Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TLC's Big Sexy

sexy: sexually attractive or exciting

A show that uplifts big, sexy women? A show that declares that women can be big, beautiful, and healthy? Is it too good to be true?

It's real! Maybe. I saw the premiere of Big Sexy tonight, and I loved it. The show has five incredible women who work in fashion in Manhattan. The first episode showcases a plus size fashion show that they managed to arrange within two weeks, and it was fabulous.

The only problem I had (which could change if I watch the episode a second time with a more critical eye) was that it opened with one of the women squeezing herself into a body shaper. The rest of the episode more than made up for it, but that part still sticks with me. It sent me the message "Hey, these women are great, but look how they try to hide the bodies they purport to love!"

If you look up the show, I'd advise checking TLC's site. Already I found several positive articles and blogs about the show, but some of the comments are disheartening at best. I encourage you to watch this show. I know I'm going to keep my eye on it.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Kirstie Alley Calls Out Letterman For Telling Fat Jokes About Her

Bold: Showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

This article is about a month old, I think it deserves highlighting: Kirstie Alley Calls Out Letterman For Telling Fat Jokes About Her. The gist of the short article is that Kirstie Alley boldly went on Letterman and humorously criticized him for writing jokes about her. It always irks me when talk show hosts mock a person one night and pander to them the next--when the celebrity is on the show.

How incredibly brazen! I can't imagine doing something like that on national television, even if it were pre-approved (as some commenters suggest). I would love to see more celebrities do something like this: use a talk show host's popularity to highlight how unreasonable the host was before. Kirstie managed to point out that David Letterman was unreasonable and rude, and even he commented that they "probably" wouldn't have made fun of her if she weren't overweight.

Kudos, Kirstie! That was brilliant, and I appreciated it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Reference List

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. This is the final post of my thesis.

About-Face. 2010. “Don’t fall for the media circus!” Retrieved April 20, 2010 (http://www.about-face.org).

Ahern, Amy L., Kate M. Bennett, and Marion M. Hetherington. 2008. “Internalization of the Ultra-Thin Ideal: Positive Implicit Associations with Underweight Fashion Models are Associated with Drive for Thinness in Young Women.” Eating Disorders 16 (4): 294-307.

Anderson, Daniel R., Aletha C. Huston, Kelly L. Schmitt, Deborah L. Linebarger, and John C. Wright. 2001. “IX. Self-Image: Role Model Preference And Body Image.” Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development 66 (1): 108-118.

Clark, Levina and Marika Tiggemann. 2007. “Sociocultural Influences and Body Image in 9- to 12-Year-Old Girls: The Role of Appearance Schemas.” Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology 36 (1): 76-86.

Clay, Daniel, Vivian L. Vignoles, and Helga Dittmar. 2005. “Body Image and Self-Esteem Among Adolescent Girls: Testing the Influence of Sociocultural Factors.” Journal of Research on Adolescence 15 (4): 451-477.

Cusumano, Dale L. and J. Kevin Thompson. 2001. “Media Influence and Body Image in 8-11-Year-Old Boys and Girls: A Preliminary Report on the Multidimensional Media Influence Scale.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 29 (1): 37-44.

Dohnt, Hayley and Marika Tiggemann. 2006. “The Contribution of Peer and Media Influences to the Development of Body Satisfaction and Self-Esteem in Young Girls: A Prospective Study.” Developmental Psychology 42 (5): 929-936.

Dohnt, Hayley K. and Marika Tiggemann. 2008. “Promoting positive body image in young girls: an evaluation of ‘Shapesville.’” European Eating Disorders Review 16 (3): 222-233.

Dove. 2010. “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Retrieved April 15, 2010 (http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.com).

Fruit of the Loom. 2006. “Fruit Guy Fans.” Retrieved April 23, 2010 (http://www.fruitguyfans.com).

Herbozo, Sylvia, Stacey Tantleff-Dunn, Jessica Gokee-Larose, and J. Kevin Thompson. 2004. “Beauty and Thinness Messages in Children's Media: A Content Analysis.” Eating Disorders 12 (1): 21-34.

Kaiser Family Foundation. 2006. “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds.” Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Retrieved April 14, 2010 (http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf).

Lam, T.H, Stephanie Lee, Samantha Fund, S.Y. Ho, Peter W. H. Lee, and Sunita Stewart. 2009. “Sociocultural influences on body dissatisfaction and dieting in Hong Kong girls.” European Eating Disorders Review 17 (2): 152-160.

Maltby, John, David Giles, Louise Barber, and Lynn E. McCutcheon. 2005. “Intense-personal celebrity worship and body image: Evidence of a link among female adolescents.” British Journal of Health Psychology 10 (1): 17-32.

McCabe, Marita P., Lina A. Ricciardelli, Jacqueline Stanford, Kate Holt, Salley Keegan, Louise Miller. 2007. “Where is all the pressure coming from? Messages from mothers and teachers about preschool children's appearance, diet and exercise.” European Eating Disorders Review 15 (3): 221-230.

McNicholas, Fiona, Alma Lydon, Ruth Lennon, and Barbara Dooley. 2009. “Eating concerns and media influences in an Irish adolescent context.” European Eating Disorders Review 17 (3): 208-213.

National Eating Disorders Association. 2010. “National Eating Disorders Association.” Retrieved April 20, 2010 (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/programs-events/media-watchdog.php).

Smeesters, Dirk and Naomi Mandel. 2006. “Positive and Negative Media Image Effects on the Self.” Journal of Consumer Research 32 (4): 576-582.

Thompson, J. Kevin and Leslie Heinberg. 1999. “The Media’s Influence on Body Image Disturbance and Eating Disorders: We’ve Reviled Them, Now Can We Rehabilitate Them?” Journal of Social Issues 55 (2): 339-353.

Tiggermann, Marika and Amanda S. Pickering. 1996. “Role of television in adolescent women's body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 20 (2): 199-203.

Redefining Beauty: Conclusion

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. I apologize for the delay; I've been out of town but have returned finally. This is the final section of my thesis. References will be posted tomorrow, and normal posting will resume later this week.

Continued Education
Therefore, it is important not only to educate girls at a young age, but also to continue the education at length. Programs such as Shapesville have shown that it is possible to raise self-esteem and to convey positive body messages. As Dohnt and Tiggemann (2008) agree, “programs that target media internalisation [sic] at a young age are warranted, and the results of the present study indicate that Shapesville successfully achieve this aim” (231). However, one brief session is unlikely to last for a lifetime of positive body images. Just as a person cannot take one foreign language course and expect to become fluent, a girl cannot take one self-esteem enrichment course and expect to accept her body and change her perspective.

Long-Term Goals
As aforementioned, if a female adolescent perceives thinness to be beauty and to lead to happiness, she will go to great lengths. This is unfortunate because some girls will develop eating disorders to achieve this goal. Female adolescents who are unable to attain the unrealistic definition of beauty will be likely to yield to low self-esteem. Conversely, if the definition of beauty is redefined so as to include a broader base of women—hopefully women of all types of beauty—female adolescents will be able to accept themselves, to have higher self-esteem, and to have higher body satisfaction to avoid drastic measures, such as eating disorders or body alterations. If programs like the Real Campaign for Beauty and educational tools like Shapesville become more prominent, the definition of beauty within our culture has the ability to change. Although the change would not likely happen over night or even within a few years, the next generation of female adolescents has the potential to live in a world without bias toward thinness, to consider themselves as beautiful as anyone else, and to achieve the high self-esteem that they need to be happy, healthy, and confident.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Positive Programs to Enhance Self-Esteem: Part 3

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. I apologize for the delay; I've been out of town and still am.

About-Face, an organization whose mission is “to imbue girls and women with the power to free themselves from the burden of body-image problems so they will be capable of fulfilling their varied and wondrous potentials,” goes a step beyond the NEDA’s Media Watchdog program: this organization provides a “gallery of offenders” and “gallery of winners” and encourage viewers to contact the people, programs, or companies in question (About-Face 2010). On the website’s blog, the organization writes articles regarding the latest offender or winner. Although the group may seem radical in its approach to changing the media, they do also advocate media literacy and provide a wealth of resources to enhance viewers’ media literacy, ranging in topic from articles about body image and obesity to cosmetic surgery and eating disorders (About-Face 2010).

Shapesville, written by Andy Mills and Becky Osborn and illustrated by Erica Neitz, “is a children’s picture book that has simple, rhyming sentences and bright illustrations to engage the children in the story and make the program developmentally appropriate” and that “celebrates positive body image by encouraging self-acceptance and diversity” (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008:224). The short book teaches girls how to care for their bodies and minds. Readers learn about the five food groups to build strong bodies and about special talents to build self-esteem. One study in Australian private schools showed that girls who were read Shapesville could list the food groups and were more willing and able to list special skills or talents they possessed (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008). This newfound ability to recognize what set them apart from the crowd is important for their self-esteem.

