A journey in words...

Welcome to my journey in words! A story about health, exercise, weight loss, food addiction, humor, size discrimination, sarcasm, social commentary and all the rest that’s rattling around inside my head...

I now twit, er... or tweet. Anyway, you can follow me on twitter @Aeon1202

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Physical Activity and the Anxiety Sufferer

Anyone who exercises regularly can attest to the fact that some workouts go better than others. Runners will often talk about having a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ run. Sometimes it just feels more difficult than others to move, for example I learned recently that it’s a lot harder for me to work out when I’m coming down with a cold.

It also doesn’t help that I’ve got anxiety largely related to my health. Sometimes when my snow white skin goes instantly red during exertion (as is normal for me) and I happen to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I can start to worry that the drastic color of my face indicates a serious problem, which causes my heart to speed more, which causes me to breathe too quickly, which makes me light-headed. It’s a bad situation snowballing into a worse one. I can even manage to get stressed out when I notice how slow my resting heart rate is. It’s around 60-65 beats per minute, which would please any cardiologist, yet I’ll sit there feeling my pulse and thinking, “it’s so slow… is it going to just stop?!”

Last week I had such a difficult Zumba class that I did something I’ve never done before: I briefly stopped and fled from the workout room. I knew intellectually that I was having an anxiety attack. I’ve been doing hour long high-low intensity workouts since last August and my cardiovascular fitness has improved dramatically, so I knew it made no sense to suspect I was suddenly having a heart attack – but my emotions refused to listen to reason.

On Thursday nights my class starts at 5:45PM and on a good day it takes me an hour to drive home from work, so in order to get there on time I have to flee the office at around 4:15, dash into the house, change clothes, and dash right out again. If I get stuck in ANY traffic, I’m late. Last Thursday I was stuck in traffic jam after traffic jam, came in late and missed the entire warm-up song, jumping into a crowded class during either the second or third routine when the intensity level was already rising. I was flustered from being in traffic and late to begin with, plus I had no warm-up time. On top of that it was warm and humid in the room, and I immediately started feeling overheated.

As is my custom I tried to push myself physically instead of listening to my body’s warning signals; jumping when possible, trying to reach further, and generally not pacing myself well. In a half hour I was shaky, my heart felt like it was speeding, I couldn’t catch my breath, and I was red as a beet. Terrified that I was about to collapse onto the floor, I fled for the bathroom to splash cold water on my face and hide out in a stall until I felt semi normal again.

And in a few minutes I did. The anxiety attack passed and I was okay, so I returned to class and finished. Afterward the combination of anxiety and exertion left me weak and exhausted, so I nearly ran home and skipped my weekly Yoga. The thing with anxiety though, is if you flee from a situation where an attack occurred it can get harder and harder to go back again. I didn’t want to set up a precedent where I associated the gym with being afraid, so I made myself stay.

I’m glad I did. Walking back into class this week was still hard, because if something like that happens once I assume it will happen every time, but I got over the hurdle and have had two perfectly normal classes so far this week.

In short: anxiety really sucks.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Are Your Bits Fit?

I have officially become one of those people who wears a health monitor all the time. And it is addictive.

A few years ago a friend of mine recommended that I start using a metabolic tracker called the Body Bug to ensure that I’m burning more calories every day than I eat. She even offered to loan me hers, so that all I’d have to do is set up an account for myself without paying for the device. Since at the time the company was charging a monthly fee to use their services, I opted not to use it. It wasn’t a high fee, I’m just cheap.

The technology has evolved pretty rapidly since then, as have the costs. The device I purchased (technically Ted purchased for me as a Christmas present) is called a Fitbit Charge HR. It normally retails for around $150.00 and the associated phone APP and web monitoring services for it are included in that one time cost. Ted got mine for a steal because it’s a rebuilt unit. It arrived in as-new condition and works fine, so I have no complaints about it being rebuilt. True it didn’t come with an instruction manual, but its user friendly and I figured things out pretty fast on my own. You can also obtain a copy of the manual somewhere online if you really want one (I wound up not bothering).

Its about the size of a watch.

