Obesity Debates


So, here’s the deal. I read up a lot about the health benefits of working out and eating healthy. It mainly keeps me motivated and working towards my goals. On the other hand, I thought I might want to share it with people.

See, a lot of people think going to the gym or eating healthy is purely about losing weight. Okay, I’m a bad example because I am trying to lose weight. But I also plan to maintain the healthy lifestyle even at my goal weight. It’s more about feeling good than looking good.

Today, I found the article “Better Sleep, Prettier Skin And 8 Other Unexpected Side Benefits of Working Out”. Though it isn’t very detailed and specific, it goes over a few of the best benefits from working out–proving that exercise should be important regardless of size, weight, or goals. I want to focus on one of them.

2) Changes in Gene Expression

The one that really blew my mind away was number 2. The fact that research has found a correlation between exercising and reducing chances of passing along the obesity gene is a big deal. I’m not sure that society is convinced there is something genetic about obesity and weight.

There have been these billboards that say “Obesity is a Disease. Not a Choice.” Naturally, the people of facebook have been discussing this. Most people have posted how ridiculous it is and that obesity is all about making the wrong choices.

It took me a while to decide where I stood on the topic. The first thing I’ll say, two sentences cannot represent a diverse group of people’s experience with something like obesity. Then another thing dawned on me. According to the BMI scale, I am obese and these things people are saying are also about me (though I recognize not directly).

A lot of the posts were from ‘skinny’ people who have never been in a store and realized none of the sizes will fit because you are too big. They’ve never feared going to a doctor because the doctor will scold you for not eating healthy and having an unhealthy weight (yes, that’s happened). A lot of them I’ve seen eat plates and plates of unhealthy food and say, oh I’ll feel so fat. And I always think, but do you see that when you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of your reflection.

I began to think about how unfair it was for people to make judgments or assume to know the stories behind an obese person’s unhealthiness. And I thought about it a lot. Most of the people making comments never exercise or eat healthy–they just have the metabolism and body type that never gains excessive amounts of fat. I ran 3.54 miles last week with my friend and now I’m listening to people make assumptions about obesity and what it’s like?

How about this, let’s cut a deal. I won’t assume and judge you for anything if you keep your opinions about something you know nothing about to yourself. Don’t assume my body looks this way because I made bad choices. The truth is, weight loss is a scary and long journey. And it’s even scarier when you have the thought of failure looming in the future.

But judging someone or making them feel bad about themselves just reinforces their hatred of their body (something people of all sizes do and shouldn’t be doing). My theme of the year is Focus. Today, I would like people to start focusing on themselves and stop assuming they understand something they haven’t experienced.

I can’t speak for all obese people, but I can say that most people hate being judged on a category they have been placed in based on appearances. So remember that before you mindlessly call fat people lazy on facebook.

~Col

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Honoring Female Leaders Part 2


Since it’s Women’s History Month, I need to honor another important influence and inspiration:

Margaret Sanger – Founder of the American Birth Control League

Sanger was arrested numerous times, distributed information so women would know more about their bodies, traveled the world to see how other countries dealt with family planning, was considered a radical feminist, and the legacy she has left behind her is one of the greatest and most influential markings in feminist history.

Sanger used legal loopholes to find ways of getting family planning services organizations legally established. Sanger spent most of her life in court, challenging laws that prevented women not only access to new birth control technologies.

But also she had her flaws. For one thing, she didn’t believe masturbation was a healthy part of sexuality. And secondly, she was not for abortion rights (she did die in the sixties when abortion became a safer procedure). Lastly, Sanger also had many racial prejudices that I completely disagree with.

While her opinions and philosophies do not match my beliefs entirely, she fought hard against legislature that made birth control illegal and gained the right to circulate information about family planning and reproductive processes.

She set a great example that education and health is important for all people to have access to. It’s hard to believe there are still so many misconceptions about woman’s reproductive processes, and in today’s debate about health care coverage, we have group of men discussing what it means to have access to birth control and thinking that all we need is an aspirin shoved up yonder.

If Sanger were here today, she’d give the male politicians in Washington a piece of her mind and advocate that it’s a Woman’s right to be heard and help form the laws that control a major aspect of their daily lives.

Did I forget to mention that Sanger is also the founder of Planned Parenthood? Sorry if you believed that organization to be a radical abortion crazy place, but it’s actually about giving women control over their body and proper education about their reproductive rights. Cheers to that and Happy Friday!

~Col

New Health Challenges


I recently came across an article on Livestrong.com (my new favorite website) called “10 Habits That Make You Fat”. I found that the framework of this article is a good way to test my new healthy eating progress and also give me some pointers on which direction to head in.

Habit 1. Poor Preparation

I think I have achieved proper preparation with the simple act of Meal Planning that poor Stina (who has a new blog to link to) had been suggesting for months. Once Danny Boy and I began weekly meal planning, our eating habits turned around, and I practically stopped throwing away any spoiled food.

