sweating it

Before I got married, my last name was a certain word synonymous with perspiration (which is why, despite my feminist tendencies, I wasn’t so keen on keeping it).  I’ve been living up to that name this week in more ways than one.

My lovely state has been on the news lately as the HOTTEST PLACE IN THE WORLD. In case you don’t believe me, this was our forecast this week (apologies for the weird alt text in my screenshot):

Last night, at 9 pm, the heat index was still in the HIGH 90s. Just walking outside from the car into a building is enough to work up a good sweat.  My poor air conditioner has been chugging away non-stop all week in a valiant effort to keep the interior of our house a frosty 80 degrees.  It probably doesn’t help that we have furniture covering almost all the vents, to which I ask, why, God, why, are all our vents also in the most logical places to put furniture?  Our couch has now been pulled 6 inches out from the wall to expose the vent. It looks kind of silly, but damn if it isn’t cooler in here.

In addition to this heat wave, this week my husband signed me up for a membership at the gym at his work and has invited me to come work out with him.  Something to know about me: I’m basically allergic to physical activity.  As a kid, I spent one season on a softball team and spent the entirety of it making daisy chains in the outfield.  My parents signed me up for tennis lessons, where it was discovered that I had a knack for hitting myself in the head when I tossed the ball to serve.  I routinely flunked the Presidential Physical Fitness Test, but even this socialist would like to know why it’s any of the president’s business how many sit-ups I can do, anyway. Pretty much the only exercise I’ve ever loved was yoga, but classes haven’t started up at our gym yet.

And still, I know I need to get some exercise. I don’t need to lose weight, but I do need to get some cardiovascular activity in for the sake of my heart. I’m skinny but I’m not in shape.  And the gym is chock full of the one and only exercise machine I’m willing to touch: the elliptical.  I’m not sure what it is about the elliptical that makes it the least repellent form of exercise to me, but I don’t abjectly hate it, which is a big deal. It feels like walking on the moon. I can moonwalk for 30 minutes 3 times a week, right?

Well, huffing and puffing, I moonwalked for 30 minutes on Monday. I’d like to attribute some of that huffing and puffing to the fact that I made the mistake of hopping on a machine in front of a TV playing Fox News.  Yesterday, my legs felt like jelly, so I didn’t go to the gym.  Today, my sports-loving man messaged me that he was off work early, and did I want to meet him in the gym?

Something else to know about me: I’m great at guilt tripping myself. I think maybe my mother just did such a good job of it that now I just do it on autopilot. I know Jon isn’t thinking this, but I project my own guilt onto him: “What a lazyass, home in your pjs at noon on a weekday! You never work out! You should go to the gym!”  I put on my workout clothes and hopped into the car and headed to the gym. Jon had already done 20 minutes of weights when we met up at the cardio machines, him on a bike and me on the elliptical. About 15 minutes in, huffing and puffing harder than before, I told him I wasn’t sure I’d make it 30 minutes.

Something to know about Jon: he’s the most encouraging person ever, and he knows how I operate. Occasionally he tries to teach me tennis, and he’s learned that I just do not respond to negative feedback.  I need a LOT of cheerleading.  As he pedaled away on his bike set to some insane incline, he assured me that I could definitely survive 20 minutes on that machine. Then my stubbornness kicked in, and I became determined to keep moving until the time ticked down.

Now, an hour later, I think I might have finally stopped sweating.  For a minute there I thought I might puke.  Yep, 20 minutes on an elliptical machine and I’m sweating like a pig and thinking I might puke. THIS is why I need to work out.

Now I just have to decide if it’s even worth it to bother showering when it’s a million degrees outside and I’ll just be sweaty again in 10 minutes.

Are you a gym nut? Do you love to work out? Or are you like me, and frankly hate it? How do you make yourself exercise? What’s your favorite machine?


the only thing we need to lose is our obsession with thinness

Image: yoga after climbing, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from lululemonathletica's photostream

I spend a lot of time reading feministy, body-positive, Healthy at Every Size type blogs, so at first I wasn’t surprised to read a piece called Never Take Fitness Advice from the New York Times. Until I realized it was written by a man, and on Gawker to boot.  Yay for encountering body-positive messages in unlikely spaces, particularly considering the staggering number of negative messages we get about our bodies each and every day!

In this piece, Hamilton Nolan critiques a recent NYT article called “Does Working Out Really Help You Lose Weight?,” particularly its assumption that the goal of exercise, and indeed all of life, is being “thin,” a word that is used repeatedly in the NYT’s article. Hamilton writes:

Being thin is an awful goal towards which to strive. It is certainly not the goal of an exercise program. Writing an entire, ostensibly meaningful and important story on whether exercise can make you thin is analogous to wondering whether going to college can get you laid. Yes, but that’s not really the point.

The purpose of working out is get in shape. Not to get “thin.” To be in shape, for the average person, connotes being healthy, and improving on the basic elements of one’s own fitness: muscular strength, endurance, cardiovascular, flexibility, etc.

