Tag Archives: marathon

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.


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!


ROUND numbers–the 500th Post!

post500.001-001Well hello there!  Welcome to the 500th post on Fat Chick Sings!  It’s always great when we reach a ROUND number.  A 10-K, a 25th or 50th wedding anniversary, a 100 mile bike ride.  The goal of meeting ROUND numbers help fuel us, keep us going and move us forward.  The joy of reaching round numbers give us an opportunity to pause, celebrate, reflect and take stock.

In the final chapter of my book, The Fat Chick Works Out!, I encourage you to enjoy meeting your exercise goal and then to go ahead and schedule a little rest.  And then I go on to define “schedule a little rest”.  Schedule, means that you decide when you are going to rest, and for how long.  Little means that the rest is long enough to feel like a rest, but not so long as to cause you to lose all the muscles and momentum that you gained.  And rest means to actually take a real break from the thing  you were doing.

So I’m going to take my own advice and schedule a little 2 week vacation from blogging.  Don’t worry, I’ll be back October 1.  And during this time, I’m going to reflect on the blog and take stock.  The blog may come back looking a little different.  Maybe it will have  slightly different focus.  While I’m reflecting, I’d love to hear from you.  What do you like best about the blog?  What posts make you say, “meh.”?  You can leave me messages in the comments, or write me privately at jeanette at the fat chick dot com.

And it’s not like I’m dropping off the planet entirely.

Remember, if you live in the Bay area, come join us for a Hot Flash Mob in downtown San Francisco THIS Wednesday, September 18.  We’ll be meeting at a secret location in the Financial District at 12:15 PM and dancing at 12:30.  You can get access to the secret location when you RSVP either on the meetup group, or on the new Facebook event page.  I hope to see you there!

And it’s not too late to join me at the Size Diversity Task Force retreat in Las Vegas coming up October 11-13.  I’ll be hosting some super fun activities there and we are going to have a BLAST!

Thanks for hanging out with me.  See  you in two weeks!


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!)


Book me to speak at your special event!

Fat and Bad Knees


This ad for moisturizer suggests you use their body creme ” for sexy knees”.

One of the things I am constantly told as a fat person is that for fat people, knee pain is inevitable.  And in fact, I am told, I can expect a lifetime of “bad knees”.  Now, given my somewhat skewed view of the universe, rather than scaring me silly, the threat of “bad knees” usually make me think of an image like the one in the body cream ad above, or this silly image below:

BadKneesBut putting the silly pictures aside for a moment, I am an athlete who has had some problems with knee and leg pain my entire life.  I have been lucky enough to have some doctors who are great, but have also run into the all-too-common problem of fat-phobic doctors diagnosing me with having knees while fat.

My feet and leg problems started at birth.  When I was very young, and quite skinny, I was severely pigeon-toed.  As a result, I wore a brace with bars connecting my feet to bed every night.  It looked sort of like this:

footbraceNow I wore this brace to bed back when I was too young to untie and tie my own shoes.  I’m fairly sure that the need to get in and out of bed to go potty while wearing these things has shaped my sardonic view of the world, but I digress.

When I was in high school, and I was going through one of my thin periods, I ran track.  I ran the mile and the 2 mile races (mostly because nobody else wanted to…).  When I first started running, I had severe problems with shin splints.  Because I was thin, nobody thought that the solution was simply to tell me to lose weight.  We tried a variety of things including elaborate taping, different icing regimens and a lot of aspirins before somebody figured out that I just needed tennis shoes with a different sort of arch support.  For an investment of $25 the problem was solved.

Later in life, I suffered a few injuries.  I had a fairly severe meniscus tear in my knee as a result of leaping onto a pile of mats to adjust some audio equipment at the gym.  I also tore a ligament in my foot because I tripped on the front of my sandal and landed wrong.  Each of those injuries netted me a month or two on crutches.

So when I got midway through my most recent jaunt of marathon training, it’s not surprising that I found myself coping with some knee pain.  Luckily I had a great GP at the time who referred me to a sports medicine doctor.  He confirmed that I had a whole lot going on in the lower-extremities department.  He noted the flat feet (that I’ve had since birth) the fact that my feet pronate (also had since birth) and prescribed some custom shoe inserts and a few specific exercises I could do to strengthen my knee joint.  Problem solved.  Marathon finished.  Cheap medal and sweaty finish line photos earned.  And even though I was about the same weight then that I am now, neither my GP or my sports medicine guy gave me any flack about my weight.

444pmI didn’t realize then just how lucky I was.

