Archive for October 30, 2012

And now for some light entertainment… a discussion of how you poop

It’s been a hell of a week… the last thing we need is to talk about something horribly serious or depressing.

So instead I want to talk about an issue that is somewhat humorous but also important… pooping.

I wrote about the importance of pooping on a regular schedule in my “Everybody poops” post last year, and recently I learned how you poop is important as how often you poop.

As it turns out, humans have been squatting to poop for thousands of years…

But over the past few hundred years we’ve been sitting to poop thanks to the modern miracle that is the Western toilet…

The other thing that has changed since we’ve started using Western toilets is that we now have many problems with our digestive systems… colitis, IBS, colon cancer, constipation, hemmorhoids, etc.

As a result, some medical professionals and researchers now believe that how we poop—and that fact that we sit rather than squat—is what’s behind all these problems. Apparently when we squat our colon straightens completely, making it easier to poop, but when we sit on a toilet to poop, the colon is still a little bent. Straightening the colon supposedly makes it easier to poop, so some experts think that’s what we should do. (See the above video that explains all of this in very simple graphic terms.)

There’s even a new product called the “The Squatty Potty” that’s designed to help us “squat” while we sit on our toilets. The Squatty Potty is basically a footstool that allows the body to re-create the suqatting posture iwthout actually doing the hard work of squatting. (God forbid we do any hard work to improve our heath.)

I’m not sure it’s worth the fifty bucks the squatty potty costs when you could put a handful of thick books in front of your toilet to the same effect, but I do think this squatting thing makes sense.

The toilet in my bathroom sits directly across from my bathtub—about two feet away. As a result, I often put my feet up on the edge of the tub while I’m “using the facilities.” And I’ve noticed that when I’m on the road—in a hotel—where there is nowhere to put my feet up, I have a lot more trouble getting the job done. I find it so hard sometimes that I sometimes drag over the hotel trash can to put my feet up, re-creating my home bathroom experience and the squatty potty. I’ve been doing this for about four years now but just thought it was a personal choice. But now I’m starting to really believe that squatting—or something like it—might actually help me poop.

I’m not saying everyone should run out and buy a squatty potty, but I am saying that we need to ask ourselves why we’re not pooping the same way humans have been doing it since before man invented fire.

Just say no to slutty Halloween costumes.

Halloween is just about upon us, and as usual, “slutty” Halloween costumes for women are everywhere.

I wrote about why this is a problem last year in my “Look how far we’ve come” post. Suffice it to say sending young women the message they should dress like tramps on Halloween does nothing to improve their self esteem or body image.

Women’s costumes are so out of control that there is now even a Tumblr page devoted to documenting the difference between men’s and women’s costumes called “Fuck No Sexist Halloween Costumes.” You can see the picture of the men’s and women’s “mummy” costumes posted on that site above as well as a few other of their examples here:



I don’t have to tell you what’s wrong with these costumes, do I?

Okay, fine, I’ll tell you—they make it look like women are only interesting or attractive because of their bodies and men are valued for their occupation or personality. If we let young women (or any women for that matter) wear these types of degrading costumes, we’re sending the message that they only have value in our society if they are hot and “slutty.”

The longer we embrace costumes that convey that idea, the longer people will buy into its message, which is why I hope you’ll pull a Nancy Reagan this Halloween.

Decisions, decisions: why it’s important to choose an exercise routine you can stick with

My husband and I try to exercise every day. If I don’t go to boot camp, this usually means that we walk—and sometimes run—for 50 to 75 minutes a day together. This has been our routine for eleven years, since 2001.

Despite the fact that we’ve been doing this for years and have no plans to change our routine, I’ve noticed that people feel perfectly comfortable telling us what’s wrong with our workout.

One of the most common complaints we hear about our exercise routine is that it’s not rigorous enough. People say things like, “I’m not just going on a stroll every day” when extolling the virtues of their far-superior workouts.

It’s true that walking for about an hour a day is not the most rigorous exercise routine. No, we’re training not for a marathon or slogging our way through three months of P90X.

But we are doing is being consistent.