Amen! The goal of working out, and even of eating healthy foods, is to be HEALTHY, which may or may not mean being thin. In fact, for many people, it will not mean being thin. And being thin does not necessarily mean being healthy, either. I should know. I’m what the NYT might call “thin,” with a BMI* naturally in the “underweight” range of the scale, and yet I am still what you might call “out of shape.” I couldn’t run a mile if you asked me to. I have a rather high resting heart rate. But I recently started exercising regularly for the first time in my life, by taking yoga classes, and I am feeling stronger and healthier and happier the more I practice yoga.

Not to mention, thinness is a crappy way to motivate people to pursue healthy activities. I eat healthy food because it tastes good. I practice yoga because it’s fun, it helps with my back pain, and it makes me feel beautiful just to be in my body. I even hear tell that some people like to run because they think it’s fun, though I think it sounds like torture! Do what makes you feel good and healthy.  Do what’s fun. It may or may not make you thin, and who really cares anyway?

*As an aside on the BMI: a lot of those feministy body-positive Healthy at Every Size blogs I read like to talk smack on the BMI. While they have a point that having a certain BMI does not necessarily mean one is by definition unhealthy, ie, just because one falls in the “obese” or “underweight” category according to the BMI does not mean one will have all of the health complications associated with that category, the BMI is still useful as a measure of predicting risk and determining if further testing is necessary. For example, according to my BMI, I might be at risk for infertility, osteoporosis, and anemia. Because of this, my doctors might suggest testing or monitoring to see if I have developed those issues, but it doesn’t mean I have to HAVE those issues– in fact, I don’t. The same goes for people who are obese according to the BMI– they are at risk for diabetes and other complications, and may require testing or monitoring, but will not necessarily have those conditions.

the truth about high fructose corn syrup

New research confirms that consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) promotes considerably more weight gain than consumption of the same amount of calories in regular sugar (glucose).  Though the study was done on rats, there’s reason to believe they’d get similar results on human beings.  Jon happens to be on an endocrinology rotation right now and got the lowdown on why this is from an endocrinologist (they’re the ones who are experts on diabetes and stuff, so they know all about the body and sugar). I thought I’d try to explain it as simply as my simple mind understands.

Basically, when your body breaks down glucose (normal sugar) to make energy, there’s a special mechanism that tells the body to stop processing the glucose once the body has enough energy, and rather than break down the rest of the glucose, the excess just passes out of the body through urine.  However, with fructose (found in HFCS), there is no such mechanism to shut it off once you have broken it down into all the energy you need.  So the body just keeps breaking down fructose, and the excess gets converted to fat.

Our bodies just weren’t designed for consumption of high fructose corn syrup, and this research (and understanding why they got the results they got) confirms my decision to avoid high fructose corn syrup as much as possible.  HFCS is in almost every processed food, probably even in the bread you buy, so start looking at those ingredient labels!  If you’re a big soda fan (I like some soda with my whiskey or rum), see if Jones Pure Cane Cola is available in your area.  It’s the cola I use at home, and I can find it at my local Harris Teeter.  Pepsi and Dr. Pepper are also sometimes available in “throwback” form, and if you can find ’em, they’re sweetened with cane sugar.  Right now you might also be able to find “kosher for Passover” Coke, which is also sweetened with real sugar.

it’s TRICK or TREAT folks

Image via Flickr user chanchan222, licensed under Creative Commons.

WordPress has a fun little feature whereby they showcase seemingly random posts on the main page, encouraging you to click and check out new blogs. I knew I was going to be irritated the minute I saw this one: “Halloween Candy Alternatives.”

I thought, well THAT’S a post from someone hoping their house gets egged.

Seriously though, the OP writes, “Providing some alternatives to reducing the sugar glut can be very helpful and even welcome – especially considering the ongoing health problems we’re generating in this country through our passion for sugar,” and then proceeds to list several food (granola bars, nuts) and non-food (wax lips) things to give out to trick-or-treat-ers.

Ah yes, nothing sucks the fun out of Halloween like some OMGOBESITY fearmonering– it’s scarier than zombies! Instead of being ware the undead, BEWARE THE UNTHIN!

People in this country aren’t obese because of Halloween.  Kids aren’t obese from one night of candy.  Being the Scrooge of your neighborhood isn’t going to solve the problem of childhood obesity.  In fact, I’m pretty sure most health experts would say it’s fine and dandy to indulge oneself in treats once in a while, everything in moderation and whatnot.  If you’re the PARENT of trick-or-treat-ers, you can even ration the candy out over several days, like my parents always did, after they checked each piece for razor blades, of course.

If you’re really concerned about the health of children, start advocating for a healthier school lunch program which includes breakfast.  Get involved in community gardens in areas without access to fresh produce.  Make sure your local farmers’ market accepts food stamps and WIC.  Make sure kids in your local schools get P.E. every single day.  But don’t piss all over Halloween.  Unless you want to be known as the weirdo who handed out pretzels instead of Reese’s cups by all the kids in your neighborhood.