Teaching a HAES-friendly approach to health and fitness

Oral Roberts University is now requiring freshmen to wear FitBits.  And as expected, there are a lot of people who find that problematic.  The article I linked to expresses my main concerns – namely, that the technology has limitations, and people vary, so standardizing is damn near impossible, and automatically puts some students as a disadvantage, while giving others an advantage.

Not to mention that it makes people focus on numbers.  Now, I do data for a living – I’m an analyst in higher ed, and I’m in graduate school working on a degree in Statistics.  So to say my life is consumed by data-driven narratives is an understatement.  But as much as I like numbers and formulas, I recognize how messy those things can actually be, particularly when it comes to people.  As soon as people enter the equation, there is no more exact science.

Continue reading “Teaching a HAES-friendly approach to health and fitness”

How not to be a dick to women at the gym (or, you know, in life)

As part of my ongoing effort to do as much as I can to minimize the impact Lupus is having on my body, I’ve started working with a HAES-friendly trainer and going to the gym several times a week.  At the gym, I utilize the locker room.  In the locker room, there are often women in various states of undress.

I’m openly bisexual (pansexual?*) with a preference for looking at women.

But here’s what I have NEVER done in a locker room:

  • Stared, or even glanced at someone who is undressed
  • Made body-centric or creepy/intrusive comments to or about women who are undressed
  • Assumed that because they were undressed in the locker room meant they were inviting gazing or commentary from lesbians/bisexuals/pansexuals

And here’s what I have NEVER done at the gym:

  • Assumed that because a woman is wearing wearing spandex/a tank top/a swimsuit in a semi-public space meant that she was inviting gazing or commentary from lesbians/bisexuals/pansexuals
  • Made body-centric or creepy/intrusive comments to or about women who are working out
  • Followed a woman around the gym, or waited around outside hoping to follow her
  • Tried to talk to a woman who is clearly giving off signals that she wants to be left alone (i.e., wearing headphones, not looking around, not making eye contact, etc.)

If I, a woman who is just as attracted to women as men are, can manage to practice self-control and respect women’s space and personal boundaries, then a man can do it, too.  To suggest that they can’t control themselves is not only ridiculous, but it both infantilizes them and gives them an excuse to continue to act like women’s bodies exist for their consumption.

We’re all capable of self-control.  Biological sex and gender identity have nothing whatsoever to do with one’s ability to be respectful of others.

I’m saying nothing here that other lesbian/bi/pan women haven’t said before.  But I just wanted to throw my voice in there, too, because it struck me today.  There was a completely nude girl 3 feet away from me in the locker room, and I kept my gaze averted, gave her as much space as I could, gathered my things without saying a word to her, and left.

Did I *want* to look?  Sure.  But did I?  Absolutely not.  It’s more important to me that she feel safe and comfortable and that I respect her as a fellow human being than that I indulge my own curiosity.  She wasn’t there for my consumption or to satisfy any of my personal pleasures or whims.  She was minding her own business and deserved to be left alone.  So that’s exactly what I did.

In other words, I’m not a dick.

Thing is, I don’t believe men need to be, either.  I think they absolutely can be respectful of women, and many are…it’s just that too many of them aren’t, and don’t want to be.

_______________________________________________________

*I think I should start using ‘pansexual’ because I don’t really have any preferences when it comes to gender identity.  Bisexual feels too much like I’m saying you have to identify as a man or as a woman.  It’s so binary, and the truth is, I don’t really care how you identify.  I care more than you’re comfortable in your identity and that you have the same rights and opportunities as straight cisgender people…including that you can use the locker room in which you feel the most comfortable without being harassed.  

Why HAES is even more important to me, now that I have Lupus

So to make sure I’m staying as healthy as possible, I’m working with a HAES-friendly trainer who has experience dealing with people who have chronic health issues.  The goal is not weight loss – in fact, my trainer doesn’t like her clients setting weight loss goals or even looking at a scale.  She’s a big believer in setting fitness goals, not “I want to weight x lbs” goals.  She’s of the opinion that people get too focused on the numbers on the scale, and that ultimately derails them.

I couldn’t agree more.