It has APP software that syncs the device to your smartphone, and also desktop software to sync it to your PC. Everything interacts with everything else, so you can log what you ate for lunch on your smartphone and log dinner on your PC (this is a HUGE improvement over the Daily Plate I’ve been using, whose mobile device software does not communicate with its web version for the PC), and you can check all your stats on either device at any time.

Setting up my account was super easy. It wants all the expected metrics: age, height, weight, gender, fitness goals, etc. You can be “friends” with other users in a very Facebook-like way, but I haven’t bothered with any of that so far.

When the Fitbit is fully charged and you unplug it from the computer, it flashes a message that says “HUG ME” on its little screen, encouraging you to put it on. It does, in fact, make me feel like I want to put it on. Manipulative software!
Note: the USB connector that plugs the Fitbit into a PC to charge is a proprietary shape, so if you lose it you are rather hosed.

The device uses something called a three-dimensional accelerometer to track the movements of the user wearing it. This device can detect when you’re walking, sitting, running, lying down, and climbing flights of stairs. It’s the size of a microchip and situated in a device that looks like a skinny wristwatch. We really do live in a remarkable technological age. It also tracks what your heart rate is doing and beams all this information every few minutes back to home base.

The inside of the unit showing the heart rate monitoring diodes.

The unit has a single button on the side and a very small screen. Tapping the button causes it to scroll through the time, how many steps you’ve taken today, how many miles you’ve traversed, how many calories you’ve burned, how fast your heart is currently beating, and how many flights of stairs you’ve climbed. Holding the button in signals the unit that you’re beginning a deliberate workout period and holding it in again tells that timer to stop.

Meal and water tracking is very easy. The database of foods is huge, it has a bar code scanner that works via your smartphone’s camera, and if you still can’t find the food you’re looking for you can input it manually. You can also set up favorite foods that you eat frequently and meals you eat frequently for quicker tracking. It reminds me a lot of my beloved Daily Plate – just now I can use my smartphone or a PC to track instead of having to sit down at a PC.

I think the most fascinating feature is the sleep tracker. If I wear it while sleeping I can glance at the APP on my smart phone in the morning and get a report on how many hours I slept, how often I woke, and how frequently I was restless. I sometimes call my Fitbit “Santa” because it sees me when I’m sleeping, it knows when I’m awake…

Overall I really love this thing. I thought the band would annoy me while typing but since you wear it situated a bit higher on the wrist (above the wrist bone so that the monitor is flat against your skin) I don’t notice it much. My sole complaint so far is that during my Zumba workout it claimed that I burned around 800 calories (combining the metrics it knows about me, what the accelerometer was reporting back, and what my heart rate was). I find that claim very, very difficult to believe. Usually at my highest impact workout I assume I’ve burned somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 – 500 calories per hour.

However I admit I haven’t yet been hanging out with my Fitbit for a full week yet so I’m willing to give it a chance and see if I’ve been selling myself short for caloric burn. I just don’t want to be tempted to eat more calories because of wild claims of calories used. The scale will tell.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Oatmeal - It's Whats for Breakfast

Oats do a body good. They lower cholesterol, might lower blood pressure, and contribute to an avoidance of heart attacks. All good things. They’re also tasty!

So I’ve noticed something interesting with regards to one of my favorite go-to breakfasts. Instant rolled oats keep me full for… well, they don’t. As soon as I’m done eating them I could pretty much eat breakfast all over again right away. I think this is because the amount of pre-processing they go through causes them to be very easy and quick to digest. Also I’m prone to buying the fruit and cream pre-sweetened variety and, speaking as an avowed sugar addict, they’re really too sweet. I don’t want so much sugar first thing in the morning, I want a lightly sweet savory combo.

So this week I made up a batch of slow cooking steel cut (also called Irish) oats. Quaker makes an instant variety of steel cut oats, but again – it’s jam packed with sugar. I’m talking about the kind that comes plain in a tub and contains pretty much nothing but the oats themselves.

