Saturday, December 07, 2013

I Am Running Away And Joining A Weightlifting Cult

For my thirtieth birthday, my boyfriend, dear sweet man, bought me a session with a serious-business lifting coach.

It took me a couple weeks to schedule it because I was afraid.  I wanted it, and I was excited also, but I was afraid.  I was afraid that he would meddle in what I eat.  I was afraid that he would take one look at me and know instantly that I'm not worth his time.  I was afraid that he would start talking about fat loss goals.

None of those things happened.  This man is built like a brick wall out of which stare the kindest eyes I've seen on a human being since my teaching mentor left my university (it's a high bar).  And what he cares about is not getting ripped—it's getting strong.

We just squatted, the first session.  Air squats, then the bar, then adding weight.  After seeing me do a couple sets with the bar, he said, "You overthink things and it paralyzes you.  Just let go."  I almost cried.  I PRed my squat: 185x3, and he said he thought I could do more, that the bar speed was fast enough that it wasn't my real max.  He says he thinks a two-plate (225-pound) squat shouldn't be a problem, that I could deadlift "in the threes" and compete.  My bar path is good, he says (I don't totally know what that means, I confess, because you can't really see your own bar path, which is another reason that it is good to have a coach).

At some point I said that I was worried about losing my tension at the bottom of the squat because my legs are big and I felt like I was just sitting on myself, not holding myself up.  He looked at me skeptically and said, "That's very creative.  You'll have to draw me a picture of what you think is happening.  No.  Use the mass in your legs to drive up."

He zeroed in immediately: I roll my wrists under the bar, set up slightly left of center (this might actually explain why I feel like my right side lags my left—because it's actually bearing more weight), and most of all, am trying way too hard to keep my torso upright, which is resulting in an over-arched back and less stability than would be ideal.  I am practicing dropping my chest and keeping a neutral spine ("nothing should be happening in your spine") when I climb the three flights to my apartment.  It feels good.  It makes more sense, the position.

He said I could come to a couple open sessions for free.  I went yesterday, squats and presses, and even though there were like twelve people in the gym, I felt like I had his full attention: I need to work on locking out at the end of a squat set ("Judges look for it—you might as well practice now, in case you compete"), rerack too delicately, don't explode aggressively enough, tend not to hit full depth on the first squat of a set, roll my wrists under on the press too.  And, of course, I overthink.

Leaving the gym yesterday, he said, "So when's your next training day?" and I had to say that I am going to California for a week (though am taking gear & will be lifting at the Berkeley gym if I can), and he said, "E-mail me when you get back."  I don't know when he is going to ask me to pay him, but I guess I'll just wait until he does.

I cannot really afford his gym.  My initial idea was that maybe I could do a training session like once every six weeks to two months in addition to training on my own.  But I think I am going to have to make it work.  The best-value version of his gym is more than double what I pay for mine, but if this is going to be a thing in my life, I think I kind of need him.  And I kind of want this to be a thing in my life.  I worry about group exercise, always, but I think this might work for me.  There are other women who lift there—there were women there yesterday—he made sure to tell me that the team he is taking to a meet this weekend is exactly half women—and I think this place is most of all about people who see lifting as a kind of quasi-spiritual personal practice, not that any of them would say it quite that way, more than it is about how good you are or how much you lift.  At our first session, the gentle-eyed ox-man said, "You can change your whole world coming out of a squat," and I know exactly what he means by that, and I believe that too.  And there was a guy next to me at the open session yesterday, brand new, squatting like 65, learning to power clean (I really want to learn to power clean) (it looks hard and fun) with a bare bar, and people gave him a berth because he was new and clearly a little self-deprecating, but no one looked at him like he shouldn't be there.  No one looked at me like I shouldn't be there.  I think maybe I should be there.  Like maybe a lot.  It feels like the right place for me.

So basically I am going to have to make some financial sacrifices if I want to join this weightlifting cult, but I think I have to join this weightlifting cult.  I think I need to give this a shot.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lather, rinse, repeat.

This week I fought off a flare of the crazies.  

Some days ago, both a skirt and my measure-y jeans fit differently than they were supposed to.  Tighter.  They've been touch and go (not the light-deadlift kind of touch and go, where everything is easy, either) for a bit now, but those jeans, man, they just refused.  Not even close to buttoning.  And one could say that I had a bit of a tantrum about it.  Maybe one could say that.  And not be wrong.

When the crazies start to flare my head starts to hum with anxious energy.  I try to play it off like I'm fine, no problem, it's just that my pants don't fit, and before you know it I'm up in the middle of the night at my boyfriend's place doing calorie math on my phone calculator.  ((Total daily energy expenditure calculation on an active day x 3) + (TDEE on a non-active day x4) - 3500) / 7 = daily calorie target.  And then how many weeks, how many months?  Do it again.  Google some more things.  Rerun the calculations to hold the same 500-calorie deficit over active and non-active days. 

It must be awfully boring to the people who have to keep hearing about it (my therapist; the internet) to hear me do this lather-rinse-repeat of symptomatic thinking-inkling of a clue-back away from the ledge. But...that is where I am.  That is what I'm working on.  When I am thinking symptomatically, it is very, very difficult not to run off in the direction I'm currently facing (the direction of dieting—calorie counting and "just wait half an hour whoops maybe an hour"-ing and weighing and projecting numbers into the long-range future).  It seems so reasonable when I'm there.  Or, if not exactly reasonable, at least necessary.  Urgent.  "Yes, I know, diet-y, but still so many more calories than the diets of yore, because now I'm smarter about my actual caloric needs and expenditures and have put in a bunch of time towards metabolic health!"  Even standing on solid ground now, there is a part of me that wants to start counting, start watching, start calculating and planning.  But: does it work?  (But this time I'll do it right.)  

Because the fact is, I would like to lose a little fat.  I would also like to gain a lot of strength, which is very nearly impossible on a deficit, and those conflicting goals are something to be discussed with a professional at a later date.

But for now I know that I cannot put myself on another plan.  I can't do it.  I'm not ready.  That feels weird to say.  It is never not a good time for a diet, right?  For a project, a promise?  But I'm not there yet.  What I'm doing now—regardless of what I will do down the road—is this: eating to hunger (even when that hunger is so vast that it frightens me, like yesterday and today), lifting a bunch of weights, and trying to catch myself before I hurtle down any appealing rabbit holes.  

I have been thinking about what I will tell a new nutritionist, whoever that person ends up being; how I will frame my central concerns. 

(I have an appointment with my own nutritionist next Tuesday.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

"of course"

We can have a final session.  In which I will just cry?  So, that will be fun?  I mean, this is good news.  But it will still be awful.

I guess the agenda really is to express some of my reaction, and to define some next steps—like asking her who else in her practice might be a better fit, and/or where else I might want to go with this part of my treatment.  (Yes, I do have half a mind to just quit here, and I can't tell whether that's passive-aggression or just thrift—most likely a bit of both.)

Really what I want from a session is a chance to be heard, and some advice about the transition, and also to get totally clear on whether there is, in fact, any chance of being an exception (there is not, I don't think, but it's hard to quit thinking there is until I hear it from her).  I think this needs probably to wait until next week, so I can touch base with my therapist and clear my head a little.

In the meantime, my food is fine.  I've choked up on it a bit—added up my calories at the end of the day yesterday and skipped a pre-bed snack I might otherwise have gone for—but I'm not restricting quantitatively or qualitatively.

"Remember that you're the one who's done the work," my boyfriend says.

What I want is to see that she's sad.  That's what I want.  In addition to the pragmatic things.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Whoops

...and, I'm diet-googling.

This is legible behavior.  This is "let's make a reason for it to be good not to have someone checking on you."  This is "let's get a hit of that single-minded drive."  This is "let's find a new standard, a new way to know that things are going okay."

When I was younger, I expected being able to interpret my own behavior to be the thing that made that behavior resolve.  I have been in therapy long enough to know that this is not the case.  I cannot change my behavior by knowing where it comes from or where it means.  Interpretation does help: it lets me drive a wedge between my thinking and my behavior.  It gives me space to reconsider and insulate that behavior from my destructive thought patterns.  But my behavior?  I can only change it by changing it.  Here, this means that I practice self-care.  I get enough sleep.  I get enough food.  I tell my boyfriend I love him.  I tell my father I do not have time to see him tomorrow.  If I can't get pages together by tomorrow afternoon, I tell my writing group I need to bump back to next week.  I get to the gym tomorrow evening, and then to my co-op for groceries.

And I remind myself that the solution to this problem is not ketosis.  (It's not.)

Ouch.

Two days ago, I got an email from my nutritionist saying that as she returns from her maternity leave, she will be discontinuing individual counseling sessions.

From the couch, my boyfriend saw me furrow my brow.  He inquired.  I burst into tears.

I don't even really want to talk about it, is how much I hate this news, so this is kind of a placeholder of a post.  I feel hurt and angry and a little bit convinced that I can talk her into changing her mind, making an exception.  I feel afraid.  I like the woman I've checked in with this summer okay, but it's not the right fit for a long-term working relationship.  She's not thoughtful enough; she's not interested in the specific experience of fatness.  (Also, she palpably does not find me charming in the way my own nutritionist finds [found?] me charming, which always makes me just a little bit of a performing monkey, crashing my cymbal for approval, trying to make my audience like me.)  I am afraid of my own internal negotiations without solid guidance, the way I can drift, the way I can vacillate.  The speed with which I can lose touch with common sense about food, with the goal I just had a minute ago, with which I can change track.

