Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2017-05-05

LA Fat Fitness: My First Spin Class

I’ve been brewing this blog series for a year! When I first moved to LA from Brooklyn I didn’t have a gym membership (EVERYBODY, the new radically inclusive gym in Northeast LA, wasn’t open yet) and I was in the middle of a big transition. Exercise is crucial to my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical well being. I didn’t know what to do in the absence of my previous exercise favs at the Bed Stuy YMCA so I decided to dabble in various modes of free or cheap fitness that LA had to offer.

I have since become an aerobics instructor at EVERYBODY and dabbling is still important. I learn from different fitness genres ways to strengthen my teaching and movement techniques to share with my students in class and readers (that’s you!) all over the world!

What it is:
You’ve probably heard of Spin before. From what I understand, Spin is being lead through a workout on a stationary bike, switching resistance and positions to get a full body workout. There are a lot of bells and whistles in Spin classes that make it more engaging/distracting from working out. This is really what group exercise is all about, learning how to make movement motivating, enjoyable and effective.

Like golf, people who love Spin REALLY LOVE IT. I have passed classes at other gyms before and heard the high energy music and yelling encouragement of an instructor but was not lured. I enjoy a recumbent bike and use that as my supplement to my go-to cardio on an elliptical. I have always been wary of stationary bikes. Years ago I heard a personal trainer giving advice to a fat woman on a TV show that recumbent bikes are better for supporting your knees. Multiple Spin instructors and friends tell me that Spin is actually not hard on your knees.

Since the bikes for Spin are always lined up against the wall in the MOVE room at EVERYBODY (so many caps in the branding) I kept thinking I should could* give it a shot.

What it Was Like:
My first class was with McKay from EVERYBODY. McKay and I have a special bond and I genuinely think it was fate that had their class right before mine on Thursdays. I’ve so enjoyed hanging out with them and having McKay take my class so I trusted them to walk me through my first Spin class.

Like hiring a lawyer, what you need and want in a group fitness instructor is skill at the modality/area of practice and a genuine feeling of trust and (maybe if you’re lucky) enjoyment of that person. There’s no point in hiring a lawyer you don’t trust and no point in going to a group fitness instructor you don’t trust and enjoy. Because I already liked McKay and would totally spend an hour or more with them, I figured their class would be great.

I arrive and they met me at a bike, personally walked me through setting it up to my specifications. We are both “G” height (where the seat meets your hip) and by using my forearm to measure, we put the seat at a 4.

I’m a G4 not a G6.

They also gave me some tips for first timers. They teach class in sections, three positions and three intensities, and showed me how to change intensity on my bike. They told me the saddle would probably be difficult and uncomfortable the first few classes and I could get up and shake my booty to relieve the pain. They reminded me to go at my own pace and gave variations on positions to use when on the bike during certain exercises.

The experience of Spin class was interesting. It is solid cardio, got my heart rate going and I was covered in sweat by 10 minutes in. I generally wear a regular push up bra to exercise because I find them more comfortable but this was the first modality where I think a sports bra to keep them strapped down was essential. Something about pumping velocity on my legs was making the girls almost hit me in the face.

We did various push-ups on the handlebars while spinning and some stretches, some getting out of the saddle and climbing mountains. I really liked that the harder intervals were over very fast, something other students in the class echoed was especially gentle of McKay and different from other instructors.

I adored McKay’s playlist, from Lizzo to Le Tigre to Britney and Beyonce, some of the songs overlapped with songs I’ve used in my class. I loved McKay’s motivation and spirit, they are just such a joyful sweetheart that it made me want to keep going.

I wouldn’t say that I LOVED Spin or it was the best thing ever, but I enjoyed the experience because of McKay. I also kind of get why people like Soulcycle so much and I’m curious to try that modality out and see what makes it special and spiritual. People in the class asked if I was coming back the next day, and these are folks who go to Spin a lot. I know I’ll regularly attend McKay’s Tuesday class but I don’t see myself being a multiple Spin classes per week person.

Class was 37 minutes of deep cardio with 5 minutes of stretching. The stretching was my favorite part, we used the bikes to balance for deep stretching.

So sweaty.

Cost:
$14 a la carte and gets less expensive as you buy class packages or get an unlimited menbership at EVERYBODY.

Special Equipment You Need or Might Like to Have:
McKay gave me a saddle cover/butt pad to help ease the pain of the saddle. I have my eye on this butt pad if I get really into Spin because it looks very cushy and it’s purple. You just bring it with you and put it on your saddle.

The next day, my butt hurt a lot, not unlike how it feels after a long bout of sex following a dry spell. You know how good that feels for your butt to hurt and then to be reminded of something hot every time you change positions? It was like that except more like, “Oof, Spin.” McKay said that was the best compliment about their class they ever got.

In addition, I suggest bringing water and a towel, everyone else had a sweat towel and I was for sure missing that.

Fatphobia Content:
None! EVERYBODY trains staff members about body diversity and McKay talked about our “personal fitness goals” but never talked about losing weight or body size and that is 100% correct for being inclusive.

Teacher’s Strength(s):
I really loved the individual attention at the beginning and the permission giving to take it at my own pace. I also like the honesty about what might be challenging, like the butt hurting and showing me how to shake my booty to release it.

McKay is also sweet and enthusiastic and teaches with their personality, which makes it feel more like a hang out and less like uncomfortable sweating.

Would I do it Again?

Yes, I will totally Spin again.

McKay is exclusive to EVERYBODY right now. You can take McKay’s class at 6PM Tuesdays, 6:30PM Wednesdays and Thursdays. McKay is always there a half hour early to get folks comfortable and is available for individual interval training on the EVERYBODY bikes outside of class. Follow McKay on Instagram! Or email them directly at McKay.Nield at gmail. Pronouns: They/them or he/his.

Additional Notes:
Taking a class in the same room I teach in was actually great because I could experience the ever-changing sound and light equipment from a student perspective. There’s definitely something UP with the wireless headset microphone because I had a hard time hearing more than every other word McKay was saying. I’m now deeply on a hunt to figure out how to improve my sound on a wireless headset and/or start bugging Sam the EVERYBODY owner to get us a better headset. I say a lot of really meaningful stuff during my classes (McKay does, too) and I want people to be able to hear every word!

*I always try to replace my shoulds with coulds, I find it more gentle and supportive for me as I work to eliminate negative self talk.

