These Arms of Mine

Last week, something really amazing happened: I got an email telling me that I had won the Charles McCorkle Hauser Prize for Prose from the Chautauqua Institution! This was a super big deal, because I’d never won a literary prize before, nor had I ever won money for my fiction. As you can imagine, I was over the moon.

Accepting my award at Chautauqua!

Accepting my award at Chautauqua!

A celebration was in order, of course, so I grabbed my friend Heather and we headed out to eat some lobster. While we were at dinner, we asked the waiter to take a photo of us with our giant rum drinks.

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Picture it: I’m on top of the world, a story I wrote has impressed some people enough that they want to give me a prize for it. This is one of the highest points in my lifetime of creating fiction. I’m with one of my best friends, at one of my favorite places to eat. What a night! I take my phone back from the waiter, look at the photos he took, and… I struggle not to cry. My arms! They’re big. No, not big. I’m a writer, I can do better than that: My arms are massive, immense, colossal. I’m horrified and mortified. They dwarf my head – I feel like that guy from Beetlejuice.

The guy on the right.

The guy on the right.

Hold up. I’m the creator of Big Fit Deal. I have spent the past two years of my life writing and talking about body acceptance, about Health at Every Size, about how the size and shape of our bodies are not shorthand for our worth. How can I be horrified by a part of my own body? I swallow the shame, and focus on dinner. Later, I ask Heather, “Is this why I’m single?” As the words come out, I believe them. I feel the shame creep into my heart and up to my face, where it burns hot. Yes, it’s the size of my arms that keep men at a distance, that make me undateable and unlovable, I’m sure of it. Heather says, “I don’t know.” We don’t want to believe it, but we aren’t sure, so we talk about something else.

Before I go to sleep, I face the mirror. I hold up first one bare arm, and then the other. I make myself look, hard. There was (and is) no denying it: I have really big arms. Now, I tell myself, I can go down one of two paths. The first leads to a dark world of shame, anger, and embarrassment. It leads to covering up even when it’s too hot. If I go far enough, it probably leads to calorie restriction and obsessive exercise, in the hope that my arms will magically become small and delicate and socially acceptable (even though that never happened when I did those things before). The other path? That leads to embracing what I’ve got. To focusing on the fact that these big ol’ arms of mine swim laps three times a week, they lift weights, they push and pull and move water in aquafit. Not only that, but at the end of those arms are the hands that I used to write that award-winning short story!

I bet you can guess which path I took. Now, truth is, the size of my arms might very well be off-putting to potential suitors. After all, we live in a world where even small women are afraid to go sleeveless because their arms aren’t toned or tight “enough.” There are countless magazine articles and Pinterest boards dedicated to eradicated the scourge of the fat, flappy arm. But if someone doesn’t want to get to know me because of the size of my arms, that’s their loss, because they give really fantastic hugs.

It’s a common refrain around these parts, but worth repeating: Body acceptance is a journey. Some days are easier than others. Some days, you want to lock your door and never let anyone in – or yourself out. Other days, you face the reflection in the mirror straight on, acknowledge what you see there, and work hard to change your perspective. Then you sit back down at the keyboard and see what else you have to offer the world, one story at a time.

From the Mixed-Up Files of Big Fit Deal

What’s going on in the world, you guys? Today I saw two headlines, back to back. First, this:

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And then this:

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What a perfect example of how our feelings about food are so mixed up! In the lunch bullying article, we learn that kids (even in elementary school) are forgoing lunch. There are a bunch of reasons for this – from being bullied about body size to fear of rejection by certain groups to not having an appetite because of bullying. It’s enraging that kids are making fun of others for eating. Eating! A thing that is necessary for human survival. A thing that gives children energy to learn and grow. If anyone still doubts that the media’s obsession with thinness has become toxic, doubt no more. I wonder at the choice of the photo that accompanies this article. Probably someone just googled “lunch room bullying,” and came up with this, but it’s a terrible choice. It shows thin girls whispering about another thin girl, which reinforces the idea that the bullied girl’s body is unacceptable. How will a fat girl feel, if she sees a thin girl purportedly (because of the nature of this article) being picked on for her size? Mixed up, to say the very least.

