Worth Your Weight

August 23, 2008

More concerned about z’s than lbs

Filed under: HAES — worthyourweight @ 12:04 am

We all know how important sleep is for health. That’s one of many reasons that insomnia can be so maddening. I know I need sleep to function well and repair my body. Being well aware of how essential restorative sleep is compounds my sleeping problem. It makes me worry about it over and above the fatigue and other consequences of not getting enough sleep.

If you’re like me and struggle with long-term insomnia (and I’m guessing a good chunk of us in the Fatosphere do; after all, many conditions we share like depression and fibromyalgia either can cause sleep disorders or can be caused by sleep dysfunction), then I’m sure you are well aware of the recommendations for good sleep hygiene. If not, they include:

–cut out nicotine
–cut out caffeine
–exercise, but not 2 hours before bedtime
–use your bed for sleep and sex only
–try to find some way of relaxing that works for you; have a wind-down bedtime ritual
–reduce light in your bedroom with blackout curtains and/or a sleep mask; reduce noise with earplugs or drown it out with a white noise machine 
–keep your bedroom at a good temperature: not too hot, not too cold

I wanted to share some things I’ve discovered in my six years — and counting — of grappling with insomnia. (I could almost cry even reflecting on this and realizing that I’ve only slept six hours straight twice in the past six years. And I was used to sleeping eight hours straight. It’s like I’ve forgotten how to sleep.) Of course, this post is not a substitute for medical advice. Please see your doctor if you are experiencing insomnia. Like I said, these are just my tips after a lot of trial and error, stuff not usually included in “sleep hygiene” advice.

Avoid over-the-counter sleep aids like Sominex and Unisom. I was warned that using them could mimic fibromyalgia. I’ve never been able to corroborate that, but I know that eventually they made my sleep even worse than it was. I also became psychologically dependent on them. It was a real brothertrucker getting myself off of them.

I was eventually prescribed a sleep aid, but I experienced five different side effects after taking it for a short time. So now I’m not on any medication to help me sleep. I sometimes use Bach’s Rescue Sleep to quiet myself down if I’m revved up and it’s bedtime. It’s made from flower essences and is meant to calm. And — ugh — I hate to admit it, but I do keep a box of Unisom on hand for the really bad nights. As a last resort.  But I try not to use any because it was really hard to get off of when I was taking two to three a night.

Keep a notebook and pen within reach of your bed. Rather than running through my to-do list for the next day and fretting myself into a tizzy, I can write it down and let it go.

It’s OK if you only get two hours of sleep that day! This was a hard lesson for me to learn, especially since insomniacs aren’t supposed to nap. It would have been easier for me to be carefree about how little sleep I was getting if I knew I could take a nap if I needed it. Well, I finally had no choice one day but to function on two hours of sleep. But that was the turning point. Knowing I could if I had to lessened the stranglehold of fear and worry about “can’t get to sleep/must get some sleep/only have three more hours until I have to be up.” I could stop eyeballing the clock (a huge “don’t” for the sleep-challenged) and relax enough to actually fall asleep. Don’t be afraid to have to start your day on two hours of sleep. If you worry about it, it’s like those gag toy finger cuffs: the more you struggle, the tighter they get.

Hit the reset button on your brain. After I’ve been tossing and turning for a while, I’ll get up and read or watch TV for a half hour or an hour. Nothing stimulating, though. Oftentimes that — or even just a walk to the kitchen/bathroom for a drink of water — seems to be enough to get me out of that repetitive groove of fighting for sleep. It may seem strange to sacrifice an hour of sleep in order to get sleep (because insomniacs are supposed to go to bed and get up at the same times every day, establish a pattern), but it’s worked for me because I can spend hours upon hours just trying to get to sleep.

Maybe good sleep is a topic that can only be dear to an insomniac’s heart. But I think we, as a society, should be spending at least a third of the concern currently wasted on weight loss and maintenance on improving everyone’s sleep. To me, it’s clear that z’s are far more integral to health.

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May 2, 2008

Have you eaten yet?

Filed under: HAES — worthyourweight @ 6:57 pm

When I was recently a-Googling how to write “Have you eaten yet?” in Chinese, I found an excellent essay on the common Chinese greeting.

On the surface, the question “Have you eaten yet?”, a common salutation among various Asian populations, may seem a bit odd. However, in today’s parlance, it is similar to such phrases as “how are you?”, “what’s up?”, “good morning,” and “good day” as a greeting when initiating conversation, communication, and interaction.

In the pre-industrial agricultural era, frequent natural disasters and warfare only added to the hardship of most Asians’ lives. When three square meals a day were the exception and not the rule, a good meal and a warm bed were considerable blessings. Consequently, in an age of material scarcity, asking someone if they’d eaten was a projection of one’s own state of being and thus conveyed caring and good will, as if saying, “I hope you are not enduring hunger and have had a meal.”

So, “Have you eaten yet?”