2016-05-04

Six Reasons Why I Love Aqua Jog

Hey there! I’m doing a pre sale for my Reiki Infused Tea Line now through May 10th. I have some important financial goals for the sale that also affect this website–I really need to move my blog to a new host and install a new theme because of these ongoing back end buggy issues that are not yet fully resolved. I also need to begin the build out for the website for my tea line, so this is all very tied together. The whole project will cost thousands of bucks, but I’m tackling it one thing at a time. The tea is delicious and supports me living my dream to support my art and activism through healing work. Please consider buying a tin for you or a gift, or sharing about the sale on social media!

sixreasonsiloveaquajog

I approach all exercise from a Health at Every Size approach. Since this term has been co-opted by so many folks, I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means that all people, no matter what their size, should be able to have access to good, nutritious food and should have access to move in ways that make them feel good in and about their body. Health at Every Size to me includes physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The way I feed and move my body affects all of those things for me.

Given that I am in a state of transition, having moved to the West Coast recently, it was super important that I find ways to move my body. There was a while where working on the house was all about the body–the renovations on my attic were so corporeal. In my last update on the transition post I talked about how I started swimming in the local pools. I am okay to swim laps but I find it a little boring. Really using a HAES approach means I want to be excited about the exercise I’m doing.

Since the local community pools have lap swimming and recreational swimming together and very few rules about what you have to be doing in the lanes, you can totally do aqua jogging instead of just swimming laps. Once I realized that I went for it.

I started aqua jogging at a class at my former gym the Bed Stuy YMCA. It’s taught by a community volunteer every morning at 9AM who has a spinal issue that really benefits from her exercising a lot but does not allow her to exercise on dry land. Aqua jogging takes water aerobics to a new level. Other than aqua boot camp (also at the Bed Stuy Y) I have not felt such a complete workout from water aerobics.

Here are all the reasons I love to aqua jog:

1. Working out in water is great low impact high resistance activity.
For folks who are recovering from injuries or who have tender bodies for a variety of reasons, the pool is awesome for movement. As an efficiency loving Capricorn, I also appreciate that I can work out in a pool and get more results than from the same period of time on land. Also, if you are the kind of athlete who is often nursing injuries that keep you from staying in shape, aqua jog is a great tool in your repertoire to help!

grandmotherspool

2. The movements are really easy and help you diversify your workout so you don’t get bored.
Here’s a basic primer on aqua jogging. It includes instructions on how to do it if you don’t have any equipment.
This is not the workout I do but it is one to consider using the shallow end for part of it.

I learned to aqua jog from my instructor in Brooklyn so I do different movements based on what I learned from her, including backwards jogging, cycling, and different arm movement intervals with water weights. There are SO many videos on you tube to learn techniques for aqua jogging. I work hard not to link any videos or web content that have a weight loss focus because that is not the tone for my blog. (No shade to anyone who has weight loss goals–you do you!) If you can “take what you like and leave the rest,” there’s a lot out there to sift through in aqua exercises. I couldn’t find any videos that did what Dinette does but if I ever do find them I’ll come back and edit this post to include them.

3. You can listen to music.
When I was aqua jogging at my Grandmother’s pool it was amazing because I just threw on a Spotify playlist of songs I could sing along to and would enjoy working out to. Since she doesn’t have a clock outside I timed my workout based on how many songs it took to get to 35 minutes or more. (My personal workout timing goal is 35 minutes or more. On days I don’t feel like going past it I don’t, on days I have more energy I just keep going.)

waterdumbellWhen I finally got my dumbbells to add to my aqua jog workouts it felt so nice to get back to them! I didn’t realize how much I missed having my dumbbells after I moved away from the Bed Stuy Y!

4. It helps save your hair!
Swimming is great but I have high maintenance, tender, color-treated hair. (I’m not naturally Ginger Spice haired–my pals Garnier Nutrisse and 20 vol + bleach help me look this fabulous.) It is really difficult to keep hair dry even in a swim cap. “It is a fact that no swim cap can keep your hair 100% dry every time” says Swimcapsguide.com. The best you can do is a harm reduction approach to keep it kinda dry.

Mine is a cutie pie vintage rubber hat. When I’m swimming I manage to get about 50% of my hair wet which is better than no protection. I also have a classic Speedo cap (they come in so many colors) I got when my vintage swim cap was on a moving truck going from Coast to coast. The same exact results from swimming–about 50% hair wet.

Thus I prefer to work out with my head above water 100% of the time and aqua jogging helps me do that. I still wear the cap in the community pool because of splashing children and sloppy swimmers in adjacent lanes. My hair stays 100% dry that way. At Grandmother’s when I was just using a top knot to keep my hair out of the water it got damp around the hairline by my neck.

5. It’s easy to mix in ab and core work to an aqua jog routine.
I find it way easier to do sit-ups and crunches in the water than on dry land. This helps me strengthen my core and helps to alleviate back pain and lots of other barriers to dry land exercise. I do a version of this without the barbell under my knees.

aquajogequipment

6. The equipment is pretty inexpensive and not a barrier to activity.
I did aqua jogging with no equipment for the first three workouts in our local pool and that proved to me I was serious about moving forward. I get paid a gift card every few months thanks to thoughtful blog readers (THANK YOU!!!) who buy their Amazon products through my affiliate links. Even if you don’t buy what I link, if you buy anything at all I get a tiny percentage commission and then that comes in the form of a gift card. I keep a link on the sidebar in case you’re ever interested. I usually use the money for something I want to try for my blog, so this time I bought aqua jog equipment.

I totally love what I got. In my Brooklyn aqua jog class we used water weights and floatation belts, so I got a six piece aqua fitness pack that included those plus some resistance gloves for only $29. I was nervous about the floatation belt being too small (some of the ones they had at the YMCA were not made for a plus size waist), but this one had plenty of room to spare on me and my waist is about a size 22/24.

The kit even comes with a routine! I’ve incorporated some of those moves into my workout and enjoy it!

I’ve used the weights and the gloves to jog and prefer what I can do with weights but the gloves are a good alternative for certain exercises.

aquaglovesThese are the gloves that came with it–kind of like having duck feet for your hands.

Another alternative piece of equipment I found in my aqua jog class that some of the folks brought in addition to what the YMCA supplied was Aqua Runners which provides more leg resistance for a harder workout. I look forward to stepping up my game (pun intended) at a later date with these $25 babies. They come in lavender!

