Thursday, July 25, 2013

How long can you pole dance?

Last weekend was full of lots of pole goodness.  One of the conversations I had was about the length of a pole dancing career.  Sure, we currently see amazing dancers of all ages...teens, 20's, up to 50's and 60's.  When you see a pole dancer in his or her 60's, though, can you imagine their bodies still doing that in their 80's?  One might think that starting young might extend that career, but sometimes putting that much pressure on a young body isn't good either.  I also understand that the body really starts to change in your 30's, so maintaining muscle and flexibility becomes more of a full-time job.  

The pioneer of pole dancing in North America is Fawnia Dietrich.  She started pole dancing in 1994.  That means Fawnia is 19 years into her pole career.  Fawnia may be one of those people who is the perfect mix of great genetics, hard work and good luck.  Her body is amazing and she may easily have another 20 years in her.  The industry as a whole is still very young, though -- mostly under 10 years old.  And I think the average dancer may not luck out with a 40 year career. 

I think there are so many factors and no easy answers.  What is your fitness background?  What kind of training did you do before pole?  Genetics.  Injuries.  Pure luck.  

Pole is still a somewhat new sport.  However, I'm sure if you look at the careers of ballet dancers, gymnasts and circus performers, you will see that most bodies can't handle the physical rigors of dancing for 50+ years.  I was reading up on ballet dancers and many start by the age of 7 but retire by the time they are in their 30's (and I am sure many have a much shorter career).  Hopefully they have picked up some additional skills along the way to pay the bills since true retirement age is still 30+ years away.  I imagine gymnasts follow a similar pattern (and I wonder if they are all putting their health at risk by starting to train their bodies at such a young age). 

I worry about the health of the pole industry as I see studio owners struggling to keep their doors open.  Not only are some barely able to cover their studio bills, but they can't even pay themselves, or buy medical insurance and retirement plans.  And they are doing a sport that has a very high risk for career-ending injury.

I don't have an answer to my own question.  So, I put it out to the pole world.  How many good years do you think a pole dancer has, regardless of the age they started?  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A Poletastic Nadia Sharif Weekend

Last weekend was one of those unexpected, fun adventure weekends.  I knew Nadia Sharif would be in town but couldn't sign up for any workshops.  Wonky foot is having a bad life right about now (surgery in two weeks!!).  I did, however, hope to at least see her since she is the biggest lover of my boobies (it's good she doesn't mind them...they are face height for her). 

On Saturday, my good friend Kate from Pole Etak had hooked up some of us Twirly Girls with the opportunity to have bit parts on a reality TV show.  If you've ever filmed a reality TV show, it isn't all that real.  But we got to sit around for the afternoon and chat and have fun with our friends while we were waiting for our turn.  The show is called Let It Ride, which will be on the National Geographic channel.  You can read an article about it HERE

That evening, Kate, Rita and I met up with awesome pole ninja, Nadia Sharif to have dinner.  On our way, we stopped for a photo adventure on Grizzly Peak.  It is really beautiful up in the hills between Moraga and Berkeley.  And it often feels like I am rushing from one thing to the next without really enjoying what I'm doing.  So it was nice to take a few minutes to be silly and take in the beautiful views.

On Sunday, Nadia had a workshop at Sedusa in Campbell, California, which is about an hour away.  She asked if I could drive her and I am always down for an adventure with Nadia!  I asked if Kate could join us.  She did and we had a great time.  The studio was really beautiful.  There were ten poles in the main room -- three up on a stage.  There was also an 11th pole inside a cage on the side of the room, which I claimed as my home.  It was awesome.  I loved the cage.

My foot really limits me physically right now but I did do the warm-ups for each workshop.  Oh man was I sore on Monday!  I made me realize how much strength and flexibility I've lost since my foot really started hurting in April and I started limiting my exercise.  I have made a new commitment to at least get some yoga in four or five times a week (which I did last night at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco -- Yoga on the Labyrinth -- check it out!). 

After the workshops, we stopped for dinner before delivering Nadia to the airport.  Kate was participating in a yogangster yoga pose photo challenge.  So, in front of the strip mall restaurant, we stopped to take photos of Kate attempting a crow pose variation with her leg extended behind her (I couldn't even dream of doing it).  A drunk dude from some nowhere bar (no really, I think it was called Nowhere Bar & Grill) came out and was staring and talking shit. So we left and Kate didn't get her official yogangster pose.  He felt like Nadia and I weren't being supportive enough of Kate.  bahahahahaahahahahahaha!  He drunkenly stumbled to his motorcycle where his wife informed him that he'd ruined our day.  HA! 

We left San Jose and sadly dropped Nadia off at the airport.  Kate and I continued our adventure into San Francisco where I dropped her off at her apartment in the Tenderloin district.  The Tenderloin in San Francisco is such an interesting place.  Mostly little white girls like Kate should not be hanging out in that area.  The night before, there had been two shootings within blocks of Kate's apartment.  We tried to find the body chalk outline but apparently the police don't use those anymore.  I dropped Kate off and started my own adventure across the Bay Bridge to get home (WTF is up with that much traffic on a Sunday?!). 