And then, on the flip side, we have the Nutella Challenge, the goal of which is to eat an entire jar of Nutella in three minutes or less. I love Nutella. It’s delicious, if you like chocolatey, hazelnutty deliciousness. But I find food challenges to be very… well, unpalatable. I don’t find it entertaining or amusing to watch someone eat as much as they possibly can, especially in a short period of time. But I might be in the minority, as there are contests and television shows dedicated to this very practice. Full disclosure: I haven’t watched these Nutella Challenge videos, or read any of the accompanying comments, but I’m willing to bet that fat people are being fat- and body-shamed up the proverbial wazoo. Thin people? Probably not. Just like if a fat woman eats a lot, she’s considered gluttonous and disgusting, whereas if a thin woman does the same, she’s considered quirky and cute. Is it any wonder so many of us have food issues?!

So, in the mixed-up world we live in when it comes to food, what can you do? Start by reminding yourself and your loved ones (especially your children) that food is not the enemy. It is necessary for survival. It fuels our bodies, minds, and hearts. Eating is natural. It is something everyone needs to do in order to stay alive! And then remind yourself (and all those others) that food choices do not define a person’s worth (that includes you!). If you do these things, you can combat the negative, shameful messages surrounding food and eating, one meal at a time.

The Fat Girl’s Shopping Survival Guide

“I love clothes shopping, said no fat girl ever.” I saw this statement the other day, and I had to disagree. Now, don’t get me wrong, clothes shopping can be an exercise in frustration for sure. Not a lot of stores want a piece of the multi-billion-dollar plus-size clothing market, because…they are fools, I guess? And there is a serious lack of style, variety, and sizes even in stores that do want plus-size money. Also, there’s the sad fact that even plus-size stores only go up to certain sizes. So, there are clearly a lot of issues involved with shopping while fat. But! Let’s say you’ve found a store or two that carry clothes in your size. How do you make shopping fun, instead of an exercise in frustration and self-loathing? Big Fit Deal is here to help, with The Fat Girl’s Shopping Survival Guide. With gifs!

Step One: Breathe

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Seriously, take a deep breath. It’s just clothes. Shirts, pants, dresses, skinny jeans – they are all inanimate objects, and they don’t actually have the ability to make you feel bad about yourself. If at any time you feel frustrated or upset during the shopping process, stop and breathe. It’s going to be okay. You can get through this.

Step Two: Bring Reinforcements

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Call up someone who is patient, kind, and has a good sense of humor, and tell her (or him!) you’re hitting the mall. You need positive reinforcement, a keen eye, a loving heart, and someone willing to laugh with you. The best kind of shopping buddy is one who won’t let you bully or shame yourself, but who offers support and encouragement. If you don’t have a friend like this – if everyone you know is currently riding the Body Shame Train – go alone. Really. You do not need someone standing outside the dressing room, googling cleanses and encouraging you to feel lousy about your body.

Step Three: Let Go

Seriously the only gif for this sentiment anymore.

Seriously the only gif for this sentiment anymore.

This is a tough one, but I know you can do it (and you will be so happy when you do!): Stop caring about numbers. No one knows what size pants you wear, so why do you care what number is printed on the tag? And even more importantly, whatever that number says has absolutely zilch to do with your worth. Wearing a size 18 pants (or an 8 or a 28) doesn’t mean you are worth less than someone who wears a smaller size. It just means your pants are bigger. Here’s a numbers tip: Buy the size that is comfortable, that fits. I know you’ve squeezed yourself into something that doesn’t feel good because you liked the size, but how do you feel when you wear it? Probably uncomfortable. Try putting on the size you really need, no matter what the tag says. You’ll be surprised how good you feel when something truly fits!

Step Four: Be Patient

No it's not, Doctor!

No it’s not, Doctor!

