Archive for August, 2014

I’ve always hated the terms “fit” or “athletic” to describe a body type, though I’ll admit to having fallen into it myself. But the thing is “fit” and “athletic” do not describe a type of body but activities. Fit and athletic bodies can take many different shapes and sizes.

What athlete’s bodies look like.

I’ve written some a little about this before: when Prince Fielder posed nude and got fat shamed for it, my problems with the phrase “strong is sexy” because it ignores strong women who are not conventionally attractive and thin, and a post on the difference between “muscular” vs low body fat. Looking at the athletes mentioned in those posts and you will see that fit and athletic bodies do not all look like fitness models.

Now the other day I came across someone online telling a story. It was a thin woman talking about how a fat friend of hers dared to think she (fat friend) was more fit just because when doing physical activities the fat friend had an easier time doing it. This person was very confused how anyone could think a higher body weight could be more fit than a lower body weight.

Meanwhile I stare at my screen in disbelief that someone could not understand that being better able to do various fitness activities would mean being more fit. Obviously this is not black and white because not all fitness activities are the same, take two athletes and have them compete in a different sport and they won’t do as great at it. If we took all the folks pictured above and had them compete in one athletic activity, it would be an unfair measure because they are athletes in different sports. And certainly it’s possible to be fit in general and have a bad day where it may not seem like it. But still, fitness is activity based, not body size based. Being thin does not automatically make you fit if you aren’t actually engaging in fitness. And fat people can be fit and athletic too. So yes, a person with a higher body weight/BMI/body fat can certainly be more fit than a thin person.

Though I think we should aim for not tearing others down to make ourselves feel better, such as pointing out another person being less fit to feel better about your fitness. But I can also understand that fat people are expected to prove their fitness in ways never expected of thin people, so I can understand why someone would feel good about being able to outdo thin friends in physical activities as a counterweight to the typical message that fat folks are always worse at physical activities than thin people.

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Vulnerability

Posted: August 24, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been listening to Brave by Sara Bareilles today, and it reminded of something I’ve been wanting to write about here.

The topic is vulnerability, and the courage to be vulnerable.

For a little background about me, I’ve been through a lot in my life. I will always remember in high school my therapist commenting that I had been through more than most of her adult clients. Part of that was two abusive relationships. Those, and a few other factors as well, led to me not letting myself get close to people for a long time. I didn’t want to get too close, didn’t want to let people in, or let them see too much of me. I had walls built up to stay between me and other people, in order to avoid being hurt again.

It took a long time to deal with that fear, and to start feeling like I could let myself trust people again. This past year I had one friend in particular I got very close to, I let myself trust him, and open up to him. Then, early this summer, he betrayed that trust, he lied to me, he said a lot of things to me directly that hurt me, and him and a lot of other “friends” have said a lot of things behind my back as well. And one thought I had after this was that I should never have allowed myself to get close to him or any of these people, I should have never let myself open up to them, I should have protected and guarded against this- I was stupid for allowing myself to be vulnerable.

But after that knee-jerk reaction, I stopped and thought about it a bit more and realized that the truth is- I don’t regret it at all. I don’t regret trusting him. I don’t regret letting myself get close to people. I don’t regret being open. I don’t regret being vulnerable. And I hope to move forward from the experience with the courage to be vulnerable again. Over and over in my life.

If other people want to use that against me in some way, that really says a lot more about them than it does about me. It took me a long time to get to where I am, and I’m not letting a couple assholes ruin all that.

None of this is to suggest in any way that I am or will be a doormat, that I would just let people hurt me over and over again. This experience has also caused me to re-evaluate a lot of relationships and I’m working to be more conscious of exactly what kinds of people I want around me.

But when meeting new people, forming new relationship, or in current relationships with others, I’m going to do my best to go into it with openness, and the vulnerability that comes with that, rather than always being on guard against the worst possible in people.

I say the courage to be vulnerable because I do think it takes courage. It’s a lot harder to be open and vulnerable in relationships with people and in life than it is to be guarded and closed off.

But it’s also incredibly freeing. Actually, speaking of “freeing”, the first many times I heard that Sara Bareilles song on the radio I thought she was saying “I just want to see you be free”- which totally makes sense in the context though. Because there is a freedom in not letting other people who might try to hurt you dictate what you do or do not do. When I stopped and thought about it and thought about what certain people say about me behind my back, and I thought- so fucking what? Let them have their childishness and say whatever mean, nasty things they want! It doesn’t change me. It doesn’t change who I am. It does not dictate my worth. And letting go of that fear about what people say about me or how they might judge me was an incredibly liberating feeling.

