The Bank of Effort

We’re all pretty hard on ourselves.

Today I realized that I’m not just hard on myself, I’m a total asshole to myself.

“Because I’m fat” is one of my brain’s favourite suffixes. I constantly and frequently belittle myself based on nothing other than my size. I project the scorn I’ve got for myself into what I think other people see when they look at me. It is fucking crazy and I know I’m not the only one doing it.

Here’s the thing, here’s my thing: if I want something, I put in the work for it in every other aspect of my life. I’ll save money for a new jacket, or I’ll research for knowledge I’m after, so I can learn how to do things.

Why is it so hard to apply this to my body? You want to run? Start running. You want to lose weight? Count your calories. Put the effort in the bank or stop whining! (…This is me again, talking to myself, I don’t want to yell or lecture you.)

I don’t know. I’m fed up with my brain. I need a new strategy.

Carried A-weigh

Been awhile since the last post, but that’s just because things have been a little busy, and the sturdy determination that I came back with from thanksgiving got a little bit hijacked by life. But, as I’m sitting here writing this, take it as a sign of good faith that I’m trying to take it back.

Around this time last year, I was dropping like a stone in water to a deeper depression than I had ever experienced before. I’m still on medication to stay balanced, but there are still lows—and low and anxious is kind of where I’ve been making my bed lately. It’s slightly horrifying just how much of my emotional stress is manifested in cravings for pizza. The recent election results literally had me wishing I could crawl into a calzone like a sleeping bag and hibernate for the next four years.

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Basically current events, the sun setting sooner, and some biological stress-timer have made eating healthily and carefully difficult. I can feel myself scraping with futility up towards success, but it feels as though I’m losing the battle. So I’m counting calories again.

I’ve done it before, with success. When I was in highschool and made the choice to lose weight for the first time, calorie counting was the biggest tool in my arsenal. The worst of it was that I got obsessed with it. I would count and recount meals over and over, and it was probably mentally unhealthy. But now, as that was years and years ago, I can hope for the good sense to manage this without going over board.

Trying to keep things chill, under control, and not worry too much.

The good news is that I lost half a pound last week from being a number cruncher. Let’s hope this is a trend that keeps up!

No Sweat (pants)

Fat thought of the day: bigger people can’t wear sweatpants.

No, it’s not a physical impossibility, okay? I know that, probably better than anyone. My imaginary lifestyle blog would probably be called “The Sweatpants Diaries” or something equally glamourous. It’s not compelling. Fat people can’t wear sweatpants and call it fashion. It’s just hard to be plus size and stylish.

I’m not saying that there aren’t stylish plus-sized clothes out there. We are coming into a renaissance where retailers like Forever 21 and Modcloth are finally acknowledging that we have sartorial aspirations! Fab over frump! This is utterly fantastic. Still, on an ideological level, I feel it’s harder to “get away” with certain looks when you’re a larger person.

In a previous post, I stumbled on the revelation in polka dots: I was holding back from dressing how I wanted, ignoring my style ambitions until I could get to a more magical size. And so, saying a big “fuck that” to this, I set out in search of change. Rather than waiting for a more fashion-forward future, I decided to start a push in for a little personal polish in the present on Pinterest. I started a board to try and figure out what my taste actually looks like, which was actually a lot of fun. (10/10, would recommend!)

There weren’t many outfit pictures posted by plus size people, and the ones I  saw were all primed and polished—not that this is a bad thing. But if I looked up “casual” or “sweatpants” searching for comfy inspiration, you can bet I didn’t see anyone above a size 10 rocking that gear. A thinner person can wear baggy sweats, or a pair of athletic leggings and a sweatshirt, and it will be stylish. I throw that on and I’m “hiding.” In fact, I can’t help but feel many “frumpy” outfits on plus sizers are stylish, quirky, hipster chic when you slip into them outside of double digit sizes.

Maybe that’s a poor reflection of my attitude for myself, and my shit opinions on society, and this is my problem to deal with. But it’s a curious exercise as a whole, to survey the general fashion rules that many plus size women have been taught by shows like What Not to Wear and women’s magazines. Fat people: don’t wear baggy clothes because they make you look bigger, but also don’t wear clothes that are *too* tight because they will show off your lumps and bumps? Empire waistlines are your friend. Black is your friend. Blah blah blah….maybe just wear what you want?

I guess what I’m saying is, there’s a standard out there, waiting to be smashed. I personally will be looking for a new pair of sweatpants so I can start #owningit.

71 Days

A wee note prior to beginning today’s post: I was walking home from work this week and I saw the first other fat runner I have ever seen in Montreal—ever. She had a water belt, and her athletic clothes showed off all of her lumps and bumps, just like me. She was red in the face, but she was TROOPING, just like me.  I was excited, and inspired. And lady, if you ever for some reason end up reading this, I salute you. Thank you for inspiring me with your own journey, whether it was your 50th run or your first. Keep going. 

Fuck yeah. 