None of this is easy. You’ve spent your whole life being told that your body isn’t right, and the clothing industry reinforces this every time you step into a store, by making plus-size clothing hard to find, often unappealing, and usually more expensive than straight-sized clothes. Wearing something with a double-digit size can feel like the most embarrassing and shameful thing in the world. But it’s not. It’s just a number, just a size. Learning to let go is not an instantaneous thing, so please, be patient with yourself. Try, and if you fail, try again. It will come.

Step Five: Be Kind

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When you do slip up, and berate yourself for no longer (or never being, like me!) a single-digit size, when you fall down that shame spiral again, please try to be kind to yourself. The next time you are tempted to say mean things to yourself because of your size, try this: Would you say those things to your mother, your daughter, your best friend, a child? Would you tell any of the people you love that they are worthless because they need a bigger pair of pants? I hope not. So don’t say terrible things to yourself, either. Be kind to yourself. Eventually, if you practice long and hard at it, that kindness will turn to love.

Step Six: Celebrate

treat

Once you’ve had a successful shopping trip – and that could mean you walk out of the mall with overflowing bags, or you simply bought a pair of jeans in a size that is comfortable and truly fits, despite the number on the tag – take a moment to congratulate yourself. You’ve accomplished something important and wonderful, and you have a right to celebrate. That celebration can take any form, from an impromptu dance party in your car, to sharing a delicious meal with your shopping buddy, to a moment of quiet contemplation when you get home. When you celebrate your accomplishments, you’ll feel good, and want to accomplish more!

Okay, that’s what I’ve got for shopping advice. I hope it will help you to walk into a store with your head held high, try on whatever strikes your fancy, and leave with clothing that makes you feel good. We will all have slip-ups. And it’s very important to acknowledge that we have a long, long way to go before clothing for all sizes is made available and affordable. But self-loathing is something we can all learn to stop bringing into the changing room with us.

Good luck!

 

Food Is Not A Four-Letter Word

I feel like everywhere I go, I hear people talking about food in ways that, frankly, drive me bananas. It seems like everyone is obsessed with talking about how bad they were because they ate this, or how good they were because they ate that. We love to assign morality to food, and, by extension, to ourselves. We reward and punish ourselves, we elevate and disparage our character (and those of other people), based on what we eat. Enough!

This post brought to you by all sorts of food, none of which says anything about who you are as a person. Except delicious!

This post brought to you by all sorts of food, none of which says anything about who you are as a person. Except delicious!

No longer participating in that kind of talk is honestly the easiest step you can take toward learning to love your body. I’m not kidding. The freedom that I experience by not thinking of – or talking about – food as a moral issue is almost indescribable. But since this is a blog wherein I write things, I guess I’ll give it a go.

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Sadly, we use food morality to bond. Go to your office kitchen, or to a party, and stand by the food. I guarantee you someone will talk about how they “can’t” eat something, because it’s so “bad.” Or they will eat something “bad,” and now consider themselves “bad.” Most people will rush to agree, to commiserate! Get people talking about the good and bad of food (and themselves), and it’s hard to get them to stop.

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Like pretty much everybody, I used to judge my worth by what and how much and when I ate. After all, that’s the whole point of a diet! Stick to it and you’re a good person. Fail at it and you’re a bad person. I believed this! Back in the day, if I ate under my Weight Watchers points (which was pretty much all the time), no matter how starved and wiped out I felt, I knew I was a success. Now, the thought of that just makes me sad. And kinda hungry.

cupcakes

Now, this isn’t a conversation about the nutritional value of food. It’s about the feelings we associate with food. If someone said, “This piece of chocolate is less nutritionally dense than that carrot, and I feel bad about myself for choosing the chocolate,” I could agree to the fact, but I won’t encourage the feeling. I believe that everything in moderation (including moderation) is a good way to approach nutrition. But the nutritional value of food is a different discussion, and not one we are having today.

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Okay. Try this: For a meal, a day, a week, don’t think about the morality of your food. Eat what you want. Eat when you want. Don’t judge the food, and don’t judge yourself. Don’t post about it, or talk to your friends about it. Eat, and enjoy it, and then move on. You won’t believe how good it feels to not stress about it.