This may seem a little off topic for my blog, but I don’t think it is. Rather, this is the mentality I take with a lot of what I blog about. I make myself open and vulnerable by sharing certain things here, and saying certain things. But I think there is so much more to be gained through being open.

So I just wanted to share some of these thoughts on vulnerability, and how being vulnerable can really be a strength (in my opinion).

hmm… is that a long title? I guess. Whatever.

So this post is initially inspired by my own experiences today. I woke up in a lot of pain, and walking today was very difficult and very painful. It happens sometimes. And stress makes it worse. And right now the stress in my life is through the roof. Unfortunately this came on a day when I had to do more walking than normal for work. So I’m walking outside, near tears from the pain, having to stop and rest here and there, probably looking clearly pained (or something). And so of course, being fat, I wonder how many people around me are judging, assuming that they reason I’m having difficulty with the simple task of walking is just because I’m fat, and I must always have this kind of difficulty walking. I mean, if you don’t know me you wouldn’t know passing me on the street. You wouldn’t know if you caught me on a very bad day when even walking is very difficult and painful, that this is a particularly bad day for me and that most other days you are more likely to find me walking miles for fun, even running sometimes, and lifting weights. You would just see a fat person who is having trouble walking.

I’m lucky in multiple ways that this is (at least currently) a fairly rare occurrence. Usually my pain is not so bad as to cause me noticeable problems walking.  A lot of other people are not as lucky. Many other people have difficulty walking on a regular basis, many even need mobility devices to help get around. And remember my post about how fat acceptance doesn’t mean denying any connection between food, exercise, and weight? That drastically changing one’s food and/or exercise can most certainly impact weight? Well guess what- that also means that people who lost mobility due to disabilities can and often do gain weight as a result.

Which makes it incredibly ridiculous the common mocking of fat people who use mobility devices, with the assumption that they need to device because they are fat. In reality, the vast majority of people need those devices due to other disabilities. Disabilities which may have also contributed to weight gain.

It reminds me of one day, awhile back, I saw a commercial for a tv style documentary about Manuel Uribe, the World’s Heaviest Man. He had been confined to his bed  for years due to his weight. And honestly, my first though was “how can someone let themselves get so huge they can’t even walk?” The idea was so hard for me to imagine, because walking seems so necessary- and surely if you are walking you are going to be able to manage to keep your weight within a range you can walk with, right? So I watched this documentary. And then they start talking about how he had tumors on his legs that made it difficult and painful to walk. … oh. So it turns out a primary reason he “let” himself get so large he couldn’t walk was because he already couldn’t walk before his weight got that high. I bring up this anecdote and remind myself of it often because I think it’s a good reminder not to make assumptions about people, the way I did.

 

So, in summary, fat people can have disabilities. Disabilities not caused by being fat. And for many these disabilities that limit mobility were actually a contributing factor to their weight gain, not the other way around.

So when you see someone using a mobility device who is fat, don’t assume it’s simply because of their weight. And if you see someone like me walking down the street in pain and having difficulty walking, don’t assume it’ simply because I’m fat.

Also keep in mind that many people with disabilities have good days and bad days- days where we are not effected or minorly effected by our condition(s) and days were we are severely effected by our condition(s). So someone using a mobility aid one day and not the next is probably not faking it, but just using aids as necessary based on their abilities that day. But I suppose that is also a rant for another time.

Just found these: http://imgur.com/gallery/iHI1I#FneBPgG and I am loving them!

 

I love this one! Especially because it’s true. I mean, seriously? Has the person who made the original ever actually worked out? If it’s not getting easier, you are doing something wrong! The more you do a particular activity, the more your body adjust to doing that activity, the easier it becomes. This is why you start smaller and work your way up. You don’t expect to go from not running at all to running a marathon right away, you have to work toward it. You don’t start out deadlifting 1,000lbs, you have to work toward that. To say it doesn’t get easier suggests that it feels the same for someone who doesn’t run to get up and run a marathon as it does for a seasoned runner, or for any person to try lifting 1,000lbs. These are things that only happen when you train for them because activities get easier (and you can do more) the more you do it.

