A Care Package for Fat Girl Fitness (NHBPM 9)

Today’s prompt was to create a care package for my fellow patients. But as much as I love presents, it’s been my experience that people with MS may be best served by having less stuff, not more: less to clean, less to put away, and certainly less to trip over.

Instead, I’d like to share a care package of the tools that have made my weight loss and fitness dreams come true-r. (Hey, it’s a work in progress.)

I just finished Week 4 Day 2 of Couch-to-5K for the second time this year, and these are the things that keep me going.

Enell Sports Bra
Before I started working out, I was a 38G. Now, 50+ pounds later, I am a 34G. There is no god. But luckily, there is Enell.

Benefits: The boobs do not move — I can RUN for the first time since I was 8. No underwires! Straps do not dig or shift. Front close, so you don’t have to get trapped trying to pull it over your head, necessitating a call to the fire department and the jaws of life to get free. (Remember, they said they’d have to start charging after the next time.) Unique sizing system, so I get to be a size 3. Built strong to last long.

Drawbacks: Limited color selection. Cup seam shows through lighter shirts, but I AM RUNNING HOW DARE YOU JUDGE ME RROOOOWRRRR!

Shopping tips: Prime-eligible at Amazon, and you might be able to find it at a local running store to try on first. And because I love you all, I will share that I recently found their outlet on ebay, where they sell slightly imperfect versions for nearly half price.

Body Glide anti-chafe balm
I know none of you have first-hand experience with this, but sometimes fat girls have thighs that touch. And when exercise makes that touching sweatier and more frictive, bad things can happen. Body Glide is like lube for your body. Or as Linda Richman would say, “Like buttah!”

Benefits: Odorless. Easy deodorant-style application. Usually sold in running stores, so we can infer that it’s not only fat girls who have issues with rubbage. Lasts for hours — longer than I would ever work out. I used it on my foot, after my shoe started rubbing on my toe, and it worked great for that, too.

Drawbacks: My stick crumbled off into big chunks after a few weeks. I was able to mash most of it back into the applicator and keep using it, but I’d prefer if it hadn’t happened in the first place.

TuneBand
I am a very suggestible person, and I’m not above using the right music provide motivation to get started, keep going, and even have a good time. If you can hear Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go” and not smile and step lightly, you might be dead.

Benefits: Easy to put on and take off. The silicone skin is strong, and thicker on the back where the armband slides through. After nearly a year of 3+ uses/week, it looks and works like new. Comes in a bunch of colors. The armband is highly adjustable (something I’d worried about because I have huge bus driver arms).

Drawbacks: None! The TuneBand has exceeded all my expectations, and now it’s even on sale for less bank.

Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds
You can listen to music without earbuds. Plus, they’re handy for helping drown out the dumbass conversation the girls on the  treadmills next to yours are having, at such high volume. I hadn’t had much luck with earbuds in the past — wearing glasses doesn’t help, but it also rules out wearing any kind of external headphone comfortably   The in-ear style of these is way more comfortable than the round Apple-style ones.

Benefits:  These sound nice even at volumes high enough to drown out dumbass conversations. They’ve been impervious to sweat and being tossed in my gym bag. They came in red, one of my favorite accessory colors. Reasonably priced. The cord slider helps keep them from getting terminally tangled.

Drawbacks: None. They don’t have an inline mic for taking calls, but nobody needs to hear me huffing and puffing while I’m working out. (I keep these Skull Candy earbuds in my purse for non-gym use, if you’re looking for the mic.)

Contigo Autoseal water bottles
The only water bottle I’ve tried that (1) really doesn’t leak so much as a drop in my gym bag and (2) has a drinking hole that’s actual mouth-sized. Unlike, say, classic Nalgenes, which are actual now-you’re-wearing-a-bottle-of-water sized.

Benefits: Dishwasher safe. Strong and BPA free. Lots of colors. Carabiner clip built into the top.

Drawbacks: If you store the lids on the bottles, they might develop a slightly musty smell in the cap. Are you one of the strange few who doesn’t love a fresh bottle of Basement in the morning? Solution: just store the bottles open.

Shopping tip: I bought these first for KK for Christmas a few years back, in a 3-pack at Costco for $10 or $15 bucks. Those are still going strong, and I’ve picked up a number of others (and three of the stainless tumbler ones) at the thrifts for just a dollar or two.

