Friday, May 25, 2012

Cycling club: not an auspicious beginning

Last night I attended my first cycling club ride. It was not an auspicious beginning.

I joined the local club in hopes of finding others at my level to ride with. Someone who might be willing to do long distances at slow speeds. On asking about the different rides, I was informed that Thursday nights they had a slower “no-drop” ride of about 10-15 miles.

As they say, never bring a knife to a gunfight. In this case, I brought my beatermobile commuting bike instead of the road bike. The one I took is half mountain bike, half something that’s not quite a road bike, with mismatched wheels and one thumb shifter higher than the other on the handlebars. It's cobbled together from parts and pieces from multiple bikes the man in my life has scrounged over the years. Not only that, but I left the panniers on, stuffed with my work clothes and purse.

For a mellow ride, I figured it would be enough. It  became apparent quickly that not only was the ride going to be longer than 10 miles, their definition of “mellow” was a little less, well, mellow than mine.

We rode the bike path. I managed to keep up with the slowest rider, although I was running out of big enough gears to pull it off. From time to time the front group stopped and let us catch up. About eight and a half miles out, way the heck on the other side of town, I hit a grate on the entrance to one of the tunnels and felt my handlebar somehow somewhere else than it had been. When we caught up, I discovered that not only was it now 2 inches off-kilter to the left, the thumb shifters were in even more of an oddball position than they had been.

The ride leader was kind enough to pull out his tools and fix it, and we were off again. Against the wind on a hill, I made the fatal mistake of downshifting into the middle chain ring on the front. Didn’t take long to start falling back. (Remember the big gears thing?) So, I went for the big front gear again. It didn’t want to shift. I pushed it a little harder... and heard a snap. Front derailleur cable was flopping in the breeze, and the chain slipped quickly down to the smallest gear.

I’ve had a few bikes break on me, but never the same bike breaking twice on one ride. In front of people I barely knew. Not good.

At their next stop, I let them know I’d be cutting off the route and limping my way home at that point, as I’d never be able to keep up. They were very kind about it and concerned that I’d be OK. I reassured them I’d be fine, that I could get home from there.

I can’t even remember the young man’s name, but when I was in college I went on a date where the guy had not one, but two cars break down on him in the same night. He arrived at my house in a car with an alternator out. Mercifully, I lived on a hill so we could roll start the thing. We went back to his house to pick up his mom’s car and drove the 15-20 miles to the little town where the art theater was. We had a lovely time. On the way back, on a peaceful country road, the car up and died. We wound up walking to a farmhouse in the dark and asking to use their phone.

It was our first date. As I recall, I did go out with him again. So there’s hope for me with the cycling club.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Doctors and weight loss

Over on Dr. Arya Sharma’s blog, he’s pointing to a debate on whether doctors should stop prescribing weight loss. My first response is, in a word, yes. Need I say more? But more needs to be said. Let me put this into perspective. Imagine you go see a doctor and he says this to you:

“The symptom you have (body size) is not actually the problem of most concern (cardiovascular or metabolic issues). But since they're statistically correlated, we’re going to simply address the symptom, even if it is not currently bothering you or even if you have none of those other health problems. We will attribute every health issue you have to this symptom."

“Although you may see initial respite from the symptoms and any associated health problems, the treatment has a 95% failure rate over 5 years. In a significant number of patients, the problems will become worse after treatment.”

“You will also have a slight chance of developing a potentially health-destroying and life-threatening eating disorder.”

“There is an alternate treatment that carries very little risk we could try first. We will not.”

“If you are one of the 95% for whom this treatment fails, we will assume you are non-compliant and treat you as such. We will not look at other options to manage your health.”

“We reserve the right to withhold other medical treatments, such as fertility treatments and joint replacements, unless this treatment succeeds for you.”

“This will be time-intensive. You will be required to spend a large amount of time logging and recording your food intake and planning meals. You are to disregard any hunger signals your body gives you.”

“This treatment will be required for the rest of your life, particularly if you are one of the patients for whom it makes things worse. You may never be able to eat normally again.”

“Even if you gained weight incredibly rapidly with no change in your eating or activity habits, we will not look at other possibilities for the rapid weight gain until you have tried and failed treatment -- possibly repeatedly, and possibly not until the situation has become severe.”

Ready for treatment?

I'm grateful that the question is being raised in medical circles. I have to say that I will not argue that weight loss is inappropriate in every single instance. I realize doctors see people who have desperate issues that may require an intervention. Similar to leaving a thryoid with benign lumps alone, while removing one that has become cancerous. You don't do the latter lightly, but you do it if the benefits outweigh the risks.

However, in weight loss the risks of not treating are often exaggerated while the risks of treating are disregarded. I believe intentional weight loss is a bad approach for most -- particularly those who are overweight or obese and metabolically healthy. As a first-line treatment, I see no downside to joyful movement and healthful foods, no downside to Health at Every Size, but I see a lot of pitfalls to intentional weight loss.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Falling in love with exercise

Century training update: 55 miles for the week ending May 13, 32.5 miles longest ride. 

Saturday was a tough day to get out on the bike -- gray, cloudy an 40 degrees out. I'd been out late and I was tired. I delayed, delayed, delayed ... another cup of coffee ... check Facebook again. I started humming "Hit the road, Jack" in an effort to mentally boot my butt out the door.

Made it out the door I did, and went 32.5 miles, alternately freezing in the wind and sweltering in my black windbreaker when the sun broke through the clouds. I was tired, and it hurt. Last weekend was easier -- longest ride was 27 miles on a gloriously sunny, calm morning. Two+ hours of joy. But even in the 40-degree chill Saturday, I still felt the same joy.