This one is also good, since it’s very true. This is also another reason you don’t try to run a marathon or lift super heavy right away!

The one about liking what you see in the mirror I would have corrected a bit differently, personally. Something like this:

Likewhatyouseeinthemirror

Used myself a the “model” for this one. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again- I don’t believe liking what you see in the mirror comes from changing your body as much as it comes from changing your mentality. The ideal body we are fed day in and day out, for women in particular, is an impossible one. Literally impossible, even the models don’t look like that thanks to photoshop. As a result, there are always going to be “flaws” we can find if we look for them. What we need to do is stop focusing on what we perceive as flaws and start finding the beauty reflected in the mirror.  Doing so, we can learn (slowly) to like what we see in the mirror, no weight loss required!

The inspiration from this post: online groups/communities/forums for women who lift that men join to offer their advice and opinions too.

It’s not done maliciously, but it’s a problem. Weight lifting is an activity that is predominantly dominated by men. And women often face unique challenges due to this.

For one thing, in mixed gender settings we face sexism in assuming we don’t know what we are doing, or that we don’t belong. Many men make the assumption that by virtue of them being men and us being women, we must need their help. Or they feel threatened that we have encroached on the their manly man space. They feel the need to lash out because they feel emasculated if a woman can do the same manly man activities they do.

Aside from these problems, there are others women face too. Like just the simple assumption that lifters are men. I ran into this today. Someone recommended a training program and I was reading about it and it clearly was directed at men. It was not being promoted as a training program “for men”. Nothing about it is something that would only benefit men. But the assumption was simply that a training guide for weight lifting would be geared toward men.  Everything about how it was written assumed that I, the reader, was a man. Every example given to illustrate a point used  a man. While trying to determine if this program would be good for me I am reading how this program will put hair on my chest, said of course with the assumption that I would want that. Because I’m a manly man who wants manly man hair on my chest. Except not. Men are the default. Look at NROL. I’ve heard a lot more about the book New Rules of Lifting for Women. A book marketed to women. A book  a bought and the training program I started with that introduced me to lifting. And I do like it. I also later discovered it was not actually the only New Rules of Lifting book/program. It followed a book called New Rules of Lifting. Which apparently was geared toward men, like other training guides just as  default assumption that folks who lift are men. It wasn’t New Rules of Lifting for Men. Men are the default, women need to be specified.

This isn’t unique to lifting even, but with something male dominated it’s more pronounced. Throughout our culture there is an established standard that says using men is genderless and using women is gendered. Movies about male protagonists are movies for men and women. Movies about female protagonists are often deemed for women. Women are taught our whole lives to be able to see past gender to identify with a protagonist even if it’s a man, because we have to. But men are not taught the same, so they see a woman and cannot see themselves in her. And this impacts everything. Want to give an illustration of something? Use a man and the focus will necessarily be on gender, use a woman and men are likely to flip or scroll right past it assuming it does not pertain to them because that’s a woman.

This default vs specified leads to other issues too. For one thing, can we assume that advice given by men, for men, is actually advice we could use too? This isn’t new to lifting but is replicated in lifting. For a very long time in medical research, for example, studies were done on men only. Because men are the default. Findings on men were assumed to be genderless findings (of course no one would think to generalize findings on a sample of women only as applicable to men and women). The problem being that men are not just a default setting of humans that their results can fit women too. And so a lot of things once upon a time assumed to be true for all people because it was found in studies of men, turned out to not be true for women. And medicine still has an androcentric focus- still doctors are taught first and foremost with men as a basis and default. We know, for example, that symptoms of a heart attack can be felt differently by men and women. And still the ones most well known by lay people and doctors are those men are more likely to experience. And so, still, women having heart attacks don’t realize it themselves and can be misdiagnosed in a hospital because they don’t present with the same symptoms men do. This becomes an issue in lifting too. There are physiological differences between sexes. They are frequently not as black and white as many people make them out to be. (ie “Men=Testosterone=Strong, Women=Estrogen=Weak”. No. Stop.)  But certainly there are differences, and so women can get hurt when we assume that what applies to men must apply to us.

