10, 15 or over 20 pounds in one week.

When I was studying to be a personal trainer, I learned that there are two ways to lose 20 pounds in one week–dehydration and decapitation.  The weight loss levels on the Biggest Loser are not reasonable or sustainable by most people.  Furthermore there have been some suggestions that the length of a “week” (as long as 15 days) as well as hydration levels (including dehydrating contestants to the point of urinating blood) are manipulated to make it look like contestants are losing more weight.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Institutes of Health, suggests losing no more than 1/2 to 2 pounds per week. They suggest you may lose a few more pounds in the first 3 weeks of a program, but should not try to sustain weight losses at that level for more than two or three weeks without serious medical supervision.

Rapid weight loss can lead to a variety of health problems including gallstones, dehydration, dizziness, depression, and loss of lean muscle including heart muscle.  If you goal is health, the last thing in the world you want to do is lose lean muscle mass.  And losing muscle mass in your heart can be seriously dangerous.

Long story short, it’s not really safe or sustainable to lose more than two pounds per week at home.

To sum up, The Biggest Loser is a commercial television show on a for-profit network.  Press releases, promotional video and pompous rhetoric aside, their main goal is to make money.  Television shows make money by having better ratings.  Losing 1/2 pound per week in a rational sustainable way may be the healthiest option, but it makes for lousy TV.  Please take these facts into consideration as you watch the show, and decide whether or not to use anything on that show as a guide for your own health practice.  Because what makes for good TV may not make for a healthy body.  Please let common sense be your guide.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S.  If you are upset that The Biggest Loser has chosen to take on “childhood obesity” this season, consider signing our petition here.

If you’re looking for sensible and rational assistance for your exercise efforts, consider joining The Fat Chick’s Personal Training Programs.  If you sign up before January 14, you can try any of my training programs for just $25.  We’re also offering special training groups on the Fit Fatties Forum starting at just $10 per month!

There is a lot of very detailed and specific information about how to build a safe and pleasurable exercise regime found in my book The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of all Ages, Shapes, Sizes and Abilities).  You can pick up an autographed copy for just $16.95 (plus S+H) on my website.

Also remember that a little exercise adds up to a lot over time.  And exercise is more fun when you do it together.  So you might want to consider adding your exercise totals to our Fit Fatties Across America program.  We’re pooling all of our exercise minutes and miles as we make our way across the country.  We went 167 miles in the first few days of the program, and we’re hoping to reach St. Louis this week!  Make sure to enter your exercise data by noon on Friday to count towards this week’s totals!

Biggest Loser: A Corrective Guide Based on Exercise Science Part 1

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If you were unfortunate enough to have watched the season opener for The Biggest Loser this year, you saw some very frightening and confusing things.  You saw people vomiting.  You saw people falling off treadmills.  You saw kids on the show with accompanying tinkly happy music being told that they should stand up to people who bully them.  You saw not one but three “fitness coaches” screaming at, hollering at, spitting at, disparaging and yes, bullying the adult contestants.  You saw a contestant being home for losing a “measly 15 pounds” in one week.   You saw paramedics coming to pick one of the contestants up.  All in one episode.

When it comes to the modern Roman Coliseum, this season opener takes the cake!  One was thrown to the lions.  One was carried off on a stretcher.  And several fell during battle.  And while this makes absolutely delicious material for snark, I want to take a moment out and do a little damage control here.  Because this year, the producers claim to be taking on the “challenge of childhood obesity”.  This year, they want you and your kids to watch the show together to learn about a healthy lifestyle.  And that, my dear friends, is a big, BIG problem.  Because a lot of what they depict on that show, is the exact opposite of what we are taught as fitness professionals.  A lot of the stuff on that show is just plain wrong.  And some of it is seriously dangerous.  So let’s talk a little bit about what you and your family may have “learned” on that show and why it’s not a good idea to apply those ideas to your own fitness practice.

1.  It’s a good idea for folks who are completely sedentary to start with exercise sessions that are several hours long, provided there are fitness trainers there to scream at them.

Exercise science seems pretty clear on the fact that accelerating rapidly from no physical activity to a lot of physical activity is a bad idea.  Starting out with sessions of several hours puts a person at greater risk for injury, burnout and sudden death.  So where should sedentary adults begin?  Here’s what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has to say:

Therefore, for a person who has been sedentary for some time for whatever reason, the initial dose of activity should be at a relatively low intensity, of limited duration, with the sessions (also called bouts) spread throughout the week. An example of this approach would be a walking program with sessions of 5 minutes of slow walking, 5 to 6 days per week, with the bouts performed at various times throughout the day (e.g., 3 times per day). As the person adapts to this amount of activity, the bout duration could be slowly increased to 10 minutes, and as exercise capacity begins to increase, the walking speed could be increased…

