Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Fat is Good

A few years ago, I dumped the margarine and started eating real butter.  I can't remember why.  I just vaguely remember thinking, this shit doesn't even taste good so why do I bother?  (I also gave up diet soda years before it became trendy since it gave me headaches....I guess I should just try to listen to my body more often.)

When I was still doing Weight Watchers yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeears ago, my least successful run was during their "fat and fiber" program.  They wanted you to eat under ten grams of fat and over ten grams of fiber.  Follow their simple plan and voila!  You get...fatter.  Because everyone just substituted fat-free foods, which were chock full of sugar.  I could eat 100 fat-free cookies because they had no fat in them.  Suddenly, Weight Watchers started preaching "everything in moderation" and that huge failure lead to the development of their points system. 

Soon I will blog about the ickiness of sugar (don't worry, I'm not fully giving it up but I am learning a lot about what it has been doing to my insides) but today I wanted to talk about fat (although sugar does kind of tie in, since sugar is used as a substitute when companies make foods "fat-free"). 

I started doing nutrition counseling with my friend, Ellen, about a month ago.  "Dieting" is always so dangerous for me.  One wrong step, and I trigger a full blown binge episode that leaves me 20 pounds heavier in a month or less.  I have entered this arena very carefully because I can't afford to gain any more weight. 

The first thing Ellen had me do was track my food for three days and write down how I felt after I ate.  Not shockingly, I got very tired after I ate sugar.  And I ate a lot of sugar (Ellen commented how sugar-heavy my diet was, and I had actually cut out a lot of sugar on those days because I was embarrassed to write down how much sugary crap I was actually eating on a regular basis!).  Anyway, I already KNOW I get tired after I eat sugar, but having to write it down and actually connect the dots really made me realize how sugar affects me.  It makes me so sick, yet I fill myself up with it every day, all day.  Suddenly, I realized, if I re-framed things, I could deal with them better.  Sugar wasn't being taken away from me.  I was choosing to just eat less of it.  Binge avoided.  For now.

Anyway, Ellen is asking me to create balanced meals.  40% carbs.  30% fat.  30% protein.  I have small goals I'm currently working on.  Make my meals at home (I really needed to cut out the fast food).  Chew more (thanks to the gastric bypass, I have very little stomach acid, so inhaling my food isn't good).  Drink lemon water before my meals to help with digestion.  And don't be afraid of fat.  I have been working so hard on creating that balance, but have actually ended up with a VERY fat-laden diet in the last month.  Not French fry fats.  Olive oil.  Coconut oil.  Nuts.  Butter.  "Good fats." 

That can't be good for me, right?  Well, it certainly doesn't seem to be bad for me!  I'm not supposed to be worrying about losing weight but I have actually dropped a few pounds in the almost month that I have been focusing on eating this way. 

Ellen posted a great article in our nutrition group on Facebook, which talks about the sugar/fat connection:

"So let's not kid ourselves anymore about what's really making us fat. Sugar is the leading culprit today in causing inflammation. Here are some specific stats from an article printed in February 2014 in the Journal of the American Medical Association [JAMA], which are worth sharing: [2]
  • Sugar is connected to an increased risk of heart attack and dementia, as well as other inflammatory diseases, such as insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, obesity, liver problems, arthritis, reduction in beneficial HDL cholesterol, increase in triglycerides, and cancer.
  • Those with the highest sugar intake had a 400 percent higher risk of heart attack than those with the lowest intake of sugar. Note the current recommendation by the American Heart Association: One's daily intake of sugar should be only 5-7.5 percent of one's total caloric intake.
  • It takes only one 20-ounce soda to increase your risk of heart attack by 30 percent.
  • If you consume 20 percent of your calories from sugar, your risk of heart attack doubles."
. . . . .
"We also need a good deal of healthy fats, like coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds, and yes -- saturated fat from animal sources. The best sources of animal fat are eggs, grass-fed and organically-raised chickens and beef, buffalo, and wild-caught fish. You can still be a vegetarian, of course. Just make sure you are no longer eating under the influence of the "low-fat police." Because the lack of satisfaction you get from low-fat foods will almost certainly turn into a sugar binge somewhere down the road."