They take about a half hour to cook, and you have to baby sit them, stirring every couple of minutes and watching to make sure they don’t boil over. However, they’re worth the effort. They’re hearty, only as sweet as I want them to be, they take a long time to eat, and they keep me satisfied and full until lunch. They’re also more calories, but I’ve been thinking my sub-200 calorie breakfasts aren’t a very good idea anyway. My bowl of steel cut oats is closer to 300 calories, but that’s still a low total calorie content for a meal. I think both the effort involved and extra hundred calories are well worth not feeling desperate for a snack at around 11AM.

Carolyn’s Steely Morning Oats:
·         1 cup steel cut (Irish) oats
·         2 cups milk (I use 2%)
·         2 cups water
·         A pinch of salt

Bring the oats, water, milk, and salt to a boil (watch it because it will boil over FAST) then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes.

Flavor Additives (use in any combo you like – I like one sweetening additive and one nutty/fruity/peanut buttery one in my batches):
·         2 tbsp. brown or white sugar (the white goes better with PB2)
·         2 tbsp. maple syrup
·         2 tbsp. PB2 (regular or chocolate variety)
·         2 tbsp. nut butter or Nutella
·         2-3 tbsp. crushed nuts
·         2-3 tbsp. dried fruits
·         2-3 tbsp. shaved coconut
·         2-3 tbsp. chocolate chips

Makes four servings which can be easily stored in the fridge and re-heated in the microwave throughout the week.


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Skin Deep

Last Wednesday night I cried my way through TLC’s new docudrama – Skin Deep.

It’s a companion show to their long running My 600 Pound Life series, which I also watch.

While 600 Pound Life chronicles the journeys of Dr. Nowzaradan's weight loss surgery patients, Skin Deep focuses on what happens after an extreme amount of weight loss has occurred. I wanted to watch it because the question of what that kind of physical change does to a human body both fascinates and seriously frightens me.

In the pilot episode, one subject had lost weight via surgery, dietary changes, and exercise while the other had lost weight via dietary changes and exercise alone. Both of them had lost in excess of 130 pounds, and both of them wound up at the end of this incredibly difficult and dedicated journey extremely unhappy with the way they looked – almost more so than their unhappiness at being obese.

Watching them made me cry both because I can empathize (in a very small part) with what they were going through already and also because I’m so scared of what my end result will be once I get where I’m finally going. There was such horrible familiarity in the way the woman on the show sat in a restaurant with her husband hunched in on herself, arms crossed and hands trying to cover the flesh of her upper arms. I watched the way she shied away from the person in her life lovingly touching the parts of her body that she despised and cast a guilty glance at Ted.

It takes an unbelievable amount of work and dedication to take off so much weight, and when finished one can expect a lifetime of struggling and vigilance to keep the weight off since bodies which have been obese show a markedly lower metabolic rate than bodies which haven’t. And after all that work, you wind up terrified of public beaches and bathing suits because you look like you melted.

Essentially, there’s a certain size range that you simply can’t come back from, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been over the limit. In fact, more than once I have responded to encouraging remarks about the benefits of toning exercises with the comment, “you can’t come back from where I’ve been.”

For example when the stomach collapses over itself into an “apron” shape such as mine has, I learned last night that the muscles connecting the tissue to the abdominal wall actually detach – and then have to be re-attached surgically to repair the damage that occurs.

In the end both patients were very satisfied with their end results, and although their bodies were left with a road map of scars to show where they’d come from they did look fantastic and happy. However, looking ahead to the possibility of my future containing dangerous five and six hour long surgeries, drains protruding from my flesh, and weeks of agony and swelling - or resigning myself to loose, floppy, saggy skin for life… I honestly don’t know right now which is the best of those bad choices. The only way out is to go back in time and somehow prevent my obesity from occurring in the first place, and thus far Doc Brown has yet to show up with his DeLorean to make that happen. Living in a society that is accepting of damaged bodies would also fix the problem, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon either.

All this is assuming I’m even capable of joining the elite 1-5% of people who are able to win this battle at all, and then can obtain the vast financial resources necessary for a surgical repair.

Right now I’m feeling very daunted. Maybe I shouldn’t watch these shows.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Yoga - A Lot Harder Than It Looks

Last night I missed my Zumba class. When I went to sign up online the class was already full, probably due to the influx of New Years Resolutionists. I really dislike trying to find space for myself in an overfull classroom and I didn’t want to be one of those people who shows up even though they already know the limit on people has been met – so I stayed home. Also, it was really cold outside and I was curled up under a blanket watching Ender’s Game.