Nathan Flip Straw Water Bottles
This one deserves an honorable mention. It can leak a tad in the bag, but it’s great for all other purposes.

Benefits: Also dishwasher safe. Lots of colors. Built-in carabiner clip. The flip straw part is soft, so I’m not afraid of knocking my teeth out. Even better, you simply sip from it — you don’t have to bite it like you do a Camelbak.

Drawbacks: Just the leaking thing, really.

Shopping tip: I recently found a Quickdraw Plus at Marshalls or TJ’s for $5, imperfect just because they’d sewn the reflective strip on backwards. And just this week, I thrifted a sample version these waist packs, with the bottle, for $1.50!  I would normally have to be in a coma to agree to wearing any kind of waist pack, but this one fits (very comfortably) at the small of my back, so I can pretend like it doesn’t exist.

Some other tools I’ve used include:

Apps

Lose It! Free for iPhone and online.
I used this to track my food and exercise because it was free, straightforward, and worked seamlessly cross-platform. Nice, clean interface.

5KRunnerFree for iPhone.
This was my Couch-to-5K coach the first time around. I liked that it was free and awarded badges to gamify the experience. And it worked. I did NOT like that there was no way to control my music without having to go through too many steps just to skip to the next song. I also found the interface too small to read when I got hot and the Uthoff’s kicked up, but honestly, that was a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it’s just better to remain ignorant of how far you still have to go!

SlimKicker. Free for iPhone and online.
This one is new to me, but I’m about to try it because I like the novel premise. You choose short-term goals to work toward for 7-30 days. Your challenges get tougher over time, and you’re encouraged to check in daily with folks who’ve chosen the same challenge for support. You win points and “level-up” when you succeed.

Honorable mention: Weight Watchers
I think every woman in America has a WW story or six.

I did WW for the first time a little over 5 years ago. I hadn’t weighed myself in years, and was sort of surprised to be 241 pounds at my first meeting. Miss Melba, the leader, was amazing and deserves her own cult. I watched portions and counted points and lost 42 pounds in six months, without ever visiting a gym or doing anything more strenuous than walking the dog.

Mostly, I enjoyed getting to clap for myself and others at meetings. I only stopped because the MS started and I had to marshal all my resources to deal with that instead. But I did learn some vital weight loss skills, like portion control, substitutions, body awareness, which I’ve been able to apply to successive independent attempts ever since.

So I’d recommend WW to anyone who, like me, was weight-loss naive, with the caveat that you find a leader that clicks with you immediately. Like choosing a doctor,  you may have to shop around, but it is totally worth it when it works.

Lifestyle

Short hair.
I had hair down to my waist until I was 23 years old. (My mom had to scotch tape baby bows to my head until I was nearly four, so once it showed up, she couldn’t bring herself to cut it.) That meant I had to wash it at night and after toweling it dry, still had to wait 8 to 10 hours for it to actually dry. It could easily take an hour even with a hair dryer.

And it sounds like I wasn’t alone.

Cutting my hair short freed me to get active and sweaty and take showers, without having to block out 2 days to do it. I’ve just gone shorter and shorter ever since. Now, after I shower at the gym, I dry my hair for about 5 seconds under the hand dryer. It’s hard to imagine ever going back.

Summer 2001

2006 or 2007

October 2011

Which brings us to braving public showering and locker rooms.
Until last year, I had spent more time in men’s locker rooms than in women’s.

I never played sports, but I spent two years in high school being a manager for the football team, which meant that I, and my also-female co-manager, were the only two girls in the whole school allowed to go into the fieldhouse. (To fill up water coolers and make ice packs, not to ogle. I assure even the straightest of you ladies that there is NOTHING sexy about that smell. Ugh.)

But last year, my wife joined a new rock climbing gym (the largest in the nation) when it opened nearish us. She invited me to come along, as they had a regular fitness area with cardio and weight stuff that nobody else was using. I went. It was cool, at first. But I quickly realized that my 40-minute workout ended before KK’s 2-3 hour one, and sitting around in sweaty clothes was gnarly.

