Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Don't believe the hype: Coobie Bra review

This is a decidedly unsponsored review: I bought my bra with my own money and I'm blogging about it as a public service announcement.

I live in a small suburban city near Toledo that has a very quaint downtown shopping area within walking distance of my house. It has craft stores and upscale boutique shopping and little yoga studios. Very nice. I'm surprised they let me live here, actually.

Last week there was a sidewalk sale, and my favorite of the upscale clothing store had some cute dresses on sale.  I tried a bunch on. On the way to the dressing room, I spotted the Coobie bras. People swear these things fit everyone and are super comfortable.

I asked the owner, "Do these things really work?" She said they did, that she wears hers everywhere. I asked if they fit women with large busts like mine. She said to go ahead and try one of the Plus Size ones. She said they were good for the gym, too.

There was a bright turquoise in the Plus Size so I tried it on. It was super comfortable, and it fit fine. I would never, however, wear it outside my house -- it's not nearly supportive enough.

I bought it anyway, because I don't like to sleep in a regular bra, but I'm not super comfortable walking around in my pajamas without one, especially when I'm going to be around other people. I have tried various bralettes and they don't fit right or stay in place. For providing a little support while walking around the house, the Coobie works great. I might even get one or two more if I find them on sale (there is, actually, a coupon code on the site right now, but I'm trying to watch my spending).

I wouldn't wear it to the gym, though, not even for yoga.  A small-busted woman might be able to get away with it. They have padding so I don't think they would give the dreaded uniboob look that a sportsbra can.  There are people who just hate wearing bras, and I think these would be comfortable enough to convince them to rein in the girls. Coobies would also be great to wear when recovering from surgery or from a bad sunburn.

But I think anyone who suggests these are going to be a replacement for regular bras for anyone wearing more than a B cup is lying.  It's really a gravity issue -- the material is very stretchy, and the band is not substantial enough to provide much support.  So buyer beware -- this bra is super-comfortable but it can't defy gravity. There were several testimonials from women who had had augmentations -- in that case gravity isn't much of an issue so these should be great.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Making a living vs. making art

This is one of my thinking-aloud posts, so please bear with me...

I have a friend who loved art and did beautiful work of her own in high school. Like many artists, she was encouraged by friends and family to become an art teacher. She is an art teacher, and for the last 17 years or so has been teaching art to kids of various ages (art teachers bounce around a lot from school to school) and making almost no art of her own.

I ran into a friend at a concert this weekend. Her husband, who is an art teacher, was there. I had shown him some pictures of my drawings from when I was taking art classes, so he asked if I was still drawing and painting. Sadly, I haven't been -- I felt short of cash this summer and one thing I cut out was my art classes. He said that he doesn't do his own art either. He teaches high school students to make art, and by the time he gets home from work, helps take care of his son and shuttle him around to activities, he doesn't do his artwork.

I love to read fiction and have dreams of writing. I love drawing and painting. I got a degree in English and creative writing because I wanted to some day teach writing classes. Then I started in my MFA program, got discouraged for various reasons, and stopped writing. I did barely enough writing to get my degree and then, until I started this blog ten years later, almost nothing. I got busy making a living. I taught composition classes and, on the side, taught test preparation classes. Then I landed a job in information technology. Then I decided to get a Ph.D. in a more "practical" discipline. I worked an incredibly demanding job involving a lot of travel and a lengthy commute until I hit the jackpot and actually found a faculty job. I found a job I was qualified for in my geographic area, which is an incredibly lucky and amazing thing because the job market is so bad. I am entering the fourth year of that job.

But I'm not really that happy. I love teaching, but a lot of the other parts of my job drain me. The campus is not the kind of place I had hoped to work, and I get caught up in a lot of the squabbles and committees and budgeting issues. And I'm not writing. Or doing anything that feels like creative work, other than teaching. I've done some research projects that weren't close to my heart and the writing on those was easy for me. I'm a good writer, when I'm not deeply invested in what I'm doing. When I am doing something I care about, I seem to choke. My dissertation was the exception -- I loved that work and I did it. I need to choose some project I care about it and work it like that. I have a bunch of ideas but haven't really settled on anything yet.

I don't even read fiction much, because when I start a new book, I'm so drawn into it that I don't get much done. I read a lot of nonfiction because I can pick it up and put it down without getting completely enmeshed in it. For some reason that seems even sadder.

I need my job because I need to pay my bills. My husband and I managed to rack up a lot of credit card debt and we're trying to dig out.  I don't think I need to quit my job to write, I just need to clear out some of the time I'm wasting and use it productively. I even had a dream that felt like a voice from God, asking me to spend just one hour a day with it.

That's not too much to ask.