It happens.

In better news, a month ago I started practicing Yoga when one of my fellow gym-goers pointed out to me that it improves the quality of her sleep. The beginner’s class is conveniently situated immediately following Thursday night Zumba, so I gave it a try.

For a long time I’ve had reasons for why I didn’t want to try Yoga. First and foremost: it does not burn a lot of calories. This remains true; an hour long Yoga session for someone of my size burns somewhere under the 200 calorie mark – however, when I add Yoga to my existing schedule of three hours of Zumba, two minimum two mile walks, and one weight lifting session per week, that argument becomes invalid. The point of Yoga isn’t to burn calories but to provide other healthy benefits (similar to why I lift weights). I do other things to burn lots of calories.

I also thought that it would be too frustrating for me to move slowly, and that my balance is extremely poor. Since my Yoga class is immediately following one of my Zumba classes it’s actually nice to slow down after jumping around for an hour. My balance being poor? Well, yeah – that’s a problem. No way around it.

Three things I’ve noted about Yoga so far: the first is that people involved in this practice are extremely kind and helpful, even people other than the teacher are very encouraging. The second is that I’m phenomenally bad at this. Partially because of my aforementioned lack of balance, but my body is also an unwieldy size and shape for Yoga. A big part of it is learning to smoothly transition between poses and right now that’s totally impossible for me. I fall out of one pose and hit the mat with an embarrassing thud, then pick myself up and brace for the next. I know that people of my size can do it correctly because I’ve seen them, I figure it’s just a matter of building the appropriate strength for the task – and building strength is one of my goals in doing this anyway, so more’s the better. Lastly, when I point my feet (which you have to do in a lot of poses) the bottoms of them immediately and painfully cramp. I don’t know if that’s a flat-footed person problem or a beginner problem but… OW. It sucks.

On the positive side it turns out I’m pretty flexible. Either because I was already stretching a lot for my other activities or because it’s a side effect of the unusually loose ligaments in my body, something an Orthopedic Doctor noticed while treating me for one of my numerous ankle-turning injuries.

Is it embarrassing to be the one in class that can do the least? Yup. It bugs me to no end. But I’ve been told a few times now that my competitive instinct couldn’t be further out of place in this particular sport, so I need to focus a lot less on what is hard for me that everyone else seems to find easy and look deeper for little improvements in myself.

In short: I’m way out of my comfort zone with this one, but I’m not giving up.

Monday, January 11, 2016

I'll Leave my Love Between the Stars

I learned that David Bowie is gone today, and I’m still in shock.

The movie Labyrinth came out in 1986, four years after The Dark Crystal. In 1986 I was twelve years old and already completely addicted to the Muppets. My mother took me to see it because she loves magical stories too. What I now refer to as 80’s Fantasy Rubber Monster movies were in their heyday then, when artisans created fantastical worlds and creatures out of foam, plastic, and fur rather than computer pixels. When movie sets were big and covered completely in glitter.

Labyrinth was the first (and as far as I know only) 80’s fantasy film with a female protagonist close to my own age. I think it remains the only 80’s fantasy film with a female protagonist at all. Sarah was flawed and relatable and brave and girl-next-door pretty and everything I wanted to be in her blue jeans and puffy pirate shirt.

And then there was David Bowie as Jareth the Goblin King...

I can honestly say that before Labyrinth, boys were simply confusing people who hurt me a lot by calling me fat and sometimes hitting me. After Labyrinth boys, or at least Jareth, were much more interesting.

It started a lifelong fascination with blue hair, guy liner, epic quests, fantastical creatures, and loyal friends. Although I could never quite warm up to Hoggle, I still want to hug Ludo and Sir Didymus. In the years that followed I would bond with friends based on the fact that we both understood how completely perfect this movie was.

And then there was the music… I had the soundtrack first on tape (which I wore out). I eventually had to re-purchase it as a CD. To this day some of the songs remain in permanent rotation on my MP3 player.

