Pictures, Feeling Fat, & Weightlifting

This post is largely aimed at the ladies, but guys, please feel free to read & chime in too if you’re interested.

Yesterday, I saw some pictures a cousin of mine posted on Facebook from a family gathering.  Initially I thought “Oh, these are cute pictures of me, my husband, & Chaucer ” (our corgi).  But upon closer inspection I found myself thinking “Eww, I look so fat.  I might as well be pregnant because my waist already looks like it!”  I’m pretty sure every woman who is reading this has had a similar scenario & knows exactly how I was feeling when looking at those pictures.feel fat cartoon

Now realistically I know that  at 5’6″ & 153 lbs I’m in pretty good shape.  My BMI is within a healthy range (barely), although I’ll be the first to admit that BMI is a pretty useless tool (particularly for men: consider my husband who, at < 10% body fat, still scores in the obese range).  I wear a size 8-10 in most clothes, & I’ve never had an inch of cellulite anywhere on my body.  My doctors have all told me I’m at a perfectly healthy weight, although it would certainly be safe for me to lose 5-10 lbs if so I desired (& I do).  My arms & legs have fairly visible/palpable muscle, for a female anyway, & as my husband tells me all the time I’m one of few women who has visible traps/lats (basically shoulder & back muscles), which thankfully he finds incredibly sexy.

This picture is from almost 4 years ago but I still look the same; if anything, I have more muscle now.  I just haven't taken a picture like this in a long time.

This picture is from almost 4 years ago, but I still look the same; if anything, I have more muscle now. I just haven’t taken a picture like this in a long time.

Yet I am still not satisfied that I look the best I really could, mostly because I know I still carry too much extra weight around my waist, which of course happens to be the most unhealthy place to have extra fat.  In our current culture of fat acceptance, I know plenty of people reading this will say “Oh, you’re just another one of these poor girls who’ve been brainwashed by airbrushed models & actresses.”  As much as I like to think I’m too smart & logical to be affected by these things, I’m slowly starting to realize that my idea of how I should look has probably been more warped by such things than I’d like to admit.  To be clear, I’m not trying to look like the next VS model or to be as thin as the average actress.  I know those are unrealistic goals & that most of those women are airbrushed anyway by the time we see them.  But I do want to look the best I can & be the healthiest I can be because life is far too short to do anything else, & I know I need to get serious about achieving this goal NOW since I’d like to become a mom some time in the next year or two.airbrushing

With that in mind, I thought it might be beneficial for me to list out my current gym stats, partially because it will help me realize how much ground I’ve already covered.  At the beginning of this year, not to mention a few years ago, many of these numbers were only half of what they are now.  Perhaps focusing on the progress I’ve already made will encourage me to keep going.  I really wish I could say I’m one of those people who just LOVES to work out, but the truth is I’m not,  & I probably never will be.  I’ve learned to tolerate a little cardio as long as I have some pumping music to keep me motivated, & I really do enjoy lifting weights, largely because I can literally see & feel the results on my body, not to mention because of the increased confidence it gives me.  But even so, I still have to force myself to go to the gym or take a bike ride around my community.  I’d love to say I’m one of those people who just doesn’t feel complete without getting a good workout in every day, but I’d be lying if I said so.  Maybe that will happen one day, but I’m not placing any bets on it.

I actually like all the mirrors at the gym, but I still thought this was funny.

I actually like all the mirrors at the gym, but I still thought this was funny.

In any case, here are my numbers.  As I said, I’m hoping looking at these will help to keep me motivated on the days when my motivation is sorely lacking.  And if it helps inspire anyone else, then that’s just icing on the cake (& yes, I realize that is a terrible metaphor for a post about fitness, haha!).

To be clear, these numbers represent the normal amount of weight I do on each machine/exercise.  I can technically do more on some of them, but if I can’t consistently do at least 5-10 solid reps with good form, then to me it doesn’t count.

Chest press: 50 lbs

Seated leg press: 135 lbs

Incline shoulder press: 20 lbs

Flies: 60 lbs

Hip abduction/adduction: 140 lbs

Lying leg curls: 65 lbs

Deadlifts: 80-90 lbs

Bench press: 40-45 lbs

Tricep press: 85 lbs

Lat pull down: 70 lbs

Rows: 60 lbs

Wow, what an inspiration!   I want to be like her someday.

Wow, what an inspiration! I want to be like her someday.