Thanks again to all my poletastic friends for a lovely weekend!!  I can't wait for the next one!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Physical addiction versus psychological addiction

You hear people say it all the time:  You don't want to be fat?  Stop eating food.  

Oh, okay.  I'll stop doing one of the things I need to sustain life.

I also feel like if you are a food addict (no, not all fat people are food addicts or compulsive eaters like me), you can't just not eat.  If you smoke, do drugs, drink can avoid those substances.  I'm not saying it will be easy, but you CAN avoid them.  I can't avoid food.  Overeaters Anonymous likes to say:  When you are addicted to drugs, you put the tiger in the cage to recover; when you are addicted to food, you put the tiger in the cage, but take it out three times a day for a walk.

I also understand that trying to come off a food binge isn't quite the same as, for example, detoxing from heroine, which can actually cause you to die.  Withdrawal symptoms include weakness, fever, anxiety, depression, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle spasms.

But my mind is a crazy thing.  It truly believes that I NEED those snacks.  I don't want to discount how difficult it is to stop a binge.  "Dieting" or altering your calorie intake in order to lose weight (also known as a lifestyle change...yeah, it's the same thing), puts your brain in freak-out mode.  This is not just about willpower.  If it was, we'd all be thin (rich and beautiful...because that's what the thin privilege brings, right?).  

Anyway, I don't want to really debate whether "food addiction" is a "real" addiction.  But I did want to talk a little bit about the difference between a physical/physiological (examples that come to my mind: alcohol; heroine; some prescription pills) and a psychological addiction (examples that come to my mind: sex; shopping; food; and marijuana is often put in this category even though some argue against it).  

Here are descriptions of the two addictions:


Physical dependence refers to a state resulting from chronic use of a drug that has produced tolerance and where negative physical symptoms of withdrawal result from abrupt discontinuation or dosage reduction.


Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors. The term addiction is sometimes applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as compulsive shopping, sex addiction/compulsive sex, overeating, problem gambling, exercise/sport and computer addiction.

So the simple answer regarding the difference, to me and in my own terms, is the amount of physical pain you feel when you STOP said addictive behavior.  Stop eating certain food?  Your brain will probably be furious but you will physically be fine.  Stop heroine without help and you may spend the next two weeks sweating and having the worst flu you have ever had in your life.  

Here is another explanation:

Psychological Addiction - Although there are many kinds of addictions, every addict engages in a relationship with an object or event in order to produce a desired mood change. The addictive personality finds difficulty in controlling their response to stimuli. Their condition expresses itself well beyond drug use. 

Psychological Addiction is a behavioral phenomenon and addiction can be defined as compulsive use of a substance. It is also characterized by loss of control. The addict tends to focus very much on the drug. In fact, the addict's whole life revolves around the drug: obtaining the drug, using the drug, and when the next fix will be. This happens even as the addict is harming himself or herself.
Physical Addiction - Initially using a drug to compensate for a depressed mood or to cope with the difficulties of life, physical addicts have continued to use, because they just cannot stop. Many have tried to stay clean for days, sometimes weeks, but inevitably they resume their pattern of use because it has become habit. 

Physical addiction refers to developing withdrawal symptoms during abstinence. In other words, if an addict is using drugs and suddenly stops, it is normal for that person to go through withdrawal. Experiencing withdrawal simply means the person has developed a physical dependence.

HERE is another article on the subject talks about marijuana specifically, which I found interesting (I am not a pot-smoker but still find the addiction process interesting from all angles):   "In one of my previous posts about marijuana addiction, a reader suggested that since marijuana does not produce horrible withdrawal symptoms, it can not be physically addictive. While withdrawal from marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, nicotine, and numerous other drugs does not result in the stereotypical “opiate-withdrawal-flu-like-syndrome,” there is no doubt that real withdrawal from these substances exists for long term users and it sucks: Fatigue, depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and trouble eating are only some of the symptoms that tend to show up."

And one last article that discusses food addiction in particular:  

Eating disorders are considered by many to be complicated pathological mental illnesses and thus are not the same as addictions described here. Eating disorders, which some argue are not addictions at all, are driven by a multitude of factors, most of which are highly different than the factors behind addictions.
It is, however, said by many that the same personality factors that place individuals at risk for substance abuse are often found in individuals with eating disorders. Often in those with eating disorders and substance abuse problems drugs or alcohol are used in attempts to avoid binge eating. Similarly, those with eating disorders may deny their problem or attempt to keep it a secret, much like addicts try to conceal their drug and alcohol usage. Similar to genetic components of addiction, there is a large genetic component to body type or image.

I know I deal with some addiction issues.  I certainly love myself a Vicodin or two, which is why I generally turn them down unless I'm having surgery or have injured myself to a point of REALLY needing them.  I have also dealt with shopping addiction. 

Anyway, I know was kind of a random post but it was just kind of a fact-finding blog to get the conversation started about addiction.  Anyone have anything to share?


