Own Your Beauty!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Note on Fat Shaming and Stigma

I read this article on New York Times today and after reading through all 14 pages of comments, many of which were incredibly cruel, hurtful and the epitome of what the article was trying to speak AGAINST I felt compelled to post a comment with my own experience and thoughts. And because I feel like the subject of size, weight, fat, and the shaming and hiding that so often comes with that isn't talked about enough, I felt compelled to share it here. Somehow weight has become the last acceptable prejudice, and even if it isn't always spoken about openly I think it is important for people to hear opinions and truths beyond just the "what diet I'm on now" talk. Take it or leave it.


I read through all the comments posted so far, as painful as it was. I would probably fit into what some of these cruel commenters would term a "fattie". I lost weight on occasion, but it never stayed off and I was being taunted as young as preschool for my weight (even though when I look back on pictures I was solid, but certainly not fat) I take after my father, strong build, linebacker shoulders, broad hips.

Do I eat to much? Yes...without a doubt. I have also dealt with intense enotional issues through my life since I was in preschool that I believe I have dealt with through food, through gaining weight to create a protective shield around me. When I did lose the most weight I was 19 and in an emotionally absuive relationship with a man who would taunt me for my weight and punish me if I didn't continue to exercise and lose weight at a rate he felt was appropriate. When we broke up I was 175 lbs, a size 12, the smallest I had ever been in my life, and miserable beyond belief. I started eating and stopped exercising again as my own ridiculous way to "pay him back" for the pain he caused me. I regained the 100 lbs. I lost in a matter of 2 years.

But guess what...I was also dating someone after this who would stop and get double quarter pounder meals from McD's on the way home from work as an afternoon SNACK before coming home to eat dinner, would eat 2-3 candy bars every afternoon, drink 2 liters of soda on a regular basis, eat a whole package of Oreo's at night, and never gained weight and stayed what you might term a "healthy" weight, while I would diet like crazy, trying to avoid the temptation of these foods in the house, and be LUCKY to lose 5 lbs. in a month. I trained for a year, running 15-20 miles a week, eating healthy, exercising twice a week with a personal trainer, ran a half marathon, and I still never got below 250 lbs. So yes, I truly do believe some people are genetically more disposed to lose or gain weight than others.

My big question - why is obesity SUCH a massive issue in the last 30 years? Have we as a society suddenly become lazy, gluttonous. depraved people who lack moral character and willpower as a whole? Or is there something bigger going on? It isn't safe or feasible to walk or ride bikes places anymore thanks to poor city and suburban planning. Food manufacturers continue to find new ways to cram more calories into the foods we eat and make us want/need to eat more. Our foods are more often becoming products of chemistry rather than products of natural farming leaving our bodies dissatisfied and craving more. We are working longer and longer hours, without breaks to go move, without needing to be as active to complete our jobs, without the support to go workout on our lunch breaks (if we get them). And yet the societal fat shaming increases at the same time that same society is making it less and less natural to be slim.

Sounds like we need a full shift in thinking, priorities and actions! That includes stopping with this false moral superiority over those who you deem to be less worthy than you, based on class, size, gender, or whatever you find the most offensive. And it also includes holding our food manufacturers responsible to end their manipulation of our food supply. And yes, it also includes making time to move and be active a priority, within our families, our jobs, and our society as a whole. It also means being accepting and loving of others instead of taking your own insecurities out on those around you.

BTW - I ran 3 miles this morning, ate organic oatmeal for breakfast, homemade chicken soup and roasted veggies for lunch, haven't had fast food in probably a month or more...doesn't make me any better or worse than anyone who didn't exercise or who ate McDonald's for lunch. And I still weigh 250 lbs. Maybe after 29 years my body is just comfortable there, maybe someday I will lose weight again, maybe I won't. That also doesn't make me any better or worse than anyone else.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Making choices

I get $120 a month in SNAP food assistance – that is my grocery budget for the month.  I really don’t have enough extra money to do much extra shopping over that.  I sometimes mess my budget up by eating at the fast food places on campus when I didn’t have time (didn’t take the time) to pack myself a lunch or dinner but that is $5-$7 that I just don’t need to spend when if I take that time to plan ahead I can bring my food.  It helps when I have a day like today with no commitments that I can actually take the time to do food prep for the week (or two) so that is what I am doing. 