Unfortunately, due at least in part to the aforementioned proponents of negative body image, at the six week follow-up, most girls were no longer internalizing the positive body image lessons for appearance satisfaction as they had reported after the end of the reading session, but they did retain knowledge of accepting others regardless of appearance and of remembering five food groups, which previously none of the girls could recite entirely (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008). While each could recall at minimum a vague understanding of what she learned, most regressed to the same low self-esteem she had shown before. Moreover at followup, the girls reported that they no longer wanted to look like television or pop stars as they had before reading Shapesville, an important factor in determining a female adolescent’s willingness to internalize media image and to succumb to low self-esteem or poor body image (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008:229; Maltby, Giles, and Barber 2005:28). Assuming that a girls’ environment plays an important part in maintaining her negative body image, it would follow that replacing her into such an environment without continual education and support would minimize the effects of a one-time program.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Positive Programs to Enhance Self-Esteem: Part 2

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Dove is conducting the most pervasive program to promote positive body images. In September 2004, Dove launched the Campaign for Real Beauty (Dove 2010). Dove discontinued using ultrathin models to opt for more realistic, healthy-looking women for their commercials. Although it has been nearly ten years from inception, the Campaign for Real Beauty continues to display healthy women in commercials featuring products such as deodorant and body lotion. The Dove website explains that every purchase of a Dove product goes toward the Dove Self-Esteem Fund that supports programs for the Campaign for Real Beauty. Using the Dove Self-Esteem Fund, Dove is able to produce television advertisements that educate the public on how marketing companies use air-brushing and computer-enhancing programs to create unrealistic ideals that bombard female adolescents (Dove 2010).

After the introduction of the Campaign for Real Beauty, Dove delved into a more active role in helping young women to realize their own beauty. Dove achieves this is by partnering with the Girl Scouts of the USA to spread the positive body message. The program targets girls between the ages of eight and seventeen and consists of self-esteem boosting workshops, culminating in a ceremony in which the girls promise to love themselves and their bodies (Dove 2010). Dove’s program, Uniquely ME!, shows girls the difference between reality and the Hollywood perception of beauty. The girls are able to see how computers can alter images so that the images no longer contain real women; workshop participants have the opportunity to see unaltered photographs of models beside the computer-enhanced images and to discern the differences between the two (Dove 2010). On the website, parents can download free self-esteem tools to continue building the self-esteem of their daughters.

National Eating Disorders Association
Girl Scouts of the USA also offered to collaborate with another group: the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). The Girl Scouts of the USA authored a piece of federal legislation, HR 4925, the Healthy Media for Youth Act, and requested that the NEDA become a partner in this initiative:
NEDA partnered with Girl Scouts of the USA, the bill author, on the initiative, which states that the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, and the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, shall review, synthesize, and conduct or support research on the role and impact that media has on diet, nutrition, exercise, body image, and eating. If passed, the bill will also authorize research on how food marketing and obesity campaigns affect girls' and boys' image, nutrition, and exercise, especially among eating-disordered youth populations. (National Eating Disorders Association 2010)
On March 24, 2010, HR 4925 has been referred to the Subcommittee on House Energy and Commerce, where it has remained for the last month. Recently passed legislation, HR 35902, should assist in furthering the efforts of the Girl Scouts and the NEDA by providing more information to the public on the nutritional contents of their meals.

Furthermore, the NEDA works hard to combat negative body images in the media in hopes of preventing young women from turning to eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia nervosa. Uniquely, the NEDA asks the public to take an active role in contacting the media to let stations, networks, and corporations know that no longer with the American public accept the use of unhealthy models in commercials and shows. The NEDA’s Media Watchdog Program, created in 1997, provides helpful links for readers, such as “What to Look for in the Media,” to assist United States citizens in making the media aware of their concerns in an educated, informed manner (National Eating Disorders Association 2010). The website boasts that “over half of the protested advertisements have been discontinued” (National Eating Disorders Association 2010).

In addition, the NEDA website contains an impressive array of educational tools for children, parents, teachers, and concerned viewers who want to make a difference in what the media portrays to young girls. The resources pages include information to target demographic groups by gender, age, and profession so that viewers may streamline their experience on the website and find information quickly and easily. Aside from general educational information, viewers may watch videos regarding eating disorders or attend webinars, interactive seminars provided through a combination of webcam usage and chat rooms (National Eating Disorders Association 2010). The NEDA is committed to providing accurate information so that people of all ages and occupations can become media literate (to understand the unrealistic images projected through the media) and improve the body image concepts presented in the media by voicing concern.

2HR 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, includes a section entitled “Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items at Chain Restaurants” that will force restaurants with over twenty chain establishments to provide nutritional information to patrons in an easy to understand and readily accessible format.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Positive Programs to Enhance Self-Esteem: Part 1

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Social marketing (the idea to make the marketing industry more socially relevant) does not necessarily have to use the media to challenge or to change the messages; support groups, families, and peers can and should be used, as well (Thompson and Heinberg 1999:349; NEDA). Thompson and Heinberg enumerate four key issues that these groups could target to work toward redefining beauty:
  1. Preventing the behaviors that result from internalization of media images
  2. Promoting internalization of positive, healthy norms that are present and promoted by the media
  3. Informing consumers of strategies used to perpetuate unreasonable norms (e.g., airbrushed photos, computer-modified images, etc.)
  4. Providing information about the negative correlates of extreme weight loss behaviors (1999:349)
Several groups, some of which do work directly through the media and some of which take a more grass-roots approach by working with families, have sought to do this and continue to make great strides in correcting the damage done to female adolescents’ self-esteem as described below.

Fruit of the Loom
In 2009, Fruit of the Loom produced a commercial portraying healthy, moderately-sized women. The women are wearing Fruit of the Loom Fit-for-Me undergarments, a line designed for “full-figured women” (Fruit of the Loom 2006). A voiceover sings a lyric created specifically for the commercial: “There’s a smile that you show me, pulls me closer to you / As the moonlight reflects in your eyes / And the touch of your hand, dear, enchants me, romances me / Let’s leave the rest of the world far behind” (Fruit of the Loom 2006). The image is heartwarming until the audience learns that the voiceover is one of a group of men wearing giant fruit costumes known as The Fruit Guys. At this point, the commercial becomes a farce; all other commercials featuring the giant fruit are comical, and that perception bleeds into what could have resulted in positive body messages. Furthermore, the addition of the “Fit for Me” sign at the end of the commercial denotes that the women were used because they are full-sized women and not simply because they are beautiful models. Still, the commercial is a positive change from other Fruit of the Loom commercials which continue to show only underweight, scantily-clad models.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Negative Effects on Adolescent Self-Esteem: Part 3

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. Today's post is actually one of the more upsetting parts of the paper, in my opinion.

Impact of Children’s Movies and Literature
Perhaps more disturbing than images in commercials or programs for young adults which may inadvertently affect pre-adolescents are messages engrained in movies and literature made specifically for children. Many of the “classics” contain negative and detrimental body messages. A study by Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson undertook a content analysis of the top twenty-five children’s films and twenty children’s books. The researchers made an interesting discovery:
In many of the classic videos (60%), a character’s love for another character depends on his or her physical appearance. For example, the prince in Cinderella invites the “beautiful” maiden to a ball so he could select his bride. Also, in Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Beauty and the Beast, a female’s appearance attracts a male who is unaware of her other qualities until after falling in love with her. This suggests that his initial attraction is based on her appearance. (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson 2004:27)
In fact, in both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the leading female characters are in a deep sleep (after having been cursed by witches) when the male hero rescues them with a kiss. The men are presumed to have fallen in love with the women for their beauty before they even hear the women’s voices.

Even Beauty and the Beast, a story about a bibliophile who falls in love with her beastly captor after making a deal to keep her at the Beast’s castle to bargain for the life of her father, has the stereotypical happy ending of the Beast, a hideous creature, returning to this handsome state as a wealthy prince. The story has a positive message when Belle looks beyond the Beast’s appearance to see the gentleness within him, but the message is dashed when we realize that the Beast was a handsome fellow who had been cursed by an ugly hag. We pity the man who loses his attractiveness yet condemn the witch who cast a spell to make him as unattractive on the outside as he was on the inside.

In general, beauty was equated with happiness, love, kindness, and other positive characteristics; conversely, ugliness alluded to trickery, malcontent, and negative characteristics. Symbolically, beauty evoked thoughts of positivity while ugliness (anything that did not fit within the narrow definition of beauty as thinness) lead to negativity. Furthermore, while female physical attractiveness and having a slender body creates an image with positive characteristics, obesity is associated with “negative traits in 64% of the children’s videos and 20% of the books” and “obese characters are commonly depicted as evil, unattractive, unfriendly and cruel” (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson 2004:27). Another feature of the study revealed that none of the films and only one of the books depicted exercise as a form of losing weight (28-29). Interestingly, it would seem that the media suggest that people are naturally thin as a manifestation of their good qualities, and obese people are cursed to remain overweight due to inherent, bad qualities.

