Health for its own sake

If you’ve seen me in person, it’s pretty clear that, like Meghan Trainor, I ain’t no size two.

I don’t want to be, either—not because skinny people are bad, but because with my broad shoulders, ribs, and hips, that would look weird. Like, really weird.

I could, however, definitely stand to drop a few sizes.

Now, I’ve been told that I’m beautiful the way I am. And I’m gonna toot my own horn here, but I really don’t disagree. To further quote “All About That Bass”, I’ve got junk in… well, most of the right places, anyway. I can stand in front of a mirror and have my first thought be “I look good!” in most situations. But there are a few places I have junk that I’d really rather not have it, or as much of it, anyway. From a previous weight loss journey, I can tell you that my body has more or less the same silhouette at most sizes, but a bit bigger or smaller depending on the weight.

(Yeah, I’ve lost weight before. Yes, it came back. That was not a happy time in my life. Or rather, the not-happy time fed pretty handily into gaining back some weight.)

But now, I’m getting married, and there’s all this stuff out there about looking perfect for that day… and to be honest, that’s a part of the reason. I mean, I’ll look amazing anyway, so that’s certainly not the whole reason, or even the majority, but I’m not going to deny that it’d be nice.

I just want to be a little healthier. I mean, I’ve always been healthy as a horse, even (or perhaps especially? Despite?) concerning issues that are primarily weight-related. The most any doctor has ever been able to tell me is that it’s probably a good idea that I lose some weight. Sure, my blood pressure is good now, but it may not be. Sure, I may not have diabetes or heart problems or arthritis now, and yes, I know that losing weight in and of itself may not necessarily spare me any of those issues, but weight can be a factor, and gosh darn it, like any person, I want to make whatever effort I can to keep myself healthy.

I don’t really subscribe to the “Healthy at Any Size” ideology. There are a wide variety of sizes at which humans can be healthy, but one must account for personal variance (again, I would not be healthy at a size two) and admit that, at some point, organs, joints, and muscles start having difficulty operating. However, I also acknowledge that, going with the whole personal variance thing, it truly is more difficult for some people to gain or lose weight. Now, we as people can certainly help or hinder ourselves, but not all metabolisms burn or store equally. Sure, you want calories out to exceed calories in, but I swear there are people who can expend a hundred calories merely by yawning, and people who are lucky to expend one calorie yawning. (No, I am not a nutrition/biology expert. My guesses are probably wrong. It’s called hyperbole, people—you get my point. Anyway…)

Here, I guess I should note that I don’t really look at the scale for “healthy”, despite having talked about weight. I can do a 6:30 minute mile on an elliptical with rolling hills, level 5/10. (Usually, I do between 15 and 30 minutes, still with 6:30 minute miles.) I can do 110 kettle swings, 110 crunches, and still go back for a 45-second plank. I could probably skip rope for a good few minutes without really breaking too much of a sweat or breathing too hard. And when I start finding these things too easy, I up the difficulty. It’s more that I want to be fit, and weight does play a part in that. I want to keep on being able to climb stairs without breathing too hard (in fact, at work, I fast-jog up 4 floors to get a 3-oz cup of frozen yogurt. No jog? No fro-yo.) or running several blocks to catch the bus if need be.

But more than that, I want to be able to travel some with the fiancé and walk around all these awesome places. When we start thinking about kids, I don’t want a doctor to look at me and go “yeah, about that…” When we actually do have kids, I want to be able to keep up with them, and set a good example. And again, I know that, in the end, I might not be able to out-run, out-crunch, or out-lift certain conditions.

I also might not be able to out-healthy-diet them, though I try to keep that up, too–tonight’s dinner was a some of that sausage-veggie bake I love so much, and fire-roasted-tomato sloppy joe stuff on top of baked beans. Freaking delicious. I try to go heavy on the veggies, whole grains, and protein, and lighter on the dairy and starchy stuff as a rule, but I’m also a firm believer in a little indulgence so that I don’t grab a chai latte every morning or generally over-indulge on sugar when offered.

But even if I can’t out-healthy everything, putting in the effort does pay off. I sleep better. I feel happier. I feel more satisfied, confident, and fulfilled. I don’t feel so guilty about spending a little time playing video games. Life is just overall better. As much as I appreciate hearing that I look good, I appreciate knowing that I feel good even more, and most of all, that I’m being responsible and making the effort to stay that way.

Letting Your Kids Watch Disney Won’t Ruin Them, I Swear

Watching Disney movies in college gives you a rather different perspective on them than you had when you were little. Or, at least, the movies are a lot more understandable in light of the knowledge you gain as you go through school.

Some people are okay with this. It makes movies more enjoyable and easier to watch multiple times when you going, “Hey, I never noticed that before!” But I’ve also heard friends say, “Oh my God, these movies are horrible! I’m never letting my child watch them at a young age!”

