Sunday, January 27, 2013

On Being Fat

"You have a big bum."

I was helping a friend at her house, and the child of another good friend of mine was watching me. I looked at this adorable three-year-old girl with a smile on my face. "Yes, I do, " I said, "that's why I'm going to exercise classes to make it get smaller." She said, "Yeah." and skipped  away.

This sweet little girl wasn't being mean. She was stating a fact. A fact she saw right in front of her. It's hard to miss. And although it stung my pride a bit, her comment didn't make me feel bad. I'm a big girl. (Ha Ha - see what I did there?)

Soon after I started writing this blog (officially a year, now - woohoo!), I got a message from a woman telling me that she didn't like me calling myself fat. I assume it was because of the name of my blog. I was touched that my very kind friend worried for me. But, I named this the Song of The Fat Lady, deliberately, for two reasons. 
  1. I wanted to make it uncomfortable for myself. It's not fun being called fat - even by myself. This is supposed to be about me losing weight. The word "fat" is a harsh reminder that I need to work hard.
  2. The saying goes, "It ain't over until the Fat Lady sings."  So, if the Fat Lady is singing, it must mean the end of something. That something is (hopefully) being unhealthy - being fat.
We're taught that calling people fat is a mean thing to do. Most people don't want to purposely hurt others. I talk to my sons about it, too. Last year, in the second grade, Boy 1 got written up for bullying. Apparently, his class was lining up to go to PE and there was a woman in the hall. She was watching them. Our anxiety-ridden, socially awkward, quirky boy sometimes says and does things that others would find odd. When he noticed that this woman was watching him, he got very uncomfortable and blurted out, "You're fat." His teacher heard it, and asked him to apologize. Now, being the center of everyone's attention, he shut down and would not even speak.

Was he trying to bully this woman? No, of course not. Was he doing it in a mocking or teasing manner? No. But, I am sure his tone was rude. He wanted this woman to stop looking at him. Not apologizing, I'm sure, made it seem that much worse. But why did he choose those words? I don't know if we'll ever know.

This past week on Facebook, I saw a link to an article on fat "shaming." Daniel Callahan, president emeritus of The Hastings Center, wrote a paper calling for more social pressure on overweight people. He suggests improving community education,  the use public posters, and curbing marketing  of unhealthy foods to minors. But, those steps aren't enough. Shame should maybe be part of the plan.  He wrote, 
"Safe and slow incrementalism that strives never to stigmatize obesity has not and cannot do the necessary work."
 Mr. Callahan cited the success of the "anti-smoking campaign of recent decades." He, himself,  was a smoker. He wrote, 
"The force of being shamed and beat upon socially, was as persuasive for me to stop smoking as the threats to my health. I was also helped by the fact that others around me were stopping as well. If they could do it, so could I."
Mr. Callahan then discusses the difficulty of using the same social pressure on the obese. 
"Stigmatizing the obese...goes after their character and selfhood, it is said, not just their behavior." 
I thought this paper was extremely interesting and I found I agreed with much of what he wrote. While it's the same theory that I'm trying to use on myself (calling myself the fat lady, opening myself up for criticism on the Internet, etc.), I would never call someone else fat, or use shame to try to get someone else to lose weight. Being unkind is never a necessary road to take. But I do believe we need to be honest with ourselves and with others. Especially in a country where so many of the adults and a record number of children are in the obese range according to their BMI.  Honest discussions about obesity and the accompanying health risks are required.

The shame is already there. I would rather drive 13-14 hours to visit my mom, than take an hour and a half flight. I usually say it's about saving money and having a car while I'm there, but it's really about shame and embarrassment AND saving money and having a car while I'm there. I don't want to be that person that someone has to be squished next too on the airplane. I don't want to have to ask for a belt extender. I don't want to worry about being asked to buy a second ticket because I take up too much room. So I choose to drive.

When we eat out, whether it's real or not, I perceive judgment if my choice is less than healthy. In restaurants, I ask for a table in case a booth might be a tight fit. 

It has been hard for me to try new classes at the Y. Although I have had so many good experiences and have been accepted and welcomed, I worry about new classes. I know it's because I am ashamed of how I look, and I don't want to embarrass myself. It's so much easier to hide away. My sister has been such a good example of trying new classes. She's always trying new things - either to shake it up a bit, or to vary her workout. I really admire her determination and dedication. And she looks amazing! Hard work pays off.

