Archive for March, 2015

This morning on my facebook newfeed I came across this image:

Image Description: A flyer says "Check Your Privilege Gender - Man (+50) -Woman (-50) -Genderqueer (-75) -Intersex (-100) Transgender (-300) Race -White (+100) -Asian (-50) -Latino (-50) -Black (-100) -Middle Eastern (-150) -Other (-100) Religion -Christian (+50) -Non-Religious (-10) -Jewish (-20) -Muslim (-50) -Other (-20) Disability  -Able-Bodied (+25) -Disease (-30) -Immobile (-50) -Deaf or Blind (-50) -Autistic (-200) Sexual Orientation -Heterosexual (+50) -Bisexual (-50) -Pansexual (-50) -Asexual (-50) -Homosexual (-150) Status -Plutocrat (+100) -Wealthy (+50) -Middle (+25) -Poor (-25) -Homeless (-250) Appearance -Average Body (+10) -Overweight (-20) -Underweight (-5) -Disfigured (-40) -Tall (+10) -Short (-10) Very Priveleged: 100+ Priveleged: 50-100 Non-Priveleged: -100-0 Very Dis-privelege: >-100

Image Description: A flyer says “Check Your Privilege
– Man (+50)
-Woman (-50)
-Genderqueer (-75)
-Intersex (-100)
Transgender (-300)
-White (+100)
-Asian (-50)
-Latino (-50)
-Black (-100)
-Middle Eastern (-150)
-Other (-100)
-Christian (+50)
-Non-Religious (-10)
-Jewish (-20)
-Muslim (-50)
-Other (-20)
-Able-Bodied (+25)
-Disease (-30)
-Immobile (-50)
-Deaf or Blind (-50)
-Autistic (-200)
Sexual Orientation
-Heterosexual (+50)
-Bisexual (-50)
-Pansexual (-50)
-Asexual (-50)
-Homosexual (-150)
-Plutocrat (+100)
-Wealthy (+50)
-Middle (+25)
-Poor (-25)
-Homeless (-250)
-Average Body (+10)
-Overweight (-20)
-Underweight (-5)
-Disfigured (-40)
-Tall (+10)
-Short (-10)
Very Priveleged: 100+
Priveleged: 50-100
Non-Priveleged: -100-0
Very Dis-privelege: >-100”

The more I look at this or think about it the more wrong with it I notice, including the misspelling of privilege. I can’t make out anything on the flyer that indicates who created it. I’m sure they had good intentions to help make people aware of their privileges with it. Though I am skeptical of whether this is even effective for that.

The first issue with this is that privilege and oppression cannot simply be added. My experiences as a queer woman are not simply sexism + heterosexism. Rather the way I experience sexism is as someone who is queer and the way I experience heterosexism is as a woman. Or to put that another way: I don’t experience sexism as straight women do + heterosexism as gay men do. This goes the same for areas of privilege. The way I experience sexism is also impacted by my white privilege as much as by queer oppression.

This is also one reason I’m skeptical of this doing much good for helping people be aware of their privilege as this suggests that my being gay somehow cancels out my white privilege (and then some). That’s not how it works. When it comes to race my privilege is not less just because I lack privilege in things not related to race.

Next up is that a lot of the numbers relatively are off. The first that stood out to me was sexual orientation, bi and pan represent 1/3 the lack of privilege of being gay which is just bullshit. bi and pan folks experience heterosexism/homophobia just like gay folks. Passing privilege is a thing, but not one specific to bi and pan folks- it’s neither inherent to those identities nor limited to them. As a single queer/gay/lesbian* woman I often have an easier time passing as straight if I want than a bi woman in a relationship with another woman. I’m never outed by talking about a current significant other or just being with them.

*I prefer queer as an identifier but will also use gay or lesbian. On a spectrum I fall somewhere closer to totally gay than middle of the road bi. On a kinsey scale about a 5.