Since then, I have moved and changed insurance and have had other doctors.  These doctors were not so great actually.  One of them asked about knee pain (I didn’t bring it up).  And I said, that yes, sometimes after a tough workout, my knees will be a little sore.  “Aha!” the doctor cried. “This is proof positive you need to lose weight.  If you lose weight, your knee pain will go away.  If you stay this weight your knees will hurt all the time!”


The fact that my knees function at all, given the foot problems I was born with as well as the athletic injuries I’ve suffered is pretty amazing.  And at no point, did this doctor ask about any medical history regarding my feet, shoes, injuries, sports activities or anything else.  He simply predicted that I would be in pain as long as I was fat and that the remedy was simply to lose weight and keep it off.

Never mind that I didn’t come in there asking about knee pain.

Never mind that there is no method, and I mean NONE that is proven to be successful for long-term weight loss in most people and that even if I was one of the 5-10 percent of people who are able to lose weight and keep it off, there is no guarantee that it will do anything at all to relieve knee pain.

Never mind that there are successful methods of coping with knee pain that are widely considered effective for people of all sizes and that these methods have nothing to do with losing weight.

Nope, once this doctor diagnoses you with fat knees, the treatment is a single piece of paper with a diet on it.  According to Doctor Know-It-All, the way to fix your knee problems is, Breakfast: One egg (boiled), one piece of wheat toast (dry), one cup of coffee (black) and 4oz. orange juice, etc…

And my story is so mild compared to the other stories that I hear from folks about this subject.  People who are suffering from knee pain and told that all they have to do is lose weight and their knee pain will go away.  And they are told that their doctor won’t bother to try any other treatment for knee pain until after they lose weight.

It’s lazy and it’s unethical.

If you are coping with knee pain, there are some things you can do.  Very often, knee pain can be improved by correcting underlying muscle imbalances.  You can get help from a physical therapist or sports medicine specialist.  You can supplement this therapy with simple at-home exercises like those offered by my colleague Cinder Ernst.  Also, you may need to see a foot doctor to get custom inserts made for your shoes.  Sometimes simply switching to a good sturdy shoe with good arch support can make all the difference.

You may also find help, as I did from somebody who teaches Alexander Technique and can help you figure out what you are doing in your every day life that exacerbates your knee pain.

Exercise can really help folks coping with knee pain, but it’s important to do it the right way.  Make sure you get the help of an exercise instructor or personal trainer to make sure that you are working out in a way that strengthens and doesn’t threaten your knee joints.  I offer a few simple tips in this video.

Not all fat people have knee pain.  Not all thin people are free from knee pain.  But whatever your size, there are things you can do to protect your knees and help you cope with knee pain should it arise.  Make sure you get the help you need, and don’t let anybody scare, threaten or intimidate you by diagnosing you with having knees while fat.


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!)


Book me to speak at your special event!

The National Weight Control Registry: Oh look, a Unicorn

Results not typical…

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard several people advance the National Weight Control Registry as evidence that people can permanently lose weight.  To take just two cases, It is currently prominently featured on the Weight of the Nation website and it was thrown at Julianne Wotasik and I during our interview on Dr. Drew’s show earlier this week.  Add to that, my new friend Angela sending her amazing slides for a new UK lecture on the NWCR and a blog post seemed kind of inevitable…

The National Weight Control Registry is a list of about 10,000 people who are at or above age eighteen who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for at least one year.  There are follow up studies done on subsets of the group over time.  But in order to initially qualify for this group you must only meet three criteria: be 18 or older, show an initial weight loss of over 30 pounds, and maintain at least 30 lbs of your initial weight loss for one year.  As I mentioned on Dr. Drew’s show, I would have qualified for the NWCR at least two different times in my life.  But alas, after the one or two year point, I regained my weight plus a little.  (It was only when I stopped weight cycling that I have been able to maintain a steady, albeit higher weight.)

There’s lots of argument back and forth about the level of regain among participants.  One follow up study from 2003 indicated that among the subset self selected for the review, over 70 percent had regained some weight over the two years of the study.  Granted, most of them had retained a significant percentage of their weight loss at this point, but “recovery from even minor weight gain was uncommon”.

