A Strong Woman  looks beautiful as she is acts as her heart tells her to plays true to herself isn’t afraid to speak her mind respects herself  is passionate on her own terms treats her body like it belongs to her, not to someone else is the lover of anyone she wants chooses who to love  when to love how to show that love and when to stop loving protects herself when she needs to stands up for herself when she has to and doesn’t put up with this misogynist crap.


So, the poem or saying or whatever it is on the left was posted on Facebook by someone I only marginally know. My first instinct was to write a long comment about how icky I think the whole thing is and all the reasons why I think it is icky, but I deleted the comment without posting and clicked away. I do this quite a lot. Many people love to get in long, drawn-out Facebook arguments but that isn’t why I go to Facebook. Basically I like to see pics of my family and friends. Please post more kids, cats, dogs, and vacations. Also tell me how much you need coffee, how little you clean your house, and how funny things happen to you. I live for that stuff. And arguing about politics or feminism or religion just isn’t what I like to do there. So I tend to write these scathing comebacks or long thought out précis and then delete them without ever posting them. Usually that is enough. The process calms me and I can move on and enjoy Facebook.

But this one kind of stuck to me for a few days. It is just so icky on so many levels and the idea that someone posted it as an empowering meme just stuck in my mental craw.  So I dug it up and created the above comeback. I wanted to make the “international no symbol” more pronounced, but then you wouldn’t be able to read the original and see how much it actually sucks. There isn’t one line in the original that doesn’t offend me in some way. Even things that sound good, like “unconditional love” is really just a way of saying put up with my crap because you love me.

I thought about my own daughter as I wrote my response, thinking, what kind of person do I want her to be. I may have said “Be a Good Girl” to her a few times in her life, but what I really want is for her to be a strong, capable woman who can decide who she is and what that means. I don’t want other people’s ideas of what a woman should be, think, or feel influence how she acts, thinks, or feels. I also tried to think of all the different types of women I know (cis, tran, gay, straight, etc.) and tried to include all of them in my response. I hope I was successful. If you can say it better than I, please share!


Health Care Fat Shaming

Dear Blue Cross-Blue Shield,

While I’m very grateful to finally have decent health insurance (thanks to my awesome new job), I found the “online health assessment” that is required to be (1) absurd, (2) a waste of my time, and (3) just more fat shaming by the medical community.

I answered all of your 10,000 (or so it seemed) invasive questions as honestly and purposefully as I could. And then you gave me these recommendations:

What do you mean "pick a date to start..." What do you think I've been doing?

What do you mean “pick a date to start…” What do you think I’ve been doing?

Here’s the thing. I told you that I have a healthy diet. You asked me about 20 questions about what I do and do not eat. I eat fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and no processed foods. I told you that I have an active lifestyle. I told you I do moderate activity almost daily and intense activity multiple times per week. I told you that I have low blood pressure, low cholesterol, and haven’t missed work for health reasons in the last 12 months. (I’m glad they didn’t ask me about the last 14 months, but they didn’t.) I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. In fact, the only thing you could find wrong with me was that I am obese.

This is my "duh" face.

Romeow’s face expresses exactly how I feel right now. 

And here’s another thing: Based on all this extensive information you decided that what I need to do is buying healthier foods and starting an exercise routine.   I know it is just a website, but I’m really pissed off. This is yet another example of knee-jerk reactionary thinking from the medical community. If I am fat it must be because I eat poorly and don’t exercise. End of discussion.

And here’s the one more thing: In the absence of any medical issues (other than fat) why do I have to lose weight anyway? What, in my answers, gives you the idea that I need to lose weight. You know, other than I’m fat. Which is apparently  a devastating medical condition that needs to take up all my time and energy.

Okay. Rant over. You may resume your regularly scheduled blog reading.


Describe Your Body in One Word

Embrace – The Documentary

Rethinking Before & After Shots

So I saw this pic that went viral last week and I really liked the whole concept. But I didn’t pursue it. So today, I saw that the woman in the photograph is starting a kickstarted campaign to create a documentary about body image. Now there are so many kick-starters now on this topic, but it looks like she is going to make her goal, which is fantastic.

One of the questions she asks women in the video for her kickstarter is “What is one word that describes your body?”  And it is just heart-wrenching to watch woman after woman answer this question: fat, wobbly, fat, disgusting, imperfect, gross. I probably would have answered the same way just a few months ago. But right now I don’t think I would.

I was out running today and I was wearing my new running clothes, which consist of spandex capri pants and active t-shirt. Because I ponder a lot of things when I run I was thinking about how my family reacted when I first showed up in that outfit. People were saying how great I looked, how they can’t believe the transformation over the past six months. Then I was wondering what strangers saw when they see me. In my mind I imagine they are wondering what I am thinking wearing such tight-fitting clothes.

