Category Archives: Health at Every Size

Now blogging at

So, this blog had a happy ending. I met a guy, we fell in love, now we live together and everything is lovely. (No, seriously. It’ s been over a year and hot damn! Things are good.) There’s still stuff to say and I might occasionally drop in here, but for the most part I’ve moved on to another adventure: running.

I started running about a year ago and blogged a bit about it here. I ran my first 5k last March, did a 10k in October and in a haze of post-race endorphins signed up to train for a half marathon this April. A half marathon?! What was I thinking? Well, what I was thinking was this (and, lord, I have to remind myself of this over and over again, because EVERY DAY I want to quit. Every. Single. Day.): I don’t have a job right do (boo) and I’m kind of floundering. I thought it would be good to have a goal, a big challenge to overcome. My sister got her running start with Team in Training and had an awesome, life-changing experience (she met her boyfriend there, and a group of women who have become some of her closest friends, and now she runs half a dozen races a year). So I went for it.

Anyway, I’m blogging about it – in particular, about the experience of being a fat runner. Come check it out.

(You can also donate to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and help me meet my fundraising goal.)


quick comment: employer-based health programs

On December 14, the Minneapolis Star Tribune published an article about employer-based health and wellness programs.

The article didn’t spark any outrage. But the letters in response? Here’s an excerpt from one published today:

But the 400-pound gorilla in the room has evolved into a 400-pound coworker, and those are hard to ignore. Rather than being an invasion of civil liberties, these programs try to make the unduly burdensome costs of health care more fair for both the public and the companies that employ them.

And here’s one from Tuesday:

When the people complaining about this injustice wind up in an intensive care unit or hospice as a result of their own lifestyle choices, they are pirating resources from workers who take better care of themselves but wind up in these places anyhow.

There haven’t been any responses from the other side. So I wrote one, and sent it in today:

I thought I could hold my tongue regarding Maura Lerner’s December 14 story about employers punishing employees for “bad” health behavior. But I’ve been dismayed by the tone of the letters you’ve published in support of these programs.

Yesterday, Sam Boeser wrote: “… these programs try to make the unduly burdensome cost of health care more fair for both the public and the companies that employ them.”

If fairness (rather than an attempt to eliminate behavior society sees as deviant) were truly the issue, I would expect to see rewards for folks who go to church, own pets, and are married – all variables that lead to longer, healthier lives – and punishments for folks who increase their health risks by, say, working the night shift, drinking coffee or commuting by car.

Here’s hoping they publish it!

pre-date jitters, part II: The Man

I got so hung up on the clothes angle that I neglected to say anything about the man in question. Riiight, the man. It’s not all about the clothes!

(But about the clothes: I succumbed. I went shopping, and bought new clothes, and feel much more comfortable in them. I went to this wonderful shop and will have more to say about it soon).

The man shall be known as A, until he earns the right to a not-so-clever nickname. He seems like a very pleasant fellow. He’s a liberal. He’s from around here and knows the place I’m living – before I even told him what it was called, he figured it out, which freaked me out a little bit. He skis. Our email exchanges have been goofy and friendly but hard to say much more about it until we get a better sense of each other in person.

We are getting together for coffee, in the late afternoon – my town is on his way home from work, so it’s easy for him to swing by. He seems like a pro at internet dating; he suggested something low-key and relatively short (anyone is tolerable for the time it takes to drink a latte; the same cannot be said for dinner). My schedule is surprisingly difficult – I’m on sabbatical, so you’d think it would be easy, right? – but we found a time quickly and here we go.

If his pictures are accurate, A is a little bit chubby. I hardly noticed this until, when I told him that I just started running, he said that he had lost 100 pounds when he was a runner a decade ago – and has since gained 50 of them back. He said this casually, easily, comfortably. Then he said (or rather, he wrote – this was via email): “Health/fitness is one of those things I’m going to be struggling with for the rest of my life.” That was it. No commentary about how much he hated his weight gain, or how he wished he was that slim again.

In response, I said: “As for struggling with health and fitness: tell me about it. (I mean, I can commiserate, although if you want to actually tell me about it I’d be quite interested). But I console myself with the reminder that it’s something that everyone struggles with – even folks who are naturally lithe aren’t doing themselves any good if they take their size as an indication of fitness.” A sneaky bit of Health at Every Size. He gave no response to this, in his next email. We’d moved on to other topics, for the most part.

So? I’m thinking this is good news. I’m thinking this is a guy who understands body issues, has been up and down in size himself and doesn’t seem too hard on himself about it. He knows my size, roughly – I haven’t told him, but I have a recent and honest photo on my page, although that’s another story because whenever I look good in a photo it seems like it isn’t really honest; how messed up is that? – and he seems unperturbed. I’m thinking he’s among the first men I’ve met with whom fat acceptance might be a natural topic, at some point, and I’m thinking that that sounds like a relief.

Stage 1 intuitive eating

Of the many things that just made sense when I found my way to fat acceptance and Health at Every Size, intuitive eating was at the top of the list. Of course my body knows better than a million nutritionists what it needs. Of course I should eat what my body calls me to eat. Looking back, it flabbergasts me that I had to be told to do it; I guess that’s why it’s called “intuitive.”

But as it turns out, intuitive eating is harder than it looks.

Getting to know my cravings has been an education: identifying the particular taste that’s making my mouth water, deconstructing a general desire for a Chipotle Burrito Bowl into a specific craving for the acids – tomatoes, lime juice – that give it its flavor. I don’t know whether I’ve ever had an eating disorder – I’ve never been disagnosed with one – but I’ve certainly been weird about food all my life, and although I do a lot of cooking I haven’t spent much time actually tasting it.