But now we have more and more, I think, lifting advice and plans out there that are targeted specifically at women! This is great in a  lot of ways. It tells women who don’t lift “hey, this isn’t just for men!”, and it tells women who do lift “you aren’t alone!”. But it also brings up it’s own issues too. I’ve mentioned this before, how even when something says “women can lift heavy too!” we still get the assumptions based on our gender- biggest of them being that we are afraid of being bulky. And so still women who lift, who want to build muscle, who want visible muscle, who don’t care about being “bulky”, we are constantly up against this assumption that our goals are gender deviant. We face this within society at large for lifting, or having visible muscle, we face it within lifting communities where we are still assumed to fear bulk where men desire it.

All of this is to say, there are a lot of experiences with lifting that are unique to women lifting. And all of those unique experiences lead many women who lift to want to congregate with and talk with other women who shares some of these experiences with us. We want to create spaces where our voices and our experiences are at the forefront. And then what happens? Men show up.

Say anything negative though about their presence and they will get angry and defensive. Why shouldn’t they be there? They have valuable knowledge and experience to share! How dare you suggest that only women have this knowledge and experience.

But the cold, hard truth of life is that your advice, opinions, and experience are not always wanted or useful. And in this case, men- your advice, opinions, and experience are not needed. Back off.

I don’t understand why if feels such a threat to certain men that women want to define a space for just women. There are plenty of women lifters out there- do you not understand how arrogant and sexist (even if you don’t consciously think of it this way) it is to insert your presence in a space defined or women to offer advice as if out of all of the women lifters out there, none could possibly possess the level of knowledge and skill you have to offer? It is sexist to think your presence is needed, that if men were not there women lifters would somehow be missing important information.

There are a lot of mixed gender, gender neutral spaces for lifting. There are a lot of men who have contributed knowledge that is useful for men and women lifters. No one (that I’ve ever seen) is suggesting that women who lift throw out and ignore all sources of knowledge that have come from men. But when a community is specifically designated as being for women who lift, why is it asking to much that you respect us carving out a small space where we are front and center, when in all the rest of the lifting world women are secondary, or ignored all together?

And it seems there are some men who think I feel this way because I just don’t understand the true hardships of being in a privileged group. I don’t understand the pain of being told that your opinion on everything is not important.

So let me take a moment to speak from a position of privilege. There are a lot of groups out there defined for people of color. I know of a few organizations for Black Social Workers, and some for Latino/a Social Workers. I’m not a member of these groups because I am not Black nor am I Latina. And I’m sure their spaces, carved out for them, function just fine without white opinions. Because the cold, hard truth is that my advice, opinions, and experience as a white person are not always wanted or useful. Sometimes the right thing to do is to sit down, shut the fuck up, and respect other people’s wishes for the spaces they carve out, even when those wishes are that you not be there.

That doesn’t mean oppressed groups don’t want or need allies. Allies are important and have a place. But that place is not always in every space. As a white person I can speak out against racism, I can attend marches, rallies, and vigils opposing racism, and I can advocate for an end to racism. None of this requires insisting I be allowed in groups specifically for people of color.

Similarly men can speak out against sexism, be involved in advocacy and activism. Specific to lifting men can be more aware of their wording that they don’t assume other lifters are men, they can speak up if they hear someone else being rude to a woman lifting in the gym, or negative comments about women lifting in general. You can offer the same support and encouragement to women who lift in mixed gender spaces. But if a space specifies  that it is for women, consider that maybe THAT is not a place where your advice and opinions are wanted or needed.

Meanwhile In Detroit…

Posted: August 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

Flooding in Detroit

So if you aren’t from the metro-Detroit area, you maybe don’t know we got hit with some massive rain Monday that caused flooding. I actually think this picture may be exactly what I drove through Monday on my way home from work (I saw someone taking pictures as I was in the backup caused by people going one car at a time through this flooding, so I’m wondering if this may be one of them since it looks right). If not, it’s pretty much the same. I imagine that shortly after I got through it they had to have shut that part of the freeway down because I barely got through without my car stalling and I’m sure someone soon had their stall and get stuck there and then folks can’t keep trying to drive through anyways.

So that was on my way home from work. After I got in to my house I hear what sounded like running water coming from my basement- not good!

It was not leaking down my walls or anything, nooo, the sewers flooded up into my basement. By the time I got home there was already about a foot of sewer water and it was still rising. I had boxes and boxes of stuff on the floor down there, that it was too late to move. Kitty Litter was on the floor (so now that got mixed in with the water! Ew!). I made one trip into the water to grab an empty kitty litter box down there and a sealed bag of litter so my cat could have a litter to use upstairs.