Three movies that did not have as much negative stereotyping were E.T., Indian in the Cupboard, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, three of only six non-animated film from the top twenty-five list (Herbozo, Tantleff-Dunn, Gokee-Larose, and Thompson 2004). Unlike most of the other films, which revolved around beautiful men and women (or female and male animals) falling in love, E.T., Indian in the Cupboard, and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory focus their attention on children as opposed to adult relationships. This could suggest that films created specifically for children about children are less likely than the others to perpetuate the negative stereotypes. This would imply that although the symbol of beauty affects young children, it is not meant to affect them necessarily. Children are not expected to conform to the ideals of beauty, yet they must understand the ideals so that they can portray them when they are older.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Negative Effects on Adolescent Self-Esteem: Part 2

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Impact of Body Distortion
In fact, some girls develop distorted images of the differences between underweight and normal weight bodies.1 One study illustrated this concept by showing young girls images of underweight, normal weight, and overweight girls (Ahern, Bennett, and Hetherington):
Participants labelled [sic] many of the underweight images as “normal weight.” This supports the idea that women’s concept of normal weight has shifted so that they accept increasingly thin ideal as representing the norm. This is further confirmed by the observation that two of the images of normal weight women were consistently labelled [sic] as “overweight.” However, there was consensus (over 85%) on 5 of the underweight women. (2008:298)
As described, many of the underweight images were marked as “normal weight” by the participants. Perhaps more telling of body image distortion is that at least ten percent of the “normal weight” images were consistently marked as being “overweight” (Ahern, Bennett, and Hetherington 2008:298).

Moreover, girls use this distortion, along with the notion that thinness leads to happiness, to determine that thin girls have more friends. A study by Dohnt and Tiggeman involved showing pictures of underweight/normal weight duos and normal weight/overweight pairs to pre-adolescent girls (2008:225). The girls were asked to choose which girl would have more friends and which one they would most like to play with. They had the option of choosing one of the girls or both for their responses. Unsurprisingly, the girls suggested that the normal girls would have more friends than the overweight girls and that they would prefer to play with the normal weight ones. No statistical significance existed between the normal weight and underweight duos, for the girls seemed to choose both to have more friends and would choose both or either for play (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2008:227).

1Underweight, normal weight, and overweight are based on Body Mass Index, BMI, a calculation based on height and weight—BMI = [(weight in pounds * 703) / (height in inches)2]—and endorsed by World Health Organization and the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The definitions used here are Underweight = under 18.5, Normal weight = 18.5-24.9, Overweight = 25 and above.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Negative Effects on Adolescent Self-Esteem: Part 1

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper.

Impact of the Media
While one must recognize that correlation does not necessarily or immediately prove causation, multiple studies have shown a link between media viewing and distorted body image and/or body dissatisfaction for young, female adolescents both within the United States and throughout much of the developed world (Cusumano and Thompson 2001; Thompson and Heinberg 1999; Tiggemann and Pickering 1999; Maltby, Giles, Barber, and McCutcheon 2005; McNicholas, Fiona, Alma Lydon, Ruth Lennon, and Barbara Dooley 2009). Most models and actresses on television are not representative of the population in terms of body size or weight; many are underweight (Anderson, Huston, Schmitt, Linebarger, and Wright 2001). Girls are bombarded with these distorted images and tend to take them as reality. Even if a child can distinguish that television shows are fiction, she may not realize that the body images projected are fiction, as well. In fact, 35% of adolescent girls named a person from entertainment media, sports, or public life as a role model in one study (Anderson, Daniel R., Aletha C. Huston, Kelly L. Schmitt, Deborah L. Linebarger, and John C. Wright 2001:115). It is apparent that negative body image is an epidemic. Therefore, helping women rebuild their battered body image is an essential part of strengthening society.

Moreover, one experiment showed that certain body types affect young women differently (Smeesters and Mandel 2006). Women who viewed extreme body types, either thin or obese, were more likely to suffer from negative feelings of self-esteem. However, women who viewed body types that were moderately thin or moderately overweight reported higher self-esteem because of upward comparison (Smeesters and Mandel 2006). Additionally, “exposure to moderately thin (but not extremely thin) model has a positive impact on one’s self-esteem” (Smeesters and Mandel 2006:581). One might make the suggestion from this evidence that the media should consider using moderately-sized women in their programming to avoid feelings of self dissatisfaction among young female viewers. This measure would help to extend the definition of beauty to at least healthy but thin women.

Impact of Parents and Peers
Of course, media are not the only proponents of negative body image in female adolescents (Dohnt and Tiggemann 2006; Clay, Vignoles, and Dittmar 2005). While the media may be the largest or most visible perpetuator of negative body images, a female adolescent’s family, friends, and peers often help to reinforce the negativity in her life (Lam, Lee, Fund, Ho, Lee, and Stewart 2009; Clark and Tiggemann 2007). McCabe, Ricciardelli, Stanford, Holt, Keegan, Miller studied the roles of mothers and teachers on children’s body appearance satisfaction (2007). While teacher’s reported minimizing discussion with students regarding the students’ appearance, mothers admitted to being more critical of their daughters than their sons and were vocal about the criticisms, both to the interview and to their children:
In fact, mothers promoted exercise as a means of weight control for girls. Even if this was not overtly stated to the girls, the consistent view of the mothers was that their daughters needed to exercise so that they would become fit, and not become overweight. Even at this young age, mothers are already communicating different messages to boys and girls. (McCabe, Ricciardelli, Stanford, Holt, Keegan, Miller 2007:228)
Whenever the mothers commented on exercise for the boys, they intended the boys to exercise to gain muscle rather than lose or maintain weight (McCabe, Ricciardelli, Stanford, Holt, Keegan, Miller 2007:228). One must note that the mothers of these girls were likely indoctrinated with the idea of thinness is beauty and are socializing their children in the same way that they would teach their children about any other aspect of their culture.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Introduction to Adolescent Influences

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. Today's post is the opening section.

In 2009, American children and adolescents between the ages of eight and eighteen watched more than forty hours of television per week (Kaiser Family Foundation 2006). This information would suggest that television would have a significant influence on children, particularly when considering that children only spend around thirty hours a week in the classroom (assuming a six-hour instructional period for five days a week). As Tiggemann and Pickering (1996) state, “it is difficult to believe that a medium which gets so much exposure will not have an influence on the minds of young women” (202). The rest of the time outside of school, sleep, and television is spent with friends and family, two important peer groups in an adolescent’s life. Many television shows portray women who are unrealistic at best and air-brushed at worst. Female adolescents tend to internalize these messages and attempt to become like the unhealthy women. Although the media have played a major role in creating a deficit in the self-esteem of female adolescents, it is possible to rebuild positive self-esteem through workshops, programs, educational tools, and familial support to remind young girls that beauty can be redefined.

Definition of Terms: Self-Esteem and Body Image
The definition of “self-esteem” as used in this paper will incorporate two specific terms in a sociological context: self-esteem and body image. Random House Dictionary describes self-esteem as “a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself”; however, such a definition is too broad for the scope of this paper. Merriam Webster describes body image as “a subjective picture of one's own physical appearance established both by self-observation and by noting the reactions of others,” which is not quite broad enough. Because self-esteem is a measure of one’s entire self-worth, it encompasses body image, an important factor for determining how media and other groups affect the self-esteem of female adolescents. Therefore, the definition of “self-esteem” will refer to “a subjective interpretation of oneself (physically and cognitively), determined at least in part by noting the reactions of others and internalizing such outside influences.”

Introduction of Theory: Symbolic Interactionism
Two major concepts from symbolic interactionists heavily influence the research of this paper: the definition of the situation and significant symbols. William Isaac (better known as W.I.) and his wife Dorothy Thomas proposed the definition of the situation, or Thomas Theorem, that if a person perceives a situation to be real, it is real in its consequences. In Don Quixote, the lead character reads novels about heroics and chivalry, believing every fictional act to be true. Because he believes them to be true, he then believes that he, too, can achieve such feats and drives himself mad by completing various quests. George Herbert Mead conceived the idea of significant symbols, which are symbols that create a specific similar response from various people. Language is a critical significant symbol. For instance, if a person screams “Duck!” everyone in the area will cower and look around them for a flying object. If the screamer has saved a person, they will be thanked. If the screamer was simply yelling for no purpose, they will be admonished. Similarly, in this context, if female adolescents perceive that beauty (meaning thinness) will lead to happiness, popularity, and love, they will go to great lengths to attain the beauty.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Redefining Beauty

Over the next several days, I'm going to post sections of my thesis. I had a request to see it, and I figured I might as well post it here. It's about negative body images in the media and the programs that work to combat the negativity. Because the paper was long, each post will be one major section of the paper. Today I'll begin with my abstract.

The current definition of beauty is far too narrow. American society dictates that a woman is only beautiful if she is thin, regardless of any other characteristics she may possess. In fact, most people assume that a thin (beautiful) woman will have positive characteristics, such as kindness, whereas overweight (or even normal weight) women will have negative characteristics, such as cruelty. The media supports this notion by utilizing women in commercials and on television programs who are underweight.

Unfortunately, female adolescents do not realize that the women on television are not realistic or representative portrayals of the female population. They perceive that the women are appropriately-sized and that such a size will lead to happiness, so they must suffer the consequences: low body satisfaction, poor self-esteem, and sometimes eating disorders.

