Tag Archives: safe

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)

P.S. Want me to speak at your school, organization or group?  Click HERE to book me!

P.S.S. Want to get free stuff, click HERE to join my list!

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Take Yourself for a Walk

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When the amazing and wonderful Velvet D’Amour asked me to come up with a workout for her new issue of Volup.2 she said that the theme was “simplicity”.  It really didn’t take long for me to come up with the workout plan.  I decided on walking–one of the safest, simplest and cheapest workouts in the world.  Once again, I retained the photography talents of Kelly Varner–one of the very best photographers I know, and we went out to create a photo essay on the joys of walking.  You can see the results HERE.

There are as many wonderful workouts in the world as there are people.  But whenever I’m helping somebody who is stuck, who isn’t sure where to start, I suggest they put on their sneakers, grab the leash and the dog or the hand of their sweetheart and simply go for a walk.  Naturally, I’m partial to walking outside, but if the weather is truly wretched, the mall will do.  I can’t say I’m a big treadmill fan–the thing makes me feel like a giant gerbil.  But some people really love working out with the treadmill.  To which I say–to each his own.

There is something so local and gentle and simple about going for a walk around the neighborhood with your friend, hand in hand with your lover or even all by your self.  Walking is gentle enough to allow for conversation or contemplation.  Sometimes, when I walk by myself, I focus on the seasons and what is happening around me.  Sometimes when I walk by myself, I imagine sending positive and kind thoughts to people who live in the houses that I am passing.  And sometimes, I walk hand in hand with my husband without saying anything at all.  We just enjoy being together.

And if I don’t feel like walking alone and my friends and my husband are busy, I can always count on my handsome dog Max.  He loves to walk so much that he’s even figured out how to spell the word.  I used to be able to talk to my husband about taking Max for a w-a-l-k.  But now, even if I spell it, Max is completely insane with excitement, whining at the door where we keep his leash and ready–always ready to go.

So, I’d like to invite you to find just a little time for a little stroll this week.  Don’t worry about counting steps, or calculating calories burned or miles accumulated.  Just lace up your sneakers and step out for your little fix of joy.  I promise it will be worth it.

Love,

The Fat Chick

Why it’s so Good to Fail Big and Fail Often

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I was recently inspired by this article in New York Times Magazine called “Be Wrong as Fast as You Can”.  It talks, in no uncertain terms about how the author runs around with tons of super great ideas in his head.  These ideas are fabulous.  These ideas are perfect.  These ideas CAN. NOT. FAIL.  Why?  Because these ideas live only in the author’s head where there are no risks, where nothing is impossible, and  where everything is still potentially perfect.  He talks about what keeps him from turning these ideas into reality.  And the conclusion he draws is that it’s fear of failure that’s keeping him back.

Hmmm.  I have to say this sounds kinda familiar.  How many years of my life have I spent with super great ideas in my head?  You know–the ones that give me something to talk about at parties, doodle about in my dream book, and discuss after uncorking the second bottle of chardonnay?  But how often have these ideas stayed in my head and never made it out into the cold, cruel world?  How many ideas never became real because I still haven’t learned how to fail?

The author of the article, New York Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren suggests that over the years he’s had a lot of theories about what he needs to do quit procrastinating and making his dreams real.  He found his answer in an interview with John Lasseter on the Charlie Rose show.  It seems the folks at Pixar have an in-house theory for success, “Be wrong as fast as you can.”

Yup. I’ve gotta say, I’m hearing some bells ringing here.  If you want your ideas to turn into stuff that can be seen out in the world and possibly, you know, help some people, you’ve got bump those little birds out of the nest to see if they can fly.  Some of your ideas won’t make it.  Some of them will fail.  In that case, I say good riddance.  You were clogging up your brain space with plans for impossible, un-buildable stuff.  Get rid of it.  Make room for another crazy idea.  But some of your ideas will frantically flap their little wings and start to get a little lift.  And now you’re on your way to making your ideas work.

