Archive for stomach

Stay glad: advice from Woody Guthrie and a recap

Good news!

I managed to keep exercising while on vacation—apparently Key West is a city made for walkers, so we managed to walk more each day we were there than we do at home, which is really saying something since we normally average an hour a day.

We also had an amazing time and were able to really unwind away from the stresses of work and the internet. I don’t say it in the healthy living section of this blog, but I really should—relaxation is as important a part of being healthy as anything else.

The only bad news (and this isn’t really bad news) is that I’ve fallen a little bit behind on telling you about some stories related to having a healthy mind and body. So rather than discuss any one of them at length, I’m just going to give you a quick rundown . . .

1) After all of the I Will Not Diet contributors posted their non-resolutions here on New Year’s Day, someone sent me a copy of Woody Guthrie’s list of New Year’s resolutions for 1942, which I’ve included above. Some of my favorites include: “Don’t get lonesome,” “Stay glad,” “Have company but don’t waste time,” “Dance better,” and “Love everybody.” I’m sure we’d all do well to take the same advice.

2) I’ve been wanting to tell you for a while about The Real Girl Belly Project, and my friend Alison reminded me about it today. This is a section of online magazine XO Jane (run by Sassy and Jane founder, Jane Pratt) devoted to publishing pictures of real—not Photoshopped—bellies. You’ve honestly got to see these to believe them. They are all flawed and human and wonderful!

3) My cousin Jennifer told me about an article called “The Death of Pretty,” in which the author argues that young girls today no longer want to be “pretty” but rather just “hot.” The article is far from perfect, especially when it veers into the women-should-be-innocent-creatures-men-want-to-protect territory, but it also makes a good point about our commodity-driven culture and the fact that young girls often grown up way too fast in our society because, like the celebrities they see on their screens, they want to be as sexy as possible. I wrote about this problem in my 2010 Halloween post, and, sadly, it’s not something I expect to be resolved any time soon.

4) And last but not least, another friend, Holly, reminded me that Children’s Health Care of Atlanta is currently running a series of anti-obesity ads that are drawing fire. You’ve really got to see the ads, which you can do here, to get the full impact of them, but suffice it to say they’re incredibly dark (like similar anti-meth and anti-smoking ads), and some people think they are hurting more than they’re helping, causing embarrassed kids to avoid exercise rather than embrace it. I have mixed feelings about the ads. I’m certainly glad anti-obesity ads are being disseminated in our society, but I don’t like that the ads seem to lay all the blame at the feet of the parents. At this point, we know that obesity is about the chemicals in our environment as much as it is about diet and exercise. So why not target lawmakers as well as parents? In several of the ads, kids ask their parents questions like “Why am I fat?” and I’d love an ad in which one of the kids said, “Dear Congress–why do you let corporations put so many chemicals in my food?”

Please Lord, help me gain those five pounds back

Losing weight always sounds great . . . until you lose it for the wrong reasons.

I’ve been feeling pretty lousy for a while—my stomach has been killing me for days, maybe weeks. Every day I wake up and think I’ll feel better, and every day I don’t.

As I’ve mentioned here before—in my “Everybody poops” post—I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and I’ve had it since I was seventeen years old (back when they used to call it a spastic colon, the absolute worst thing you could tell a high schooler she had since all of her friends would ridicule her about it when they found out). Since I’ve had it so long, I mostly know how to deal with it, how to avoid the trigger foods, and how to keep myself healthy—though I’ve learned over the past few days, not as well as I thought because, for some reason unknown to me, I’ve been struggling with severe abdominal pain again lately.

If you want to know what I feel like, ask the person closest to you to pummel you in the stomach for five minutes straight. How do you feel? Pretty lousy? Okay, you’ve just gotten started.

Now go all day only eating bland food like white bread or chicken breasts or peeled apples. When your husband eats a piece of cheese, stare at it lovingly a long time, take in its scent, but don’t eat it because it’s one of your trigger foods.

After that, be sure to take at least twelve trips to the bathroom for a total of at least three hours a day sitting on the toilet (might as well bring your computer since you’re going to be in there so long—luckily there’s an electrical outlet only a few feet away). While you’re there each of the twelve times, pass a lot of gas and poop at least four times a day.

Finally, don’t forget to swallow some gassy goldfish before you go to bed—you’ll want to feel them playing Marco Polo in your stomach all night.

There.

Now you know how I feel.

Of course, the upshot of having an incredibly upset stomach is that I can’t really eat very much food. And one of the side effects of that is that I’ve lost four or five pounds pretty quickly. This isn’t really a big surprise given that I gained four or five pounds right at the end of the past semester—which I wrote about in my “Falling down the rabbit hole” post—but since we live in a weight-obsessed society, a society where everyone notices when you gain or lose a few pounds and how much food you put on your plate or how many times you go back for seconds, it feels like a bigger deal than it is.

