Category Archives: weighty matters

This week is kicking my ass and it’s only Monday

Hi. How are things? Long time no see. Look, so here’s the deal: last Friday I went in to the doctor’s office to get some drugs for my seasonal allergies. It was a new doctor, recommended by a friend, and I thought a standard allergy visit would be a good way to break in the relationship. Then they took my blood pressure, and it was 171/110. That’s BAD, in case you were wondering. Bad enough that the rest of my visit was spent doing things like getting an EKG and hearing things like “high potential for stroke.” Left the office with blood pressure meds and a return ticket for this morning. Spent the weekend trying not to panic about high BP (panic = not good for blood pressure), got to doc’s office around noon, and found out two things right off the bat: 1) my blood pressure was exactly the same as it had been on Friday, despite the meds, and 2) the blood test they had previously done indicated that I have type two diabetes.

TO RECAP:

  1. HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
  2. DIABETES

Or, perhaps more accurately:

  1. AAAAACKK! HIGH FUCKING BLOOD PRESSURE!
  2. BUGGERY BLOODY FUCKBALLS! DIAFUCKINGBETES! FUCKING FUCK!

Only with less shouting and more crying. Ahem.

Those of you who have followed this here blog for a while will recall that I had high blood pressure and gestational diabetes with both pregnancies. AND IT SUCKED. And, I’m not gonna lie to you, one of the reasons I haven’t been to a doctor since my last postnatal checkup was that I was so goddamn tired of being a high-risk medical case. SO SICK OF IT. So happy to rejoin the ranks of the relatively healthy. So ready not to have to *think* about my health or lack thereof all the goddamn time. At the same time, the last couple of months have been kind of really totally rough, mentally speaking (you know how I haven’t been posting so much? Yeah. That.) Not the kind of thing you can put a finger on, but, you know: stressing about money, not having a career path, feeling isolated, lack of identity outside parenting, feeling angry and frustrated all the time, feeling like the anger and frustration are making you a horrible parent and wife, etc., etc., blah, blah, blah. Call it “stay-at-home-parent-malaise.”And I was just getting myself psyched up to deal with THAT problem when, whammo: blood pressure and diabetes. For fuck’s sake. Just to contextualize my mental state, I will tell you that my first reaction to the diabetes news was, “Great. Everyone I tell about this is going to think it happened because I’m fat.” Healthy, no? Really, totally balanced. Because I definitely have friends like that. Sigh.

Anyway. The good news is that my new doctor so far seems really awesome (thanks for the recommendation, Scott!), and not only did she NOT tell me I needed to lose some weight (and if you want to know why that’s a big deal, go here or here), she also told me with great confidence that we would get me back to pre-diabetic health and lifestyle by October. “Both of these conditions are totally treatable. We are just going to be aggressive about this.” I’m trying to take this in stride, focus on the positive – it’s good that they found this early, it’s a motivation for the whole family to be healthier, it’s not a life sentence – but I’m also Just. So. Tired of it.

Any words of wisdom on getting over life hurdles would be appreciated. Except the ones that tell me to think of all the other people in the world who have it worse than I do, because goddammit, I already DO that and it just makes me feel even WORSE.

Linky Bits

What you could look at while I’m too stopped up to blog:

1. Ballotpedia should come in extremely handy this autumn.

2. The public school system, in case you were unaware, is totally FUBAR. I would love to see either of the presidential candidates address this in a meaningful way. But I ain’t holding my breath.

3. You know how diets don’t work? Weight loss surgery doesn’t, either.

4. This video kind of makes me feel better about the human race. (Watch through the awkwardness; it’s worth it.):

Sometimes it’s exhausting being a humorless fat feminist

I grew up in a family of college professors; specifically, philosophy professors. My parents and their friends are professional critical thinkers, and our dinner table conversations were often on the esoteric geeky side. Sometimes this was cool, sometimes it was embarrassing, but whatever: it was what it was, and every family has its own weirdnesses. This was just ours. (Well: one of ours.) But one area where the parental penchant for critical thinking really used to get on my nerves was post-movie discussions. We’d go see a flick – not necessarily anything highbrow, it could just as easily be Lethal Weapon as The Unbearable Lightness of Being – and then afterwards we’d go to Perkins for dessert or coffee and talk about the movie. Or, as I thought of it then, mercilessly disect the movie until any lingering enjoyment was completely eradicated. “Can’t you just like a movie and be done with it?” I’d ask exasperatedly, only to be patiently told that they did like the movie, this was their way of showing they liked it, criticism doesn’t imply dissatisfaction, blahblahblah and my thirteen-year-old eyes were rolled completely back into my skull. Parents are so WEIRD.

