24 November 2015

pedometer

so at work the other day, we were all given pedometers.

it's for a competition, to encourage us to get healthy "with the goal of reaching 10,000 steps – about 10 kilometres! – per day."

meh.

firstly, 10,000 steps is more like about 8km, although obviously it depends on your gait. secondly, the main inspiration here is nothing to do with anyone's health and well-being, it's because one of the elevators is being shut down, and they want to prevent employees from using the elevator. it's more about surveillance than health.

but i have never been fond of the whole pedometer trend.

i know that when i walk briskly and take long strides, it's better for me - i know that because i can feel it, in my legs, lungs, and heart.

"why don't you try taking more little steps," suggested my kid, for the sake of upping my score in the competition.

and that's why i don't like pedometers. it feels more like a way to game the system than anything. doing a one-block sprint to the bus stop once a day will do more for bone density than a one-mile saunter taking baby steps, but which gets you more points on the pedometer? striding gives you a better cardio work out, but also gets you fewer points on the pedometer. sustained activity - like walking 5k all at once, briskly - will do more for your heart than spreading the same number of steps throughout the day, 10 steps here, 10 steps there.

having this cute little gizmo allows someone who is not doing all that much to tell themselves they're doing great.

also, the pedometers they have given us are really poor quality! they don't count every step, or they over-count, or they stop counting and reset themselves. i can rack up 50 steps just by jiggling it with my finger.

so what's the point? there is none! it's just the usual quick-fix consumer (non)solution to the age-old problem: we just need to eat less (or better) and move more, but most people don't want to make the effort.

17 November 2015

looong post

i came across a comic strip the other day which has sort of stuck in the back of my brain. there's something about it which just doesn't sit right with me.

it's called 5 ways i've learned to love myself as i gain weight, and it's about coming to terms with internalized fatphobia and learning to love yourself, both of which are good things, i think.

being nice to your body is important. absolutely.

doctors blaming every illness on fatness is horrible and unhelpful. agree 1000%.

we're all different sizes and shapes, and that is okay. i've posted before about how my body has changed and weight has changed and mostly these two measurements change in ways that are unrelated. i know i've had doctors look at me differently after weighing me and doing a quick bmi calculation - when i was young and fit and strong, i weighed more despite being thinner. i think my doc did a "she doesn't look fat though" double-take in those days, as i balanced on the 24.9 point, just barely this side of "overweight." as i got older, my weight stayed the same but my body got bigger as muscle turned to fat. my body also got weaker when that happened. my bmi didn't change, and so the changes in my health and fitness didn't get noticed.

and this is where i take issue with the comic.

there are good reasons for bodies to change. if you are young and still growing. if you are recovering from illness, or recovering from an eating disorder. if you are pregnant. if you are working out and building muscle.

there are also bad reasons for bodies to change. eating disorders or emotional eating are obvious ones. there are also all sorts of health conditions that include "unexplained weight gain/loss" among their symptoms. it's also the side effect of any number of medications.

these are all reasons why body change shouldn't just be "accepted." unexplained loss or gain could signify anything from cancer to diabetes to thyroid problems to lung disease.

step number one in the comic strip on loving yourself as you gain weight is "never keep old clothes." this made me go "wha?" because keeping old clothes is my number one vector for tracking my health! and overall, i would say it is a more useful/reliable measurement than weight - since in the past i gained body fat without gaining weight. i also lost strength, and frequently found myself short of breath. i was still in the general "healthy" zone weight-wise, a bmi of 24.9 for years. but as my body got bigger and softer, my health got worse. i would be out of breath at the top of a flight of stairs. i even relied on inhalers at one point!

keeping old clothes is the easiest way for me to keep on track. sometimes i am super diligent about health, sometimes i'm relaxed or a total slacker. but when i have a struggle to do up the button on my jeans? that's when i know it's time to look at myself, think about what i'm eating, check what kind of exercise i'm doing.

my rule number one: maintaining is easier than changing.

if i start focusing on my health when my jeans feel too snug, it's easy to get back on track because i haven't yet gotten very far off. for me, this means walking more briskly, drinking more water, doing calisthenics every morning, eating more fresh fruit and veg, and not snacking on junk in the evening.

the great thing about using your own clothing as your yardstick is that it means you are only comparing yourself to yourself - not worrying about whether you weigh more or less than decreed by some chart or media ideal, but "what was healthy for me before? how can i stay like that?"

the comic seems to be advocating gaining weight for the sake of being better able to empathize with people who are dealing with fatphobia and fatshaming. to me it sounds like a road to poorer health - especially if the weight gain is caused by some underlying health problem.

it goes both ways too; unexplained weight loss can be just as problematic. i personally know people who've congratulated themselves on losing weight effortlessly, right before getting diagnosed with diabetes.

i guess what i would say is: keep your clothes. accept yourself for who you are, and think before you change. you don't need to gain weight to gain empathy.

