Tag Archives: health

Photographic Height/Weight Chart

Recently, during a moment of self-doubt, Will called me into the living room to show me this: a photographic height/weight chart from the blog Cockeyed. He pulled up the image of the girl corresponding to my measurements.

“She looks good!” I exclaimed.


Now, I know different bodies carry weight differently, but it was fun to click through the chart and see real people, real bodies. Sometimes, I know I lose complete perspective of how I actually look. It’s easy to narrow in on the things you don’t like and miss the big picture.

They are still looking for people if you happen to fit a height/weight not yet covered.

Radical Kindness

Welcome to my weekly discussion of body image. While this discussion started as a way to highlight various articles and elements in society that I feel are pushing fat-phobia and unhealthy self-image, from time to time I share my own inner demons when it comes loving my body.

Last week, I had an epiphany. Somewhere along the path to SKINNY, the wheels fell off the wagon.

The Warning Signs:

1. I’d told my trainer that I didn’t want to work out in front of the mirrors that line one wall of my gym. Seeing my reflection could bring me to tears. Hello, body image distortion, my name is Helena.

2. One night list week Will and I were running errands for the wedding. I suggested (in the interest of time and effort) that we order a pizza for dinner. Will looked at me funny. “Hello? Pizza? Yum Yum?” I reiterated. Will relented with the caveat that I not “feel bad about myself afterward.” Yep, I’d made Pizza the enemy. Pizza is not the enemy! Sure, it’s not an “everyday food,” but some rainy evenings require pepperoni and pineapple pizza.

The Shift:

I’d previously heard women say things like “focus on what your body can do, not on what it looks like!” and it rang a bit false. Everytime a skinny-minnie told me they’d become healthier when they focused outside themselves I’d think, “Shove it, Cupcake! … mmmm, cupcakes…”

But my approach was no better.

The new approach is Radical Kindness. I will be unquestionably kind to myself. What does this mean?

1. No more problem areas. So, yeah, my stomach could be flatter. It’s no longer a “problem area” however. It is a “target area.” Semantics? Maybe, but words have power.

2. Lavish the praise on the pieces I love. My legs are super strong. I love my hair. I can hold a side plank for an amazing amount of time. Now, as I’m doing sholder presses (yes, in front of the mirror) I’m not looking at my midsection, I’m thinking “Bam! Biceps!”

3. Modified goals. I’ve run the Shamrock Shuffle every year since I moved to this city. I’d like to keep doing it yearly. To meet this goal, I have to stay strong and healthy and keep working on my endurance. Time doesn’t matter as long as I finish.

Join me! What’s your favorite thing about your body?

That Girl at the Gym

Every gym has one – that girl who works out in a sports bra and shorty-shorts. She’s in the front of your Cardio Kick-boxing class, barely sweating. She’s on the treadmill maintaining a pace well beyond your capabilities.

I will never be That Girl.

This is not meant to disparage That Girl. She likely worked hard for her body and even if she didn’t it’s really none of my business. She’s often as friendly as she is physically fit.

That’s not the point though.

Through no fault of her own, really, That Girl makes me feel a little hopeless. No matter how many classes I attend, how many miles I log on the treadmill, how many push-ups or bicep curls I do, I’ll never look like her.

(Also, sidenote, those Cutey McCuterton sports tank-tops with the “built-in bra” do NOT work if you are larger than a B Cup. Fact. I know, I know, again with the boobs, but seriously. Sometimes the straps don’t look right when you are layering another sports bra underneath.)

Perhaps I’m oddly gym-vain. Not the point.

And yes, I’m aware that diet plays a large role fitness and appearance. Again, not the point.

The point is that I feel fat at the gym. I feel fat in the place where I go to feel fit. Sometimes, post shower, it even feels like the too-small towels are mocking my size.

I know this is all in my head and not some massive trick by my gym to psych me out. This feeling of flabby failure doesn’t keep me from trying, but it can be a slap in the face on days when I’m already feeling a little self-conscious. Sure, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself or constantly compare myself to others, but I doubt I’m alone in so doing.

