Tag Archives: exercise

Even Skinny Girls Deserve Compassion

As you may or may not know, I began yoga teacher training a few weeks ago. This is part of an ongoing “plan” (I wish it were as organized as a plan) to diversify my income, learn more about yoga, give back to the yoga community I love so dearly, and get way more OkCupid responses (because seriously, dudes go nuts for yoga teachers… they think we’re super bendy.)

It was only on the first day of training that I realized, OMG, I’m going to be teaching beginners…. Somewhere along the line I had let this small fact slip away. I had envisioned myself designing killer sequences and deep, thought-provoking themes. I didn’t so much visualize the part where I’d be teaching people for whom “square hips” doesn’t mean anything, for whom “mountain pose” and “chair pose” are new concepts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m super pumped for the challenge, it’s just a different challenge than the one I’d been planning for in my head.

Part of training is observing other teachers as they teach the beginner sequence. In one such observation, I became supremely focused on one Barbie-like girl in the back who, in full make-up, was seriously struggling. Instead of feeling compassion or observing the teacher’s directions aimed at helping her, I felt a little thrill. It’s embarrassing, but sometimes when I see thin people struggle with exercise, I gloat.

As a non-thin person, I routinely face assumptions about my exercise habits that are patently false, and I’m regularly reminded about how little we can tell about someone’s fitness and wellness just by looking. So, this week for Role/Reboot, I wrote about my own struggle to be a little less judgmental, a little compassionate, and give the same benefit of the doubt to the skinnies as I expect given to to me.

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Related Post: Obesity is a problem, so is body-shaming.

Related Post: On wrinkles and love your body day!

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Filed under Body Image, Republished!, Sports

Obesity is a problem, yes, so is body-shaming.

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about Maria Kang (aka “What’s Your Excuse?” fitness mom), this phenomenal piece by a Karen Hitchcock, “Fat City,” and the challenge of holding two seemingly competing ideas in our heads at one time. I contend that obesity-is-a-crisis and body-shaming-is-n0t-helpful are not, actually, competing ideas, but two separate, related problems that need big, multi-faceted solutions.

I really appreciate this comment from the always on point Marianne Cassidy:

Reducing obesity and ending body shaming are not opposing or even parallel goals. They’re the same goal. They want the same things – a healthier, happier population. They can be achieved the same way – by encouraging people to take care of their bodies and giving them the education and resources they need to make informed healthy choices.

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Related Post: 1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they’re unhappy with their looks. 

Related Post: Can I have fat pride without throwing thin women under the bus?

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Filed under Body Image, Media, Republished!

Bodies, Moms, Bodies of Moms, Moms on Bodies

This week for Role/Reboot I wrote about this:

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I keep hearing the same chorus from moms writing about body image and aging, and it goes something like this: Man, I have been micromanaging my body for thirty years and I haven’t been able to stop. I really hope my daughters figure out a different way. 

What kills me about it is that, obviously, we the daughters look to you the mothers as our first source of inspiration on how one should be with one’s body. Even if we eventually outgrow our reliance on that one source, it is the first, the most primal, the most difficult to shake.

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Related Post: The problem with “strong is the new skinny”

Related Post: How Title IX changed my life. 

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The Problems with “Strong is the New Skinny”

The line from that George Saunders piece I posted on Monday that’s really sticking with me is “Err on the side of kindness.” It seems so obvious, as far as life philosophies go, but the simplicity of it is blowing my mind. What a world that would be, eh, if we all agreed to live by that code?

Though he didn’t articulate it as such, I’m confident that Saunders would agree that kindness towards oneself is a key facet of this MO. My new piece for Role/Reboot this week is about body image and wellness, but I hope that the backdrop of self-love and self-kindness is apparent.

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Related Post: Critiquing the Dove Real Beauty Campaign

Related Post: 1 in 4 women think they’re too fat to exercise

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1 in 4 women don’t exercise because they’re unhappy with their looks

This week for Role/Reboot I went back to basics on body image and exercise. Inspired by the Sports Bra Challenge, I wrote about the damaging and oddly pervasive idea that exercise is only for people that are already fit. 1 in 4 American women don’t exercise because they are unhappy with how they look (in addition to other things they don’t do with the same rationale, like apply for promotions, talk to new people, go to parties)

. This is a thing, and it makes no sense to me. The last time you should feel self-conscious about your body is when you are actively trying to treat it well.

Screenshot_4_11_13_1_50_PMRelated Post: Why is it okay to put 16-year-olds in lingerie ads? It’s really not.

Related Post: Model behavior and a train of thought.

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Filed under Body Image, Republished!