If you'd like to read more of my posts on addiction, please read on (keeping in mind when I started this blog, I still believed I was going to diet myself thin one more time):

Monday, July 22, 2013

Chunky Girl Comics

Recently, through a chain of awesome events, I was chosen to represent a comic book character named Candy.  Chunky Girl Comics is about the Heavy Response Unit.  "The Heavy Response Unit storyline follows four friends who go from being happy, well adjusted, overweight women in Northern California to having to fight for equality when it essentially becomes illegal to be overweight in America.  Not only are the girls curvy, but they are all of different ethnic backgrounds."

"Chunky Girl Comics is breaking down barriers and introducing the world of comics to Rosie, Sage, Sweet Pea and Candy, a group of ladies with curves in all of the right places that are determined to break the standards of what a typical superhero should look like." 

I am really excited about this project.  I know that I struggle with self-esteem and body image issues but I still want to be a strong role model for little girls.  I want them to know that they are beautiful no matter their size.  When I was younger, I stood a head taller than everyone in my class.  I was not designed to be a delicate flower.  I definitely didn't have any tall, strong female role models back then.  I hope that Candy is that role model for younger girls and that I can help bring Candy to life.

My first adventure with the Chunky Girl Comics crowd will be Sunday, August 4th at Stockton-Con.  Providing my foot agrees post-surgery, a photoshoot is being planned for late August/early September.  I have been debating going back to being a blonde, but won't have time prior to these events so I will be wearing a wig.  Pray it's chilly because you know that's gonna make this girl sweat!  

Chunky Girl Comics also has a kickstarter-type campaign to fund the printing of their first full length issue of the Heavy Response Unit.  If you are able to donate in any way, please click HERE.    

I'm really excited about this next adventure!  I feel like Candy and the Twirling Viking Warrior would make great friends, so the red-headed Viking and the big blonde bombshell will co-exist very peacefully in my world.  

If you are able to help with a donation and/or can join us at Stockton-Con, I would love to see you!  Please share this blog with anyone you think would benefit from strong, curvy role models like the HRU girls!

Friday, July 19, 2013

My contribution to UPA's Bringing Sexy Back week

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth a million.  

I guess not much needs to be said other than I am disappointed with how much pain my foot is causing me and how much it has affected my dancing and my body.  I did five takes in different outfits to different songs and literally couldn't force myself to publish one single video in it's entirety.  My dancing isn't as smooth and I can tell I'm in pain for most of the moves.  I'm exhausted all the time and I feel swollen and sluggish in general.  So I am very much looking forward to surgery on August 8th.  I will be off work for a month.  Full recovery should take three months.  It cannot get here quickly enough. 

Please watch my video here:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shame on us all

WHAT IF we lived in a world where the first reaction to pretty much anyone we saw wasn't to figure out a way to put them down?

The fat girl in a bikini on the beach?  She isn't a "whale" who shouldn't be showing off her offensive fat rolls.  She's just a girl having the time of her life with her friends or family. 

The homeless looking guy missing a leg in a wheelchair on public transportation?  He isn't a freak who smells badly and is taking up precious commuter space.  He's a veteran of war who fought hard so that you would have the "right" to sit there and judge him.

I'm a chubby girl and, until recently, my first reaction to other chubby girls wearing certain clothing was often to say, ohmygod, she should NOT be wearing that!!  Now, I try really hard to keep my judgment in check and give accolades for having the confidence to wear whatever the fuck she feels like wearing. 

I have a severely disabled nephew who is eight years old but is unable to do pretty much anything for himself.  For eight years, my sister has essentially had an infant.  He is also the sweetest boy you will ever meet.  His smile lights up his entire face (and his man-farts can clear a room).  I am grateful that he will probably never understand people enough to know if people are calling him names.  He may be mentally retarded but he is not society's insult of a "retard."  He's just a little boy who had no control over the cards dealt to him in this life. 

Why is it often our first reaction to judge everyone around us?  Why can't we all just co-exist without putting each other down and tearing each other apart?  What if we all chose to stop judging each other and start up-lifting each other? 

I had started the #myfatwashere campaign partially because I hoped that the more "regular" people see "meaty" people doing things, the more normal it will become.  If we can watch violent movies and video games and adapt to accepting that violence is normal, then we can look at fatties walking around wearing whatever they want and start accepting that too.  Your thigh is 18 inches around.  Mine is 25 inches.  We both just have thighs. 

Try for a day to just watch your thoughts and see if you are judging people more than you realized.  It is so ingrained in us, we probably don't realize we are doing it.  Oh hey, that girl's outfit is cute.  Oh hey, that guy's gut is hanging below his shirt, gross!  Oh hey, that lady is fat and in a wheelchair, I bet she eats a ton of McDonald's!  Oh hey, look at that retarded guy, he's walking so slow and holding up this line! 