Although I didn't and don't want to be fat, I chose it. I lived a fat lady's life. Yes, the family history is there. Yes, my metabolism only gets slower the older I get. I'm not complaining here, you get what you get. I'm saying that I can't blame it on anything or anyone else. It's about the choices I made and what I decide to do next. I can't change the past. I can only move forward and make better choices now.

It was a busy week. 1 day off from school, doctor, dental,  and orthodontic appointments for the boys, the dog finally got to the groomer, and so did I. ;) The furnace got a tune up - and we were advised to just replace it - oh joy. Boy 1's first Pinewood Derby for Cub Scouts was also this week. And to top it all off, I wasn't feeling very well. Those kind of weeks happen, though. 

I was able to lose 2 pounds - almost back to pre-Christmas weight. 

Follow the link to Mr. Callahan's paper. Read it and tell me what you think. I'd love to know. Have a great week!

Weight gain/loss: -2 lbs (Finally!)
Total weight loss: -26 lbs
Exercise: 1 home workout, 20 minutes (a lot of appointments & not feeling well this past week)
Food Tracking: 3 of 7 days - progress...
Healthfulness/portions: Lots of veggies & lean protein - but at the end of the week, I struggled with stopping at 1 serving.  
Hydration: pretty good - more water!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mirror Mirror

Around noon yesterday, I left my house and drove to a hotel. I wasn't angry. In fact, I was a bit giddy. Lobster had used some of his hotel points and booked me a suite so I could have some alone time.

A few years back, Lobster was travelling 2 weeks out of every month. He was racking up some serious points, and would use them to send me away for the weekend just about once a quarter. He's not travelling as much lately and so my weekend "Amy time" has also happened less frequently. It's totally worth having him home, though. 

Lobster has a few trips coming up in the next month or two. I love that he thinks of me and recognizes that a little time away helps me to be a better wife and mama.

The boys used to get upset when I would leave. They didn't like their routine to be up-ended. But now that they are a little older, they get that it's not such a bad thing. When Mom starts getting that wild look in her eyes, and her voice gets a little too loud a little too often, they'll probably start suggesting it.  And bonus  -  Dad lets them have a lot more XBox time than I.

Anyway, this suite had full-length mirrors on the closet doors. There was a large mirror behind the vanity. If I went anywhere near the bathroom, I could not escape myself in these mirrors.

At home, the only mirrors we have are above our sinks and they only let us see from the shoulders up. We have a couple of large mirrors in the garage that we've been meaning to have cut down to use in our bedroom, but haven't as of yet.

I've decided that mirrors are scary. It's like driving past a train wreck or a car accident. You know you don't want to see the carnage, but somehow, you can't look away.

I've also decided that I must get a full-length mirror in my house somewhere.

I think a full-length mirror is one of the best motivators for losing weight. I don't know about others out there, but I have deluded myself for a long time. I know the number on the scale. I know how big my clothes are. But I don't look at myself. In my mind, I am not as big as reality showed me last night and again this morning.

Reality is not pretty. I cringe especially when I think about those that see me in my swim suit at the YMCA. But, at least I'm there. I'm working on it. 

Get a full-length mirror. 
Stand in front of it, naked. 
Jump. Yes, really.
Examine how you feel about what you just witnessed. Cry if you need to. Then get busy.

Weight loss/gain: unknown - was not near my scale this morning.
Last week's exercise: 2 days water fitness (50 minutes ea.)
                                      2 days Silver & Fit (45 minutes ea.)
Tracking food: 0 of 7 days  Womp womp... 
Food plan: Healthfulness - thumbs up! (lots of veggies & lean protein - but also, leftover pizza & cake)
                    Portion sizes - thumbs down! (portions too big, second helpings)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

What's going on?

I don't know if anyone has noticed that I haven't written much about exercise lately. There is a really good reason for that. 

I haven't been doing any. 

After Thanksgiving, I had sick kids and then December got so busy and I just stopped going to my water fitness class and I stopped even thinking about doing any other kind of exercise. I had decided that I needed to find another way to exercise, because I felt like the water fitness class, while feeling great, wasn't giving me a good enough workout. Yes, the irony is killing me - I went from a "not-good-enough" workout to no workout. But I had decided that in January, I would go to one of the "on land" group exercise classes. And then, I stopped thinking about it.