I have been waiting for her to come back since she left in May with white knuckles and she is not coming back.  I've been seeing her for about seven years, and she doesn't even want to have a final session.  (I thought about this for a solid day and a half, then sent an email requesting a final session, which kind of feels both totally undignified and also like a request that couldn't be turned down, but you know, we're in uncharted territory here, because I would also have thought that it would have gone without saying that one was necessary.)

It feels like she doesn't care what happens to me.

And it just feels childish, to have this kind of a collapse about this thing.  The intensity of my reaction is maybe unanticipated?  I had never given any thought to what my reaction here would be, because this is not a possibility I had considered, but I somehow doubt I would have said "weeping, collapse," had I been speculating.  And yet, "weeping, collapse" is exactly what happened.  I could not work this weekend.  I declined to answer text messages from friends about plans.  I just kind of sank.

I don't know what I will do without her.  I don't have a plan.

Here's what I'm noting: my unobstructed and prolonged grief; my nervous dread; my passive-aggressive inclination to make her sorry (I canceled the appointment I'd had on Wednesday with the woman I've seen this summer, mostly because it's too expensive to just go and cry in front of someone I'm not comfortable with when I can wait literally an hour and cry to my therapist instead, but also I think because it felt like the only avenue available to demonstrate pain); that I am still keeping a food journal in the usual way after a moment of "why bother?" but am also experiencing heightened anxiety about what I eat.

I just feel blindsided?  And/or abandoned?  And/or pissed at being dumped by email?  Everything about this is one hundred per cent terrible.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Scales Ain't Shit

Okay.  Here is a thing that has been occupying a bunch of my attention: the scale.

On August 1, I added a new warm-up progression to my lifting sessions, one that about doubled my volume—not the load, just the number of reps I perform at any load.

At my very next session, my weight had shot up 5 pounds.  Okay, self, I said, this is water weight from increased volume; I have heard that this can be a thing.  It will go away.  And I waited for it to go away, weighing myself more than is really a good idea.  Every time I'm at the gym.  Before and after my session.  Uh-oh.

It did not go away.  I held steady for nearly three weeks at that higher weight.  And when it finally started to change, it went up.  I put on my customary three or four pounds in the several days before my period.  Okay, self, I said, this is water weight from hormones and whatever.  It will go away.  Maybe it will all go away after your period.

It did not go away.  My period ended and I didn't drop anything.  Not one of those presumably-water pounds.  I'm currently eight to twelve pounds over where I was at the end of July.

And I can see it, too.  My face is puffy.  My measure-pants barely button when they button, and sometimes they don't.  All of my clothes fit differently.  The bulges around my bra band were driving me so berserk that I switched up to an old bra in a bigger band size.

It has been, for the last nearly-four weeks now, a daily investment of effort to make sure that I don't freak out and start restricting.  I have not started restricting, though I have been quietly freaking out a little.  Shit shit shit shit shit, my mental monologue has gone.  I have mollified myself with repeated readings of articles about weight lifting & water retention and also with the fact that this month has been so damn productive in the gym.  My squat is up 30 pounds and the month isn't even over yet.  That's more than it went up in the two months prior.  Damn.  I have reviewed my food logs to make sure that I feel good about them; I do.  I am not eating beyond my hunger.  My intake is balanced.  And I feel good.  So I have been working over those reminders on the daily, to stave off the freakout.

Two days ago, my boyfriend, whose policy on commentary on minor aesthetic changes to my body is NO NEVER EVER (and bless him for it), looked at me towards the end of a busy afternoon of nakedness for long enough that I said, "What?"  He said, "You look so good.  Your shape.  It must be all the weights you're lifting."

Um, okay.

Today I stopped in the deli by the bus stop for a Diet Coke (I <3 aspartame; Diet Coke is maybe the only dietary habit I have that I really consider a vice), and the owner was there.  This man, who is fond of me at any size and has been so for a year now, lost his damn mind.  His eyes lit up when I walked in; he told me how beautiful I am several times.  Then he asked if I had been losing weight.

NO, deli man, I HAVE NOT.  I weigh six to eight pounds more than I did when last you told me several times how beautiful I am, circa mid-June.

But I am willing to believe that these two people see something that I do not see.  I have heard of this thing happening to other people.  The articles on starting, intensifying, or increasing lifting and retaining water suggest a timeline of weeks and mention this exact thing: you will look different, but you will not weigh less.  I may not be the lone exception to this trend, and it might be my blind spot, not my bionic eyes ("Can you seriously not see how puffy I look?" I keep saying to my boyfriend.  "How can you not see it?"), that is showing me only the bloaty parts and not some overall effect that I am too close to see.  This might be a "new normal" because muscles and intracellular water or whatever, or it might be temporary but not as temporary as I would like (fingers still crossed for this last one, because, neurotic).

So as this has ticked along I have started thinking about the role of the scale in my whole thing.  I have repeated to myself the last sentences of this article: "Your scale is broken.  Bring it to me and I will fix it.  With my sledgehammer."  Why do I need to know that piece of data?  What if I stopped knowing it?  What if I trusted my sense of my behavior and my experience of my embodied self?  What if I stopped knowing what I weigh?  What if I stopped knowing it forever?

Today, in the gym, I had already weighed myself, hoping I had finally started to drain (NOPE.  ROCK SOLID) and was changing when a middle-aged woman and a young girl came into the locker room together.  I assumed that they were mother and daughter.  The girl couldn't have been older than fourteen, and she was totally normal-sized.  The mother got on the scale and went to go change.  Then the girl got on the scale and then went to report the number to her mother in a whisper.  They discussed it in lowered voices; I caught the phrase "lose ten pounds" from the girl.

I almost cried.  I don't mean to sound precious or pretentious or sanctimonious or whatever; I am reporting the facts of my reaction.  I almost cried.  I had a fleeting thought of saying something, but what would I say?  It's none of my business.

I am not ready to say I am going cold turkey right this second.  But I am really close to saying that.  I think I have moved past precontemplation and into regular contemplation.  What if I gave up knowing what I weighed?  What if I gave up this fucked-up female compulsion, this fundamentally irrelevant data point?  What if I started now to become the woman I hope will be able to raise a daughter who can be free of this particular obsession?  What if I thought of this as a service to the child I was and the child I'll have?

Getting closer.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Fat Chat

I have one fat friend.

Shit is different for her because she is a butch dyke who carries her fatness in the typically male pattern and whose gender presentation and clothing preferences are suited just fine by a belly.  I know she has her angst about fatness and I'm not minimizing it, just pointing out the divergence in our experience of fatness.  I would like a fat feminine-presenting friend with whom to bitch and shop.  But this friend is a good deal.  She is, although not currently doing a lot of reading and thinking about fatness, a person who is on my theoretical/political page in her approach to identity issues, including fatness.

My boyfriend recently moved into a big communal living situation run by this friend, which is nice because it means that I can sleep in to a normal-person hour when he has to wake up obscenely early for work because I won't have to be awkward and invisible with his roommates, so when I woke up there this morning, I got to have a little hang with her.  It had been a bit.  We went out in the rain to the coffee shop around the corner and we had a catch-up.

The conversation took some turns, and at some point, in the middle of our regular-volume chat about identities and fat stuff, I realized that I'm not even a little bit embarrassed to refer to myself as fat in public anymore.  I'm just not.  I don't have the feeling that I'm outing myself, as if no one will notice that I'm fat if I don't point it out.  I am, if I am being honest, a little bit embarrassed to participate in a conversation about my friend's complicated poly romantic situation in tight proximity to other tables full of people, though, so I suggested we take the conversation to her roof, since it had stopped raining.  Her roof is where I met my boyfriend, lo these several years ago now, which is part of what makes it funny that he lives there now.  It has an incredible view of the entire sweep of the Manhattan skyline.

We sat on the roof and I smoked two of her cigarettes (first cigarettes all summer, kind of sad to break the streak, but I like smoking on occasion).  I talked to her about the gap in the literature that I've been thinking about—this came up because she was talking about an acquaintance of hers who's a pretty well-known fatshion blogger, and I'd mentioned being surprised to hear that even the folks who sort of lead the charge around fatness in the collective consciousness are often struggling with the nuts and bolts of their own day-to-day self-care.  I told her about the "being a body" theme I've been pursuing.  We sat on the roof and watched the thick clouds roll over the Empire State Building.

We are grown-ups, and this is a way in which I have changed.  I no longer feel like I'm climbing a giant fucking wall when I talk about fatness; I no longer feel myself choking up around the words.  This is just a thing.  I have come a long way towards getting my head around it.  If I am being honest, I think I have come a longer way than my friend—and I say this without judgment—perhaps because I devote a larger percentage of my emotional and intellectual energy to it.  At some point she referred to herself as an "inbetweenie" in a way that seemed to request my stamp of approval for that, like, "I am not THAT fat, right?", and later said that she'd been losing weight, in a way that also felt approval-seeking, like she wanted to be congratulated.  But I didn't feel hurt by either of those things.  I didn't feel angry, I didn't get mad at her.  I was just happy to get to chat with her about it.

Onward and upward.  It works if you work it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Note to Self: Process, or Feedback, or Something

That when we are talking about chosen resources, voluntary associations, the thing is about what parts of you will be validated.  This is another way of approaching what I have trying to approach over and over again, which is the lack of a perfect resource.  What qualities are accepted, praised, valued, reinforced by the communities from which you seek solidarity and support?  Which version of you do they want?  Which version of you won't find space?