Here's another article echoing the same sentiment:

"We all need some fat in our diet, not least because it makes our food more palatable and tasty. Nutritionally, fats do more than simply supply calories. Certain fats, like those in nuts, seeds and oily varieties of fish provide essential fatty acids (including the omega-3 variety). These essential fats are important for maintaining healthy blood vessels, making hormones and for the correct functioning of our nervous system. The fat in our diet also helps us absorb certain vitamins, the fat-soluble ones, which include A, D, E and K. Following a very low-fat diet makes you more likely to be low in these vitamins and that can impact your immunity, limit the body's ability to heal itself and have an influence on bone health. It's better to focus your diet on the healthier fats by including more fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils including avocado and olive. Here's how to make your meals naturally fat-healthy..."

And one more article:

"One consequence is that in cutting back on fats, we are now eating a lot more carbohydrates—at least 25% more since the early 1970s. Consumption of saturated fat, meanwhile, has dropped by 11%, according to the best available government data. Translation: Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we're eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables such as potatoes. Even seemingly healthy low-fat foods, such as yogurt, are stealth carb-delivery systems, since removing the fat often requires the addition of fillers to make up for lost texture—and these are usually carbohydrate-based.

The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat. Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news. Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease."

I have been using the app, My Fitness Pal, to track my food.  Yes, it tracks calories, which feels all too much like a diet, but Ellen has told me not to worry about that.  It does give me a really cool pie chart so I can see if I'm hitting my 40-30-30 goal.  So my personal goals will continue to be making my food at home and getting more protein in.  But otherwise, I don't feel like I'm on a diet at all.  I don't feel like I'm going against Health At Every Size, since MY body needs to be nourished better and I have spent a lot of years depriving it of that.  I am focusing on taking care of myself, and eating right and exercising are very important pieces of the puzzle!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Surprise Murder Mystery Party

So awhile back, I'm watching Big Bang Theory, and they had a surprise murder mystery party.  I have never desired to attend a murder mystery, but suddenly a SURPRISE murder mystery seemed like the funnest idea EVER.  Mama Bel's birthday was coming up, and so I started spinning the idea in my head.  I ran it by a few other Twirlies and it was set!  The theme of a Disney princess murder mystery seemed like a no brainer thanks to Fat Princess (aka AJ).  I realized I couldn't make it a surprise for everyone since the attendees needed to wear costumes and read up on their characters.  So, I decided that only Bel would be surprised. 

I had NO idea how much work one of these parties would be.  I purchased the kit from a website, but I had to print out almost 100 pages of documents, then cut everything up and place them into envelopes.  It took me hours.  Don't get me wrong, it was a ton of fun and so worth it once the party started!

I arrived at Bel's house dressed as some kind of modern punk ballerina Snow White.  I had Rita dressed as a fairy, Ellen dressed as an Eminem'ed out Rap-unzel and Jade as Hansel.  Bel was thoroughly confused.  We just told her that "all would be revealed shortly."  As people began to arrive, Bel started to guess who they were.  It was awesome.  Diana (Red Riding Hood) and Kim (Jasmine)  kindly provided Bel with a yellow dress, as her character was Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  She was dancing around, guessing whether she was a can-can girl or Cinderella.  Sean Michael played Prince Charming, the ultimate host of the evening, and the person aaaaaaalllll the princesses wanted to get with.  AJ starred as Cinderella (aka Cindy), the princess who went missing, and cuing the beginning of our murder mystery. 

We let Bel in on the secret, gave her some information about her character and away we went!  

If you don't want to know who "dies" and how the rest of the party plays out, please don't read past here.  I'm going to post photos of the event.  I want to wish Bel a very, very happy birthday (today is her actual birthday).  She has done so much for me, and I was happy to be able to be part of a fun night in her honor.  Thank you to Ellen for picking up the beautiful cake!  I also want to thank everyone who came to the party.  It was difficult because you have to get a number of guests, then assign characters.  And each one plays a role, so we did a little juggling in the last couple of days, and had a few attendees who didn't get an official character.  But I felt like the entire thing came together well, moved along at a pretty good pace and that, in the end, everyone had a really fun time.