It can be a little bit hard to be the fatty at the pool swimming laps and it can be even a little bit harder being the fatty at the pool doing weird water exercise with weird equipment. However, I try to mitigate my intimidation by not concerning myself with what people think, recognizing that every young person that sees a hot fat girl with tattoos and a pin-up girl bathing suit and vintage swim cap doing her thing and working out is possibly empowered. And also, because my self care is waaaaaay more important to me than what people’s judgments are.

As Prince said, “I don’t really care so much what people say about me because it usually is a reflection of who they are.”

PurpleReignVery excited about my Prince memorial teas (one caffeinated tea and one herbal tisane) and the wisdom they will include is going to be a prototype of how I will do the wisdom component for my teas in the future.

2016-04-27

LA Transition Month 3: I Started Swimming

We’ve officially been LA residents for three months! I got my CA Driver’s License finally. I got my DL when I was 17 and living in the Bay Area, so they managed to find my old record and give me my old number. (Big Brother is real.) I had a little disagreement with the entirely pleasant clerk who took my application. I stated “red” on the hair color question. However, I actually identify my hair color as “Ginger Spice.” She had to fight me about whether I am blonde because when I was 16 and got my permit I was blonde. I don’t identify as blonde but I guess because of bureaucracy that’s what is happening on my ID. Lots of people don’t have their true identities on these documents and I’d rather work towards a third no gender marker on IDs than self-selected hair color.

IMG_20160413_194959I guess with the bangs now I look more blonde than ever, other than in high school.

I was stressing about taking the test because I know some folks who have flunked the first try, so I wanted to just get it. I needed my license in order to go to the Medical Marijuana dispensaries to use my prescription I got back in February. I’ll post about the process, it is fascinating and has really helped me physically, mentally and emotionally. For anyone getting their CA DL I suggest reading the manual once through and doing the practice tests online. I’ve had to take written tests in most of the states I’ve been licensed in, having hopped from CA to NJ to PA to NJ to NY in my life, but never felt as stressed as I did this time. I think I’m just tender right now and prone to stress.

I passed on the first try after reading the manual a few hours leading up to my DL appointment, and while I was waiting. It still took two hours of waiting in lines to get my license in spite of the appointment, so definitely make an appointment.

IMG_20160413_174934794I made this dog bed for Macy out of a vintage suitcase from Goodwill ($10), an old pillow (free dollars) and a vintage blanket with a stain on it I got at the World’s Longest Yard Sale ($0.50).

You know that old chestnut “I’ll do it when things settle down.” I started saying that to myself a few weeks ago when we were dropping everything to prepare our house for the Seder for Dara’s family and then preparing the Seder and then the tea pre sale and then preparing my Schedule C info for my accountant to file my taxes (this is like a week of non-stop accounting and bookkeeping) and then… I’ve had so many projects back to back and not achieved any semblance of balance and I’ve been reminded (I’ve realized this before and forgot) that I need to bring my own serenity to every situation. And that I can’t just keep dropping everything to focus all of my attention on one thing with a deadline.

This is how I lived in Law School, it’s how I have lived when I’ve been the most high strung and I can’t live like that. I need to plan, sort, execute, and let go of the stuff that’s not that important. I need to live in alignment with my values!

I decided that I would start organizing my schedule around my self care. And the thing that is the best at helping me chill the F out is exercise. I do it primarily for my mental and emotional health, but it also really helps with my physical and spiritual health as well. Since I haven’t joined a gym yet, waiting for the body positive gym Everybody Los Angeles to open somewhere around here, I decided to start going to lap swim at the community pool. Because we have those here, and some of them are outdoor heated pools.

I had to do some clever searching because the LA website just gives you addresses not neighborhoods, and some of the pools close in the “Winter” here. But the Glassell Park pool, just a six minute drive from my house, was a great candidate.

bevinatpoolMe at the Glassell Park Pool.

When I showed up for the first time and paid my $3.50 I was amazed to see that the locker room looked just like it did in the community pools in the Bay Area where I grew up. I remember as a kid those cement floored, wooden benched locker rooms with modesty changing areas that only cover you from the neck to the calves. So that means this locker room hasn’t been updated in thirty+ years. Amazing. And when I went out to the pool after giving my bag to the locker room attendant behind the window in exchange for a safety pin with a number on it, I marveled at how huge the Olympic size pool is. And how few rules there are.

My recent public swimming experience is from swimming at the Bed Stuy YMCA in Brooklyn. An indoor year-round pool with strict rules and schedules. Lap swim means lap swimming only, you must wear a cap, when more than two people are in a lane circle swimming is mandatory. These are all spelled out on a long list of rules.

Here there are very few rules other than no running on the pool deck. No caps required! No lap swim guidelines except the lifeguard’s half-hearted “You have to share the lane” when a man was super rude to me. Lap swimming and recreational swimming are at the same time. It’s a bit intimidating to go swimming in public for the first time, especially as a fatty, so I brought Dara as my body positive ally. It was great, I swam for almost an hour, alternating between swimming and aqua jog moves. I love aqua jog, that will be another post.

I have kept going, managing three times a week most weeks for the past month. It’s still cheaper than going to a gym and it’s been helping me. I need to add yoga to my routine to stretch more, but this is a nice way to center.

IMG_20160412_191109Unfucking the guest room.

The house continues to come together. Sadly my Mariah Carey closet hasn’t been sorted out, so once my friend Taylor helped me get everything upstairs and put on the floor or hung on the pipes, that’s where it has laid. I can’t wait for it to be in full working order. Every time I go up there to get dressed I’m kind of drawing from my red suitcase or various piles. It’s pretty much the opposite of what I imagine it can be.