Reading Audre Lorde ("The Uses of Anger") helps, but there is still the fact of the power of consensus, agreement; and this is related too to the erstwhile closing of ranks around Hugo Schwyzer.  The wrong person got the job, over and over again; the wrong person was believed to be right.  The wrong person was believed to be worth concern, worth empathy.  Of course, all people are worth concern and worth empathy, but on whom are groups of people spending their time and their emotional energy?

What of this is just human weakness (narcissism, blindness, defensiveness, failures of empathy and of intellect)?  But also then, what of everything, all systems, is just human weakness lined up in rows to make load-bearing structures?

Where can I find a thing that will know that my anger is righteous and also that it is fragile?

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Gaps in the Literature, or, "The information you are sharing above feels like freedom to me."

Maybe a week ago, during a talk about fatness (we have had several lately), my boyfriend said that he thought I should write about this stuff.  Like on the internet.  Like on a blog.

And what I said is—and I think this is true—that there are already people doing most of the stuff I would want to do.  Lesley Kinzel (and to a lesser extent, Marianne Kirby also) has the giant platform of xoJane, which is fabulous, and though I hate that she has had to tone down the more theoretically challenging aspects of her thinking, I can't think of anyone I'd rather have representing my interests to a mainstream audience.  She is great at her job.  She has got it covered.  There is Lindy West at Jezebel talking about the perils of doing anything visible while fat.  There are fatshion bloggers writing about how to look like a person you want to look like while remaining a fat person and being okay with that, Gabi Gregg leading that charge.  And there are bloggers, lots and lots of them, writing about eating and fitness, and some of them do so while attuned to body image and some of them, quietly, all over the internet, are having little eureka! moments about restriction and disordered eating and broader social mindfuckery about bodies.  

So...what am I doing here?  Why am I still writing this blog that people used to read but don't anymore (that's not self-pity, internet!)?  What am I trying to accomplish here?  Or at least, what am I trying to accomplish that I can do anonymously?  (Because I do think if I just suddenly started putting up notes on Facebook or whatever about this stuff under my own name, where people would come across it just because they know me and not because they are specifically interested in fatness, it would be a different and perhaps more important project.)  

What gaps are there in the literature?  This is a question that we ask in academia.

What there isn't, I don't think—and I have already said this in a different way—is a feminist, fat-positive voice getting into the nitty-gritty of embodied self-care.  There are bodies here, real ones, circumscribed and pushed around and beaten down and carved up by ideologically-driven behavior.  This is true of bodies of any size, but it is almost certainly amplified around bodies of larger sizes.  My body is a cultural boogeyman, and I am a part of the culture—my relationship to my body, then, is refracted and partitioned, because it is both me (obvs) and not-me (because of the way the "I" of the cultural neutral position works).  That's to say, fat people experience an iteration of W.E.B. Du Bois's idea of double consciousness.  Whole other thing; about to head off on a tangent; just gonna leave this here for a second.

Okay.  I had an interaction on the internet just recently in which a woman I had never met and never spoken with previously identified herself as fat and suffering from either an eating disorder (she did not specify, but implied binge eating disorder/compulsive eating) or a food addiction.  She was seeking advice.  In response to this post, she got—not just from me—a lot of information about patterns of restrictive/reactive eating.  It was pointed out to her—and again, not just by me—that her problem was more likely to be undereating than overeating.  That what she was identifying as "binge" behavior or "lack of control" was more likely a physiological response to a history of restriction and underfeeding.  There was a little tangent off into diagnostic criteria for BED, arguing (as argued by Gwyneth Olwyn at Your Eatopia in more length) that it can't be diagnosed in the presence of a history of restriction.

She said, "The information you are sharing above feels like freedom to me."

BAM.

The information you are sharing above feels like freedom to me.

Do you know how big a deal that is?

It is a real big deal.  

I told her, "[Her Name], welcome to the other side."  Immediately after hitting post on that sentence, I realized that I had no idea what it meant.  What other side?  The other side of what?  It felt viscerally correct, though, and she responded to it as if it made sense to her too; she said: "[My Full Name], that made me cry.  I have wanted to be here all my life."

Where?  What?

Her own side.  All on one side, not split in half against herself.

This is the connection to double consciousness: you are both yourself, your own basic needs, and socialized into the cultural norms that think your body and thus necessarily your behavior are aberrant.  You are split in half; you are on your own side and you are on the dominant ideology's side, even though the latter seeks to obliterate/assimilate the former.  

But in this particular case there is an objective constant that won't be obliterated or assimilated.  That constant is the human fucking body.  Your body is not an idiot.  It will not lie down and die.  It will not consent to be starved.  It is hungry, and it does not care that you are emotionally uncomfortable with wanting more than you are supposed to want as a woman and/or a fat person.  And so it reacts.  It won't obey because it can't, but more importantly, it shouldn't.  There is no getting your body on the side of the cultural consciousness, not for good, and especially not for fat women.  It won't work.  Your body won't bend that far backwards.  There is only getting yourself on the side of your body.  And that reality is under-acknowledged.  This is what happened on the internet, then: someone realized that the only way to stop being split in half was to get on her body's side, even if it means doing something she is not supposed to do, something she may experience resistance, from herself and others, to doing. 

That interaction was the best thing that happened to me this week.  It felt like doing something that mattered.

Some days I think I am going to take the PhD and go to work on this gap in the literature, because this is why I became an academic, really: because information can feel like freedom.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Love Letter to Lifting

When I lift I talk to myself.  Today I talked to myself an awful lot.  And when I lift my self-talk is warm: "Attagirl," I say.  "That's my girl.  Come on, baby.  You got this.  You got this.  You want to try another set?  One more?  You can stop if it's too much.  You're a girl who tries."  Like seriously I say these things aloud—I guess I mutter them under my breath, but I am really telling myself these things, and I am not faking it—this is the way I feel about myself when I lift.  I feel proud, kind, encouraging, supportive.  Sometimes I feel a gut-punch of sensation like the thing that happens when I am sitting on my couch with my boyfriend and he says something brilliant or funny and I realize how much I love him; it feels like a gentle vortex inside my ribcage, something that reaches out to someone else even as I experience its centrifuge.  Except when I am lifting and I have that sensation, it is for me.  It is me that I realize I love.  This sounds cheesy as hell, but inexplicably, I am so serious.

My session today was fucking beautiful.  I'm doing a little tinkering lately: a new warm-up approach (okay, fine, a warm-up approach that actually involves warming up; unsurprisingly, it is helpful!  Although it also increases volume, which made the same squat weight feel a little more dubious at the end.)  I added 5 pounds to my press—promised myself two sets at the new weight.  Did the two.  Had to gut it out to get lockout on the last rep; there was a second I thought I was going to have to bail out and let the bar crash onto the safety rails and make a terrible, embarrassing racket, but I got it.  Took a recovery break.  Thought about it.  Did another set, easier than the one before.  Took a recovery break.  Thought about moving on to deadlifts; thought about what my warm-up progression should be.  Thought maybe I'd just try one more set of presses.  Had to fight for the last rep.  Fought for it.  Got it.    I switched from touch-and-go deadlift sets to resetting between reps, to the tune of a 10-pound PR (although four reps instead of five: I'll get the five next time I deadlift, you mark my words).

And I took the bus home with a new gym friend—this guy who came up to me a couple weeks ago and asked, "You a former athlete?"  When I told him no, he shook my hand.  "You don't see too many women back here.  You was getting real low on those squats, too."  (The way to my heart is through my squat form.  FYI, internet.)  Today I ran into him at the bus stop and he sat himself down right next to me and we talked about how I got started lifting and how great it is and how it is a thing you can do all your life (I am looking forward to a lifetime of lifting).  His name is Michael.  I have gym friends.  It is bizarre.

Engage your quads and your core when the press gets tough.  Shove your knees out and spread the floor with your feet on the way down in the squat.  Activate the posterior chain to drive up out of the hole.  It is a million kinds of interesting: lifting lights my brain up, trying to monitor several things at once, and all the while attuned, experiencing.  The initial gains you make when you start lifting are driven by neurological connection: it's not muscle mass that you're creating or even the potential of the muscle you've already got that you're tapping—it's the connection between the brain and the muscle.  The brain is reaching its tendrilly little synapses out into your body, touching the parts of you that you didn't even know were there.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Found It

I found the response I've been looking for.  Or at least a response that does what I have been looking for a response to do—a response for when people squeeze you meaningfully after having already spent several hours with you and having already told you that you look nice and say, "You look great."

I have been looking for a response that accepts their kind intentions but gives them some sense of awareness that I take issue with some other part of the message there—the part that congratulates you on being less fat, with all the assumptions about your intentions and feelings that it carries.

It turns out it is really simple.  It popped out of my mouth today in just this situation.  It goes like this:

"You too."

Here's why I think it works when it's a situation that doesn't actually set me on edge: most importantly of all, it maintains cordiality, it keeps the interaction friendly and affectionate.  And it also re√ęstablishes parity and equivalence: my body is like your body, it's just a body, it has unity and integrity no matter its size relative to other bodies or other iterations of itself.  And it also carries—if the person to whom you offer it in exchange has not him- or herself recently become slightly less fat—a mild rejection of that comment's subtext, because it chooses to take "you look great" at face value, to make it a compliment that can be given back to someone who hasn't recently changed size.

I like it.

"You too."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Just a little story

They've got to go somewhere.