I hate shame.  I hate that in my weight loss surgery support group when many members stop coming, it is because they have started gaining a little weight and they feel ashamed.  I feel like that's exactly when they NEED to be coming to our group!  Our self-esteem should NOT be tied to the scale, but for so many of us, it is.  And the judgments of other people help reinforce the thought that being fat is shameful.  

I have been trying very hard to watch my thoughts and try to make them neutral at the very least.  I grew up in a church that bred judgmental behavior.  Even though I haven't gone to that church in 20 years, it was ingrained in me.  My mom was the worst offender.  She's gotten a lot better about it as I've gotten older and made it clear that I don't accept her judgments.  But I imagine she's just keeping her opinion to herself rather than changing her opinion altogether.  

Do you feel like you judge people unnecessarily?  How about we do two things...if you're chubby, start putting more photos out there of yourself (stop hiding from the camera!) and whether you're chubby or not, start paying attention to your judgments of others.  Let me know how it goes!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Food as your coping mechanism

I've written many, many times before about addiction transfer.  You can find some old posts below.

I absolutely advocate therapy after gastric bypass.  Not just a support group.  One-on-one, intense therapy to figure out WHY you need to self-medicate.  Whether it's food, shopping, alcohol, sex, drugs, or anything else, sometimes "everything in moderation" cannot apply!

Just because I'm aware of a problem doesn't mean its automatically fixed.  On the contrary, sometimes being aware of a problem almost makes it worse for me.

I am trying to be aware of the compulsive eating.  Since I can't binge on shopping, I don't want to start gaining weight.  Why do I have to binge on anything?  Or, why can't I be addicted to the gym or something healthy?  I could be the first girl who has a broccoli addiction!  I hate broccoli, by the way.  My mom still puts it in the blender and dumps it in salads so I can't pick it out.  

I am a compulsive overeater.  I am reading a book about this issue but, sadly so far, they are only focusing on those who have spent years in diet mode (they are giving permission to those in constant diet mode to actually eat when they feel hunger).  I left diet mode a long, long time ago (I haven't felt real hunger in years).  I have spent many years in binge mode and I need help.  I wrote a post recently and a friend said it really hit home for her.  And somehow, talking to her about it really finally put the puzzle pieces together.  It was all information of which I was very much aware.  However, it didn't really make sense until I talked it out with my friend.

Of course my life was more of a disaster AFTER weight loss surgery.  Of course I didn't need anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication until AFTER I lost the weight.  It really has nothing to do with the weight.  It has everything to do with losing my coping mechanism, FOOD.  And of course I would go back to that behavior the minute my body would allow me to eat more than a quarter cup of food.  I put my body through a traumatic incident, all with no way to cope with all of that stress.  I turned into a complete psycho because I didn't know how to deal.  Admittedly, part of why I started talking so publicly about my weight issues was so that I would shame myself into losing the weight (again).  It's all so sick.  My brain is very broken. 

Now the first year after gastric bypass isn't too bad.  It's the "honeymoon" phase.  I was losing weight almost no matter what I did.  I exercised only moderately.  I tried chocolate at like two months out.  I still lost well over 100 pounds in less than a year.  Compliments aplenty are given.  You don't need to find solace in food because you are a Goddamn super model every time you walk into a room.  Men tripped over themselves to open doors for me.  It was an interesting conundrum and sometimes I found myself not trusting people.  Would you have been this friendly to me when I was fat?  But, I looked good, so who cares?!  (The disillusionment starts at a about a year out when your stomach kind of "opens up" and you're able to eat more food and you are now having to actually control what you eat.)  I went through a similar mind-fuck/high after the year of plastic surgeries.  It's all about the high, though, and now I am constantly chasing the dragon...

I couldn't admit that I was a compulsive overeater until after surgery anyway, so I guess I wasn't prepared to mentally deal with the loss of FOOD.  I didn't feel like I overate just when I was happy, sad, stressed or anywhere in-between.  Of course, I was not a compulsive overeater.  "Those people" who binge and compulsively eat too much hide in closets and consume entire gallons of ice cream or a whole pizza.  I have never done that.  Well, no, I don't do that, but I DO graze.  All.  Day.  Long.  It's a prong on the same fork.  I eat more food than my body actually needs to survive.  And only because my brain tells me to do it.  If I try to control that behavior, it generally leads to a freak out and eating even more food.  I swear, I can't win.

Talking about controlling eating habits when you are a compulsive overeater isn't going against Health At Every Size.  I do not have healthy eating habits, and that is something I am now trying to learn.  I'm a little frustrated with myself for waiting this long to truly starting trying to fix the problem and I can only hope that I don't have to spend ten more years getting it under control.  Maybe I am like an alcoholic and I will always be considered in recovery, so every single day, I will have to keep worrying about how food is going to control my life that day. 

For those who have deal with compulsive food issues, how did you/are you dealing? 

I've been ranting a lot.  I'm a pretty angry fatty.  Here are some other posts that you might enjoy after reading my latest rant:

If obesity is a disease, then why do I have more health problems after losing 165 pounds?