Perhaps the trick lies in finding an activity I enjoy doing too much to let my mind wander to the superficial. I love my weekly dance class (Cardio Dance Club – every Monday at lunch!), so maybe I owe it to myself to look into more dance-based classes. I will, of course, keep you posted.

Note: The bra above (Lululemon’s Ta Ta Tamer) will, indeed tame your tatas. Check it out, C Cup+ ladies. Also, this Champion tank top totally works over sports bras without looking all strap-crazy.

(Thanks to my ever-supportive sister who, after hearing me complain about this, urged me to write about it)





Shine a Little Light: Axis of Fat

I started this series full of irritation at the casual and thoughtless ways that bodies are negatively brought into the conversation. As documented, it makes me bananas.

However, by solely highlighting the fat-phobic, I’m only telling part of the story. There are several wonderful websites dedicated to life outside the strict constructs how the media tells us to look. Today, I want to shine a little light on the awesome Axis of Fat and, specifically, their Fat Bride Survival Guide.

As we know, I’m all atwitter about weddings, so this article really spoke to me. It’s far too easy to get caught up in a stream of unhealthy and unproductive thoughts about your body while planning for the most photographed day of your life. No, I did not come up with that “most photographed” modifier on my own. I read it somewhere. Likely somewhere where they were trying to sell me something so I’d look better on this very documented of days.

Looking your best and looking your thinnest quickly become synonymous.

In the aforementioned article, Natalie shares the tips that kept her sane whilst wedding planning. The first guideline jumped out at me:

I also told my bridesmaids that I would not entertain negative body talk during the fittings. If they waited until I was out of the room, that was fine but I didn’t want dress fittings to be railroaded by unproductive and negative discussion!

I was recently in a House of Brides fitting room trying on bridesmaid dresses. I remember not fitting into the sample sizes. I remember feeling like total crap about not fitting into the sample sizes. I’m sure I spent some time vocalizing this crap-feeling.

I’ve noticed lately the effect my complaining about my weight has on those around me. I probably don’t need to tell you that this effect is not positive. Understandably, there’s only so much you can listen to someone else complain about their self-image before you start to question your own. My neuroses are contagious.

Body image is a struggle for me. It’s not easy. I have a hard time staying positive.

Baby steps, right?

For now, at least, I can watch what I say. I can take control of the vibe I put out, the comments I make, the frustration I show. Not just for others whom I may influence, but for myself.

It’s that time again…

This week, repeat-offender Newsweek can’t report on David Cameron’s handling of the Murdoch Scandal without calling him fat. Twice.

“And when I look upon the slightly chubby, shapeless, ruddy face of British Prime Minister David Cameron, I can see Orwell’s prescience once again.” [emphasis added]

Let’s not even get into the fact that “David Cameron is fat” is total news to me. What do the words “slightly chubby,” “shapeless,” and “ruddy” add to this sentence (besides perhaps indirectly calling George Orwell’s looks into question as well)? What is the message here? Clearly, fat begets ugly begets political incompetence.

“The political right remains frustrated because Cameron simply doesn’t have the fire in his flab for demonizing asylum seekers or welfare cheats.” [emphasis added]

I love alliteration as well (also consonance – see what I did with the l’s at the start of this sentence?) but changing the phrase “fire in his belly” – which, being well-known, reads as “chutzpah” or “will” – to “fire in his flab” only serves to remind us that the author thinks David Cameron is fat.

To be absolutely clear: my response to this article has nothing to do with the politics of David Cameron – just like the repeated mentions of his perceived physical imperfections have nothing to do with the politics of David Cameron.

Apparently chubby, shapeless, ruddy flab (ew!) rather than knowledge and experience are the real measure of a leader.

Fat in the Media

There’s one thing I notice when reading the news that jars me more than dropping the Oxford comma or using non-words like “irregardless” – superfluous mentions of body size. The first flaw can be chalked up to lazy copyediting. The latter is more insidious. I find myself saving pieces to read aloud to my friends and family; holding up pieces of journalism and making sure I’m not the only ones who sees these jabs for cheap filler or non-news. It’s become an obsession.

With that, I bring you a new series:

Each week, I will bring you a new needless, fat-phobic comment from the news. Get excited!