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No food is off limits in this approach. Whoa! you say. How can no food be off limits? What about Wegmans Ultimate Chocolate Cake, or double cheeseburgers with bacon, or all of the things on those Top 10 Foods You Should Never Eat Again Because They Will Cause You to Immediately Perish lists? Yeah, even those. Drink a pop if you want! (Food allergies, of course, are a whole ‘nother story. Don’t eat the things you’re allergic to, people.) The magic trick here is that, for most of us – and your mileage, of course, may vary – giving ourselves the liberty to eat what we want actually results in a healthier relationship with food. You may very well find that you end up making more nutritionally dense choices more often.

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Personally, I don’t participate in food morality discussions any more. If someone wants to me to agree that they can have a piece of chocolate because they were “good” and exercised that morning, I choose whether or not to try to talk to them about food morality, or just let it be and not reply. It’s unhealthy for me to engage in those conversations in any other way. I don’t believe that by knowing what or when or how much you eat, I can tell if you are a good person or not, if you are worthy of my respect. Food doesn’t make you a good or bad person. It doesn’t make you worthy or worthless. It fuels your body, and it can be a source of communion and joy, if you let it. Let it!

Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart. ―Erma Bombeck

Unlikely Allies

Let’s talk about three things:

  1. Hollywood is notorious for lack of body diversity, because somewhere along the way, the men in charge decided that pretty much one female body type (thin) is good/worth looking at/worth being.
  2. Finding body-positivity allies is the best.
  3. There aren’t a lot of body-positive allies to be found in Hollywood, because see #1.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I went to see Magic Mike XXL this weekend, and I found allies. Body-positive allies. About women’s bodies specifically. I know, I’m as shocked as you are!

Geared up to fight for body diversity!

Geared up to fight for body diversity!

Now, there’s not much body diversity in the men in the movie, except maybe in terms of height, hair style, and number of prominent abs. But that’s okay, because while it pretends to be a shallow, (extremely attractive) buddy road-trip romp, this movie is all about feminism and the female gaze (read more about that here). So male readers (if you’re out there), please excuse us while we have a moment that’s for the ladies (or, as Rome would call us, queens).

In the first Magic Mike, there was one awful scene were Joe Manganiello picked up a fat woman, and acted like he’d thrown out his back when he put her down. Har har, right? So when the first fat woman popped up in the sequel, I braced myself for the worst. And then… nothing bad happened. The scene carried on. The fat women in this movie – and there are several – are just there. They aren’t singled out or made fun of because they are fat. The crowd scenes show women of such color and size diversity, I have to assume the people who made this movie slipped these scenes under the radar of the Hollywood body-police. And I’m so glad they did. I would love to hear from the producers of this movie, to know if they were aware of the importance of what they were doing.

One of the only crowd scene shots I could find.

One of the only crowd scene shots I could find.

I never imagined for a moment that I would find allies in a movie about male strippers entertainers. I never imagined that the part that would have me swooning the hardest would be when Matt Bomer sang passionately to a fat member of the audience, and it wasn’t played for laughs, or pity, or anything other than what it was: the most handsome man in the world, singing to a woman who deserves his attention, who will thank him by stuffing dollar bills down his pants. Ha!

Matt Bomer, and a little bit of thigh diversity.

Matt Bomer, and a little bit of thigh diversity.

I left that movie feeling exhilarated, not because of the scenes of super attractive men taking off their clothes (truth: those parts didn’t hurt), but because women who looked like me were present, and accounted for, and just… part of the world. Allies! You never know where you’re going to find them.

Ending the Struggle

Someone said to me the other day, “I’ve struggled with my body my whole life, too.”

I felt sad for this person, but it was the “too” that got me. It’s true that I spent many, many years fighting my body. Sometimes just mentally – hating it for its size and shape, wishing it would go away. Sometimes physically – through restrictive eating and compulsive exercise. Years of struggle! Most of my life, in fact. It’s exhausting and sad to think of the energy I’ve wasted struggling with my body. But I’m done with that now. The struggle is over for me, and I’m so grateful.

This post is brought to you by the possibilities at sunrise. This one's from Edisto Island, South Carolina.