Surprisingly, a movement has arisen within the past decade to combat this epidemic. Organizations like the National Eating Disorder Association and companies like Dove are working to combat the negativity that the media projects onto young girls. They provide information, workshops, and constant support if the parents or teachers would become involved.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Friend Makin' Mondays: Girly Stuff

Friend Makin' Mondays is a regular feature from All the Weigh, a blog which I heartily recommend! If you'd like to participate, please visit her blog and leave a comment including or linking to your responses.

1. Do you like to shop? Sometimes, unless I encounter something like the Old Navy fiasco from a couple days ago. Now that I know what kinds of clothes will fit and which brands are better at providing fashionable clothes for bigger women, I enjoy it more.

2. How often do you wear makeup? Not often. If I find myself with extra time in the mornings, I might put on mascara and eyeliner, but that's atypical. Usually I only wear makeup when I want to look particularly nice.

3. How do you feel about nail polish? I wish I were better about wearing it, but it's such a hassle to me. I dislike the process of removing it and then having to repaint every week just because the paint's starting to chip or my nails are growing out.

4. Do you consider yourself to be a feminist? Absolutely! People tend to misunderstand (and misappropriate) this term to suggest that all feminists actively fight "the man" and men in general. Also, some people think that feminists look down on housewives and stay-at-home moms. In truth, most feminists today think that it's all about choice: If you choose to be a housewife or SAHM, that's great! The problem arises when women aren't given a choice.

5. What’s your biggest challenge as a woman? What a peculiar question. I suppose my biggest challenge is fighting the societal expectations of what it means to be a woman. I'm thoroughly upset when people suggest that my life must be lacking because I'm "not a mom" or comment how I'll "make a great mom" or "be a great wife" someday. While I respect that many women choose to marry and bear children, I hate having to explain why I don't already have a husband or kids and then being berated for it.

6. Do you wear skirts and dresses? I'd like to wear more skirts and dresses, but I lack good/appropriate shoes to go with them. Right now, I'm still in jeans mode.

7. How do you feel about high heels? I'm convinced that the right pair would make me fall in love with heels. That said, I haven't found them. I'll keep looking!

8. Do you subscribe to magazines? No. I find that most articles I would want are available online.

9. Do you shave your legs/wax/use depilatory creams or go au naturale? In winter, I only shave my legs if I need to wear a skirt or a dress for an event. It gets really cold, and any extra layer helps. In the spring, summer, and fall, I shave more frequently depending on the temperature. Once every week or two is my summer norm.

10. What do you like most about being a woman? Being able to wear what I want and pursue my dreams without being labeled in the same way that men are. Granted, women don't have very many advantages in this society, but we do have a little more freedom when it comes to doing what we love.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Old Navy, you disappoint

From dictionary.com: "regular - usual; normal; customary"

I went shopping yesterday for a few items at Old Navy because they were having a sale on shirts and shorts. Everyone was helpful, knowledgeable, and friendly; it was an overall pleasant experience. The cashier told me that I could go to a website to take a survey about my shopping that day, and I could get 10% off my next trip.

The survey began with the common sorts of questions: how clean was the store, were the employees helpful, did the lines to checkout move quickly, etc. However, I was suddenly presented with a question so absurd that I had to get a screenshot.

screen capture of regular sizes question
"Of the 'other items (excluding jeans, underwear, socks)' you shopped for, were you able to find all the sizes you were looking for on the sales floor? Please consider only the sizes you were looking for that were 'regular' sizes, not Plus, Maternity, Petite, or Tall."

Are you kidding me, Old Navy? "Please consider only the sizes you were looking for that were 'regular' sizes, not Plus, Maternity, Petite, or Tall." At first, I thought I was reading too much into it, so I sent it to a friend. She confirmed that it was incredibly offensive. What I read from that message is that Old Navy doesn't want to have short or tall fatties (overweight or pregnant) walking around stores. Sure, they'll take your money online, but they'll be damned if your "irregularity" is seen wandering around in store! We'll gross out all the regular people.

If the store hadn't already closed by the time I was taking the survey last night, I would have gone straight back to the store to return my new clothes. I'm glad I didn't. Returning the clothes might send the message that they don't need to put "irregularly" sized items in stores, which is the opposite of what needs to happen. Although I wear large shirts, I need a 14 or 16 in pants/skirts/shorts, which are supposed to be "regular." It was nearly impossible to find anything above a 10, to be honest. I was lucky to find what I did.

I haven't made up my mind. I want to show Old Navy that plus sizes are in demand in stores--particularly because they often have in store only sales which exclude all but the "regular" customers--but I also have strong feelings against supporting a corporation that is actively and apologetically discriminating against certain types of customers. At any rate, I thought you all might want to know about this.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Discrimination Against Overweight People

From dictionary.com: "rage - intense anger; fury"

Earlier today, my uncle and I had a disagreement about universal healthcare. He thinks that the government shouldn't pay for healthcare, and I believe that humans should take care of one another. However, that debate's neither here nor there.

The argument made me think about something I'd heard not long ago about raising health insurance rates for overweight/obese people. Of course, being a good librarian-in-training, I had to do a quick Google search, which led me to a Gallup poll regarding health insurance rates and hiring policies for "significantly overweight" people and smokers.

Not a good sign.

Not at all. I won't discuss the results about smokers, but suffice it to say that they were even more unfavorable than the ones for overweight people. Over forty percent of people polled said that it would be justifiable to charge higher insurance rates to "significantly overweight." What's more astonishing is that 14% said it would be okay to discriminate against people in hiring practices just for being "significantly overweight"! That's outrageous.

Also, I'd love to know the working definition of "significantly overweight." Did they outline a definition, or is it up to the person polled to choose how they would define "significantly overweight"? Would it be based on BMI, body fat percentage, or simply if a person looks fat?

I understand that people assume that being overweight means that you'll suddenly have all sorts of health problems, but I still have trouble accepting that so many would be willing to charge overweight people extra, especially since people who earn less money are more likely to be overweight.

The entire situation is disheartening.

Friday, July 29, 2011

PC Crew

If any of you are fellow Lexingtonians, I strongly suggest you check out the PC Crew. The Lexington Herald-Leader recently ran a piece on them as part of the current Stand Up Lexington series, a response to the Men's Health article about Lexington being listed as the most sedentary city.

I've joined, and everyone is so welcoming! I had nearly a dozen "welcome" messages. They have several fitness classes and events where members have a chance to meet up. Aside from the fitness component, they have social gatherings, as well. They also post articles related to healthy living and focus on that rather than weight loss alone.

Soon, I'm going to take advantage of the free Zumba classes listed in the article and through the group's Facebook page. If any of you would like to go with me, please let me know when you're available. Even though I'm sure I'll be welcomed with open arms, I would feel better having another newbie in tow.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Fast Times at SC High

High school was an interesting time for us all. I don't know many people who refer to those years as their "golden years"; if a person does, I'm not sure what to make of it. Hormones and first loves and heartbreak? I wouldn't go back if you paid me.

I was on color guard for every year of high school (9th-12th). In my junior year, I was co-captain. Senior year brought me the title of captain. I loved my guard girls, and I felt confident in my abilities. I could spin, and I knew it.

Our guard instructor, however, made me feel pretty bad about myself. If he wasn't demanding weight loss, he was commenting on other physical features, like eyebrows (for me) or underarms (for another). After every performance at a competition--where we nearly always won or at least placed--he told us that we "looked like shit." It was a classic emotionally abusive relationship. He was cruel, but we were certain that he did it because he wanted to make us better. We didn't recognize that he was ridiculous until others pointed it out, yet we would defend him if anyone said a word against him.

We had to buy two-pound wrist and ankle weights to wear at practices. We wore them to run the mandatory two miles around the track every other night and to practice dance and the routine, even though it's not recommended to wear them for running or brisk walking because of the risk of injury.

I felt fat. And ugly. And worthless. To me, the ability to spin was the only thing that made me a worthwhile individual. The chance to lead my girls to victory was my main goal. As I mentioned, I was about 160 pounds back then. If I hadn't already been wrapped up in my weight, I was after that. No one explained that I was at a healthy weight or that I was probably pushing my body too hard. I don't think anyone knew.

If I could send a message to my high school self, it would be this: You are beautiful. You are loved. Please love yourself.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Putting on the Pounds

From dictionary.com: "shame - a painful emotion resulting from an awareness of having done something dishonourable, unworthy, degrading, etc"

I’ve never been a small person, at least not in my memory. I know that I was above-average weight by third grade. Pictures from before seem to show me as average size; I still wonder what happened. Was it getting glasses? Was it the stress of my horrible third grade teacher? I don't know. In seventh and eighth grade, I played soccer for my junior high school's junior varsity team. In seventh grade, I was the only girl on the team. The boys were cruel...at first. Once I withstood their bullying for a couple months, they seemed to accept me. One boy told me I was in his "top five" when we were in a circle doing stretches. It seemed disingenuous at the time, but today I think he may have been honest. In time I learned that he liked my strength and my defiance.

