Monday, November 26, 2012

A Thought from the Dalai Lama

Honest concern for others is the key factor in improving our day to day lives. When you are warm-hearted, there is no room for anger, jealousy or insecurity. A calm mind and self-confidence are the basis for happy and peaceful relations with each other. Healthy, happy families and a healthy peaceful nation are dependent on warm-heartedness.

I just sorta like this and thought my readers might too!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Not Looking the Part (Because Fat People are All Liars)

In a recent post, I mentioned one of my colleagues who has taken up the brave activity of "running while fat". Yes, this Amazon of a woman--she's at least six feet tall--is running close to 20 kilometres at a stretch and has already completed several half-marathons...all while being fat.

I also mentioned how another colleague of ours questioned whether this woman was telling the truth about all the running she's now doing. The only reason she advanced for questioning our colleague's truthfulness (or, as Joe Biden said during the VPs' presidential debate, "accurateness"--what a great way to avoid saying "lying") was the fact that this woman is still fat.

We definitely have a visual image of what it means to be in shape: trim, slim, no extraneous fat (goddess forbid we should have the slight roll around the middle!) and well defined muscles. But is this description the only valid one?

Quite a while ago, I wrote a post about the "morphs": the ecto-, meso- and endomorphs--the three basic body types, which one could also describe as "fine, medium or large-boned", to use more old-fashioned terms. As I recall, I received quite a few responses, including several that accused me of copping out and being an apologist for fatness because I questioned the validity of "one correct BMI to rule them all". I still stand by what I said and now I've come across an article in the New York Times that lends some support to the idea that not everyone who does "all the right things" necessarily "looks the part".

The article is entitled, "Are You Likely to Respond to Exercise". Actually, I think it's a bit of a misnomer, in that some may read the article and think, "exercise doesn't seem to do much for my cardio-vascular health, so why bother?".

Research has confirmed that people’s physiological responses to exercise vary wildly. Now a new genetic test promises to tell you whether you are likely to benefit aerobically from exercise. The science behind the test is promising, but is this information any of us really needs to know?
Read the article. It's interesting. But first, let's be clear: I'm absolutely in favour of everyone engaging in enjoyable physical activity, if that's what they want to do. There are numerous studies that show the physical and psychological benefits of activity, from walking or swimming to running marathons or weight lifting.

However, the article does look at the issue of how different bodies to respond to exercise. The fact is, everyone responds differently on a macro and a micro level. For instance, men, in general, gain muscle a lot faster and in much greater quantity than women. This goes a long way to explaining why men generally have less trouble losing weight than women and are often more successful in the long term (I know, there are always exceptions to the rule. Bear with me, people.)

But back to lying.

An interesting and heart-wrenching article is making a few waves now. It's called "I Was Once Obese" and subtitled "And now I'm not. Please don't applaud me for losing the weight." It's definitely a thought-provoking personal essay but what I found even more interesting and ultimately horrifying, were the comments. Many of the commenters openly and vehemently questioned the author's truthfulness. How could she have eaten as little as she said she was and exercised as much as she said she had and still not lost weight? I find this an all too common attitude, which is often accompanied by the strongly held opinion that in contrast to all those lying, lazy, willpower-challenged fatties out there, all slim people carefully watch what they eat, zealously exercise and never eat anything that's "off plan". Slim people are, thanks to their size alone, paragons of virtue.

Read some of the comments to this article if you dare. Then take some strong pain medication. They're enough to make you lose whatever faith in humanity you may have had left.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Evolving Blogroll, the Evolving Me

I really wish I could remember the blogs that made up my original blogroll. I can assure you that they were all written by people I respected--people I felt were decent, honest, truthful individuals who were sincere in their beliefs and kind towards others, even if I didn't always agree with them.

I don't think one of these blogs remains on my blogroll, though. Like the cells of the human body, my blogroll has totally renewed itself. Why?

Well, let's start with the obvious: my original blogroll was made up entirely of weight-loss bloggers. It's not complicated. I saw myself as a weight-loss blogger too, though the path that I was taking was a bit radical compared to my blogroll companions: I was going to lose weight through mindful eating. I had found the ultimate truth. I knew that if I listened with total concentration to my body, blocking out the extraneous "noises" of the world, I would eat when I was hungry, eat what I wanted and stop when I was full. It seemed so simple. My ultimate goal, of course, was to lose weight--in my case about 22% of my then current weight--so featuring other weight-loss bloggers on my blogroll made perfect sense.

Like all people starting a new diet (even if it was far from my first and even if I felt it was the furthest thing from a traditional diet), I threw myself into this new lifestyle with religious fervour. And of course, it worked--but only to a certain extent and only for a limited amount of time. Within about two months, the weight loss slowed to a glacial pace, even though my mindful habits continued. Within about six months, and having lost about half of what I'd aimed for, the inexorable regain began. However, since I was still fairly faithful to my mindful habits, I didn't experience the traditional total regain with a few extra pounds along for good measure. I regained about half of the loss with occasional small swings downward and then back up as is normal for people of any weight. Maintaining exactly the same number on the scale, every single day, just doesn't happen, even for the naturally slim.