When I was in treatment, vitals were taken in the middle of the night, in shifts.  You were assigned to one of a few wee-hours half-hour timeslots.  I don't remember exactly what the times were, but it was something like 4:00, 4:30, 5:00. People had strong feelings about which timeslot they preferred, but it wasn't like you got to pick.  Staff would come and wake you.  Every night, in the middle of the night.  It would be freezing.  Freezing.  You were allowed to bring your blanket down with you, to wait outside the office where they did vitals.  It behooved you to get up: the sooner you were downstairs, the  further ahead in line you might be, and the sooner you might be back in bed.

So I remember a silent line of girls and women, swaddled in blankets, some lying curled up trying to sleep with their heads on their arms or the pillows they'd brought from bed, blinking and squinting in the fluorescent light of the industrial-carpeted hallway, groggy and grumpy and just wanting it to be over.

On face, this seems like an insane policy.  Sleep is important, and waking up fifty women in the middle of the night is for sure a pain, to say nothing of the weirdo hours you are foisting on your practitioners.  But it did something sort of remarkable, which was that it isolated that event.  You didn't spend the day thinking about your weight, because by the time you woke up again from your second sleep shift, that had happened yesterday, and you didn't spend your day anticipating or fearing your weight, because that wasn't until tomorrow.  And you were barely conscious of the event itself.  It was like it hadn't even happened.  In retrospect, it seems kind of brilliant.

It worked.  I don't remember what my weights were in treatment—I think I saw them at least sometimes, but I couldn't say with certitude what they were, couldn't really even ballpark them with confidence.  I don't even remember what-all information they were collecting.  Weight, pulse, other stuff, I forget.  If you were orthostatic—and I sometimes was—they would hand you a little cup of Gatorade, which is always disgusting but is particularly disgusting in the middle of the night.  I don't actually know what "orthostatic" means right this second, though I know it has something to do with blood pressure, but I remember this word and this procedure and drinking that goddamn Gatorade from a paper cup in the middle of the night.

And sitting in that hallway in the middle of the night, the silent line of half-sensate blanket piles, is one of the images from treatment that stays with me.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Notes Towards a Post About Beauty

What if beauty is a distraction?  A smokescreen?  "A quietly mad population is a tractable one."

What if beauty is—and this I think seems truer—a real thing and a relevant one, but a central thing only because of the issues to which it is adjacent?  Angela Davis's afro.  (Where is the line beyond which functional irrelevance?)

Like this: some ESPN anchor is on television talking about that basketball player that came out.  He disapproves of his lifestyle; it is an affront to God.  He says he also disapproves of the lifestyles of the guys who run around on their wives, the guys who fornicate (unmarried!).  But that disapproval is a lightweight thing, the latter kind.  It doesn't change the lives of the men subject to it.  It doesn't threaten their standing.

Or in the marriage plots of yore (your Eliots, your Austens, your Dickenses), you are reckoning marriageability, and you know beauty is an asset, and you know who has it and who doesn't, and yet the people who don't manage to go on existing without too many histrionics.  Get married, perhaps mostly to clergymen (unless very rich).  Beauty on par with speaking French or playing the harpsichord or coming from an unentailed estate.  A thing in the portfolio.  Though not unaffected, nobody wrecks her life on the rocky shores of lack of beauty, it would seem, not even those radically defaced (Esther, Bleak House) (who is the very plain but very good one in Middlemarch?  She wins out, no?).

Except Lucy Snowe.  What first freights this is hope?  That the orphaned plain Jane, the original one, Eyre, wins out too, wins big?  (Did we know that "The Sound of Music" was a remake of Jane Eyre?  It totally is, right?)  This is what makes it dangerous.  If you can hope above your station.  (How does this fit in with liberal political thought?  Mill, Locke?  The rise of the idea if not the reality of meritocracy?)  Lucy Snowe.  And this is why (one reason why) Villette feels so contemporary.  Lucy Snowe's whole life is sacrifice to her injustices.  There is a whole argument here that would spoil the plot of Villette, one of the best five novels ever written, I think, so I won't make it.

Okay, the Villette thing, a distraction.  But what if beauty only matters as much as it matters, as much as it matters to me and to other fat people suffering or defying on the internet and in their regular lives, when it is prioritized?  Are we in a moment of its prioritization?  Why?  How do we know?  Because sometimes I just want to admit that I do not find someone beautiful but I love them nonetheless.  Sometimes I want to be able to say, "there are things about me that are not beautiful; I do not care."  (This latter is an aspiration of affect, not an admission.)  (Read that Lauren Berlant book?  Ugly Feelings, I think?)  The absolute imperative of beauty.  (This is true of women, perhaps only, perhaps only primarily.)  Beauty as a prerequisite for everything.  Bitchy Jones's Diary & the post about the male gaze/male submission/the link to that slightly shitty article about how women can want to be poets but they know they want to be beautiful poets.

What are the levers that insert themselves into our subjectivity?  Into our standing?  In Florida, two parents have been told that a grown man had the right to be afraid of their child, had the right to kill him because of that fear.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Metaphor, Then

I am on a packed N train, coming home from a meeting of my writing group.  I am standing.  The window of the N train is bisected horizontally—a bar crosses just at my shoulders, so that in the reflection of the window, my head is divided from my body.  I am looking at my reflected face, staring myself in the eyes; I am scrutinizing my cheekbones.  There is an unfamiliarity to my face—it feels different, feels foreign, I have a mild sense of dislocation from it.  It is not quite mine.  I isolate that sense in the steepened angle around my chin, the mild shading below my cheekbones.  It's closer to my other face.  The face I think of as my real face, inside my regular face cluttered up by the parts of my regular face I don't like.  Doesn't that feel a little wrong?  It feels a little wrong.  How can my real face be a face I've never seen?  That doesn't make any sense.  My real face is my regular face.  My real face is every face attached to my skull, the skull within which my brain chases itself in circles.  At the end of my therapy session today, I earmarked our topic for next week: "How do I reconcile the pleasure I feel at being more acceptable by a standard I hate?  It is fucking me all up."

The train swoops up onto the Manhattan Bridge.  When the afternoon light comes streaming into the car, my reflection is gone and I am looking out eastward at the sprawl of lower Manhattan, the old tenements full of other people and their lives, the bright water of the East River.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Addendum

The bodies in my relationship look pretty similar to this:


(And sometimes behave pretty similarly, along gender-binary lines, too.  We are one shortish excitable energetic fat lady and one skinny cerebral melancholic-tending dude.  Which, well, actually seems pretty great after watching Beth & Jarvis.)

Monday, July 08, 2013

Stand Up Straight

Yesterday, my boyfriend asked over dinner what he could do to make me feel pretty.  He asked because I had been grumpy about him admiring a woman's picture—not because it made me jealous, but because I didn't think she was particularly pretty, and that made me feel like his judgment of female attractiveness is questionable, which made me feel like him thinking I'm pretty doesn't count.

I told him he could sit and stand up straight.  This is a thing for me.  It's a thing about relative size, because he is a skinny dude (whereas I sit on the big round cushion of my prodigious ass, so when sitting in particular I tend to worry about whether I am taller than he is, which I sometimes am if he's hunching particularly egregiously), but I think probably even more it's a thing about attraction.  He's an interior, cerebral human being, my man, and he has a tendency to forget that he is a body, to wander away from it into the inner reaches of his brain and leave his physical self crumpled awkwardly on the train seat next to me.  This makes me feel gross.  It makes me feel gross because it makes me feel hulking in comparison,  which makes me feel unfeminine, but I don't think that's all it is.  It makes me feel gross because I don't find him physically attractive in those moments of bodily abandonment, and the sudden absence of the zing and twang of attraction in my relationship is depressing, makes my own body feel like a burden, a great big lump unsanctified by physical joy.

I don't think this is about the specifics of his body.  I am often attracted to him, and indeed I am often attracted to skinny dudes, their angular faces and long limbs, their agility.  But what I want is for him to be more emphatically in his physical self.  To not hunch or slump as he tends to, to cross his ankle over his knee and sit back tall, to take up space, to stand like he is enjoying the breadth of his (broad) shoulders and the power of being young and alive.  I want that because it attracts me, and when I am attracted to him I feel more attractive, sure, but mostly when I am attracted to him I don't care very much about whether or not I'm attractive because I am getting what I want, which is to say, getting a person I desire.  When he retreats from physicality it is as if he is retreating from his physical desire for me, which I find insulting, but more importantly I think, it is as if he is denying me my the inhabitance of my own body, its sensations and joys and desires.

I am not sure whether this is actually asking him to be a whole different kind of person.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

You know, I care less and less what people think.

So, apparently our interaction on Saturday made us buddies, me and that trainer, because when I got to the rack today, he was standing by it counting his client's bar curls, but when he saw me he hustled his client along.  "We're in her spot," he said.  I can deal with that.  And he walked by when I was overhead pressing (still just the bar, which was harder than last time, either because I'd upped the weight on the squats I'd just done or because I  hadn't eaten anything yet today and had last time, or because of some third unknown thing) and said, "I can lift heavier than that!"  Now that is the kind of reinforcement I can get behind.  (Twisted?)

True to my word, those measure-y pants stayed up in the tub of clothes that don't fit me for the end of May and all of June.  When July 1 rolled around, I tried them on: they do fit differently.  They still muffin-top me, but they button more easily; I don't feel like I might break a nail if I put my hands in the pockets.  My weight's rock-solid, but with the return to lifting, things shift around a little.