Still, I was overweight. My body shape changed drastically during the summer between 8th and 9th grades. A boy who had teased me in junior high suddenly wanted to date me in high school. (I laughed at him.) My color guard instructor had pushed us to lose weight--more on this in another blog. Even though I was at my best shape, my mom suggested that I lie about my weight on my driver's license to say 140. I couldn't have been more than 160, which you may recall is close to my goal weight, but it sent a clear message that overweight=embarrassing, shameful.

In the first couple of years of college, I gained about twenty pounds because I had constant access to delicious foods. I could get a (seemingly) home-cooked meal at any time of the day, a luxury I did not have as a child. My parents had fed me well, but we didn't often eat home-cooked meals. I moved away from campus after my first year of college yet continued to gain weight because I had no idea how to cook healthy foods for myself. As I've mentioned before, my family didn't eat many home-cooked meals.

When I moved back to Charleston to finish undergrad, I gained another 20 pounds. I was also hospitalized for two days from a severe anxiety attack, which had rendered me so incoherent that the doctors thought I might have had a mini-stroke. Like many other overweight people, I suffer from anxiety and emotional eating. I had tried Weight Watchers, but it didn't help. I graduated with my bachelor's at my highest weight, just over 200 pounds.

I've already discussed what happened after I moved for grad school. I learned to love myself. I learned that my self-esteem should not be dependent on my weight. I learned that I still have a long way to go in terms of eating healthy and getting fit.

I learned that I can do this. All by myself. I deserve it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Uncle Sam Breakfast Swap Challenge

This is a sponsored post through Attune Foods. I received a free box of cereal in return for an honest blog post.

I participated in the Uncle Sam Breakfast Swap through Attune Foods. In exchange for an honest blog entry on Uncle Sam Cereal, Attune Foods sent me a coupon to receive a free box (valued at $3.89). I’m not sure if they’ll like what I have to say because this isn’t a raving review, but I was asked to “Eat a bowl of Uncle Sam for breakfast every day for a week and then write a blog post about how your week went.” This will include only my honest opinions and thoughts.

I should add a caveat about my biases. I’m not a cereal girl in the first place; I would much rather have eggs and toast or waffles. Also, the only Uncle Sam cereal that I could find in town was Original. My reaction may very well have been different if I had been able to find strawberry or something else. Since I began writing this, I received an email from Attune Foods regarding the launch of their new website. Now I can buy the other flavors!

The first day was pretty miserable. I ate 3/4 cup (the recommended serving size) with skim milk. At first taste, the cereal reminded me of Rice Krispies, which I love. Then, I realized that it was a little chewy, and it seemed to take ages to get through one bite. On days two and three, I added chopped apple. On day four, I tried banana. For the remaining days, I tried combinations of apple and banana in a desperate attempt to improve taste and texture. While the apples and bananas certainly improved the experience, I still didn’t enjoy having it for breakfast.

I must say, it’s definitely not my favorite. In fact, I was going to call the box a loss until I noticed that Kenlie at All the Weigh had used it on yogurt. This was brilliant! I had a small bowl of Greek yogurt with local honey and Uncle Sam cereal, and it was delicious and so filling.

One of my sayings is “I’ll try anything twice; the first time might be a fluke.” I will go to the website and order one of the other varieties of Uncle Sam and see if I find it to be better. Although I cannot--at this time--recommend this cereal for breakfast, I whole-heartedly recommend it for a snack with yogurt!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Friend Makin' Mondays: Defining Moments

Friend Makin' Mondays is a regular feature from All the Weigh, a blog which I heartily recommend!

Was there a defining moment in which you realized that you needed to lose weight? If so, will you elaborate? (If you experienced this moment in some other area of your life, please feel free to share that too!)

My moment was less like Kenlie's moment. I didn't have an event that worked as a catalyst; rather, my moment was more a realization of how I felt about myself.

I had been overweight for the later part of elementary school and all of junior high. In high school, I maintained a healthy weight, but I didn't realize it was healthy because I was overweight by BMI standards. My color guard instructor constantly found reasons to criticize my body, and he made us run two miles every day while wearing wrist and ankle weights. (One day, I'll discuss this at length.) In college I gained quite a bit of weight for a variety of reasons. I joined Weight Watchers in my second-to-last year of undergrad for shallow reasons. I had yet to realize that my self-worth was tied so tightly to my weight.

WW didn't help me at all; in fact, it hurt. I had to stop going to WW because of the financial and emotional strain, and I gained another twenty pounds. For about a year, I set aside my weight and tried to focus on myself. After graduation, I moved to Lexington to start my master's degree. I decided that things had to change. The light bulb finally clicked that I should lose weight because I love myself, not because I hate myself. My family has a history of medical problems that can be weight-related: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. If I wanted to take care of myself and avoid these problems, I needed to lose weight and eat better.

It pains me to watch shows where the overweight people decide to lose weight because they say they hate themselves. They hate seeing their reflection in the mirror. They hate the rolls or the way their clothes fit. Personally, that seems to be the wrong reason to start this journey. We all have our reasons, but the underlying cause should be because you want to do better for yourself.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Concession Confessions

From dictionary.com: addiction - "the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma"

This post by Skinny Emmie resonated with me. For weeks I hid from my choices, only to realize how much it was costing me. I must admit that, as much as I try, I do have to make some concessions in my dietary choices.

Everyone heralds the benefits of quitting soda--there's even an entire website dedicated to it--but I simply can't do it. At least, not yet. During the fitness program last semester, I tried to stop because my personal trainer urged us to give up sugary drinks for water entirely. I wanted so badly to accomplish what I haven't been able in years, so I stopped buying soda at the grocery store for several weeks.

I soon discovered that, even without soda in the fridge, I found ways to get it. I started ordering Jimmy Johns every evening so that I had a reason to order a soda. Or, I'd avoid packing lunch so that I could buy a soda with my lunch on campus.

If this sounds like an addiction to you, that's because it's close. It doesn't meet the medical definition for an addiction, but it's an incredibly difficult habit to break. My mom likes to joke about how I would only play tea party if she gave me soda for my plastic tea set. That's a sweet story, but that learned behavior set me up for a lifelong (so far) addiction to sugary drinks.

Time for a little number crunching! A twelve-pack of Pepsi runs around $4. If I'm lucky, I can catch it on sale for closer to $3. That sounds a little expensive, right? My average meal at Jimmy Johns, including a sandwich, chips, soda, and tip, runs closer to $11. One of the less expensive meals on campus, normally a sandwich and soda, costs about $6. Let's say I ate on campus and ordered Jimmy Johns that night: that's a total of $17 to get my soda fix! I could buy between 4 and 6 12-packs for that much. A 12-pack of soda will last me about a week and a half. So, for the price of one day of eating out to get soda, I could have stocked myself up for nearly two months. That's not to mention the money I could have saved by cooking the food that I had on hand.

I'm doing better now. My concession confession is that I always keep soda in the house; if I don't, I'll revert to ordering in and eating out just to get my soda fix. Since I've started keeping soda around, I've only eaten out (or ordered in) a few times. When I do order in, it's usually a plain turkey and provolone sandwich from Jimmy Johns and their delicious Thinny Chips. When I eat out, it's those rare evenings when I need to have dinner between working and attending an evening meeting on campus. Even then, I try to get a light meal so that I can eat something better upon returning home.

It's a long, harrowing journey, but I'll get there.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fashion Challenged

From dictionary.com: fashion - "a prevailing custom or style of dress, etiquette, socializing, etc."

I love Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime. If you haven't been watching, you really should consider it. My favorite (superficial) part of the show are Jane's outfits. That woman can dress! She's particularly inspiring to me because she's overweight and dresses so fashionably.

For the last few years, I've been trying to develop my style. From high school until nearly the end of undergrad, my go-to outfit was a tee-shirt, hoodie, jeans, and sneakers. Now that I'm in graduate school preparing to get my degree and hopefully a professional position, I need to start dressing like the person I am instead of who I was.

I am a put-together person, but I don't look it. Part of my problem currently is that I can't afford to buy the clothes that I want...or new clothes at all. Being overweight means not really having the luxury of shopping at consignment stores or places like Goodwill. Most of the used pieces for plus size women are either severely outdated or seem to be made for the elderly (or both). I'd love to shop at Kiyonna or Sealed with a Kiss Designs or Fashion to Figure, but those things require funds that I'm seriously lacking.

I know the look I want. I know what styles I prefer, and what colors work for my coloring. One of these days, I'll be able to say that I honestly love every piece in my closet.

I'll cross my fingers that in the fall I'll have more spare change, but until then I can aspire to use my current wardrobe as best as I can to look as fabulous as Jane.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Contest Entry

Kenlie, over at All the Weigh, is doing a giveaweigh (see what I did there?) for a great scale. If you're interested, check out her post for all the details.

You may notice in my weigh loss log that I haven't posted a weight in several months. Because the weight loss program is over, I don't have a reliable scale; I don't trust my scale to give me an accurate reading, given its track record. Regardless of who wins the scale, at least I know of a trustworthy brand now.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

In Sickness and in Health

Have you ever considered the effect of being sick on trying to be healthy? I don't mean chronic sickness, just the everyday icks or a cold. We talk about how being healthy makes us feel better, but I've noticed that being noticeably sick makes me forget about trying to be healthy.