If I were a different person, I would write “Woohoo! I lost five pounds!” on my Facebook wall and wait for everyone to like my status and congratulate me. (Please don’t do that since it will only piss me off.)

But I am not that person, and to be honest, I would happily take back those five pounds if I could go back to feeling normal and not have to clutch my midsection all day long. I would obviously rather be happy and healthy (and fatter) than sad and sickly (and thinner) any day.

For now, though, getting better and feeling like a normal human being is not happening. So I guess I’ll just have to let out a little rebel yell—Woohoo!—and focus on the non-accomplishment of losing five pounds I would really rather have back.

What’s good for the goose . . .

192 pounds

If you’ve seen It’s Complicated, you know that Alec Baldwin appears in the film without his shirt on, sporting an extremely large stomach.

The reason his character has disrobed is so that he can seduce his ex-wife, played by Meryl Streep in the film. Unfortunately for Baldwin’s character, Streep’s is horrified when she returns to her bedroom only to find her ex stripped down to his birthday suit.
But what’s really interesting about this scene is what happens when the characters talk about it the next day. Baldwin’s character comes back to apologize, and when Streep’s character asks him what he was thinking, he says, “I just thought you would find me irresistible,” and he really means it.
Never mind the fact that Baldwin’s stomach is a bit hippo-like. He really believes that she’ll find him irresistible.
And what’s crazy is that when he admits this, those of us in the audience kind of find him irresistible in that moment too. I mean, how can you not love someone who, despite his flaws, is that confident?
Of course, what we should all learn from this is that it’s not the hot bod that we’re attracted to, it’s the attitude. Alec Baldwin is still a huge star not because he’s as hot as he was in The Hunt for Red October (as pictured here) but because he believes in himself, and that’s what makes him so appealing.
I’m sure you might be thinking that Baldwin, at his current size, wouldn’t be able to get leading roles if he were a women, and you’re right. In fact, it’s incredibly frustrating to see Meryl Streep looking absolutely fabulous in this film even though Baldwin doesn’t have to.
Unfortunately, that’s how it goes in the movies these days, and this film makes it clear that Hollywood still has a double standard for men and women: men can look like real people, and women have to look like goddesses. (See The King of Queens, Still Standing, According to Jim, and almost any movie with Jack Nicholson for more evidence of this.)
But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something from Baldwin’s character in this film. And what we can learn is that beauty is more about the way we see ourselves than the way others see us.
What this means is that the next time you decide to strip down and seduce your mate, you have to be sure to tell yourself the same thing that Baldwin’s character believes himself . . . you’re irresistible.

These Kids Today

190 pounds

Like almost everyone on the planet, I’m spending the holidays with family. Dave and I always come to Florida in December to see my parents, and this year—for the first time ever—my sister and her family are here too.
My sister has two girls, and I absolutely adore both of them, which means I’m thrilled to get some time with them over the holidays.
But sometimes I worry about them.
Today we took my two nieces out for the day, and at one point, my older niece pointed to my middle and said, “You have a big stomach.”
I tried to explain that my “big stomach” was a result of my recent surgery, but she was having none of it.
“You look like you’re pregnant,” she said with a small laugh.
Though many women with fibroids do look pregnant, I really don’t, but I do look bloated, and as the daughter of two of the fittest people I know, I could understand why she might make that mistake. So I tried to explain.
The girls already knew that I had my uterus—or as they call it, my “baby holder”—taken out, so I went from there: “I look pregnant because my uterus used to have a whole bunch of tumors in it that stretched my stomach out the same way it would if I had a baby.”
“Oh,” my niece said. “Okay.”
And just to clarify, I added: “It’ll probably go back to normal by next summer.”
You might be thinking that it was unnecessary for me to go into so much detail with my nine-year-old niece, but I saw this as a “teachable” moment (as much as I hate that overused term): I wanted them to understand that a big tummy does not necessarily have anything to do with being overweight or being unattractive and that they shouldn’t assume it does.
And I was glad that I used that moment when I had it because it was only a few hours later when my niece told me that I look twenty years older than my thirty-six-year-old sister (her mother) because I am bigger than she is.
The old me would have been gutted by this comment, but it honestly didn’t hurt my feelings. Still, it did bother me on a soci0political level, especially since I know she was also thinking that my sister is also prettier because she’s smaller.
Since we were sitting with the whole family when she said it, I decided to discuss the issue with her more later and simply told my niece that size has nothing to do with age. But tomorrow I fully intend to talk to her about her implied connection between size and beauty.
Again, you may think that I should keep my mouth shut or just let it go as kid talk, but I fully believe that if we don’t teach the young women in our lives—be they daughters, granddaughters, or nieces—to expand their notion of what kind of women are attractive, then we’ll still be talking about these same issues twenty years from now.
No, my niece will never have to worry about her own body image—her genes guarantee that—but she will affect how other women see themselves, and I refuse to sit by and let her continue to go through life with such a narrow definition of beauty.