16 October 2015

another long gap...

that doesn't mean i'm not taking care of myself though!

i have found a system that works for me. morning weigh-in, breakfast with a good balance of protein and fibre, 5 minutes of calisthenics, and a brisk mile-and-a-half walk to work - i do the same walk, other direction in the evening. sometimes i'll do a bonus walk at lunch. i bring 3 pieces of fresh fruit and/or veg to work for lunch every day. i drink a lot of water, and never drink sweeteners. i make almost all of our food from scratch with fresh ingredients. on the weekend, if we're not too busy, i'll go on a 5-mile hike.

it is not exciting, but for me it works - i am more energetic, more fit, and a healthy size.

every so often, i'll see a poster for a marathon, or a "just do it" billboard, or some other representation of the pinnacle of fitness, and i'll think, "hmmm..." but i know where that goes.

1. commit to high-performance athlete goal!
2. invest in athletic gear!
3. find that the time commitment is too high!
4. find that that level of exercise makes me tired and hungy for comfort foods!
5. start to show wear-and-tear - my tricky shoulder acts up when i over-do things!
6. find myself moving less, eating more, and feeling like a failure.

i think the relentless promotion of high-performance athletic goals as attainable for all does a huge disservice to the vast majority of people. and makes them feel bad for failing.

for those that can do it - great! the 80-year-old grandmother running marathons is awesome and inspiring. but just because she can do it, doesn't mean i can - or that i even need to try.

i read an article a while ago called the fitness 1%. it talks about how all the high-tech crazy detailed stuff you see in magazines basically applies to almost no one. if you're not a body builder, olympian, etc., you do not need to do that stuff. and for the average person, having all that stuff presented to us is overwhelming and confusing.

futzing about whether or not to eat gluten, or carbs, or what time of day to eat things, or blah blah blah... it just gives people something to talk about that they're likely not even going to do consistently.

which is why most people get as far as buying the high-performace sneakers and jogging pants (n.b.: the high-performance versions of these things are never sold as "sneakers" or "jogging pants") and after one exhausting workout figure they've earned their nachos in front of the tv, and wonder "why isn't the weight coming off?" and give up.

i am not an athlete, i will never likely run a marathon, and that is okay.

i am, however, miles healthier and fitter than when i started this blog five years ago. then i was a wreck! braces, inhalers, a cast on my foot... yeesh.

i can hike six miles through the back country and feel great. i can bend down to tie my shoes, no problem. i can fit into all the clothes i had in my twenties. i walk home a mile-and-a-half carrying a heavy load of groceries - not my favourite thing, but i can do it.

most important, i can keep up with my crazy kid. and that is what really matters.

01 April 2015

progress

i am very pleased to announce that despite a co-worker keeping a candy dish stocked with chocolate easter eggs right outside my office for the past week, i have not had a single one! i've walked at least three miles every day, and begun every morning with sit-ups. i did indulge a bit over the weekend - one thing and another meant eating out four times in three days - but also went for a three-hour hike, which due to the vagaries of the eight-year-old involved climbing the same giant hill three times. so i did manage to maintain a healthy balance between input and output. today i have a little treat for lunch - leftover butterscotch pudding that i made for the kid. but, since it is home-made from healthy ingredients, it is not too unhealthy.

25 March 2015

loooooong time...

a comment on my other blog from the black knight made me realise how long it's been since i've posted here... and how much i need to pay more attention to my health.

we've had a long miserable winter here - set a record for the coldest february ever, with lots of -20 days and -30 nights. ugh. i did manage to walk to work for most of it, although i usually wimped out and took the bus home in the afternoon, for speed. it is difficult to walk quickly when there is snow and ice on the ground.

and we seemed to spend a lot of this winter sick as well, culminating in a spell of noro that meant no eating at all for a few days, and then ravenous hunger and junk eating. i did a lot of junk eating over the winter, if i'm being honest. i find it hard to get up early when it's still super dark out, so i wouldn't have time to get my lunch packed for work, and wouldn't want to go outside for lunch due to the cold, and ended up hitting the vending machines a lot (which means chips and candy). whoops.

so, a few resolutions:

  • bring lunch every day
  • make sure that includes at least two pieces of fresh fruit and two servings of vegetables
  • no more vending machine!
  • walk to & from work every day

also, a few questions to ask myself before mindless snacking:

  • why do i want to eat?
  • if it's because my body needs nutrients, am i eating something nutritious?
  • if it's because my mouth wants to taste something, could i have something like a herbal tea instead?
  • if it's because i'm bored, can i find something else to do?
  • if it's because "i deserve a treat," can i find a way to treat myself better?

hoping i can stick to these resolutions and make myself stronger. it helps that spring is here so we can spend time outside again. i went on a big hike with the kid on the weekend, and it felt great!