For the last week, I've been battling some annoying bug. I thought at first that it was just my allergies misbehaving after a day out in the country (which was fabulous and so fun), but that wouldn't have lasted this long. I've been at least three of the seven dwarfs when all I really need right now is Doc.

Also, I've reverted to some very bad eating habits. Instead of making time to fix eggs for breakfast, I've opted for PopTarts. Rather than cooking up some of the potatoes and broccoli I've enjoyed in the past few weeks, I've been grabbing quick, unhealthy snacks, like potato chips and plain Easy Mac.

I used to make these cute little bentos to take for lunch. I don't normally get into kyaraben (character bento), but I do enjoy finding creative ways to showcase my food. The brilliant thing about bento is that you have to focus on portion control and nutritional content. Because the containers are generally small, you can't just toss in a bag of chips and a PB&J sandwich. My mom even bought me a set of Pampered Chef Creative Cutters, which are perfect for making cute shapes from veggies and solid blocks of cheese. They would work for meat, as well, but my meals tend to be meat-light. Can't you imagine how adorable it would be to cut a sandwich into bite-size stars?

The difference between grabbing a Lunchable and making a bento is the time and effort required. The same goes for breakfast and dinner. When you're feeling so low that you can barely manage to get to work (or can't get out at all), you don't want to slice, dice, boil, or bake your way to a healthy meal. I can't stress the importance of having easy, ready-to-go snacks!

Tomorrow I intend to do some grocery shopping. I'll buy some blocks of cheese and veggies to cut into cute shapes to keep in containers in the fridge for quick snacking/meal-making. I'll buy some food to go with the Greek yogurt I bought last week. Whatever I have to do to make sure that I can have healthy snacks on hand, I'll do.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Friend Makin' Mondays: What's in your fridge?

FMM is a regular feature from the fantastic blog All the Weigh, which I heartily recommend!

  1. List a few common items that can always be found in your fridge. Milk, eggs, and shredded cheese are the only very consistent things. I often shop sales, so it changes regularly.
  2. What kind of milk do you drink? Skim. I'm so used to the taste that I'm not sure I could go back to whole milk.
  3. Do you prefer fresh or frozen vegetables? Fresh potatoes, but frozen everything else. Because I'm only feeding myself, most of my fresh veggies tend to spoil. I never can seem to eat them quickly enough. Frozen veggies, on the other hand, last ages without going bad, so that I don't lose money and food.
  4. What do you currently have to drink in the fridge? Water, milk, Lipton Diet Green Tea, a few Honest Teas, a few gatorades, SoBe Lifewater, and Fuze. What can I say? I like variety!
  5. How often do you clean out your refrigerator? Every week when I take out the trash. I always check the fridge before I close the bag.
  6. What’s the healthiest thing in it right now? Hm...probably the frozen broccoli in the freezer. Most of the foods are pretty healthy, but the broccoli is probably the best. The Greek yogurt might be healthier, but I don't eat it as often.
  7. What’s the most unhealthy thing in it right now? A couple boxes of Girl Scout cookies that I usually forget to eat but can't bring myself to throw away. I like to have two or three cookies after dinner on occasion.
  8. What do you wish you had in it that you don’t have now? Good question! I wish I had some Lean Cuisine individual pizzas. Those are delicious.
  9. How often do you shop for groceries? Once a week or less. My pantry is fairly stocked, so I only shop to refill things that run out, like milk or eggs.
  10. What’s the weirdest thing in your fridge right now? I'm not sure I have anything that would qualify as "weird" right now. I do have a few Earth Balance "vegan buttery sticks" leftover from making vegan stuffing balls a few months ago. At Whole Foods, the "vegan buttery sticks" (which I swear is the name on the package) were cheaper than the regular butter, so I gave it a shot. They tasted fine in the stuffing balls, but I haven't been brave enough to try them on just toast or a roll.

Your turn!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

PSA: Correlation is not causation

Today I'm going to do a public service announcement: correlation is not causation. How does this relate to healthy habits and weight loss? Stick around!

Journalistic standards tend to fall when authors are reporting on medical findings. I believe that the reason for this is two-fold: 1) journalists aren't necessarily well-versed in science, and 2) saying something is associated to another factor is far less interesting than saying that it causes another factor. The most common problem I see, aside from misinterpreting some results, is that reporters write as though correlation is the same as causation. I saw a headline today that really threw me--potatoes can add plenty to waistline--so I had to investigate!

Anyone who has taken a basic statistics or research methods course can tell you that there are three rules for determining causation:
  1. Establish correlation.
  2. Define time relationship.
  3. Eliminate intervening variables.

I'll briefly cover what those mean. The first one is pretty simple; you have to show that two things are related reliably (meaning that your test can be replicated and return the same results) and validly (meaning that your test measures that which you intend to measure). The second one is also fairly simple; you have to demonstrate that item A (the causal factor) precedes item B (the caused result).

The third is slightly more difficult, and it's the one that journalists skip most frequently. Intervening variables include anything that could have an effect on item B, even though item A may appear to cause the change. My statistics professor gave the best example I know. Let's say you're at a football game. It starts to rain. Everyone opens umbrellas, and the game continues. However, suddenly the rate of fumbles increases. After a number of games where you observe this, you notice that people always open umbrellas before the fumbling increase. Therefore, you conclude that umbrellas cause fumbles.

Nonsensical, right? We've established 1 and 2, but we haven't eliminated an important intervening variable: the rain! For such a simple example, anyone would confidently say "Wait! You've got it wrong! The two are correlated, but they aren't causal." A recent study from Harvard University scientists (Mozaffarian, Hao, Rimm, Willett, and Hu) published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that "4-year weight change was most strongly associated with the intake of potato chips (1.69 lb), potatoes (1.28 lb), sugar-sweetened beverages (1.00 lb), unprocessed red meats (0.95 lb), and processed meats (0.93 lb) ) and was inversely associated with the intake of vegetables (−0.22 lb), whole grains (−0.37 lb), fruits (−0.49 lb), nuts (−0.57 lb), and yogurt (−0.82 lb) (P≤0.005 for each comparison)" [emphasis mine]. Several dozen newspapers and blog sites around the country picked this important finding and completely distorted it.

Each of those three articles uses terminology to indicate that potatoes "cause," "contributed to," or "led to" weight gain. That's not what the scientists say. It's a subtle difference, but the studies found that daily servings potatoes, particularly fried in some way, were associated with higher weight gain. Everyone in the study gained weight on average, so it's not as though the potato lovers were the only ones packing on the pounds. Journalists are overlooking key intervening variables! Do people who regularly eat some form of potato have other lifestyles that might contribute to higher weight gain? The scientists even point out that you can't say that one food or drink can be shown to consistently affect weight gain across the board: "Eating more or less of any one food or beverage may change the total amount of energy consumed, but the magnitude of associated weight gain varied for specific foods and beverages. Differences in weight gain seen for specific foods and beverages could relate to varying portion sizes, patterns of eating, effects on satiety, or displacement of other foods or beverages" [emphasis mine].

Furthermore, I'm guessing that the journalists didn't actually look at the results graph. The category of potatoes--that they all like to point out adds 1.28 pounds over four years--includes two subcategories: 1) French fried (3.35 pounds over four years), and 2) Boiled, baked, or mashed (0.57 pounds over four years). If you view it that way, French fries were the highest weight gain correlation with 3.35 pounds, far higher than the 1.69 pound gain from eating potato chips. While boiled, baked, or mashed potatoes still weren't a negative correlation, indicating weight loss, that subcategory ranked 8th of the 23 variables in terms of weight gain, landing it between trans fat (0.65 pounds over four years) and refined grains (0.39 pounds over four years).

I know this has been a long blog post, but it's important to keep the correlation versus causation distinction in mind when we read these stories that could influence us to change our lifestyles. Is it easy to learn to interpret statistics to find meaningful results? No, it's certainly not. Is it worth the effort not to mislead the American public? Yes, I absolutely think it is.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Frustrations with Money and Health

I'm going to write about something that's been weighing heavy on my life lately: money. I promise that I'll eventually bring it all back to my weight loss journey, but please bear with me.

Money has been at the forefront of my mind since the start of this summer. I decided that I would continue at my current job at a slightly higher rate of pay for 30 hours a week. My calculations showed that this would be fine as long as I stuck to a very, very strict budget. Things have been pretty tight. Really tight. I had to stop going to belly dance, which I love, and I've had to postpone my violin lessons. Still, I was on top of things.

Until my rent went up. Until I got sick. Last Wednesday I woke up with a dizziness I had never experienced. Long story short, I was diagnosed with an inner ear infection and spent over $120 on the doctor's vist (because I was listed as being out of network because I'm away for school) and three medications. I'm fine, but when you're on a super tight budget, that's huge! That's basically my food budget for the month. I am a crazy, crazy coupon lady, but I've been slacking. I spent Saturday night watching romantic movies--I can't help but love The Notebook--and organizing my coupons. Then, I went to Southern Savers and printed a shopping list for CVS.

