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.

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Knowledge is the Best Medicine

For the last 2-ish months, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. I had days that ranged all over the place—horrible, amazing, good, bad, meh—but overall, something just felt wrong.

I realized what I was missing when I was at Barnes & Noble this weekend. I wanted to go buy a book. Some book. Not any book—I’ve been reading a lot of the depressing (post-)apocalyptic stuff lately, and I was pretty sure that was part of why I’d been feeling more blue than normal.

Normally, I’d pick up a teen novel, because they can be light and funny, but hardly any of the new stuff is nowadays. B&N has sections for “Teen Adventure/Fantasy” (think the Maze Runner trilogy, anything Cassandra Clare, Victoria Roth’s Divergent series, anything Eoin Colfer, Allie Condie’s Matched trilogy… and the lovely Tammy P. hasn’t put out anything new lately), “Teen Paranormal Romance” (something tells me I need not explain), and “Teen Fiction”—where they put the not-quite-fantasy/adventure/paranormal romance stuff. And all of it looks dark as of late. Look, I get that life isn’t sunshine and daisies, but it’s not doom and gloom all the time, either!

Nothing new in adult fiction looked worth dropping a 20 or two on, I wasn’t really feeling manga, and sci-fi wasn’t doing it for me, either. I briefly contemplated a harlequin romance, just long enough for me to feel really, really bad about it. (No offence to those who like them! They’re just not for me, especially not after reading something last summer that claimed to be a romance but turned out to be basically the same 10 basic, unimaginative words to describe sex over and over again. I thought that it had to get better, or at least get more substance. It didn’t, and I want those 90 minutes of my life back.) I didn’t want movies or music, either—I wanted to read. So I wandered over to the science section, because I was thinking of getting Theodore Gray’s The Elements because chemistry rocks my socks, but, as I’ve said before, I didn’t have the fortitude or, quite frankly, the aptitude to go into it and really thrive.

But then, it hit me: this is the first time in years that I won’t be going back to school after three months. That’s a pretty sucky thought for me; if I could just get paid to learn whatever I wanted to in an academic setting for the rest of my life, I’d probably do it. But there are plenty of ways to teach myself outside of a traditional academic setting, and what better way to go about that than to do what I do best? (Read, by the way. I read best. I write well, but I read better.)

I grabbed James Gleick’s The Information: a History, a Theory, a Flood to see if it was something I might want. I did. Very, very much. (I still haven’t started it yet, but information is kind of a big thing for me. I’m very interested to see what all I learn.)

I had also grabbed a big book of crosswords—365 puzzles, to be precise. I have a vast store of random knowledge (and a good-sized vocabulary, if I do say so, myself. I’m also the most humble person on earth. Yup… Nope.) that has only grown in the time that I’ve been doing crossword puzzles, and when I saw the puzzles section, that part of my brain let me know that it wanted exercise.

Not that I’ve been hugely unhappy, but I’m the happiest now that I’ve been in weeks. I now know what I was missing, and how good it feels to use all that non-CS knowledge I have.

In other news (I like this, and I am probably going to keep using it): I let my boyfriend pick out my top for today. The man probably has a better sense of style than I do, so I’m okay with this. (It’s also pretty hard to mess up with me—I mostly have short and long sleeve tees in various colors.) He knows how to make things aesthetically pleasing in terms of design and color, and I happen to think the primrose-fuschia (it’s really close to this hex color: DB1A5B) v-neck I’ve got on is quite becoming. Like I said, I’m the most humble person on earth, so you know I’m telling the truth.

Don’t look at me like that!

:P

It could be worse

We all know the old saying about how misery loves company. We all know that things like being sad or feeling pain or getting rejected suck. Being mad is better. (Not by much, though.)

But you know what makes everything worse?

Being told that your pain doesn’t matter because somebody else is feeling pain right now.

Sorry, but other people’s problems don’t solve mine or yours or anyone else’s. It just doesn’t work that way. They also don’t negate them.

Well, unless it’s a “first world problem” like “My jeans didn’t come artfully ripped in just the way I wanted when I paid like 500 dollars for them!” or “My parents bought me a 2009 Jetta instead of a 2010 Jetta!” (Subtext: even though I don’t have a job and don’t appreciate anything else they do for me.) Then, I really have no sympathy for you.