Glamazons rule!

195 pounds
I said it a few weeks ago, and I’ll say it again: Lizzi Miller could start a revolution! You might remember that I was singing the praises of Glamour for featuring model Miller in their magazine a while back. The reason I was so happy about their decision to feature her is because even though Miller is drop-dead gorgeous, she also has a real-sized body with wonderful womanly legs, a little stomach pouch, and a size twelve wardrobe.

Since then, Glamour has received so much positive feedback about Miller and so many requests for more models like her that they have decided to give the people what they want. And that’s why next month’s November issue will feature an entire spread of regular-sized models. (See the picture above.)

Honestly, when I saw this picture, my first thought was “Yowza!” These women look incredibly hot, hotter than many of the models I see staring back at me from the pages of most women’s magazines and certainly much more voluptuous and sexy. And then I had to wonder: is that why we don’t let these women appear on the covers of our magazines? Are they simply too hot for our own good? Would we all return to the walking hormone state we lived in when we were adolescents if we had to look at women like this on the newsstand every night?

Technically, these women are called “plus-size” models in the fashion industry because they wear bigger than a size six, a fact Glamour calls perverse and a problem I believe is just one more reason that none of us can live up to the images of women we see in the media. From here on out, I refuse to call models like these “plus-size” and will now refer to such women—models or not—as “regular-size.” Who knows? Maybe doing so will reinforce the notion that there is nothing shameful about wearing a size eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, or even bigger.

Glamour is claiming that, as of November, they’re committed to “featuring a greater range of body types in our pages, including in fashion and beauty stories,” and I believe it’s crucial that we send the message that if they stay true to their word and do that, we’ll be there with our dollars, ready to support them. Because if we don’t, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we can’t find anyone who looks like us in the pages we flip through and on the screens we watch.

This is a revolution, people! Get excited and do your part!

I know it seems silly to think of buying a fashion magazine as a revolutionary act, but we all know that this is a change that needs to happen, a change that must happen if we are to give each other, our daughters, and our nieces healthier role models. The Glamour November issue hits newsstands soon, and I say we all buy a copy . . . or two . . . or three . . .

Mirror, Mirror

195 pounds

I’ve had a bad day.

A really bad day.
Like many women, I suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and what that means is that a lot of time I can’t get rid of what I need to get rid of, if you get my drift. When this happens, I get really bloated and feel a million times bigger than I normally do. Even when I’m not backed up, I struggle to feel good about my body, so on days when I am extremely bloated, positive thinking is about as unlikely for me as winning a karaoke contest in a room full of American Idol finalists. In other words, it’s impossible.
And that’s obviously why I’ve had a bad day. Every time I looked in the mirror today, my morale dropped a little bit further. To make matters worse, I had to go back to school tonight to help some of the students set up for the department book sale tomorrow, and because I was going to play tennis immediately afterwards, I showed up at my place of work in a pair of ratty old sweatpants and a bleached-out t-shirt. I had expected the halls to be deserted, but I think I ran into more of my colleagues tonight than I do most afternoons. And the cherry on the sundae occurred when I was standing in a coworker’s office and caught a glimpse of myself reflected in her window.
Needless to say, the image I saw in the window appalled me. I didn’t look anything like the person who’d been staring back at me all day every time I glanced in the bathroom mirror. I looked much, much, much worse. My stomach was a perfect half-circle, emanating from the area beneath my chest that I used to think of as my rib cage and disappearing somewhere above my knees. It was an version of myself I had never seen before—not at home, not in the bathroom at work, not anywhere—and without thinking, I let out a little cry of defeat.
I’ve had this kind of thing happen to me before, usually when I visit my parents’ house where it seems that every wall is plastered with floor-to-ceiling mirrors. And it’s always the same experience—when I catch a glimpse of myself in an unfamiliar surface, I am shocked (and often horrified) by the unique perspective it offers me. Afterwards, I am left to wonder how it is that I’ve allowed myself to go through my days with such an incorrect picutree of myself in my head. Have I been in denial about the person staring back at me day in and day out? Or am I just catching myself at a bad time? Inevitably, I find myself returning to the scene of the crime—the mirror or reflective surface that so surprised me. And nine times out of ten, I find that it has not played tricks on me. My body really does look exactly as it did the first time—much different than I thought it did. Which again takes me back to my first question—how is it that I’ve allowed myself to have such an incorrect perception of the way I look? And how long has it been going on?
I worry that one of the side effects of having a positive attitude about my body most of the time is that the image I have of myself is not always entirely accurate. Sometimes I feel like I have what I like to call “Shallow Hal disease.” If you’ve ever seen the movie, you know that Hal (played by Jack Black) is only attracted to insanely gorgeous women until he is hypnotized in a way that makes him see a person’s inner beauty rather than her physical attributes. The end result is that Hal meets and falls in love with an obese woman who he sees as thin and beautiful because she is such a good person. (This character is played with grace and subtlety by Gwyneth Paltrow.) So I wonder if having a good attitude about my body makes me act like the hypnotized version of Hal: do I look at myself and see the whole me, the me that I know is on the inside, rather than just the surface me? And what on earth can I do to stop that???
I know what you’re thinking right now because I’m thinking it too—is that really such a bad thing? Maybe not, but it means that when I catch my reflection in unexpected place, the result can be jarring, almost debilitating.
I know I’m the one who wrote about the fact that we need to realize that people focus on our attributes not our flaws, but some days—days like today—it just seems impossible to do. I guess I’m writing this post to let you all know, then, that like anyone else, I’m as human and fallible as the rest of us. And I only hope that in doing so I haven’t completely let you down.