And then that being bi or pan is equal to asexual that I personally do not think belongs there at all. Heteroromantic asexual people (those who have/desire hetero relationships but do not desire sex) are not oppressed imo. This also reminds me of the recent Daily Show segment showing past reports from correspondent Jason Jones where he is talking to a man who says that (gay) people shouldn’t have special rights just because of the kind of sex they have. The thing is, sexual orientation is not about the type of sex one has! At most it give you an idea of the gender of people I have sex with. It is a common question of how two women have sex, but the reality is the answer is all sorts of ways! There are many different acts that two women may or may not engage in, they may have very vanilla sex, or very kinky sex. And if it’s kinky, my sexual orientation tells you nothing of if I’m a domme or sub or a switch. It doesn’t tell you what my kinks are or aren’t. Gay sex shouldn’t be extra taboo imo, but being queer is about far more than sex and it’s effect on our lives goes far beyond the bedroom.

Other categories have weird hierarchies int hem as well. Autism is the most oppressed of all disabilities? Who decided that being middle eastern is the most oppressed racial group?

There are also issues with terminology. First off I don’t get the categorization for class, I don’t see anyone identifing as a plutocrat, and wealthy folks will just think they are middle class anyways.

“immobile”, “disease”, “disfigured”- many of these seem like they were chosen by people who are not part of that group. Even though I have diseases, in context I would prefer “chronic illness”, since I think of myself as “ill” not “diseased”- there is definitely a negative connotation to that. I’m not even sure who all is supposed to fall under these categories. There are definitely disabilities that don’t fit any of them.

Then there are the cross group issues. I’d rather speak to those that apply to me, so let me talk about those. First off, short? I’m short at 5’0″ but I am not oppressed by that shortness. Even within the appearance category, it is not comparable to being fat. And fat is nearly equivalent to being poor? I don’t think so. And for me I feel being a woman is a bigger factor in oppression that being queer, though I’m not sure where I’d rank everything. But socio-economic class needs to be higher up there. Of course the problem with ranking is it is personal! To me being a woman feels like it should rate a bigger negative score than being queer but that does not mean another queer woman won’t feel differently from her experiences. And much of this goes as well to the fact that we all typically experience varying degrees/aspects of oppression. My experience being queer is different than someone who was disowned by their family when they came out. My experience being fat is different than someone who has difficulty with chairs in public spaces accommodating their size. Experience with disability varies so fucking widely I wouldn’t even know where to start there. And socio-economic status is incredibly complicated in how we define it and where one falls. By income level I am poor. But that is to some extent ameliorated by other aspects of class privilege like education.

All in all, it’s just kind of a mess. Which tends to be the result whenever anyone tries to quantify or compare privilege.

I want to talk about something that has been bothering me and that is the moralizing of eating. Not food (that is a different issue), but eating itself. This comes up in terms of the “why are you eating?” pieces of advice around identifying if you are hungry or bored or stressed or sad or eating for any reason other than physical hunger. And let me be clear that I have no problem with this topic or advice on understanding why we eat or crave certain things in and of itself.  What bothers me is simply when this is treated as if we all have some moral imperative to only eat when physically hungry. That it is some sort of sin to eat for any other reason. And that, I do disagree with.

I am all about understanding our relationships with food, understanding why we eat, why we crave certain things, and just all around being better in touch with our bodies and minds. I talked before in my post on intuitive eating that I tend to crave sugary drinks if I get dehydrated and that is really just me being dehydrated and what I really need is water (though I could get this through either plain water or other drinks). Along a similar line I’m all about understanding why I am hungry or craving any particular thing at that time. I think the more in touch we are with our bodies and minds the messages they send us the better off we are.

I also believe very strongly in my life in prioritizing what my time, energy, and mental focus. And I’ve talked a lot here before about how fitness is not my top priority in life, and neither is eating or my body size or any of that.

This means, that sometimes what I’m eating or why I’m eating is not my priority at that time. And I for one am done feeling ashamed of that. I stress eat sometimes. And I know that it’s because of stress, but it also takes energy and some mental focus to go through the “I just want cookies because I’m stressed, I’m not actually hungry” and resist eating the cookies. No, not a lot of energy or mental focus,  but when I’m rushing against a deadline to get a paper done, or proposal submitted on time, or anything else like that, my priority for all my energy and mental focus is on getting that done as well as possible on time. And that means, no, I’m not going to commit the mental resources to avoiding munching on some cookies while I do it. Because at the end of the day, not eating cookies is not that important to me. I don’t really give a damn if sometimes I eat cookies when I’m stressed. I do not think that is a moral failing, a character flaw, or some sort of sin.