Now I'm sure that some of the really gonzo weight-loss bloggers out there--who were never on my blogroll in the first place --would look at my current blogroll and sneer. Actually, if they read me (and thank goodness, they don't), they'd probably launch smear attacks against me on their own blogs, as I have seen happen to others. For such people, I am a lily-livered surrender monkey, looking to other blogs for confirmation that "giving up" is a valid option. Well, I don't agree, though I am over trying to discuss these matters in a civilized manner with some bloggers I still read. Yes, I admit it: I still read a few really nasty characters, just to see how bad the world can be sometimes. It makes me feel like a driver who slows down to rubberneck a car crash.

So, who's on my blogroll now? (Note to those of you who are on the blogroll: I might not specifically refer to your blog, but know that if you're there, it's because I think that you're fantastic!)

Actually, there are a few bloggers whose blogs could belong to the weight-loss category, but they're all extremely nuanced and far from the "rah!rah! I did it, you can too!" school.

There's Dr. Sharma, who would probably be pilloried by the gonzo weight-loss crowd for daring to say that sometimes it's just as good to stop the upward momentum and just maintain the weight that you're at. I love his expression, "the nightmare on ELMM street" (as in: "eat less, move more"). I must admit, though, that sometimes his posts drive me crazy. He has been on and off my blogroll...

There are a number of Fat Acceptance (FA) and/or Health at Every Size (HAES) blogs on my blogroll. Do I see myself in the FA camp? Not always, though I try to follow Ragen Chastain's underpants rule over at Dances With Fat. Simply put, it's none of my business how you choose to live your life (unless what you do will cause harm to others, though even that can be a problematic caveat too--I think the whole "fat people are ruining the health care system and costing the taxpayer an arm and a leg" argument is a load of bunkum). I feel totally comfortable and extremely supportive of HAES, on the other hand. The notion of encouraging people to honour their bodies through sane nourishment and joyful movement speaks to me very deeply. Again, a caveat: "eating clean" (scrubbing one's diet clean all the alimentary horrors "du jour" like gluten, carbs, sugar, etc.) strikes me as yet another pathway straight to disordered eating. For an interesting post on "food addiction"--one that is likely to cause many people apoplexy--read this, by the Fat Nutritionist. Also, read this post, from Fierce, Free Thinking Fatties. It'll knock the socks off the "lose weight-get healthy" crowd, although I know they still won't believe it.

For those of you who don't come around very often, I would like to point out two new blogs I'm now listing: Closet Puritan and Eathropology.Very different in terms of content but both very intelligent and thought-provoking.

And last but not least, there's one blog that has absolutely nothing to do with weight. Egads! I'll let you locate it yourself on my blogroll. There's a specific reason I decided to highlight it: many moons ago, when I still had an essentially weight-loss blogroll, I went over to read one of my featured blogs and clicked on a blog on her blogroll. To my disgust, it was a vile, right-wing political screed that I found nothing short of stomach turning. Needless to say, she was off my blogroll, to be replaced by a blog that I'm sure she would find equally horrendous--but which I consider to be the soul of logical thinking.

So hats off to the bloggers on my blogroll. May you live long and prosper. You inspire me every day!

Thursday, November 1, 2012


In November, I celebrate a few "anniversaries".

My mother passed away in 2000 on Nov. 11. Oct. 29 was the day of her passing on the Jewish calendar. I lit the traditional candle for her (the "yohrzeit"--or "year time"). This special candle burns for 24 hours in remembrance. I think of my mother with love and appreciation. Yes, there were some difficult times, but as the years go by, these memories take up less and less space in my mind and, for the most part, I remember her for the kind, loving and deeply good person that she was.

On Nov. 18, I'll be celebrating the 9th anniversary of my hip replacement. That was replacement number 1--the total hip disaster. Replacement number 2 followed in August of 2004. The outcome was better, but it by no means yielded the amazing results that many people had led me to believe would be mine. Well, I'm walking, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Nov. 17 is a non-anniversary: that was the day in 2011 (one year ago) that I was supposed to get a new knee. My crazy thyroid nixed that, and even though my thyroid is now splendidly under control, I have yet to re-schedule the operation. My hip experience has left me a bit skeptical. On the grateful front, my knee is no worse than it was last year. Once again: I'm still walking, which in my books is a miracle.

November is also the month that my thyroid made me go pretty crazy (OK, let's use the technical term: "bat-sh*t crazy") last year. It has taken me pretty much the whole year to crawl out of that hole, thanks to  thyroid  medication, meditation, psychotherapy and my GP's favourite: tincture of time. My gratefulness comment here: I feel like I dodged a bullet by avoiding taking anti-depressants.  Had I gone the anti-depressant route, I might have found myself considerably heavier and fighting to wean myself off some very tenacious medication. Yes, I'm grateful.

Ah, November.