Coincidently, The Militant Baker posted today about this very issue. In her I Wear What I Want post, she extolls the virtues of wearing clothes formerly thought of to be “off-limits” and how this empowers her.

I remember the first time my mother convinced me to buy spandex running pants. She pushed and pushed, swearing it would be fine. It was mortifying because I couldn’t find anything in my size and had to buy men’s pants. (I later found compression pants at Old Navy). When I wore them running for the first time I felt practically naked. I had never word anything like that in public. I really only did it to get my mother to shut up about it. And then I ran in them.

Some days this is me. Some days, not so much, but I'm working towards it!

Some days this is me. Some days, not so much, but I’m working towards it!

Wow. I couldn’t believe the difference a pair of pants could make. No more chaffing. No more worrying if they would slip off during my run. They felt great. And over time, I felt great in them. I started wearing them to the gym as well as on runs. I remember the first time I ran into a store wearing them, after a run. I was embarrassed, at first, but eventually got over it. Now, I feel great in my spandex. It makes me feel strong. It makes me feel powerful. It makes me feel like an athlete. And I really don’t care what anyone else thinks, to tell you the truth.

So, what is one word I would use to describe my body?



To Run or Not To Run

Image of Annie smashing Paul's ankles with a sledgehammer.

This is the image I get when my ankles feel too weak to hold me up. Overly dramatic, I know, but it is my own personal coping mechanism.

So last week I was really starting to feel my age. I was fine on my runs, but would hobble around afterwards like I was Paul Sheldon in Misery. I’ve mentioned before that I have bad ankles, from a car accident when I was in my early 20’s. After my recent run in Cold Spring Harbor (all steps and slopes) my right knee has also been giving me trouble. Usually I feel it when I first start my run, but once the blood and adrenaline get going, I’m fine.

Thursday was the worst. I woke up feeling all kinds of stiff and sore. Walking up stairs was painful and I literally could not pull up leading with my right knee. I had to take each step with my left leg (the one with the bad ankle), so that meant a very slow, labored climb. People in the schools I was working in would look sympathetically, and I imagined I could hear them thinking, “Look at that poor, crippled woman, too fat to go up the stairs.” I wanted to tell everyone that I could run 3 miles, but I actually did realize that it was mostly in my head. I don’t have ESP and can’t hear what people are really thinking. The rational part of my brain knows that most people can’t even be bothered to notice someone else’s issues.

So, I decided I needed a break from running. Now I have my 3,000,000 step challenge, of course, so I wasn’t going to give up on everything, but I would limit myself to walking and avoid stairs except when necessary. And this approach seems to be working. By Friday, I was able to walk up stairs using both legs. (Woo Hoo). Saturday I walked nearly 18,000 steps with little or no pain, and today I actually ran up and down the steps in my own house without using the handrail.

This would be the end of this post, except I have to make a confession. It is really hard not to run sometimes.  When I was walking with my sister, or my daughter, it was somewhat easier because we were talking and they don’t run so I could distract myself. However, when I’m on my own, especially on the boardwalk, I have this urge to break into a run. I really would rather run than walk most of the time. I like the feeling of pushing myself, and the little adrenaline rush I get from running. I actually even like the sweating. It makes me feel like I’m accomplishing something. I also feel empowered by running. Like I’m getting stronger with each step, even when I’m tired or in pain. It’s a rush.

Run With Your Heart, Not With Your LegsThe whole concept is weird to me, because historically I have never really liked exercise of any kind. When did I mentally switch over? I’m not even a good runner, nor am I particularly fast. Actually, to be honest, I am particularly slow, but I’m getting faster. I started using this hashtag #reasonstorun which, at first, was to help convince me to run, but now is just random thoughts I have while I’m running. I’m obviously not the only one using this hashtag, and I like scrolling through other people’s reasons from time to time as well.

So I’m wondering how long I should impose my running break. It’s been three days. Can I go back to running tomorrow? Am I healed enough? Should I try a short run just to see or give it another day or two?

I’m just taking it a day at a time. Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how it goes.

One-Third There: 1,000,000 Steps and Counting

One-Third There: 1,000,000 Steps and Counting

Today I hit 1,000,000 steps since January 1. I am two weeks behind my goal, but it is still a huge accomplishment. Today I walked the MS Walk and it made me think how lucky I am to this wonderful body that lets me walk, run, and more. My knees and ankles might twinge now and then, but I am strong and getting stronger. How great is that?

Love Your Body – The Art Movement

Unfettered joy and body love in this one. I feel so strongly attached that I'm ordering a print.

Unfettered joy and body love in this one. I feel so strongly attached that I’m ordering a print.


If you aren’t following “Daily Creativity” on Nimlas.org, you should stop reading right now and add this blog to your stream. Not only is this blog the creative corner of @nuchtchas (the artist who made my rocking new logo/avatar), but she has this wonderful art series called Love Your Body which celebrates bodies of all shapes and sizes.