One of my favorite things about my current gym is that I often see dads (& sometimes moms) working out with their teenage sons (& occasionally daughters).  When we have kids, I know my husband & I are going to do the same, whether our kids are boys or girls.  However, this gym does not offer regular classes of any sort.  Considering I work night shift & my schedule changes every week anyway, it’s very unlikely I’d ever participate in any classes even if they were offered.  Frankly I’m too self conscious to take a class & I really much prefer to work out alone anyway.  Maybe that’s illogical because I’d probably stand out less in a group than I do when I’m one of  the only girls (or sometimes the only girl) in the weight room.  But in any case, I know how my mind works, & I know that organized exercise routines just don’t do it for me.  I have to find my own pace & my own routines in order to be motivated enough to keep working.  Nonetheless, I’m hoping this post will help me to hold myself more accountable to getting my workouts done more consistently every week & to keep pushing myself to truly be the best I can be.


When 10 lbs Feels Like Mt Everest

This is going to be a hard blog post to write, partly because it’s just a painful subject for me & partly because it’s frankly embarrassing, but sadly I think it is necessary for me to write & share this in order to make the changes I need to make.  Or at the very least I think it will be helpful in holding me accountable to make those changes.  And let’s face it, I need all the help I can get or I wouldn’t be in my current situation.weight loss

What is my current situation, you ask?  The answer is I’m about 10 lbs overweight.  Now I know that in a culture where obesity is basically the norm, complaining about being 10 lbs overweight might sound a bit absurd, but throughout my life I’ve always tried to hold myself to higher standards than the norm, not just in regards to health but with everything.  But the sad truth is that over the past few months I’ve noticed that my clothes don’t fit as well & I just don’t like what I see in the mirror.  I’m hoping no one other than my husband has noticed this, but that isn’t really what matters anyway.  What matters is that I know I’m not as healthy as I want to be (or should be) & I don’t have the confidence I had when I was just a few pounds lighter.change yesterday

I was doing some research on healthy body fat percentages for women, & if my bioelectric scale is at all accurate (it’s consistent if nothing else), then I am only 1%-2% above the upper end of the ideal body fat percentage for women my age.  Additionally my BMI has been fluctuating between 24.9 & 25.2 which is right on the borderline of healthy weight vs overweight.  Now I fully realize that BMI is not a very reliable indicator of true health status, especially for men, but even perhaps for women like me who lift a fair amount of weights.  But nonetheless I know that when I was just 5-10 lbs thinner my BMI was squarely within the healthy range & I can’t help but feel that I was indeed a healthier size then.  Not to mention I felt better about my appearance which inevitably led to greater confidence in all aspects of my life.  Call me vain if you like, but I think that is just biology at work, just human nature if you will.Ideal-Body-Fat-Percentage-Chart3

The upside is that I know for a fact that I am stronger now than I’ve ever been because I can lift more weights than I ever have in the past.  So even though my workouts have been pretty sporadic over the past year or so, I’ve still gained some muscle.  So that’s encouraging.  I’ve also started biking over the past month & I can already tell a difference in my cardiovascular stamina, so that too is encouraging.

However, the bottom line is my waist is too fat.  Unfortunately every single member of my family, on both sides, gains weight right around the waistline.  Not only is that, in my opinion, the most unattractive place to gain weight, but more importantly it is also the worst for your health because belly fat promotes higher blood sugars which promote inflammation which promotes heart disease, among other ills.  Sigh . . . The upshot is that, even though my mom would never wear a miniskirt, she still has amazing legs even in her 50s.  And even though I’ve got a few pounds to lose, I don’t have an inch of cellulite, never have had any, & probably never will, (if I take after my mom, that is, & statistically speaking that’s the likeliest outcome).belly fat

Now I know some people will say I shouldn’t be so hard on myself, but the fact of the matter is I do need to be hard on myself if I want to stay as healthy as I can & feel as good as possible about my body.  My husband & I have been talking a lot lately about having kids & how we can best prepare for that eventuality in the next few years.  One of the things we’ve agreed on is that we both need to be in the best shape of our lives before even thinking about getting pregnant.  We have several reasons for this.

First, we want to set the best possible example for our children so that they too will lead healthy lives.  Second, there is research that shows that the weight/health status of BOTH parents at the time of conception can influence the child’s weight/health status throughout their entire life (in other words, if one or both parents are overweight when the child is conceived, that child will be genetically predisposed to being overweight as well).  Third, we have enough foresight to realize that trying to lose weight & become healthier AFTER having kids is a ludicrous idea.  We don’t want to start out with a deficit so to speak.  We want to have good healthy habits in place so that when the challenges of childcare arise we are less likely to continue with or fall back on unhealthy ways.

Wow, what an inspiration!

Wow, what an inspiration!