For eleven years—minus one bad nine-month period associated with a job search between 2007 and 2008—we’ve been exercising on a near daily basis. That’s an accomplishment much more important than doing a marathon or completing a sadistic video workout.

Which brings me to my point. I’s easy for people to claim that walking every day isn’t rigorous enough to matter, but what they’re not getting is that it doesn’t matter how rigorous it is if you don’t stick with it—day in and day out for the rest of your life.

One of the reasons we walk is because we enjoy it. And guess what? If your exercise routine isn’t truly enjoyable or is super strenuous, chances are you’re not going to keep it up.

Ultimately, you have to make a decision about what’s more important: being healthy for the rest of your life or being able to spend the rest of your life bragging about that one time you ran a marathon?

Victoria’s Secret: the secret is nobody’s perfect.

Jezebel has released a photo essay showing a Victoria’s Secret model before and after she’s been Photoshopped. Go here to see all the photos.

This expose is worth seeing for the obvious reason: because it’s important for us to truly understand—on a visual as well as intellectual level—that the images we see in the media are not real.

But it’s also important, so we can comprehend that all bodies come with  “flaws,” even the body of a Victoria’s Secret model.

In the before photos (one of which is above), we can see:

Breast spillage and bra/back “fat”—This woman—model Doutzen Kroes—sometimes has trouble keeping her breasts inside her bathing suit top. This is something I often see happening in real life, but honestly didn’t realize happened to VS models as well. The message is simple: if you’re big on top, you’re going to spill out. In the same way, her bathing suit top is obviously so tight that “fat” spills out, creating what some people called “bra” or “back fat.”

Above-eye wrinkles—Another interesting observation is that in nearly of these photos, Kroes has pinched skin above her eyes, and that’s obviously more prevalent among thin people.

Under-arm and back fat—Kroes also has “extra” flesh under her arms and on her back that is removed in the after pictures. This is something I hear women complaining about all the time, but if even VS models have it, it’s probably time to accept that that’s part of life.

Folds of skin—It’s notable too that, in several shots, Kroes has folds of skin appearing at her waist. She is obviously not fat, but, like the rest of us, she’s not without extra skin.

Visible veins—Though they’re not exactly unattractive, VS has also gone to the trouble to hide Kroes’ vein in her arm in one picture.

Bad hair—Kroes’ hair may look flawless, but that’s not an accident as stray hairs have been erased.

Armpit stubble—This might be one of the most frustrating things about our expectations for women. It’s almost impossible to completely rid our bodies of underarm hair, especially stubble. That is, unless you have the Photoshop experts at VS working on your pictures in post-production.

Unsightly bruises—Like most people who don’t live in padded rooms, Kroes has a bruise on her body, but you can’t see it in the after pictures.

Vagina exposure—It’s fascinating to me that in all of these photos, Kroes’ bathing skirt is extended to cover her lady parts. I’m not sure what this means—does Victoria’s Secret think we want to hide our vaginas? Do they want our sex to be hidden? I really don’t get this decision, but it scares me.

It’s also notable that Victoria’s Secret airbrushes out the underwear Kroes is wearing under her bathing suit bottom in one picture and the straps on her bathing suit top in two pictures. I’m not sure about the purpose of the former, but the latter clearly makes it look—falsely—like Kroes has gravity-defying breasts.

I’m not saying that Kroes isn’t still beautiful even with these so-called flaws, but I am saying that we’ve got to remember she does have blemishes and imperfections. So next time you put on your bathing suit—or strapless top—please remember that even VS models have breast spillage, bra fat, unsightly veins and bruises, bad hair, extra folds of skin, under-arm fat, and wrinkles.

We’re all real, people, and thank God we are.

I am the in-between

I’m currently in a shared artist’s book group. That sounds complicated, but it’s quite simple… I am part of a group of “artists” who are making books collaboratively.

Every one in the group starts a book and then passes it to the next person on the list. (My book is pictured above.)

Books can be about anything—they can be about a theme or they can be about a story. Contributors can write something or include a piece of art. And after it’s all over, we’ll each have a book completed by a wonderful group of creative people.