Sports Bra Challenge

Wish I lived in New York so I could attend the Sports Bra Challenge. This sounds so fun and it is so in line with my feelings on exercise and self-confidence. The moments when you’re actively trying to take care of your body should be the last time you should be feeling self-conscious or insecure.

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I don’t usually exercise in just a sports bra. I would tell you that it’s for some practical reason that I don the requisite t-shirt or tank, but 9 times out of 10, the truth is that I’m just embarrassed. I’m often one of the bigger girls in yoga or at kickboxing and stuff shakes when I move around, you know? There’s a little extra around the middle that jiggles when I get going and it’s easier just to cover it up.

Every now and then I do go to yoga in just a sports bra, usually because I forgot a top. At first, all the mirrors psych me out and I get distracted by the softer parts of my anatomy and how they may or may not be hanging over the band of my yoga pants. Eventually, though, the zen of yoga kicks in. The focus it requires to move my body through the air with any mindfulness is enough to make the mirror fade out. Then, usually, there’s a moment where I’m holding some posture I find difficult, and I catch a view of myself sweating and starting to shake, and I look super strong and super focused and the roll of belly that has folded as I twist is suddenly, obviously, completely beside the point.

For me, the point of something like the Sports Bra challenge is to remind myself the reason that I exercise. It is not for the other girls at my studio, nor for the dudes running on the lakeshore, it’s for me. It makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I can do things. It is the enabler for many other things I want to do, like take more walks, hike the Inca Trail, attempt to surf, live in a fourth-floor walk-up.

One of my least favorite celebrity-spotting trends is the criticism we level at women (and shockingly it’s almost always women) about how unkempt they look when they exercise. No make-up, the horror! Sweaty ponytail, oh my! Stretch pants and a bit of cellulite, alert the media! Except, we actually do alert the media. It’s like they don’t understand that constant exercise is the only way these stars stay in the shape we expect them to stay in, and that mascara and hair gel are not the best gym accoutrements.

If you are exercising, then you are an exerciser, whether you look like one or not. You have no obligation to look like anything for anyone, ever, but you especially have no obligation to look like anything for anyone when you’re explicitly devoting time to self-care. Wear what makes you comfortable and able to focus on why you’re there in the first place. If that’s a hoodie and sweatpants, that’s fine. If it’s a sports bra and shorts, do you girl, whatever gets you out here and keeps you moving.

Related Post: Wait, is that an average sized fitness model?

Related Post: What if you don’t look like a runner?

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image

With a Cherry on Top

Do you remember that gym I almost joined and then didn’t? Well, I went back.

I’ve been feeling a little lackluster in the exercise department these days, just stuck in a rut and in need of a boost. The gym was offering a free week and I figured that if I wasn’t giving them my money, I could sleep easy despite the damaging “Look Good Naked” messages they were broadcasting.

What they want, what all gyms want, is to sucker you in with a low rate and a good deal, and then sell you on how convenient/luxurious/intense/life-changing it is until you can’t help yourself and you fork over your credit card.

It almost worked. The classes I took were great. The facilities were lux (shampoo and conditioner?). I felt rejuvenated. Muscles I haven’t touched in a while were worked and strengthened. Maybe I could do this, I said to myself. Exercise is important to me, after all, and the convenience is hard to beat. Should I compromise my health and fitness goals to make a political point about body positivity?

Yes, yes I should. On my last free day, I noticed a new promotion in the lobby. It’s a large cardboard display with a cut-out where you can put your face:

Oh hell no. Is this what I’m supposed to want to look like? Is this what I’m sweating and panting and squatting and jogging and hurting for? Should I fantasize about the day when someone will want to cover me in chocolate and put a cherry on my head?

I could write a whole thesis on all the things that are wrong with this image, but I think you know what it would say. It’s a beheaded, naked, high-heeled woman covered in dessert toppings with her legs in the air. Can there be a more egregious conflation of the pursuit of health and the pursuit of being sexually desirable? Also, let’s just note, there is most certainly not a comparable naked dude in a whiskey tumbler.

So yes, it would be awesome to have a gym just a short elevator ride away. But it would not be awesome for my self-esteem to walk by this hot mess of a poster every day. I know that this calculation, of convenience vs. principle, is not going to come out the same for everyone, and that’s just fine. As we’ve discussed, we all make patriarchal bargains based on our values and our needs. This is just one bargain I will not be making. For sure.

Related Post: What is my body for? How Title IX changed my life.

Related Post: “Your body will get the recognition it deserves.” Say what?

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Gender

Sunday Scraps 61 (Delayed on account of flames)

1. YOGA: A student project pokes fun at the ubiquitous Lululemon bags with a spoof product. From positive affirmations to “Your worth as a woman depends on people looking at your butt.”