I don't need to become famous. I don't need it to be published. I don't even need someone else to do it. I need to do it for my own sanity. In Ally Condie's series, which details a dystopian society that tightly controls art, one of the characters paints with water on a cave wall. That spoke to me -- the work is the thing. We're here to make sense of our world, at least for ourselves, and creative work is how we do that. Even if we can't make a mark, we can make meaning.

It's so easy to get so caught up in making a living that we forget to make a life.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Morality, weight, and food: A response

Karen has had a couple of posts on whether foods and bodies are "morally neutral." I know that using "good" and "bad" to describe food is very common, and people tend to have some limits on what they think is a "good" body, but I think that using the word "morality" trivializes the idea of morality. Let's hope we have bigger moral questions than green beans vs. chocolate cake and fat vs. thin.  Hence my response:
It's not a moral question at all. It may be an aesthetic one, or a question of which body feels better to live in, but it has nothing to do with morality at all. 
P.S. I think you might have to take a step back and explain how you are defining morality. Bodies and food would not seem to fall into the realm of good and evil as I would define them. Becoming so overweight that you could not function or so thin you had to be hospitalized (at the extreme end of this spectrum) would still not seem to me to be morally problematic but rather a kind of illness. Is a person with cancer immoral or just ill and in need of care? In the middle ground, an overweight or underweight (however you define these) is no more "immoral" than a child with messy hair. In need of better care, maybe, but not immoral.
Karen was rejecting moralizing about food and bodies from a reductionist stance -- that there is a lot of complexity around food and bodies. Even though I may seem to have missed the point, what I'm saying is that it really isn't a moral question at all. Maybe I am the person I most need to convince myself of that truth, because I think on some level I do judge myself (though not other people) harshly in terms of my body.

I'm not saying it's all the same. Personally, I know that my body feels its best within a certain range, and functions best. Right now I'm dealing with some things, like GERD and arthritis in my toes, that I think would be ameliorated by losing some weight.  That isn't a moral judgement and I don't think it means I'm not adequately self-loving. I think that gently moving toward a lifestyle that will support a smaller body is going to be an important part of self-care. It's not about confessing my sins at the scale and doing the penance of 100 bowls of plain steamed broccoli and 90 situps. I gave up on Catholicism as a religion long ago and there's no need to bring it into my diet.

If I want to do a moral act, I'll give some money to charity or bite my tongue instead of saying something hurtful.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Intuitive Eating continued

I'm still getting the hang of Intuitive Eating. I succumbed to a feeling of being unmoored yesterday, wanting some sort of objective feeling that I was doing things right, and spent a day tracking with the LoseIt! app again. I sometimes miss the feeling of certainty that comes with joining Weight Watchers or starting a new diet.  As Kelly Mcgonigal wrote in The Willpower Instinct, resolving to change is the best part of starting a weight-loss regime. It feels so good to resolve to change that you might start a program, fail, start again... just to get the high that comes from fantasizing about how everything will be different. I think that's a trap that is very alluring to me, and one I need to stay out of.

I've appreciated the responses I have gotten from everyone. I even had a whole blog post inspired by my writing here. The support means a lot to me.  I am also starting to feel like I'm getting the hang of things. I didn't turn Intuitive Eating into a new set of rules to follow. I am focusing, as the new edition of the  book suggests, on satisfaction.  I'm paying attention to how foods make me feel long-term, too, not just while I'm eating them. I am trying to gently learn from experience instead of berating myself when I mess up.

I have seen other posts that aren't necessarily in response to me, but certain things I read on other bloggers' sites have strengthened my resolve to embrace self-acceptance and positive change. One blogger mentioned offhandeldly that she had three scales in her bathroom. I can't imagine a healthy place that having three scales would come from.  Another blogger posted perfectly beautiful pictures of herself accompanied by vicious comments about how she looked in them. I see other people who tightly control their food for a while and then, when things are not routine, have a huge problem. I want to follow the 90-10 idea: Have healthy food 90 percent of the time but allow some small indulgences.  I'm also getting exercise almost every day, but sometimes it's a walk around my neighborhood -- it doesn't always have to be hardcore.

I don't think the path is the same for everyone. I am definitely still learning and I am expecting that things will evolve over time.  I want to get to a place where this is all not such a big deal. I want to take the focus off weight and food and put it on more important things. 

Join the conversation: Self-acceptance and self-improvement

I would really love to be at Fitbloggin' this year, if only to see the panel put on by Shauna Reid, Karen Anderson, and Mara Glatzel. Even those of us who can't attend can submit questions at the panelists' sites, and follow a live twitter conversation (probably at the hashtag).