I have been thinking a lot about the lessons of this year.  I joined the Bed-Stuy Y on July 10th of last year, so I'm coming up on a year of lifting, which even with the nomadic hiatus in the middle feels like a thing.  It really did take hold right away, lifting.  Felt good right away, both physically and emotionally.  It feels like it changed my whole deal, kind of, this year—made me appreciate my strength and health and toughness and willingness to go my own way, gave me a non-destructive place to put my drive and research and goal-making impulses, made me feel less left out when everyone else talks about yoga and running.  It feels important to me to still be doing it in another year.  I'm going to write about this more in a week, but lifting heavy weights feels like both a manifestation and a catalyst of some big changes in the last year and a half or so.

As ever, with my pants-measuring and the faces my aunt and uncle both made at me when I ran into them en route to therapy today and the jitters about being weighed at the doctor's office, I have to work to reconcile my feelings about size shift (mixed, including a strong strain of gratification) with my politics and my behavioral plan.  It's important to me to be clear with myself that what I am doing here is not a weight-loss attempt.  It's not.

Even though I have experienced weight loss, I've experienced it in a year in which I have pushed my own reflexive beliefs about what will make me smaller or bigger off to the side in favor of what I actually need and want on a day-to-day basis.  What we have here is a behavioral change that comes from a place of self-care—an active hobby I love and a new push to abandon disordered behaviors.  I would be a damn liar if I said I hadn't had the thought that these things might result in size shift in the back of my head.  I had that thought in the back of my head.  But what am I going to do?  Go back?  Starve myself and stop lifting because eating more food more often and lifting weights made me smaller and I often enjoy that?

What I can do is not prioritize weight loss over, well, anything.  I can keep myself honest.  I can keep my first principles behavioral and self-supporting, rather than about bodily outcomes.

And I can prepare myself emotionally for the very real possibility that my size has shifted as much as it is going to in response to this chunk of behavioral change or that even if it shifts further it will not (and this is overwhelmingly likely) make me not-fat; I can be clear with myself on the goal, which is to improve my lifts and get stronger and feed myself responsibly (by which I mean adequately and nourishingly and pleasurably) and continue to bolster my own identification with my physical presence in the world (to be a body instead of having a body).  I can keep on beating the drum with myself that my well-being is more important than my weight.  Which it is.

The thing here is that when my size stops shifting, no matter what size I am when that happens, I am going to have to continue to resist dieting behaviors.  I am going to have to continue feeding myself when I am hungry until I am actually full.  That is sort of when we will see what I am made of, really, but for now, the most important thing about all this stuff is the focus on actually attending to my own needs.  And to that end, the consideration of the politics, too, gets pushed aside.  I am absolutely concerned about being an ally to other fat people; that is super important to me.  But this is important stuff too, this recovery work, and I can try to sort through my feelings about its connections to weight, but I am still going to be on the hook for the day to day, and doing the best I can with it.  I am going to try to deal with whatever the results of this thing are in a smart and ethical way, but they are outside the box.  Inside the box is behavior.  Inside the box are my obligations to myself.

I think this is probably incoherent.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Note to Self For Future Reference

On the genetic components of eating disorders: that what that actually constitutes is not a one-to-one inevitability but rather a systemic susceptibility to behavioral triggers.  That is, you are genetically susceptible to eating disorders if certain stimuli (i.e. dieting, which almost everyone does at some point in response to fat stigma) result in ED symptoms.

I am thinking of this because I think of how I would parent a girl around this stuff.  How I could raise a child who does not lose fifteen years.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Being a Body

Today, at the gym, I had my first "girl, you are lifting too much weight" interaction, with a trainer working his client near where I was doing my thing.  (This never, ever, not even once happened to me in months of lifting at the Bed-Stuy Y, which is one reason among many that I pine for it.)  He walked by when I was squatting and said, "You shouldn't be lifting too heavy."  (Why?  'Cause I'm gonna get bulky?  Bite my fat ass.  'Cause my ovaries are gonna fall out?  Bite me harder.)  I said, "I've been doing this awhile; I'm fine," kind of testily.  Then he watched me rip 135 for 5x5 deadlifts, which apparently changed his mind.  He said some stuff about how hard I was hitting it, introduced himself and told me I should take his Monday-morning boot camp because "if anyone can do it, you can do it."  He was waiting for me on my way out to give me his card.  I was like, "I can not afford a trainer," and he protested, "no!  For the class!"  But seriously, I do not need his card to go to his class.  And his card doesn't have any information about his teaching schedule on it anyway.  I am just saying.

You know what I want to be able to do one day?  A pull-up.

Monday my squat weight goes up to 120 or 125.  I'm back in form, feeling good; it's time to start getting the load back up.

Yesterday I got a voicemail from my endocrinologist with my latest test results.  They're impeccable.  My cholesterol is "magnificent," which I am keeping in my back pocket for the next time my dad implies that I eat too many eggs.  Best of all, my IGF-1, which gives a sense of average growth hormone levels over time, has edged up into the low end of the normal range.  You know what raises growth hormone levels?  Resistance training.  It's still low, but it's high enough that my insurance would never approve the expensive treatments—it's normal enough.  "So just keep up what you're doing and come in in the fall," she concluded her voicemail.

That growth hormone thing feels like a big deal to me, somehow.  I remember seeing the pediatric endocrinologist.  I had stopped growing; my dad's markers of my height on the wall near the laundry machine were barely distinct from each other.  My height had slipped downward off the percentile chart as my weight ticked up.  I remember this being pointed out to me with percentile curves in her office at St. Luke's Roosevelt.  She tapped the charts with her pencil to draw my attention to the problem.  The pediatric endocrinologist was also a pediatric obesity researcher.  I was eleven, in the fifth grade.  I had several sets of x-rays done (growth hormone deficiency is diagnosed in a preliminary fashion by looking at the spaces between the bones of your non-dominant hand) and then an MRI in a closed machine.  The thing that piped in music was broken, and I listened to the banging of the machinery as I tried to stay completely still.  They pulled me out to inject me with dye, and then slid me back into the clanking, claustrophobic tube and scanned some more.  And the conclusion of all of this was an epi-pen and lessons on how to inject myself daily and a calendar with stickers to keep track of my injection sites and the promise to lose weight and a diagnosis I don't think I really understood.  I remember telling a friend about the height and weight lines.  "When they cross, I explode," I said.  I knew this was a joke, but I also could not explain the actual situation, what was wrong with me.  And the lines weren't going to cross; it didn't work like that.  I did not understand.

I took that epi-pen to camp.  Every night, when the rest of my cabin walked back together in the dark towards their bunks, I had to go by myself to the nurse's office, dial in the dose, find a site, swab that site with alcohol, set the pen carefully flush with my skin (hurts the least), click the plunger down slowly, re-swab and bandage, remove the needle to the sharps container, record the dose and injection site in a log, and walk back by myself to the cabin, where the other girls were already in bed, the companionable lights-out chatting winding down into sleep.

I'm glad that I was diagnosed and treated.  I do think that the freight attached during that treatment to my weight, which well might have evened out as I grew (and in fact, initially did) was misguided and ultimately counterproductive for my health and well-being, but I am glad that I have always had access to good medical care, that this rather urgent endocrine dysfunction was caught early and its symptoms corrected as well as they could be corrected.  I am glad that I am not going through life well under five feet tall.  Nevertheless, I have sustained from this experience and others a deep resistance to being a medicalized body and also a baseline sense of myself as physiologically dysfunctional, as broken.  I have been pretty upset at the prospect of going back to those daily injections.  I am really, really glad to hear that I do not have to, that it is off the table.

And yes, this reading is just barely normal, but it is normal, and it never has been before without medical intervention.  I have never been as healthy as I am today.  My endocrine system has never functioned so smoothly and so normally.  I still take medication for the PCOS, but there are people who even when medicated do not have a regular period, and I do.  I have a regular period without birth control and my growth hormone levels are normal, and my blood tests are the blood tests of a healthy person, and it kind of makes me want to cry with gratitude.

And what have I been doing?  The shit I am not supposed to do.  Feeding myself when I get hungry even though I am fat and am supposed to resist my hunger in penance for my fatness.  Eating until I am all the way full.  Eating things I like and want.  Eating saturated fat even though fatties and cheeseburgers and heart disease.  Eating without a plan, eating without knowing how many calories, eating, to the best of my ability, without restriction or control.  Lifting weights dudes will tell me are too heavy.  Never, ever, ever getting on an elliptical machine.  Fuck you.  Fuck you.  You don't know what's best for me.  You don't care what's best for me.  But I feel more sure than I ever have that I know, and I care, and I can act on both of those things.  I feel like I've gotten a toehold into something good, something powerful and real.  Dig in.  Hold on.

It is summer.  I am grateful to be young and strong and healthy.  I am grateful to be a sensate body, to feel the sun and my hips swaying when I walk and my legs trembling on the stairs down to the locker room.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Big Round Numbers & Getting Doctored

I saw my endocrinologist this morning.  She's busy, in the manner of research-hospital doctors, and so her nurse does the check-in stuff before she arrives for the consultation.  Weight, blood pressure, pulse.  I got on the scale, and the nurse, whom I like, put the big slider in the 150 notch.  Lady, are you kidding?  I got flustered, and managed to convey in some agitated precaffeinated sentence fragments that it was in dramatically the wrong place—it needed to be two notches up.  I've been hovering just over 250 for the last couple months.  She moved it up, then tapped the top slider down, and down, and down.  The balance didn't budge until it hit the far left side of the bar.  So she moved the big slider back down a notch.  Tapped the top slider up to the right of the bar.  "Looks like that's 250 even," she said.