When you hear people greet you in this way in Asia, they really are concerned if you’ve eaten. If you respond by saying, ‘No, I haven’t eaten,’ many gracious Asians will ask you to be their guest for a meal on the spot to have you enjoy the true satisfaction of a good meal. The colloquial Chinese phrase, “a person taking a meal is as untouchable as the emperor,” puts this respect for satisfying humanity’s need for survival into crystal clear focus in a colorful manner.

Rooted in a humanist perspective, “have you eaten yet?” further contains Asian values of pragmatism. Hunger signifies the need to eat, and many Asians, whose self-expression is restrained and subtle, are not afraid to exemplify the guiding principle of survival that “the people live for food” and to extend that concept into their daily lives as a customary phrase of communication. Thus the rhetorical question, “have you eaten yet?” represents an approach to communication that encompasses humanity’s physical instincts and Asians’ living conditions. Reflecting a “self-awareness” and thinking, at the same time it evokes a Golden Rule (putting oneself in the place of others) condition of sharing and communication values.

In my search, I also found a post that addressed how certain answers to “Have you eaten yet?” might be perceived by the asker.

From the blog “Ai ya!”:

Interestingly, answers that may seem “okay” or acceptable in the US would be considered rude in Asia. For example, consider the following:

(older person) “Have you eaten yet?”
(you) “No thanks, I’m on a diet.”
(older person thinks: What a snob, and what a conversation-killer)

Another scenario:
(friend) “have you eaten yet?”
(you) “No thanks, I just ate.”
(friend thinks: she ate without me? or she doesn’t want to spend time with me? oh how rejected I feel….)

So what is a good, yet financially sound, solution that will please everyone in every country? Consider the following:

“Not yet, it’s only 3PM; why don’t we go somewhere first to talk/shop/study?”

“Not yet, why don’t you come over and I’ll cook for both of us?”

“Not yet; there’s a new (re: cheap) place I’ve been meaning to try, let’s go there.”

“Not yet; why don’t we call up the gang and let’s all go out to eat.” (the strategy here being, more people to split the cost and/or share dishes)

A little diplomacy goes a long way…for your wallet, too.

It struck me that an answer that would seem virtuous in the U.S. — “I’m on a diet” — is seen as snobby and rude.

In the comments to the post at “Ai ya!” the point is made that there are other cultures that celebrate food and eating instead of puritanically controlling it. The commenters mention Jewish and Latin cultures.

I’m Jewish and it’s definitely one I associate with my sub-culture where one is always being urged to “Eat! Eat! What? You don’t like what I make?”

and

…food = nurturing in Latin cultures, too!…we use food to show love…and, food is a main component of any major occasion…my family…

Another comment I liked that I happened upon in my search, from a travel guide site:

In China if you greeting as:”Have you eaten already?” nobody will think”Do you want to treat me to a dinner.” they just think you are care for him/her .they will be pleased.

I love that! They will think that you care and will be pleased. It would be so great if more of us could think of food and eating as caring for ourselves and about others and not some bean counting punishment or just filling up our bodies’ “gas tanks.” I think more of us would be pleased …

March 19, 2008

Whenever I feel guilty about HAES …

Filed under: HAES — worthyourweight @ 2:40 pm

When I feel like a bad practitioner (or even non-practitioner) of HAES, I try to keep in mind four things:

1. Mental health is a part of health. Kind of duh when worded that way, but (IIRC) I saw this first articulated by fillyjonk. It was one of those eureka moments. Avoiding the crazymaking dieting causes is priority number one in trying to be mentally healthy. Not stressing is another good strategy. Trying not to get depressed about things beyond my control — like my size — is another.

2. I don’t smoke. I drink maybe one glass of wine a week. I don’t do drugs. Avoiding smoking, drinking (to excess, I’m guessing), and drugging are all higher on the pursuit of health checklist than avoiding junk food. (Source coming soon … I hope … if I can find it in my labyrinth of bookmarks.) And if you do smoke? I know how challenging it is to quit. E-mail me if you’d like support on that front. Definitely not judging anyone who smokes. But the only FA blogger who I know for certain smokes also eats way healthier than I do and exercises more/more consistently. So it’s a trade-off, isn’t it? We must suit ourselves.

3. “Exercise” can be a dirty word to those of us tortured in gym class and encouraged to diet. Even though I use the word, I think of it as activity. I bet a lot of guilty-feeling fat people are doing more activity than they think. IMO, activity should be construed as broadly as possible. And I’m not yet convinced (see point 4) that activity has much to do with health outside of, you know, making you feel better/more confident/less stressed. Ultimately it may be just another way to attend to mental health.

4. Health is probably mostly/all genetic. I got to say, I was flabbergasted when I first read Pattie Thomas say in “Top 10 Things I’m Tired of Discussing” (PDF) that lifestyle probably doesn’t determine health. I made a note to research that further, but Junkfood Science’s analysis of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) Dietary Modification Trial went a long way toward convincing me.

