Tag Archives: use what you got

What is a “healthy weight”?

I have to admit I was taken aback when I was named one of “Healthy Weight Week’s Top-35 Healthy Weight Blogs”.  I am actually aware of “Healthy Weight Week” from many years back.  I know that Francie Berg started “Healthy Weight Week” 25 years ago in an effort to change the dialog from weight (a number on a scale) to health (decidedly not a number on a scale).  This is part of Francie’s program which includes the annual “Slim Chance Awards” which chronicles some of the dumbest, most dangerous and least likely weight loss schemes of the year.

While I am firmly behind the notion of moving away from the number on the scale as an indicator of health, and I am deeply gleeful at the notion of poking fun at some of the most ridiculous diet schemes of the year (and the epic race to the bottom that THAT entails), I have to admit a fair amount of discomfort about putting the words “healthy” and “weight” together in any given sentence.  While I think the spirit of the week is a really great thing, the name of the event still seems to imply that there is a particular “healthy weight” for each person to be.  And I think that this notion is both simplistic and dangerous.

Because, you know what?  There is no magic number.  There is not a spot on the dial of the scale that, once attained, will make you immortal or even impervious to health problems or pain or sickness.  Even if you reach that number using Health At Every Size(R) techniques or intuitive eating or super fun physical activity plans.  Even if  you attain this place by deep meditation and perfect self-love (as if that even exists) and flowers and love and light.  There is no number on the scale that will make you perfectly happy or well-adjusted or even sane.  It’s just a number on the scale.  There is no perfect weight.

And there is no perfect health.  Nobody is in “perfect health”.  We’re all crumbling away–sometimes gradually and sometimes precipitously–towards our eventual demise.  I’m sorry to be a little bit morbid.  But I think that this notion of “perfect health” is something we need to put to bed right now.  I mean right this very minute.

There are many ways to define health.  Just as there are many ways to define Health At Every Size (R).  But I favor a definition that sees health as a continuum rather than a condition.  I think moving away from health is moving in a direction where we are less able to take advantage of our current physical condition to enjoy the things we love the most.  Moving towards health is living in a way that allows us to take greater advantage of our current physical condition and squeeze more of the things we love the most out of the remainder of our lives.  It doesn’t sound super sexy.  I sincerely doubt it will sell a lot of tennis shoes or create a great bumper sticker.  However, I think this definition of health allows everybody a spot at the table.  It doesn’t separate the haves from the have-nots.  It defines health in a way that can you can keep with you for your entire life.

This is particularly important in my work as a fitness instructor.  I work with many people who are coping with many levels of physical challenges.  From joint difficulties, to disease, to chronic pain conditions to plain old aging, many of my students and readers find it difficult to identify themselves as “healthy” as it is commonly understood.  And for many of my students, the notion of “perfect health” seems so remote that it might as well be another planet.  And this distance from the notion of “perfectly healthy” can be extremely demoralizing.  “How can I even start?” or “Why bother?” they ask.

And that’s why I choose to talk about health in terms of a continuum.  I tell them, “If we can do five minutes together today, we are going to ROCK those five minutes.  We are going to count it as a success and then we are going to do a booty dance of victory to celebrate!”  Because even though five minutes of exercise can’t move them to a “perfect weight” or “perfect health”,  it can move them towards a life that contains a little more energy and allows them to fit in a little more awesome.  Even as their teacher I am neither a perfect weight nor am I in perfect health.  However, my life contains a significant amount of awesome that I am happy to share.  And to me, helping your life contain even just a little more awesome is a worthy goal.

So, I am deeply honored and deeply grateful that I have been selected as one of the unfortunately-named but super-well-intentioned “Top 35 Healthy-Weight blogs”, because it gives me the opportunity to share my thoughts on this very important topic with you.  And I thank you, as always, for listening.

Love, Jeanette (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. If you’re interested in a fitness challenge tailored to your specific body and capabilities, I’d like to invite you to consider the Fit Fatties Virtual Events and Decathlon.  We’ve got all kinds of events both traditional (1 Mile Walk/Run/Roll, triathlon, 10 mile bike ride) and extremely non-traditional (romp with your kids or your dogs, engage in cheesy dance moves, shovel snow out of your driveway, tromp around a museum).  Join in the fun!

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!

Advertisements

Frank Sinatra as Exercise Inspiration

In case you’re noodling over my semi-bizarre title, let me just say this.  Frank “did it his way”.  And when it comes to exercise, I’d like to invite you to do it your way.