Dara and I were dissatisfied with the orientation of our bed. We paid to move a bunch of my mom’s hand me down furniture from the Bay to LA (I detailed this in a previous post) and the movers set it up originally. I didn’t find it accessible for me to walk around a CA King size bed to the other side of the room so Dara took one for the team. The snuggle position required from that orientation had me on Dara’s left side, which is the side she had a cancerous tumor removed from her breast. It’s more sore, it had radiation and surgery. So we decided to try the bed against a window. (Not my favorite aesthetic choice, but definitely an improvement in snuggle land.)

sleepnumberbed

Here’s some advice about moving a sleep number mattress. Make sure it is completely zipped up before you move it. If you do not do this step, it will fall apart into a bunch of pieces and look like a play space for 3 year olds. There will be foam and air mattresses everywhere, because all a sleep number is is a very expensive air mattress with foam on top of and surrounding it. This bed cost $4,000 apparently and is an air mattress. It took us over an hour to put it back together and get the bed set-up again. I’m excited to someday buy a Casper or a Tuft and Needle mattress–if you know anyone who sleeps on one ask them if you can lay on it, they are exquisite and much less expensive than standard retail mattresses.

sleepnumberbed2Dara is physically in that mattress in this photo.

Anyway, so far the bed in the new spot is fine, but we have to sell and replace the nightstand we had because it is way too big to fit on either side of the bed. Two steps forward one step back is going to be the title of the memoir about moving cross country into a house without a bunch of money or the correct furniture.

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We finally moved everything into the guest room from the staging area in the dining room before the Seder. While Dara was away on business again for 8 days, I tackled the guest room and made it so we could blow up our fancy air mattress (that cost $100, which is literally pennies compared to a sleep number mattress…) for our second overnight guest, Jacqueline. This just meant a lot of stuff got Tetrised against the wall but progress not perfection is my motto. To be transparent, though, it feels hard for it not to be perfect.

IMG_20160426_221241373The wall of the guest room looks like this right now.

I set up all of my tea stuff in the dining room because for now I am in and out of it a lot and need it accessible. On the long-range plans are to convert our cellar (presently storage) to a tea studio.

IMG_20160416_133608285_HDRFemme Tea Party offerings: Hibiscus Coconut iced tea (I’ve added Nettles to the blend and it’s amazing), Self Love iced tea, Dolly Mint iced tea, Feelings tea served hot.

I’ve been getting amazing feedback about my first round of Reiki Infused Teas that I sent out. Only one got lost in the mail, which did eventually find its way to the intended recipient along with the replacement tin I sent–she joked that she must have needed a lot of Feelings Tea support. I believe in the Universe and so maybe yeah. That Scorpio Full Moon was extra difficult. I learned a LOT about the process of starting a product based business and am learning a lot in B-School.

B-School is good but slow going. Marie Forleo gives all this bonus content when you sign up and one of them, Start the Right Business, is required reading before you begin her modules. With 60 pages of reading and exercises, that itself was a lot of work. I’m glad they tell you right away to go at your own pace because I needed my own pace.

IMG_20160414_214512721Jacqueline is the first person to wear a bikini as an outfit on our porch.

Jacqueline and I did a bunch of stuff while she was in town. We went to In-N-Out Burger and the Pleasure Chest on her first night. We had Korean BBQ with my favorite plus size porn performer turned incredibly sweet, smart and wonderful person I know in real life April Flores (we called it BBW BBQ). We went to Disneyland with our friend Jenni, James Darling, Jenni’s sweetie Fin and her friend Michele. It was epic, there’s another forthcoming blog post.

IMG_20160416_182418Femme Tea party part one!

IMG_20160416_182219Femme Tea party part two!

I hosted a Femme Tea Party where I served four kinds of my tea blends and made some delicious rice crispie treats with Good For Me Lifestyle’s amazing Energize Me Better Butter. My guests got Reiki infused tea and delicious superfood supplement treats–I love being that woo kind of hostess.

IMG_20160416_133634312_HDRAlso included in the snacks were gluten-free scones made by Jenn and guacamole from my avocado tree.

I kind of ran away to visit Grandmother this weekend. I knew I owed her a visit having not been since early March, but also I wanted to get away. Sometimes running a house and not having the house set up completely feels overwhelming. The Scorpio Full Moon was in full effect and making me feel at odds with lots of things, including Dara. It’s nice to have family you can go visit in someplace beautiful. This guy at a pizza place asked why I wasn’t at Coachella (it’s really close to Palm Springs) and I said I was going to have a lot more fun swimming in my Grandmother’s pool listening to Guns and Roses.

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All in all I would say that LA is gorgeous, I love living here, the transition is hard, I’m not sure if I miss NYC, I’m overwhelmed with how much I have left to do to settle into my house and I’m really excited to get my tea company running so I can make a living off being a tea proprietress. The next pre sale will probably start on Monday. I had been hoping for this week but there’s a lot going on here. Dara got a grant to throw a 30 person Seder dinner in our backyard. Even as I’m not in charge of it, there’s still a lot for me to do.

2015-01-09

Five Ways I Shake Off Body Oppressive Rhetoric During the New Year’s Resolution Bandwagon

Having spent the last three weeks traveling, between a road trip for a meeting at Dollywood and a family trip to Seattle, I’ve been really off my game. I find it so challenging to travel and meet my self-care needs.

I manage a chronic digestive disorder (Irritable Bowel Syndrome is the Western diagnosis, but I know it’s more complicated than that) with food restrictions and I can feel when my digestion isn’t working. I can get away with not eating in alignment with my body for a little while but eventually it adds up and I’ll pay a price with intense flares and body pain. It’s hard to not want to eat all the amazing food you’re exposed to when traveling. Moderation works for me until it doesn’t.

I also manage my mental and emotional health with exercise. I am still not sure what alchemy I need to carve out time for more than walking the dog when I travel, but more often than not if I pack my gym clothes and shoes I won’t use them. I’ll end up cranky and spiraling by the end of a trip from not getting my angst out on the elliptical. I know that setting better boundaries and time management when I travel is a growth area for me.

15889385960_a7632fe2fa_zWe already had the Seattle trip booked when we got a meeting with the Dollywood Foundation to partner with them for silent auction prizes for Dollypalooza in September… We decided to just go for it and took a road trip, and fulfilled my bucket list dream to see Dollywood at Christmastime. It did not disappoint.

As I was preparing to leave Seattle I found myself really excited to go to the gym and drink green juice, smoothies and detox from sugar. And as I heard the same kind of “drink all the green juice!!!” and “get a new gym membership!!!” trumpets from the anti-fat mainstream media and billion dollar weight loss industry in conjunction with the new year’s resolution influx of people working to lose weight for the umpteenth time, I felt gross about it. Like, here I was wanting to participate in something that is also being used as weapons against bodies like mine.