If you recall from my posts about my home gym- that is also in my basement. So that was also covered in backed up sewage.

So the water eventually went down but I’ve barely had a chance to get started on the cleaning. My water heater is also out, and I need to get the furnance checked, don’t know if my washer and dryer suffered any damage yet. Oh and my whole house still reeks from it!

At the same time as this I’ve been dealing with not having my phone working. Then my cat was acting sick. I’ve been ill, and all this stress is just making that worse. Work is stressful, and then I forgot I was supposed to be at a different office than usual Wednesday thanks to all this stress, a different office I can’t get to easily with freeways shut down, and I use gps on my phone usually but that’s broken…

It has not been a good week for me!

And I’m exhausted and still feeling sick.

 

That said, after I finally got home Wednesday I decided that I should go ahead and try to change how I’m thinking about all of this a little. So I posted on facebook a few things that came to mind that I am thankful for in all of this.

1. My car made it through the storms without stalling and getting drowned.
2. Even though my home gym is a mess right now, I had left my barbell up on the rack, not on the floor, so at least the (standard, oly) barbell was not effected by the sewage (ez curl bar was, but whatever. And I care about the barbell more than others, because it has the… how would you describe it? textured? metal on it, so I don’t have to worry about cleaning deep in there and if its trapping any little sewage particles in there.
3. My mom and uncle have volunteered to come over and help me clean.
4. My cat peed in his litter box, meaning i didn’t need an emergency vet visit due to him not peeing (very dangerous in male cats), and at least that time the pee was in the litter and not elsewhere in my house- apparently his reaction to the stress of the basement flooding was avoiding using his litter!
5. My cat was cuddling with me when I wrote the list (he’s cuddling with me as I write this blog post too. He’s a sweety!)

My aunt reminded me of another- as least I don’t live in the basement.

It sounds corny maybe, but honestly it does help me a lot to stop and refocus on positive things.

 

So right now I am still dealing with trying to get things fixed and the damage of this and all kinds of stress. I can’t lift until my gym area is cleaned. Trying to stay as positive as I can through it though.

In the meantime, might not be blogging much because this is kind of consuming my life.

So I was looking for new blogs to read related to what I blog about here- which is difficult at times. Search FA and get anti-FA too, search based on fitness interests, get blogs all about dieting and weight loss.

So I saw this anti-FA blog post that compares being fat to being a slut. For reals.

And I find myself thinking “well, I’m both of those, so… was I supposed to be offended by that?”

And yeah, I’ll call myself a slut. For pretty similar reasons to calling myself fat. I mean, I call myself fat because I am. But as a word that is hurled as an insult, it’s also about reclaiming it. About saying I’m fat, and I don’t see anything insulting about that fact about me.

Slut is a word a lot of people define very differently. Though… when I think about it, not to much different than fat. For the most part, it seems society typically deems any woman who dares enjoy sex a slut. Though, that’s not totally true- wear something too revealing, seem too vain, or flirt more than people think you should and you are also a slut, even if you’ve never had sex. So I take that back, I think slut seems to be a word we use for women who dare to not be deeply ashamed of their sexuality.

It’s also a word used to tear other women down. Some folks will tell me that I’m wrong, that slut really only refers to women who slept with 20, 30, 40+ people or some other thing. Just like other people will tell me that I’m not fat because if you workout you aren’t fat (even if you are), or if you are under 250, 300, 400+, you’re not really fat, or whatever other arbitrary definition someone comes up with.

But in both cases, the reality is that’s not how society defines those things, and in both cases they just shouldn’t be insults. Being a slut means being a woman who is arbitrary defined as being too ok with her sexuality just the same as fat is arbitrarily defined as having too much mass.

And neither of these are things that should bear any shame or stigma, in my opinion. Whether one gets called a slut just because they wear short skirts, or if it’s because she really did sleep with 40+ people, and whether one gets labelled fat at just slightly over the “normal” bmi range or at 400+ lbs, why should these be things to be ashamed of? Who cares? Why on earth would having too much sex or carrying too much reduce our worth as people? Well, they don’t!

And so, as a person whose mass is arbitrary defined by society as too much I will call myself fat, and I will feel no shame in doing so. And as a woman who is comfortable with my sexuality, I will all myself a slut, and I will feel no shame in doing so.

huh, so maybe being fat is sort of like being a slut? Still not ashamed of either.