I’m working on low impact exercises right now, because that’s all I’m medically cleared to do.  My cardio consists of doing step-ups in 45 second bursts in between doing TRX exercises. I think I could get into TRX.  I like that you can customize it to your comfort level and ability.  I’m hoping I can take a TRX class at some point this year.  That’s my fitness goal – enough stamina for a TRX class.

I only pay attention to the scale because I have to monitor the rapidity of weight loss or weight gain.  I have a thyroid issue which can cause weight gain, and I’m on a med for the thyroid issue which can cause weight loss.  I have digestive issues that can cause weight loss.  Lupus can also cause weight gain or loss for various reasons, and since I have a history of rapid weight loss, I need to be careful.

I know to some people, the words rapid weight loss sound like opening the best gift ever on Christmas morning.  Thing is, that’s bad for your heart, and bad for your other organs.  If weight loss is your goal, and weight loss is your focus, then just keep in mind that slow and steady is the healthiest way.

I’m personally not a big believer in prioritizing weight over health, or conflating weight with health.  That’s why HAES is so much more important to me now, because Health At Every Size believes that anyone, no matter what their body type, can find a ways to be physically active, and can more attuned to their body’s food needs.  They encourage people to be active in ways that they enjoy.  They’re not pro-obesity, as many detractors say – they simply take fat and weight loss and the idea that being thin should be the goal completely out of the equation.  They don’t focus on weight, they focus on health.  They focus on people feeling better.  They focus on good eating habits and finding physical activities that you enjoy doing.  HAES is all about lifestyle change, and it actually puts the focus on lifestyle, not weight.

I see too many companies, products, and gurus who claim to offer lifestyle change, where lifestyle change is a euphemism for weight loss.  HAES doesn’t discourage weight loss, it just shifts the focus away from it.

Someone can get healthier and feel better without losing much, if any, weight.  HAES reminds people that that’s okay.  That weight doesn’t reflect health.

Even if I wanted to lose weight (which I don’t, it’s happening involuntarily), I can’t do high impact cardio or any of the things that typically burn lots of calories.  I’m not medically cleared, and even if I was, one of the fun symptoms of Lupus is getting out of breath easily, and of course – OF COURSE – that’s one of the ones I have.  I can’t walk across campus without getting winded.  Hell, I can’t even walk down one flight of stairs to use the bathroom without getting winded.  The fact that I work in an old building whose elevator doesn’t come to my floor means I’m struggling with stairs a lot.  Stairs have become my nemesis.

Don’t ever assume that a thin person taking the elevator is just lazy.

But at the same time, don’t assume that the fat person on the elevator is just lazy, either.  Don’t ever assume that someone is fat because they’re lazy and unmotivated.  Maybe they have Lupus.  Maybe they have thyroid issues.  Maybe they have MS.  Maybe they have CFS.  Maybe they have PCOS.  Maybe they have asthma.  Maybe they have countless other medical issues that make them unable to do the sort of high impact work outs that they may want to do.

Or maybe they just don’t want to lose weight, which is totally fine too.  Maybe they’re happy the way they are, and maybe they’re healthier than the thin people who hate them.

Point is, you don’t know why someone is fat, so don’t make assumptions about their body, their health, their level of motivation, and their capabilities.

And you don’t know why a thin person who looks healthy is constantly avoiding doing too much physical activity.

Maybe that fat person you look down on runs marathons.  I follow three Fat Acceptance/Body Pos bloggers/activists who are very into running, dancing, and going to the gym regularly.  All of them are probably in WAY better shape than I’ll ever be in, and all of them are fat.

Maybe that thin person you think is just being lazy by only doing 8-10 minutes on the treadmill at a very low speed is actually doing the best they can. My best effort isn’t going to look the same as the best effort of someone who’s not chronically ill.  Because I don’t *look* sick – which is such ableist garbage – I know I get judged.  I’m thin, therefore I must be healthy, therefore if I’m doing only very light exercises, I must just be lazy, right?

Wrong.

So don’t judge.  Period.  Refraining from judging someone’s level of physical activity isn’t just about not being fat phobic, it’s about not being ableist.

HAES isn’t fat phobic, and it isn’t ableist.  It’s about understanding that all bodies are unique, embracing the idea that you know best what works for your body, and keeping your focus on your health.