When remarks like that are made, I’ve often said, “Hold on just a second. How much of that can you honestly say you understood when you watched that at five?” and about as often gotten back some stuttering about how it’s still in there and that’s not okay before the eventual grumble of “None of it…”

Often, it’s that people don’t want their children to learn bad behaviors. There’s also a protective instinct to shield young ones from scary or sad scenes. Honestly, I remember being upset at Mufasa’s death in The Lion King. I remember being scared out of my wits at Aladdin’s escape from the cave of wonders. I remember the Beast teaching me that anger can be a scary, ugly thing. I remember Gaston teaching me that being arrogant can get you your way, but it will make a lot of people think you’re a tier-1 jerkface.

See, the world isn’t perfect, and in those movies, no matter how dark they get, there is happiness. Often enough, the ending is happy. That’s the reward to the viewer for sticking with it. And when you think about it, things are happier now than they were when fairytales by the brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson were what children were expected to read or listen to. (We get such watered down versions of them today; if you read the original versions, there’s some REALLY dark stuff in there!)

Then, there’s also a huge feminist argument against a lot of Disney movies. I completely understand where that’s coming from. Really, I didn’t want to watch Snow White or Sleeping Beauty because I thought they were really, really boring.

Then again, with two older brothers and no sisters, I also grew up watching Star Wars and The Real Adventures of Johnny Quest and playing with Legos and Hot Wheels. I played Star Wars at recess with the boys, and I enjoyed my fair share of rough-housing, but I also loved to watch the pretty Disney princesses. It never occurred to me that society thought any one of those activities was “wrong” or “right” for little girls to want to do—I was just having fun! I invented stories with my dolls and stuffed animals, and I had fun dressing up in a tutu just as much as those activities I mentioned that are more thought of as boys’ activities.

Disney didn’t teach me how to be a girl, and that’s definitely not for lack of exposure. I freakin’ loved those movies and would watch them every chance I got. Heck, I don’t think I ever actually learned how to be a girl, which explains a lot, if you know me. What Disney taught me—what everything taught me when I was little—was how to be me, and to accept myself for who I am, and not let some Gaston mold me to his will or some Scar try to intimidate me into doing things I did not want to or should not do… you get the picture. (Side note: Disney also did not give me body-image issues. I came by those long after I stopped watching a Disney movie a day, and even now, I’ve never cared about how “fat” I am relative to an animated character. Or a live-action one, for that matter.)

I’m okay with the color pink. I like princess stories (though the princess can’t be a damsel in distress for half the book, or I just give up). And there’s a certain je ne sais quoi about the kitchen that keeps me in there probably far more often than is really healthy for me. But I also like the color blue, watching things explode, and working with power tools. Disney never said I couldn’t do both. But if they—or anyone—were to say that? I’d have a few rather rude suggestions for what they should do before continuing on my merry way.

So yeah, when I get around to having kids, they’ll totally be allowed to watch Disney movies. In fact, I might make them, even if they don’t want to.

Kidding.

Sort of…

Anyway, these hypothetical children will be allowed to watch and ask questions and form their own beliefs about what they can and can’t do, and I really hope that they, like me, don’t do things just because “that’s what girls/boys do—and the other gender doing them is wrong”, but because they want to. And I will try to keep my laughter at the less appropriate jokes down until they’re old enough to understand, then watch them possibly go through that same phase of horror/shock when they realize there’s a reason why adults find these things funny, and THEN watch them realize that it’s okay because they didn’t get it, and Disney didn’t ruin them, either.

Is It Sad That Finding The Right Pants Feels So Awesome?

Finding well-fitting jeans has always been something of a struggle for me. It’s no secret that I’ve, to use the clichéd but apt phrase, struggled with my weight. A lot. And for several years. I’ve pretty well got it under control now, but there’s no changing my body type, even now. I am, to put it delicately, thick-waisted. It’s pretty much a straight shot from under my arms down to mid-thigh on both sides of my body. On my skinnier days, maybe I’m a bit more concave, but not notably. As such, I have to buy low-rise pants, because, being that my waist does not nip inward nicely, or even much at all, they sit comfortably on my hips without the hems dragging on the floor and tripping me up, and/or without being incredibly baggy because I had to buy a size or two up to ensure that they’d fit in the first place.

Now, our story begins…

It’s the post-Christmas sales. I notice JCPenney has jeans on clearance. I’ve had good luck there before, I’m in desperate need of new jeans, and strapped for cash, so the deal is too much to resist.

About a half-hour’s work and about 6 pairs of jeans tried on later, I’m content to purchase a new pair of junior’s super-low-rise jeans. They’re a little long and a little loose being the size up from mine, which had already been cleared out, but I figure they’ll shrink up in the wash. I’m actually most annoyed about the pockets—their lack of depth leaves me wondering if I can even squeeze my lip balm in one, much less my half-brick of a phone.