Right now I have a number of projects completed, going or planned for the day that hopefully will make my next week more successful than last week (my tummy and budget won’t allow me to eat convenience mart tater tots for breakfast anymore!)

  1. Instant Oatmeal – rather than spend way too much on the instant oatmeal packets loaded up with weird chemical crap, I bought a tub of quick oats and a bag of tropical dried fruit mix ($1.20 for the oats and $1.50 for the fruit) and mixed it all together in a big bowl with a dash of salt, some brown sugar and cinnamon and then portioned it out into ziplock baggies.  For about $0.25 a serving I got 12 individual oatmeal packets that taste better and are a lot better for you.  I just take it to work in the morning, dump it in a mug, fill it with boiling water from the tea pot, and instant breakfast!
  2. Bagel sandwiches – Bread just doesn’t hold up if you make sandwiches in advance, but toasted whole wheat bagels do!  Premade an entire bag of bagels into turkey/pepper jack cheese sanwiches, wrapped them in saran wrap, and tucked them right back in the bag for quick lunch grabbing.
  3. Chicken – I scored a MAJOR deal with a 10 lb. bag of chicken leg quarters for $4.50.  I put them all in the crockpot with an onion and some water and I am just letting it cook all afternoon.  Once it’s done I will strip the meat, put some in the fridge and freeze the rest and have precooked chicken for whatever quick recipe I want it for in the next 2 weeks.  Then the bones are going right back in the pot with some celery that is too limp for snacking, the last handful of baby carrots, and some herbs to cook on low overnight and turn into stock for chicken soup.
  4. Brown Rice – So simple, but I put a pot on to cook an entire bag of brown rice so it is already ready.  Again, some for the freezer, some for the fridge.  Handful of shredded chicken, scoop or brown rice, some roasted veggies, topped with salsa makes a quick and easy dinner bowl!
  5. Greens – Another score at the grocery store was 2 big bags of kale and mustard greens for $1.50 each.  But they need to be cooked today, so they will be stewed with some turkey sausage, onions, garlic, tomatoes and lemon juice to make a fabulously healthy meal with enough for 3-4 meals packed with the great green veggies I so often miss out on.
  6. Muffins – I made KILLER blueberry muffins yesterday for my awesome cast to snack on during rehearsal.  But since I gave all those away I am making myself another batch, but with some tweaks to make them a bit more hearty.  Namely using 1/2 peanut flour to add some protein heft and tummy staying power!  I am also tossing in some orange cranberries since I am low on frozen blueberries.  But I know they will still be yummy.
  7. Cookies – Because if I don’t have some sort of treat I end up caving to overpriced icecream on campus.  But homemade peanut butter, chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat flour will hit the spot for a post-rehearsal nosh!
  8. Bread – I haven’t had a batch of bread dough in my fridge in awhile but I am almost out of my massive stash of store bought bread I somehow ended up with so it is time to mix up another batch for the fridge.  Especially if I am making chicken soup, gotta have some homemade bread to go along with that!
  9. Cornbread – I have gotten addicted to making homemade jalepano cheddar cornbread.  It is so easy and so yummy!  I am thinking of cooking up a batch of ground turkey with some taco seasonings to add into the muffins to make them almost full meal or hearty snack items. 
  10. Pasta salad – $1.50 dried tortellini is my lifesaver…when I have nothing else in the house boiling up with with a quick homemade cream or tomato sauce.  A can of salmon an a can of chickpeas hiding in the back of my cabinet along with a bag of frozen veggies will make this a pasta salad dish I can pack up and rely on for another couple of easy lunches.