I encourage everyone to eat in a way that’s healthy for your body, and find physical activities that work for you.  Ideally, I would want people to focus on what health means for them, and strive to be as healthy as possible.

But if you don’t want to eat healthy or be physically active, I support your right do eat what you want and do as little exercise as you want.  It’s your body, and I will always defend your right to do what you want with it.

 

Gut Symmetries

I reread Jeanette Winterson’s Gut Symmetries, which I haven’t read in more than a decade.  I didn’t remember a lot of it, so it was like reading it for the first time.  Until I came to this it of text, which slapped me in the face – it was something I once knew intimately, but somehow forgot about, and remembering it was odd and beautiful and sad.

A woman is contemplating an intimate relationship, and how she and her partner have changed.  She muses,

When we killed what we were to become what we are, what did we do with the bodies?  We did what most people do; buried them under the floorboards and got used to the smell.

I’ve lived my life like a serial killer; finish with one part, strangle it and move on to the next. Life in neat little boxes is life in neat little coffins, the dead bodies of the past laid out side by side. I am discovering, now, in the late afternoon of the day, that the dead still speak.

Past? Present? Future? The language of the dead. Totality of time.

I think I’ll just leave that here, and perhaps it will speak to someone else as it spoke to me.

Why has no one heard of Lupus?

It appears as though what I have is Lupus, which explains not only my current issues, but all the digestive issues and the blood disorder I have as well.  My current doctors think they’re all related.  There’s no specific test for Lupus; it’s diagnosed through a series of different tests, combined with medical history and symptoms.  Ultimately, a Rheumatologist will make the call, but my Allergist is pretty certain it’s Lupus.

The more I read about Lupus, the more I was surprised that a lot of people haven’t heard of it, or have but don’t know what it is, or are vaguely aware that it has something to do with Selena Gomez.  The Lupus Foundation estimates that between 1.5 million and 2 million Americans have Lupus.

Wow, I thought, that’s weird. So why doesn’t it get the attention that other major chronic illnesses get?

Then I read that Lupus predominately affects women, particularly women of color.

Oh.  There’s the answer.  It impacts mostly people of color, and women – the two types of people we tend to devalue the most in this country.  So of course, who cares, right?  Let’s focus on making sure there’s eight different commercials for drugs that will cure erectile dysfunction instead.

I’m not pissed off that I have Lupus.  I am pissed off that it seems that diseases that impact white people, particularly male white people, will always get more attention than a disease that predominately impacts women of color.  This is yet another example of white privilege and male privilege. (And a good example of the intersection of race and gender issues.)

It’s had exactly 1 new treatment approved by the FDA in the past 50 years.  One.  Mostly the reasons why Lupus patients live longer now is because there are better drugs to treat the various symptoms, and often drugs used for Lupus were originally developed for other conditions; one of the drugs I’m on was developed for Asthma, another four of them for various kinds of allergies.  None of them were developed specifically for Lupus.

But there is a little bit of good news – the Lupus Research Institute is an advocate for new research, and has had a few big victories just recently, including this, which is a screenshot from their website:

Capture

 

Thank you, Lupus Research Institute, for bluntly stating the fact that there are racial disparities in clinical trials, diagnosis and care (I assumed there were), and by pushing for more education about this disease.  I appreciate that they put the racial issues right out there and don’t tiptoe around them.

It’s not right that because I’m white, I am more likely to have a more positive and proactive experience with my healthcare and Lupus treatment than a woman of color.  It’s not right that because this is a “woman’s disease,” it’s not given priority until a group of advocates spends over a decade tirelessly campaigning for attention and funding.

It’s utterly ridiculous that the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation New York has to include this page to assure the menz that it’s okay to have a yucky woman disease:

Capture

The fact that a man would even be upset about having Lupus because of the association with women?  Wow, misogynistic much?  The fact that this website reassures men that it doesn’t undermine their manliness – wow, encouraging damaging views of gender identity and expression much?  If your “manliness” can’t handle having a disease associated with women, then fuck you.

And if you’re a man who’s frustrated because the information on Lupus that is out there tends to pertain more to women than to you – well, welcome to our world, because that’s what it’s often like for us.  A lot of information about disease symptoms defaults to how men experience the disease – too often, I’ve seen separate sections for “women’s symptoms,” or just a brief acknowledgment that women experience things differently.  So…this is one case where I’m like…sorry, no sympathy for any man who’s struggling to accept Lupus because he feels emasculated, no sympathy for any man who feels left out because the research and advocacy focuses on women.

