Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fat and Happy (No, Really!)

As you may have surmised by the blog name Sweet Sassyfats, I'm not what you would call a "slender" woman. I'm not what you would call an "average" woman. Heck, I'm not even what you'd call a "heavyset" woman. To give you a clear picture of where I fit on the body-size continuum, I must refer you to Gabriel Iglesias' six levels of fat: Big, Healthy, Husky, Fluffy, Damn!!, and Aw, Hell No!!!

Let's just say I've been hangin' out on the corner of "Damn" and "Aw, Hell No" for most of my adult life. But since I grew up on the corner of "Healthy" and "Husky," I've always struggled to fit in to this anti-fat society by doing things that "normal" people do, like having friends, going out in public, holding down a job, and walking up a flight of stairs without clutching my chest and calling out for Elizabeth.

In the past, my periodic commitments to fitness were tied to a weight-loss goal. Anyone who's taken a few turns around the dieting cycle knows the pattern:

Day 1: I'm gonna run a mile every day and eat nothing but vegetables for the rest of my life!! Then I'll get skinny and life will be so perfect! Squee!
Day 2: Yay, running!!! Yay, vegetables!!! I can't wait until I'm skinny and my life is all rainbows and unicorns. Squee!
Day 3: I'm on a roll!! But I think I'll just walk that mile today. And I'll try some of those new vegetable recipes I found online yesterday. Just to keep things interesting, you know? But I am sooo committed to my new healthy lifestyle! All the hard work and sacrifice will pay off some day when I am skinny!!! Squee! 
Day 4: God I'm tired! Maybe I should just listen to my body and do a 10-minute walk instead of running a mile today. That should be OK, right? Sigh. Oh goody. Veggies for dinner. Again. This had better be working. I'm doing it all for you, skinny-ness. Some day, you will be mine.
Day 5 - Weigh In: Is that all I lost? Are you fucking KIDDING me?!?!?!?!?!? You know what? Just... screw it!!! Where's my cheesecake?? Where's my remote?? I gotta go lie down!!!

Or something like that. Well my friends, about a year ago I stumbled upon Health At Every Size, which advocates ditching the scale - and the related self-loathing - and engaging in healthy behaviors, just cuz. Fed up with hating myself for being fat, and armed with my new found knowledge of HAES, I decided stop letting the scale dictate my self worth and my behavior. I decided to engage in healthy behaviors for the sake of making my body, well, healthier. And I've discovered something wonderful: when I eat right (most of the time) and work out at the gym regularly, it makes me feel happy.

Yes, you read that right. Eating healthy foods and exercising four to five times a week makes this fat-bottomed girl feel happy. Not deprived. Not punished. Not longing for the day that I can end the stupid diet and eat like a normal person again. Happy.

As a side-effect of these healthy habits, which truly have become habits now, my body shape has changed. When you've been as fat as I have for as long as I have, people tend to notice when you start shape shifting. Wanting to be all positive and encouraging, people keep telling me I look fantastic, and asking me how much weight I've lost. You should see the looks on their faces when I say, "I don't know. I don't track it. The scale makes me crazy." Surprise. Confusion. Disappointment, even.
What?? How can a shrinking fat woman ignore the almighty scale when she's obviously working so hard? Doesn't she want to measure her progress?? How will she know if she's working hard enough??

Well my friends, it's easy. I've learned that the scale can cause way more harm to my fragile psyche than good. When the numbers on the scale do not move down as far as I've decided they should, I feel like I've somehow failed. That my efforts aren't worthwhile. That I should just give up. I lose sight of what my real goal is: improved health and fitness, and that's just not good. So now I measure my progress in new and exciting ways: overall energy level, strength, stamina, and flexibility. As long as I'm doing OK in those areas, I'm a happy camper.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I also measure my progress by the blood work I get every three months. Thanks to my genetic makeup and a lifetime of screwing with my metabolism through calorie restriction, I have the OMGDEATHFAT co-morbities of Type II Diabetes and Hypertension. I gots me them badges during an insanely difficult time in my life, when I was "managing" my astronomical stress levels with coffee, cigarettes, high fructose corn syrup, and lots of cussing. Turns out not to have been the best course of action for stress reduction. Shocking.    

As poor as some of my health-related choices have been over the last 38 years, most of the ones I've made in the last 2 years or so have been pretty darn good. My overall energy level, strength, stamina, flexibility, and empirical lab results have all significantly improved, and I feel healthy and fit on most days. Will I ever be skinny? Aw, hell no. Will I always be OMGDEATHFAT? I dunno. But as long as I keep my eyes on the prize - true health and fitness - I'll be OK.     