I shop at CVS more than other stores for a variety of reasons, but I have two major ones right now: 1) my mom puts a bit of money on my Plus Account once a month, and my local CVS accepts Plus Account; and 2) CVS is currently doing a gas card promotion. Spend $30 on qualifying purchases, and get a $10 gas card every week! It's fantastic. It costs about $50 or $60 to drive to WV and back, so that is a huge help.

Here's where the healthy eating part takes a role. CVS doesn't have very many fresh foods; if they do, they're normally overpriced. I bought several boxes of Easy Mac (as part of the gas card promotion) yesterday. I'll brag for a minute to say that my shopping trip's retail value was $116.40, and I paid $42.69. That's a savings of over $70, or 63%! Anyway, I have to find ways to make these seemingly unhealthy foods work for me, for my new lifestyle. Tonight I had a bowl of Easy Mac. To make it at least nominally healthy, I mixed steamed broccoli into it. (If you haven't tried mac and cheese with broccoli, you really should.) Is it the most healthy choice in the world? No. Was it filling and delicious and full of a very yummy vegetable? Yes!

That's my lesson. I'm going to have to scrimp and save for now. I won't always be able to buy fresh produce, but I can find great deals and coupons for frozen veggies, which are nutritionally similar to fresh veggies or arguably even better. I've learned to make small adjustments to make a meal healthier, like adding broccoli to mac and cheese or baked potatoes. It doesn't take anything away from what I want to eat, it's still inexpensive, and I'm upping my intake of good food. Overall, it's not a bad deal.

Friend Makin' Mondays: Yes or No?

FMM is a regular feature from the fantastic blog All the Weigh, which I heartily recommend!

  1. Do you use coupons? Yes! I use Southern Savers and Maven of Savin' to find the best deals and coupon matchups. I prefer Southern Savers because you can create a printable list for a variety of stores with coupon matchups right from the site, but Maven of Savin' normally posts more freebies and random deals.
  2. Do you like football? American or other? I love soccer, and I'm sort of a fan of American football. I have many fond memories of football because I was in band for so many years.
  3. Are you in a relationship? Sort of? That's a fairly complicated question for me right now.
  4. Is your phone always within arm’s reach? No. I don't "always" have my phone right beside me, but it's usually nearby.
  5. Do you like thunderstorms? Not the severe ones that we've been having.
  6. Can you cook? Yes, but I'm still learning.
  7. Are you – or have you – lost weight? Yes. I have lost a few pounds and am working on losing even more.
  8. Do you know how to read a map? Yes. This seemed like a silly question at first, but maps can be frustrating to read if you aren't used to it.
  9. Do you wear makeup? Yes, but not normally. I only wear makeup on special occasions.
  10. Do you read regularly? Yes. Given that I'm in grad school for library science, I read quite a lot!
  11. Are you publicly affectionate? Yes. I enjoy holding hands or a brief kiss, but I'm not going to make up in the middle of the street.
  12. Do you like picnics? Yes, very much!
  13. Do you have a/c? Yes, thankfully. I spent four years without central A/C, and I'm glad to have it again.
  14. Have you ever been out of the country? Yes, once. We went to Canada for a band trip in 8th grade.
  15. Do you know how to ride a bicycle? Yes. I need a new seat because mine is awful! I can't ride as much as I'd like.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fat Girl Yoga

I know this seems like an odd sort of topic, but one thing that bothers me with exercises is that I literally can't get my body to move in certain ways. It's not that I'm not flexible enough; it's that I have too much meat to do certain things. No, I cannot clasp my hands behind my back and pull my arms up without pinching fat between my shoulder blades. No, I can't touch my nose to my knees because--guess what?--my stomach won't let me bend over in that way.

I'm not saying that every yoga instructor or every yoga DVD needs to include specialized lessons for overweight participants, but it would be nice if more of them would. A quick Google search for "yoga for overweight people" provided a few promising results. About.com has a page for Plus-Size Yoga, and it lists a few places that offer yoga catering to overweight people. Unfortunately, most of those links are to regional or single-city studios. Some of them offer DVDs, but there's nothing like having an instructor to let you know if you're doing the exercises appropriately. You can seriously injure yourself if you hold a position improperly. Another website, Fat People Can Do Yoga in Class or at Home, lists some DVDs that modify positions for overweight people. Three DVDs? That's it? Not very promising.

Aside from the physical limitations of doing yoga while overweight, I have to deal with the mental and emotional aspect of being the biggest person in the class on most days. The university gym offers yoga classes, most of which are unfortunately during my work hours. While I enjoy them, I was mortified to run into someone from my program at one class. You need to have somewhat clingy clothes to practice yoga without flashing everyone or needing to pull your pant legs down. When your acquaintance has a streamline body (great for yoga clothes) and you're dragging extra pounds, you don't want to face off. Of course, she never made any rude remarks and probably thought nothing of it soon after class, I felt awkward. I can't imagine running into a professor!

I started this entry with hopes of finding a decent listing of yoga for overweight people DVDs or classes. I found a few, definitely! But, in a society that provides online access to pre-recorded yoga sessions (YogaDownload) that offer courses specialized for children, pregnant women, people with back pain, runners, and cyclists, you would think that they could squeeze in one class for overweight people!

Good luck, fellow yogis!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Friend Makin' Mondays: Grocery Store

This is a post related to All the Weigh.

1. Do you make a list when you go grocery shopping? Do you stick to it? Lately I have because I've been couponing! I saved about 90% the last time I went shopping. I try to make a list of staples I need to restock at least because I never remember once I'm at the store.

2. Do you buy more groceries when you're hungry? Absolutely. That's also part of the reason I make a list. If I have a physical list, I tend to stick to it better than simply having a mental list.

3. Coupons. Use 'em? Like I mentioned, yes, I really do. One of my favorite sites is Southern Savers. She matches the weekly grocery ads with coupons available online or from the last several Sunday inserts. It lets me save without having to spend several hours a week trying to find deals.

4. Have you ever complained to the manager of your grocery store? Not that I recall. I almost did once because I was aggravated, but they fixed the problem pretty quickly.

5. Do you like to buy groceries at huge chain stores like Wal-Mart and Target? Or do you shop exclusively at food stores? I shop where the deals are, and those can even be found at places like CVS or Walgreens. I avoid Wal-mart like the plague because of their questionable business ethics, but I love shopping at Target! Kroger is by far my favorite place to grocery shop, though.

6. How much time do you spend reading labels in the grocery store? Not too much time. I might scan for caloric content and breeze through the ingredients list, but I usually purchase the same items time and time again.

7. Do you push your own grocery cart to the car and return it? Of course, unless I have so few items that I don't need a buggy.

8. What is the one food item you always buy at the grocery store that you must have in the kitchen? Hmm...there aren't many. I try to always have milk, eggs, cheese, pasta, and butter on hand because I can do so much with those few items.

9. Do you enjoy grocery shopping? Sometimes. If I know that I'm getting a fantastic deal, it's really enjoyable. I try to go at times when the store isn't packed so that I don't become too anxious with massive crowds. If I miscalculate my travel time and get stuck in traffic or in a crowded store, it's not so fun.

10. How often do you shop for groceries? Usually once a week, unless a super deal arises that I have to take advantage of on a certain day. If I run out of milk or eggs, I might stop by in the middle of the week, too. Generally, I grocery shop on Friday mornings.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fantastic Trainers

From dictionary.com: "amused - aroused to mirth"

Because I wrote such a negative post, I felt it's only fair to make a positive one. Overall, I adore this program. The best part of the program is my trainer, Annie.

Annie is phenomenal. She is incredibly helpful and so encouraging. Some people think of fitness trainers as being overwhelmingly aggressive and off-putting yet knowledgeable. With Annie, I get all the knowledge and none of the nasty. It's great!

Before this program, I didn't really work out. Sure, I'd do yoga once in a while or dance the night away, but I didn't lift weights or hit the gym. Therefore, I didn't know how my body would react all the time. Annie made it clear that we needed to tell her if we were ever uncomfortable or feeling pain beyond the normal strain of working out. I never felt embarrassed or awkward expressing discomfort because she was accommodating. As it turns out, I have some sort of wrist problem. Annie kept that in mind and started adjusting my workouts immediately to make sure I didn't cause serious injure.

Also, she encourages when she's off the clock! This is our second "accountability week," a time when we're supposed to let her know whenever we work out. I sent her a text earlier this evening to let her know that I'd gotten my cardio with an extended bike ride home. She responded almost immediately with "Good girl. Super proud." That means a lot to me. I like knowing that I'm not in this alone and that she will support me for doing the best that I can.

UKY Fitness Trainers: you're doing it right!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Program Suggestions

From dictionary.com: "exasperate - to irritate or provoke to a high degree; annoy extremely"

As you may know, I started this to track the progress of my health and fitness through the University of Kentucky's Time to Change Weight Loss Program. I fully intend to send the URL for this blog to the program director at the end of the program, but I will continue after that.