The good news is I’ve been in this situation before & resolved it in a fairly short amount of time.  I know there are no “tricks” or magic secrets to losing weight.  It’s actually very simple: eat healthier (more protein & veggies, fewer empty carbs), drink more water (quite often thirst is disguised as hunger), & exercise more (particularly weight-lifting because that boosts the baseline metabolism).  It worked in the past & there is no reason to think it won’t work change

The trouble comes in following my own damn advice & realizing that there is no one to blame here but me.  Yes, there is far too much candy floating around the hospital, & yes, night shift is notorious for leading to weight gain for a variety of reasons.  But I like to think I’m stronger than those temptations.  And yet I won’t be until I stop blaming my circumstances, making excuses for myself, & generally floundering in self-pity. choices

So this blog post is my, albeit pathetic, way of saying no more excuses.  No more blaming my circumstances or anything or anyone else in my life.  I’m an adult with a good job, a wonderful husband, & a nice house, & someday I want to be a mother, & a good one at that (which is not to say that overweight women can’t be good moms . . . obviously I am not that short-sighted).  But if I want that to make that dream come true then I’ve got to live up to my own standards & lose these 10 lbs or whatever it is.  It might not even be that much.  All I know is it feels like Mt. Everest right now.  But people have climbed Mt. Everest, & by golly, I am going to be one of them (in this metaphorical sense only).excuses

P.S. To my friends/coworkers who may read this, please, please slap my hand if you see me eating anything that could be considered junk food.  I sincerely mean that.  I will thank you for it.

The Hilarity of the American South

Though I’ve read a great deal of books & watched lots of movies about various parts of the U.S., I’ve lived my whole life, all 20-some years, in the South.  I’ve traveled a little to the Midwest & New England but never for long enough to really soak up the culture or get intimately acquainted with the lifestyle.  As some of you who know me in real life may be aware, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the South.  I love the weather, the flowers, the people (several of my friends & coworkers from other parts of the country have confirmed that Southerners really are friendlier by & large), the food (well, some of it), the music (again, some of it), & the geography.  But I hate the narrow-mindedness & the religious fanaticism (those two tend to go hand-in-hand, surprise, surprise!) that seem to abound in the South more so than anywhere else in this country.  I also hate that the South leads the nation in so many negative things including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, teen pregnancy, poverty, & high-school drop-out rate (shocking, I know, that these are all really quite connected).  Furthermore I hate our less than stellar history with civil rights & race relations & would be willing to bet that gay rights are suffering more in the South than in other parts of the country.  I could write a whole series of posts on the reasons why the South is the winner of such dubious “accolades” but that’s not my purpose today.  Someday I’ll write that post & probably offend a lot of people in doing so, but today I just want to write something light & witty that will hopefully make my readers smile.

map of the south

As an aside, my mom always told me “you might as well laugh as cry.”  As a nurse this has come in very handy at times.  When a patient is pooping on the floor, trying to kick me in the face, or screaming at the top of her lungs about how incompetent the hospital is, it is very tempting to run out the door crying.  Having the ability to step back & smile & laugh in spite of the difficulties is about the only thing that keeps me sane at times like these.  Don’t get me wrong: there have been plenty of times when I have cried as a nurse; I have experienced tears of sorrow, anger, & frustration & everything in between.  But with time I have slowly learned to laugh at the madness more often than cry

The same can be applied to life in generalI think about this a lot in relation to my mixed feelings about the South.  I do not want to downplay the serious problems we as a society are facing in the South.  Obesity, teen pregnancy, & poverty, among other things, are serious issues that we must address if we want to progress as a country.  I’ve discussed some of these issues on here previously & I intend to write about all of them someday, maybe even cohesively.

But in any case, my purpose today is to share some of the oddities of life here in the South that my husband & I have observed over the years.  Some of these may not be truly unique to the South, so if you’re a reader from some other part of the country, please feel free to enlighten me.  At the end of the day, one of the greatest signs of strength of a person or a society is the ability to laugh at one’s self.  So with that spirit in mind here are some of the hilarious things we’ve observed over our time living & traveling in various part of the South:

  • The fatter, harrier, & older the man, the more likely he will mow his yard shirtless in full view of the neighbors & all passers-by.  My neighbor across the street is guilty of this right now as I am typing this.  Thankfully I am not easily offended, just easily amused.  I should also add that this is the same neighbor who very soon after we moved into our house could quite often be found sitting shirtless in a lawn chair in the middle of the street watching for a raccoon that was apparently wreaking havoc on his roof.  He said he had set a trap on the roof & was hoping to watch the raccoon get caught in it.
  • Just yesterday we saw a little girl playing with a walker in the front yard of her house.  I had to wonder if her grandmother or grandfather actually uses that or if it was just given to her, for whatever reason, as a toy . . . Hmmmm.
  • In the South dumping old house-hold appliances such as washing machines & refrigerators in the back yard is completely acceptable.
  • Not once, not twice, but multiple times in various parts of the South we have observed people going down the road on a motorized wheelchair.  And not necessarily “in town” but on “back roads” too.
  • You’re not really in “the country” until there are no lines on the roads, not in the middle or on the side.  Maybe this is true in other parts of the nation too, but it’s definitely true in the South, at least the parts with which I’m familiar.  How any local government thinks this is safe is beyond me.
  • Earlier this spring we observed two beagles mating at a rest-area on the side of a major interstate.  Their humans were standing about two feet away, watching intently.  This was in full-view of all passers-by . . .
  • In the South if you want to criticize someone without feeling awfully guilty about it, just add “Bless her heart!” or “I love her to death, I really do” to the end of whatever you’re saying & suddenly your judgments are no longer considered mean-spirited.  If you’re Southern, you know you are guilty of this at least occasionally; just smile & nod.
  • Go to any small town in the South & no matter how run down everything else is, no matter how few jobs are available in the area, there are two things that will always be in immaculate condition: the churches (of which there will be so many as to make you wonder how there are enough people to fill them) & the fire dept/rescue squad.
  • Having old tires in your front yard is pretty common in the South.  Some people even grow flowers in them.  Nothing like landscaping with old rubber!

flowers in tires

  •  In our hometown, there is a certain field on the side of the major highway that cuts through the county that is littered with old tractor trailers.  They have been there for as long as we can remember.  No one seems to know who owns them or why they are there.  But they don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.  And it is only when you’ve been gone for a while that you realize just how junky this looks.  But it’s not unique to my hometown.  I’ve seen this same phenomenon elsewhere in the South.
  • In certain areas of the South, we do not have garage sales.  We have yard sales.  Driving around going from yard sale to yard sale is a pretty common activity for Southerners on Saturday mornings.  As teenagers my sister & I held a yard sale along with our best friend.  We made $18 between the three of us.
  • There are certain women in the South who call everyone “Sweetie, Honey, Darling, Sugar,” or some variation thereof.  On occasion I’m quite guilty of calling everyone “Dear” myself.
  • If you’re really from the South or have spent enough time here, you will know that there are dozens, actually hundreds, of variations on the Southern accent & almost all movies & TV shows don’t imitate even one of them correctly.  I’ve heard some pretty amusing ones over the years & I love listening to all of them.
  • Elementary school gym classes in the South quite often include square-dancing.
  • On Election Day in 2012, we happened to be in our hometown for a funeral.  While my husband was pumping gas, an older gentleman started chatting with him & asked who he’d voted for.  My husband responded “A man named Johnson.”  This gentleman had apparently never heard of the Libertarian candidate & assumed my husband was talking about LBJ.  Nevermind the fact that LBJ is deceased & that my husband is about four decades too young to have ever voted for LBJ . . .
  • While on the way home from summer camp one year, my youth group stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break.  The cashier told us in no uncertain terms & with no apparent embarrassment that their bathroom had been shut down by the health dept but we were free to use the restroom at the gas station across the street.  That illustrious facility had a restroom with no functioning lights & as best I can remember either no soap or a door that didn’t close properly.
  • I should also add that it is very common to find Southerners riding bicycles at night in the middle of the road wearing all dark clothes & shoes & with no lights whatsoever on their bikes.  How there are not more auto-bicycle accidents is really quite shocking.

Southern passport

I could go on & on but I’ll stop now, hoping you’ve gotten a few laughs today.  One of the scariest things in life, to me, is the idea of staying in one place your whole life.  I know for some people that’s ok & I am not condemning that.  It’s just that I feel the need to explore as much of life as I can, & thus I consider myself blessed to have lived in three different places so far in my life, even if they have all been in the South.  I love the Raleigh-Durham area, where we’ve now settled, for numerous reasons, & for now we have no plans to leave.  One of the reasons I love this area is that it is such a cultural melting pot & does not share some of the more negative parts of the Southern experience while still sharing some of the more positive parts.  In any case, as I’ve said I have mixed feelings about the South.  Mostly I love it because this is my culture; it’s part of who I am, whether I like it or not, which is exactly why it pains me when I see some of the problems our culture is facing here.  But again that’s another post for another day.

I’d love to hear about any unusual or hilarious experiences you’ve encountered in the South (or elsewhere for that matter).