Not everything needs to be about men, or reassuring men that they’re still “manly” if they have Lupus.

Women don’t feel less feminine for having diseases that predominately impact men, so…get over yourselves.

Not everything needs to be about white people, and making sure that diseases that impact us get preference over ones that don’t.

Systemic racism and sexism absolutely impacts all aspects of people’s lives – and how Lupus is largely ignored because of the fact that it mainly impacts women of color, how those same women of color are often not well represented in clinical trials, and how Lupus seen as potentially threatening or a “struggle” for men because anything associated with femininity is automatically BAD, are all examples of how systemic racism and sexism intersect to cause major problems for MILLIONS of Americans.

In which white people justify slavery

So over my Christmas break, I went to South Carolina, where I toured one of the plantations in the area.  At that plantation, they gave out a booklet about the task system, which was a way of distributing slaves’ workloads.  I read it.  I reread it.

I find it absolutely appalling.

Here’s why:

Continue reading “In which white people justify slavery”

So what are you saying here?

This little meme appeared on my FB timeline today:

wut - Copy

 

This meme is complete racist garbage.  But here’s an example of a way someone can post something blatantly racist without having to take accountability for it, or without seeming racist – because I can just hear (white) people dismissing the image as just an image, and focusing only on the text, which is not inherently racist in and of itself.  I can hear all the apologetics as I type this, and all the people telling me that I’m being overly sensitive, that I’m reading into something that isn’t there, that the image isn’t meaningful.

The image is extremely meaningful.  The meme would have a much different subtext if the background image was of money or coins, or an empty wallet, or something neutral.  Even a picture of a white person would have neutralized this image.

A picture of a black man behind text that implies that people who are broke because they’re working to pay bills are somehow different from (read: superior to) people who are broke because they’re too lazy to work is a VERY loaded statement.  And yes, the image IS a statement.  Photos and artwork ARE narratives.  They ARE statements.  They do say something.

This image, and anyone who posts this image, is saying, “I’m superior to black people because even though I’m broke, I’m not lazy, and they are.”

And that is some white supremecist garbage right there.

 

This is how jacked our healthcare system is

So I have an autoimmune disease which doctors are pretty sure is Lupus.  Further testing will confirm that, but even if it’s not Lupus, it’s autoimmune in nature, and therefore difficult to predict.  When it comes to autoimmune issues, we still don’t know as much as we could.

Aside from Prednisone, which works but which I dislike having to take, another drug was found to be successful in stopping my flares.  A very, very expensive drug.  We’re talking in the neighborhood of $1700/month expensive.

I can’t pay that.  It’s just not feasible.  Insurance will kick in some, but not enough to make it feasible.  Luckily there are financial assistance programs, and I have applied.  I haven’t heard back yet.

I can and will pay for my January dosage if I have to, but beyond that, if I don’t get financial assistance, I’m facing a difficult set of choices.

  • I could go off the drug and hope that the flare has passed, but then what about the future?  What if it happens again?  What if the flare comes back once the drug wears off?
  • I could choose to stay on Prednisone long-term, but I’ve already got extremely cold teeth, I’ve gained so much weight that none of the clothes I owned prior to a frantic shopping trip last week fit me anymore, and the pred will eventually start causing other issues if taken long term.
  • I could choose to go through my savings to continue to pay for this drug, but then what happens when my savings runs out?  Not just to my body, but in general – I’ve worked for *years* to save the paltry amount I currently have (paltry compared to the price of healthcare in this supposedly amazing and wonderful 1st world country I live in) – and I’m philosophically opposed to the idea that someone should have to break themselves financially to pay for necessary medical care.
  • I could choose to drop out of grad school and get a second job to pay whatever is left over after my insurance pays.  (I don’t know the exact amount, but I’m told it’ll only be a couple hundred dollars.)