A couple days and a wash later, I’m walking around in these jeans. I’m sitting down in them. And I feel… kinda bad about them. The hems drag, the waistband is still loose on me—I feel like I’m swimming in them, practically, and this is something I have almost never felt before. I scrounge for the tags and leave to return the jeans, hoping against hope that my size will have magically appeared, and I can just go home.

No such luck. Clearance means clearance in this case, and the only merchandise they’re clearing out, they already have on the floor. I try on about 10 other pairs of different brands, avoiding like the plague those that are supposed to sit at the waist. None of them work—about half of them, I can’t even pull over my hips for fear that I’ll tear the comparatively gauzy fabric. (Because clearly, just denim would never do—we must weaken it with cotton and embellishments and rayon! Okay, rayon’s fine—makes ‘em stretchy.) The ones closest to fitting have “artful” rips and runs, and some include some embroidery on the back pockets I just cannot put up with. Defeated, I return the pair I’d originally bought and leave.

On my way back, I head to a local department store on a whim. They tend to have good clothing—maybe I’ll find something there! Their major brand-name jeans (Lees and Levis) are the same sort as the ones I encountered in the mall. I don’t even bother until I find some marked mid-rise, which is better than everything else I’ve encountered so far. I grab a pair of those in a couple sizes likely to fit, and head to juniors’ jeans, which produces a few distinct possibilities.

Or so I think. I get to the dressing room, and one pair turns out to be skinny jeans. They look fine on some people, but not on me, and I pretty much refuse to buy any pants that are not bootcut. Another four either are too baggy around the legs or can’t even get past my hips (the one drawback to wearing juniors’ jeans—they rarely take large hips that taper to normal-sized legs into account), and the last—the Lees—fit well enough, but do pinch a little at the waistband. Figuring they’re better than nothing, I gather those and head back to juniors’ to sort through a little more of the jumble. Another couple pairs later, I realize I’m exhausted and it’s been an hour and a half and I cannot for the life of me find a more suitable pair of jeans than the Lees.

I give up. I shuffle dejectedly towards the front of the store, Lees in hand. They may have been the best pick, but the skin above my hips chafes a little at the mere thought of pinching as I break them in. And then, a rack of pants I’ve neglected to look at catches my eye with a sign proclaiming its wares (I will point out that “wares” was edited from “wears”, which I find hilarious) fifty percent off. I know that in the world of pants, this could mean I’ll still pay $150 for them, but, unable to resist the bargain, I take a closer look. The rack holds Dickies work jeans for women. “Work” probably means “sturdy”, I figure, so I run my hand over a pair. They’re rough, but gentle at the same time. In other words, sturdy, as I’d thought. I skim over the sizes available, noting that most are likely too big for me unless Dickies runs a size or two smaller than most brands. And then, the holy grail—three pairs in the three sizes most likely to fit me! I grab them, hold them in front of me experimentally, and muster up the energy for one last trip to the dressing room.

Inside, I cautiously pull on the middle-sized pair of jeans, nearly crowing with delight as they slide on easily over the leggings I often wear under jeans when it’s cold outside. They’re exceedingly easy to button, and so I tug at the waistband where it sits just above my hips, pulling it out experimentally to see if these jeans might just fall right off of me, warranting a smaller size. The legs are a little long, and so I am relieved when it seems I can attempt the smallest size I’ve acquired. I quickly change pairs, and nearly text everyone in my contacts out of sheer happiness when they fit perfectly, flattering my figure over my leggings. I crouch and jump and stretch to make sure they fit, nearly squealing in pure joy each time these jeans do my bidding without sliding to show my underwear, or pinching my belly, or causing me any sort of grief in general.

Now, for the final test. I stick my hand in its pocket. It keeps going. And going. And going for miles, it seems. (Really, it’s only about six inches deep, but I dare you to find any other women’s pants that are not cargoes with pockets that deep. There’s a reason women’s pants pockets are considered a joke in and of themselves!) By now, I am nearly bawling in ecstasy. Okay, not really, but I am on cloud nine. These perfectly-fitting pants are a privilege to wear, one I’ve long felt unworthy of thanks to body image issues even after making it to a healthy size. These pockets will fit the phone I will purchase when my contract expires next, one in the category of “phablet”—half phone, half tablet—and it is a honker, let me tell ya!

I nearly skip to the cashier. I can hardly pay for my jeans and race home fast enough. And now, here I sit, comfy in my jeans with my phone and lip balm in my pocket and gleefully pondering just how many more things I might be able to cram in before it bursts. The perfect pair of jeans is so hard to come by, but, by some miracle, Christmas or otherwise, I’ve found mine.