But understanding and following my cravings is only a part – the fun, decadent part – of what intuitive eating is about. It’s not an excuse to ignore the good meals I’ve cooked in favor of a “craving” for fast food. It’s not an open invitation to stop at Dairy Queen every day on the way home from work. With the freedom to eat what my body asks for comes the responsibility to be honest with myself, and that’s the hard part. On a superficial level? I want ice cream every damn day. Hell, I’ll eat it for every meal. (I mean, it’s practically yogurt, right?  And yogurt is totally a breakfast food.) But if I look closely at myself I have to admit that I’m still pretty muddled about what I want to eat. The signals I’m getting about Peanut Buster Parfaits are less an accurate reflection of what my body needs right now and more an emotional release after years of telling myself that I can’t have them.

So, having given myself a few months of what I’m calling “Stage 1 Intuitive Eating” – giving in to my cravings without examining them too closely – I’m ready to take it more seriously. I’m not going to start restricting the foods I eat, or forcing myself to eat things I’m not interested in eating. I am going to continue to eat what I crave – I’m just going to take more care to be sure that I’m really craving what I think I’m craving.

addendum on avoidance

Hm. Well, I feel a little bit funny about my last post. I got some really nice comments – thanks, everyone – but I think I might have left a different impression than the one I intended.

Here are some things I didn’t mean to say: I didn’t mean that I could only be beautiful if I lost weight – or even that I want to lose weight. I didn’t mean that I was rethinking fat acceptance or Health at Every Size. I didn’t literally mean that I thought Writer Guy only likes me because I’d managed to fool him about my size – or that I would be crushed if it turned out that he didn’t like me all that much.

What I really meant to talk about was the unreasonable distrust I have of men who are attracted to me. My instinctive reaction is to just not believe them. To think that I must be missing something, there must be something wrong with them, that the other shoe is going to drop. I know it’s crazy. I know it’s unfair. I know that it’s all about what’s going on in my head, not theirs. Most of all, I know that I have to take people at their words and stop putting my neuroses in their mouths.

Poor Writer Guy. He has no idea what he’s getting himself into.

Intuitive eating and exercising?

When I started reading the “fatosphere,” intuitive eating was the first of many new concepts that I encountered. The idea is that you one should, ideally, eat what one wants when one wants it. If I want to eat all Thin Mints, all the time, I should go for it. But once I’ve stopped thinking of some food as “good” and some as “bad,” I will probably stop craving “bad” food all the time.

It makes sense to me, and some of what people write about intuitive eating really rings true for me. (Kate Harding – at least, I think it was Kate – told a story a while ago about stopping by a gas station on her way home from a night out with friends. Her boyfriend got some beef jerky and asked if she wanted something. She didn’t, and she realized how far she had come in intuitive eating – there was a time when she would have gotten SOME kind of junk food, anything, because her boyfriend had so she could too. It made me realize how often I do things like that. Carrie had dessert? Then I can, too.)

But. Sometimes I feel as though I am out of step with the rest of the fatosphere. The women (and it’s almost all women) who write these exercise regularly and really, truly, honestly prefer salad to steak. (Actually, I prefer salad to steak too, but ignore that for a minute. I prefer cookies to salad, and cake to salad, and pretty much anything else with either fat or sugar in it to salad. Steak is just an outlier. Whatever.) They don’t seem to be overeaters. They’re just fat, even though they do all the right things.

I don’t really do the right things. I snack. A lot. I usually don’t get the daily recommended number of fruits and veggies. Most days, I forget to take my multivitamin. My portions? At dinner, at least, are definitely much larger than I like to admit. I have no problem polishing off giant-sized restaurant meals. I have never in my life taken half a Chipotle home.

I do a little better on exercise. My workout schedule, if I followed it perfectly, would look like this: Monday – water aerobics (60 min), Tuesday – gentle yoga (30 min), Wednesday – water aerobics ( 60 min), Thursday – gentle yoga (30 min), Friday – easy water exercise (45 min), Saturday – Bodyflow (60 min), Sunday – off. But most weeks I miss either Monday or Wednesday (or both), and I’m almost always late to the water aerobics classes, so those 60 minutes are really more like 45, and I don’t really push myself.

Point is? I’m not sure that intuitive eating or intuitive exercising (I’ve never actually heard someone use that term, but the concept is the same – do exercise that makes you feel good; don’t do exercise that doesn’t) really works for me. I’m pretty sure that, left to my own devices, I’d sit in my apartment and eat nachos all the time.

Take this week. It’s been rough. I’ve been pretty down. Struggling at work, feeling blue. And I came up with excuses to not work out on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Monday I had to work, but I probably could have gotten out of it if I wanted to. Tuesday I just didn’t feel like getting up early enough to do yoga before I left for the office. Wednesday I actually drove all the way to the gym and then decided I was too tired. Friday I decided I was too tired before I even left my desk.

And, up until about a year and a half ago, that was EVERY week. Until I discovered water aerobics and then Bodyflow, I probably worked out a total of, I don’t know, six times a year.

So I’m hesitant about the whole intuitive eating/exercising thing. (I realize that I haven’t really talked about eating here. It’s easier for me to swallow – ha! – because I’ve had the experience of eating a bunch of junk and eventually craving something “better”.) Kate has written about being afraid that if she just let herself eat what she wanted that she would “devour the world“. I guess I’m afraid that if I let myself work out only when I want to do that I’ll let the whole world pass me by.