I am incredibly tired of walking to the gym in adverse weather conditions. It's exhausting! For the unacquainted, Lexington has some monstrous wind; it's much more windy here than it was in Charleston, WV. Both umbrellas I brought when I moved here have snapped like twigs with the blustery weather. Why do I have to walk to the gym? Here's the skinny.

Although I'm a grad student, I don't have a GA position, so I don't get an employee parking pass (the only way to park near the gym). Even if I did have a graduate assistantship, I still wouldn't have an employee parking pass. I live in graduate housing, and at the University of Kentucky that means that I can only have a residential parking pass for only my housing parking lot. (By the way, I still have to pay the full price of a UK parking pass even though I can only use it to park in the apartment where I also pay UK rent.) The only exercise times are during the day between 7am and 3pm. Because I do have some UK parking pass--as most students have--I can park in the employee lot. However, I can only park there after 3:30pm, so even if I had a time later than my 9am session, I still wouldn't be able to park over there. The other option from walking is taking the campus bus. Because of where I live, I would have to do a bus change, and it would take about an hour to get there. It seems very silly to hop two buses and waste an hour when I can walk there in half an hour. Plus, the earliest sessions wouldn't have the option of the bus because they don't start running until 7am.

I can see two ways to correct this issue. One, offer evening sessions. This way, students who have work and/or day classes will have a chance to participate. My group only has two students, so I'm sure we could've taken another two or three easily. The Time to Change programmers decided not to have anything between 4pm and 8pm due to the overwhelming popularity of the gym during that time, which I completely respect. Still, with a gym that's open until midnight, an 8pm or even 9pm session wouldn't be totally unreasonable. The second solution would be to offer the program in the fall. Strangely, the spring semester has been far more uncomfortable than the fall. September to December is nicer in central Appalachia than January to April (especially lately with the horrible, horrible winters). If some of us have to walk or bike anyway, it would be more pleasant in nicer weather. I'm not opposed to walking; if I were, I wouldn't be in a fitness program! Still, it's dangerous trying to navigate the streets of Lexington when it's snowing and the sidewalks are covered in ice.

At any rate, those are my suggestions to improve the program: 1) offer some evening classes, and 2) try the program in the fall semester. Even if nothing comes of this, I feel better having said my piece.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Preconceived Notions

From dictionary.com: "assumption - taking something for granted; something expected"

I made an erroneous assumption about my weight loss. I knew that BMI wasn't always the best way to choose my weight loss goal, but I didn't think it could be that far off target. My original goal was to drop to 135 pounds, which is on the high side of "normal" weight for my height. We did our reassessment today for the Time to Change program, so I was playing around with my numbers to see where I'm at for my goal.

I went to a BMI Calculator to play with numbers. My BMI is awful, but my waist-to-hip ratio is within healthy limits. After a few minutes of clicking around, I stumbled upon a Body Fat Chart that explains body fat percentage categories and how one should make sure they aren't losing weight beyond a healthy fat percentage. Here's my breakdown: I weigh 194.1 pounds currently and have a body fat percentage of around 39%.

194.1lbs x 39% = 75.699lbs fat
194.1lbs - 75.699lbs = 118.401lbs lean body mass

This means that I have about 118 pounds of stuff that I can't or shouldn't try to lose, like bones, organs, and muscle tissues. On top of this number, I need to have a healthy fat percentage. I want to be between the high end of fitness body type and the low end of acceptable body type (23-27% body fat). I used the formulas to see what my current goal looks like. It is completely unreasonable!

Current Goal = 135lbs
135lbs - 118.401lbs = 16.599lbs fat
16.599lbs / 135lbs = 12.3% fat

I played around with numbers again with my body fat percentage goal in mind, and this is what I decided would be good for me.

New Goal = 155lbs
155lbs - 118.401lbs = 36.599lbs
36.599lbs / 155lbs = 23.6% body fat

This seems perfectly reasonable to me. I'm going to change my weight loss goal to be 155 pounds. According to BMI, I'll still be "overweight," but it would be healthy in other ways. I think I'm going to scrap BMI and focus on my body fat percentage, waist circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio from now on. I'm forever astounded by the amount of research one needs to do to lose weight in a healthy way!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Imaginary Audience

From dictionary.com: "issue - something proceeding from any source, as a product, effect, result, or consequence"

I have many issues with going to the gym, but a few have really made my training program difficult. One I want to address today is feeling self-conscious in the gym.

A lot of people joke that they won't go to the gym until they've lost some weight, and I can clearly see the point. Even though my fitness class meets at a time of day where it's not that crowded, most of the people in there look like they've stepped off the cover of FITNESS magazine. Maybe they have something to prove. Maybe they used to be overweight and feel like they need to show the world that they look good. Maybe they're narcissistic and believe that everyone in the gym wants to admire their rock hard abs and tight thighs through their painted-on clothes.

Whatever the reason for the showiness, it makes me feel like a lump of lard in my comfy exercise pants and t-shirts. I walk into the gym with my long, black pants and unisex Sci-Five shirt, and the feeling of alienation is compounded. Could I go to the gym in tights and a form-fitting tank top? Probably. Would people talk about me? Possibly. Would I feel incredibly uncomfortable? Definitely.

The trainers are, of course, perfectly fit. They look fantastic, they're enthusiastic, and they can work on any of the equipment blindfolded. What's interesting is that they aren't part of the problem! I suppose I've seen Dodgeball one too many times. I expected my trainer to wear spandex shorts and a tank top. The first day of training she wore tight exercise pants that came to the knee and the loose, unisex t-shirt all the trainers wear. She took our measurements (awkward!) but put me at ease by cracking jokes. When she had to measure my calf, I quipped that I wish I'd known so I could've shaved my legs that morning. She laughed and said that it was winter and that the only reason she shaved her legs was that she knew she wanted to wear shorts that day.

Every day I'm in the gym I think about it a little less, but it still bothers me. Especially when I'm in the free weight area doing shoulder presses and can see my bare upper arm. Hopefully I'll be able to move past this issue, but for now, it keeps me in t-shirts and long pants.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friend Makin' Mondays

This is an event of the blog All the Weigh.

What's the first thing you would do for yourself if you won 100 million dollars? Note: this question is specifically for you...what would you do for fun after the family and the bills and the obvious stuff was taken care of?

I'll list the "obvious stuff" that relates directly to me first: Nico's veterinary bill (almost paid off!), my credit cards, and my student loans. I'd also put $10 million into a high interest CD that I couldn't touch for at least five years.

That'd still leave me with almost an entire $90 million. I imagine most of that would end up in a savings account because it's just so much! I'd like to buy a house with a beautiful library, and I would fill it to the ceiling with books. I'm a fan of old and rare books, which are surprisingly expensive. A few million could be invested in those, easily. After that, I'd take a vacation. For years I've wanted to travel the world, so it would be great to travel and stay in nice and safe places without worrying about counting every penny. It would probably take me a lifetime to go through the money, but I would feel really good knowing that I wouldn't have to worry about money.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Time to Change

From Dictionary.com: "obese - very fat or overweight; corpulent."

No, that's not just some sappy realization. It's the Time to Change Weight Loss Program though my university. In November 2010, I received a notice in my email that they were accepting applications for the Spring 2011 semester. They only take about fifty people a semester, and it seems to be a first-come, first-serve process. Of course I signed up that week! In early January they sent me an email to let me know that I was accepted, and I arranged my meeting time for 9am-10am Mondays and Wednesdays. We meet twice a week with a personal trainer and are supposed to work out another two hours a week on our own. Most groups have four or five people plus the trainer, but mine has only two students plus the trainer. My group is all graduate students, so we have something small in common. The main purpose of the program is for weight loss, with each group competing against the others, but the secondary goal is to teach us to create our own workout programs so that we can continue without a trainer.

It's a great program, but the application process was a little embarrassing. First of all, applicants must have a BMI of at least 30 to be considered for acceptance. For the unacquainted, a BMI of 30 means that you are classified as obese. Do you know how difficult it is to walk into a program embracing the idea that you are obese? It's not a pleasant feeling.

We also had to undergo a fitness examination, presumably to make sure we were healthy enough to begin a weight loss program. (Ironic, right?) Before the person taking my information arrived at the desk, I had to wait in the weight-lifting area. I don't believe I've every felt so out of place--and that's saying a lot because I used to hang out at a biker bar. The only people on the first floor were men; I felt like they were all staring at me, wondering what the fat chick was doing in the free weights section. The most physically fit man I've seen in recent memory took my assessment. He checked my weight, height, bicep strength, blood pressure, pulse, and flexibility. Unsurprisingly, everything was great except for my BMI. The man was professional and cheerful. He didn't bat an eye at my scores and even complimented my excellent bicep strength. He make an awkward situation a little less painful, and for that I am grateful.

I was accepted. I was thrilled! Still, getting into the program was an uncomfortable experience. I wonder how many people shy away from applying because they don't like the idea of having a stranger perform a fitness assessment or needing to work in the gym--with other people!--twice a week. Hopefully, the number is small.