Some of the pieces are quick drawings or sketches made in a few minutes. Others are more time intensive. (Despite the name “Daily Creativity” some actually might take more than a day, I’m sure.) Many created using an art app on her iPad, but there are also lots of old-school drawings using charcoal, pastels, and other media.

What the Love Your Body series does consistently is provide a context of joy. Every picture evokes an emotion that celebrates living in our own skin: fat, scars, wrinkles, skin flaps, and all.  Click below to see a little gallery with my comments. Enjoy!








Brooke Refuses to Be Body Shamed

So I came across a post on my Facebook feed: It was about a woman who lost over 170 pounds. She was going to be featured on Shape Magazine’s website, only to be told they wouldn’t use her picture unless she sent one with her stomach covered. I see these things a lot, and wondered how legit the story was, so I researched and came across the original blog: Brooke Not On A Diet.


The picture on the left was published on Self Success Stories, December, 2012. The picture on the right is Brooke, who they told to cover up!

I was excited at first that Brooke had lost 170 pounds by not dieting, but it turns out she is doing Weight Watchers, which is fine and doesn’t take away from her accomplishment, but it certainly is a diet, in my book.

I liked reading her blog post, because she includes the emails back and forth from Shape, which the original article didn’t include. These emails are very revealing. The reporter from Shape insists that the request has nothing to do with Brooke’s body, but is part of their editorial policy for these types of stories.

Being the fact-checker I am, I found that Shape’s “editorial policy” that doesn’t allow them to post regular people unless “fully clothed” is either a very recent addition, or completely bogus, because I went through their Success Stories.

It seems odd that this magazine is worried about a woman's midriff showing.

It seems odd that this magazine is worried about a woman’s midriff showing.

While it is true that most of the recent pictures show people with covered bellies, I did find a pic of a woman in just a sport’s bra. There were many others of this genre when you went back in time, but it does look like (other than this one pic) all the photos in the last year show people covered up – which seems odd  (but not at all surprising) for a magazine whose covers almost universally show women in bikinis.

Here’s the thing that really struck me, though. I admire Brooke for ability to accept her body as it is. A lot of women would have either covered up or bemoaned that they needed surgery to get rid of the skin, but she stands there proudly, looking beautiful, and stands up to the glossy media giant (they are owned by the same company that publishes The National Enquirer, Start, and The Globe, btw). I love seeing her confidence and admire her ability to tell it like it is.

Update: 5/13/14

Today Show Interview – Watch this video to see Brooke and Shape editor meet on the Today Show. Shape not only apologized (throwing the reporter under the bus in the process), but is also showcasing her (and five other women) in their magazine discussing what happens after weight loss.

Cold Spring Harbor: Long Island Places – Hike #1

So the plan was to go to one of the places on my Top 10 List today, and I picked Caumsett State Park. One of the main reasons was that I was picking up my daughter’s friend for the day and he lives in Port Washington. Even though it was 45 minutes from his house, it was, by far, the closest one on my list.

There is only a hint of the weather to come in this photo.

There is only a hint of the weather to come in this photo.

We got a later-than-anticipated start on the day, so as it was, we only got to the park around 3:30 in the afternoon – still plenty of time to  walk around. The kids would meander and I would make my own pace. We had all been really excited driving up, because it is a lovely drive through Lloyd Harbor to get there. And the sun was shining, and the water sparkling. (Hint: This is foreshadowing)

So when we got there, we just loved it. The old dairy farm is the first thing you see when you park, and we looked at the trail map to see where we would go. I noticed way in the distance that the clouds were looking a bit dark, but it was such a sunny, beautiful day, that I didn’t think much of it. At first.

We had been in the car so long that of course the first thing everyone wanted to do was go to the bathroom, which was behind the dairy farm. In the time it took to go into the bathroom and come out, everything had changed. There were dark clouds overhead and the first hint of sprinkles in the air. I could see sunshine in one direction, but I suggested we start heading back to the car “just in case.”

We barely made it. The rain started pouring down on us just as we hit the parking lot, and by the time we jumped into the car everyone was drenched. We had seen exactly 1,000 feet of Caumsett’s miles of trails.  Now what?

The kids were hungry (of course) so I suggested finding something to eat and seeing if the rain lightened up. Now there is nothing anywhere near the park, so it was another 10 minutes to get back to civilization and the rain kept pouring. Once we made it into the restaurant, however, we could see it was letting up, and we discussed going back up to the park after our food, but that ended up not working out. The rain was still coming down, off and on, and I said “forget it” and we just headed back to Port Washington.

The steep steps leading up weren't the entrance to the trail, but a hint of things to come.

The steep steps leading up weren’t the entrance to the trail, but a hint of things to come.