The US Department of Health and Human Services also cites various studies that indicate “when individuals increase their usual amount of physical activity the risk of injury is related to the size of the increase. ”  So starting out with several hours of exercise at a time, can increase chances for musculoskeletal injury.  Furthermore moving exercisers from a completely sedentary life to long bouts of vigorous exercise can be very hard on the heart.  Moderate, gradually increasing exercise programs are generally quite safe.  Yet each year about 75,000 Americans suffer heart attacks during or immediately after exercise.  Studies show that these victims are most often sedentary men over age 35 who were either at risk for heart disease or had heart disease and then exercised too hard and too fast for their fitness levels. (American College of Sports Medicine 2006).  So if you are sedentary and haven’t exercised in a while, be safe.  Start of slowly and don’t ramp your fitness levels more than 10% per week.

2.  In order to get a really good workout, you should ignore pain, dizziness and other symptoms that are normally associated with distress in your body.

On the show, contestants are told to “push through” physical symptoms like pain, dizziness, and weakness.  However, sports science indicates that these symptoms are important messages that can warn of a serious problem before it occurs.  According to the Mayo Clinic, shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are possible signs of an asthma attack, and light-headedness, irritability, dizziness and confusion are possible symptoms of heatstroke, a potentially fatal condition.  Other causes for irritability, dizziness and confusion could be dehydration, a dangerous dip in blood sugar or even the onset of a coronary event.  For those of us exercising alone or at home, exercise danger signs are an important early warning system that should not be ignored.  Here are some of the generally accepted exercise warning signs:

1.  Feelings of dizziness or light-headedness

2.  Feeling tightness in chest, trunk, back or jaw

3.  Extreme breathlessness

4.  Unusual fatigue

5.  Nausea

6.  Loss of muscle control

7.  Allergic reactions–hives or rash

8.  Blurred vision or changes in consciousness

If you are exercising and experience any of these symptoms, it means you should stop exercising.  If these symptoms persist, it is important to seek medical attention.

3.  Vomiting is a normal part of any vigorous exercise routine.

Actually exercise induced nausea is a fairly common complaint, but there’s no reason to see it as a badge of honor.  In the past when questioned about this issue, Biggest Loser trainers suggested that the extremely high percentage of episodes of vomiting on the show are because the exercisers have a lot of toxins in their bodies.  I can find no research to back this assertion.  It appears the most common cause of exercise induced nausea (and vomiting) is again related to doing too much exercise at too high an intensity level too soon in an exercise program.  There are other potential causes for exercise-induced nausea.  A 4% drop in body weight from dehydration is enough to cause nausea and vomiting (a possible cause of the Biggest Loser Barf Fests).  While eating large fatty meals close to exercise sessions can trigger this nausea, the severely restricted diets of Biggest Loser contestants make this an unlikely cause.  In any case, exercisers should not see nausea and vomiting during workouts as a sign they are working hard enough, but rather as an opportunity to “fix” something in their training program that isn’t quite right.  Try an even more gradual increase in exercise intensity and levels from week to week.  Be sure to maintain a proper level of hydration.  Try not to eat large meals before workouts.  And consider changing your exercise mode (runners tend to have this problem more often than walkers or cyclists).

Frankly there’s too much misinformation and bad ideas in the Biggest Loser to detail them all in one post.  So, I’ll take up this topic again in another blog post.  In the mean time, please remember to let common sense into your exercise regime.  And also keep in mind that exercise does not have to make you miserable. You can reap physical, emotional and spiritual benefits while engaging in exercise that’s fun, pleasurable and reasonable.

Love,

The Fat Chick

P.S.  If you are upset that The Biggest Loser has chosen to take on “childhood obesity” this season, consider signing our petition here.

If you’re looking for sensible and rational assistance for your exercise efforts, consider joining The Fat Chick’s Personal Training Programs.  If you sign up before January 14, you can try any of my training programs for just $25.  We’re also offering special training groups on the Fit Fatties Forum starting at just $10 per month!

There is a lot of very detailed and specific information about how to build a safe and pleasurable exercise regime found in my book The Fat Chick Works Out! (Fitness that is Fun and Feasible for Folks of all Ages, Shapes, Sizes and Abilities).  You can pick up an autographed copy for just $16.95 (plus S+H) on my website.

Also remember that a little exercise adds up to a lot over time.  And exercise is more fun when you do it together.  So you might want to consider adding your exercise totals to our Fit Fatties Across America program.  We’re pooling all of our exercise minutes and miles as we make our way across the country.  We went 167 miles in the first few days of the program, and we’re hoping to reach St. Louis this week!  Make sure to enter your exercise data by noon on Friday to count towards this week’s totals!