Habit 2. Not Drinking Enough Water

I’m sure that I am guilty of this. I drink more water than anything else. I rarely have any pop or juice on a daily basis. So what’s stopping me from thinking I drink enough water? Coffee. Coffee and I have been friends for over a decade. I can drink three cups of coffee and go to bed without a problem.

I am not here to pledge that I will stop drinking coffee everyday. But I’ll consider a weekly limit. I do like the articles suggesting of drinking two cups (16oz.) of water before each meal. I have heard before that this helps curb overeating or eating too large of portions. So starting immediately, I will do this. Danny Boy, pay attention and yell at me everyday or I’ll forget!

Habit 3. Not Getting Enough Protein

After looking at my tracked foods for the past two weeks, I can honestly say I seem to get plenty of protein. Now my tracking is not always spot on accurate. Sometimes I just track something similar. But the list of proteins, eggs, meat, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and nuts are all things I eat weekly if not daily.

Habit 4. Consuming Too Many Liquid Calories

While I can buy the ‘Don’t Drink your Calories’ mantra that’s been spreading, I really disagree with the article on one thing. I don’t think drinking low-calories or diet pops and juices to always be better. Artificial and fake sugars are chemicals and not natural.

But this doesn’t make a difference to me as I don’t often crave pop and juice. If I do, I go for the more natural option. But I didn’t want to link to an article and have people think I agree with it 100%.

Habit 5.  Not Getting Enough ZZZZ’s

This is a habit I have officially broken! School still occasionally requires an all-nighter, and I am sure there will be sleepless study sessions when I’m getting farther into the Masters Thesis writing. But in the past few months, I’ve really turned my sleeping habits upside down.

I’ve struggled with being a night owl, a stay out late kinda gal. I discovered a secret method to getting myself to fall asleep in like 10-15 minutes. Harry Potter Audio Books. I know… I know… It’s nerdy but it works like a charm and it’s schoolwork!

Habit 6. Skipping Breakfast

I don’t think I have ever in my life INTENTIONALLY skipped breakfast. Clearly, I talk about pancakes more than clothing. I love breakfast foods from bagels, oatmeal, pancakes, egg sandwiches, coffee, toast, and the list goes on… I may have been bad in the past about eating fast food breakfasts.

But I’m going to say that I’ve accomplished this. I have breakfast everyday and most days it is very healthy and delicious.

Habit 7. Shopping the Center Aisles

I’ve been quite proud of my new shopping habits. While not everything I buy is the healthiest thing in the world. Cutting out frozen foods and making most of my meals from scratch was a big habit to implement.

Habit 8. Poor Record Keeping

I’ve tried to track/log my foods and manage my eating that way. But I usually lose interest or get REALLY busy. It’s hard to spend the necessary time tracking your food and get advanced college degree’s. I’ve tracked the last 14 days but I don’t expect it’s possible for me to do this everyday of the year. I’ve definitely managed to bring eating healthier and that’s a big start.

Habit 9. Not Lifting Weights

Done and Done. Almost ready to go “Da beach is dat way”

Habit 10. Throwing in the Towel

Here’s the big one. The big problem most people have with “diets”. They never see them as lifelong commitments. Think about it, you eat everyday. There’s more of a sure thing than your spouse, your job, your home/apartment.

But I’d like to make a big point here. While I have given up on diets and healthy lifestyle changes in the past… I don’t consider it a failure. Basically, I have learned something about myself and about health each time. It’s taken a long time and I am still learning a lot.

So don’t get down on the failures or the yo-yo diets. Just know that it takes a lifetime to build a healthy, happy life. I think that I have a long ways to go but that I finally have the tools and motivation to keep it up.

~Col

Honoring Female Leaders Part 1


Since it’s Women’s History Month, I need to honor some important influences that I have on my life. Please don’t be shocked at this:

JK ROWLING

I debated with myself a lot about this. Of course I would pick an author, but I also wanted to pick someone contemporary and from my own cultural context. I hate to jump to the obvious choice but I am writing a Masters Thesis using her novels. While the research for my Master’s Thesis involves application of absolutely zero biographical information or any type of author centered reading, she’s still an influence on my personal life.

I first began reading Harry Potter in 2006. I was late to enter the HP craze but it had a profound effect on me and the way I viewed contemporary literature. The majority of my studies are British 18th and 19th century novels or feminist philosophy.

Choosing to focus on my thesis on a current popular series of literature was taking myself out of my comfort zone. But you learn so much more about yourself when you fall out of comfort zones.

I was impressed by the author when she made her Commencement address at Harvard University in 2008. She said some really important and influential things about life in general. The link above is both the text and a video of her delivering the speech.