But if you want to see if that little birdie can fly, you can’t push it out of a nest that is five inches from the ground.  You’ve got to give the idea room to get flapping.  If you’re going to fail, you should do it spectacularly.  Don’t fail because you were timid.  Don’t let your ideas fail because you let your fears talk you into half-measures or half-hearted attempts.  You’ve got to endure risk to have the potential for reward.

So, I’m stepping out on a limb right here and announcing that this week I will be launching a new web video show called “Right Now”.  I’ll give you a sneak preview and let you know that in the very first episode we’ll talk about why your body, your mind and your spirit are right now, and why you should stop waiting and pursue what you want in your life right now.

It may succeed.  It may fail.  But if I do fail, I hope I fail spectacularly!

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!

Finding Help: Buyer Beware

When it comes to fitness, if it hurts, DON’T DO IT!

So far this week we’ve been talking about helping others. And I’m a BIG fan of that. Today we’re going to talk about finding help for yourself.  And I’m a BIG fan of that too.  But in finding help, you DO need to be careful.

Settle in my little chickies, and I’ll tell you a little story–an instructive parable as it were.  At one point in my life, when I was deeply worried about being thin, I panicked and I hired a personal trainer. Now believe me, I think having a personal trainer can be an awesome investment. But in this case, I was ruled by panic. Did I check to see if this guy was certified? Nope. Did I ask to talk to other students of his? Uh uh. Did I even do an online search to see if this guy was a maniac? That would be negative. I saw the guys phone number on the gym bulletin board, I called him and I started working with him.

I should also mention that at the time I could barely afford to buy food or medicine. But that didn’t matter because this guy was gonna do it. He was gonna make me skinny and from there on out my life would be PERFECT.

I should have known from the very first workout that this guy was not for me. The FIRST thing he did, before he did an intake questionnaire or asked me about my fitness level or fitness goals or potential health problems was to plunk me on a treadmill, crank up the speed, crank up the incline and to tell me to stay on there for 20 minutes. And by goodness I DID stay on there for 20 minutes.  Sweating, wheezing, heart pounding, and feeling sick, I staggered over to where he was reading a muscle magazine.  “Wow,” he said.  “I wasn’t really expecting you to do the whole 20 minutes.  Now we can get down to some real work.”

Now my little chicklettes, that scenario is what we in the business call a “clue”.  The guy basically threw me into a “maximal” testing situation where he intended to test me to failure, but he didn’t check my history first, he didn’t monitor me and, here’s something important, he DIDN’T BOTHER TO TELL ME that’s what we were doing.  Dangerous? Yup. Epic stupidity?  Yah, you betcha!  But he later confessed he didn’t tell me because he could tell by looking at me that I was “soft” and he didn’t want me to “wimp out”.

But did I yell at him? Did I quit giving him money? No I did not.  I kept training with him because he was thin and muscular and I was fat.  I trained with him for months.  Unable to walk after our exercise sessions, frequently vomiting in the locker room after workouts and feeling sick and miserable, I worked with him until I got injured and couldn’t work out any more.  And I guess you can tell at this point, I’m still pretty darn angry about it.

Look, if I had tuned in with my instincts, which were SCREAMING by the way, that I should RUN (well at least stagger) away from this guy, I could have avoided a whole lot of heartache and saved money to buy something awesome, like shoes.  But I allowed my feelings of insecurity and false hopes to lure me into getting myself hurt.

So my little chicklettes, the lesson is this.  Please do seek help.  We all need help from time to time.  No woman is an island.  But please seek help that is competent, qualified, and compassionate.  Do your research first.  Shop around.  Ask questions.  Ask for references.  Ask for qualifications.  Any trainer, doctor, therapist or coach who doesn’t want to give this sort of information to you is not worth considering.  And if your instincts tell you that this isn’t the right person for  you or that you don’t feel safe, leave.  Take your toys and GO HOME.

Because my sweet little chickadees, when it comes to helpers as with everything in life, you deserve only the best.

Love,

The Fat Chick