So it’s 71 days, or 10 weeks and 1 day, or 2 months and 12 days—I hate to be that guy, but people, Christmas is most definitely coming. Fresh off of a weekend absolutely stuffed with stuffing (both the noun and the verb), now is the time to up my game for the holiday season. That wonderful time when the air constantly smells like cinnamon, ugly sweaters are in fashion, and ohhhhyes, my binge eating likes to try and go for a record before the new year. Somehow, I’m gonna beat it—my latest is by setting goals. (What a concept, I know!)

Is it taboo to talk about Christmastime before Halloween? Doesn’t matter. I’m doing it anyway, I’m a total Christmas junkie.

It all started this past weekend. Something about being in the town where I grew up set a fire under my ass. It left me with big time aspirations. I left home for Montreal with a mental list of goals in my head, one of them being to lose 10lbs before December 24th, 2016. It’s a little ambitious, given my current track record—but realistically achievable, and it’s a small baby step towards my overall goals. Basically it’s all the things I need.

I keep trying to formulate some kind of work out plan but currently it’s looking like walking to work and home 4-5 days a week, and maybe some strength training or yoga, but who knows. I’m trying to claim that my only plan is “consistency” but we’ll see how well that gets me if it starts getting very cold early this year. Last year I don’t think it snowed until January, and I layered up so much I looked like Randy in his snowsuit in A Christmas Story.

In any case, my gift to myself for Christmas this year is going to be the fact that I am putting in the effort. Realizing that I’m not exempt from healthy choices just because I try to get my 10,000 steps every day. I want to give myself an effort to be proud of. Maybe, I’ll manage to give myself a progress picture as a stocking stuffer. Who knows?

Thanksguilting

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Thinking on it, Thanksgiving is one of my favourite holidays—it’s usually on the cusp of true fall, when the days are cool and the nights get frosty, I get to head home from Montreal to stay with my parents, Bob’s Burgers usually has an amazing turkey-themed episode to enjoy, and there’s tons of cooking to be done.

Stuffing, turkey, mashed potatoes, roasted vegetables, salads, squash and my specialty—dessert—my family goes all out on the nosh. Plus our house is filled with people—my sisters, my totally dope brother-in-law, and our close family friends, all getting together to drink and eat, and take a look at all of the goodness we’re grateful for in our lives.

So this post isn’t going to be about weight loss, because there was just way too much fooding going on here this weekend and honestly, when I’m at home, I eat like a total stoner-turned-cow and graze on everything. (Confession: I had two oreos before breakfast this morning. I never buy them, my parents do. So there you have it.) Instead, this is just a short list of all the things I am thankful for when it comes to my body, and my health.

I’m thankful that I can afford nourishing and healthy food (and also some not-so-healthy treats)

I’m thankful to have all of my faculties and a functioning, healthy body.

I’m thankful for every step my body lets me take, every kilometre it lets me run, and every pose it lets me hold.

I’m grateful for the moles and beauty marks on my skin, which I get from my mother and my Babcia.

I’m grateful for carbs (my one true love).

I’m grateful for the friends and family who encourage and support me.

I’m grateful for the time to change, to become stronger and take care of myself better—and that’s the plan.

I’m grateful for my mother’s heart attack—not because it happened, but because it was a warning to her, and to me, and pushed my family as a whole towards healthier habits.

I’m thankful for this blog.

Next up, watch me backslide from all this internal peace and flip out over how to counteract the Thanksgiving slump before the Christmas season!

Way to go, babycakes

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Some days, I can’t help but feel that my body is a child. Whether it’s begging for five more minutes in bed on weekday mornings, or demanding cake and chips when we should be eating brown rice and kale bowls, taking care of it can feel like parenting—or at least what I imagine parenting to be like.

Another example of this is the dialogue my body and I started having when I got my running backpack last week and started jogging to work:

Are we going to run FOREVER? How many more minutes?

We’ll get there when we get there, okay?

But I’m TIIIIRED. CAN’T WE JUST STOP NOW?  Are we there yet?!

I’ve been listening to my body a lot lately, but I don’t always think that this is the best way to operate, or the healthiest. There’s an existing idea that when you’re craving something, it’s probably a nutrient you’re missing… I can’t help but feel I’d get cravings for more salmon and less white cheddar popcorn if that was totally true.

I also don’t think this body toddler-chatter (NO NO NO) always counts when it comes to exercise. There are some times when listening can be really good—when I’m really anxious, following the urge to go for a walk calms me down. If I’m working out and feel a twinge of pain, it’s a waving red flag to take it a bit easier to prevent injury.

Sometimes though, the body just wants to stop because it wants to stop. It would be easier to slow down, or easy to stay on the couch. It is easiest of all to sit and listen to it and do nothing else.

However, I read a quote recently that tweaked my perspective on who I’m having these conversations with: “your mind will quit before your body does.” Translation? It might not be my stomach or my knees behaving like a five-year-old on an apple juice bender, the pockets of their overalls jammed with goldfish crackers, demanding cartoons and nap time. No, it turns out the real source of all of this outlandish behaviour is my mind, telling my body what to do. To carry on with the toddler metaphor, my mind is an older kid, bullying the younger kid, taking its lunch money and using it to buy cupcakes.