I got my friend Suz’s book last week, and theme of her book is “the in-between.” It didn’t take long for me to decide to write this poem about the way I look…



I am in between “fat” and skinny,

in between young and old,

in between short and tall—

though doctors told me I’d be as lanky as a model,

that promise was never delivered.

I am in between underweight and obese,

which mean no one on TV looks like me.

I am in between lean and flabby—

solid muscle under a soft layer of padding.

I am in between perfect and flawed,

though my husband insists on the former.


My body is in between flat and curvy,

my breasts in between va-va-voom and washboard flat.

My butt is in between flat and rounded, depending on how you look at it,

and my nose is in between being a honker and being adorable.

My calves are void of fat but too large for knee-high boots.

My elbows are free of fat, but also as dry as elephant skin.

My stomach is a size ten, my thighs an eighteen,

my legs a twelve, my arms a six—

God help me when I go to the dressing room.

My feet are average—not too big to buy shoes in the store

but too wide to wear them more than a few hours.

My ears are appropriately sized but full of wax.

My skin is soft and smooth, but also prone to breakouts.

My hair is in between a fro and flat-iron straight.

My stomach is sometimes flat and sometimes distended,

a truth that is part of my life.


I am the in-between.

I am all of us.

And when I look in the mirror,

I see the glory that is being human.

Confession time: My name is Molly, and I went on a diet before I got married.

Me and my husband on our wedding day.

All of a sudden I know several people trying to lose weight for their upcoming weddings. And every time I hear about someone going on a wedding diet, I freak the hell out.

Why do I freak out? you ask.

Because I’ve been there. And I know from experience that the wedding diet is a recipe for disaster.

I got engaged when I was twenty-seven years old, and in the eight months leading up to our wedding, I did something I had never done before as an adult: I went on a diet.

For eight months, I cut my portion size, eliminated soda, gave up meals for soda when I just couldn’t go without it, and ingested the chemical shitstorm that is “diet” food.

On the surface, this appeared to work.

I lost thirteen pounds and fit into a wedding dress that was too small when I bought it. (Yes, I was that average.)

But then the wedding was over. And I was faced with the fact that I had been hungry for eight months.

Do I have to tell you what I did? You already know, don’t you?

I ate…

And ate…

And ate some more.

Because I had been hungry for EIGHT LONG MONTHS!

I figured that I’d let myself indulge for a few months and then get back to being healthy once the new year rolled around. This would have been fine if I’d gotten married at say Thanksgiving, but I got married the last day of July. That means that for six whole months I went on a potato-chip-and-soda-soaked bender.

Needless to say it was not pretty.

But let me remind you that I WAS REALLY HUNGRY!

When all was said and done, I got on the scale on New Year’s Eve and found that I had gained—wait for it—thirty pounds. In case you’re not getting this, let me break it down for you. I lost thirteen pounds on my pre-wedding diet and gained thirty in its aftermath.

That’s a net gain of SEVENTEEN POUNDS!

This was how I learned that diets don’t work and that tricking your body into eating less for eight months means that when you eat more, it responds the same way we do—it holds onto every last calorie like a puppy with a chew toy.

In other words, it doesn’t let it go.

I’m telling you this story for one reason and one reason only… to convince those of you who are considering a pre-wedding diet or any diet to—for the love of God—reconsider.

Learn from my mistakes, so you don’t have to experience them on your own.

Let me repeat…

1. Diets don’t work.

2. You will gain back more weight than you lose.

3. You will regret it.



Zipper gymnastics. Or why none of us should have to lie down on a bed to put on our jeans.

We’re on the road again to help Dave promote his new novel, The Hiding Place, which came out Tuesday.

While getting ready to leave our hotel this morning, I was struggling to zip my overstuffed suitcase when I was suddenly reminded of being a teenager in the early ‘80s and doing the same thing with my super tight Gloria Vanderbilt jeans.

How odd, I thought, is it that something as mundane as zipping a suitcase takes  me back to a memory of trying to zip those too-tight jeans. They were so tight that I often had to lie on my bed so that my stomach would flatten enough to yank the gold-plated zipper up to my waistline.