Quite frankly, none of these are choices I should be potentially facing.  No one should.  It’s infuriating that medical costs in the U.S. are so high, even for people who are insured – and it’s even worse if you’re not, because you can be denied care.  At least I can’t be denied care.  But that’s the very least.  People shouldn’t have to face years of payments, or possibly lose everything, just to pay medical costs.  It’s completely fucked up.

With something like Lupus, it can be life-threatening, but not all flares are.  Over time, untreated, it can cause issues, but could I manage through a flare with the OTC and prescription pills I have now, and just carry and Epi-pen everywhere?  Sure.  I could tolerate the swelling, hope it doesn’t hit my tongue or throat, and keep an Epi-pen glued to me at all times just in case it does.

But what if this was cancer?  What if the drug was necessary for extending life?  In that case, going off of it and hoping for the best isn’t an option.  And no one who needs a drug to live, or to have a decent quality of life, should have to face overwhelming costs to get that drug.

If you haven’t faced something like this…believe me, you will.  Even a quick trip to the ER can put you out a grand or more easily.  Hospitalization and/or surgery will cause the bills to skyrocket.  Long term care can mean bankruptcy or financial ruin.

People complain about this, yet we keep electing idiots who want to keep this system as it is.  Interestingly, most of said idiots are wealthy individuals who would not be as negatively impacted by high medical costs as your average, everyday American.

Like me.  And, probably, like you.

We are nowhere near outraged enough about the fact that a country with the resources that the U.S. has can’t provide adequate care at reasonable costs – “reasonable” being defined as a price that a poor or lower middle class American could feasibly be able to pay without going into financial ruin.

*sigh*

This financial assistance needs to fucking happen.  Because if it doesn’t, I will discontinue graduate school and start looking for a second job to finance the medication.  I’m not going off this medication.  I refuse to keep taking Prednisone long term, knowing that as it’s easing my flares, it’s slowly damaging my body in other ways.  I’ll work two jobs until I’m able to get off the med that works.

And if I never can come off that med, as some patients can’t?  Well, I’m kind of screwed then, aren’t I?  I can’t make more money without an advanced degree.  I can’t get an advanced degree if I have to work two fucking jobs to pay for medication.  So I’ll be stuck in a cycle of having to work more than 40 hours a week, as many people must, in order to be able to pay bills.

The fact that, for the past 11 years, I’ve been able to survive on the wages of a 40 hour work week is actually an example of privilege.  I know that, because I haven’t always had it.  And many people never get it for a variety of reasons.

It’s fucked up that medical care can be one of the reasons why.

‘Murica.

A feminist yankee in Charleston, pt. 2

Can I say that I love Charleston’s climate?  Because I do.  I love the humidity and the rain.  I love Folly Beach.  I don’t live anywhere near an ocean, and lakes just aren’t the same.  (In fact, lakes are kind of gross.)

I will say, a lot of natives were lovely.  We encountered many people who, once they realized we were tourists, took the time to explain the history of things, or make recommendations on where to go, etc. – and these weren’t tour guides, just regular citizens.  There’s definitely a sense of pride in the people who live there, which is great.  We talked to people who were happy and eager to share what they know.  We definitely saw a lot of that Southern hospitality and friendliness.

But, sadly, there were also things that really bothered me.

Continue reading “A feminist yankee in Charleston, pt. 2”

A feminist yankee in Charleston, pt. 1

I’ve been in South Carolina for the past week, and will be here for another week.  It’s humid and foggy, which I’m not sure my family is enjoying, but I love warm, humid, foggy weather.  We’re staying in a condo near the ocean.  There have been long walks on foggy beaches and trips into Charleston to walk along beautiful streets lined with historic homes.

I love this area.

But there’s a dark side of it as well.  Last time I was here was ten years ago, and a lot of things were different ten years ago.  I didn’t have the knowledge and awareness that I have now.  About things like, say, slavery and racism.

The first Charleston tour we went on, the guide was very good about acknowledging slavery.  He didn’t try to rationalize it, or minimize it, or skirt around it in any way.  He acknowledged it, and acknowledged it as a blight, as a terrible thing.  He acknowledged that Charleston was built on the backs of slaves – and not just unskilled workers, but highly skilled artisans who were forced to work for free.