But really, I’ve been told to not ever worry if my boyfriend does something that upsets me because at least he’s not abusive/dead, like I don’t have a right to feel upset unless someone’s life is in danger. I’ve been told not to be sad if I fail a class because at least I have an education. I’ve been told that I shouldn’t be upset if someone makes a sexual move on me that I don’t want because at least I’m getting the damn attention. My apartment can’t stay warm? At least I have a place to live. I have the flu? At least I’m not in the hospital.

Things could be worse; it’s so very true, but that does not negate what’s going on here and now. Things could be worse, but they aren’t, and so I want to make them better. But maybe I need to mourn. Maybe I need to get things off my chest. Maybe I feel like I’ve been beaten with a tire iron by the stupid flu and I don’t want to move.

My feelings are my own. Your feelings are yours. We all feel, and, a lot of the time, we feel differently than others. Our own feelings are, by and large, more important to us than the feelings of others, but that does not make the feelings of others any less legitimate.

Who am I to preach? Am I perfect? Hell no. I, too, have a hard time not telling someone to just get over something I have a different experience (or none at all) with. Well, I mean, unless it’s something I know is bad. I’d never dream of telling a victim of a disaster or a crime to just get over it. It takes time to move past (or at least through) these things, just as it does for anything. I just don’t see the point in hanging onto some things, but I try not to get in fights over it. I try to do my best to listen, and I say when I can’t anymore. I try not to say “It could be worse”, even when it could be.

It could be better, too, and I think I’d prefer it that way.

You Can’t Command Happiness

Have you ever had one of those days where nothing goes right, or something major went wrong at the beginning of the day? You’re feeling like crap, and quite literally nothing could make your day worse. Given that nothing could make your day worse, what is the last thing you want to hear?

Probably something that makes it seem like your problems mean nothing. Something like “Hey, smile!”

Apparently, this is something of a semi-common practice, telling someone who doesn’t look like they’re having a good time to smile, because, of course, if they’d just smile, everything would be better. Often (though not exclusively) directed toward women, it takes on a bit of an objectification element, like “There’s no reason a pretty woman should be sad—she’s pretty! What more does she want?!” There’s also the egotistical element of it: “You should smile because I’m gracing you with my presence.”

If you want someone to smile, maybe come up, introduce yourself, and get to know them? I know it sounds crazy, but the more you get to know them, the more chance you’ll have of saying something that will actually make them smile on your own merit.

As much as it sucks, we do need to accept that unhappy things happen, and that people don’t smile all the time. We all have problems in our lives, and a lot of them can’t be made to go away simply by being made to smile.

Some of you are going to groan when you read this, but the whole reason I’m thinking about this is a post off of Dear Blank, Please Blank: “Dear teenage girls everywhere, Chin up beautiful, you don’t want your tiara to fall off. (:”

Before I give you my response, I want to say that I know this was not meant in unkindness. Had it been, there would have been a lot more snark in there.

“Chin up, beautiful” is just another way to say “Hey, smile!”, which I hate being told. No, random stranger, I will not smile just because you asked. I’ll smile if I’m happy, and you telling me to smile is sending me in exactly the opposite direction. It’s like saying, “What are you sitting around looking not-happy (not necessarily unhappy; just not like you’re having the time of your life) for?” The “beautiful” on the end for me just sort of makes it sound like, “Oh, cheer up–you’ve got your looks, haven’t you?” as though teenage girls don’t go through stress, insecurity and heartache, and especially not about things other than their looks. And if the speaker is just going for the general “Someone out there must think you’re beautiful. I think you’re actually just okay/ugly”, then it’s downright disingenuous. Heck, even if “beautiful” refers exclusively to inner beauty, saying it won’t make someone’s insecurities about themselves magically disappear, not even if you say it over and over again, because that doesn’t necessarily make someone believe it.

It’s not that it was meant unkindly, and goodness knows we all need little acts of kindness in our lives, but “Have a nice day” or “I care about you” is, in my book, much more comforting to hear than what sounds like a command to look put together for the world, even though I might be going to pieces on the inside.