To give the body the power back, I think the key has to be talking the mind into giving up its bullying ways.

The way we self talk can have a profound effect on how we live and function. Professional athletes do visualization exercises because they need to mentally reinforce the notions that they are winners. The mind is a powerful tool, if you can manage to“parent” it properly.

Not only is this something I’ve written about before, but Jocelyn and I have had this talk recently too: if losing weight was purely a physical task, it would be simple. Really, truly, it’s the fight with our mentality that adds to the burden and struggle. Mental health, energy, notions of self worth, internal struggles, comfort, safety, and then some, all show up to the playground to make trouble with ramifications for our physicality.

So, I guess what I’m getting at here is, when I’m trying to run up that first hill on my morning commute and my legs are throwing a tantrum, and my mind is saying that this sucks, that I should stop and take the bus—I have to try to remember that it’s my job to take a deep breath, explain why the bullies are wrong and keep going. This week’s mission is going to be positive self talk, to stop listening to the mind, and continue to nurture the body.

Mantra of choice? I am becoming.

I am becoming the person I want to be. Each day, I work to make myself more the person I want to be.

The Secret Origin of a Fat Feminist

For this post, we’re going on a trip to Bitch Planet.

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I put to you the comic by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, gloriously recommended to me by a friend, and one of my  comic book store guys. So, fuelled by my “two separate recs” rule and feeling spend-y, I picked up it up this past weekend…and then read the whole thing in basically one sitting.

The story takes place in a not-so-far-off future in which women who cause problems are branded as “noncompliant” and sent off to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, better off known as (say it with me) Bitch Planet. The inhabitants are there for a myriad of different reasons, from infractions such as murder to being obese or anorexic. Either way, if you’re stepping outside of the status quo, you’re getting shipped off in space to lady prison.

I loved the first volume. Besides the fact that it’s intersectional as hell and has a campy 1950s sci-fi soul, BP also represents a huge range of female body types, unabashedly drawn with honesty and not a sense of voyeuristic pornography. My favourite character is the goddess-titan Penny Rolle.

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She’s a big, unapologetic, badass woman. Spoilers ahead, there’s a scene where the prison authorities hook Penny up to neurotransmitters, trying to ascertain her ideal self image—they want an end-goal for the “self improvement” they’re about to force on her.

The thing is, when that image is revealed, it’s Penny  exactly as she already is—larger than any other character in the book and happy to be that way.

So here’s what I’m getting at, the notion that reading this book clarified to me: being a body-positive feminist is hard when you’re trying to lose weight. Personally, I feel the goal doesn’t align with my values—not on the surface anyway. They are two core beliefs and desires in a wrestling conflict, and neither of them wants to give up.

I can talk forever, claiming that all I want from this journey is health until I’ve run a marathon with my mouth into a smaller dress size, but—the facts are, I dream of the day I can walk into an H&M and grab one of those size 10s easily, without hunting around for the elusive size 14.

Wanting to lose weight for non-health related reasons feels like I am holding myself to a double standard. I love the body positivity movement. I love women, and people in general, who embrace what they have, and can truly look on themselves with a warm, loving light. Some days, I even see a bit of that light in myself—it just isn’t all the time. I can admit I’m delicate on the touch and go of this—one day, I’ll find inquiries about my workout routine encouraging, the next, an off-hand comment about a jacket that will fit someday has me grinding my teeth to dust.

One of my favourite Instagram accounts, run by self-proclaimed “fat femme” Jessamyn Daniels, is proof enough to me that the body is capable of some truly astounding shit at any size. 

Yet still, I look at myself in the mirror after a sweaty yoga session, or a strong run and think that my own body is not good enough—that I’m not there yet. I know we’re our own worst critics, when we need to really be nurturing and understanding of ourselves. I try to be that, but it doesn’t always work.

Worse, my lack of self body positivity folds back on me, to make even my healthy efforts seem like awful traps. Simply put, sometimes my brain makes me feel bad for making healthy choices, because I should just be happy with how I am right? How messed up is that? And it asks me, how, how, how can you walk around, hating on societal standards, when somewhere deep down, there’s a part of you pushing to conform to those standards? I’m not asking rhetorically, I genuinely have no idea. Maybe these notions and motives make me a hypocrite.

1431897224822433426The only way I’ve almost managed to square off with myself on the subject, console that these efforts aren’t destructive, is that no matter where these beauty standards came from, this is my choice. For me, feminism is about giving all women all of the options they deserve and want. If a woman chooses to stay at home and raise her children in a traditionally feminine role, it’s still a feminist decision, because she picked that path for herself.

Similarly, I have to reason that wanting what I want for my body isn’t anti-feminist, it’s just what I want. This is my path, and I am finding the strength to walk it. If I am aware of all of the trappings of body shaming, and body standards  of society, and I’m aware that I don’t have to change—but I choose to try…

Is that feminist? Or is that compliance?