In the end, guilt and worry about what steps you do/don’t take to be healthy could be the worse thing for your health.

March 15, 2008

Touchstones

Filed under: fat acceptance, HAES — worthyourweight @ 3:18 am

Whenever I feel adrift in the fat acceptance community and tempted to go to war against my body, these are the points I return to and that keep me anchored:

  1. Fat people eat the same amount as thin people do. This is a fairly radical idea, but well documented in Gina Kolata’s Rethinking Thin. Junkfood Science talks about it, too. My mind often comes back to the woman who performed a size zero diet experiment and who pre-diet consumed around 2500 calories a day. The obesity experts would call that a good eating plan to get/stay fat. Yet, she is not fat.
  2. Fat people are not fat because they under-exercise. In Glen Gaesser’s Calorie Myths lecture in 2007, he mentioned the results of a study that showed the difference in weight between the least active subjects and the most active was five to seven pounds. Laura Fraser, author of Losing It, puts the figure at four to seven.
  3. Fat people are not fat because of psychological problems. From Rethinking Thin, pp. 93-94:

    The conclusion reached by Stunkard and others who were doing similar experiments was unmistakable: There is no psychiatric pathology that spells obesity. And there is no response to food that is not shared by people who are not fat. You can’t say you got fat because you, unlike thin people, are unable to resist temptation. Both fat and thin people are tempted by the sweet smell of brownies or the sight of a dish of creamy cold ice cream. You can’t say you got fat because there is a lot of stress in your life. Thin people are just as likely to eat under stress. You can’t say it was because you used food as a reward. If that is the reason, then why do thin people, who also use food as a reward, stay thin?

  4. Fat does not equal unfit. Covered extensively in the Fatosphere, plus see the last paragraph under “About this blog”
  5. Normal eating has zip to do with calories, carb count, and fat grams. See the Ellyn Satter quote here.
  6. Fat is not an aberration; it’s a variation. Again, from Rethinking Thin (forgive me; it’s sort of become my FA bible), p. 115:

    The Rockefeller researchers explained their observations in one of their papers: “Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this study was that the removal of obesity by means of caloric deprivation led to behavioral alterations similar to those observed in the starvation of non-obese individuals. It is entirely possible that weight reduction, instead of resulting in a normal state for obese patients, results in an abnormal state resembling that of starved non-obese individuals.”

    Eventually, more than fifty people went through the months-long process of living at the hospital and losing weight, and every one of them had these physical and psychological signs of starvation, Hirsch reports.

  7. My most successful weight loss attempt killed my gall bladder. Even though for years doctors had recited the risk factors for gall bladder disease as “forty, fat, and female,” they never factored in the most important part of that equation. Fat females in their 40s are highly likely to have dieted repeatedly. Dieting is linked to gall bladder disease. I know we are expected to function without it, but I think the removal of my gall bladder has made digestion more difficult for me. If for nothing else, I vow not to harm my body and its organs again by dieting — a “prescription” that’s never been proven safe or effective yet ironically is looked at with inexplicable forgiveness when it comes to side effects and complications.
  8. Exercising for fun and eating normally — NOT for weight loss — makes me feel good.

February 29, 2008

Balle Balle!

Filed under: HAES — worthyourweight @ 10:58 pm

bhangra.jpg

Looking for a change in your exercise/activity routine? If you have it, may I suggest Fit TV? The channel does have some questionable content (like a weigh-in at the end of a low-carb cooking show), and talk about “calories burned” is pretty common when it comes to video exercise. If you can get past these things, you may see something to spice up your workout on the Fit TV channel or their On Demand content.

My latest find is Masala Bhangra by Sarina Jain. It is just so much fun. Very colorful and quite challenging. It’s based on an Indian folk dance. I tend towards dance workouts because after years of the drudgery of working out for that impossible goal of weight loss, shifting my priorities to working out for how it makes me feel means I’m looking for what’s FUN. I seem to do things more often and consistently when they’re fun. Go figure.

It’s nice to try out an exercise routine before investing in buying videos or DVDs. Even if you prefer to take real life classes, it can be helpful to try something out at home first to see what you like. I learned my lesson the hard way after buying an MTV Grind Workout and a Carmen Electra DVD sight unseen (not the striptease one, but the “get yourself into shape so you can do the striptease one” one). I got into belly dance and T’ai Chi after free routines offered under Fit TV’s Video On Demand (it’s under the Sports & Fitness category). I ended up liking both and purchasing the corresponding DVDs. I will probably do the same with Masala Bhangra.

I see some comments dotting the Fatosphere from people who say they want to lose weight because they find their fat bodies uncomfortable. I can relate to that. But I have to wonder if they have tried being in those bodies, using them to become stronger and more flexible, and *enjoying* the use of their bodies in graceful and fun movement? This is what I’m trying to do. Namaste!

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