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and therefore the fount of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathise with humans whose experiences we have never shared”

This quote is important and related to my recent assigned readings for class. I have an incredibly low tolerance for racism and hateful things. I don’t stand for them in my personal life, and reading about it can and often does make me cry.

I just completed reading Black No More by George Schuyler (SPOILER ALERT). Without being long winded with summaries, basically a scientific procedures allows African-Americans to completely change their appearance to resemble a white person. It works so well that in the 1930’s, all indicators of race disappear (until a child is born of darker skin color). At the end of the novel, a character who preaches white supremacy is discovered to have African American ancestry and is lynched for it by a small town church congregation.

The end of the novel is marked by it’s ability to take someone who says hateful and horrible things and put them in the shoes of his victims. It feels like justice, but in the end, it is fiction. It does not alleviate or make up for the wrongs I still see today.

My dislike of racist, sexist, and homophobic hate speech comes from my ability to imagine how it feels. Some people were called names or horrible things as children and internalize that and lash out at marginalized groups. Some people just fail to see them as equal human beings.

But regardless of the WHY, I am sick of the assumption that I will share your hateful points of view. My skin color may be white, the fact that I have a boyfriend might tempt you to assume I’m straight, but it means nothing in how I feel. I don’t include sexism in this because everyone knows I’m a feminist (maybe an assumption because I went to college?).

So while I wanted to honor the influence JK Rowling has had on me, I also have to recognize her shortcomings as well. Many scholars have accused Rowling and her texts to be anti-feminist. Hermione is a strong character but is often cast aside keeping the focus on Harry.

I could go over the many arguments that make this claim and try to debunk them. But on some level, they are all right. The main character is a boy and the females are all pretty secondary. But I would also like to remind people who criticize Rowling for this that she is writing within a cultural context. Maybe if the cultural context could change, our literature and films would make a change too.

And yet, our politicians debate women’s healthcare issues without even asking a woman’s opinion. It’s not like we lack women who know what its like to be a woman. They aren’t hard to find. But don’t let me get started on politics.

I’ve been long-winded and dragging out this post for too long. Anyways, let me know what you think!

~Col

Spring Break!


It is Spring Break! Do you know what that means? Beach, margaritas, and dance parties. Okay, not really. In reality, I’ll be working all week, going to a doctors appointment, and studying a lot to get ahead of myself in school and on the Masters Thesis research.

There is also a much needed time spent at the gym. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been slacking and laying on the couch. I’ve been dealing with a cold and running outside to train for the 5K I ran last Saturday (more about that later).

But I desperately miss the gym, not for the cardio equipment but for the weights and strength training that I am secretly in love with. I mean, I haven’t touched a dumb bell or did a plank in over a week and it’s making me crazy.

Since there are a lot of things I need to get done this week, I’m going to use my blog to track and make sure things are getting accomplished. Some things on my list may seem kind of irrelevant but I wanted to make the list a little fun. Though I won’t be sitting on a beach, I’ll still be using my time in a productive way!

Bake Irish Soda Bread
Read Black Like Me (ENG446 Course)
Read Strange Fruit (ENG446 Course)
Start outline for Midterm Essay (ENG446)
Core/Upper/Lower Body Strength Training
Register for Mud Run
Read two research essays (Thesis)
Start researching Strange Fruit Presentation (ENG446)
Do Free Writing (Thesis)
Finish Reading Half Blood Prince and note-taking (Thesis)
Clean out Car
Walk Forest Preserve Trails with Danny Boy
Laundry – Wash blankets and sheets
Get back on meal planning

The last item on that list is crucial. The success of our (Danny Boy and me) new healthy lifestyle is due to the meal planning we’ve been doing. It’s made grocery shopping a million times easier and faster. We’ve rarely had to throw away spoiled foods because of it. But this past weekend, we really didn’t have the motivation to do the meal plan because Danny Boy will be at home most of the week, so it was hard to plan our meals when we wouldn’t be together every day.

This might mean I’ll be eating cereal and bagels and waffles for dinner (fist pumps the air). It may mean that my food isn’t as balanced as normal. But a break from the meal planning isn’t the end of the world and could be a nice change of pace.

Before this posts gets to be way too long-winded, I’d like to share the results of my Oak Forest Fleadh 5k from this past Saturday and make a promise (more to myself) that I will be setting fitness goals for the month of April (like I did last January).

I finished the 5K in 38:30 according to my heart rate monitor stop watch. I burned 420 calories and had an average heart rate of 167 BPM. When I said my goal was to beat my previous 5K time, I really should have said beat it by like 5 minutes. This is about a minute faster than the 5K I ran in September 2011. While, I was sick this weekend and took more breaks than normal to cough and catch my breath, I still would have liked a better time.