I thought a lot about what was going on in my head about this stuff and how it was that I have herstorically dealt with the new year’s uptick in relentless weight loss commercials, before and after I began eating in alignment with my body and going to the gym. I came up with some ways that I’ve used to make sense of the complex and seemingly contradictory relationship I have with loving my fat body, hating the sizeist media and making choices that help my body feel its best. I share them below.

1. Run your own race

I like to remember that everyone has their own life and their own life challenges. It’s really difficult to live in a society that literally has a war on body types like yours. In my case, the war on obesity hits home, but other bodies are under attack–people of color, disabled folks, transfolks, aging people. It’s also true that oppression of any body affects all, so the fear of becoming fat, or old, or disabled affects the narrative and creates a society where no body is safe.

So that said, people who need to focus on diet and exercise to lose weight, I just let them do their own stuff. That’s their life path, not mine. I am very self aware and know that my choice to go to the gym doesn’t mean I think my fat body is bad. I also don’t expect some kind of wild body transformation. I do expect that as I keep going back I’m going to feel calmer and more at peace with my surroundings and the onset of Winter and the Winter Blah Blah Blahs (aka Seasonal Depression). (P.S. I’m writing this blog post while sitting under my NatureBright SunTouch Plus Light and Ion Therapy LampUV Happy Light.)

16085137075_a651db95c4_zSpeaking of lights, that’s a hologram of Dolly Parton playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Dollywood production of A Christmas Carol.

2. You are worthy of love exactly as you are.

All of the “NEW YEAR NEW YOU” rhetoric (actual graphic I saw on the itunes store app center thingy this morning) is basically shorthand for you’re not good enough. Remember there are multiple billion dollar industries that require you to feel insecure in order to sell you products. It is not in their best interest that you feel good about yourself.

But here’s the thing. Today, right now, you sitting right there. You are actually good enough because you are human and you are worthy. That’s something you can choose to believe.

There’s a myth that losing weight and modifying yourself is going to make you feel worthy, but self-acceptance is actually the surest way to make yourself feel that way. I know a lot of people who have lost weight in a myriad of ways, and the thing that seems the most common among them is that people who started out hating their bodies had a lot of self hate left once the weight was gone. Wild insecurities pop up when you lose weight and haven’t lost the hate for your body.

It’s not like we don’t all have ways we want to grow and change, change is the only constant in life. I’m a lifelong learner and self-developer. But I know even as I have “areas for growth” (I’m always working on improving my language to be more gentle with myself) I’m worthy right now. It’s just choosing to shift your perspective to believe that you’re worthy and accept yourself as you are. Maybe that’s a change you can work on for the NEW YEAR NEW YOU.

15897718658_474ccf4ff1_zThis kettle corn that I watched get made in front of me was very inflammatory and very delicious. Moderation in all things, including moderation, said Maya Angelou.

2. Be critical of the media you consume

When I was first getting involved in size acceptance I went on a complete media diet. I focused only on size positive or size neutral things. I obsessively collected pictures of cute fat people and put them around my house so I could see them. I trained myself to see fat as positive.

Now I’m able to employ lots of techniques for consuming mass media (that’s probably a whole other blog post). I work to be very critical of what I consume.

I was in the airport and saw the new Self magazine with a big headline of “Love Your Body.” I didn’t have the chance to read it because I was too busy being paranoid because I was accidentally high, but I went onto the website to find out if they were really joining the bandwagon of loving your body as it is. And I saw that the Love Your Body headline right where every other month has weight loss tips, and I looked through their website and saw all of their weight loss articles, so I realized they were just co-opting language to sell weight loss! Real classy Self magazine!

This time of year especially, I work my hardest to remind myself that mass media is not the boss of me and try not to get defensive or mad every time I see something that advertises quick weight loss or uses headless fatties to scare folks about fat. Getting defensive or mad is totally a valid response, though, and my rage does flow through, but rolling my eyes is better for my stress level. I remind myself that lots of fat people are really healthy. Health at Every Size is all about people at all sizes having access to activities that are good for your health. And that is an inconvenient truth for magazines that rely on fear of weight gain in order to sell copies.

I know that choosing to go to the gym is all about me loving my body and not about me losing weight in order to love my body, a complexity that seems contradictory but is actually not at all to me. I worked really hard to make peace with that.

I also know that people who are fat and don’t choose to go to the gym or restrict their eating are totally worthy of love, too! There is no “good” or “bad” way to have a body, it’s just a body!

16076930595_5d2229e69f_zMe and my fat friend Santa just hanging out on a porch in front of the Christmas buffet. I actually found the buffet meals to be full of food options for lots of dietary restrictions. In addition to a mac and cheese station.

4. Replace should with could

This is a wonderful strategy for treating yourself with kindness. I used to be the kind of person whose resting thoughts were always on the ways in which I needed to improve myself. “I should learn Spanish. I should eat better. I should be working on my book. I should get back into working on neurolinguistic programming.” That’s an actual transcript of my inner self abuser that I just tapped into. I can go DEEP into self-shaming with shoulds.

Because I’m still a work in progress and I believe language is so powerful, I have been working for about a year on replacing my shoulds with coulds. “I could learn Spanish. I could be working on my book…” It’s so much gentler. This constant New Year’s chatter of all the ways you should change keeps reminding me of the ways I want to change. But instead of hearing “You should go to the gym” I am hearing, “I could go to the gym.” I am hearing, “I could organize my room.”

5. Every BODY is different

Dr. Phil is full of complexities and I don’t love all of his messages, but he said one thing that really hit home for me when I was early in my fat activist days. I was in a place of “I’ll eat a cupcake whenever I want” as a way to express fat rage. (That’s still a totally valid place to be, of course, but I like to be strategic about my fuck yous and eating a cupcake more than once in awhile will cause me a lot of pain so I don’t.)

Dr. Phil said something on his show specifically about sweet tea that I haven’t ever forgotten. It’s that, basically, all bodies are different and he drinks a glass of sweet tea and gains weight and lots of folks drink a glass of sweet tea and stay thin.

His point was that he had no control over the type of body he has and he had to accept it. And that’s just kind of how things are. Like, it feels really shitty that I got this amazing huge gift basket from a professional colleague for the holidays and pretty much everything in it, wine, crackers, pretzels, caramel corn, hot cocoa, is all food that will make me sick. That fucking sucks. But I’m at a place where I am choosing to accept and love myself for who I am and that means cherishing the complex body I was given.