I finally tried the showers, so at least I could clean up and sit around in clean clothes while I diddled on the iPad for an hour or two. It was not traumatic. It even felt good. Each shower was separate, so there was nothing really public about it. (I’ve used worse in hostels in Europe.) There was even a curtain separating the showers from the main locker part, so nobody had to see too much of me. And best of all, I could take a cold shower, which helps beat back the Uthoff’s and fatigue that MS brings uninvited to every workout.

A weightlifting training program, customized for me by a dear friend.
Cardio stuff often makes me too hot, too fast, and I start to lose power before I get the benefits. Weightraining, though, allows me to get serious work done before even breaking a sweat. It’s been such an important part of the process. I’ve gotten stronger, sure, but it’s also improved my balance and posture (which has suffered since 4th grade — see “34G above”).

Final Thoughts

I hope you read through this long list and thought,

Well, DUH! Of course she lost weight and got stronger. Look at all the help she had!

Because, clearly, it takes a village’s worth of goods, programs, and lifestyle changes to make big fitness changes. I didn’t even include the food prep tools I use, or the recipe websites, or the protein bars I love, or…the list goes on.

But the takeaway is that I gave myself “all that help.”

I built it into my life, one piece at a time. I kept the parts that helped and chucked the ones that didn’t.

And once it hit a critical mass, I started to lose critical (m)ass.

2003, maybe, vs early 2012

2003 vs Christmas 2011

And if I can do it, you can do it. I don’t have to know you to say that. Anyone can do it, because it’s not about being perfect or being the best. It’s about being better and feeling better.

Whether you have a serious illness or not, “self-care is a divine responsibility.”

That’s “divine” as defined in the Wikitionary, as in:

  • hallowed, holy, sacred
  • supreme, ultimate

AND

  • beautiful, delightful, exquisite, heavenly, lovely,
    magnificent, marvelous, splendid, wonderful.

It’s all of the above, and so are you.

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I don’t know about this…but I’d like to. (NHBPM 3)

Maybe I read too many Nancy Drew and English manor house mysteries growing up, or watched too many X-Files. Don’t judge — my little sister had a thing for Mulder, and I had a thing for dark.

I’m a curious sort of girl. Asking and answering questions is my favorite thing to do. I am rarely happier than when I don’t know something, because that means…drumroll, anticipatory salivation, happy dancing…I get to go find out.

That’s why even after swearing upside down and sideways that I would never, EVER, go back to school, I ended up getting a degree in library and information studies. (Thanks, Daddy! I promise this blogging thing is just a lark!) Getting trained as a librarian was as close as I could get to being a professional searcher, without having to carry a gun and eat in my car like a private investigator.

It’s also why I love thrift shopping. Not only do you get a strange mix of eras and objects to sift through, you get mystery items  missing their original packaging. I had a lady awhile back turn to me in the kitchen stuff aisle and hold up one of these that she found in the utensil bin:

“Do you what THIS is?!” she asked.

“I believe it’s a shedding blade.”

“A what now?”

“It’s a tool for grooming dogs with thick coats. But you could probably run it through the dishwasher and use it to de-seed a cantaloupe.”

I try to be helpful. I”m sure she meant to thank me before running away.

Now, have I ever bought, touched, or used a shedding blade? No.

Have I ever said the words “shedding blade” out loud? Nope.

But could I piece the cultural detritus in my head together for the win? Yes. And failing that, could I have used my iphone to figure it out? For sure.

“I don’t know about this, but I’d like to” is something I feel or say or think at least 20 times a day. The internet has been the perfect vehicle to feed my addiction curiosity. When I have a health question, I can hit MedlinePlus or PubMed or MayoClinic or a million other sites. I have a steady stream of MS-related abstracts and news delivered via RSS right into my google reader and twitter stream. I correctly diagnose my friends and family so often that I usually end our phone conversations with, “I’ll send you my bill.”

family_med_guide

Even before the internet, I was the kid with her own reference library. (Thanks, grandmothers and yard sales!) I loved reading the front matter of the phone book and going through the trash at the post office. Flipping through almanacs and atlases was a perfectly reasonable way to spend an afternoon.

But my all-time favorite lookbook was The American Medical Association’s Family Medical Guide, whichever edition was published in the early 1980s. I would pull out that fat navy volume and just browse. There were the usual anatomical illustrations that any pre-pubescent kid would find stare-worthy. Lots of basic first aid information, just in case.