I was inspired to write this after reading a great post by a young exercise guru named Ryan DeBell.  In his post, he talks about some of the anatomical differences in the hip region that can have a dramatic difference in the way we squat.  If you aren’t too squeamish when it comes to looking at human bones, I’d like to encourage you to hop on over to the article.  Because those pictures of bones tell a story that is very interesting.

The pictures feature the bones of the hip, showing us the socket part of the joint on the pelvis (called the acetabulum) and the ball part of the joint on the head of the long bone of the leg (called the femur).  When the pictures are compared, side by side, it is clear that there is a LOT of anatomical variety.  The angle of the ball part of the joint differs widely from one person to another.  The length of the ball part of the joint is different.  The position of the socket part of the pelvis is very different from one picture to another.

From this picture, Ryan extrapolates that these bodies would perform the “squat” in ways that are very different from one another.  He posits that one person would be more comfortable in a wide stance and another would be more comfortable in a narrow stance.  And he suggests that this difference is likely to continue expressing itself, even after a fair amount of exercise in both strengthening and increasing range of motion in the hip joint.

It’s also fascinating to me that Ryan followed up his blog post with a brief video. Here it is:


Basically what the video says is (and I’m paraphrasing): “Yeah helpful commenters, I didn’t say that because hips are different people should stop working on their hips.  And no I don’t have reams of incontrovertible evidence detailing the exact range of human hip diversity.  But what I am saying is that even if you exercise a lot, people are still going to be different. ”

And the end of the video is so awesome, I’ll quote it here:

“Keep doing it so you can be the best version of you in your movement.”

Okay, I want to give this guy cyberhugs.  Seriously.  Because what he says makes so much sense not only in the context of exercise, but also in terms of body diversity in general.  It should be obvious, right?  We don’t all look the same.  Some of us are tall and some of us are short.  Some of us are designed to be weight lifters and some of us are designed to sprint and some of us are going to run long distances like marathons and ultramarathons like a freakin’ gazelle.  Some of us are designed with a great deal of musical talent.  Others of us can’t carry a tune in a barrel.  Does suggest that the sprinters can’t do marathons or that the non-singers should just mouth “Happy Birthday to You” at the next family gathering?  No it does not.  However it does suggest that the sprinter’s body is likely to respond to 26.2 miles in a way that is very different from the gazelle.  It means that the non-singer is going to have a much different experience learning to sing opera than the kid who rolled out of bed at age 18 with a high “C” and perfect pitch.

And speaking of singing, there is so much diversity in music, and in many ways it seems more accepted.  I am a soprano.  I can sing the same notes as many altos and even some tenors.  But no matter how much I train my voice to extend my range, I will not  be an alto or a tenor.  The quality of my voice will not match those voice types.  And the more I try to train my voice to artificially create a sound that is not right for me, the more fatigued and frustrated I will become.  And if I train against the natural tendencies of my voice long enough and hard enough, I am likely to experience pain, injury and possibly even permanent damage.  Does that mean I stop working to extend my range?  Of course not!  But it does mean that I need to progress in a way that is in harmony with my anatomy and my abilities.

You know, as I watched the Golden Globes last night, I found a number of things really striking.  One thing I noticed was how tall most of the women were.  And another thing I noticed was how similar all the women looked to one another.  There were a few striking and glorious examples of body diversity, but the vast majority of the women at that show could have easily swapped couture gowns with one another.  And I think this is one of the main dangers of consuming media in our culture.  It makes us lose touch with how much natural diversity there is in bodies.  It gives many of us the sense that our bodies are all wrong because everybody we see on TV and in the magazines either look the same naturally, or are photoshopped into uniformity.  But if we look outside of media, if we look in the real world, I think there is a beautiful and astonishing level of difference.

So how do we bring this back around to our title?  How do we relate this to Frank Sinatra?  My dear friend, I think it means you need to do exercise YOUR way.  By all means enlist the help of a personal trainer or exercise teacher.  By all means build your strength and extend your range of motion.  But while you are doing this, please listen to YOUR body.  Don’t assume that there is only one way to strengthen or increase flexibility in any part of your body.   Don’t even assume that there is only one right way to do a particular sort of exercise.  And when your body says, “OW it hurts when I do that in that way,” follow your Mom’s sage advice and don’t do that.  Just focus, as Ryan says, on being the best version of YOU.

Love, Jeanette DePatie (AKA The Fat Chick)

P.S. One of the things that is so exciting about the Fit Fatties Virtual Events project I co-created with Ragen Chastain (besides how cool it is to do anything with Ragen Chastain) is watching how different bodies respond to the very different challenges offered in the program.  Rather than asking everybody to do a 5K or a triathlon, we are encouraging people to explore a wide range of activities and pick a few  that feel great to them.  We are still offering early bird special pricing so I urge you to go check it out!