And I would love to eat a fuck you mass media cupcake, and I probably will eventually. But in the meantime I’m going to accept my body and do the work it needs to do to feel good, so that I can do the work I want to be doing in the world to change it. To create media that helps people feel good in the bodies they have and become the people they want to become by cheering them on instead of shaming them.

15890219499_633f4fb47f_zHow about a fuck you 25 pound apple pie from Dollywood?

Do you have additional ways you choose to shake off the body oppressive media this time of year and/or manage to strike a balance with your own personal wellness goals?

2014-02-20

Five Things I do Every Winter to Avoid Seasonal Depression

This post is part of my mini-blog series about self care. Click this self care week tag to read all the posts!

When I was a teenager living in sunny Northern California I completely resented the sunlight for being so cheerful. I was a surly, depressed and unhappy teenager who had been relentlessly bullied in my childhood and middle school years. I think it was to be expected.

11534524226_e726da4816_oThis is the present-day backyard at my mom’s house. My teenage bedroom window is on the right. It’s waaaaaay nicer in the backyard than it was 20 years ago. When I was home for Christmas I spent each morning of my 2 day stay in the hot tub.

What I didn’t realize that upbringing was doing to me was making me unsuited to any other climate. The first few years I was living on the East Coast I wasn’t really in touch with myself and my emotional well-being to understand that what was happening to me in February and March was seasonal depression, but as I’ve learned more about it and developed coping strategies I actually can see when it creeps up and I know how to stave it off.

Seasonal depression is about lack of sunlight. I am a creature who comes alive in the sun, even though I used to resent it so much and I can get wickedly sunburnt. But I sincerely appreciate it and definitely need it for my own well-being.

I was hanging out with someone who was so delighted by the warmish, bright day we had on Monday that she pumped up the heat in her apartment, threw open her window and laid down in the sunbeam. Naked. (The UV rays won’t penetrate glass so you need the exposure to the direct light.) I thought that was the most delicious way I’d heard to combat seasonal affective disorder.

12663409293_09c60c005a_z When I was visiting my mom for Christmas we went on a hike at Point Reyes for my birthday (which is Christmas Eve).

I thought it would be helpful to share my Winter regimen, which has five main components:

1. UV Therapy Light–I use a UV lamp (aka “Happy Lamp”) every single day for at least 15 minutes but usually 30. I flick it on first thing in the morning when I do my journaling and I sit right next to it. If I’m not journaling I’ll read or sit on my computer. It really works. The one I have now was a hand me down from a friend and I’m thinking of getting a travel one because mine is kind of big and hard to move around. I start my UV light work in late November and lasts until it feels like Spring is really happening. Here’s a version from Amazon that looks handy and small.

I also know some folks who go tanning (the bed kind, not the spray kind) and have said it is mood altering, but of course there is the skin cancer risk…

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2. Vitamin D–I start taking a Vitamin D supplement in October. Just one additional pill on top of my multi-vitamin.

3. Walking–I walk for 20 minutes every day and I try for that walk to be around noon when the sun is at it’s highest. Even in the snow. I try to do this all year long but I have a heavy emphasis on this in the Winter months. I have a dog so that really acts as an impetus to walking.

4. Exercise–I exercise year round as a way to assist my mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. It’s the best thing I can do to take care of myself and in the Winter ideally I go to the gym three times a week. In October my gym buddy Avory and I were talking about upping our gym regimen because “Winter is coming…”

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5. Keep the blinds open. Part of my morning ritual is opening the curtains up in my room. I’m on the second floor, which is great for birdwatching but not so great for light, but those little bits of sunlight that occasionally peek through are important to me and it reminds me that there is a world turning outside and it’s not perpetual darkness.

I hope these help. It’s not too little too late, when I find myself off the bandwagon within a couple of weeks I can feel the effects of my seasonal depression strategies at work again.

2013-04-29

Fat Babes Pole Dancing Class

My new friend Jacqueline proposed two things after I told her about my recent break-up: a tarot reading (which I took her up on) and finding a pole dancing class. She wanted to go with a fat and/or crip person (two things she identifies as) who was not already a stripper because what’s the fun in being a beginner with someone who can already flip around a pole like it’s no big deal. I love trying new things with other fat babes, so I was all in.

Doing activities in the erotic genre are a great way to reclaim your body in the wake of a break-up and feel empowering especially when you might not be getting laid as much as you’d like to, regardless of your DTF* status. It’s also a great way to expand your repertoire and enhance your fat sex!

The class Jacqueline found for us was at Sacred Brooklyn, a yoga studio and pole dance palace three blocks from my old apartment in Bed Stuy on the border of Clinton Hill. I tried the studio once, for hot yoga, which was the one and only time I have done hot yoga and I got injured. So I haven’t been back.

The classes are a little pricey–twenty bucks for 75 minutes. (The going rate for yoga and exercise if not included in your gym membership is $15 in that neighborhood.) In spite of the price I thought it was cool to try something new and I also was certain I would have fun doing this with Jacqueline.

She did some recon ahead of time emailing the instructor to ask about fat babes in class and the instructor, Roz, was very body positive in her reply so I was stoked. It’s a great idea to reach out to the instructor ahead of time if you have any concerns about the class. Most yoga and exercise proprietors I know want their customers to feel engaged!

Post pole dancing kitchen talk. On a stoop. #babestagram
Jacqueline’s outfit for pole dancing. She took off the scarf and leggings.

The studio emailed us instructions to wear no lotions or oils the day of class and to come in a tank top or sports bra and shorts. Neither Jacqueline nor myself are shorts identified, so I went with a sweat skort (a skirt made of sweats material that has shorts sewn in underneath–I have two of these and swear by them for summertime gym-going) and my Yes Fats Yes Femmes tank top and Jacqueline wore a black and white stretch pinstriped pencil skirt and tank top. She’s just a babe like that. (Also red panties underneath that were plain to see when we did certain moves. Oops and sorry not sorry.)

Roz came into class like a house on fire! She was so full of energy and enthusiasm. I loved it! I used to be extremely loud and enthusiastic when I was in my early twenties and I’ve never met anyone louder than me until Roz. It was refreshing and beautiful. She had on a new push-up sports bra she got two for one at Lane Bryant and I appreciated the shopping tip!