But there was also an entire section of delicious flow charts for diagnosing and treating common injuries and illnesses – a simplified glimpse into the way doctor’s think. And somewhere, buried in the middle, there was a picture of somebody with black hairy tongue disease:

Black_tonuge

Like panning for gold, that looking and finding.

Black. Hairy. Gold.

What do you want to know about today?

Terrible/Wonderful Things I Saw While Thrifting This Week

I didn’t get out much this week, due to being broke and such. But I still managed to track down a few novelties at the grocery store, the hardware store, and a relative’s house. What’s the best stuff you saw or snagged this week?

Refreshing

This brand respects customers enough to let us make up our own minds.

Impressive

I had hair down to my waist until I was 23, but this is something else entirely.

Sickening

Spotted at my mom’s, but she got them at Goodwill recently. Laguiole place settings for 6 (minus 1 fork) and a corkscrew etc for $2.92 TOTAL. She saw me admiring them before I could get them into my purse…this time.

 

Poop Stool School

Note: This is my first attempt at writing a purposefully longer post (1,000+ words).

I was so excited to see Shots, the NPR Health blog, post about toilet posture yesterday.

On the one hand, I’m interested in hearing the expert professionals’ learned viewpoints and advice, as I’ve been conditioned by fear mongering women’s magazines to wonder, “Have I maybe been doing this wrong for most of my life? What irreversible damage have I unknowingly done to myself and my loved ones? What can you sell me to make me temporarily feel better? TELL ME!”

On the other hand, I’m endlessly amused by the number of synonyms for poop and toilet that the professional author will be forced to churn out.

Luckily, “churn out” was not one of the synonyms used in this piece.

I can’t remember how it started, but I did some research on poop stools a few months ago. (Yes, I recognize that “poop stool” sounds redundant, but I never saw a more compelling alternative, so that’s what I call it.)

I’m generally into personal health experimentation, and while I don’t suffer from any of the conditions mentioned in the squat-or-sit piece, I was curious about how squatting might shed new light something I’ve been doing the Unthinking Standard American Way my whole life.

Also, after finding this quotation on a message board,

I don’t want just a basic boring plastic stool though… I’d like more of a ladder,

I felt like the gauntlet had been thrown down. The gloves were off. The experiment was begun.

Ready-made Poop Stools

The Squatty Potty came up first in my searches as one of the few options available in the US.

Photo courtesy of Squatty Potty.

It comes in a couple of different heights and materials, but was still a little pricey (read: astronomically out of range) for an experiment that might last a week or two. I was also disappointed that they had passed up the opportunity to use the motto “We Want To Be Number 1 For Your Number 2!”

Nature’s Platform was bigger but also stronger and foldable. That’s a plus, since everyone might not be ready to correct their anorectal angle when visiting my facilities, but it was well over $100 and back-ordered indefinitely.

There’s also the Welles Step. Its simple appearance disguised a piece of technology so advanced that it could provide the “precise geometric angle necessary for complete bowel evacuation with the application of the laws of anatomy and physics.” Their motto should be “The Einstein of Evacuation” or “No Poop Left Behind.”

What else was out there? Not much in the US. There were several international options, but they were all costly, and by the time you added in shipping, were WAY too expensive.

The Lillipad looked cool, and for the budget-conscious, they were kind enough to sell you plans to build your own serviceable but much-less-svelte platform. But I’m neither a woodworker or a millionaire, so out of luck. As looks go, though, this was the best designed of the bunch.

The Lillipad, from New Zealand.

Then there was the Sandun-Evaco Toilet Convertor, which claimed to be “Only Patented, Foldable, Factory-Built Stainless Steel Toilet Converter in The World Today,” and I believe them.

The ladder-style looked good for balance and stability. The advertised “loading capacity” of 120 kg, however, did not make me feel particularly feminine, or even human.

The original Evaco Squat Platform’s understated elegance got me thinking about how I might be able to DIY a platform for less.

DIY Alternatives

Since I was working without a doctor’s prescription or a generous grant, my mind turned to consider the possibilities. What might be repurposed? What would provide enough stability that I would not tip over and be found dead and semi-nude in the bathroom? I’m not nearly famous enough for that yet.