Whew!  I am tired just looking at that list!  But here is where the choices come in – I did my grocery shopping yesterday and spent the last of my food budget until I get reloaded in 2 weeks.  So the food I have in my fridge and cabinets HAS to last me for 2 full weeks.  Things like the muffins and cookies I can make and keep in the fridge or freezer and they will be good for 2 weeks.  Even brown rice and chicken I can freeze and pull out when I want to use it.  The turkey sandwiches won’t stay good forever, so I figure those will be lunch this week and I will make the pasta salad next weekend for week 2 lunches.  But I only have enough cornmeal left for 1 batch of cornbread – so do I make it this week because it would go great with the greens, or do I make it next week as more of a stand alone item?  Do I use all my fresh veggies this week and then be more lacking in veggies next week, or do I try to stretch them and risk them going bad?  Basically my choices are, do I cook everything today because I know I have time but risk it going bad, or make it all today and risk eating all the “good stuff” this week and then be eating nothing but eggs and chicken soup and ramen next week. 

And of course my biggest paranoia is that I will just run out of food and money before I can afford to go shopping again!  But realistically I know this won’t happen because even if I do run low on food (which considering how much I have to work with for 2 weeks is unlikely) I have proven to myself that I am capable of searching in the depths of my cabinets and freezer and making something from nothing when called upon.  So maybe this is one of those learning experiences where I just need to trust myself, go with my gut instinct (which is to cook as much as possible today while I have the time and then freeze what I won’t eat in the next 3-4 days) and believe that I am competent and confident enough to make it work.  And avoid Panda Express at all costs – because the Panda and me don’t get along.  It sounds like it will be a good idea, and then that part of my body that used to hold a gallbladder says WRONG!!  THAT WAS A TERRIBLE DECISION!!  Sorry Panda, we gotta break up, this is just a dysfunctional relationship I can’t continue.  Bring on the greens and cornbread instead!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Food as an act of love

I know this isn’t exactly a new concept – mothers around the world have known this for years (and every time I go home for a visit I am very thankful for that!) but it really struck me this morning how much I embrace this concept.  I love to cook.  I love being in my kitchen, puttering around, pulling out whatever random ingredients I may have squirreled away in my cabinets or refrigerator, playing with ideas, and then sitting down to enjoy the (usually) delicious creations that come from my imagination.  I am not much of one for recipes.  I do have several cookbooks but I can probably count on both hands the number of times in my adult life I have actually cooked from a recipe.  But my best cooking happens when my heart is full of love.

Just in the past 2 days this has been demonstrated to me very vividly in 2 different ways that got me on this train of thought.

Me and my stage manager ladies all dressed up in Atlanta last month

Last night my dear friends Jessica and Deanna called me.  We are all stage managers working on 2 different shows at school right now.  They were in the middle of their big, hellish, 12 hour tech rehearsal and I had just finished my 5 hour rehearsal with my cast.  They called me up to see if I wanted to join them for dinner, and Deanna kind of jokingly asked if I could cook for them.  Now, I had JUST walked in the door, hadn’t even taken my shoes off yet, had no clue what for sure I had in my house, and I could have viewed this as a pain or a chore or said “Hell no! But I will meet you and go to Taco Hell or Sonic the Gut Buster”.  But instead I got that happy feeling because I knew that no matter what, I could pull together a meal from what I had in my house that would be a whole lot healthier, tastier, and more soul fulfilling to send them back into another 6 hours of insanity at the theatre.  So I said “Come on over…I will have dinner for you in 15 minutes”. 

Here is what I pulled together without a glance at a recipe:

  • Very first, I pulled out 2 bags of dried cheese tortellini that I always keep on hand and dropped them in a pan of boiling water to start cooking.  Seriously, $1.50 a bag from Walmart and it beats the ones that cost twice the price for half the amount at the grocery store!  I never let my stash drop below 2 bags because it is the simplest meal when I am short on time and motivation.
  • Next I grabbed an onion, cut it in half, diced it and started sautéing it in olive oil, then when it started to get soft added a spoon of chopped garlic, because everything good starts with onion and garlic sautéed in olive oil!
  • I found 4 pieces of bacon and chopped it into pieces and tossed that in with the onion to cook up a bit, because everything is also improved by the addition of bacon.
  • Once all that looked pretty well cooked I pulled out 1/2 a bottle of wine from my fridge and gave a good glug of that in the pan and another good dash of lemon juice, 2-3 Tb. of butter and a big handful of fresh broccoli florets and let it simmer for a minute or two.
  • In the meantime I used a little tupperware and did a slurry of about 4 Tb flour and 1/4 cup of half & half I had hiding in the back of my fridge.  Once the broccoli looked a little tender I stirred the flour slurry into the mix and let it start to thicken a bit. 
  • The mix obviously needed more liquid so I grabbed some milk and poured in a bit until it looked a better consistency.  At that point the pasta was done so I also poured about 1/2 cup of the pasta water in the sauce and just let it keep simmering for a bit to thicken and blend the flavors.
  • When my friends arrived I added the 1/2 bag of cooked chicken strips Jessica brought and the remnants of a couple bags of mixed Italian cheeses and parmesan, turned off the heat, stirred in the drained tortellini, added a little pepper and…DINNER! 

All this took less than 20 minutes from start to finish, I never once looked at a recipe or cookbook, and I might not ever make that sauce exactly the same way again, but it was absolutely delicious.  Maybe not Cooking Light material, but a lot healthier (and more satisfying) than burger and double order of onion rings or Taco Bell’s signature 88% meat blend Smile  Real food, prepared with joy for my good friends.  Being able to create that for them wasn’t an imposition, it was an act of love  to be able to offer that and then share their company while we all enjoyed the fruits of my labor.

Then this morning was a completely different way for me to realize how food can be a way of showing love and care, but this time for myself.  I woke up in a good mood, took the dog out to breath some fresh spring air, and wanted to do something more than just toast a bagel for breakfast.  Since it is my one day off from rehearsals I decided to take the time to make myself real breakfast.  I rustled up a couple extra slices of that bacon from last night.  While that was cooking I mixed 3 eggs with a dash of the remaining half & half, a pinch of dried thyme, salt and pepper.  Once the bacon cooked I pulled it out and drained the excess grease.  I added the eggs to the pan and scrambled them up with just that hint of bacon flavor, a sprinkle of cheese and a piece of whole wheat toast on the side. 

This was my way of being able to show love for myself.  That I deserve the time and care to create delicious food for ME and not only when other people are around to appreciate it.  So now, with all the doors and windows open to welcome in the cool spring air, my Pandora radio station playing some Michael Franti and Carol King, my dog curled up on my blanket, and me ready to dig into some homework before the week starts up again, I am feeling pretty darn content, happy, and loving today!  However, I may start trading me cooking dinner for the happy recipients getting my resulting dishes done, because the sink full of plates and pans is less loving Winking smile


Nerys says hi and happy spring!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sicky sickerstein :-(

I am sick...I have fought it hard, but I think it is official. It went from a couple weeks of beautiful spring-like weather here in the mountains to rain rain rain and it brought this nasty head and throat bug with it. I have done SO GOOD at not being sick the past year! And I used to be teased by my mom for having the world's worst immune system because it seemed like I was sick constantly! But I am realizing that I was probably just a lot more eager to jump on the slightest symptoms to stay home from work when I was doing the corporate thing, and now that I am doing what I love and the stress level is so much less I am more willing to push through it and not succumb so easily to illness. In any case, I haven't been really sick much the past year so feeling this sick now is really getting me down :-(

I ate chicken soup for breakfast that I had made in December and dug out of my freezer (yes, I am still eating off the food I made over winter break!) and I brought a stash of green tea and Advil to get me through the day. Fortunately I don't have class today so I am just curled up at the front desk at work with my shawl wrapped around me, clutching my mug of tea, and trying to get some homework done.

We just launched into rehearsals for our last show of the season this week so I REALLY don't have time to be sick! Unless I am dying I can't miss rehearsal so miracle of modern medicine - do you work!! Although hopefully I should have some good news about this summer soon. I don't want to jinx it so I won't say much, but it looks like I will have some real professional theatre credits on my resume soon :-)