#Babestagram

The class had twelve people in it (which is the max I think), an instructor and an assistant instructor. The demographic was all over the place, tons of gender presentations, body sizes, races and at least a twenty-year age span. There were at least two folks I would have pegged as “masculine of center” on the street.

Roz admonished us to “stay in your lane,” meaning we’re all at our own level of skill and we should try to do what we can do and not focus on what other folks are doing. This is a good reminder for most physical activity! Also good because even though this was a beginner class there were lots of “regulars” who had been coming for quite some time.

We did a long set of good stretches to hip-hop and R&B slow jams, a genre I love. It was sort of like yoga with a groove. The introductory activity was a mirroring exercise, where they paired us off with the “divas” (more experienced students) and the newbies maintained deep eye contact and mirrored the dancing from one side of the room to the other. These dances involved sexy crawling, erotic arm movements, basically hot stripper moves. Because it’s more than just on the pole!

You shouldn't come around here singing up to people like that.
I tried out being a blonde last weekend, too.

Then we did some pole exercises. The first was a “crunch” where we used our upper back, core and arms to lift us up off the ground. It was a little intimidating, but Roz showed us a few different variations for success. There are four poles in the room so three of us at a time rotated. The “divas” did a much more complicated version and I watched them out of the corner of my eye. We were all so co-cheerleading! It was such a positive room, a win for one was a win for all (and when you’re watching other babes doing pole dancing, probably that’s a win anyway).

There is some pole maintenance, like putting on this hand drying stuff and wiping sweat off the pole. It’s really hard to lift yourself off the ground if your hands are sweaty!

Then we did a spin exercise. I liked it, it reminded me of spinning on a playground. Roz gave us an ass dancing tutorial (which was a version of a “twerktorial” I saw the week before at Rebel Cupcake) and then wanted us to practice it.

In the “circle of love,” Roz had us all sit in a circle and each of us took a turn practicing a dance for the group. It could be something we saw in class, something we saw on youtube and wanted to try, we could practice the ass dance, or anything. It was fun and goofy and hot and liberating. Everyone was still so supportive!

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The twerktorial at Rebel Cupcake. Photo by Kelsey Dickey!

The last move was a reverse spin, that the assistant instructor Rebecca said was easiest if you exhaled as you began the spin, which I found really crucial to loosening up enough to let myself spin to the ground around a pole. Not an easy thing to do for me, falling on purpose and doing it with grace.

We exited the class (which Roz warned at the beginning would run late and it was almost two hours total) doing another mirroring exercise. I thought it was an incredible experience! I felt so positive, challenged and embodied. I could be silly and try new things and use my body in different ways.

I was sore the next few days like I had athletic sex. My knees hurt from all of that crawling, my inner thighs and arms and back were definitely feeling it. Jacqueline and I are definitely going to go back (and try to bring more fat babe friends).

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Dancing at Rebel Cupcake/Sweet Fox with Zachary. Photo by Kelsey Dickey.

*Down To Fuck. See this post.

2010-12-03

Guest Post: Damien Luxe and Why She Loves the Gym

Damien Luxe is one of my favorite people and often mentioned here at Queer Fat Femme. She is an incredible femmespiration and she wrote this great piece about how she was able to reclaim her body by going to the gym. I think this is super relevant to anyone of any body type and definitely articulates a lot of what I feel about my relationship to exercise as a fat person.

xoxo,

Bevin

This fall I am celebrating an awesome anniversary: ten years of Going To The Gym. That’s 10 years of learning how to be in my body after 21 years of life kicking me out; 10 years of keeping calm and carrying on; 10 years of getting to be strong and flexible when I thought that experience was only for rich folks.

When I was 21 I went off to the University of Toronto and met another rad weirdo punk girl. We hung out tons and were super similar — except she Went To The Gym and I’d roam off reading Valencia et al. When she asked me to go with her, I scoffed, “um isn’t going to the gym for leisurely rich white people? that’s not me, babe.”

One day after much nuanced discussion regarding how non-owning-class people also benefitted by working out, and appealing to the protestant in me by pointing out that I was paying for it anyway, she convinced me to go with her into our school’s massive gym complex and join her in the pool. I made it fourish laps and then headily woozed my way to the dressing room and thought I might have a heart attack.
(more…)

2010-03-10

The Queer Fat Femme Guide to Beginning a Yoga Practice

About six months ago I began a regular yoga practice. I had done yoga only a handful of times before but was always very discouraged by the activity. I’m fat, but as you know, fat people have incredibly different bodies. Mine happens to carry a lot of weight in my torso—primarily my ample rack and belly. This makes it terribly difficult, if not impossible, to do things like bend over or stretch in the ways required by a lot of yoga poses.

When I was working a 9 to 5, I did a lot of research into fat positive, fat centered, or fat inclusive yoga classes, and unfortunately was discouraged by the timing difficulties between my busy schedule and the very specific times these classes were offered. I bought a yoga dvd but found it didn’t give me the calm, meditative exercise I was looking for, it just felt too Jane Fonda-y.

After Michfest last year I was feeling the kind of spiritual connection and limber body one gets from two weeks in the woods with a bunch of woo woo women and other gender-oriented folks, and I solicited my friend Dana, a yoga regular, to take me with her to one of her yoga classes. It felt safe to tag along to a class with another fatty.

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We cycled through a couple of different instructors and thankfully landed on Jyll. Jyll is a miracle, plain and simple. She teaches yoga in exactly the kind of way I want to be a mom. Firm and instructive but also kind and nurturing; you really want to please Jyll. She knows when to push, when to prod, when to chide and when to back off. She also knows the difference between you not doing something because you’re at your limit physically or because you’re at your limit mentally and pushes you past your mental hurdle.

She is also good at teaching you alternative poses, showing how to use the tools of yoga (especially straps, blocks and bolsters) to modify poses for different bodies. I also feel liberated that she encourages modifications!

Even though I am consistently the fattest person in the class, I never feel “other”. She says reminders like “Yoga is not a team sport.” “Yoga is not a competition. Everyone needs to work at their limit.” She also reminds the class that everyone has different flexibility and that they shouldn’t let their ego get in the way lest they get an injury. (It’s how she pulled a muscle she’s still dealing with.)

I love Jyll and I always leave her classes empowered and with my ass resoundingly kicked.

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Taueret at Yoga.