I let my super-duper rationalization skills get the best of me.

The boys were off school for a long time. Between the regular break and some furlough days added in there, they didn't go back to school until January 9th. We have a family membership at the YMCA. Child care is included in our membership (hallelujah!). I could have brought the boys with me to the Y. Boy 2 has afternoon Kindergarten. While school was in session, I would take him with me to the Y in the mornings after dropping Boy 1 off at school and he does very well in the Child Watch. When it comes to bringing both of the boys, however, I always think twice, or thrice...
Yes, I know. Feel sorry for us - major orthodontia required. 
When those two get together, they are T-R-O-U-B-L-E. They have these, um, interesting things they laugh about and sometimes they are just down-right rude. We've had a lot of talks about respect and the way we talk about and to others. A lot. Of Talks.

Anyway, I decided to wait until school started to go back to the Y. So, on this past Friday, I went to a low-impact class called Silver & Fit. Now, as you're laughing at me, please remember that I have a schedule that I have to fit exercise into. Lobster is often at work by 7am. Boy 1 has to be at school by 8:45 am. Boy 2, by 12:30, and I pick them both up at 3:00 pm. While exercising is important, being a Mom is the most important job I have. I have to make it work within my schedule. The YMCA has a schedule, too. Unfortunately, our schedules don't always sync the way I would like.

Silver & Fit wasn't at the greatest time of day, but it would work. And it was the only low impact class I could make work. I knew I couldn't put it off anymore. I keep talking the talk, but not much walking the walk. It wasn't a very long cardio workout, but it offered good strength training and I'm still feeling it, now, two days later. I'll go back again. Everyone was really nice and those ladies can sure do their leg-lifts!

I write a lot about motherhood being hard for me. Some of you may think I'm a big wimp, and although I like to think I'm not, it may be true. I don't know what motherhood is like for others, because I have only my experience. From talking to other mothers, though, while we may go for a walk in the park, I don't think anyone, believes parenthood to be one. 

I want to write about my kids. The majority of the joy AND the stress I feel comes from parenting them, and from, often, not doing the parenting part very well. The problem is, I don't know where my experience ends and their privacy begins. 

Each has a story that didn't begin with me. And their stories may not be mine to tell.

When Lobster and I decided that adoption was our course for building a family, that very fact was one that I agonized over. People, other than us, would have a very valid claim upon the child that we love and raise. Now, I know that no child belongs to his parents, it takes a village, and no man is an island. I AM grateful for each of my sons' beginnings. Anything different, and they wouldn't be who they are. 

And they are pretty amazing. 

Boy 1 LOVES chocolate. He has an incredible memory, a great sense of humor, and a forgiving spirit. He also has some pretty big hurdles that make things tough for him and for us, as a family. He's a complicated kid, but he says it like it is  - or at least the way he sees it. He's not one to hide how he's feeling. Most of the time, I can't help but smile at that boy.

Boy 2 is a hard worker, an eager helper, and he loves to make people laugh. On the flip side of that, he is a relentless tease and he has a fiery temper. He would eat Macaroni and cheese every day, if he could. He's usually good for a snuggle and gives great hugs. He's also really good at being irritating - he works hard at it. He loves proving how grown up he is. I have to remind myself that he's still a little boy. 
Both of our boys were adopted from the foster care system, although their placements with us happened very differently from each other. Stories for another time.

Well, it's time for bed. This week is going to be a better week. More positive energy. Better portion control, more activity. I'm feeling it. Hopefully, you are too.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


I've always wanted to live on a farm. Both sets of my grandparents had property and were farmers. I loved the animals (except for the sheep, but that's a tale for another time), the sense of open space and the feeling that I would discover something new in every nook and cranny.  

I would visit my mom's parents as often as I could. My grandfather and I shared a birthday and I always felt very close to him. As an older child and teenager, I would take extended stays during the summers and as a young working adult, I would try to visit one weekend a month. I found solace in the space, and the quiet, and the totally dark nights, and the alone time with my grandparents. I would return home recharged and ready for just about anything.