Fast-forward to college, and I start realizing the inescapable truth that the more you know about something, the less possible it is to have a naive enjoyment of that thing. Major in theatre, and you can no longer view a production of Cats with unalloyed, unironical pleasure. You might still get a kick out of it, but not the same kind of kick those sweet ladies from the Lutheran church group in row 3 who just cannot BELIEVE they are getting to see a REAL! BROADWAY! SHOW! are getting. My English major friends lamented that they could no longer really lose themselves in a good novel. Worse: knowledge of some topics precluded any enjoyment of certain pop-cultural tropes whatsoever. Once you’ve had your feminist awakening, you notice there’s a lot of misogynist shit out there that just ain’t funny. Things your less-awakened friends might still find hilarious, you just find … depressing. Or angering. Or nauseating. Same goes for when you get hip to GLBT rights, or civil rights for people of color, or class issues, etc., etc., etc. Often, after that first initial shock, you get inured again and can once more watch mainstream media without wanting to kill someone or hurl, but when you’re really intensely immersed in race issues, class issues, gender issues – well, let’s just say I can remember a semester in grad school where I could only watch carefully selected VHS movies, because I was so hyper-attuned to sexism that any other media exposure just squicked me right the hell out. And those of you who know me will understand how sensitive I must have been to cut out TV viewing, because I loooooooooooooves me my teevee.

The shitty thing about being gender-race-class-sexuality-younameit aware is that it can feel awfully lonely and ill-tempered. More than a few times I’ve gone to a movie with Mr. Squab or friends and everyone else comes out saying “that was fun!” or “good movie!” and I’m the only one going “well, I liked parts of the movie, but why did they have to keep making those dumb homophobic jokes all the time?” or “but there was only one female character, and she was just a sex object!” or whatever. And then everyone gets all uncomfortable, like, well, yeah, of course homophobia/sexism/racism is bad but why can’t you just like the movie and be done with it? Squab is so WEIRD. Which is a response I totally get, and I’m not trying to be Debbie Downer, but you know … I just can’t not see that stuff anymore.

All of which is an extremely long preface to saying, Mr. Squab and I saw Wall-E this evening, and I liked parts of the movie a lot, but the representation of the humans really fucking bothered me. I love Pixar films generally – their animation is amazing, they really pay attention to crafting a good story with interesting characters, and they maintain that sense of wonder and playfulness mixed with a little snark that’s the hallmark of good family entertainment (like the Muppet Show or Bugs Bunny cartoons or the Animaniacs). Sure, they’ve got some gender problems, and that bugs me, but I usually really enjoy seeing their films. Anyway, in Wall-E, one of the central story conceits is that human beings have abandoned planet earth to live in luxurious, cruise-shipesque spaceships, where their every need is catered to by smart robots, and even the ability to walk is obviated by personal hovercraft thingies that transport them wherever they might want to go. Due to their nearly total lack of physical activity and (possibly) their unhealthy diet (though this is unclear), they have all morphed into hugely obese, puffy slug people. Helpless puffy slug people. Who apparently have atrophied brains as well as muscles, since they don’t really notice their surroundings until Wall-E shows up to jolt them out of their sluggishness, in some cases literally jolting them out of their hovercrafts, at which point they flail around like upturned turtles (fat people can’t move normally! Fat people’s bodies are hilarious!) until their helper robots come to set them gently upright.

Now, there were a lot of things I liked about this movie: the female robot, Eve, is pretty kick-ass, and one of the most progressive/feminist female characters I’ve ever seen in an animated movie. The animation is as gorgeous as I’d expect a Pixar film to be, and the first 1/2 hour, which is entirely without dialogue, is an amazing example of visual storytelling. But the fat jokes, y’all: I can’t get over the fat jokes. Partly because I don’t buy into the notion that we’d all be the same size and shape no matter HOW inactive/unhealthy we were. Humans are too variable; some of us just don’t balloon up no matter what. But more, the fat jokes weren’t even necessary. Just as much – or more! – physical humor could have been derived from the humans’ atrophied muscles and loss of bone density, irrespective of their size, as was got from the tired old fat=funny trope that was in this movie. The fat gags were the easy, brainless humor-shorthand option, and I’ve come to expect more from Pixar than taking the easy way out. Why they gotta play me like that?

More on this here, here (scroll down), here and here. The director’s take, FWIW, is here.

Woot! International No Diet Day!

Apropos of my post below, I am happy to note that today is International No Diet Day. Today is the day to embrace the notion that what you eat has no moral implications one way or another. Radical proposition, I know. Personally, I’m trying to make this No Diet Year, but we all gotta start somewhere. If you need some motivation, here are the top 10 reasons not to diet (completely ripped off from Shapely Prose):

10. DIETS DON’T WORK. Even if you lose weight, you will probably gain it all back, and you might gain back more than you lost.