That number is a big deal for me.  It is the bottom of my adult range, one of the foci of my elliptical weight cycles.  Seeing it gives me a flare of the old sense of thrilled achievement, and a more contemporary uncertainty about the unknown (what happens now?), and a sense of dread: the ghost of the historically-accurate sense that what comes next is that I gain fifty pounds.  After the appointment, I sat on a bench outside Central Park and it was this number that occupied my brain.  The big round number, the broad strokes of its categorical divisions.  And the absolute blank of being smaller than this.  I haven't been since I was maybe 14, 15.

"You lost a big chunk of weight," my endocrinologist said, when she sat down with me.  It had been a year since last I saw her.  I said, "I think it's more like a little chunk."  She said, "Looks like a lot."  She looked back at the chart.  "Thirty-something pounds?"

And again, when we were discussing the possibility of adult growth hormone therapy (my growth hormone levels are quite low, which they have been since I was a child—I had to give myself  daily injections of growth hormone for several years, without which I might never have had the adolescent growth spurt the delay of which triggered the diagnosis), she said that "It would make it easier to gain muscle and lose fat—which is always good—and you'd probably notice an increased sense of physical well-being."  "Which is always good," I added.  She turned towards me and leaned in when she spoke that aside, "which is always good," and her tone changed, became more colloquial.  It sounded like lady-to-lady talk, just the usual sort of stuff.  She said it the way someone would say, "I'll order dessert if you will," looking conspiratorial.  It was social bonding.

I have to fight my tendency to feel warm and complimented in these situations, when I am on the right side of the weight-loss talk, when someone's patting me on the back for being a little smaller than before.  I try to do that because obviously the fat-bad-thin-good thing is bad for me (and for you too!), and because I'm (still) a fat person.  Because as a fat person, even a somewhat-smaller-than-before fat person, I am necessarily negatively affected by a medical environment that substitutes treatment of weight for treatment of specific health conditions (some thin people are also negatively affected by that substitution).  That substitution enables what's actually wrong with me to be blamed on fatness, and ignored until it is more serious.  This has happened to me before—my cholecystectomy would have been way less painful, dangerous, and life-disrupting if it had not been an emergency surgery, and it wouldn't have been an emergency if my doctor at the time had diagnosed it correctly when I took my symptoms to her the first time.  (She thought it was binge-related acid reflux.  She felt really bad afterwards.  I was not, incidentally, binge-eating at the time.)

Because this weight-loss back-patting felt social rather than medical, I don't actually think that this will negatively affect my medical care, which is why I didn't feel inclined to press the issue (also because I'm not invested in my social relationship with my endocrinologist).  This doctor has been quite skeptical of the lose-weight recommendation for polycystic ovarian syndrome (which syndrome is the reason I see her).  Our very first session, I asked directly what the relationship between body fat and PCOS symptoms looked like.  She was frank: she said that we did not really know.  That fatness is one of the diagnostic criteria of PCOS because it frequently co-occurs, but that in fact the medical definition of "syndrome" specifically means that causality is ill-understood.  That I could try to lose weight, but that it might or might not help, and that the syndrome would make it more difficult.  (She also mentioned that it would be good for my hormonal regulation to add muscle mass, which is when I started precontemplating lifting.  Bless her for this.)  And in this appointment, there was no sense that, well, weight loss, good, everything must be in order.  In addition to the GH thing and the usual check-in exam and blood testing, she wanted to do a thyroid test and to start me on a vitamin D supplement.

The only place that I felt a potential overlap of fat stuff and actual treatment was when she was looking over the history of my blood tests: "Your glucose has always been fine.  Your cholesterol's been rather impressive."  I don't think any of my signals of good health—blood glucose, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, pulse—would be "impressive" if I were not a fat person.  They are "impressive" because they are surprising.  But for whatever reason, maybe because she was engaged in a close examination of my actual (good) health indicators, this did not ring my bell too badly.

So I am not going to soapbox if it doesn't feel necessary.  I'm at a place where these kinds of remarks don't shake me up (at least in this situation, where I have a doctor whose medical judgment I trust and who I know likes me)—they don't feel degrading or dismissive, they just feel like a little irritation, easily sloughed off, created by a routine stupidity to which doctors are as vulnerable as the rest of us, being, though doctors, still humans in the social world.  I don't need to change this woman's mind like I needed to change my high-school doctor's—both because the misdiagnosis thing demonstrated the consequences of her beliefs and earlier and perhaps even more significantly, because she was responsible to my parents, not to me, and when she fueled their fears of my fatness, my life got increasingly unpleasant.  But, happily, I'm a grown-up now, and I can pick my doctors, and I can pick my battles.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Bullet Points

Been sick, been stressed, been silent over here.  A little collection of thoughts:
  • It persistently baffles me that I feel better about my body when it has few-to-no clothes on it.  I remember this being true when last I was this size, too, so maybe it has something to do with the specific clothes I wear or the specific size I am, but it's still kind of confusing.  
  • We have had the teeny, implicit recognition from my oldest dearest who'd been abroad most of the year that my body has changed in her absence.  It went like this: we were happy-houring and I mentioned a(n obnoxious) Facebook post in which a girl we'd gone to high school with was like, "Internet, I have lost weight!  I can wear shorts!  And horizontal stripes!"  Now, I do not personally wear shorts (or pants of any length), but horizontal stripes are my favorite, so I think this is bullshit for that reason alone (obviously other reasons too).  (In fairness to her, I will say that she looks awesome, although I think she still thinks she's too fat and I also think she might have looked just about as awesome before this shift if she'd stood up straight and dressed herself better.)  But the backstory was that this woman had taken up martial arts, and, I said, as these things sometimes do, it had changed her body somewhat.  "Right," said my friend, with a minute gesture in my direction.  "Like weightlifting."  
  • I am feeling super complacent about my size right now.  "Complacent" is sort of pejorative, but I mean it to signal something like "slightly checked out, in a good way."  My size has receded a little bit in my consciousness, which is always a relief.  One thing I think is relevant to this is that I've been this size for a minute now, and I always, always, without fail feel better about my body when it is not in a state of flux.  I get that initial "whee!" of being slightly smaller sometimes, but that breeds in me a constant-vigilance kind of watchful anxiety, in which I check myself in reflective surfaces all day long and scrutinize.  And that way madness lies.
  • At the gym the other day, the very-attractive-if-you-like-blond-banker-types dude next to me, who was doing step-ups in some weird pattern while I squatted, pulled out an earbud to talk to me as he was finishing up.  "You're strong," he said.  "That's a lot of weight."  It was 115, which is not actually a heavy squat.  (I was squatting 155 before my nomadism broke up my gym groove, and my dream-type goal is to one day squat 315.)  So he meant, pretty clearly, "for a girl."  But he wasn't a dick about it, and I actually didn't mind this encounter.  It was a reminder that what I can actually do is so, so much more than what I'm supposed to be able to do.
  • I'm a member of a heavy-lifting-for-mostly-women Facebook group.  The founder of that group is one of my Almosts: a person whose work and thought has notable points of superiority to the general consensus, but who does not diverge from it so far as to be exemplary/perfectly supportive of what I believe and need.  In that group, a long, long conversation about "fat shaming" (not really my favorite phrase, but the scare quotes are hers) was actually shockingly civil and productive.  Not perfect, but better than one would have expected.  I am trying to extrapolate from it some rules about my own conduct in these conversation, a set of guidelines for engagement.  The first one, I think, is Do Not Try To Prove Anything From Scratch.  Pointing people towards some resources is fine, but making a case that needs a book & not just a couple Facebook comments is wasted effort.
  • Weightlifting is still the best.  Gonna write it a love letter in just a minute.

Monday, June 10, 2013

On One Photo

My oldest friend's girlfriend put up a picture of me from the opening of said friend's first solo show, last weekend.  It's a grainy iPhone picture of me talking to another friend, shot from slightly below and at a three-quarters angle, which is a nice one on my face, but I suspect makes my ass look a little larger than it would look in real life.  My hair looks like hell.  The angle and/or the flattening effect of the low-res photo and/or the pattern on my sweater conspire to lop off my rack, but the lumpiness in my midsection (I was wearing a belt, because that sweater is slightly too big) comes through loud & clear.  One arm hangs at my side, held slightly away from it by the implied bulk of my arm.  The other hand is on my hip; my upper arm looks enormous (completely accurate).  But: you can see my jawline.  It's a faint shadow, but it's there: I have a neck and not a double chin.  My head doesn't look like a sphere mounted on my shoulders.  My features occupy a greater proportion of my face than my cheeks do.

Obviously the most important thing is that I am out supporting my girl and her art, and I'm having a good chat and a good time, but it's wicked tough to see a picture of myself, particularly a totally candid one I didn't know was being taken, and not up-and-down myself, scanning for what's okay and what's not.