I didn't ever, really, work the land while there. I would drive lunch (or dinner, as they called it) out to Grandpa while he was working, or I would try to help move the sprinkler pipe. But no actual working of the land. In fact, when I would tell my Grandpa that I wanted to marry a cowboy or a farmer, he told me not to do it. "It's a hard life," he would say.

Well, I didn't marry a cowboy or a farmer. My Lobster is not even close - having grown up in Sweden, Southern California and Utah, he's a city boy, through and through. He once owned a pair of cowboy boots. But, boots do not a cowboy make.

Lobster loved my grandparents and he loves their farm almost as much as I do. It's in a beautiful, green little valley in Southeastern Idaho. The nights, without the city lights to challenge the stars, are still densely dark and quiet. The wind continues to tickle the grass and dry the earth, but it's not the same, now. My grandparents, who loved and worked the land are gone. And although the farm is still in the family, the real soul and reason for visiting is no longer there.  

But, I still long for the way it felt. I don't get that same feeling when I look out over the "expanse" of my .20 acre lot. I am always looking for an affordable house on acreage. A place where I can get that peace and serenity back. I admit that our yard is larger than most current new builds, and I am thankful for that. 

But...there are often times when it is not enough.

Once upon a time, my yard was quite lovely. 

Once upon a time, a lot of my free time was spent out working the soil, tending to my plants and planning for more. 

Motherhood knocked me right on my ample rear. After waiting to be a mother for so long, I thought I was well-prepared, but 

For the past 7 years, our poor yard has been neglected and abused. 

Neglected by me and abused by my sons.

If I had known that branches would be snapped from my stately maple tree and used to whack the rest of my shrubs past submission, I wouldn't have so lovingly put them in. 

If I had known that the rocks I had lugged from the "leftovers" pile of a friend's rock wall and carefully placed to build new planting beds would be removed and smashed on the ground into tiny shards, maybe I wouldn't have made that choice.

If I had known that my pots - with plants living inside them - would be upended and discarded (and often broken) to check for worms, I would have used more plastic. 

If I had known that a hole would be dug at the end of our patio and filled with water to create a mud puddle big enough to lose a bike, I would have....well, I'm really not sure what I should have done about that.

I wanted the boys to have a place to play where I wasn't saying "no" all day long and wasn't on their case all the time about following the rules. But in doing so, it became their space. Not only does it look like 2 ruffians rule the roost, but having been knocked on my ample rear, I stayed on it and it got even ampler.

I've decided that I'm taking my yard back. Oh, I'll leave grass for the boys to run and places for them to play and have a good time, but I've decided that I can't go buy property and live a farmer's life unless I use and take care of the land I have now properly. I may even find that I can be satisfied with what we have by using it thoroughly. 

We have also really been trying to improve our self-sufficiency. We have been paying off our debt and trying to save more. My mom gave us a freezer a couple of years ago and I've been buying meat and other products in bulk to store there. We've been doing better at storing canned and freeze-dried food for emergencies. We recently bought a generator in case our power goes out. We've got firewood to help keep us warm. Planting a garden with vegetables and fruit is another way to not only add to our self-sufficiency but to save money, and eat healthily.

I should note that although Lobster loves the idea of saving money and being self-sufficient, he's not all that interested in working the land with me - unless it involves power tools or big machinery. He also definitely does NOT want farm animals. I've wanted chickens, ducks, and hopefully, a goat or two. To each of these, he has said, unwaveringly, "No."  

This is something I know I will be doing on my own. I may be able to talk a couple of boys into helping, especially if it includes digging, or whacking. They really like whacking.

I was recently talking to Boy 1 about being thankful for what we've got. If we're always looking for the next thing to buy, we never enjoy what we have because there is ALWAYS something else to want.

I realized that by always looking for somewhere else to be, I'm doing the same thing. Other than moving,  I can't change how close my neighbors are around me (love you, Ann!), but I can change my view and how I interact in it. Digging in the dirt and caring for the land we have is not only good for me, but it will teach my boys that taking care of what we've got is important. When I look out over my yard and am happy with and proud of what I see, maybe some of that longing will be satisfied. 

I think a lot of what I'm longing for is actually the unconditional love that came from my grandparents and the child-like view that places can be magic and anything is possible. I'm not a child anymore. I know all too well that magic can be hard to come by. 

But, it can be found. 

I just have to look. And I just may have to learn to make it. 

I think it might require a goat.