And if eating some “junk food” when I’m stressed about getting something important done for a deadline is the reason I’m fat, I still don’t give a fuck. I’m still ok with the fact that I ate those cookies and I’m still ok with being fat.

Body Love

Posted: March 19, 2015 in Body Image
Tags: , ,

One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is the idea that loving one body somehow means putting down others, and how ridiculous that is.

Me loving my body, doesn’t mean I’m putting it above anyone else’s. And I don’t think other people loving their bodies mean that they are putting theirs above mine either.

I was thinking about this a lot in terms of fitness and celebrating progress in terms of bodies. Even though I’m not body building, or in other ways really aiming to change my body (except trying to get a shapelier booty, no lie), I still notice changes to my body and quite enjoy them. That doesn’t mean they are right or others are wrong. Someone else “leaning out” from their program doesn’t mean that is the only right way for a body to respond to fitness, but it doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate it. I’ve mentioned before that I feel like I build muscle faster than what I’m told is supposed to be possible for women, and I like it! That doesn’t mean that is the right response to fitness though.

I was also thinking with this how differently bodies respond, and thinking how at 5ft even with less space between my joints, I don’t have that “long lean” muscle look. And I’m cool with that. But me liking my bulky looking thighs doesn’t mean someone else can’t like their long, lean looking legs. It’s not an either-or thing.

There is no one right way.

We are so used to the idea of there being one right kind of body, that it seems often people can’t get out of that thinking, so any body love is interpreted as holding up that kind of body as the one right kind of body. rather than just an appreciation for one body/body type that can exist right alongside appreciation of other bodies as well.

Funny how I never set out for this blog to be about my chronic illnesses but then I found myself more and more writing about the experience of living with chronic illness, from my perspective. This is something I wish people understood better.

In the vein, let me add something here that I mentioned briefly on some other social media already.

I’m having a really good day today in terms of my illnesses. I’m feeling pretty good, I woke up after only about 5 hrs of sleep feeling refreshed and fairly energized- the way I used to feel after a night of sleep. Contrasted to my current usual of waking up after a LOT of sleep (so much so I hate to give a number because it makes me feel terrible to honestly quantify that) and being exhausted and dragging myself out of bed thinking only of getting to go back to sleep after I get some minimum work done, my whole body sore and everything seeming to take far more energy than it should.

Every now and then though, I get a day like today when I just feel normal. My energy feels normal (not energizer bunny or bouncing off the walls, just normal) ,and I’m not in massive amounts of pain or incredibly nauseous.

It’s been a good day. I’ve been fairly productive. Which is pretty much what a lazy sunday looks like to most folks.

And as good as it feels, it also feels terrible in a way because I know from experience that it would be naive to hope or expect for this to last.

It feels like I’m given these reprieves to remember what normal feels like just so I can understand how awful being ill is. Being sick and exhausted all the time, it does become normal, and there are times I forget I’m not supposed to feel that way. So here, I get a nice reminder of exactly what I am missing all the time. And that’s frustrating.

So just sharing this for the simple reason of trying to give some insight not just to what typical or bad days are like for me but also what it feels like for me to have a good day with my chronic illness. Because to me, even the good days, or maybe especially the good days, highlight the frustration of living with chronic illness. And I want to try to help people better understand this.

Taxing Junk Food

Posted: March 12, 2015 in Uncategorized
Tags: ,

Today in my policy class we were talking about the way poverty is correlated with poor health for so many different reasons. I’ve written about this before on the topic of why judging poor people for buying unhealthy food is classist. In class today we were talking about this and moves toward making junk food more expensive, supposedly to get poor people to make healthier choices.

What frustrates me about this is the punitive nature of it. Which is what we are comfortable with, is punishing poor people instead of helping.  We don’t do anything to make healthy choices easier, cheaper, or possible- we just want to punish poor people for making the “wrong” choices.