There seems to be this common misconception that fat acceptance (FA) folks deny that there is any connection between food, exercise, and weight. So they think they prove FA and HAES (Health At Every Size) folks wrong by pointing out how they increased how much they ate and gained weight, or worse try to use the example of people who are starved to death and ask why, for example, there were no fat survivors of concentration camps (a real example I have seen numerous times). No one is saying that starving a person will not lead to weight loss much of the time. Though, it’s entirely possible, and has happened, that folks die because of starvation before they become very thin- you don’t see them among survivors because they died. Arguing against dieting doesn’t mean saying that starvation doesn’t cause weight loss, we are saying that starvation isn’t an ideal we aspire to.

Most of the time, making a drastic change to you diet or exercise will also create a change in your weight. Were this falls apart is when people start assuming that what these things look like from person to person are the same. That if you have two people, same gender, same height, same activity level, if they eat the same thing they will weigh the same. But it doesn’t work like that. Eating exactly the same those two people can still have drastically different body sizes and shapes from each other. If you drastically increase the amount the both eat (by the same amount) they will probably both gain weight- though they may not gain the same each. This is what is meant by saying that you can’t look at a person and know what they eat or how much they exercise.

I don’t want to link her, because I love the stuff she blogs about and actually is pretty awesome about body image issues and I don’t want this taken as if I am saying anything negative about her, but it reminds me of something a fitness blogger I like posted. She posted photos of herself from when she started her fitness journey, and talked about how she was overweight and unhappy with her body. She was certainly larger than she is now, but she was actually still thin and no where near plus sizing in her before photos. And she talked about how she drank pop, and ate candy and fast food and at one time couldn’t imagine going a day without fast food before she cleaned up her diet. Meanwhile I don’t understand how anyone can eat fast food everyday. (I mean, I know a lot of people who do! But personally I just can’t stomach the idea of eating that much fast food. Everyone has different tastes.)

And here is where I see the problem. She cut back on “junk” food in her diet and started working out more and lost weight. I could probably cut back on what I eat and work out more and lose weight. But the problem is assuming that if I ate like her before, my before would be the same. When in reality, I’m already not eating fast food, candy, and pop frequently and I am working out and I’m way larger than her before. Which also means I can’t eat like her after and get her after results

Another example, I remember once years ago a girl talking about how she used to be overweight but started walking 30 minutes a day and now she is thin, and thus this proved that all fat people could be thin by simply walking 30 minutes a day. I believe this was actually when I was in undergrad, when I was walking about 3 hours or more a day, everyday, simply because walking was my primary means of transportation at the time, and still fat.

The truth is, some people will be fat because they eat large quantities of fast food, and don’t get any exercise, and they may later lose weight by changing their diet and adding in exercise- I’m not saying that doesn’t, or can’t happen. But because it’s true for one fat person doesn’t mean that is the case for all fat people. All fat people do not have that person’s same diet, an all fat people will not see the same weight loss results as that person by eating healthy foods and exercising. So while some weight loss advocates will came at it from personal experience- they were overweight and didn’t work out then started adding 30 minutes of walking a day and got to a “normal” BMI, that doesn’t mean that this would have the same results for anyone else.

So when I tell you that you can’t look at me and know from how I look what I eat or how much I exercise, I don’t mean that if you switch up your current diet to one of stuffing your face with cake all day everyday you won’t gain weight, I’m saying that what a >40 BMI looks like for you in terms of food consumption and exercise is not likely what my food consumption and exercise look like.

Donate Plus Size Clothing

Posted: August 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

Just a quick post, but I wanted to talk briefly about donating clothing, and the importance of including donations in plus size clothing sizes as well.

TW: I’m going to talk briefly in the next paragraph about sexual assault and domestic violence.

I worked for 5 years across several organizations doing domestic violence and sexual assault advocacy. And one thing survivors sometimes need is clothing. I’ve worked with two domestic violence shelters which took clothing donations. One shelter partnered with other non-profits who specifically specialized in providing second hand clothing for any special or on going needs of clients, but had a small amount of clothing on site designated for emergency needs. Basically meaning we had a number of clients who came for shelter with literally nothing except the clothes on their backs. At a minimum until they could get to another organization with a voucher provided by us they need some other clothing so that they can wear one set of clothing while washing the other. I also did medical advocacy with sexual assault survivors at a hospital, working with survivors who came in for forensic exams following sexual assault. In those cases clothing is sometimes take as evidence and survivors are provided with a set of emergency clothing as well, to wear out of the hospital. 