So, happy, happy birthday, Mama Bel!!  Enjoy a photo journal of our evening:

Monday, May 19, 2014

Chunky Girl Comics at Big Wow Comicfest 2014

I attended Big Wow Comicfest with the ladies of Chunky Girl Comics on Saturday, May 16.  What a fun event!!!!  As usual, it seems like a picture is worth a thousand words, so I will tell the story with photos!

My flyer
Damion Poitier
Prom Date!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 2014 Blog Hop: Pole and Social Culture

This month's blog hop is about social culture and pole.  You can read our instructions HERE, but there are so many amazing quotes that Sheena found that I want to paste them in below so you don't miss them:

In the last few years, the popularity of pole dancing has grown in leaps and bounds, not to mention bumps and grinds. via the Huffington Post

What was once a dance that was synonymous with strip clubs, pole art has become an underground community that is finding its way into mainstream dance, fitness, art and culture. via the LA Times

It’s a sport that’s gaining popularity globally as a fitness trend – with ambitions for inclusion in the Olympics – but it still has an image problem. via the Guardian

This wasn’t a disco. It was no country club either. These women — and yes, men, too — have moves that are better than Jagger. The best of the best in the art and sport of pole dancing showed their stuff on Saturday, Day 2 of the third-annual Midwest Pole Dancing Competition and Convention, which drew 400 to 500 people to the Tinley Park Convention Center. via The SunTimes

There are terms a pole-dancing judge just doesn’t use at the World Pole Sports Championships. ”Spatchcock,” for instance. That’s what pole dancers usually call the maneuver Liza Szabo worked into her routine….. the old name wouldn’t do for this venue. Here, her move was officially the “FM10,” and for good reason: The meet’s organizers want to reform pole dancing into a sport respectable enough to go to the Olympics. via The Wall Street Journal

Clad in knee-high leather boots, spandex shorts and a sports bra, Xiao Yan struck a pose two feet off the ground, her head glistening with sweat and her arms straining as she suspended herself from a vertical pole. via The New York Times

Pole dance is a form of performance art, historically associated with strip clubs and dance clubs, which combines dance and acrobatics centered around a vertical pole. via  Wikipedia

These are our statistics

According to United Pole Artist, these are some of our pole dance statistics as of 2012. (we can’t substantiate these numbers at this time, fyi.)
  • Number of Pole Dancers in the world:  180,000 (Provided by Bad Kitty Exotic Wear)
  • Number of Pole Dancing Studios in the world: 1,200
  • Number of Active Pole Dancing Countries: 70
  • Number of Pole Dancing Studios in the US: 571 (Updated 5/23/12)
  • First Pole Dancing Studio in the World to Open: 1994, by Fawnia Deitrich. 
Fewer and fewer people raise their eyebrows when I tell them that I pole dance.  To me, that means that pole dance is finally starting to become part of mainstream culture.  A couple of years ago, I asked how long it might take for pole to truly be accepted.  I guessed: "about a generation."  If you think about it, we're over half way there!  The first studio was opened in 1994 -- 20 years ago, but it has really been in the last 8-10 years that studios have started popping up all over the United States.  So, we're well on our way to becoming a staple in pop culture so that no one needs to make fun or call us strippers anymore (not that there's anything wrong with stripping, but you know that person means it as an insult when they say it). 

I have been trying to piece together the history of modern pole dance.  My fourth post on the topic can be read HERE (and you can follow the links back to see posts one through three).  Speaking of you think we need to sanitize pole in order for it truly become mainstream?  You can check out that post HERE (and again, follow the links back to other posts that may be relevant).  I think part of the process is allowing men into pole studios.  I know many women feel like they need a safe place (and I think having women-only classes is fine, but women-only studios excludes a ton of people who also want to be able to express themselves through pole dance). 