I'm a healthy fatty

Let me explain...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Twirl for a Cause: AIDS Walk San Francisco Fundraiser

On Saturday, July 6, 2013, local pole dancers came together to help us raise money for my good friend, Jimmy Gale, and AIDS Walk San Francisco.  We received a ton of awesome raffle prizes from friends, local businesses and some online pole companies.  Club 1220 graciously hosted the event and Twirly Girls Pole Fitness was a co-presenter.

I want to thank Dew Point Pole for sending a box FULL of goodies to raffle.  I also want to thank our friends Lety, Rita and Mary, who donated items and baskets.  Liquidpulp Photography donated three beautiful prints.  Vanessa Howell donated a Bedroom Kandi goodie bag.  Grace from Twirly Girls donated an hour class for ten people.  Diana from Twirly Girls donated adorable Harry Potter jewelry.  There was also a gift certificate from Everything Under the Rainbow.  The Starlight Room donated tickets to Sunday's A Drag for auction.  Plus, there were many, many other prizes that I haven't listed.  Thank you thank you thank you to those who donated!

We had many dancers from around the Bay Area, including recent transplant, Amy from Boston Pole Fitness, Kate and Sasha from Pole Etak, and the amazing Jill Anne.  From Twirly Girls, we had Sean Michael (who is also a coach at Kinetic Arts Center in Oakland), Diana, Kim, Patrick, Robert, Alyssa, Grace, Jimmy and Yolanda (aka Team Greazeh!).  I want to thank the dancers who donated their tips to the fundraiser.  Thank you to Diana and Kim for arriving early and setting up Diana's pole.  Thank you to Diana for letting us borrow that pole!  Thank you to Bel for allowing us to use her stage pole and for trusting us to honor the Twirly Girl name at an event when she had to work at the studio.  Thank you to Patrick for helping me set up the pole and to AJ and Robert for helping me take it down (it was a little difficult to do anything but stand upright in that corset).  Thank you to Robert and Rita for taking photos.  Thank you to 1220 for allowing us to use their bar for our fundraisers.  Thank you to DJ Mikey for not only running the music but for always donating his own money to tip the dancers and join in on the auctions!  I especially want to thank Farrah from Twirly Girls, our tireless pole cleaner and doctor-in-training. 

I really cannot thank everyone enough for coming out to dance, to donate raffle items and to watch the show.  You helped raise about $1,200 towards Jimmy's $10,000 fundraising goal.  If you couldn't make the show but would still like to donate, please click THIS link. 

And one more thank you to anyone I may have inadvertently forgotten.  My's getting old and it doesn't remember everything anymore.  :-)  I have never met a more giving group of people.  If you missed the event and you'd like to watch a playlist of the videos, please click THIS link. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm on a journey...still...I walk very slowly

If you read my blog regularly, you know I've been on quite a journey lately.  I'm not quite fitting in with the fat acceptance groups because I've had weight loss surgery.  I don't quite fit in with some of the weight loss surgery groups because I'm trying to embrace Health At Every Size instead of rabidly trying to re-lose my re-gain.  Turns out, I'm not alone.  There are a lot of weight loss surgery patients in the same boat. 

The diet industry fails at an astronomical rate -- reportedly 95-97% of people who lose weight will regain it within two years -- and supposedly the average weight loss surgery patient gains back about half of their weight by ten years out.  So I appear to be a success story!  I'm sitting here all fat and sad, but I beat the odds!  I lost 165 pounds over nine years ago and I have "only" gained 65 pounds back, which means I've maintained 60% of my weight loss.  I'm a winner!!   (Well, I guess I still have another six or seven months before I hit the ten year mark to gain more weight so I can just be an average patient...)

So why am I sitting here all sad and defeated?  Because I'm still trying to get through my thick skull that the number on the scale doesn't define my self-worth.  At over 300 pounds, I really only felt horrible about myself because everyone told me I should.  At 200 pounds, life was perfect.  Oh, except it wasn't.  And now at 250 pounds, I have more pain and more anxiety and am more depressed than I was at 350 pounds. 

I had created a group on Facebook where weight loss surgery patients can come and discuss their struggles and desire to find happiness with their own bodies without feeling judged that they took such extreme measures and still "failed."  Maybe we didn't fail.  Maybe the surgery failed us.  Or maybe we're doing just fine. 
Instead of seeing two happy people in this photo, I see my rolls

I had an incident during one of my in-person support group meetings where a member's husband got into an argument with me about statistics.  I told him there are not a lot of "good" statistics out there.  I hear the one I mentioned above...that some indeterminate number of patients keep off some indeterminate amount of weight at some random number of years out.  But I haven't found a ton of "good" studies to back it.  I feel the reason for that is that those selling this surgery don't want statistics out there.  Well, this guy's wife's doctor had quoted statistics to him.  Their hospital is also their insurance company.  To me, it's a bit of a conflict of interest.  Of course the doctor is going to quote positive statistics.  (PLUS, even keeping off half your weight IS a HUGE success when compared to the rest of the diet industry.)  Also, that hospital's program has only been in existence for eight or so years (when I started going to this support group ten years ago, this hospital/insurance company was sending all gastric bypass patients off-site for surgery).  Their statistics for their specific program might still be pretty positive because they don't have any patients over ten years out.  He was furious with me.  How dare I suggest their doctor is lying or quoting inflated numbers?!  Hey dude, I'm not suggesting anything other than this doctor is given a paycheck by a company that has a product to sell.  If there are multiple studies with varying degrees of success, of course you're going to choose the numbers that sound the best.  And if you think doctors all over the country aren't doing it too, well I've got a bridge for sale... 