What’s even more odd is that, back then, I didn’t even have what I would call a “stomach.”  I was 5’5” and a lean 125 pounds. I was incredibly active, working out three to five hours every day. I shopped at a store called 5-7-9 and rarely wore the size 9.

So why was I wearing jeans that were too tight?

The answer is that I was doing it because everyone was doing it. Tight jeans were very in in the early ‘80s, and I couldn’t very well show up at the local roller rink without them. At least not if I wanted a boy to ask me to skate with him during moonlight couples.

And I very much wanted that to happen.

So I squeezed into my second-skin Gloria Vanderbilts and talked my mom into dropping me and my friends off at the Whitehouse Roller Rink, where we whipped around the oval to Joan Jett and Pat Benatar and “slow” skated with boys from school while REO Speedwagon serenaded us.

Yes, it was a heady time of worshipping these female punk icons and innocently flirting with boys who were shorter than us.

But it was also the same time when we first learned how to feel bad about our bodies.

And how could we not? We were devotees of Seventeen magazine which featured dozens of articles about dieting and being thin.

I look back on it now and have to wonder if lying flat on our beds to put on an overpriced pair of designer jeans was one of the most unhealthy things we could have done.

Because what message did it send to our adolescent selves if we couldn’t go out without performing such a sick ritual? No doubt it sent the message that the way we looked wasn’t good enough. After all, we were physically transforming ourselves to be considered attractive to others. And in doing so, we felt—for the first time in our lives—fat. Even though we were by no means fat, many of us really believed that we were too fat to fit into the cool jeans, and we had to hide that part of ourselves to be attractive to others.

It was a fucked-up way to begin our journey to womanhood.

And one that, no doubt, has fed into our collective inability to accept our bodies the way they are.

I know many mothers today are hoping to teach their daughters not to buy into the same thin = beautiful equation that we were sold, and I hope that their child-rearing includes rejecting clothes that don’t fit without some serious zipper gymnastics.

TV news anchor responds to viewer’s demand that she lose weight: “The cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”

No fewer than five people posted the video above on my Facebook and Twitter pages in the past twenty-four hours.

That’s because this is a story we need to share.

In the video, Jennifer Livingston, a morning TV anchor in La Crosse, Wisconsin, replies to a complaint from a viewer who wrote to tell her that she needed to lose weight.

Here is part of what the viewer said:

Surely you don’t consider yourself a suitable example for this community’s young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. 

Let me be clear about this: obesity is not a choice. Nor is it a “habit.” People do not choose to be obese. And why anyone would think they is beyond me.

This is just a perfect example of how many people misunderstand how our bodies work.

This viewer assumes that someone who is “obese”—as Livingston points out, “on a doctor’s chart” since she is not obese by any other standard—is not leading a healthy lifestyle, but the truth is that many “obese” people are healthy and are leading a healthy lifestyle.

I am just as “obese” as Jennifer, but I work out almost every single day of the year. I walk, I run, I bike, I kayak, and I go to boot camp. And I eat healthy foods and only indulge in moderation.

But, like Livingston, on a doctor’s chart, I am obese.

Does that mean I’m not healthy? No. Does that mean I’m not making good choices? No. Does it mean my blood pressure or cholesterol are high? No.

Listen, I get it: obesity is a real issue in our society, and it’s a problem we need to work hard to overcome. But telling people they’re obese or overweight and that they should do something about it is not going to help. And as Livingston explains, we don’t need anyone else to tell us we’re overweight. We know it.

I started this blog because to help people understand that dieting and the only-thin-people-are-healthy mentality is not only emotional hurtful, but physically damaging as well. If you diet, there is a 90% chance you will gain weight within five years after the diet is over. And if you feel bad about your body, you are more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior like dieting.

So making people feel bad about how the look or pointing out that someone needs to lose weight doesn’t help them. In fact, it just does the opposite.

As Livingston notes, October is National Anti-Bullying Month. That means it’s a time for us to work together to fight bullying, including bullying about weight. Tearing each other down is not a way to do that. Let’s take Livingston’s advice and “teach our kids” and ourselves “how to be kind, not critical.”

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