I love to be on a bicycle, and I don't know how you would stick with exercise unless they fall in love with it to get you through the tougher days. Kind of like a marriage. If last weekend's ride was a wonderful date night with my hubby, the latest ride was a full-day session of grouting the tile in the sunroom.

Golda Poretsky over on Body Love Wellness did a wonderful post a few days back about breaking up with your diet as if it were a bad boyfriend. Is your exercise program a jerk as well?

Does it start out by telling you you're fat and ugly and have to change? Does it cause physical injury? Does it demand you exercise when exhausted? Spend every waking minute or money you don't have on it? Do you dislike all the people you end up hanging out with when you are with it?

Maybe it's a pretty decent one, and all your friends (even your mother!) like it, but you don't care that much for it. Yoga is like that for me. I have never once felt good after a date with yoga, so I've taken that one out of my list.

Or maybe it makes you feel wonderful, makes you healthier and happier, but you're told (or think) it's not good enough for you because it's not carving flesh off your frame. You might end up ditching it and go back to one of those jerks who promises (perhaps falsely) to make you skinny.

I like to think not only of intuitive eating, but also of intuitive exercise. One of my favorite bloggers on that point is Chris Serong at Move and Be Free.:

I don’t care what shape you are, or what shape you want to be. What I’m about is appreciating exercise for the simple sake of enjoying movement and feeling more awesome. What else is the point?
I enjoy feeling my legs spin on a bike, and it makes me feel awesome. That is the point, indeed.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Why I don't calorie count: Home cooking edition

I’ve often read that the only solution for the nation is for all of us, or at least the two-thirds of us over the magic 25 BMI, is to carry our notebooks with us, recording every morsel we eat and calculating exactly what our body needs based on some calorie estimator we found on Google. In the past, before I found HAES, I’ve tried it. No longer.

Today at lunch  I fixed myself a big salad with tomato, cucumber, black beans, green onion, radishes and a vinaigrette made with half an avocado. (Note to self: try different type of vinegar next time. Avocado + balsamic = ugly, ugly, ugly.) On the counter, I had a big pot of bean soup going in the crockpot made with homemade broth and grass-fed ground beef. Fresh rosemary, too. Oh my, the kitchen smelled good. Tonight I’ll have it with some cheese and homemade cornbread.

All right, then, weight loss geniuses -- you want to try keeping a calorie count on all that?

How would I even do this on the soup? Calculate the grand total of everything I put into it, measure it out in cups before I serve it, and then measure out my own portion? Do you have any idea what a royal hassle that would be?

If I microwaved one of those sad little 300-calorie "healthy" frozen meals for lunch, instead of my lovely, lovely salad, I'd have one line item in a food log with an exact (if we can trust the food manufacturer) count. I'd also have a belly full of ingredients I cannot pronounce. I'd also be ravenously hungry in an hour.

Before I found HAES, I tried food logging from time to time because, well, I was supposed to, wasn’t I? Breakfast smoothies convinced me it was a really, really bad idea. Typical might be yogurt, flaxseed, apple, half a banana, spinach, cucumber, avocado and milk. All to be written down and looked up and recorded. Took me longer logging it than it took to make and drink the smoothie and wash the blender. One of those cloyingly sweet, artificially pink ones from the grocery store? Just read the back of the label and you're done. And again, hungry in an hour.

I was raised by a Mother Who Did Not Measure in the kitchen, and if I ever wrote a cookbook, half the ingredient amounts would say "what looks right" with the other half specified "as much as you like." (I like about 4 cloves garlic, minimum.) With the exception of baking, I rarely measure anything. So not only would I have to write the novel that was my dinner afterward, I'd have to slow down on the front end and try to figure out how much of everything I was using.

I'm not going to give up my varied, healthful, wonderful food just so I can reassure someone that I colored within the lines and stayed under my allotted number of calories. I will not give up the pleasure I take in cooking creatively out of what I have on hand. I'm not going to suck the joy out of my meals.

Not worth it. So not worth it. Not doing it.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Proud (but tired) member of the Headless Horde

I had such a blissful bike ride Sunday that I’ve been meaning to write about falling in love with exercise. Instead, this week I feel crushed under “The Weight of the Nation.”

 Not crushed by its predicted impending adipose apocalypse, but by the fat-bashing already underway. In the PR blitz leading up to its release, the news headlines keep screaming louder and comment snark keeps getting nastier.

Kathleen Parker at the Washington Post piled on (trigger warning!), terrifying us with the prospect of 110 million obese people waddling around. Oh! Wait! They’re not waddling, they’re in the fast food drive-through line, where you always find them. (Are there no thin people eating fast food?)

And of course, probably 90%+ of the stories include a photo of someone’s fat torso, to elicit disgust. It’s the dreaded march of the Headless Horde -- and I am a member of it. I’m usually just shy of obese right out of the shower, but by the time I get clothes on my back and food in my belly -- the condition I’d be in for any official weigh-in at a doctor’s office -- I’m over the BMI 30 line. I'm not fat enough that someone is likely to photograph me without my permission and publish the image of my beheaded body, but I meet the definition.

I’m not out on the ramparts of health and size acceptance. I lurk around the edges, maybe share a link to a story on Facebook, comment on a few blogs and maybe write a post or two. But still, this latest round just makes me feel tired. It's hard not to feel drowned out amid the hysteria.

When the stories and comments fly, they are talking about me. I’m outside the proper box on the BMI chart. Columnists think they know my life trajectory of sloth and gluttony even though they do not know me.

So, in solidarity, all I can say is that I am not just a member of the Headless Horde, I declare myself a proud member. March on.