9. DIETS ARE EXPENSIVE. If you didn’t buy special diet products, you could save enough to get new clothes, which would improve your outlook right now.

8. DIETS ARE BORING. People on diets talk and think about food and practically nothing else. There’s a lot more to life.

7. DIETS DON’T NECESSARILY IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH. Like the weight loss, health improvement is temporary. Dieting can actually cause health problems.

6. DIETS DON’T MAKE YOU BEAUTIFUL. Very few people will ever look like models. Glamour is a look, not a size. You don’t have to be thin to be attractive.

5. DIETS ARE NOT SEXY. If you want to be more attractive, take care of your body and your appearance. Feeling healthy makes you look your best.

4. DIETS CAN TURN INTO EATING DISORDERS. The obsession to be thin can lead to anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, and compulsive exercising.

3. DIETS CAN MAKE YOU AFRAID OF FOOD. Food nourishes and comforts us, and gives us pleasure. Dieting can make food seem like your enemy, and can deprive you of all the positive things about food.

2. DIETS CAN ROB YOU OF ENERGY. If you want to lead a full and active life, you need good nutrition, and enough food to meet your body’s needs.

And the number one reason to give up dieting:

1. Learning to love and accept yourself just as you are will give you self-confidence, better health, and a sense of wellbeing that will last a lifetime.

Now get out there and eat some cake. Or pot roast. Or tomatoes and tofu. Or whatever you damn well feel like eating.

*headdesk*

As long-time readers will remember, we did not find out the Hatchling’s gender prior to her birth. Partly just for the surprise element, and partly because I didn’t want to get a ton of gender-specific baby stuff, because that just makes me cranky. Anyhoo, this meant that I spent a fair amount of time thinking about the gender thang and all of its myriad implications. I really, truly did not have a preference as to male or female; I figure I can fuck up my kids no matter what flavor they are. But, the world being what it is, there are certain things that I’d worry about more with a boy, certain things more with a girl. And me being who I am, as soon as the Hatchling presented her cooter-equipped little self, I locked into my own personal set of things-to-worry-about as the parent of a female child. Tops on this list is something I’d call “bodily integrity,” which is a term that covers a whole mess of things, mess being the operative word. Things like body image, sexuality, abortion, eating disorders, physical confidence or lack thereof – all that stuff that is so damned FRAUGHT if you happen to be possessed of two X chromosomes. Of course, there’s not a whole lot I can do about everything on this list. I mean, I can’t prevent assholes from breaking her heart when she’s in jr. high; I can’t prevent peer pressure; I can’t prevent her from wanting to be popular – I just have to roll with the punches on some stuff. I figure the most I can do is give her a background that will allow her to be resilient, and make sure she always knows how totally awesome she is in our eyes. And I can do my best to model the attitudes towards sexuality and body image that I’d like her to adopt. That latter one is a toughie, since boy HOWDY do I ever have some bad body image. I mean, c’mon: I’m female and fat, and in this culture that pretty much guarantees that I’ll have bad feelings about my body. Until recently I was so benighted as to accept my poor self-image as my just desserts: I “let” myself get fat, so self-hatred and low esteem were the consequences, and I just had to live with it until I could muster up the willpower and self-discipline to lose about 1/2 my body weight.

This, I hope I need not add, is BULLSHIT. First, because we are all worthy of respect as full human beings, regardless of our height, weight, color, sexual preference, creed, yada yada yada. I mean, duh. Second, because, as overwhelming amounts of research conclusively shows, diets really don’t work. (Which is to say: diets do not lead to permanent weight loss for the vast majority of people.) In fact, a dieting lifestyle makes you demonstrably less healthy than a fat one. Because, third: being fat does not equal being unhealthy. No, it does NOT. You know what does? Being sedentary and eating crap. And you can do that at ANY body size.

So anyway, lately I’ve been trying to reject the thin paradigm much as I earlier in life decided to reject the patriarchal paradigm, and for basically the same reason: THEY ARE TEH SUCK. It’s difficult, but it will be so very worth it if I can make it easier for the Hatchling to have a good relationship with her body. Which is why reading this post today made me feel sick.

I am the father of two (local school) students, one of whom is (my daughter), a 6th grader. I am writing to express my extreme concern over a Physical Education project that started this week in Mrs. (Physical Education teacher’s) class.

The kids were to enter their height and age into a computerized program, which informed them of their “ideal” weight and percentage of body fat. They have been instructed to count their daily caloric intake. Wednesday night I picked up a pizza on the way home from (my 2nd grade son’s) little league game and (my daughter) was frantic because the box didn’t indicate how many calories were in each slice.