But I am happy I didn’t stay home and in bed complaining that I was too sick. While I liked running the Oak Forest Fleadh 5K, I still remember how much more I enjoyed the sights of the Shamrock Shuffle downtown last year. I should add that the day following the 5K, Danny Boy and I walked the Southside Irish Parade and got about 2.67 miles walking (I didn’t wear the HRM). We had an active weekend which included a lot of indulgent foods and eating at restaurants!

Next up is my first Mud Run. Let’s see how that goes!

confessions are in order


I have pride in myself for many things. I am intelligent and thoughtful. And it’s not just because I am a graduate student working on a Master’s Degree. I have the tendency to think through things logically. I can’t watch a movie or television show without thinking about it from a cultural anthropology lens and asking myself, “What does this say about our culture?”

I also consider myself to have a strong work ethic. I started working when I was 15 years old and that’s the same age that I began saving money. I have also managed my financial situations and worked my butt off. Yes, I have about $25,000 in student loans but that is for two college degree’s and some of those amounts are from attending private colleges. I never had the expectation that I can get something for nothing. I always work hard and make myself responsible to get what I want and need in life.

Thirdly, I am health conscious. I think about the food I ate and how my body will react to it. I desire to be healthy and in shape. I really enjoy working out at the gym and watching my strength increase over time. I know people who hate and loathe healthy food and working out. I have grown to love it while still loving a balance of lazy mornings or occasional junk food.

So here’s my big confession. I smoke. I smoke cigarettes. They are gross but difficult to say goodbye to. I wish that all the great things I say about myself wouldn’t be undermined by this simple fact that I smoke.

I’m not trying to be over dramatic or complain about how horrible it is. I mean, it could be worse right? I could do something illegal or against my morals. But smoking is gross, and I’m getting too close to being 30 years old to continue wasting my money on something that will slowly kill me.

So my lack of blogging this week has been due mainly to the fact that I am sick but also because I didn’t want to talk about quitting smoking. I’ve had 5 smokes since Sunday and Danny Boy is making me look like a jerk and has had 0. I am proud to say that I am doing this for myself and ready to be done with evil nicotine.

One observation I will make from the last few times I’ve tried to quit is that people will sabotage your progress. I should amend that and say people who smoke will try to sabotage you. It’s a funny thing but when you try quitting, all the other people who smoke start to see that it’s almost their turn and they get scared. I understand it’s scary but I definitely recommend to people trying to quit to not tell anyone about it and just do it for themselves. The more you talk, the more you crave.

So farewell cigarettes. I know that I said this a few years ago and did quit for a while but came crawling back a year ago. This won’t happen again. The money you take from me is just not worth the unhealthy and gross habit you require me to have.

~COL

THURSDAY TRENDS


So here are the things that are making my week amazingly awesome (besides all the fun birthday stuff I talked about in my Monday blog).

Trader Joe's Apple Chicken Sausage

I don’t know where to begin. Trader Joe’s Apple Chicken Sausage is like the greatest discovery I have made in a week or so. They are delicious and pretty darn healthy for being an item that makes you think you are eating a high quality hot dog (is that phrase ironic?). Anyways, this is the second package I’ve bought and I started this blog post on Wednesday while I ate one for my lunch. I ❤ Trader Joe’s!

Livestrong.com

This awesome website is my new favorite place to track my calories and workouts. Now that I have a trusty Heart Rate Monitor, I need a place to store info. After trying many different sites to track these things, I decided I hated em all and would give up. Then I found livestrong.com so we’ll see how long my love lasts.

Firefly Run

I’m doing a 5K race in March, a Mud Run in May, and I plan to end summer with an 8K or 10K Race. This is a decision I made since the Fall will be insanity. By insanity, I mean to say that I have to complete a 40-50 page research paper. Yeah I chose Harry Potter as my topic but it’s still a legitimate research project that I’ve already dedicated hours and hours of time researching. So I plan to do a half marathon in the Spring of 2013 but before Masters Madness begins, I want to do a longer race. It will probably be the Firefly 10K Race on September 15, 2012.

Since it’s March 1st, I must end by celebrating Women’s History Month. I would like to dedicate a post a week to discussing some of the great woman that has had an influence on my life and on many other woman’s lives. The 2012 theme of Women’s History Month is Women’s Education – Women’s Empowerment. I am thinking some of these people might be writers like Mary Wollstonecraft, Virginia Woolf, Mary Shelley, Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, JK Rowling, Toni Morrison, Dorothy Allison, Kate Chopin, Jane Austen, Emelia Lanyer, Zora Neale Hursten, and Sandra Cisneros.

While I often look to literature for all my inspiration and studies, there are woman outside that genre that I should also be considering and discussing. Please leave me comments with suggestions or ideas! I’m curious what other women people will celebrate this month. I’ve already done some research and it’s amazing how many women have contributed to the world already.

So leave comments on any woman you regard to be important whether an artist, filmmaker, writer, historian, politician, scientist, or from any time period and culture.