Bottom line, I do not love it, but I can live with it.  Which like in general is pretty much where I'm at with my body these days, I think.  At this size, my body is less obtrusive in my mental life than it is when I'm 50 pounds heavier.  Not altogether unobtrusive, but definitely less obtrusive.  And at this size, too, I sort of feel within striking distance, which is to say, if I lost another 50 pounds, I would have a pretty different situation on my hands.  Somehow that altered proximity is kind of consoling—I'm not sure why, given that I have never been stably below my current weight as an adult, ever.  But the point is this: I don't love that picture of me, but I don't think it's going to haunt me all day.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Notes on the Last Week of May

I got sandbagged by an internet fat argument in a place I did not expect to, and it sucked.  It kind of blew my brain circuits, and it definitely sapped my energy for fat thinking.  I'm working on writing it out, NEVER FEAR, internet.  It's been a bit of a rough week in general.  Dissertation blues, and the anxiety of staring down a long summer with little nutritional checking-in or supervision is there, too.  I found myself feeling a little adrift, worried that I'd suddenly gained weight or was about to gain weight, telling myself tomorrow I'd tighten up my eating, backing off the breakfast program, trying on those measurement pants more than once a day.  Oops.  So I put the pants away, in the box of shit that doesn't fit me up on the top shelf of my closet, and they're staying up there until July.

I went late to that spa bachelorette party, and had to make my way from the locker room to the party by myself, fatkini-clad and without the protective armor of friends.  I swear to God that I had more trouble getting them to tell me where the VIP room was than I would have if I'd been thin.  In their defense, they spoke more Russian than English, but I was getting a vibe but good.  (There's no way of telling, of course, and one day I'm going to write about the cognitive tax of that ambiguity, on which, blessedly, there is a solid body of research.)

A friend was all up in my grill about how well-dressed I was at the wedding on Sunday.  (In fairness, I was well-dressed.  Navy shirtdress, nude peep-toes, Ted Muehling earrings, lace necklace, a half-hour beat face.) "It's just a really nice fit on you."  That's close enough to a body comment that it pings my radar, puts me on alert (and also makes me muttery subject-changing embarrassed).  It's like when my dad says, "You've been looking great lately."  That's different than saying "You look great."  He could be talking about my recent forays into patterns and a bolder lip, but he is probably talking about my size.  Similarly, my friend could be complimenting my masterful shopping for my shape (possible because this is my closest friend who is also a fat person, but not super likely because we never talk shopping because this friend is a butch dyke who's all menswear all the time), but might also be finding a way to tell me that she has noticed that my waist is moderately smaller than it was at some time in the past.  (See above re: ambiguity.)  All of this is rendered more interpretively difficult by the mammoth wall of silence that surrounds my size in my interpersonal relationships.  I am given to understand that some people have friends who would baldly mention noticing a change of size, but since mine would never, I sometimes get backed into these kinds of interpretive swamps.  Because when something is unspeakable, it lives in intimation and innuendo, and if you can't say something, not saying it doesn't mean you're not talking about it.

In the gym, I talk to my body.  "I hear you," I say, when my thighs start to twinge while racking my deadlift.  I tried the alternate grip, and, blastoff.  Alternate grip all the way.  I blazed through five sets, and finally understood why you should be able to deadlift more than you squat.  More weight on the deadlift, coming up (it's nice that something's ready to get bumped up).  I took a read on the funny old medical scale in the locker room; it's even with my last weight at my nutritionist's, which eases my anxiety.  Weighing myself at the gym probably should not become part of my routine, but I wanted a baseline on that scale so that if I'm spinning out this summer I can have recourse to it.  I waved goodbye to the hulking desk attendant on my way out.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

LIFTING WEIGHTS IS GREAT

Did my first lifting session at the new gym this morning.  I've lost 40 pounds off my squat, which does kinda make me want to cry, but I'm mostly just charged up on the rushing endorphins of post-lift.  It stabilizes my mood, boosts my focus.

The gym is hot and a little sweat-smelling and kinda bare-bones, which suits me just fine.  The squat rack is in a back room, which is great, and that back room has a light that works on a notably insensitive motion-sensitive timer.  I like it there.  They are going to leave me alone until I'm a regular, which is exactly what I want.  Although the conversations I overhear are going to be substantially more irritating than the ones in the Bed-Stuy Y weight room.  Park Slope, why you gotta Park Slope all the time like that?

I worked in with a dude whom I think I offended because I assumed he was warming up when in fact he was doing working sets.  I kind of enjoy working in with men, just because I think there's an expectation that men and women's strength differs wildly and it's kind of nice when, actually, no, I can work at that weight.  His form was way better than mine (ass-to-grass, which was impressive just because it was good and also because many, many dudes do half-squats with an ostentatious belt and a groaning bar and pat themselves on the back for their pretend-squat "PRs," so, props, bro!  Sorry about the other thing!) and I was intimidated; I had to bite back some self-justifying faux-casual remark about how long I've been out of the gym.  But I could feel my body remember how a squat works as I worked through my sets.  Back tight, sit back sit back sit back, spread the floor, knees out, drive up, core tight.  It came back quickly, and I think the weight will come back pretty quickly, too.  I'd like to see if I could be back at least to 135 by the end of June (I was squatting 150 before the hiatus).  My vanity really enjoys loading the 45s.

I overhead-pressed the bare bar (DAMMIT—and the last set was more flex than force; that is almost all the way back to square one—though I remember when I couldn't get through a set of shoulder presses on the machine with ten-pound plates), and instead of deadlifting, rowed a rather pathetic 50 (loaded 65, did one set, not a chance—2.5 on each side!  So sad!).  My legs shook on the stairs down to the locker room.

But I feel great.  I housed a diner breakfast on my way home, including a piece of fake-buttered toast and all the home fries, and BABY I AM BACK.

I am probably going to be immobilized with soreness tomorrow, but before that, I am going to take my tough fat ass and my cute fatkini to that spa bachelorette party tonight, and I guarantee that I feel better about that post-lifting than I would if I hadn't lifted today.  It's not a "I have been to the gym, so at least I am working on it!" apologist thing.  It's just a different feeling about my body.  I don't know exactly how to articulate it.  I do look better to myself in the mirror after lifting than before, but that's not about my actual body (although I thought I could see the pump in my shoulders today?  Maybe a little?), because it can't make much if any actual difference.  It just makes me feel better.

Lifting weights makes everything feel better.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Movement I Need

I got to thinking this morning about the difficulty of cobbling together the information and ideals I need in my own process, what a pain it is to have to filter out the stuff that puts me on anxiety high alert or that I know to be false and/or problematic.  There's no perfect place for me.  The closest I think I've come is the early-on first-person version of fat acceptance stuff: Fatshionista (siiiigh) and Kate Harding and Marianne Kirby and Lesley Kinzel, all of whom wrote beautiful, challenging work that lived on the boundary of theory and personal narrative, that never sacrificed engagement with the bigger picture and the difficult questions for cheerleading or bitterness.  Even those writers, though, in all their luminosity, don't have much to offer by way of a nitty-gritty prescription for healing.  And the folks engaged with the nitty-gritty often employ knee-jerk assumptions that agitate or fail me, and frequently fail to consider the macro stuff.

So what is it that I want, in my perfect movement and my perfect movement leader?  What do I need?  Some initial thoughts:


  • Weight/size neutrality.  That means I need a critical eye turned on the faulty (read: incorrect and often disingenuous) party line about the relationship between fatness and health status.  It also means I need a critical eye turned on the way aesthetics apply to bodies, such that weight loss and/or fat loss aren't used as default goals or recommendations, or worthy of praise unto themselves.  This also means that actions can't be validated nor theories proven by virtue of the visual bodily changes to which they contribute. 
  • An open, inclusive eating ideology that doesn't lose sight of research and policy.  I don't think it's a sin to like junk food.  I also don't think it's a good idea to live on it, not least because it is specifically designed to thwart hunger/fullness signaling.  I think people eat more of it than they would were it not for corn subsidies and the lobbying of the food industry for tax loopholes and lack of oversight and regulation, and this is sub-ideal.  But we need to talk about it on a collective level, not on the level of individual choice, and when we talk about it as policy, that policy should use more salient health and wellness markers than weight or size.
  • A feminist view of the cumulative effect of the bullshit women get about weight, size, eating, lifting, body composition, and embodiment in general.  It is perhaps not overstatement to say that women, as a class, are being starved by diet ideology.  The effects of (even semi-)starvation [the Minnesota volunteers consumed 1560 calories/day] include depression, anxiety, preoccupation with food, self-mutilation, low sex drive, and cognitive dysfunction, in addition to reduced homeostatic functions and immunity.  Do these sound empowering to you?  Is that the way you feed a population the abilities of which you care about?  This fucking enrages me.  I'm enraged, right now, typing away.  It is a feminist act, and a crucial one, for women to feed themselves adequately.  It is hard for a woman raised in diet culture to understand that "adequately" is significantly more food than she is being told is acceptable for her to even want.  We need a feminist voice for this.  
  • Subsidiary to the above, an understanding of eating disorders as physiological and psychological and social phenomena.  This gets tricky in relation to fatness: not every fat person is eating-disordered, and not every fat person is non-eating disordered.  
  • Some mad science.  N=1 experimentation is all well and good, and knowing one's own body is its own kind of wisdom, but the fact remains that pathology can erase itself, physiologically.  Disease can make you resist medical treatment.  Chronic caloric restriction can AND DOES make you "feel fat," regardless of whether or not you've added fat mass, and it interrupts your hunger cuing.  (This is why loads of women, including quite active ones, will tell you they are "not hungry" on 1700 calories a day.  Well, this and the way it props up a virtuous self-concept.)  I need someone who can read and present the literature critically and effectively.  And because of the way the funding structure for research works, there are tons of questions yet unanswered—ideally, I need someone to design new research with an eye to debunking myth and creating a strong evidence-based foundation for policy and personal change. 
  • Humor and sparkle and brilliance and joy.  If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution.  Although in this case, the other things are so hard to come by that I will take you with or without these characteristics, and find them elsewhere or bring them my own damn self.  