Of course the idea of taxing them is nice, because we really, really like secretly regressive taxes. Sales taxes are regressive since poor people spend a higher portion of their incomes, compared to wealthier people who save and invest higher portions of their incomes. Lotteries are also regressive- they are used more by low income people and marketed to low income people. John Oliver talks about the way lotteries are marketed and mentions how one is marketed like a savings account for kids college funds, but is really just a gamble that probably provide nothing to his kids college. But the thing is, that works be cause they are marketing to people who can’t afford savings for college. He also notes that on average people pay only a bit over $100/year on lottery tickets- that’s not going to cover tuition for  one kid, let alone several kids and grandkids. Not to mention poor folks who don’t have much to save are less familiar with financial systems and savings/investment options (count me in that too), and many of these accounts can require a rather high minimum starting amount. Far more than the $1 lottery ticket.

So this idea of charging more or taxing “junk food” does nothing to address the systematic reasons eating healthy is not affordable to poor people. It does nothing to change a poor person’s access to kitchen appliances (fridge, stove, et cetera). It does nothing to address the issue of fresh food spoiling sooner, and the difficulty this provides with longer times to get to a store selling safe, fresh foods. It does nothing to address food deserts and the way in poor neighborhoods people may be forced into buying food at gas stations , party (liquor) stores,  and other places that don’t sell fresh healthy  foods, or they do but they are overpriced and often spoiled and unsafe to eat.

No, instead taxing unhealthy food does we like to do- punish poor people for being poor, without providing any real solutions.

Intuitive Eating

Posted: March 10, 2015 in Diet
Tags: ,

[Image says: One zen student said, “my teacher is the best. He can go days without eating.:” The second said, “My teacher has so much self-control, he can go days without sleep.” The third said, “My teacher is so wise that he eats when he’s hungry and sleeps when he’s tired.”

I was first introduced to intuitive eating by a therapist as something she recommended for treating (in conjunction with therapy and other skills) disordered eating behaviors. It’s also very common I’ve found among practitioners of HAES.

I would not say that I practice intuitive eating myself (kind of counter I think to tracking macros), but still I was thinking about the topic.

Intuitive eating, as I understand it (and I certainly am not claiming to be any kind of expert) is about being in touch with your body and it’s needs and acting on that. A lot of people talk about this in terms of trusting your body.

I hear a lot of criticisms of this, that basically amount to a belief that it’s ridiculous to think we can trust our bodies. That our bodies are terrible at saying what they need or don’t and thus we have to force out bodies to fit how we think they should work regardless of the messages your body is sending.

The thing that got my thinking about this is my experience with my health conditions and the way I act around it. I was thinking about my diet/what I eat. When I’m lifting I tend to track what I eat- I want to make sure I get enough to eat and that I am getting enough of the right things (mainly enough protein), because I want to build muscle. This is where I do not practice any form of intuitive eating and I would not trust my body to tell me how much protein it needs to build muscle.

But during times when I am not working out much due to being ill I don’t really make sure I’m tracking what I eat, but I’m also not eating much. Shockingly, I simply don’t feel hungry enough to eat a lot of food when I’m not as active. So naturally, the less active I am the less I tend to eat.

There are other limitations to “trusting one’s body” I think. For example, I know that if I let myself get dehydrated I will start craving pop or juice- any kind of sugary drink, when really water meets what I need just as well. On the other hand, this really does fit perfectly with intuitive eating, as it has been described to me, because it is about understanding your body and the messages it is sending. Learning that when I start craving sugary drinks it means I’m getting dehydrated. this applies to all messages about food and hunger our bodies send.

It also reminds me of another conversation I had recently about letting go of recommendations/rules about how we are “supposed” to eat. Intuitive eating and listening to your body’s signals isn’t just about listening to when your body sends signals of hunger, but also when it doesn’t.

I’ve mentioned before practicing intermittent fasting. A large part of this is because it fits well with my own natural inclinations. I spent a lot of time in my life forcing myself to eating breakfast even if I wasn’t hungry because of being told that you need to eat breakfast, and a big breakfast, even if you don’t feel hungry, because if you don’t then you will end up eating more total because later on you will be so hungry you will eat too much. Just like you are “supposed” to eat 6 or so small meals a day instead of big ones. Neither of these ever worked for me. I was no less hungry in the evening for eating big breakfasts, and eating small means 6 times a day just gave me 6 times a day I felt like I couldn’t eat until I was full.