Then we went to the Old Slave Mart, which is new since I was here last.  It’s small, but I’m glad that Charleston has some sort of museum that acknowledges all of those lives that were sold into slavery.  There were a lot of white people there as well, and I was happy to see that, too.  That’s an important place for white people to visit, and I highly recommend it for anyone in the Charleston area.

But…there are always those who want to excuse an minimize.  Like yesterday’s tour guide, who I did not tip because he made comments I found sexist, and tried to minimize racism in all the classic ways.  He made the point that the Civil War happened over economics, not slavery.  I agree with half of that statement – it was over economics, but slavery is deeply entwined with economics.  The Confederacy was a slave economy – slaves built this city.  Slaves ran the big plantations.  Slaves weren’t just field workers and cooks – they were skilled at things such as metal working.  They were apprenticed then forced to work for free.

This guy was implying that slavery and the economy were two separate things.  They were not.

He also tried to minimize slavery by saying that the largest few plantation owners owned the most slaves.  And I wanted to say, SO WHAT?!  All of southern society was complicit in the slave economy, whether they were slave owners or not.  They all benefited from it, just like white people benefit from systemic racism today.

He also made the point that feed black people owned slaves – again so the fuck what?  Just because black people did it doesn’t make it any less horrible, which is what I felt he was trying to do – make slavery seem less horrible.  Yes, internalized racism happens.  Internalized sexism happens.  Internalized fat phobia happens.  I’m sad that one of the most brutal slave owners was himself a freed slave.  But I don’t think it makes slavery any less horrible or any more excusable.

I have another week here, and I’m definitely trying to be aware of how slavery is handled by different tour guides.  We’ll be going to a plantation one of the days.  I’ve heard mixed things about plantations – some say not to support them unless the recognize slavery in a realistic way.  The one we’re planning on going to does appear to acknowledge slavery and the role in played on that plantation, and on southern culture in general.  We’ll see, and I’ll write more about that after I go.

If you want to understand what it’s like being a tour guide dealing with guests who just don’t understand and don’t want to understand racism and slavery, look for @AfAmHistFail on Twitter.  She’s a tour guide on a plantation, and she records some of the ways that guests react when the tour guides talk about slavery.  It’s…appalling.  But it’s important.

So that’s my week so far.  If anyone does acknowledge today, or any adjacent days, as holidays, then I hope you have Happy Holidays.

Writing about me in 2016

It seems that for the past…oh, I don’t know how many years, every time I try to keep a journal, it turns into a creative writing journal.  Which is to say, when I try to write about myself, I end up creating fictional characters.  Which is fine – I have 1/3 of a journal filled that I started over the summer that’s all about some characters from a story I’m creating.  I think that’s important.

But it’s been a long time since I just wrote about me, the real person.  I briefly tried earlier this year, but fizzled out.  I think I need to delve into why I seem to sublimate through fiction.  And what, specifically, am I sublimating?

Are there any other creative types who are reading this who have the same problem?  Do you set out to create a self-portrait, and end up drawing a landscape?  Do you try to write about yourself, but end up with a character sketch?

I ordered a new journal, which I wish would get here already, that’s an exact copy of a journal I kept years ago, from 2004 – 2006.  I was really attached to that particular journal, and sad when I finally filled it and had to get a new one.  I was flipping through it the other night, and I thought, why not go back to something I felt really attached to, something that felt good?  Maybe this time it’ll stick.

It’s nice to have a blog, and I used to use LiveJournal as well, but sometimes you want something a bit more immediate, or you want to draw a bit.  I like the act of actually writing something as opposed to typing, and I like having something physical I can hold and touch, not just a screen.  I need to remember to be more present, and I think having a journal that I carry around – because oh yes, it’s coming with me wherever I go – will help me to record and be aware of what I’m thinking and feeling in the moment.

That’s something I’ve never done before, but I’m going to give it a shot.  Taking moments out of my day to be contemplative, or jot down a thought or impression.  Having it with me when I travel or go somewhere.

Fat Acceptance is not about beauty

Lately, I’ve seen a few people of my general acquaintance imply that their understanding of fat acceptance is that fat people just want to be considered beautiful.  Or the idea that fat people are trying to force others to see them as beautiful.

If your idea of fat acceptance and size acceptance is centered around beauty, then you don’t really understand fat/size acceptance.

Continue reading “Fat Acceptance is not about beauty”