This post is brought to you by the possibilities at sunrise.
This one’s from Edisto Island, South Carolina.

That isn’t to say that I don’t still have days when I’m blue about my size. I wish I had more clothing options that didn’t involve ordering stuff from websites and hoping it fits. I wrestle with the belief that I’m single because I’m fat. I catch a glimpse of my belly in profile, or my upper arm jiggling, and I cringe. But, on the whole, my struggle is done. Because even if I have those small stumbles, I now refuse to expend my energy trying to force my body to be something it is incapable of being (or, perhaps better to say, incapable of sustaining).

I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’m so busy working on my fiction. That takes loads of time and energy! And it’s truly my life’s purpose. My days are also full of other stuff – friends, family, work, working out, volunteering, voice over, the writing workshop I started, travel, and even television! – that are a much better use of my life than warring with my body.

This one's from Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

This one’s from Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.

One other thing about that “too.” (Such a little word – but so powerful.) The person who said that to me assumed that I have struggled the same as they have because I’m not thin. They weren’t wrong – and that makes me sad. We see a fat person and just know that they’re unhappy with their body, and wish they could be different, and spend their time trying to change. Because so many of us are and do those things! There are probably very few people in the world, if any, who haven’t spent some part of their lives engaged in some form of fight like this. So much energy, wasted.

If I had one wish for you, it would be for you to give up the struggle, too. How many years have you spent fighting your body? How much emotion have you burned up being angry or disappointed or ashamed of what you look like? Try to let that go. Don’t wait until you’re older. Start now. Think of the years to come: Imagine spending them in pursuit of what thrills and moves you, imagine spending them caring for your loved ones and yourself with purpose and energy, instead of fretting about how your thighs look in a bathing suit, loathing yourself for eating a slice of pie, refusing to have your picture taken.

And this one's from Long Sands Beach in York Beach, Maine.

And this one’s from Long Sands Beach in York Beach, Maine.

You are loved, and lovable. Your body is unique, and powerful, and good. Yes, yours, right as it is at this moment. Not five or ten or one hundred pounds from now. Step up to a mirror, look yourself in the eye, and vow to put an end to the struggle. Embrace your body – literally, if you want! Say goodbye to the fight, bury it, and go live. I’ll meet you out there.

This Is My Fight Song

Come back with me in time for a minute. Imagine being 14 years old, getting ready to enter high school. You really like a sport – say, volleyball. And you start asking questions about the junior varsity team, when try-outs are, how you can sign up. Now imagine getting a letter at home from the volleyball coaches. A letter that says that if you are more than 10 pounds overweight, maybe volleyball isn’t for you. And you are.

This happened. I don’t remember it, but my family does – vividly. I wanted very much to be part of the school volleyball team, and when that letter came home, my parents wanted to speak to the coaches. I mean, really, shouldn’t everyone have been encouraged to try out, and only be cut if they can’t do what is physically required of team members? I wouldn’t let them say anything, though. I insisted that they just let it go. And I never tried out for any sports team, then or ever. That was the beginning and end of my group athletics story.

Fast forward about 20 years, and one day I decided I was going to train for and try to walk a half marathon. There wasn’t anyone around to tell me I couldn’t do that, that I didn’t have the right size body, or that I needed to lose a certain amount of weight first. I crossed my first finish line on September 16, 2007. I have crossed 11 more since then. I became a coach along the way, helping others – of all shapes and sizes – to cross their first finish line. And I did all that while being way more than 10 pounds “overweight.”

Which brings me to this. A video put together by Ragen Chastain and Jeanette DePatie, and featuring dozens of, as they call us, “Fit Fatties.”

You guys, this video made me cry so hard. The longer I watched it, the more overcome I was – with joy, at seeing all of these strong, striving, empowered women; with excitement, at being a part of it (see how many times you can spot me!); and with sorrow… Sorrow that I didn’t see this video when I was 10. When I was 14 and wanting oh-so-badly to join the school volleyball team and being discouraged from doing so by teachers. When I was 20. When I was 30.