Pole dance means so much to me.  I am learning to get in touch with my emotions and my body.  I have met so many amazing people, and have had so many awesome opportunities present themselves thanks to pole.  Whether it is ever truly accepted in the mainstream, I do not care.  I will forever be grateful to pole dance for the fun times over the last four and a half years (and look forward to many more to come!).

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Does 15 years of something make me an expert?

Playing around at Lake Tahoe*
I recently started thinking about how long I've been doing yoga.  I had gastric bypass ten years ago and I started doing yoga long before I had surgery.  In fact, my first yoga class was at a women's only gym called Body Beautiful in Antioch.  I joined when I was around 21 years old.  That means, I've actually been doing yoga for almost 17 years!  I should be an expert yogi at this point, right?  Wrong!

I am one of the most inflexible people I know.  When I was a kid and we'd have to do all the Presidential Fitness tests, other than dreading the pull-up test, which I knew would be humiliating, I would HATE HATE HATE the reach test.  You would sit with your legs straight out in front of you, then they would put a box at the end of your feet and see how far you could reach past your toes.  I never really could.  I don't know why that was so much more upsetting than hanging from a pull-up bar in front of all my classmates unable to heave myself up even a centimeter.

When I was in the best shape of my life a few years back, yoga practice was definitely part of my regular routine (as was cycling and pilates reformer).  I was even able to get into some of the binding poses without issue.  That's a pretty big deal for me, the inflexible girl.  I'm not back there yet but I'm on my way.  I remember when I first started back to yoga after this foot injury late last year.  I couldn't keep up and I spent many a class face down in child's pose crying because I was frustrated.  It's only been about six months, and I'm completely over that.  Even on the nights I'm feeling tired and need a break, I know I can take a minute in child's pose, or skip a chaturanga flow and just hang out in downward dog until everyone else is caught up with me.  No more tears!

What I've learned since starting yoga is that I need at least two to three classes each week just to maintain my current state of mid-inflexibility.  Of all the exercising I do, yoga is the one I can never give up.  Not only does it stretch me out, but it helps me build muscle with all those lunges during certain series.  Yoga is quite possibly THE perfect exercise (depending on the variety you are practicing)!  I actually wrote about it on the Bodybinds blog.  You can check out my post HERE.

Yoga at Grace Cathedral - apparently this is my go-to move
I have generally practiced "gym yoga."  That is, you often get a "meh" instructor who is probably just building hours until they get picked up by Yoga Works or they open their own studio.  But it is included in the price of your gym membership, so you just bite the bullet and go.  Every great once in awhile, you will find a gem.  I have been lucky to find a few gems in my gym yoga practice.  Specifically, David at Bally (which went out of business a few years ago) and Theresa at 24 Hour Fitness (my current favorite instructor).  Fantastic instructors.  I also very much miss taking yoga at Grace Cathedral with Darren.

I have also practiced in studios.  The classes are more expensive (memberships can top $100 a month), but the instructors are usually more experienced and the classes generally better.  Better how?  I don't know.  Just better.  The whole experience.  There are no meat heads throwing their weights down on the floor above us as we try to relax and concentrate.  There are no loud bathrooms with running water and bathing suit drying machines on the walls right next to our sanctuary (I'm talking to YOU, 24 Hour Concord).  Studio yoga is a different animal.  Plus, the instructors also tend to make a bigger effort (probably since classes are smaller) to walk around and correct your form.

At the end of the day, what does it matter?  I am ultimately responsible for my workout.  I can admit that some instructors are WAY better than others (please, please, please DO NOT talk incessantly through class, beginner instructors!!), and the instructor who can guide you through a difficult practice without over-talking at you is like finding the juiciest, plushest apricot at the farmer's market after pole class on Saturday.

I am currently taking yoga two to three days each week.  I notice a huge difference in how my body feels and how I sleep.  Until the day I die, yoga is probably going to be the one exercise I never give up.  Are you a yoga fan?  Tell me where you take yoga and what you love about your class!  

*I would like to thank Robert "CowboyWild" Carstensen for creating this cool photo of me!  Check out his blog at!