Year in Review: Outcomes of My Second Year of Habit-Based Self-care

When I started two years ago, deciding to track healthy habits instead of a number on a scale or clothing size was unfamiliar territory for me. I decided I wanted to be open to whatever outcomes would come.

Last year, I listed the following outcomes I experienced after one year along on a habit-based, weight neutral health journey:

Looking back on what I wrote last year, I am happy to say that most of those outcomes have continued throughout year two. I did have some depression and back pain creep back in when an injury required me to stop lifting for a few months. With adding lifting back into my life, both of these conditions are improving again.

I also experienced some other cool things in year two.

Looking back, I feel really proud of what I accomplished this year. It didn’t seem like I did much of anything until I actually went back and read all my older posts. What I feel most proud of is keeping up a consistent self-care routine during a very challenging year.  My family had a lot of challenges: my husband got injured, I got injured, we lost our pet, we had a terminal illness and death in the family. I feel so proud that I took excellent care of myself so that I could face these challenges well.  Honestly, the self-care felt like the easiest part and I know that is because of the habit-based approach.

So… give credit where credit is due, I feel very proud of myself this year. I’m excited to see what year 3 brings!

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I PR’d My Recovery!

If you’ve been following along over the past few months, you may recall that I’ve got a new perspective on what I want to get out of moving my body.  Here’s what I wrote, 6 weeks or so ago:

I am grateful for my injury now because I think it helped me get my head on straight. Now that I realize just how much lifting helps me with depression and back aches, I also realize that my number one fitness priority is to keep myself lifting. Being free of depression and hopefully back aches means much more than any PRs or feeling proud of my lifting numbers. If I re-injure myself, there is a lot more at stake than some lost months of lifting progress… like my sanity, my mood, my productivity, my focus, and my ability to contribute at home. I don’t need PRs to be awesome. But I do need lifting to be my best self. Not for others, but for my own experience in this body as a comfortable place to live.

So, cool. I’d accepted and embraced the fact that I might not see PRs in the gym very often, if at all. I needed to examine my reasons for needing them in order to move past them.

I’ve been consistent with my swimming: 3 times per week, usually for around 90 minutes (unless I’m feeling especially exhausted that day; in which case I just get myself to the pool and swim until it stops feeling good, and then get out). In a typical 90 minute session, right now I usually swim anywhere from 2000 to 2400 yards (for non-swimmer reference: 1800 yards is equal to 1 mile). The distance varies depending on the particulars of the workout and which strokes and drills are included.

In the past, I think I would have been looking to “improve a little each week”….which would have meant adding more distance or time or both.

Now, knowing that my priority is consistency and long term function, I don’t worry at all if I swam 2400 yards last Thursday and  “only” 2200 yards today. I take each day for what it is, and I don’t worry about PRs. It’s nice if they happen, but….they just aren’t a priority anymore.

This week though, I noticed a different indicator of progress. I realized that even though my typical distance over the past month hasn’t changed that much, the way I FEEL the rest of the day has changed a lot. When I first joined my Drills and Distance class 3 months ago and started swimming those kinds of distances, I usually needed to take a nap in the afternoon, and I very often felt super hungry for the rest of the day and sometimes the day after.  This month, however, I usually did NOT need a nap in the afternoon, and I don’t feel excessively hungry after class.

To me, these are indicators that my body has adapted to the demands being placed on it, and is better able to recover without a ton of extra sleep and food. So even though I’m usually swimming the same distances I swam two and a half months ago, the fact that I can now swim those distances and go about my day without a nap and an extra meal is a PR in and of itself!

The lesson to me here is that PRs aren’t always evident in the gym or the pool. Sometimes they are evident in the recovery!

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I Am Fat….And Yes, I Do Model a Healthy Lifestyle For My Kid

PREAMBLES AND DISCLAIMERS: If you read the title of this post and are thinking that I am  about to advocate judging others on the basis of their health status or whether they engage in healthy behaviors ….I want to make it clear that I am not. One’s health status and/or lifestyle does not make anyone morally superior or inferior to anyone else. To quote Ragen Chastain, “health is not an obligation, a barometer of worthiness, entirely within our control, or guaranteed under any circumstances.

Also, there are very few people who are role models in many areas of life at the same time. So even if someone is not modeling a healthy lifestyle by any one person’s definition, it is possible that they are kicking ass in another area of life. Maybe they work tirelessly to support their families or pursue their passions. Maybe they go above and beyond in helping others. Maybe they create beautiful music or art or literature. Maybe they contribute to new scientific discoveries that make life better for others. Maybe they are present for their kids. Maybe they are bravely facing life in the face of an illness that may be physical or mental, visible or invisible. Maybe they are great at uplifting people and making them laugh, or making them feel accepted no matter what. I do not consider it my job (or anyone’s job) to ask “what’s your excuse for not prioritizing the same things I do?”