Intermittent fasting works much better to me. It fits what works for my body. I’m not typically hungry first thing in the morning. And a lot of the time I get busy with whatever I have going on, it’s not till dinner time that I get around to eating. And I would much rather eat one large meal for dinner where I can eat until I am actually full, than eat a bunch of small meals.

I’m not saying this is the one right way to eat. Rather, I’m saying that I think we need to let go of the idea that there is one right way to eat. If eating small meals throughout the day works for you, go for it. I think most people do need to get better in touch with their bodies though. I know a lot of people who talk about how if they don’t eat for too long they don’t feel well, and so they do well eating small meals more frequently. That’s great! They are doing what works for their body and makes them feel good. I feel good listening to my body’s signals though where I wait until I’m hungry, even when that means going long periods between eating. Pay attention to what makes you feel healthiest, and go with that over any stupid “rules” about what is supposed to be best.

I’ve been getting more and more frustrated lately with certain messages I see on fitness based websites and from people I follow on various websites who are into fitness that are all about fitness and diet being all consuming of their lives.

And I understand some of it and can relate, on those days when friends are trying to get me to come out to a party and I just want to stay home and lift weights, it’s nice to connect with other people who do the same and joke about having no social life in favor of weights. I get that. Just the same as I like connecting with other doctoral students and academics and joking about having no life because of school, staying in to write papers or read, or thinking you can go out and read while you are there (I tried this when I started my program, lol. “I can go out to the bar and just bring my kindle with me and read while I’m there in order to do it all!”

But there is a point when it goes passed this joking about spending time with your barbell instead of at a bar, into this idea that the only thing in life is working out and eating.

It’s been more of a slow thing for me. The first few times I see people talk about their whole lives revolving around their fitness and diet it didn’t seem like a big thing. But being around it over and over I’m getting so annoyed with it. And again, I’m talking about the idea that one’s whole life revolves around fitness and diet- can’t EVER go out because you are either working out or sleeping. Can’t ever drink because it doesn’t fit your diet. Only friends are at the gym.

One example of this:

Well there is also a problematic message here about not trusting your girlfriend. If your girlfriend is out at the bar with her friends, that shouldn’t be a problem. She should be allowed to have a life outside of you, the gym, eating, and sleeping. Actually that kind of reeks of the way abusers seek to isolate their victims from all other areas of support in their lives :-\

But it’s also frustrating the idea that fitness means it’s your whole life.

So this “everything has to be about fitness” trend is bugging me. But when things annoy me I do try to stop and work out why it annoys me, why do I feel that way about it. So I was thinking about this. Because I’m questioning myself, why does it bother me if other people make fitness the center of their life? Why does it matter if everything revolves around that for them? It’s their choice and their life!

So trying to work through it, I realize what really bugs me about it is the way is seems to suggest that this is what fitness always looks like. A “fitness girl” never does anything but workout, sleep, and eat… and spend time with her significant other. Apparently she doesn’t even have a job! (unless she works at the gym?)  She has no friends outside of you or the gym. She has no other hobbies or interests. Just the gym and food. This isn’t speaking to one single person’s life choices, it’s suggesting this is what fitness always looks like. This is the only way to be involved in fitness it to take it to the extreme of having everything else in your life revolve around it.

That’s not the case! You can enjoy fitness and still have a wide variety of other hobbies and interests! You can enjoy a night at the barbell on day and a night at the bar drinking and singing karaoke with your friends another. You can track your macros and still enjoy some beer or wine here and there. You can workout and still have friends! Or even a family! You can enjoy fitness and whatever else happens to be part of your life!

And the reality is, people who enjoy fitness come from all walks of life. We all have a wide variety of other interests and hobbies besides working out and eating food.

That’s what bugs me about this. The redefining of “fitness” to exclude the vast majority of people who enjoy some form of fitness activity, and the message to anyone thinking of starting a fitness routine that the only right way to do it is to give up everything else that you enjoy. That’s bullshit. If you want to make fitness your whole life, good for you, it’s your life, but don’t pretend that’s what “fitness” inherently is.

When I started my doctoral program a faculty member told us success is not about how smart you are, but how well you can manage your stress.