I want to give that background for people who aren’t as familiar with what these clothing donations do. When most people think about clothing donations, we imagine the person who needs them has limited clothing, but has some clothing. A lot of people don’t realize that in many cases people need donated clothing items because they have no clothing at that time. 

And that’s why it’s so important to have every size of clothing available. The domestic violence shelter with emergency clothing I worked at typically did not have clothing over an XL, and I don’t think I ever saw anything over a size 12 in jeans. All the clothing was donated, so it was limited to what people donated. And a lot of it was actually event shirts that were donated- so there is a 5K and they have shirts for everyone who does it, and after it’s over they have shirts left over so they would donate them. And usually those only go to an XL. 

I know the clothing didn’t go up high enough because I was there when we had women who wore 2X-5X come in with nothing but the clothing on their backs, forced to leave their home with nothing in order to escape abuse, and we had no clothing that would fit their bodies. 

Obviously people who donate their old clothing are only going to be donating whatever size they wear (or wore at some previous point). But I know some people also buy clothing just to donate, especially around the holidays, and if you do that, I just want to take a minute to encourage you to think about sizing and including plus size clothing as well when you donate. 

Leaving an abusive relationship with nothing to start over in a shelter with a bunch of strangers, or being sexually assaulted and then going through the long procedure of a forensic exam, having evidence gathered from your body and having to recount the assault to nurses, doctors, and police is hard enough, it shouldn’t have to be harder or more embarrassing because one wears a nonstandard clothing size. 

Was thinking today about what it means to do things to be physically healthy (as much as possible for each of us, knowing much is out of our control).

For some reason people boil this down to exercise, and what we eat.

Which is ridiculous. There is so much more to being physically healthy than that.

Including mental health because mental and physical are not as separate as the way we talk about them would imply.

I think health is a good and important goal. And you will hear me say I’m not healthy, because overall- I’m not. I have a number of chronic health conditions that require regular doctor appointments, medical tests to monitor, and have a significant impact on my daily life and abilities. Though in a way because of that health becomes more important to me. Everyday there are things I have to remember to do to manage my health that a generally healthy person wouldn’t. Starting with the simplest- I take medication everyday and have to remember to take it or my health will get worse. I also have to pay attention to my diet and what I eat because there are certain things I cannot eat and certain things I need to limit due to my health conditions. I get comments a lot because I often carry around a 2.2 liter water bottle and it stands out. Drinking water is great and healthy for a lot of reasons, it’s extra important for health for me because drinking water helps offset the side effect of one of my medications- kidney stones. (Which aside from being incredibly painful can be pretty bad since I’ve had a kidney stone before that caused a blockage that lead to a kidney infection, which I was then given medication to treat that actually ended up causing further kidney damage- tiny little stone set off a huge domino effect of health issues and was a total mess. That’s when I found out that the medication I was on and had been on can cause kidney stones. Don’t you just love when medications have these serious possible side effects that are known about the medication but you don’t know it? Which reminds me of another way I have to be on top of my health in ways generally healthy folks don’t- making sure I do my own research on medications I’m prescribed and checking interactions, because I know from experience that stuff can fall through the cracks if you expect doctors and pharmacists to catch it all for you.)

I’m also very big on being as proactive about having the best health I can in the future too.  Alzheimer’s runs in my family. I hope I live well past 80 and am still mentally well, but looking at my family history the odds seem against that. There are genetic links for Alzheimer’s and I haven’t been tested yet to see if I have any but I know a lot of that is not within my control. But to me, that just means that I’m doing the best I can with what I can control because I need all I can get in the reducing risks of Alzheimer’s camp. I try to keep up on research and what it shows as correlated with less Alzheimer’s- and correlation doesn’t equal causation, but when talking about simple things like drinking lots of green tea being correlated with lower Alzheimer’s rates, well it doesn’t prove green tea is the cause but I’m still drinking the green tea! Staying active is definitely part of this too.