Cranky Cookies

Cookies!As you can see, my awesome husband and I went down and used the church kitchen and made a few cookies yesterday.  And by a few, I mean about 60 dozen.  Every year, we make cookies to give away as Christmas gifts.  It’s a holiday tradition.  Another holiday tradition is to start out having a really great time making cookies and end up really annoyed at one another.  Best I can figure, the main problem is that we end up getting tired and cranky.  And despite my best efforts to end our baking session sooner this year, and to be the one to say “enough is enough.”  I still didn’t say “enough is enough” quite soon enough.  Hence we had some very cranky Christmas elves in the holiday baking tree.

We can look at our kids and figure out that they just need to go down for a nap.  We understand that no appeal to logic or pleading for better behavior will work.  That kid just needs to go night-night for half an hour or it’s GAME OVER.  Why is it that we can’t figure this out for ourselves?  I know my hubby and I get cranky when we are both hungry.  That’s why we instituted the sandwich rule.  But we haven’t figured out a “nap” rule or a “time out” rule for ourselves.  I have some friends that have asked me point  blank to please be the adult in their lives to tell them, as it says in the book, to go the f#@k to sleep!  I haven’t agreed to do that yet, because I can’t even figure it out for my ownself.

I want nap time back, like in kindergarten.  I want to eat a cookie and drink a chocolate milk and then lie on a mat in a darkened room and have 30 minutes of quiet time while my teacher contemplates her impending nervous breakdown or next career move (to an easier job like CIA agent).  I want to lie there in a quiet room and just listen to myself breathe.  Can we have nap time again?

I know I can actually do this myself.  I know that I can sit quietly in a chair and meditate.  I know that I can take a few minutes to do a progressive relaxation.  But honestly, who the heck remembers to do that?  Not me!  What about you readers out there–do you have any advice?  Or can you meet me every day about 2:00 PM with a carton of chocolate milk, a cookie and a blankie and tell me to lie down on my mat for an hour?  Please?  Thanks!

Love,

The Fat Chick

Where there is Hatred, Let’s Sow Love

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Recently my good friend Deb Lemire sent me a link to this amazing Ted talk.   Why not go take a look right now?  It’s that good.  I’ll wait.

It’s clear to me that Lynne is an amazing woman–one I’d love to meet one day.  She said many, many true and moving things in her short talk.  But one of the things I’d particularly like to talk about today is her discussion of the war on obesity, and her assertion that war is about hate.

I think it’s important to share this business about this war on obesity.  There are new people every day who join the ‘righteous’ and march out in this war.  The recruits are now younger and younger with indoctrination beginning in kindergarten and even preschool.  So what’s wrong with it?  Why not fight against this crushing “disease” which is “killing our children”?

In answer, I’d like to begin with two words: collateral damage.

I think many of us have been caught in the “friendly fire” of the war on obesity.  Many of us have seen the disapproving looks as we dare to order a roll (maybe even with real butter!) to eat with our salads.  We’ve been photographed and filmed with our heads cut off and displayed for the wartime propaganda.  We’ve been made scapegoats and blamed for everything from high prices for flying and insurance to global warming.  We have been named bad parents and some of us have even had our children torn from our grasp.  We are the butt of the joke, the cautionary tale, the perennial ‘before’ photo and the ’cause of the downfall of the human race’.

Except, for one problem.  It ain’t necessarily so.  There is little evidence that fat people raise health insurance rates to any significant degree.  Flying is expensive because of a whole host of reasons including  high fuel prices, inept airline management, a complex web of travel taxes and tariffs and poor aircraft upkeep among many other factors.  There is little reason to blame fat people for any of the problems the world is facing right now.

And even beyond those issues, there is one other.  The war can’t be won this way.  You can’t hate fat people thin.  For all the marching and the propaganda and the fabulous uniforms and billions of dollars spent, people aren’t getting any thinner.  All the money we’re spending and the people being emotionally and physically damaged in the crossfire is for nothing.  We are not making people any thinner.

I’d say that perhaps some of this money should be spent on determining what should be done to make the world healthier and happier without causing massive casualties from collateral damage, except we already know what actually works.  It’s called Health At Every Size or HAES and it’s for every BODY.  There is a lot of evidence that healthy habits are a better determinant of health at all sizes than body size.  So HAES simply suggests that we work on making healthy behaviors available and attractive to folks of all sizes, and stop trying to make fat people into thin people.

Why can’t we focus on health irrespective of size?  Why can’t we focus on making healthy options like good locally sourced food and safe places to walk and play for people of all sizes, races and economic levels?  Why can’t we focus on teaching our children to love and respect their own bodies and those of everyone around them?

We can.  As it says in the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi, “where there is hatred let us sow [your] love”.  So, let’s do it!  Let’s commit to being body pacifists.  Let’s throw down our weapons and walk out on the battlefields and bring aid and succor to those who are hurting out there.  Let’s find the kids who are wandering around shell shocked and bewildered and show them that there is another way.  That making a healthier body is about having a healthier community and a healthier world forged from love and not hate.  “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

Love,

The Fat Chick