I wish that little sayings like this could make everything magically better, but sometimes, it’s cathartic (if not particularly nice) to just have a good cry.

However, I do rankle at effectively being addressed as a pretty princess. I’m not a princess—I’m a normal young adult woman with my own thoughts and feelings. And princesses are, too, I’ll have you know! We’re all entitled to be and to feel; to cast aside our masks when we’ve had enough and, à la Train’s “Meet Virginia”, scream “I don’t really wanna be the queen”/“I don’t really wanna live this life”.

And then, when we’re done doing that, we’re entitled to pick ourselves back up and go on living.

To Those Who Defy Fate, Glory

I will openly admit to anyone who asks that I watch anime. I usually get one of two reactions when I do this:

“Aren’t cartoons just for kids?” Well, no—unless the Simpsons, Family Guy, Futurama, and oh, let me think here… South Park are for kids, too.

“Isn’t that porn?” Oh, it definitely has a subset of NC-17 material. From what I’ve heard, I’m glad it’s not something that’s piqued my curiosity. But no, not all of it—not by a long shot.

Anime (and its comic-book counterpart, manga) span just as many genres as does your average library. Heck, I’m sure that for any book you could find in, say, Powell’s, you could find something on that same subject handled the same way in an anime or manga.

I happen to be attracted to a certain subset—the subset about how life goes on, even as it changes. Considering that I got into this whole scene as a teenager, this is pretty unsurprising. From the school-days stories of Fruits Basket and ToraDora! to the mystery of Spiral, from the adventures of FullMetal Alchemist and the political intrigue of Saiunkoku Monogatari to the… somewhat genre-defying but probably overall magical girl Princess Tutu, one thing has stayed constant: dealing with change.

I won’t bore you here with a billion different summaries of all the amazing things I’ve read and watched, though I highly recommend each of those and more, for what that’s worth. Instead, I’ll head straight to the heart of the matter.

As I’ve said before, I’d like to think I’m adaptable, but the truth of the matter is, I’m a big picture person, and so, big changes cause me great anxiety. I have a pretty nasty fear of the unknown, and when I try to conquer it all at once (my MO), it usually gets the best of me. Even so, things usually turn out fine, but my experience would be so much better if I could just relax and take life one thing at a time.

This hasn’t stopped me from forging on, of course. Through moving past (thankfully fairly minor and infrequent) middle-school bullying through the hormone-addled confusion of high school and onto college, where I’m supposed to have figured out my whole life, or so it seems, no matter the setbacks I’ve encountered, I’ve soldiered on because I’m just horrible at giving up. When I get sad or fearful, my first instinct is to get angry. It’s a coping mechanism of sorts. It gives me the courage to keep going; to do what needs to be done.

A few weeks ago, I was feeling pretty low, so I sat down to watch some Princess Tutu and just have a good sob-fest. After all, it’s good to just let it all out every once in a while. But no, even though this is a magical girl anime with a horribly bittersweet ending that has me reaching for my tissues every damn time, it does have a bit of grit to it; a bit of that fighting spirit. At one point (and repeated again later as an echo), the puppet Edel says this: “May those who accept their fate find happiness; those who defy it, glory.”

It’s an interesting little quote. The second part makes a whole lot of sense. We’re the heroes of our own stories, after all—why shouldn’t we fight what we might see as fate? And why shouldn’t we come out better than ever? When I can, I take that tack in life.

However, the first part is a poignant reminder that even when we have to accept things as they are, we can be happy. It’s all a state of mind, after all. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ever be sad. Grief and sorrow are completely natural, but we can’t let them rule our lives. At the risk of sounding self-important, I am going to include my own flowery quote from a fanfic I wrote a little under three years ago:

 “Why does the rain have to fall?”

 “So that when we see the sun shine again, when we feel its warmth, we realize just how much we take it for granted, and we are all the more grateful for its presence.”

Yes, it is horribly romantic—this was part of a romance because I’m a not-so-closeted romantic and I like my fluffy happy endings. I refuse to apologize for it, though, because it’s the best way I can frame my point. There are good things and bad things and meh things in life, and through it all, we just have to keep going, because that’s what we do.

And some day, we’ll see the sun again.