And that brings me to my point...the diet industry, which includes weight loss surgery, rakes in BILLIONS of dollars per year.  They aren't selling you health.  They are selling you THE HOPE of a thinner body.  I am currently reading two books (because my ADD tells me reading two books at one time is a good idea).  One is called Fat and Furious.  It is about the mother-daughter relationship and how it leads to compulsive overeating.  The other is called Overcoming Overeating.  OO claims that in 2010, Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. estimated that the diet industry would bring in $68 billion.  In 2006, bariatric surgery showed profits of almost $4.5 billion.  I can only imagine what those numbers have grown to in 2013.  Telling people they're fat and offering them a way to lose weight is big business.  Yes, it benefits your doctor to tell you that weight loss surgery is going to better your life. 

Weight loss surgery certainly changed my life but it didn't fix it.  I never took anti-depressants or anxiety medications until AFTER I lost weight.  Sadly, I can't say, however, that even knowing what I do now and going through what I have, that wouldn't make that choice again.  Shoot, based on the standards now, I would probably even qualify for surgery again at this weight!  When I first had surgery, patients had to have at least 100 pounds to lose.  Now I meet pre-ops that I would have previously guessed were two months out from surgery.  Seems like having 60 pounds to lose is enough to amputate your stomach. 

Instead of seeing a girl who was blacking out, I think, look how skinny I am!
Anyway, I would never presume to tell anyone else that they should or should not have weight loss surgery.  Each person has to make their own decision.  I am also not suggesting that you not trust your doctor.  However, I believe your surgeon is an expert at cutting you open and not necessarily an expert on telling you how to be healthy after you leave the operating room.  I take everything said with a grain of salt and I like to do a little of my own digging around to make sure I also believe what I am being told. 

So, I am still on my journey of self-discovery regarding my health, weight, appearance and mental well-being.  I am counting down this final month before my foot surgery (also a by-product of weight loss surgery, thankyouverymuch).  By the time I am fully healed in October, it will have been a year of having my activity stifled due to pain and swelling.  I can't wait to get back on track and back to pole dancing like I used to! 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

July Blog Hop: A day in the life of a pole dancer

This month's blog hop is about chronicling a day in the life of a pole dancer...  If you want to check out other entries for this month, click HERE

I am no average pole dancer.  Especially not lately with this 9 month old foot injury that is causing more and more pain every single day.  Even on my best, most pain-free day, I am not the most awesome pole dancer you will ever meet.  I am not putting myself down.  Just stating a fact.  But what I love to do is put on pole events.  So today I will tell you about the day in the life of a pole dance event coordinator.

Last Saturday, Twirly Girls Pole Fitness and Club 1220 sponsored Twirl for a Cause: An AIDS Walk Fundraiser to benefit star walker, Jimmy Gale.  Truly setting up this event started many moons ago, when Jimmy and I had to set the date with our location, Club 1220, a bar in Walnut Creek, California.  We also had to invite dancers willing to perform and find sponsors willing to donate raffle items.  But this post is about a single day in the life of, so...

I purposely picked up the stage pole from Twirly Girls the night before the event.  We had two poles but Diana from Twirly Girls was transporting her pole to the event separately.  Twirly Girls is 25 miles from my house and I was worried that Saturday would be hectic and wanted to have one thing checked off my list.  I also had the dancers sign liability and photo releases the night before.  Two things checked off the list.

On Saturday, I woke up and ran some errands.  I picked up water, ice and snacks so the performers would have a little something during the time they were at the club.  I then had to get myself ready.  This is where it gets fun.  See, I debated back and forth on whether I wanted to dress up since I figured I would be co-MC at the event, or whether I wanted to dress comfortably, as I knew I'd be running around a lot.  Biggest drawback to dressing up cute is that my foot won't allow cute shoes, so I'd have to be barefoot (plus I'd be setting up the pole without the ability to breathe in the tight corset I wanted to wear).  Biggest drawback to not dressing up is I end up in a million photos looking like a homeless lady.  So I dressed up.  Now I have to transport a heavy stage pole and set up wearing the corset.

I got to the club around 4:30 PM to set up.  None of my cohorts were there yet so I mostly wandered around outside.  Got a thumbs up from some firemen on my outfit at least.  Soon enough, people were arriving and thank goodness, Patrick, and others did most of the unloading of my truck and setting up of the pole. 