It’s possible, of course, to build a stool or platform out of wood or PVC pipe, but I didn’t want to make the investment. I also did not completely trust my construction skills enough to avoid accidents (of any kind).

I considered modding out a commode chair. I see them all the time at the thrifts, and they are designed to hold adult body weight. (The catcher basin slides out so you can place them over a regular potty.) They’re generally lightweight and non-slip. Easy to clean (god forbid).

Lumex Imperial Collection 3-in-1 Steel Drop Arm Commode

So when I saw one at Goodwill a few days later, I climbed on to see how well it might work. Luckily, the employees did not call the police, because I am a regular at that store, and this time, I remembered to keep my pants on.

The $8 price tag was totally reasonable, but not being a deluxe imperial drop arm like the model in the picture, the arm rests got in the way, and I couldn’t quite get over the sickroom look of the thing.

And that’s when I saw it. An unassuming wooden box, strong yet lightweight, with nonslip feet and a handsome maple stain. It looked like it used to hold trays or tiny drawers, but they’d been removed, leaving just the case.

CA_09281218225658-2116111541-O

 

I grabbed the measuring tape out of my purse and checked the dimensions. At 10 inches high, it’s an inch taller (and better!) than the tallest available Squatty Potty, but still lower than a 15-inch-tall toilet — perfect for beginners. And at 18.5 inches across, there was enough room for a stable stance, but not so much that it would interfere with the general traffic flow of my minuscule bath.

Price tag? $3.53. Permission to proceed!

But the icing on the cake  — the cherry on top — was the engraved name plate/provenance of the piece:

poop+stool+closeup+edit-2116563241-O

 

THE GENIUS OF AMERICA, indeed, with a side of Franklin Mint kitsch? I couldn’t get it in my buggy fast enough.

 

CA_09281218230725-2116111912-O

Results (don’t worry, no more photos)

Well, it’s…different. But I can’t say it has radically changed anything.

Maybe the process, which never took very long to begin with, goes a little faster?

Maybe my anorectal angle has been precisely and geometrically improved to be more compliant with the laws of anatomy and physics?

Definitely I enjoy contemplating THE GENIUS OF AMERICA in those quiet moments alone, and so leave the bathroom smiling more often than the dark and humorless days before the poop stool.

And if that alone is not enough reason to call the experiment a success, I don’t know what would be. Seriously – are they any actual metrics for this kind of thing?

Your Turn

Have you ever tried a poop stool? If not, why not?

Terrible/Wonderful Things I Saw While Thrifting This Week

No, EUROtard!

Thank goodness babies are immune to open flames and burning cigarettes. Otherwise, you’d REALLY have your hands full with this incendiary NURSING PILLOW COVER.

 

A slight cheat because (1) I found this at a yard sale and (2) I bought it.

Also cheating, because I bought this vintage hot water bottle, too. (It was a two pack! The other is a heart, but it went traveling with the wife.!)

 

 

Today we went looking for sheets and bought a rug instead

It’s not wool, but it looks and feels like it.

It looks gray in these pictures, but in person, it’s much greener, multiple lovely shades of green.

It’s the right size, finally. I’ve been praying to the thrift gods for a clean 8×10 for years. YEARS.

No pee spots.

No cigarette burns.

No chalk outlines.

No pulls or stains or holes.

Rug
Rug2
Rug3

We did end up finding sheets about 5 hours after we set out. Why is it so fucking hard to find (cotton) king-sized sheets for less than $30? Or $60?

I was deeply disturbed by the sheer volume of “microfiber” sheets we had to paw through. 100% polyester. A lady does not sleep on polyester sheets. (Before you cry foul, I do admint to having one set of aubergene-colored satin ones, but! They’re not for sleeping. Ahem. Point stands.)

We might not be able to afford real linen, and bamboo is generally out of reach, too. I’ve mostly made my peace with the unpleasant economic realities of my champagne tastes/beer budget.

But cotton? The fabric of our lives? I see it growing on both sides of the interstate every time I go to Cordele. It’s not exotic. When did it get so expensive? It’s like when they started calling prunes “dried plums” and doubled the price.

My final verdict was that they should call these microfiber abominations “notton.”