She and her friends now discuss each other’s weight, body fat, and how many calories they ingested the night before.

WHAT. THE. FUCK. Read the entire post for the father’s justifiably furious reaction. This is where all the ridiculous “obesity epidemic” crap gets us. I’m sure the PE teacher and the school that approved this are well-intentioned, but give me a fucking BREAK, already! This is like eating-disorders 101. And RIGHT at the age when lots of girls are developing breasts and hips and, you know, extra tissue. That is all too easy to be perceived as “fat.” Not to mention that talk of “ideal weight” is about as damn useful as talking about “ideal height.” Sure, I’d like to be 5′ 10″ but my genes only gave me 5′ 4″ so what do you recommend I do about those lacking 6 inches? GAH. I’m going to stop writing because I cannot be coherent about this, but suffice it to say that I will now be on the lookout for this when the Hatchling starts school, and if anyone tries this kind of crap on her or her classmates I will HIT THE ROOF. Now somebody get Mamma some Atavan.

Random Tidbits

I got nothin’. The sickness is past, thank goodness, and we are back to being rascally toddlers again. I’m trying to get some writing done. Emphasis on “trying.” I enjoyed the Oscars. Aaaaaand … yeah. That’s all I got. But here, watch this:

And then you might want to get one of these.

Also, Emma Thompson is such a fucking GODDESS.

Review: Body Drama

As the product of a quasi-hippy household, I learned the “facts of life” at a ridiculously early age. I’m not sure how the conversation was initiated with my mother – probably it stemmed from her being pregnant with one of my siblings – but I do remember that my reaction was “gross.” I think my mom was *pretty* easy to talk to about body stuff, insofar as it can ever not be totally and completely embarrassing to talk to one’s mother about these things, but I’ll tell you what: I sure do wish this book had been around when I was going through puberty. Remember Our Bodies, Ourselves? (Yes, I am THAT. OLD.) Well, this is like that for the pre-teen to early twenties set. Only better, in some ways, because it specifically addresses some of the really tricky, stupid stuff that girls have to navigate now that they didn’t have to in earlier generations. (For example, the whole concept of “waxing” was pretty new in my high school years, and you can FORGET about crap like “Brazilians.” Nobody did that or even thought about it.) Body Drama: Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers is written by Nancy Redd, a former Miss Virginia who went from a shapely, body-loving teen to a yo-yoing, body hating young adult, partly as a result of beauty pageants. Having graduated from Harvard with a Women’s Studies degree, she wanted to create a resource for young women to let them know that their bodies are “normal and OK.”

Needless to say, I love that goal and this book tackles it with gusto. It’s divided into five sections: Skin, Boobs, Down There, Hair/Mouth/Nails, and Shape. Each section is illustrated with photographs of real women, covering every kind of question and situation that a teen or pre-teen girl could be curious about and way too embarrassed to ask anyone about. Got back zits? There’s information for you. Stretch marks? Page 50. You can revel in 99 nicknames for boobs on page 75 (some of which I may start adopting myself, as soon as I can choose between “wonder twins,” “dumplings” and “quantum heaps”). The “down there” section includes about a dozen photos of real, live vulvas, which can be a slight shock if you’re not expecting it, but PRAISE THE GODS that they’re in there, along with instructions for how to look at your own, when to see a doctor for various conditions, and why you shouldn’t, for cripes sake, get plastic surgery on your cooter. (That’s my term, not the author’s. As if you had to ask.)

The “Shape” section, which is the one I was most interested to read, is a mixed bag. It does refer to the dreaded (and useless) BMI chart, and it does talk about dieting as an option for losing weight. But the emphasis in that section is definitely more on being active and healthy and loving your body first and foremost than it is on losing weight or fitting on the BMI chart. And, best of all, there’s a fabulous section of “before and after” shots that show exactly how the average fashion magazine image is created, and how false the “after” version is as a reflection of the “before.” The main part of the book ends with several different statements that every body is beautiful, illustrated with a variety of real, beautiful womens’ bodies. Finally, there’s a resources section with great information on different kinds of doctors, helpful sites for everything from body piercings to reporting physical abuse, and thorough notes and indexes.

The graphic photos and frank language around womens’ bodies will mean that some people won’t be comfortable reading this book or giving it to their daughters, granddaughters, nieces and sisters. And that’s too bad, because this is an area that can use all the frankness and reality it can get! I’d recommend this book to any young woman as a valuable resource, and it’s definitely something I’ll be glad to have around when my daughter gets older.

(This post is part of the MotherTalk blog tour.)