When I watch it now it’s silly, over-the-top, encapsulates perfectly that feeling of teetering on the verge between childhood and womanhood, and still completely magical. It remains everything I ever wanted it to be.

In later years I would be impressed with Bowie again when he portrayed Nicola Tesla so perfectly in The Prestige; a film about dueling Victorian magicians that remains my favorite all time Steampunk genre film.

I never saw him perform live, I own more of his singles than full albums, and I missed the iconic Ziggy Stardust 70’s phase completely. But I always thought he’d be there, sitting regally in his castle windowsill, peering intently into a crystal that dances like magic in his purple-gloved hand.

David Bowie was a brilliant artist who wrote too many culture-defining pieces of music to count, but my favorite will always be As The World Falls Down, the love song from Labyrinth. I don’t think I could have made the hard choice that Sarah did, I would have stayed with the Goblin King at the ball forever.

"As The World Falls Down"

There's such a sad love
Deep in your eyes.
A kind of pale jewel
Open and closed
Within your eyes.
I'll place the sky
Within your eyes.

There's such a fooled heart
Beatin' so fast
In search of new dreams.
A love that will last
Within your heart.
I'll place the moon
Within your heart.

As the pain sweeps through,
Makes no sense for you.
Every thrill is gone.
Wasn't too much fun at all,
But I'll be there for you-ou-ou
As the world falls down.

Falling down.
Falling in love.

I'll paint you mornings of gold.
I'll spin you Valentine evenings.
Though we're strangers 'til now,
We're choosing the path
Between the stars.
I'll leave my love
Between the stars.

As the pain sweeps through,
Makes no sense for you.
Every thrill is gone.
Wasn't too much fun at all,
But I'll be there for you-ou-ou
As the world falls down.

As the world falls down.
As the world falls down.
Falling in love
As the world falls down.
Falling in love
As the world falls down.
Makes no sense at all.
Makes no sense to fall.
As the world falls down.
Falling in love
As the world falls down.
Falling in love
As the world falls down.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Human Flocking Behavior

Human beings in a group seem capable of a behavior similar to the flocking of birds, shoaling of fish, and swarming of insects.

Or at least we’re capable of something that feels a little bit like it.

I think it accounts for why group exercise is more effective than working out alone. It also might explain why being in a marching band is such a popular human activity.

On nights when I don’t have Zumba class I will sometimes go over the routines that I’ve managed to memorize at home on my own. It’s still fun, but it really isn’t the same and I know I’m not working as hard. Before joining Zumba I used to just turn on the radio and try to dance for an hour, because I have always loved to dance, but inevitably I found myself watching the clock or just doing knee-lifts because I’d run out of interesting movements. Yet I’ve never had any difficulty dancing for hours at a wedding or in a club setting.

In class there’s this phenomenon that occurs where I feel as though I’m picking up the energy of the other people in the room and using it. It can hit like a sudden jolt during a particularly cool song or simply thrum like an undercurrent throughout the entire session. I know that other people feel it too because more verbal folk than myself sometimes let loose with a, “woo!” when it happens.

It’s part of what makes my workouts so fun. Aside from my happiness in discovering that I’m actually not bad at picking up simple choreography quickly, there’s something about performing an activity in coordination with a bunch of other people that feels inherently cool and good. Even though we’re all working at our own pace and different fitness levels, even though most of us might not even know each other’s names, we’re all connected through this movement that turns us into one big, energetic dancing machine.

It feels amazing. And when it comes to physical activity, doing something that feels amazing and fun is incredibly important. Humans are hard wired to conserve energy instead of exerting ourselves, so deliberately burning a lot of calories doesn’t come naturally to most of us. Perceiving this activity as a fun reward at the end of my day makes it possible for me to change clothes and head back out into the cold after an hour long commute home from work. I never thought I’d be motivated enough to do something like that.

My teachers check in with us during class, looking for verbal participation to indicate that everybody is okay (read: not hyperventilating quietly in the back of the room) and my shyness makes it impossible for me to whoop or woo or make any noise whatsoever. I tend to give a thumbs-up with maniacal grin that probably looks totally bonkers combined with my disheveled, sweaty face.

