Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Fat Woman and the unexpected contact

Personal Trainer had gone on holiday. Fat Woman was having a lovely time without Personal Trainer, sleeping in for an extra hour on Monday, eating carbohydrates at breakfast time and training late in the day. Fat Woman went to BoxFit class on Tuesday and had a reasonable time even though she was 25 minutes late because of unusually bad traffic (she wasn't the only one). The replacement class leader was cheerful and positive and had a nice enough manner, although Fat Woman thought it was a bit odd that he got someone to do pad work with him when there were even numbers, thus leaving someone punching a bag rather than working with partner. However, Fat Woman was aware that no one can do BoxFit classes like Personal Trainer so she let it slide.

Fat Woman went to the second BoxFit class of the week. This class was two-thirds filled with people Fat Woman had never seen before. Fat Woman thought this was a good thing; more people means more chance of Fat Woman working with someone who can keep up with her.

Replacement Class Leader got the class doing the same game as a warm up exercise that he did on Tuesday. The aim of the game is to tap the knee of your opponent. The theory is that you will get your heart rate up because you will be moving around a lot. Fat Woman isn't particularly quick at moving, but she plays this game with her Escrima teacher, Cal, who has no compunctions about actually hitting Fat Woman in order to teach her something if Fat Woman doesn't get out of the way or defend herself properly. Fat Woman found that instead of being massively outclassed as she usually is by Cal, she was quite aggressive compared to most people in BoxFit. Fat Woman was comfortable defending herself and would knock an opponent's hands off course when they tried to hit her. Most people were right handed, so by using her left hand to defend herself against an opponent's strike, Fat Woman could usually follow up by tapping her opponent's left knee with her right hand. Fat Woman was so enthusiastic in the early stages of the game that she landed herself on the floor before she even got hit, although the only thing hurt was her pride.

Fat Woman found herself facing a gentleman to whom she had not been introduced. Fat Woman noticed that the gentleman was free-spirited looking compared to the rest of the male gym goers. Most male gym goers at Fat Woman's gym have short hair, are clean shaven and wear shorts. This gentleman had long flowing locks of hair, a new age kind of goatee beard and loose linen trousers. The gentleman was obviously reasonably fit as he kept performing a movement that Fat Woman can only liken to a deep, deep lunge. The gentleman could lunge forwards, backwards and sideways and demonstrated this with enthusiasm.

Fat Woman thinks that if you are going to be performing deep, deep lunges whilst wearing loose, loose trousers during a martial arts exercise where a fat woman with limited capacity for movement is making wild swipes around your knees then you should be wearing underwear. Tight, form-fitting supportive underwear.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Fat Woman and the hardcore cardio

Fat Woman is a big fan on continuous improvement. Fat Woman seeks out truth, however uncomfortable, and had learned to take criticism. Fat Woman thinks that if you can't take criticism you are never going to learn, and if you never learn anything you're never going to change. That would  make you boring.

Fat Woman had said to Personal Trainer that he could criticise anything he liked about her and she would take note, although she would be grateful if he would keep the listing of her personality flaws to under six as she is a sensitive little bunny really.

Personal Trainer did not take this chance to tell Fat Woman she can be an annoying know-it-all (why should he when Fat Woman obviously knows this already?) or listing all the ways in which he finds her annoying. Instead Personal Trainer responded by critiquing Fat Woman's squat technique. Fat Woman feels that Personal Trainer threw away a golden opportunity, but thinks it's nice that Personal Trainer is focussed on her training.

Personal Trainer then made Fat Woman re-learn how to squat. This is all very good and useful, and Fat Woman is still learning how to squat properly as new issues keep emerging. The latest issue is that Fat Woman is tracking right during squats because a hip flexor (or something around that area) needs stretching. Osteopath was in agreement, so Fat Woman has yet another stretch in her repertoire.

The other criticism that Personal Trainer made was that Fat Woman doesn't do enough high intensity cardio. Personal Trainer pointed out that Fat Woman is great at low to medium intensity cardio work and can carry on rowing or walking or biking for hours. Fat Woman doesn't carry on for hours because she gets very, very bored doing cardio inside the gym. Personal Trainer said that Fat Woman could do with more intense cardio work, working at a higher heart rate. Fat Woman took this on board as she still hasn't got used to how fit she actually is, and Personal Trainer put high intensity cardio into Fat Woman's training sessions.

Personal Trainer went away for a week and Fat Woman thought this would be an ideal time to try doing some intense cardio at endurance levels. Fat Woman did a nice long set on the stationary bike, then stretched, and switched to the cross trainer. Fat Woman found a "cardio" programme that sets your heart rate at the "ideal" level and adjusts the resistance of then machine to keep you on track. Fat Woman thought this was an awesome idea and set off. Fat Woman set off and put her heart into the target range she works at with Personal Trainer (164bpm, which is a nominal 90% of the recommended max, depending on which algorithm you pick) and the machine started complaining and getting really, really slack in order to bring Fat Woman's heart rate down. Fat Woman had to reset the machine in the end.