Saturday, October 22, 2011

And That's Why I'll Never Be a Kindergarten Teacher

Once upon a time I thought I wanted to be a Kindergarten teacher. I was in a transitional state, having just left Berklee College of Music and my dreams of rock stardom behind, and not sure what I wanted to be when I grew up. I got a part-time job at the local mall and enrolled in community college because, according to my Dad, I was going to finish school one way or another. Goddammit.

While working at the mall, I met a lot of freshly-minted teachers who were trying to pick up some extra cash in their spare time. The teachers I met there seemed to love their day jobs and I started to think that I'd like to hang out with little kids all day, too. So I signed up for a bunch of early childhood education classes and forged ahead with my newly-formed plan... until I dropped out of community college halfway through the semester so I'd have more time for working at the mall and reading Stephen King novels. Priorities, yo.

My parents need to chill. I got my life all figured out!

But more on my misspent youth later. I've told you the partial tale of my educational shenanigans so I could lead you to a recent Monday, when I chaperoned Daughter2's Kindergarten class to the pumpkin patch.

It was a beautiful fall day in Southern Maryland, full of sunshine, cool breezes, and ragweed. A perfect day to load up on Claritin and visit a local farm. I've been at this parenting gig for nine whole years now, but this was my first class trip and I was excited. I envisioned a day of fun, learning, and memory-making with Daughter2 and her little friends.

There were enough adults on the trip that I only had to keep track of two kids: Daughter2 and a sweet little girl who could not sit still to save her life. Yes, 5-year-olds are typically wiggly little creatures, but this one did the wiggling of at least three or four kids all at once. Must be why she was my only other charge.

Anyhoo, we did the standard pumpkin patch stuff - going on a hayride, picking out a pumpkin, and trying not to get stung by ginormous bees who did not appreciate our visit. Before we knew it, it was time for the one part of the trip I actually dreaded: the corn maze. And this wasn't just any old corn maze - it was a 9-acre corn maze full of twists, turns, and little nubby things poking up out of the ground that make you trip. 

Before the tour guide let us into the corn maze, she told us there were two paths to the end: the short way to the left, and the long way to the right. Among the grown-ups, you could hear murmurs of, "Short way, go left." Among the kids, you could hear exuberant cries of, "Long way!! Long way!!! Mom, is this my right?" There was one energetic Mom among us who took pity on the kids and offered to take anyone who wanted to go the long way to the right. She counted heads, memorized faces, took names, and led the charge.

It was late in the day, we'd been in the sun for a few hours, and my blood sugar was starting to tank. I knew deep down that traipsing through a 9-acre corn maze was NOT a great idea. Did you know that low blood sugar can cloud your thinking and completely eff up your judgement? Yep, that's how I ended up following the herd on the long route and hoping for the best.

Since I could hear the kids' enthusiastic shouts and Energetic Mom's periodic head-counting, I let myself slow down. Right about the time a handful of adults said, "Screw this," and led their disappointed kids out of the corn field and onto the farmer's driveway, I decided to start taking left turns so I could meet Daughter2, Little Friend, Energetic Mom, and all the others at the end of the path.

Shortly after I started taking left turns, I found myself alone. And lost. In the middle of a 9-acre corn maze. Seized by Mommy guilt for letting Daughter2 and Little Friend out of my sight, and kicking myself for not stocking up on enough emergency Skittles, I just kept turning left until I finally made it back to the start of the maze. Defeated, I walked to the side of the corn field (quickest way to the finish line!) and waited with all the other parents who had bailed. 

I found a shady spot to sit, scarfed down a granola bar, and wondered how Daughter2's little legs were holding up. I imagined her tired and scared, crying because her Mommy had abandoned her. (Mommy guilt is a strong emotion.) Just about when I decided that I was the worst field trip chaperone in the history of the world, Energetic Mom emerged from the maze with all the kids who had gone with her.

See what corn mazes can do to you?
I know it's too late to say, "Long story short," but all I remember about the bus ride back to school was telling Little Friend to sit down and keep her hands to herself approximately eleventy bajillion times. As I heard peals of laughter from all around the bus as the kids told each other fart jokes, I felt immensely relieved that I don't have to spend every day with a classroom full of children.

I believe that children are our future. I also believe there's a special place in Heaven for people who voluntarily spend oodles of time with multiple pieces of our future every single day. Because if it were me, I would totally look like this at the end of each day:



Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Darken My World. Please.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have an unhealthy obsession with the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures. Not like a dangerous stalker-type obsession that ends in bloodshed and jail time (honest!), but more like that of a harmless paranerd who can envisiualize herself attending a Ghost Adventures Convention, dressed in full costume of course, and then asking Zak, Nick, and Aaron about the minutest details in episodes they’d forgotten had even aired.