It is, however, quite heartfelt. I may look like I’m melting or dying there in the back, but I’m having a fantastic time with the flock!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ginger Tea

Like most Americans I’ve traditionally reached for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Lately though, I’ve been replacing that with ginger tea.

If you google the health benefits of ginger you’re going to see a lot of claims – some of them certainly exaggerated. One that isn’t though is that it assists in regulating digestion.

My metabolism operates extremely slowly. Without getting too graphic, that means it takes me a long time to digest food. This long processing time is what makes me well equipped to survive in times of scarcity: because food moves slowly through my digestive system there is plenty of time for my system to seek out and absorb every possible calorie.

In contrast, someone with a poor or fast-functioning metabolism whose system moves food through quickly isn’t going to absorb all (or even most) of the calories they eat. There simply isn’t time to before the food gets dumped right out again. This is what causes the phenomenon of my average body weight husband who eats far more calories than I do.

Although my metabolism equips me well for survival in times of famine, it isn’t so useful a trait for someone already living in an obesogenic environment.

I’ve noticed that drinking ginger tea each morning helps to regulate and speed up the system. Also, since I eat an extremely high vegetable and fiber diet (and healthy foods are notoriously more difficult to digest) it prevents gas bubbles from forming. Also useful.

To the tea I add fresh lemon juice because lemon is packed with all sorts of useful vitamins. I don’t take a vitamin pill, but rather deliberately eat the vitamins and nutrients I need, and lemon is a part of that daily practice.

Lastly, I add a tablespoon of raw, locally sourced honey* to the mix. In theory, because you’re eating a little local pollen when you do this, it can help to immunize you against seasonal allergies. That seems like a reasonable theory to me, but even if it’s not true – the honey just helps the drink to taste good. Lemon and ginger are both assertive flavors that can use taming.

So, if you are interested, here’s how to make my morning beverage of choice:

Health Tonic Ginger Tea

Peel 1 large or 2 small chunks of raw ginger root, rinse and then slice them into small pieces.
Boil the ginger (at a low, rolling boil) for about twenty to thirty minutes in about 60 oz. of water. The finished tea will be a golden color and you should have roughly five servings. Store the extra in the fridge.
To a 12 oz. mug of hot tea, squeeze in half the juice of a fresh lemon and then stir in 1 tablespoon of raw, locally sourced honey*.
Note: Cinnamon has also been recommended to me as a tasty ginger tea additive, but I haven’t personally tried that yet.


*If you live in my area and happen to pass one of their honey-selling wagons, I recommend buying from these guys. Their product tastes awesome and they are super-nice!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Does Your Body Speak To You?

When I left my house this morning it was 10◦F outside. I had on so many layers (five to be exact) that I resembled Randy from A Christmas Story.

I can't put my arms down.
This made reaching the steering wheel somewhat problematic.

Ironically on our actual Christmas Day two weeks ago, I had all the windows of my house open and a t-shirt on as I wrapped gifts. The weather in Pennsylvania has been somewhat bi-polar of late.

This is not the point of today’s entry, however.

Over the years I’ve heard the people around me say things to the effect of, “my body was telling me...” followed by an astute observation about what they were feeling/sensing and what it meant. I always listen to people who say such things with fascinated mystification, as throughout my life I’ve never really been on speaking terms with my own body.

This is probably because what I most often say to it are things like, “you’re not good enough” and, “you look awful.” So honestly, if I were my body I wouldn’t want to speak to me either. I’m kind of a jerk.

The week before Christmas as I was attending my usual Zumba classes, I noticed that getting through the hour of jumping/dancing/shimmying was much harder than it should be. I’ve been doing this since August so my stamina has increased substantially. Then, the Saturday following Christmas, the itching in my throat began that signaled an oncoming cold.

Last night, back in Zumba class and feeling close to my normal level of stamina again, I finally (much belatedly) realized that the unusual exhaustion from the week before Christmas was actually my body telling me, “hey – jerk face – you’re getting a cold soon.”