I want everyone to see this. I want children, teenagers, adults – anyone who is convinced certain aspects of their lives have to be put on hold until they get smaller –  to see this. I want parents and teachers, coaches, partners, lovers, friends, family, everyone to see this and share it and understand how vital it is. How it is the antidote to all those fitness commercials that leave me (and so, so many others) left out and wanting. How this is the inspiration so many of us want, and need, and deserve.

This is my fight song.

Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Into motion
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion

All Fired Up

Hi, everybody! I’m back from my hiatus, and hope you’re still around and ready to talk about some body positive stuff. Let’s get some housekeeping out of the way first, and then I’ll tell you what got me so fired up that I had to start blogging again.

In this image, the role of me is played by the Ninth Doctor.

In this image, the role of me will be played by the Ninth Doctor.

The project I mentioned back in April (has it really been that long?!) is still in the works, but as it’s taking way longer than I hoped it would (and possibly morphing into something quite different than what I’d originally planned), I decided to get back in the post-writing mode while doing the project on non-blogging days. Regarding posts, I’m not going to keep to a schedule like I did before, but rather will post when I have something to say (or, like today, something has me pretty fired up!). The easiest way to stay up to date with BFD is to sign up for emails when I post (do that by sending me your email up there on the left-hand side of the page, where is says Subscribe), or by liking BFD on Facebook (click here).

liz

So! On to the getting fired up thing. This showed up on my Facebook news feed:

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At the time I saved it to share with you (over a week ago), this image – which was originally posted by some radio station page – had been shared over 50,000 times. Fifty thousand people thought this was hilarious, and true, and worth sharing. But so did someone who knows and loves me.

I thought long and hard about confronting the person who posted it. I composed dozens of emails, text messages, and comments. I talked to people who understand and support the body positive work I do. And, in the end, I decided to let it go. I know this person was not thinking about me when they posted it. Me and my fat body didn’t even cross their mind. Instead, they were thinking about themselves, and their own fear of becoming… well, like me.

My face when I saw that picture.

My face when I saw that picture.

In my experience, a post like this is often enjoyed and shared by people who will never actually become fat. (This is true of the person who I know who shared it.) If they relent in that endless battle and let their love of food “win,” they might gain a few pounds, but they won’t become an actual fat person, the kind that shows up in headless fatty pictures on OMG!OBESITY articles. Like, you know, me.

Probably not future you.

Probably not future you.

Thin people: I’d like you to imagine seeing a post on social media that says people fear becoming like you. That they fight every day not to be like you. That implies becoming or being like you is to be avoided at any cost. That would make you feel pretty terrible, wouldn’t it? That’s how I felt when I read this, because that’s what it says: You battle every day to not be fat, to not be like me. I am what you hope you never become. That’s too bad, because I’m pretty awesome.

Also, for the record, food is necessary for life. So that should win the battle every time.

Burnout

I’m suffering from a pretty big case of burnout, y’all. I’m gonna tell you why, and then I’m gonna tell you what I’m doing about it. Hopefully, you’ll stick with me through this rough patch and be here when I get back.

Not that kind of burnout.

Not that kind of burnout.

So, the reasons for my burnout are two-fold. First, to be completely honest, a lot of what I write here is being said elsewhere, by louder, more prominent voices. Case in point: Last week, I talked about how I’m not a fan of the new Lane Bryant #ImNoAngel campaign. Since I posted, I’ve seen three or four very similar articles on mainstream and social media sites. Every time I see another article pop up and get shared, I think, But I said that, too! How come no one cares about what I said?!

I realize this sounds like I’m whining, that I’m sad that no one is paying attention to what I’m writing. Well, sure! I mean, I don’t spend hours every week (and heaps of mental and emotional energy) doing this just for myself. But lately I’ve been thinking, what’s the point of me spending all this time and effort when what I’m saying is being said elsewhere, and read by many more people? Sure, I write personal things that can only be found here, but any newsworthy story is being covered by others with a much, much wider audience.

Try again!

Nope, try again!

So that’s my first reason for burnout. Second, I have a new, pretty big project brewing that is going to take heaps of time and energy. I can’t figure out how to balance that project and weekly blog posts, so something has to give. I think the new project (which totally needs a covert operation name – suggestions welcome!) could be pretty amazing, so I want to shift my focus there.

