Some thoughts on healthy living, pt. 1: getting started

Big Girl in a Skinny World

Fat prejudice is real. I’m not one to play Oppression Olympics, but it can’t be denied that making fun of fat people is okay in a way that making fun of people because of race, physical disability or mental illness is not. And that’s weird to me. Sure you can “control” your weight, but only up to a point (which is why I put that in quotes). It’s so much more than calories out > calories in. Many factors influence, what, how much and how often we eat. They range from the obvious- cooking ability, income, access to grocery stores, to the subtle- our mood, and whether or not we pass our favorite fast food joint on the way home from work. Fashion caters to the slimmest among us, and fatness is always treated as a temporary stop on the way back to Skinnytown. At the same time, weight loss is almost never presented in a loving way, i.e., exercise and proper nutrition are important in and of themselves regardless of whether you lose weight. Negative feedback is never effective for lasting change and that’s true with weight loss too–fat shaming actually causes people to overeat more.

Working Out is Actually Work

When you first start exercising, it’s usually not fun. If you’re going from a completely sedentary lifestyle to trying to work out 7 days a week, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ll be sore and stiff and feel like quitting on day three. You’ve got to ease yourself into it, and take rest days. The popular knowledge is “no pain, no gain” and “listen to your body” but how does one reconcile the two? How do you know the limits of those if you’ve never been athletic and active? I’ve gotten into my groove through trial and error. I do a mix of cardio, toning and circuit routines on YouTube at home because the gym just isn’t me. It doesn’t offer enough variety to keep me coming back day after day. And even though I have started looking forward to my workouts–they stabilize my mood, give me a sense of accomplishment and make me feel strong–it’s a tossup as to whether I actually enjoy it on any given day.

To see results you have to push yourself and get uncomfortable. You don’t get that exercise high from 20 minutes of casual walking. You’ve got to be out of breath, muscles burning, eking out those last few reps…and then the endorphins kick in on the other side. Of course, for the first month you may be collapsing on the floor or staggering off for a water break before you get to that point, just because you’re not used to pushing yourself. Very few people are brutally honest about how much it takes to condition yourself, and for those like me who have more than 15 but less than 50lbs to lose and are still somewhat active (you do an easy workout a couple times a week) it’s even harder. You fluctuate within the same 5-10lb range. You eat well enough to keep from steadily gaining, but not well enough to change your body. When you’re very overweight with poor eating habits, you could potentially lose 5lbs in one week just from cutting out soda and juices, or eating out only twice a day instead of for all three meals. In that in between zone, it gets really difficult. You’ve got to be much more vigilant and it’s hard to keep going because sometimes you just get tired of thinking about it. Still, you will see results…even if they’re not the ones you want. Which brings me to the last part of this post.

Your Ideal Body

Everyone has a natural body type and body shape. I have an apple shape and hold weight in my stomach and upper body. I don’t have the skinny legs characteristic of an apple shape, but in terms of fat distribution when I gain 10lbs, only 2-3 of them go to my legs and hips. In addition, I gain muscle more easily than I lose fat. I’ve been doing a lot of arm, back and shoulder exercises to tone up for my strapless wedding gown. The result? Sure I have some muscle tone, but I actually gained an inch of muscle around my back, so I had to size up a corset that fit perfectly a mere six weeks ago. *sigh* On the other hand, I added about 2 inches to my butt from doing lower body exercises 😉 I lose fat on a low starch diet, but it’s extremely hard because a) I love bread and b) grains are the biggest part of the food pyramid and the most convenient thing to eat. Salad just doesn’t travel as well as crackers.  Nevertheless, I’m working on reducing my portions of rice, bread and cereal and doing more protein, fruits and veggies.

A couple of things to wrap up. You can change your body shape (an apple can get a six pack; a pear can get lean legs & hips) but you’ll have to make drastic changes that may not be viable for you in the long term. I’m definitely an advocate of health, and body acceptance. I know that I can’t get below a certain size without limiting myself to one or two cheat meals a week, very small portions (we’re talking 1400-1500 calories a day) and/or doing a lot of high impact exercise like running. But I love chocolate chip cookies and Chinese food, and hate running (I have a tendency to roll my ankles because I overpronate, not to mention my DDs cannot be contained) so I will remain thick. But I can definitely lose a noticeable amount of weight without going to those extremes. The key is to find the happy middle ground between being health conscious, satisfying your vanity and learning to love yourself.



Video: How To Lose Weight According to Body Shape


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