Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quote of the Week

Reality check: you can never, ever, use weight loss to solve problems that are not related to your weight. At your goal weight or not, you still have to live with yourself and deal with your problems. You will still have the same husband, the same job, the same kids, and the same life. Losing weight is not a cure for life.
- Phillip C. McGraw

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Big 2-0-0

Dear Ms. Winfrey,

I am sorry to hear the news of your weight gain. I am not sorry because I can empathize with the 200 pound mark; a scary place unless your six foot five or playing in the NFL. I am not sorry because I, like many women, understand the struggle you face each time you step on a scale, look at yourself in the mirror, or step into your closet. I am sorry because it matters, it matters that unarguably one of the most powerful women in the world has to worry the size of her body when she has much more important matters to contend with. I am sorry that you feel like you’ve let yourself and women worldwide down by gaining weight when in actuality you’ve let women of the world down by continuing to make your weight such a big deal.

Oprah, you and I have much in common; unfortunately it is not a multibillion dollar fortune. My weight yo-yos are legendary. During my adult lifetime the scale readings ranged from 157 to 216. Winning a weight battle is easy, I like you have done it many, many times; it is the lifelong war that is hard. I understand your frustration because we know what to do, are scared because we know how bad extra weight is for the body, yet time and time again we “fall off the wagon.” It does give me some sort of sick vindication that with all the money and power in the world you continue to struggle with your weight but it also makes me very sad that you reached the pinnacle of success yet you, and much of society, discount your accomplishments simply because you cannot control your size. It is a shame that in this day and age a woman can be smart, accomplished, well-read, and benevolent, but cannot be classified as truly successful unless she is also thin.

Unfortunately Oprah you making your struggle with weight headline news only proliferates the issue of women being judged by how they look on the outside rather than who they are on the inside. You are a shrewd business woman who understands how women tick and have used your own weight roller coaster as a way of connecting with your female audience, cashing in on our insecurities, frustration, depression, and embarrassment. Your focus on weight sends a bad message to the millions upon millions of people who look up to you as a role model; all the accomplishments in the world are meaningless if you are not thin.

I have a dream that one day this nation will be size blind. I have a dream that little girls will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the size of their hips, but by the content of their character. I have a dream where women will define their self-worth not by their size but by their accomplishments, intelligence, strength of character, and contributions to community. You have an opportunity to make these dreams a reality rather than aiding and abetting eating disorders. Stop making food the enemy, encouraging women to give up carbs, eliminate fat, or try a liquid diet. Promote healthy eating, portion control, and the joy of eating well. Workout reasonably; your all or nothing personality (which I understand all too well) discourages women from exercising. You are either training for a marathon or the couch potato Olympics; there is a safe, happy, and healthy middle ground each of us can achieve. You announced that this time around the weight roller coaster you are striving for strong, confident, and healthy, not thin and to that I say bravo. Attaining a “healthy weight” takes commitment, time, and patience, not a few months of starvation so you can show off your svelte self during sweeps week. Lead the celebration of what our bodies can do rather than what size covers them. Oprah, if you really focus on your strength and health and not the latest crash diet you could have a positive impact on the long-term physical and psychological well-being of millions of women, an accomplishment much more profound then fitting into a pair of size 10 Calvin Klein Jeans.

Explosive Bombchelle

Friday, December 12, 2008

Quote of the Week

Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes."
- Clare Boothe Luce

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"Birth" Announcement

For years I have wrestled with a personal struggle that my closest friends and family were all too aware of but didn’t know quite how to help. They all watched as I put my body and mind through the wringer in an effort make my dreams a reality. I tried everything; different positions, consultations with specialists in the field of medicine, meditation, exercise, yet nothing happened. People often told me to relax, that I was trying too hard, that I was too uptight, that nothing would happen if I didn’t just chill, but these words fell on deaf ears. How can they possibly give me advice, they have no idea what I was going through. Time marched on and people around me were making their big announcements and it didn’t seem fair, why were they so lucky? What were they doing that I wasn’t? With my self-confidence shredded I thought about giving up, maybe it was not in the cards for me, maybe I wasn’t good enough, or deserving enough. It took nearly two years of hard work, sacrifice, struggle, heartache, and sometimes tears but here I am, about to tell the world (or a small cross-section of it) my big news.

On Friday morning I received word that I was promoted at work. Without going into too many details this is a personal victory of monumental proportions, one that many agree is long overdue making. Moving mountains might be easier than getting a promotion in my organization and I had actually considered leaving the company for a year to come back in at a higher position; a very successful method that many colleagues use to get ahead. But alas the bittersweet moment came and I am trying to savor sweet happiness rather then wallow in the bitterness that it took so long. Ironically I received my big announcement about 30 minutes after hearing the family news that my cousin was in the hospital about to give birth. My family eagerly awaited the arrival of the newest family addition and I am not naïve to think that anyone would find my news that exciting given the circumstances. So I told a couple of coworkers, a friend, my mother, and my husband. My mother’s excitement actually surprised me given the impending arrival would make her a Great Grand Aunt. I didn’t want to push my luck by telling my sisters who for all intensive purposes were about to become Aunts to a cousin who is like a sister; someone would have their thunder stolen, and that person would be me.