But here’s the main thing folks.  The National Weight Control Registry is a study of a very, very small, self-selected sample of people who have lost some weight and kept some of it off.  The study was never designed to apply to a general population– “Because this is not a random sample of those who attempt weight loss, the results have limited generalizability to the entire population of overweight and obese individuals.”  So this is a study of what a very small percentage of people in the United States did in order to lose weight (lots of different things) and keep some of it off.  Sure there have been glowing reports of what these folks have in common in maintaining some weight loss.  Most severely restrict calories, exercise daily and weigh weekly.  And many media outlets have shouted about the fact that most of these folks eat breakfast every day!  (Since I’ve eaten breakfast every day for my entire life, and I’m still waiting for the magic weight loss to appear, I kinda wonder if this breakfast thing has a causal relationship with weight loss.  But I digress…)

When I say the NWCR is a small sample, I mean it.  At any given time, over 70 million Americans are trying to lose weight for good.  The NWCR lists 10,000 who have managed to log some success in that regard.  We’re talking about a .00014 percent success rate here.  As a point of comparison, over 500,000 people completed a marathon last year.  And when it comes to an Ironman race (that’s a 2.4 mile swim followed by a 112 mile bike ride followed by a 26.2 mile run all completed in less than 17 hours with no break) estimates run as high as 25,000 projected participants for this year.  So why aren’t we suggesting that all Americans compete in marathons or even Ironman competitions to be healthy?  After all, our sample sizes for successful people are 2.5 to 50 TIMES HIGHER than those listed in the NWCR.  And since 25,000 people have managed to complete an Ironman, it’s clearly possible, right?  Maybe those half million marathoners need to learn from the techniques of the Ironmen and just suck it up and do it.  Anybody who doesn’t want to exercise for 17 hours straight is clearly a slacker.

We don’t suggest everyone compete in marathons and triathlons and Ironmans because it’s ridiculous.  We know that not everyone has the time, health, money or inclination to train the average 40 miles per week clocked by mere marathoners not to mention the hundreds of miles clocked by Ironmen.  While I adored my marathon training and am extremely glad I did it, I just don’t have that kind of time to dedicate to marathon training on top of all of the other fitness classes I’m teaching right now.  And with plenty of research indicating that a mere 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week is all that is necessary to achieve extremely significant health goals, I’m happy too treasure my medals and move on.  And since there is also plenty of research indicating that I can be happy and healthy by engaging in moderate healthy behaviors without significant weight loss, I’m happy to do that too and just get on with my life.

So my dear little chicklettes, I no longer qualify for the NWCR.  Maybe you don’t qualify either, but that’s okay.  Why not join my extremely exclusive Fat Chick Clique instead?  It’s totally free, you get to get free stuff, and you can live your life however you want.  Cuz’ that’s just how I roll.


The Fat Chick

But won’t you lose weight if…?

At the San Bernardino Valley College screening of “Strong!”

Last night at the panel discussion after the screening of StrongI at the San Bernardino Valley College, I got asked a very common question.  People assume, that if I did a marathon or if I ate healthy or if taught aerobics, I would have lost weight.  And audience members were, as always, floored when I told them, yes I did those things and no I didn’t lose weight.  They usually follow this question with a tentative, “well you lost inches, right?”.  To which I usually respond, “well I didn’t get any shorter!”  Seriously, it seems very hard for folks to believe that a person can do healthy things, even extraordinary physical things and not get thin.  This seems to fly in the face of EVERYTHING that they’ve heard.  And I’m sorry about that. But it’s still true.

When I started teaching fitness, I went from very little exercise to over 4 hours per week.  Did I get svelte?  Did I get slim?  Nope!  When I bumped my teaching up to 9 hours per week, I lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 pounds and ended up with a ligament tear in my knee.  I gained one 3-pound pair of crutches for a net weight loss of 0.00.  While training for the marathon, I routinely walked and ran 15 to 20 miles per week.  Near the end it was well over 30.  And you know how much weight I lost? Zero. Zip. Zilch.  I felt better.  I was stronger and healthier.  And no doubt some of my weight shifted around a bit.  But the fact is, I didn’t get thin.

And here’s why that’s important.  Wouldn’t it have been a shame for me to have crossed the finish line of my first (and only) marathon feeling like a failure?  Can you imagine? Going 26.2 miles in one day without dying and feeling like a FAILURE?  Well that’s precisely what would have happened had I not learned to separate the concept of fitness from the concept of weight loss.  Since I wasn’t worried about losing weight, I can tell you that crossing that finish line was one of the most amazing moments of my life.

So that’s it.  That’s why I call myself The Fat Chick.  Because I think it is so very important to let fitness stand on its own as an accomplishment.  Because I want people to understand that not all folks who exercise look like fitness cover models.  A lot of them look an awful lot like me.  In fact, if you’d like to see some exercisers of size, don’t forget to hit the photo gallery of Fit Fatties which I developed in concert with the lovely and amazing Ms. Ragen Chastain.

And remember my little chicklettes, if you want to see what an athlete looks like, just check in the nearest mirror.