For starters, Newsweek. Now, this is old news by now, but Wills and Kate got married. I know you care/don’t care/have moved on to Kim Kardashian’s epic nuptials, but comments from the Newsweek coverage of said wedding still irk me. Let’s examine:

Diana’s brother, Earl Spencer, … is now on his about-to-be third wife and looked almost as relaxed and cheerfully overweight as Elton John. [emphasis added]

Mmkay, so we start off ragging on Earl Spencer for being almost-trice married. Perhaps matrimony’s not his bag. Don’t know, don’t care. What makes my teeth hurt is the end of that sentence where his weight is – rather needlessly – thrown in and we manage to rope in an insult to the Crocodile Rock-er. Well played, Newsweek.

“Cheerfully overweight” tells me nothing about Earl Spencer. Granted, I don’t care to know much about him, but his body size has absolutely zero relevance in the story – especially given that any space given to describing the Earl Spencer’s physical being is space not devoted to our new pretty, pretty Princess.

To the extent I care to read about something like the Royal Wedding in a news magazine (read: very little), I’d prefer to learn the facts and related sociopolitical ramifications. Reporting on the body size tells me more about the reporter than the reported.

Notes from Personal Training

As of today, I’ve been working with a Personal Trainer at my gym for two weeks – twice a week, hour-long sessions.

I love it.

It’s hard, but I love it. It’s great to have someone there to structure your work-out and make sure you are doing things correctly, using a variety of muscle groups, and truly pushing yourself. My trainer and I chat as I exercise and I can give it my all knowing that he’s there to keep me from dropping a dumbbell on my face (a real worry for me). My workouts take it out of me, but they fly by and I leave feeling great about myself. Well, I also feel sore, but it’s a happy sore.

Oh, and you know what is really hard? Jumping rope. I don’t think I’d done it since Jump Rope for Heart in grade school and remember it being fun, but it really takes it out of you. I know you don’t believe me, but seriously, go get a rope and try. Good luck.

In only two weeks, I’ve noticed progress. I can hold plank pose for considerably longer. I think my arms look slightly more toned (I’m definitely flexing more to show them off).

The best part? I can take all this knowledge with me when my training period ends. I’m learning a lot of new ways to use the free weights and machines at the gym, so I no longer have an excuse to avoid weight training. I’ve also thought of ways to modify some of them so I can keep it up when I’m traveling (a necessity for work). I ask a million questions about form, breathing, and timing. The trainer and I also discuss healthy living in general, and I’m proud to report that I’ve had breakfast every day for the past two weeks.

Body Image Boost

On Friday, my office held a Health and Fitness Fair. A team of nurses and clinicians set up in a conference room and – at prescheduled intervals – employees could go and get a Health Screening. I was a little nervous that this screening would focus on body fat percentage and leave me feeling bummed. Again.

I was wrong. I ROCKED the Health Screening.

Blood pressure? Low. Glucose level? Lowish (I’d just eaten). Cholesterol levels? In the “good” category (despite having just eaten!). Body fat percentage? In the healthy range. The nurses cooed that I must eat well and get a lot of cardio. I let this praise go straight to my head.

The standout Health Screening superstar? Bone density. I have pretty dense bones, turns out. I’ll be tucking this knowledge away for the next time numbers on the scale threaten to get me down as it’s now been scientifically proven that do inded have big bones. 

OK, it’s likely genetic. I have lactose issues so I’m hardly the ideal model for one of those chirpy “Got Milk?” ads. Whatever. I’m still celebrating my Viking Skeleton.

Plus, the Health Screening ended with a free massage.

Bitter Body Image, Part 2

Yesterday, the problem. Today, my attempts at a solution.

Previous Attempts:

I don’t exactly have a list of diets I’ve tried as I’m loathe to even try anything too rigid.

I wouldn’t consider something carb-vilifying as brewing and drinking beer with my boyfriend is one of my favorite pass-times. Plus, sometimes I come home to fresh-baked bread. Any woman who comes home to fresh-baked bread and refuses to eat it because of the carbs it contains is no friend of mine.

I’ve had brief spats of I’m-not-eating-anything-until-I’m-thin! but they usually last about 12 hours and end with a headache and a box of animal crackers.