The next hour and a half were kind of a blur.  I was mostly running around, setting up, getting the dancers into the dressing area, gathering CDs of music...  Then at 5:45, I realized I'd forgotten three raffle items at home.  My house is only a mile away but it was bad timing.  The show was supposed to start at 6 PM.  The bar was still kind of empty, so with Jimmy's help, I decided to run home to get the missing items.  On my way back, one of the dancers called and needed a ride, so I swung over to BART and picked her up.  We arrived back at the club around 6:15 PM.  The bar was suddenly packed.  We got started around 6:30. 

I felt like the event went really well.  We allowed tipping of the dancers and the dancers were then able to decide how much they wanted to donate to the fundraiser.  Normally, of course, we don't allow tipping at our showcases.  Although I love pole dancing, I really feel like dancing is very personal for me.  So, I do participate in showcases but I don't feel like performing is my life calling.  I felt much more comfortable being behind the scenes and sharing MC duties with Jimmy (I have a lot of work to do to sound better on the mic, though).  I did participate a little in a "twerking" finale, which was fun.  I felt like I was running around the entire show -- barefoot on a cement floor.  I saw some familiar faces but didn't really get to say hi.  I really, really appreciated everyone who came out to support us, though.   

After the show was over, it was clean-up time.  The minute the show ended, I ripped that corset off and sucked in as much air as I could get into my lungs.  At the end of the event, I had been on my feet for over six hours and my foot was definitely toast.  We got to dinner after 9 PM.  We celebrated the $1,200 raised for AIDS Walk San Francisco by hitting up a sushi bar and eating some "healthy fried vegetables," aka tempura.

So, that is one day in the life of a pole dance event coordinator.  I really, really enjoy setting up pole shows.  I realize I am still learning about how to throw a huge event and I am hoping to apply what I learn each time to making the next event bigger and better. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

What the @SFBART strike cost me ~ #bartstrike

So last weekend, most of the San Francisco Bay Area sat transfixed to their news stations, wondering if our main mass transit system, Bay Area Rapid Transit (aka BART), would go on strike.  Two union contracts were expiring Sunday evening, and they were planning to negotiate late into the evening, meaning we would have no clue when we went to bed if we had a way to work the next morning.  That mean that I had to go to bed prepared to get up very early the next morning to find an alternate way to work. 

Alternatives included:  The ferry (which means driving about 15+ miles, paying to park, then getting on a ferry from Oakland to San Francisco), BART shuttles (free, but include busing to Oakland, switching to a new bus, then busing to SF -- they were also filling up early and leaving commuters stranded), other buses (which would also require transferring and lots of time), casual carpool and other carpool services (which made me nervous since I had never tried it), driving (which would mean about $15 in gas using my huge truck, $6 bridge toll, plus $50 or more for parking since a lot of lots increased their rates to take advantage of commuters and I drive an over-sized vehicle), or not going to work, which would mean I had to take my own vacation time.  

On a normal work day, I wake up around 6 AM, which means I lay around in bed whining to myself about getting up for half an hour, then I get out of bed, eat breakfast, ice my injured foot, get in the shower around 7 AM and then head out the door to walk to the closest BART station by 7:45 AM to be at work a little before my start time of 9:00 AM.  Last Monday, I was up at 4:30 AM and out the door by 5:45 AM.  I drove to a friend's house where we got into her car and commuted to Oakland to try out the ferry.  We were in line by around 6:50 AM and got on to a ferry around 7.  The ferry took off at 7:30.  We got into the city a little after 8 and I was at my desk by 8:30 AM.  So my entire commute was around 2 hours and 45 minutes.  

The commute home was just as miserable.  We hurried out of work at 4:00 PM (an hour earlier than my normal time), hoping to make the 4:30 PM ferry back to Oakland.  The line was so long and the ferries were on some random schedule so we didn't even get on a ferry until probably 5:00 PM.  We got to stand in line with the sun beating down on us for an hour.  Once we were on the ferry, we got across the bay in the normal half hour, jumped in the car and drove home.  We were pretty lucky and didn't hit much traffic.  Still, it was pretty close to 6:30 PM before we got back to Walnut Creek. 

My normal commute would be 40 minutes each way (not including walking -- that's train time only) and cost $10 round trip.   On Monday, the cost was gas, parking ($4), and ferry fare (about $8.50 round trip, which was discounted fairly heavily since I had a Clipper card).  My commute time, however, had almost two hours added to it each direction). 

Tuesday, I just couldn't do it.  My injured foot was so swollen and sore.  I called in and took the day off.  So the BART strike cost me almost $300 before taxes out of my paycheck.  It was a good choice, though.  I understand the Tuesday commute was an even bigger nightmare than Monday's. 