2. DIET: From iVillage, a collection of stories about people who figured out how to quit dieting. Imagine all the brain space we’d have if we weren’t counting calories?

3. PROGRESS: You know what’s amazing? How drastically President Obama’s support of marriage equality has impacted views (and polling numbers) on the subject in the black community.

4. GENDER: It’s old internet news, but in case you missed it, I really enjoyed John Scalzi’s post “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is,” using video games as an analogy for gender and race and privilege. Also, his follow-up.

5. SPACES: Virtual tour of Chicago’s new start-up space, 1871, from Tech Cocktail. You ain’t got shit, Palo Alto.

6. FACEBOOK: LifeHacker explains all the rookie mistakes you make on Facebook, and how to fix them.

Related Post: Sunday 60 = Dita Von Teese, George R. R. Martin, Settlers of Catan

Related Post: Sunday 59 = psychopathic children? Michelle Obama and The Biggest Loser, Kickstarter successes?

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Filed under Advertising, Body Image, Chicago, Gender, Media, Politics, Sports

Evidence

So remember my squeaky, sexy, humiliating/empowering march across the gym floor? Remember how I said there was a photographer present? Rest assured, he captured everything.

When I got the link to the Facebook album full of evidence, I cringed. I was in a bar bathroom, and I was sure that what I was about to see documentation of my poor dancing skills, lack of coordination, and unseemly spastic movements.

There’s also the danger, with events like this, of a jarring confrontation with your true image. This is not a Photobooth session, where you can tilt your head just so, add a sepia filter and presto change find the best version of yourself to share with the world. This album is some objective shit, in-the-moment, candid as can be, and you better believe I approached with trepidation.

I skimmed, looking for my tell-tale neon orange t-shirt and found this:

Photo: African American Leadership Council

And I’m like… okay, that’s not too terrible. I don’t look too off beat, too out of step. Obviously, I’ve got nothing on the adorable 5-year-old on the right. But then there’s this:

Photo: African American Leadership Council

And I’m like… oh, hell no. Do I really look like that? I’m never leaning over again. Or wearing that shirt. Or going out in public. And there’s the same child putting me to shame! But then there was this:

Photo: African American Leadership Council

And I’m like… dammmmn, that’s what I was hoping I looked like! This is me, alone in the middle of gym, grooving out. I look ridiculous, but I look healthy and happy and strong.

Related Post: National Love Your Body Day

Related Post: Bikini love

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Filed under Body Image, Sports

public dancing + squeaky gym floors + fluorescent lighting

This is a pretty good depiction of how I did not look.

On Saturday, I danced solo across a gym while everyone laughed, cheered, and clapped. It was terrifying.

I was at a health and wellness event put on by the Chicago Foundation for Women. When my friends invited me to the free workshop, I glanced at the website and signed on without realizing that the event was co-sponsored by the African-American Leadership Council. I still would have gone, of course, but it’s nice to know in advance when you’re walking into a situation where you’re going to be the “only” anything.

The group was 4o black women and girls, from adorable four-year-olds who were considerably more rhythmically talented than me, to grandmothers in their 60s, all gathered in a community center in University Village.

After the first hip-hop class, the instructor had us gather on one side of the gym and keep bopping along to Justin Timberlake. Then, to my immeasurable horror, she had each participant “sexy walk” across the gym, pivot in the middle, and “break it out.” Consider it my worst nightmare: public dancing + squeaky gym floors + fluorescent lighting.

My turn arrived, and I started Top Model-ing my way across the gym. Everyone watched, and magically, they didn’t cringe. In fact, they just clapped and hooted and laughed for me as they had for everyone else. One of two things is true: either I am a better dancer than I think I am, or this was an extraordinarily warm and welcoming group of people. In ten seconds, I was on the other side, clapping for the next woman to strut. It was over, just like that.

After a zumba class later in the morning, the teacher gathered us all into a circle, hands piled in the middle, for a rousing cheer to conclude the festivities. “On three,” she said, “Black women rock!” And on three, that’s exactly what we cheered. Then she patted me on the arm, and added, “You too, sweetie.” Several black grandmothers came to give me hugs as we exited the gym, just in case I felt left out. I didn’t, but who doesn’t love a grandmotherly hug?

P.S. There was a photographer (and… ahem… a vidographer) on hand, so you may all soon be lucky enough to admire my hip-hop skills.

Related Post: Rehabilitating the hoodie.

Related Post: Is “I have friends who are black” still being used? For real?

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Filed under Art, Body Image, Chicago