Through the years I have spoken with other childfree women who struggle with how to share their own “big news.” Pregnant women broadcast their news from the hilltops, expecting all around to be happy and joyous. People expect women to have children and many childfree woman are pressured into changing their minds and making the announcement that all their friends and family really want to hear; any other update is secondary. Unfortunately other life successes are discounted because people place such emphasis on women as child bearers. The role of mother is an important one (one I argue that far too many people do not take seriously enough), but women who choose other roles and other paths in life should not be dismissed as less important. Although it is a satirical newspaper, The Onion recently published a line that many childfree women can relate to and communicates volumes on this topic; "But what do I know. I'm just the lead researcher for an entire team of Northwestern grad students who look to me for the answer because I'm their boss. All my achievements are irrelevant because I never had any kids, right, Mom? Right?"

From another angle it did not dawn on me until recently how friends and family might struggle with the right way of announcing their pregnancy news to me or any other openly childfree person. The epiphany came when my friend Becca shared her news with the following caveat; “We know it’s not for everyone but we're excited about this next stage in our lives and wanted to share the news.” Admittedly I’m not as excited as their other friends and my focus is on the health and well-being of the woman I already know and love and not that of the child she is carrying. I might not fully understand why anyone would want children, but when the announcement comes from a couple who are stable, loving, healthy, happy, financially sound, and competent then I can share in their happiness.

Those who meet my “criteria” for sharing in pregnancy happiness are often the same couples who accept and embrace me for who I am and would receive my non-pregnancy news with equal excitement. They are people who accept that babies aren’t for everyone and understand there are other paths in life that deserve celebration and recognition. Some women conceive babies, others conceive ideas. Some women birth human babies, others “birth” businesses, books, art, gardens, blogs, stamps in their passport, marathons, community service, and promotions. These are the “babies” of the childfree that also take years to develop, raise, and grow. It is important to recognize and celebrate these successes whether a woman is a parent or not.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Surviving the Yuletidal-wave

My home is normally Christmas central by the first week of December; decorations filling every nook and cranny and the familiar sounds of the season piped throughout the house. For the last few days I attempted to decorate, start Christmas cards, and fill the CD player with Andy Williams and Bing Crosby, but the holiday spirit is noticeably lacking in my home and in my heart. I am just not in the “Christmas spirit” yet and refuse to march through a long list of holiday chores just because it is what I should or normally do. All around I see people miserably trudging through long lists exclaiming “if I get this done I can enjoy the holidays.” This sentiment confuses me because personally the enjoyment of the holidays is intricately woven with the holiday preparation process. Christmas is not about getting to the destination of December 25, but enjoying the 24 day journey to the big day. Isn’t decorating, baking, sending cards, and shopping all part of enjoying the holidays and the journey?

My Scrooge-like behavior this year has nothing to do with the economy, a reason many -news analysts are claiming cause the bah-humbugs. “Christmastime” starts earlier and earlier every year as retailers attempt to cash in on the wallets of holiday shoppers and this artificial lengthening of the Christmas season is killing my spirit. Most places had the common decency to wait until after Halloween to break out the red and green, but this year it is as if everyone forgot that the United States has a pretty major holiday between October 31 and December 25. Thanksgiving, once the official starting point for the Christmas season, is becoming nothing more than a speed bump on the race to December 25. Families still get together for the holiday created to give thanks for our harvest, our spiritual beliefs, our possessions, and our loved ones; but people now have the option to scarf down their dinners and take naps to hit the “black Friday” sales that begin as soon as the clock hits midnight.

Beginning on November 1 radio stations and digital cable started playing Christmas music, Christmas themed commercials broadcasted during every show, people not only put their Christmas lights on their lawns but actually turned them on! This is all occurring while I am frantically preparing for family and friends gathering at my home for Thanksgiving. Christmas is becoming like planning a wedding; a big, long, expensive build up for a short few hours of actual fun. The death march towards Christmas is producing marathon exhaustion for millions. To deal with Christmas infringing on Thanksgiving I blocked it out; ignored commercials, turned any radio station that played anything with a jingle bell, even avoided shopping establishments that insisted on putting up their Christmas tree before I served Thanksgiving turkey. After weeks of blocking out everything red and green it is nearly impossible to unblock it now.

Elongating the Christmas season is not just exhausting, it’s boring. By the time December 25th comes rolling around the music and decorations actually overstay their welcome. Kicking off the Christmas season on November 1 means 55 days of Christmas by the time families gather around the tree. The soundtrack and décor for fifteen percent of the year is holly, mistletoe, and all things “festive”. Kids visiting Santa on November 1st should realize how unlikely it is he’ll remember what they asked for 54 days later. How can we consider Christmas such a special time of the year if it dominates such a huge chunk of our calendar?

The process of preparing my home for a new season acknowledges the progression of time. It celebrates and embraces different traditions through each season. December means making yummy treats for the people I love, sharing family photos with friends, and singing carols; but it is only meaningful when done out of enjoyment and love. As much as I enjoy traditions with family and friends I cannot proceed with my usual holiday fanfare; my anger at Christmas being shoved down my throat in November is making it difficult jump back into my routine.

Perhaps this is one of the benefits of being childfree. We don’t have to decorate, or put on music, or string the house with lights, or sing songs, or bake cookies for the “sake of the children.” When we do it, we do it for ourselves. Traveling to family rather than hosting the holiday also makes it easier to skip Christmas. A part of me is a little sad I feel like such a scrooge this year, but I am not forcing myself to go through the seasonal motions just because. Plain and simple; if I’m not enjoying it, it’s not going to get done. The only person who is going to be disappointed is me (and maybe the husband).