It's a bummer that I have yet to find a resource that meets all of these criteria.  Generally, the people on the forefront of the metabolic-health stuff are body tinkerers, people who are invested in if not thinness at least leanness, and actively advance fat loss for health and aesthetic reasons.  Generally, the HAES folk aren't focused on metabolic health because of the way that tinkering impulse can trigger chronic restricters, or on policy because of its vocabulary's tendency to ditto.  Often, the people who do ED work have a tendency to attend primarily to the clinical situations of underweight-to-"normal"-weight patients.

So until then, I'm DIYing this bitch.


Monday, May 20, 2013

Memory Flash

The summer my family rented a house in Rhode Island, a pretty house on a river, I was more miserable than I had ever been in my life.  I think I was 12.  I'd wanted to go to camp, or at the very least I'd wanted to hang around with my friends, making earrings and friendship bracelets and gossiping and listening to Cranberries and Green Day tapes, and instead I was stuck in a place where the only people I had to talk to were the members of my nuclear family.  It was an isolated house, no kids nearby.  My parents were giving the appearance of hating me, and I knew for a fact that I hated them.  I polished my nails obsessively, scraping the polish down when it wasn't perfect and starting again, two or three or four times a day.  I got nail polish on stuff, and my parents yelled at me.  I read teen magazines, looked at the pictures of beautiful girls, their long, thin, golden limbs.  I did hundreds of leg lifts late into the night.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Clothing Project I

I have a lot of clothes that don't fit me but that I can't get rid of.  The only thing I have right now that's too small is that pair of pants.  Most of my stuff is too big.  Some of it substantially, some only slightly.  I've picked up a few new things, and now fit a few things I'd had in the back of my closet.  But I'm also mourning some clothing.  My clothes are full of stories, snapshot memories of places I wore them and people I knew when I did.  And they're also all intertwined with the history of my body, how I felt about myself and how I wanted to present myself.  Here are some stories.

I got rid of a green corduroy blazer from Old Navy purchased in maybe 2005 (2x).  I loved its slightly puffy shoulder seams, and the way it nipped my waist.  I bought it in the first flush of stability, both physical and emotional, after inpatient—also in the brief shining moment during which Old Navy carried Women's Plus in stores.  I think I wore it to my job interviews just after college.

Around the same time, I also bought an artfully-distressed denim blazer from Lane Bryant (18/20—I've always been smaller on top than on the bottom, which is why this was too big for me now, even though 18/20 is my dress size).  Man, I loved that thing.  It had a seaming band at the waist and wide lapels and patches of fading, and I could pair it with a knee-length skirt and feel like I was hitting just the right balance of put-together and don't-care (my clothing goal always).  I considered wearing it for a Valentine's date when my (then) boyfriend was coming out to Portland for a Valentine's/post-emergency surgery visit, but my internet-fatshion friend Alice (who tried, bless her, to teach me to accessorize) put the kibosh on that with gentle righteousness in favor of something girlier and less structured.

I found both of these in a suitcase in my parents' garage upstate a couple months ago, and I sent them right off to the thrift store because I was in the process of moving and any object I didn't want in my new apartment had to go.  I tried them on, and they were baggy and dated.  They'd seen better days.  But I do kind of miss them.  They were a part of my college self—I like that girl I was, and I like the things that connect me to her.

I just got rid of a grey-and-navy striped sweetheart-neck Banana Republic t-shirt (XL).  It had little moth holes.  I bought it at the bottom of my last weight cycle, flush on I-can-shop-at-Banana-Republic-like-a-real-store-no-way while they were having a sale.  It had cap sleeves that did terrible things to my upper arms, but I used it as a layering piece.  Good riddance, stupid t-shirt.

I cannot bear to get rid of a black-and-white floral surplice-front sundress, from Blue Plate via alight (2x).  I liked this dress so much I bought it twice.  No lie.  I tore it when the floaty printed top layer got caught on a LIRR armrest on the way back from my second cousin's wedding shower in 2009 (an event I did not even want to BE at, and for which I was totally unwilling to sacrifice a favorite dress).  So I tracked this dress down on eBay and bought a replacement, which also tore (the floaty overlayer strikes again), just last summer.  This dress was a longtime size-indicator for me: when the banded empire waist was tight when I sat down, I was at the top of my comfortable range.  A year ago, it was really too tight to wear, which made me feel gross when I flicked past it in my closet and knew I couldn't wear it (should have boxed it up and put it away).  Now it's a hair too big to be flattering, but it would work just fine with a sweater over the top, except that it's torn.

Some longer-lost things:
the red Anthropologie dress that I bought for my college graduation (XL, I think? Very, very stretchy).  It had stopped being a dressing-up dress, because it too had seen better days, and I was afraid of it not fitting at the top of my range, so I haven't worn it in forever, but where did it go?  Somehow, I think it is in the basement of my old house in Jersey.  Maybe I will go look for it.
—the Torrid sundress (24) and cardigan (2x?) that I wore to go dancing with the man who became my first serious boyfriend, right when I was back from Berlin, right before treatment.  A dear friend from college, a person who weighs maybe 100 pounds soaking wet, had bundled me into her car and driven me to a Torrid at some suburban-PDX mall, intent on showing me that I could wear real clothes like a real person (I am still so grateful, and still remind her of that gratitude).  It was pre-pink Torrid, and the salesgirls were a delight.  My friend strong-armed me into trying on stuff I would never have considered, including this pinstriped dress with a burnout flower laser-cut into the left side of the hemline, and insisted that I emerge from the dressing room to receive feedback.  The salesgirls gathered around.  I'm sure, in retrospect, that they got the dynamic instantly.  I felt embarrassed and delighted and shy and flabbergasted, being the center of a little clutch of women who all seemed to think that I could shop just like a regular girl.  I spent like $300, which was even more then (I was living on like $1000/month, all-inclusive, which was mostly totally fine because it was Portland ten years ago) than it would be now.  This shopping trip was a totally watershed moment for me.  It is not an exaggeration to say it changed my life.  And it meant, too, that I had something to wear when this man I liked and thought I'd never have a chance with turned out to be coming to my best friend's birthday dancing.  (It turned out I did have a chance.)

And the original: a green faux-fur pea coat that was the first item of clothing that made me feel like I could have style.  I wore this all through the eighth grade.  Eighth grade was after a round of Weight Watchers with my mom, so I must have had more clothing options (I remember a burnt-sienna chenille Calvin Klein turtleneck entering my life about then, too).  I don't remember the brand or the size, but I think it came from the then-brand new Burlington Coat Factory on 6th Avenue.  I was taking a youth class at the Gotham Writers' Workshop, and I used to walk down Central Park West in the autumn evening crispness afterward, feeling rad in my awesome coat (and probably my platform Skechers, too, because it was 1997).  This coat got lost (!!!) not too long into its tenure.  I left it, somehow, on a coat rack at a gala I was working for an internship I had.  As a result, it is a creature of legend, and if I came across a green fake-fur pea coat tomorrow, I would buy it instantly, and wear the shit out of it.  Trust.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

An Example, With Numbers

Did a weight & body composition scan today at my nutritionist's, our last appointment before her long (to me!) summer maternity leave.  (I won't see her until October, which, eek.)  Anyway, here's the point: my body fat is a bit below 45%.  Here's what that means, and you can reverse-engineer the numbers if you feel like it; I don't care: it means that I am just north of 140 pounds of lean mass (this is a lot for a lady!  It could be a somewhat faulty measurement, because bioelectrical impedance has some flaws, but none of the variables there apply to me).  That means that the imaginary number I used to think I should weigh back in high school, 125, would require losing a substantial chunk of muscle even if I had single-digit bodyfat (which...healthy women don't).  What else does it mean? It means that if I never put on another pound of lean mass (which, uh, I intend to do, because 140 pounds of lean mass might not be enough to squat 315 pounds of iron for reps, and I want to do that before I die), a bodyfat level of 25% ("on the low end of what's average for most women") would put me at a weight that would make me clinically obese (BMI 31.4).  I would (still) pay radically higher premiums for private health insurance (if I were granted health insurance at all), be eligible for punitive fees in workplace wellness programs, be ineligible for certain benefits, and be one of the people that pundits are talking about when they talk about "the obesity epidemic."

Just saying.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Cool Story, Bro

The Park Slope Y is...adequate.  It has one squat rack, one bench.  The problem is that the weight room as a whole is small, which means it will be tricky to find the extra space to set up something like a deadlift or a row.  I missed the Bed-Stuy Y's little squat nook, with the rack and Smith machine back-to-back off the main room.  It created a kind of zone of privacy that I wouldn't have at this Y.  I did have a totally lovely conversation with Abby, who showed me around and was endearingly SHOCKED that I wanted to see the weight room ("do you have any health goals?" she asked, and I made up a pretty arbitrary goal for bench presses, very conscious of the "lose weight" expectation), but the Y is very nearly as expensive (like, $2/month, though there's a little difference in the set-up costs too) as Body Reserve, and farther from my favorite Slope coffee shop and the Co-op, so...unless they give me shit about being a fat woman who wants to lift, or ring my fatphobia bell in general, Body Reserve is probably where I'm going to end up.  Visiting tomorrow.