Friday, August 17, 2012

Intuitive eating so far

I'm finding the experience of real Intuitive Eating (and not the unconscious eating I used to call "intuitive") to be surprisingly challenging. It's so easy to eat past fullness, or to mindlessly grab a snack because I'm bored or tired. 

I'm also finding that it feels sad sometimes to stop when I reach fullness. The other day I had made homemade waffles for breakfast and topped them with some stewed peaches. It was such a delicious breakfast, but I felt full after about 10 bites. I was disappointed because I was going to be in meetings all day and knew that when I was hungry again, there wouldn't be anything as good available.  I stopped anyway, but I felt frustrated.

Because I'm not dieting, I don't feel the need to finish everything. If I want, I can use DietSnaps to record how much I left on my plate, but I usually don't bother.  I also find that the portion sizes that I learned so well from Weight Watchers  and calorie counting are often too big if I'm having several items. In that way, dieting might have actually made me eat more at times, because if I was counting it, I was sure going eat it.

I also realize that since I had the summer off and didn't have my French lessons or my art classes over the summer, it's not surprising that I was bored and using food for entertainment. Having the summer off feels like a luxury, but it's expensive to live a life of leisure -- almost everything we do costs money, so we were either spending too much to entertain ourselves or spending a lot of time doing very little. It was so beastly hot that outdoor exercise wasn't as much fun as it usually is. I'm enjoying the cooler weather now.

Have you tried Intuitive Eating? Any useful strategies you'd like to share?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Trying to find my way back

I think it's worth reflecting a bit on this summer as it is ending. At the beginning of the summer, I was very optimistic about my ability to "finally get in shape" (yet another resolution) and was prepared to do whatever it took.  I had a ton of exercise classes that were due to expire, so I planned to use a lot of those and also signed up for a private session with my Pilates teacher.

She always struck me as very supportive and reasonable, so I thought she'd be a great person to help me customize a program for me. She wasn't thrilled about the exercise classes, as she thought most of them didn't count as real exercise. I should have seen that as a warning sign but I went ahead and planned an ambitious program of 2-a-day workouts, at first including exercise classes but later moving on to "approved" workouts.  I was supposed to do strength training for 45 minutes two (preferably 3) times a week, abs every day, and cardio workouts for the rest, with one day off. I modified a bit and dropped workouts here and there, but mostly tried to follow the schedule.

I trained like this into the taper for my triathlon, had a pretty good race, but immediately felt horrible after the race. I devolved into bronchitis that lasted for two weeks, and at that point, felt very unmotivated.

I have been doing at least 5 workouts a week since then but nothing like the previous level of commitment. I have been very frustrated with my lack of progress.  I am actually heavier now than at the start of the summer.

I don't blame my trainer, but I do think that she had some unrealistic ideas of what I could do and what I should do. I told her there was no way this schedule would work when school started, but like me, she thought that by then, I'd be thinner and be able to just switch to maintenance mode.

I am feeling discouraged but I also don't blame myself -- I clearly did not listen to my own intuition on this and let myself get sucked into this resolution to make a big change. I should know better. I also should have known that if I found a workout class challenging, then it counts as real exercise for me even if it doesn't for someone else.

I have been avoiding my Pilates class because I don't want to face my trainer. I know she'll be disappointed. I'm disappointed too, but for a different reason -- I let myself down, not by not following the plan, but for letting myself trust someone else's plan instead of my own needs.

I am going to develop a plan for myself and try very hard to make it one that builds up my energy and my health instead of tearing them down. I don't think I'm going to "work off" my weight. I want to get fitter and stronger, but I think that any weight change is going to come from managing my willpower and learning to follow my body's real hunger signals, not from a huge calorie burn.

I need to find my way back to self-care.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Does feeling bad do any good?

On my last post, Vickie left a comment that made me think.  Actually a couple of comments, one about the potential usefulness of a sort of self-surveillance system of mirrors and life-sized videos, and one about the dreaded PJs that she wears to keep herself from overeating at night. I don't doubt that these things work for her, but I don't feel like they would help me.

I don't avoid mirrors. I have a full-length mirror in my bedroom and I look at myself in it often, in various outfits or even -- gasp -- without clothes.  The outfit that looked so terrible in the picture looked fine in the mirror. I am always curious to see photos of myself, and I like about half of them. I already tend to dwell on the parts of myself that I don't like, and often forget to notice the things I do like, which is why I wouldn't sign up for life-sized streaming videos of myself.

I am all for accepting the truth of a situation. I'm not a fan of affirmations if they require me to say things I don't really believe. I think the view afforded by unflattering photos and tight pajamas might be making worse of the world than it really is, though.  I don't need more negative feedback to make me aware of my goals, and I think that it would probably be counterproductive.  Even The Willpower Instinct talks about the dangers of getting too down on yourself and triggering the "What the H-- effect."