What I like most about yoga is that I have to be really “in” my body. I need to pay attention to my limits, what it is like to push into the limit and really trust my body’s capabilities. As a life-long fatty I have gotten used to giving up really easily and not learning how to push myself. I remember what it was like to be a brave kid and climb waterfalls hiking with my Girl Scout troupe and I don’t know where I got into being a fraidy cat about stuff with my body.

I do notice that usually in every class I suck the worst. It feels a lot like my Hydrologic Science class from undergrad, when they put the high and low scores of the midterm on the white board and I realized my score was the low score. (I then took it Pass/No Pass–thanks UC Davis!)

But at the same time, I feel like it is really good for me to suck at something for an hour and a half every week. It’s humbling, it gives me something to work on and I still feel amazing afterward because I did something hard that was really good for me.

My friend Chris La Femme told me once:

“Truly though, there is no such thing as sucking at yoga.  Yoga is just about twisting your body in certain ways, to squish different organs and push blood around, and you don’t actually have to do the ideal poses for that.”

It’s really true.

Once I got into going to Jyll’s class, and then the wonderful erstwhile Yoga for Every Body classes at Re/Dress NYC (sadly our instructor moved to Ithaca) I was doing yoga twice a week and felt really amazing.

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Dara is going to raise goats and keep bees. She was a great instructor!

When the Re/Dress instructor moved away, I wanted to figure out a way to get into yoga at home that wasn’t with a dvd so that I could maintain my twice weekly pace. I flipped through this book at Re/Dress that Deb brought in and I fell in love. I bought it immediately. Here was a list of all of the yoga poses I had been learning over time, with explanations of what they did for your body and modifications for how to do them in a larger body written by a fat yoga instructor!

Mega Yoga by Megan Garcia in book form.

Mega Yoga in DVD form!

A sweet reminder that if you buy anything from Amazon using my links, the small referral fee gets kicked back to me in the form of gift certificates that help me buy books to read. *

I love using it at home so much! I can put on the cd of my choice** and go through the poses at my own pace. The slow flow of it really helps me. I can sit in a pose a little bit longer if I’m really feeling something. I also like the supplement to the classes I’m taking, because I learn the poses and get adjusted in class but learn more about them at home.

And another great “asking for help” moment, I asked my Butch Ironworker Roommate if it was okay to use her room because she’s got the only carpeted room in the house and free wall space for wall poses and she is totally fine with it.

They call it practice for a reason—it’s not ever going to be perfect. But so far I feel really enthusiastic about what yoga has helped me do with my body. I feel more limber, I feel more secure, I have more balance. It also very much enhanced a recent laycation, so if nothing else, being able to fuck in more interesting ways is a win-win.

So, if you’re at all curious about yoga, I have some suggestions:

1. Find a friend to take a class with you.

Sometimes it really helps to have the buddy aspect, not only for accountability*** but knowing someone else might be physically hindered by belly or boobs or is gender non-normative or uses a cane or something as well. It’s a million times easier to ask for help in a mainstream sort of class when you’re with another person in the same boat. Dana and I cap off our weekly yoga date with coffee next door and have gotten very close over the past six months because of it.

I would suggest finding a beginner or a I/II class. It seems intimidating to go to a class that has a specific kind of yoga, but I really think that novice yogis aren’t going to see a big difference. I go to a Vinyasa class, but the Monday morning with Jyll is “restorative” so it’s not as fast of a flow as Vinyasa usually is. You can look up the other types of yoga, but I think as long as the class is labeled beginner friendly you should be okay.

Also, don’t be afraid to yoga “shop”. If an instructor does not seem responsive to your needs or the class or studio doesn’t feel comfortable to you, try another one!

2. Find or create a class tailored to your body.

This is not always possible but it’s really incredible when you can. There’s also a really great class for folks with dis/abilities and genderqueer/trans friendly yoga here in Brooklyn. And GO to these classes, support that they happen! I was shocked at how small the turn out for yoga for all bodies at Re/Dress ended up being.

If you can get a critical mass of folks to commit to it, sometimes you can even organize classes of your own! If you live in one of those cities with porches and big open living rooms (my friend Lissa in Minneapolis has an upstairs yoga studio size living room with gorgeous sky lights) get an instructor to come in and teach you! There are a lot of instructors out there who are willing or open to creating a body-positive curriculum. And if six of you get together and pool $10 each—well, that can entice a teacher.

3. Don’t sweat the details or the small stuff.

I spent forever obsessing about what kind of yoga I was going to take, whether or not I needed equipment, what I was going to wear… My perfectionism took years off of my yoga practice! I wanted to take yoga so badly and I just never did it because I never felt good enough or prepared enough to do it.

I am telling you right now, it’s not that deep!

I wear velour sweatpants, the same two pair, and a tee shirt (cut out the shoulders, flashdance style because that’s how I do) and a sports bra. And like regular underwear not the fancy frilly kind. The idea is that you want to wear clothes that you can move in and that don’t hinder your body. Yoga is so not a fashion show and I never notice what other people are wearing except when Dana wears her “Live and Let Lez” tank top because, hi.

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Glenn Marla wears palazzo pants.

And if you’re really nervous to start, read Mega Yoga! She gives a really great primer on yoga and breathing!

4. Go go go go go.

I get so disappointed when I’m missing Monday morning yoga. It really does set you back a bunch when you miss a week. Prioritize your yoga practice. Self-care is really important and having time set aside for mind/body/spiritual connection is really important. Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha absolutely won’t schedule anything on the nights she has her yoga class because it is so essential to her physical well-being and the management of her dis/ability.

5.Never be afraid to articulate your needs.

At the beginning of a class, usually the instructor will ask about any physical limitations, injuries or needs people have. It’s terrifying to speak up sometimes, but it is really crucial that you tell the instructor what your needs are. Use this as practice for self-advocacy in all other areas of your life.

* I’m hoping to get Urban Tantra next.
** I like Ani DiFranco’s “Knuckle Down” because it can fade into the background really easily but at the same time when I need to focus on something she is singing about topics on that cd which are things I need to be meditating on, like aging estranged father stuff, setting boundaries, old break-up stuff, etc… Ani isn’t for everyone, and thus may I suggest a cd of slow jams? Mint Condition anyone?
***I hate ditching class but I hate ditching Dana more!
****I am not a doctor, and of course before beginning any exercise or body work you should consult your hopefully body positive and supportive doctor.

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