It’s a revolution! Why Lizzi Miller could change everything

196 pounds

Holy stomach roll, Batman!!!

I just found out (thanks to my cousin Jill) that a “plus-size” model is featured in Glamour this month (the September issue). Not only is it impressive that a magazine like Glamour featured a regular-sized women in its pages, it’s revolutionary!

Lizzi Miller appears naked in a Glamour article about self-esteem looking both confident and real (see the pic on the right), and the web is buzzing about it. Apparently, readers are falling all over themselves to say how much they love Miller’s very real stomach and legs, a sign that we are all ready to see women who actually look like us rather than woman who look almost as unreal as Barbie dolls.

And this isn’t even the first time Miller has graced the pages of Glamour. She also appeared in their April issue wearing nothing but a flesh-colored bikini bottom. (See the pic on the left.)

So who is this beautiful but normal-sized woman?

Lizzi Miller is an absolutely gorgeous 5’11”, 180-pound, 20-year-old “plus-size” model, and I think she is going to have to be my new hero and the patron saint of I will not diet. Miller says she wears clothing that ranges from size twelve to fourteen, and she’s been modeling for seven years. How she managed to not give into the pressure for models to be rail thin, I’ll never understand, but I admire the hell out of her for it, especially since she’s only twenty! Let me repeat—she’s only twenty! And yet she is stronger than women I know who are twice her age. It would be a huge victory if a middle-aged woman with a real body was featured in a women’s magazine, but a twenty-year-old with a real body? That’s like winning the lottery.

(By the way, I’m putting the words “plus-size” in quotation marks because I don’t understand how she can be a plus size model if she wears between a size twelve and fourteen, which, as well all know, are not plus sizes.)

Just think how models like Miller could change the way young women feel about their bodies! My ten- and fourteen-year-old nieces already claim to be watching their weight even though they are mere skin and bones, and I love thinking about them accepting themselves for the beautiful young women they are if models like Miller were to become the norm.

The best part about Miller is that she is exactly what I’ve been saying we need: a happy medium, a woman who is not a size zero and not a size twenty. Not only is she an average size—because the average woman in America wears a size twelve to fourteen—but she’s also gorgeous, happy, and comfortable in her own skin. This is exactly the kind and size of women we need to see more of in the media: she’s not only someone we can admire, she’s also someone we can aspire to look like.

This is a huge victory for those of us who are lobbying for more healthy role models, and I think we should take it as a clear sign that things are changing. This change also means that we must keep insisting that the women staring back at us from our pages and our screens look more like we do. How do we do this? We do it by voting with our dollars—by buying the September issue of Glamour in record numbers (and asking for it if it’s sold out) and by paying to see movies that feature real-sized women (see the list on the right side of this blog). We can also Google Lizzi Miller so many times that women’s magazines will have no choice but to get the message. Because the truth is, how can we possibly feel good about ourselves if we don’t embrace women like Miller?

This is a good day for average-sized women everywhere, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about the attention all of this is getting. I don’t know about you, but I needed this. I say we all celebrate this coup by putting on something sexy this week and feeling good about our gorgeous—and real—bodies in honor of this brave twenty-year-old.

One more thing . . . way to go, Lizzi!!!!!

Addendum: I just found this amazing health and fitness blog by Glamour editor-in-chief Cindi Leive—Vitamin G—which contains more info about Miller (she’s a belly dancer!) and other related issues.

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