Now! What does that mean for you, loyal readers? It means that you need to hop on over to Facebook and keep up with me there. I’m going to be much more active on the BFD page, sharing articles (from a lot of those people with louder voices than mine) and my own musings. I hope you’ll comment and post there. If you aren’t on Facebook, you can follow me on Twitter, but I’m less active there (and more likely to just tweet at my fave celebs – so if you like country acapella and comic book TV shows, you’re in luck!).

Not even this kind of burnout.

Not even this kind of burnout.

Thanks to each and every one of you for sticking with me this far. It isn’t the end of the road, not by a long shot. I’m just taking a little detour that will hopefully lead to even more amazing adventures.

This One’s For the Pros

I read heartbreaking stories all the time about people who are treated terribly by people of influence in their lives – everyone from family members to spouses to doctors. I don’t know why, but I have been blessed in my life to have a lot of allies, and today I’d like to give a shout out to some of them. (Friends and family, a huge thank you to all y’all for your support, but this one’s for the pros.)

First, to my primary care physician. Her name is Dr. Barrett, and while she probably wouldn’t describe herself this way, she practices Health at Every Size. Since we first met in 2003, she has been supportive, understanding, and proactive. I never feel rushed when I visit her, and I always feel like she is listening to me. She has never fat shamed me; in fact, she has told me on more than one occasion that I am one of her healthiest patients. I wish that everyone could have a physician like Dr. Barrett. I know so many people (and read about many more) who don’t go to the doctor for fear of how they will be treated because of the size of their bodies. And here I thought the first rule of Doctor Club was “do no harm.” Be more like Dr. Barrett, medical pros!

Not Dr. Barrett's office, but an office I photographed, so close enough.

Not Dr. Barrett’s office, but an office I photographed, so close enough.

Second, to the physical therapists who have helped me throughout my marathoning career. From a busted up knee (twice!) to a suspected foot stress fracture (lies!), to a severely sprained ankle, to a bunch of leg pain and muscle knots from all of the above, you could definitely say that distance walking has not been kind to me. But my PTs (including Karen at Lattimore Rush-Henrietta) sure have been. I was so super nervous to walk into Pittsford Performance Care, because it says right on their website that they treat athletes, and the place was full of thin, attractive men (both the staff and the patients!). I am an athlete too, but I often feel like other people don’t want to – or refuse to? – believe it. But I walked into PPC with my head held high, told my story, and… was treated with tremendous respect and given excellent (if super painful!) care by Dr. Mike and his cohorts. I never felt like I wasn’t welcome there, or that my needs weren’t just as important to the docs as the needs of any of the more typical-bodied athletes. I tried to express my gratitude to Dr. Mike and the others about this, but I’m not sure if I got my point across through the tears. That’s how glad I was to just be treated like any other athlete.

Post PT ankles, taped by Dr. Mike.

Post PT ankles, taped by Dr. Mike.

Finally, I want to thank my main aqua fit instructor, Keshia. I’ve been participating in water aerobics classes for well over a year and a half now, and I love it. I love the camaraderie I’ve developed with my fellow classmates, and I love the challenge of the class. I get the impression that a lot of people think aqua fit is not hard. Those people are wrong. Aqua fit’s no joke! Like any workout, you get out of it what you put into it, but with Keshia, we took things to the next level. My abs will never be the same, and I mean that in the best way. Keshia is leaving my gym, headed on to bold and beautiful new adventures, and I’m going to miss her like crazy. Her leaving is actually what inspired me to write this post. I can’t thank her enough for her dedication to my fitness, the way she constantly challenged me, and how she never made me feel like anything less than what I am: A fit woman (who just happens to be fat).

Outside my gym, hair wet from the pool.

Outside my gym, hair wet from the pool.

Somehow, I’ve been super lucky in that I’ve been able to surround myself with this amazing group of professionals who support, encourage, care for, and challenge me. My wish is that everyone – no matter their size, shape, or health – would receive the same from the pros in their lives.

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