I tried Weight Watchers and had great success at the start, but wasn’t able to keep up with logging my food. Perhaps once I get an internet-enabled phone and fully join 2011 I’ll give it another go.

If the first trick to success in any great endeavor is to know oneself, I know that I can’t (and won’t) stick to any food plan that’s too glum. I drink beer. I love cookies. I know that to make these statements and then lament my waistline seems a little ignorant, but I know that food-restriction is not the answer.  (Ok, moderation may be part of the answer, but if I can’t have a beer and some cookies on the weekends, I quit).

The Plan:

While I know I can’t give up treats, I know I can work harder in the gym – or rather, to be cliché, work smarter. I’m blessed in that I build muscle tone rather easily (I come from good stock – my mother is a strong, toned former farm girl), but, left to my own devices, I am loath to pick up anything heavy. I get bored and distracted rather easily.

Solution: Personal Training.

Why haven’t I tried this before? Well, it’s kind of expensive, and I’m loathe to spend money on such things. Lately though, with Will’s help, I’ve realized that I’m worth the investment.

Today, I’ll be going in for my initial assessment. Training will start the week of the 11th (as I’m out-of-town for work the week of the 4th) and will consist of two sessions a week for the next six weeks. That, mixed with cardio done on my own, should give me a good jump-start. After that, I should know some tricks to keep myself going. I’m going to reassess every six months and reach out to a trainer again should I need more help.

I’m excited to start training and, well, a little proud of myself for not completely giving in to my inner critic. I’m sure her voice won’t be completely silenced; I’m not trying to suggest I’ve found some magic solution to body image issues. I’m excited to start training, though. Small victories.

Bitter Body Image, Part I

While I try not to dwell on it – publicly, at least – I struggle with my self-image. I know the idea of a woman wishing she were thinner is nothing revolutionary, but there you have it.

I was a very active child. I started in dance classes and moved to competitive swimming when the requisite grace of the former never came. There also seemed to be no end to my growth spurts. I was tall, lean, and could eat whatever I wanted. I remember sitting down to breakfasts that consisted of four full bowls of cereal. Sometimes, after swim practice, my sister and I would eat these horribly-processed blueberry pie-type treats that came pre-packaged into slice-size portions. While I vividly remember wishing I were shorter (all my friends in grade school had pixie-like proportions and lacked my lanky legs), I remained blissfully unaware of my weight.

I even managed to skip any “Freshman Fifteen”-esque weight gain that I was assured would come with my first year away at college. Weight gain – and it’s related anxiety – didn’t come until after grad school.

I started working in downtown Chicago in August 2005. I joined a gym down the street from my office the following month and quickly became a regular. I started running more and entered races to fuel my old competitive spirit. Twice a week I attended a weight-lifting class with and instructor I adored. I was slimmer than I’d been in my adult life, fit into laughably small sizes, and was generally quite pleased with my shape and tone.

But slowly, things changed. The instructor I loved left for another gym. I had a falling out with the girl I considered my exercise buddy. I was put on different projects at work that required long business trips and unhealthy room service dinners eaten alone in random hotel rooms. Fewer work-outs, frequent treats. My doctor mentioned the increasing number on the scale, but really, she could have saved herself the trouble. I was well aware of every inch of space I consumed.

Currently, I’m thirty pounds heavier than I was when I moved here six years ago. I wear a pant size that is twice what I wore back then. While I know, at some level, that my self-worth shouldn’t be derived from numbers stitched inside my clothing, it’s been very difficult. I feel defeated. I’ve cleaned out my closet twice: first to get rid of the size sixes, next to get rid of the size eights. Some of the size tens don’t fit all that well, but I’m holding on to them for now.

My weight gain is constantly on my mind. When heading to work, I use my purse or gym bag to hide my stomach from the other commuters. I’ve become almost afraid to shop as I fret about what will fit. I’ll spare you the Dear Diary-type drama and just say that my current weight situation makes me very uncomfortable and quite sad.

But wait! Don’t cry for me just yet – there is a silver lining to this self-image storm cloud, I promise. I’ve never been one to stew in my sadness (hello, the very reason the blog was originally started). Tomorrow, I’ll share what I’ve done so far and my big, exciting plans going forward.