Conversely, the fact that I model what I consider to be a healthy lifestyle does not mean I believe myself to be a role model for my kid in all areas; in fact, I definitely do not. And I know that is okay, because no one person can be everything to their kid. That is why they say “it takes a village to raise a child.”

And without further ado….

One of the ways I see the pursuit of thinness being marketed to mothers (and fathers, to a lesser extent) is by playing to one of their deepest insecurities: their fear of being considered unfit as a parent. By telling them that they cannot be considered a role model to their children if they are not thin.

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I Finally Watched “This Is Us,” and Here’s What I Think of Kate

CONTENT NOTICE: Childhood fatness, isolation, eating disorders, bingeing, dieting, fatphobia, bariatric surgery, death, etc. Also spoilers.

The other day I decided to watch the NBC show This is Us to see what all the talk was about.

Here’s what I knew about the show before I watched it:

  • That it was about people who share a birthday whose lives intertwine
  • That there was a fat character (Kate) played by Chrissy Metz
  • That Chrissy Metz had signed a contract that obligated her to lose weight along with Kate’s storyline

That’s it. I knew nothing else about what to expect.

When I mentioned on social media that I was considering watching the show, several of my friends said they liked the show, but they wanted to give me a heads up that I might not, due to the way Kate’s character was written. Several other friends told me that they had chosen not to watch the show for that same reason, or had stopped watching the show for that same reason.  A few said that they loved the show and they found Kate’s character to hit extremely close to home and therefore appreciated the way it was written. A few said they had chosen not to watch the show because of Metz’s contract to lose weight. A few told me (some via private message) that they would be curious what my thoughts were, once I watched the show.

Anyway, I watched the show, and I actually have a lot of thoughts that I want to share. I know for a fact, both from friends’ comments and articles I have read, that I don’t speak on behalf of all fat women here….so I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind with this post. I’m simply sharing my own reactions and what is true for me. I’m also not in the habit of writing entertainment reviews. Take me with a giant grain of salt if you must. (Also, while I do have an opinion about the fact that Metz is contractually obligated to lose weight, I’m not gonna weigh in on that in this post.)

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When Not-So-Joyful Movement Is Needed

Caring for a hospice patient is a lot like caring for a newborn – very intensive for everyone helping out.  Feeding schedules, medication schedules, sleep disruptions, round the clock care, nurses and aides coming and going. I had a few days off because my husband and I felt that it would be good for kiddo to have some time at home with his normal routine and his friends. So I was on kid duty at home and my husband stayed to help my father-in-law care for my mother-in-law. The break also gave me time to attend to some of my own feelings and anxieties over the past week several weeks.

Anyway, we are back at my in-laws home now, and I have a bit of time to myself. My husband is playing with my kid after not seeing him in several days. My father-in-law and the home health aide are with my mother-in-law.  And for now, it feels like an act of self-care to write about something much less emotionally charged than what we are going through.  So here are some recent realizations I’ve had about the role of less-than-joyful movement when rehabilitating an injury.

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A Tribute

My mother-in-law is nearing the end of her life and declining rapidly. I want to reflect on my time with her and share some of my memories of her.

When I first met my mother-in-law, my husband and I had just started dating. I met his parents earlier than I otherwise might have because he was living with his parents at the time (“we just get along really well and it helps me to save money”). I thought it was weird, but decided to keep an open mind because we had a really good connection after communicating online for a few weeks and going on our first date.

So, there I was meeting my new boyfriend’s parents on our second date. He had tickets to see Kevin Smith at the performing arts center in the nearby city. Since he lived an hour away from me I met him at his home so we could drive in. And so I had to met his parents.

Naturally I felt a little nervous and weirded out by the general awkwardness of the situation. I also worried that they would judge me the moment they saw me. I was coming off of years of restrictive dieting, and my weight was rebounding quickly and uncontrollably, to my dismay. I was heavier than I had been in several years (although in truth I wasn’t extremely fat) and was very self-conscious about my size. Add that to cultural programming I had that weight gain was a failure that you could see at first sight. Add that to the fact that every time my mother had met one of my boyfriends in high school or college she was unenthusiastic. I felt sure that my boyfriend’s mother would silently dismiss me on sight.

She didn’t. What strange land was this?

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