Fat Woman was feeling very smug that she was so fit that the programmes on the machines at the gym weren't hard enough for her. Then Fat Woman did some reading and found out that recommended heart rate during exercise varies up to 15 beats per minute each way for individuals, so she could probably have worked a bit harder..

Fat Woman also did further reading and found many dire warnings about working too hard at 90% of your recommended maximum heart rate. Fat Woman is saving these to show Personal Trainer on a Cardio Friday when she doesn't feel like working hard.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Fat Woman and the Biggest Loser

Fat Woman was made aware of the television programme "The Biggest Loser" by people in her Twitter feed. A large number of the people Fat Woman follows on Twitter are keen on health, fitness and weight loss. These people called The Biggest Loser "inspirational" and were very positive about how it was helping fat people to become healthy. In short, the people Fat Woman thought of as her Health At Every Size community thought that The Biggest Loser was a good thing. 

Fat Woman fails to see how anyone could think that The Biggest Loser was a good thing. Right from the word go Fat Woman was reminded of stories of how people would visit Bedlam to watch the insane and even poke the inhabitants with sticks to get them to react. "Look! Fatties! Let's make them dance!" The utter lack of respect for the contestants was obvious from the minute they were made to appear showing areas of their body they would usually have covered. Fat Woman has been absorbing the messages from the world around her that her body is disgusting and should be changed since she was in the infant school, and there was no way that making contestants stand topless, or in the case of the women with bras on, was a positive display on the part of The Biggest Loser. It wasn't a celebration of diversity, it was an invitation to point and laugh at the different. Wearing something form-fitting would have shown the volume of the fat on the contestants without adding the humiliation of near nakedness and without showing up how none of the contestants had the perfect unmarked skin that people are used to seeing portrayed on television. Of course, most people don't have perfect unmarked skin, but you never see that kind of normal on TV, everyone has body make up to hide stretch marks and varicose veins. That wasn't offered to the Biggest Loser contestants.

The stories of unhealthy behaviour now leaking out about the practises at The Biggest Loser don't surprise Fat Woman in the slightest. The name of the show itself is all about weight loss, not functional fitness or body fat percentage. Fat Woman felt at her healthiest last year when she was training for strength and her body fat percentage was lower than it had ever been, but that meant fuck all when it came to lowering her actual weight.  Fat Woman is determined that when she reaches 30% body fat (the top end of the healthy 'normal' for women her age) she will start training for strength again. To make a show all about weight loss without even using a compensatory algorithm for differences in height and gender is fallacious and unhealthy in itself. Fat Woman wonders what people watching the show were thinking. Did they think that because these people were really, really fat that somehow normal rules on healthy behaviour did not apply? Is body fat so demonized that people think fat people need to get it off, off, off at any cost? Probably. Anyway, it should have been obvious by now to everyone watching that The Biggest Loser wasn't taking a person-centred, caring approach to its contestants. Surely you'd have to have dehumanised the contestants into "fatties" (as opposed to "fat people") to think that they should be treated the way they were?

Fat Woman was spurred on to write this particular post when the world erupted at the sight of Rachel Frederickson, winner of season 15 of The Biggest Loser. Rachel turned up at the last TV show having lost almost 60% of her bodyweight and weighing just 105lb. Rachel looked like the ideal body type that is presented to women every single day by images on TV, on the Internet and in print. Thin, delicate, fragile, Rachel looked perfect, according to the world around her. Fat Woman is amazed at all the people saying that Rachel had gone "too far". What part of the entire television series did they think wouldn't lead someone to this result? If you give fat people the tools to make changes to their bodies why on earth would they stop before they reached perfect? The whole TV series is based on the idea that more weight loss is better. If you watched the TV series you bought into this, you endorsed it, so who are you to say that Rachel has gone too far? First you sat there in judgement and said Rachel was too fat, then you sit there in judgement and say she's too thin. It would have been better if you hadn't sat there and judged in the first place. You, the people who turned in week after week, are to blame for this state of affairs. Had you all turned over when the exploitation started this wouldn't have happened.

Fat Woman can say now that if she had found herself on a path to being that thin she'd take it, even if she couldn't deadlift big weights any more. The world is a much nicer place for thin women than is for fat women, and even at her current weight Fat Woman can see the difference in the way she is treated. This makes Fat Woman doubly thankful for the people who have always loved her as a person, never mind what her bodyweight was. As it is, Fat Woman doesn't have the option to do what Rachel did; Fat Woman's mental safeguards stop her, her need for balance in her life stops her, and her intrinsic belief that she is a good and worthy person no matter what her bodyweight stops her from taking the steps to make such rapid weight loss happen. Fat Woman would still take that option if there was a magic wand to bring it about. 

Rachel Frederickson may have developed an eating disorder of some kind, or she may just have learned to control her body using the methods available to her. The question for Fat Woman is not whether or not Rachel is healthy, but why the hell people are buying into this exploitation and calling it "inspiration".