Not that knowing this could have prevented the cold, medical science still has no recourse against that virus other than to help alleviate the symptoms. The important thing is that I correctly identified something that my body was actually telling me. Granted, I identified it after the fact – but it’s still progress toward being able to listen to the subtle queues that clue me in to what’s going on with me rather than just acting like a floating head with zero connection to the meat-vehicle that carries my brain from place to place.

This is useful because my disconnection from my body is part of what causes poor eating choices for me. Instead of listening to the signal that says, “I’m full” I just keep on eating at times. Instead of being able to figure out what a craving means and how to properly satisfy it I simply default to my go-to addiction tendency toward sugar combined with fat. Sometimes I’ll graze on a variety of different things but find satisfaction in none of them (while consuming far too many calories) because I can’t correctly identify what it is that I really need. Cravings, after all, are often our body’s way of telling us that it needs a nutrient we’re lacking at present.

If I can get in better touch with my body, if we can get on speaking terms, I stand a better chance of avoiding crave-induced binges.

Also, I'm freezing.

Monday, January 4, 2016

An Uppity Fatty Victory

Once again this year I signed up for the Wellness coaching program at work in order to get a discount on my health insurance costs. Once again they came to the office to weigh, measure, take blood pressure, and sample my plasma for cholesterol, sugar, triglycerides and the like.

Last Tuesday they called me at home to set up coaching sessions.

This company uses the word “stratify” to classify members into health categories – so when they call they will say things like, “you’re stratified as high risk for a heart attack because of your weight so we need to talk about weight loss strategies for you” or, “you’re stratified as high risk for diabetes because of your weight so we need to talk about weight loss strategies for you.” I have, in the past, referred to their monthly call to me as the fat check.

In my head their calls go something like this:
Coach: “Hi Carolyn! Are you still fat?”
Me: “Yes.”
Coach: “Oh – well try not to be fat and we’ll talk to you again next month! Do you have any questions?”
Me: “My allergies are really bad, can you help with that at all?”
Coach: “No, not really.”

I’m exaggerating of course, the conversations weren’t quite that awful. Although it is true that my request for how to deal with my allergies did baffle my coach and I had to teach her exactly what binge eating disorder is.

My time as a customer has been marked by discontent on my part. At one point I explained to them at length who invented the BMI, why he invented it, and why it should not ever be used as an indicator of patient health. I told them how unfair and prejudiced it was that they continue to stratify me as unhealthy and high risk despite my great blood work, great blood pressure, four to six workouts per week, my daily goal of a minimum five servings of fruits and vegetables, my low consumption of red meats and saturated fats, my non-smoking status, my extremely low alcohol consumption, and my continued slow weight loss.

My coach was sympathetic but firm: the BMI rules all. The BMI says “obese” so I’m still stratified unhealthy. End of story. She did ask, however, if they could follow up with me on my concerns in order to better their system, and I eagerly agreed.

I got bounced around between coaches a lot after that, and part of my brain wondered if I’d been stratified not only as unhealthy but also as an uppity fatty that nobody wanted to work with. I’m polite, but on this topic I can get pretty passionate.

Then last Tuesday’s call happened, and the conversation went like this:
Coach: “Okay Carolyn, since you’re stratified as healthy you can sign up for whatever you’d like to learn. We offer intuitive eating techniques, general nutrition, general wellness, exercise advice…”
Me: “Wait a second – did you just call me healthy?”
Coach: “Yes, you’re healthy and low risk so your sessions will be about whatever you’re interested in.”

I nearly cried. Very happy tears.

Since I still fall right on the borderline between overweight and obese on the BMI scale, this means the wellness company has changed what “healthy” looks like in their metrics. They have stopped canting the system heavily toward whatever the BMI says and started looking at the overall picture: including eating habits, workouts, blood work, lifestyle, and all the things that really matter.

They have stopped using appearance (and the beauty standard) as a diagnostic tool.

I would like to believe I had some small part in their change, and that now they can actually do some good for people instead of conducting useless monthly fat checks.

I signed up for sessions about intuitive eating, and when I asked if the coach I’d be speaking to was familiar with binge eating disorder the scheduler on the phone replied, “absolutely.”

Keep shouting! We can make things better!