I wonder if this one comes in my size...

And if that opportunity ever actually presented itself, I’d have a panic attack at the thought of even thinking about considering the remote possibility of kinda sorta maybe seizing it, and then I'd spend the rest of my life regretting the missed opportunity. Cuz that’s how I roll, Dawg.

In late September, Zak Bagans published his first book, Dark World: Into the Shadows with the Lead Investigator of The Ghost Adventures Crew. Since I follow all the Ghost Adventure Crew members on Twitter, as well as oft-mentioned members of their production posse, I’d read Zak’s hype-filled tweets leading up to the book’s release. I’d seen the TwitPics of the final cover design before the book went to print and of Zak holding his personal advance copy when he picked it up from the publisher. I’d read all about his book signing at this year's Scarefest. I’d gone to Amazon and read the sneak previews when directed by Zak’s tweets. What I read in the sneak preview confirmed what I already knew: I had to read this book

I started to preorder the book on Amazon months in advance at Zak’s Twitterfied urging. Then I looked at my bank balance, sighed in resignation, and decided to wait. As the publication date drew near, I again visited Amazon to preorder the book. Again I looked at my bank balance, sighed in resignation, and decided to wait. Finally the publication date was upon me, and I decided to visit my friendly neighborhood Barns & Noble to get the hard copy in my hands ASAP. I looked at my bank balance, let out the most colorful string of expletives I could on such short notice, and decided to wait.

For the first several days after the book came out, my Twitter feed was littered with Zak’s retweeted pictures of fans holding their newly-purchased copies of Dark World. There were online reviews praising the book, which I'm sure existed solely to rub in my face the fact that I was not engaged in the act of reading the book right that second.

Bastards! But that's OK. I am a patient paranerd, and eagerly anticipated my next payday so I could finally lay my hands on this book.

Payday came. Payday went. Bills got paid. Groceries got bought. Cars got filled with gas. (Don't get me wrong, these are all good things.) My planned book purchase? Yeah right. The elusiveness of this one small purchase began to make me feel agitated. Like I had a teeny-tiny pebble in my shoe that I could neither locate nor shake out. I knew that book was out there, and I knew I had to read it, and I knew it would continue to elude me.

Then I remembered something: There is a place where even broke-ass book lovers can take home as many books as their chubby little arms can carry without forking over any cash: THE LIBRARY!!! (You have to say it in a deep echoey voice and follow it with the superhero ditty, "Dun da DAAAA!") I went to the library's Website, ran an author search for Zak Bagans, and there it was: an entry for the book I so desperately needed to read. But my celebration was halted in mid-happy dance when my eyes rested upon the word, "Unavailable." Someone had checked it out as soon as it had arrived at the library. Bastard!!! Oh well, to the waitlist I went.

I know it's too late to say "to make a long story short," but fast-forward to yesterday. I'd finally bubbled up to the top of the list. Miracle Man picked it up for me when he took Daughter1 and Daughter2 to the library after school. I spent the rest of the day in sweet anticipation, knowing that my wait was almost over. I got home from work, saw the book on the kitchen counter, and smiled knowing that after the chi’drens were asleep, that book’s ass was mine.

You lookin' at me?
You know how when you have any type of plans for after your chi’drens go to sleep, they somehow sense that it’s a good night for them to demand your attention for each and every tiny little thought that crosses their brains until they finally drop from sheer exhaustion? Yeah, me too. By the time they were done with all the whining and shenanigans, I was too tired to even go downstairs to retrieve the book, let alone start reading it.

Dark World has been in my posession for for more than 24 hours, and it remains unopened on my kitchen counter. I can hear it calling my name, but I know if I crack it open now I'm in for a lonnnnnng night of reading. Then tomorrow I'll be in for a lonnnnnng day of trying to stay awake at my desk. And if I fail at that I could be in for a lonnnnnng stretch of being unemployed. Which would totally eff up my plans to not be perpetually broke any more. Le sigh.

So for now, I must delay gratification for a more suitable time. This Friday I will watch the newest Ghost Adventures episode. Then, finally, after what seems like eons of waiting, I will sit down start reading this book. And I will be a happy paranerd.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Innaugural Blog Post

I've been thinking about starting a blog for a long time now. The process of finding a blog name that wasn't already taken and setting up my profile was overwhelming enough to make me wonder if I'm clever enough to keep a humor blog. I suppose time will tell.

Soon enough, I will be littering cyberspace with my brain droppings on parenthood, the fat-fit lifestyle, and my unhealthy obsession with Ghost Adventures. In the meantime, I had to put SOMETHING out here.

If you're reading this, welcome! And if you're not, that's OK too. Won't be the first time I've sat here talking to myself...