Many of the insights in The Willpower Instinct are the opposite of what I think about as willpower. For example, turning our willpower struggles into moral challenges (carrot vs. cheesecake = good vs. evil) makes us actually less likely to achieve our goals.  In fact, many of the insights in The Willpower Instinct echo Intuitive Eating, because making yourself feel terrible might trigger a resolve to change in the short run, but in the long run, it's a better strategy to use self nurturance (getting enough sleep, exercise, and fun) to boost willpower than trying to punish yourself into compliance.  When stressed and self-critical, we tend to comfort ourselves with exactly the things we know we need less of, and avoid the things we know we need more of.

I don't have this all figured out, obviously, but I know I can't hate myself thin. If that worked, I'd already be there.  I know all too well the things I want to change, but I need to keep my energy and spirits high enough to make the work I have to do to get there possible.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Obstacle in the road to self-acceptance

I saw an extremely unflattering series of photos of me from a family event this weekend. I was wearing a top of a stretchy material that looked okay to me in the mirror but looked clingy and revealing in the photo and seemed to show the outline of a very over full belly (I overdid it at the party where the pic was taken).

I had the impulse to run back to Weight Watchers or crash diet so the next photo would be better. Sure, I can talk about lighting, etc., but the truth is that I know my weight is up and the photo reflected that.

I have bee re-listening to The Willpower Instinct and am surprised at how much overlap there is with Intuitive Eating.  Rather than abandoning willpower, IE actually would seem to be set up to optimize it (blog post coming soon). I have trouble staying present with my food decisions in some situations, like that party. I need to work on that, not throw myself into another short-term solution that probably will just backfire.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Answering some fake FAQ's

No one has really asked most of these questions. Commenting on my blog has really slowed down this summer. I was looking for a new blog topic, so I thought I'd answer some imaginary questions that no one has asked but some readers might be wondering about.

How can Intuitive Eating result in weight loss? Won't I end up binging on junk?

So far, I'm surprised how much having permission to eat whatever I want to satisfaction (not the same as "as much as I want") has eased my mind and made food less of a big deal. I think the thing that caused binging for me was the (false) belief that "this is my last chance to get this so I better go all out." It's still hard sometimes to stop when I know I've had enough but knowing that I can go back and have more later takes some of that pressure off. I don't know if it will ultimately result in weight loss but at least I feel less food-focused. That's a big deal.

What about processed food? Shouldn't you give it up?

My eating pattern reflects my personal balance between a desire to be healthy and a desire to live in the real world. I don't go to fast food places or chain restaurants often (so that Chik-Fil-A boycott is no hardship for me), but I do love pizza and bread and a lot of things that some people who watch their weight tend to give up. I find it easier to focus on adding foods that I know are good for me (and that I also enjoy) than to cut things out.  I have a CSA this summer so I'm working hard to use all of our veggies before they go bad. It's second nature for me to make a salad or cut up some veggies to go with whatever I'm eating, or toss a few extra veggies in a recipe.  

What about tracking with that DietSNAPS app? Isn't it a little imprecise?

When I was counting calories or points, I felt very adamant that I get every bit of what I "paid" for. If I counted points or calories for a whole serving of popcorn, I wasn't going to share a bite with anyone or stop eating it just because I wasn't hungry anymore. I know it sounds crazy, but that was how I felt. Now that I am not limiting my food or strictly counting anything, I feel more relaxed about sharing or letting a few bites go untouched.  Because of the flexibility of the app, I can also make notes if I want if I left behind some of what I served and photographed. I do wish that it was less easy to accidentally delete a photo I just took and I also would like some additional social media functions, but it is still a great app.

Do you have any more triathlons planned this summer?

No. I had a couple I thought about doing, but I had some health setbacks this summer -- bronchitis for two weeks, etc. -- and I haven't really trained enough to make racing fun for me. I'm still swimming and running and doing some biking, though as usual, strength training is the first thing to drop from my routine when I'm slacking off, even though I know it makes a big difference for me.  I've been focusing more on enjoying movement than hardcore training. 

Wasn't it a little scary to put your photo on a post that admitted that you fit the medical definition of obese?

Yes. When BlogHer featured the post I was a little worried that I'd get a lot of nasty comments. Amazingly, I didn't get a single one. 

Do you still like your Clarisonic?

I have gone back and forth. At first I loved it, then I felt less enthusiastic when I got some blemishes, but overall, I am happy with it. My skin feels very soft and smooth. I feel like some of my fine lines are fading a bit, which is a big deal. I have switched to the acne cleansing head and Burt's Bees Acne Cleanser and it seems to have helped with the blemishes.

Why are you answering questions no one has asked?

Because I'm a weirdo. Any more questions?
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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07