This has always stayed in my head as I go through this program. Sometimes it’s negative- if success is based on managing my stress I’m screwed! I often don’t feel like I manage stress well.

I try to work on focusing on positives though. And sometimes I am able to look at certain things and think, I can get through this. This was the case a few weeks ago.

I had a bad day. I was finishing up a powerpoint and trying to email it out for my class the next day when my computer started acting up and then wouldn’t work at all. I spent several hours fighting with it only to decide it wasn’t going to work so I got ready for the day and headed out to campus to redo it on a computer in the doc student office (I hadn’t backed up the powerpoint on my flashdrive or online drive yet). By then it’s about 5am and my class starts at 9:30am. It’s not until I’m at the office on campus that I discover my key is missing.

So I have no choice at that point but to go back home and back to plan A: get my computer working again.

There was no way I could pass unless I did well on this presentation. And there was part of me at this point feeling like, why am I even bothering? I’m not going to get this worked out, I’m going to fail this class, I might as well just go crawl in bed now and forget spending the next couple hours stressing out and no point going to class!

But I didn’t give in to that and managed to get my computer working except the mousepad, but then it’s past 6am and meijer is open then so I go buy a new usb mouse. I got my powerpoint working and sent out, went to class, did my presentation, and did well on it.

This was all, however, following a really bad month or so. Which is why my blog hasn’t been very active- haven’t been getting much of anything done.

My health has been really bad. I spent a long time in bed, too exhausted to do anything, in constant pain, nauseous and throwing up all the time. Getting anything done was basically not possible.During this time I’ve had small periods were I was feeling slightly better for a few hours here and there, but it was always short lived. I obviously wasn’t working out, I was falling behind in school, and honestly with things that bad I don’t even see the point of living. Because exhausted and too sick to do anything at all doesn’t really feel like living to me. So by the time I had that bad day, I was already feeling pretty defeated and hopeless, not to mention exhausted and sick.

Ironically my presentation was (in part) on a therapeutic technique that focuses on positives (solution focused therapy), with the idea that people may find solutions by focusing on times they don’t experience their problem rather than focusing on the problem.

Now there is some research suggesting this technique is not as effective as those who use it claim, and some of the specifics were not useful to physical illness imo. For example when doing solution focused therapy with someone with depression you would have them describe a good day, then they would predict if they next day or good or not. If they predict it’s not they are challenged to do something they would normally only do on a good day. This may work for some people with depression, but it doesn’t fit for when you want to things you do on good days but are physically incapable as is the case with many chronic conditions.

Despite that it still got me thinking about this issue of focusing on positives and times things work out. Focusing on times that things work out for me, that I feel I have managed my stress effectively, I feel like it all just comes back to resiliency. To a willingness to keep moving forward even when everything is going wrong.

Assuming you read this far you might be wondering what this has to do with this blog. Well for one, I blog about my struggles with chronic illness here. But also I was thinking how this applies to just about everything, not just school. And it’s the same thing I’ve talked a lot about in this blog with my mentality toward fitness. Working out with chronic illnesses for me means things will never really go smoothly, there will be setbacks, times I have to take a break, but it’s all about just pushing forward despite that.

fyi my computer still isn’t working well, especially my keyboard, so hopefully I managed to catch all the problems when I was writing this but if not…. sorry.

RIP Leonard Nimoy (NSFW)

Posted: March 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

I rarely feel much lose when I hear about a celebrity I never met passing. Not that any death isn’t sad, but a celebrity carries no more weight than any other stranger typically. But I was very sad to hear about Leonard Nimoy passing away. I’ve been a trekkie for pretty much as long as I can remember, so of course Leonard Nimoy has a special place of fondness for his portrayal of Spock. As well he has played some other great characters in shows I’ve enjoyed, such as his role as William Bell on Fringe.

But more than his contributions to beloved characters, there is so much that he contributed to the world as himself and through his art.

That artwork including The Full Body Project, an art project focusing on plus size women, mostly nudes. Celebrating bodies outside those typically portrayed as beautiful.

So while we mourn the loss of Leonard Nimoy and reflect on his acting career, let’s remember the other contributions he made too, including but not limited to this project.