On the way, we passed right by Cold Spring Harbor State Park. I had never heard of it, but it wasn’t raining and the harbor looked beautiful, so I asked the kids if they wanted to stop and get some fresh air while we had the chance. This isn’t like the other state parks. There is no entrance fee. In fact, the parking lot is just a small lot on the side of  Harbor Road (25A). As far as I could tell, there were no restrooms or amenities of any type.

The  only way into the park was a steep trail of steps. My daughter took one look up the hill and said she wasn’t going. She and her friend decided to walk along the water’s edge and look at the scenery (which was beautiful), so I was on my own on the trail.

I soon learned that the steep steps weren’t the entrance to the trail, but the trail itself. I didn’t get as far into it as I would have liked, because I knew the kids were waiting and they only have so much patience for stuff like this. It was steep, rough going up, up, up, and then steep, touch going down, down, down. As far as I could see, the whole trail was like that.

Now, I’m not that great at steep. Going up is a nice workout, and I can enjoy the cardiac workout as much as the next person, but I really struggle with downhill. I have bad ankles and can easily lose my footing.  And it wasn’t just steep. There were branches and rocks all through the trail, which help keep you from sliding too far, but also tend to reach out and trip you up if you aren’t too graceful. It probably didn’t help that I was wearing sneakers, and I thought more than once that I’m going to need to invest in hiking shoes if I’m going to continue making these forays into nature.

Do you see any flat areas? No, neither do I.

Do you see any flat areas? No, neither do I.

Whenever there was a flat section I would break into a slow jog, but there weren’t too many flat sections at all. (Check out my GPS elevation map.

So I’m not really sure how far I did get. The GPS on my phone said I walked 1.5 miles, but my fitbit said I did 6,300 steps. (Since my usual gait for walking is about 2,200 steps to the mile) my fitbit and my GPS are off by about 1.5 miles. Ummm????

I don’t really understand why that is. I mean, the GPS records my elevation, so why can’t it figure out that I went farther than 1.5 miles. (And for the record I don’t think I’ve ever walked 29 min miles in my life, unless I was walking backwards).  And I don’t think my fitbit is accurate either. For one thing, I know that going down hill I was taking lots of tiny steps to keep from falling down. For another, I know that I didn’t walk 3 miles in 43 min. Maybe on flat terrain, but up and down hills, I think my pace was probably closer to 19 or 20 min miles.

So despite the best laid plans getting totally screwed up, and technology failing me, I have to say it was a pretty awesome day and I would love to go back to this park, without kids and with proper footwear.

2014 is One-Third Over! How Can That Be?

To make 3,000,000 steps I have to reach at least 250,000 steps each month.

To make 3,000,000 steps I have to reach at least 250,000 steps each month. Ruh-Roh!

Ok, April is over so it is time, once again, to update you on my 3,000,000 step challenge progress.  If you have been following along, I have struggled with my step goals for a myriad of reasons that include weather, illness, work, and ennui. However, I’m proud to say that April was my month to get my act together. For once, I was able to meet and even exceed my monthly goal of 250,000 steps.

This is the first month that I met my goal, so I’m pretty excited. I know that I’ve got my work cut out for me, because I haven’t made my goal yet, so technically I’m behind. On the other hand, I’m improving so much that I can’t help be excited.

I walked 261,000 steps this month. That is more than 121 miles. Of those, I ran a whopping 35 miles. Here’s what makes that number amazing. My work was just as sedentary as last month, so most of my steps were exercise related. Sure there was some parking on the far side of the parking lot, but most of it involved me consciously deciding to be active when I didn’t have to be.

261,000 steps or 121 miles

261,000 steps or 121 miles

April 29 was my best day, with 12,721 steps.  I met my 8,000 step goal 23 days (and came really really close 1 day) and 12 days I had over 10,000 steps. Here is my month-by-month chart:

Month Goal Jan Feb Mar Apr
Steps: 250,000 234,863 192,816 142,777 261,004
Miles: 115 107 87 64 121

I went over my goal by 11,000 steps in April, but that doesn’t quite make up for the three months I fell short. Following my 250,000/month step goal, I should have gone a total of 1,000,000 steps by now, which means  I’m about 170,000 steps behind. What I really should do is raise my goal to 9,000 steps a day. At 9,000 steps, I can make up the missing steps by the end of the year.

But here’s the thing: I don’t think that is my best plan. I know that when my daily goal is too high, it is harder for me to motivate myself. The goal has to be achievable, for me not to give up. Let’s say it is 6:00 pm. I finished work and am too tired to work out. I look at my fitbit and see I’ve only done about 1,950 steps so far. It is much easier to convince myself to go exercise if I tell myself I only have to 3 miles. It sounds weird, but when I had a goal of 10,000 steps per day, it was much harder for me.

So I’m going to keep my 8,000 step goal, and see how that works.

And if it was easy, it wouldn’t be called a challenge, right?!