Wednesday, I had to get back to work.  I knew there were things to be done and I just couldn't afford to take any more days off (thanks to my injured foot, I have very little time off saved up).  I decided to try the shuttle from Walnut Creek BART to San Francisco.  I got to the parking lot around 6:00 AM.  I walked almost right on to a bus and we took off.  We were dropped off at West Oakland BART and had to transfer to another bus (which I thought was stupid).  But, again, we got straight on to another bus and I was in San Francisco by 7:15 AM.  I wandered around, got breakfast and got to work by 8:00 AM, an hour earlier than my normal start time.  Since it was the day before a holiday, we were allowed to leave at 3:00 PM.  It was a busy work day and I ended up skipping lunch, which means, I still worked my 7 hour day before getting off at 3.  Several of us walked to the bus lines and we were on a bus by about 3:30 PM.  We sat in some traffic on the Bay Bridge and had to get off the buses in West Oakland again.  They dropped us off pretty far from the line and made us walk through the BART employee picketers.  That was pretty annoying.  We then had to wait awhile to get back on another bus to Walnut Creek.  That was even more annoying.  We got to the Walnut Creek BART parking lot around 5:00 PM.  At least the shuttle was free, but I did not enjoy the long, hot commute home.

Thursday was 4th of July and I did not have to go to work.  However, since it looked like the strike was going to continue, I also didn't get to go out and see fireworks.  I needed to get up early on Friday, so BART owes me a freaking fireworks show.

Friday, I got up at 5:00 AM.  I was happy to hear they were starting service up again at 3:00 PM, but that did me no good for the morning commute.  I left my house at 6:00 AM and was parked at the Walnut Creek BART station by 6:15 AM.  All buses were gone.  I was furious.  I had to get back in the car and drive to the Oakland ferry then stand in a cold line (since it was 100 degrees yesterday, I apparently didn't foresee the 55 degree, windy morning and didn't bring a jacket).  The ferry loaded us up in Oakland, made a stop in Alameda, and we were on our way to San Francisco.  We offloaded, I made a quick stop at the store and was at my desk a little after 8:00 AM.  Another two hour commute.  And tonight, since my car is at the ferry, I have to do the reverse trip on the ferry since taking BART wouldn't drop me off in the right place.  That means I have to request to leave work a little early so I can get home at a decent hour.

So, I can't give you an exact number on what this BART strike cost me.  Sure, a few hundred bucks at least, many lost hours of sleep, stress (I'm certain I see extra wrinkles in my face) and some serious anger that the system is set up to allow one transit system to hold an entire area hostage for a week (I understand other transit systems in other cities are not allowed to strike).  I don't want to debate unions or whether they are useful (or how they are the ones who negotiated a lot of the laws that benefit me today as an employee).  I don't blame BART employees for wanting to be paid more but guess what...until this year, I hadn't had a raise in six years.  I was the only one contributing to my 401k.  So if you wanted a sympathetic audience, you lost us.  I also don't let BART and their fat cat, overpaid management off the hook.  They are equally at fault here.  If there is any way I can find an alternate way to get to work and not give BART another dime of my money, I'm going to do it.  But they know they have us.  400,000 riders a day rely on BART.  So there doesn't seem to be any incentive to make us happy.  There are not a lot of easy options for many commuters.  And if BART decides they want to screw us, we apparently get to bend over and take it.  Happy Friday!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Twirly Girl Pole Dancing Documentary

Awhile ago, Bel mentioned to me that she had been contacted by a girl named Karen about doing a pole fitness documentary for her school project.  Bel said she had talked about me and that Karen was interested in interviewing me as well.  I get excited/nervous when opportunities like this present themselves.  Will I look okay?  Will I say the right thing?  Will I represent pole properly?

Initially, the idea was presented to me as a documentary about pole fitness.  I have talked about the difference between pole dance and pole fitness.  The lines are blurred for me but there is often a distinct difference for those who prefer one or the other.  I wondered if I could properly present a good story about pole fitness when I am not exactly the best representation of society's desired "fit" person.  I pulled on my Health At Every Size big girl panties and said I'd do it.

I chatted with Karen before we met.  She said she'd send me the questions to review prior to our interview.  I had my whole pole dancing story ready in my head, ready to present it in linear fashion.  Then I received the questions.  Clearly, Karen had done her research.  She knew everything about me.  My entire history with weight issues.  My religious up-bringing.  Everything.  This wasn't just about pole dance.  This was about my life journey.  From being a big kid to a fat college student.  This was about weight loss surgery.  It was about re-gaining weight.  This was about health and fitness and pole dance.  This was MY story.  Suddenly, I was more than nervous. 

I cried as I read the questions, re-counting stories in my head from when I was younger and made to feel like I wasn't good enough because I was chubby.  I followed the questions and re-gathered my thoughts.  This interview was going to be WAY harder than I thought!

Tina and I met on two different occasions.  We did talk about my story.  About my weight and upbringing.  And about how pole dance has changed me as a person.  And I didn't cry!  But it was a really awesome experience.  I've been on such an amazing journey, starting with Rita and I meeting Bel in December of 2009, all the way to now, dancing with my class, Boys, Girls and Twirls on Monday nights.  I have met so many awesome people and I thank each and every one for being part of my life. 

So, without further adieu, here is Karen's class project, a documentary about ME!  Please check it out and feel free to leave a comment on YouTube to let Karen know what you think about her project.