That said, health is a pretty broad category, there are a lot of things that can fall under “trying to be healthy”, and in a lot of cases they will vary based on different characteristics about us, and what we prioritize. You will see this a lot in terms of what is “healthy” in terms of diets. Based on health conditions two people can have completely opposite recommendations regarding something in their diet. Similarly, we often prioritize certain aspects of health over others, and have to- often they compete against each other. Sometimes it’s impossible to follow two health recommendations. For example, I previously mentioned the example of things that might help prevent Alzheimer’s. Studies have shown a correlation between moderate drinking and lower rates of Alzheimer’s. And so not only do I enjoy alcoholic beverages, I consider moderate drinking to be part of trying to help do what I can to hopefully avoid Alzheimer’s in my future. On the other hand, I also have a significant family history of alcoholism. I know a lot of folks who have a family history of alcoholism who choose not to drink at all, as one of the things they do to be healthy, to avoid the risk of the becoming an alcoholic. Well, I can’t drink moderately to maybe reduce my risk of Alzheimer’s, while also abstaining from alcohol to avoid the risk of alcoholism. I made a choice about which was more important to me. Another person will decide differently. All equally valid.

 

I was thinking about this recently, and I started getting angry thinking about lot of folks who are very into fitness, bodybuilding, and the like who like to complain about how unhealthy they think being fat is, and how people have an obligation to be healthy. Yet how many unhealthy behaviors do these people engage in? Including sometimes unhealthy behaviors in order to maintain their fitness routine.

I hear for example, often, how there is no excuse for not working out- anyone could wake up earlier and workout, you just need to do it and care to do it! But again, this goes back to the fact that we all play a balancing act with healthy behaviors, and we all have to make choices with limited resources. One of those is time. For many people, with only so many hours in the day, the choice may be either get as much sleep as they need, or fit in a workout. Both sleep and fitness are healthy behaviors. Choosing less sleep to fit in your workout is fine- everyone has the right to decide that if it’s what they want. But sleep deprivation is detrimental to your overall health. One way or another, a person in this situation is not doing something that is healthy. Yet for some reason, many people think they are morally superior if they place a higher value on the health importance of a workout compared to the health importance of getting enough sleep.

And even beyond situation like this with two competing healthy behaviors, there are also situations where people actively choose things that are simply not healthy due to personal preferences and desires. This happens a LOT with bodybuilders and people who are very into having a “ripped” physique. Very low body fat is actually not healthy! And the things people do to force their bodies down to very low body fat percentages are often not healthy- especially if done long term (this is why bodybuilders don’t maintain competition body fat percentages all the time- it would be very unhealthy and dangerous. And yet, it is more acceptable to pursue this unhealthy ideal than it is to simply accept or be happy with an overweight body. And yet, the arguments still get framed as if health were the issue.

And let me be clear, I’m not saying people should be shamed, or looked down on for wanting to have very low body fat and pursuing that. The point, rather, is that these are personal decisions we all make. Don’t hold up one physique as ideal despite being unhealthy to maintain, while also shaming other people for their bodies and hiding behind claims of “health”.

And don’t even get me started on people who want to chide me about how I must have obesity related illnesses like high blood pressure and just don’t know, am in denial, or I’m lying, meanwhile they have no health insurance and haven’t even seen a doctor in many years. If you haven’t been to a doctor recently, or had these tested, body size is irrelevant, chances are much higher that you have high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or high cholesterol and just don’t know it, than me because you actually don’t know for sure that you currently fall in the safe range for those. I see doctors regularly and every visit includes checking my blood pressure and I have blood work done regularly. So I know where I fall on those (which is that they are all within the healthy ranges).

I also notice a large number of folks who will complain about how unhealthy being fat is, yet not a word about things like binge drinking. Including folks who engage in binge drinking themselves. Newsflash- binge drinking is very unhealthy!

I’m fairly certain every person on this earth makes unhealthy choices sometimes, because we have wants and desires that conflict with what is healthy, along with having to forgo health in one area to pursue health in another. Health isn’t not as simply as being reduced to being active or eating certain things/not eating certain things.

As well, different individuals will make healthy/unhealthy choices differently and with different frequency due to what we like, what we want, and how highly we value certain aspects of health. And that’s fine! Everyone not being exactly the same is actually a good thing I think. We are all allowed to have different priorities. We are all allowed to make unhealthy choices regarding our lives and habits (and we all do, at least sometimes).

There is not, and should not, be some kind of moral obligation toward healthy behaviors- and especially not when what is really being done is prioritizing certain healthy behaviors over and at the expense of other unhealthy behaviors.