Surviving the Holidays: Managing Expectations

Friday, December 16, 2011

Last year, as I was frantically finishing final edits to my book: The Fat Chick Works Out!  I had to accept that I had neither time nor money for a huge Christmas tree.  Even if I was in a position to shell out over $100 for a nice tree (California pricing--sheesh!) I didn't have time to even go to the lot and pick it out, so much drag it home, prop it up and put hundreds of ornaments on it.  I had to accept that it just wasn't going to happen.  So I took out my tiny little pretend Christmas tree, slapped one string of lights on it, and put on about a dozen little teeny ornaments.  And you know what, it wasn't so bad.  It was disappointing, because I had expected the giant live Christmas tree.  But it's cheery little presence kept me company in the wee, dark hours before dawn as I sat next to the fireplace and did final edits.  And I learned.

This year, I never even thought about that huge Christmas tree.  I knew I would be even busier this year than I was last year.  I didn't win the lottery, so the big tree was probably too expensive anyway.  So I set my expectations for my tiny tree, and this year it's making me happy with no disappointment and no regrets.  My tiny tree is enough.  I am satisfied.

I think so many times during the holidays, we make ourselves crazy with totally unreasonable expectations.  We think we need to uphold every holiday tradition that anybody in our family has ever had.  We think we should give everybody everything they ever wanted for Christmas, and even a few things they didn't ask for.  And everybody is going to get along at all the family gatherings, and the kids will all be perfectly behaved and our holiday will look just like Mr. Rockwell's paintings.  And naturally, we'll lose 30 pounds between Christmas and Thanksgiving so that we can fit into that slinky little black dress we've been dreaming of. Because we need to make this the BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!  Ho, ho, freaking, ho.

And  of course, it never quite works out like that, does it?  When you're standing in long lines the day after Christmas returning presents that the kids didn't like after all (and you couldn't afford anyway)  you cringe at this year's NEW crop of holiday memories complete with grandma passing out after too much eggnog, nobody talking to Judy because of what she said about our Susan, and a mess that you couldn't shift with a sherman tank.  And the little black dress?  Honey all the Spanx in the world 'aint gonna get you there.  Frankly, it's depressing.

But does it have to be?  What if you accept that you can't please everybody.  What if you accept that you can't change people?  What if you accept that this crazy, messy, imperfect, noisy and less fiscally irresponsible Christmas will be YOUR Christmas and get over it?  Can't meet old holiday traditions?  Make new ones!  Can't buy expensive presents?  Give of your heart and your mind and your time.  Got a crazy family?  Enjoy them while you still have them.  Gained 2 pounds since Thanksgiving?  Get a great pair of comfy but gorgeous leggings and ROCK 'EM!

That's my Christmas gift to you my love.  Go out and have a personalized, imperfect and perhaps more than slightly crazy holiday season.

The Fat Chick

Surviving the Holidays: Get Some Sleep!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Now don't laugh when I ask this, but seriously.  When is the last time you got a good night's sleep?  I know during the holidays (at least in MY life) this is one of the first things to go right out the window.  I stay up to wrap one more present, address one more Christmas card, bake one more holiday favorite and before you know it, it's tomorrow.  I can't tell you how many times I've dragged myself up the stairs in the wee hours of the morning and collapsed in the bed.  And maybe no other creature (including the proverbial mouse) is stirring at the crack of dawn in my house, but I am.  I'm up early doing all the stuff I would normally be doing, but put off because of holiday obligations.  Tis the season to be surly, cranky and get sick because we just need a little shut-eye.

In the health magazines, I've seen lots and lots of articles about how NOT to eat holiday treats or (gasp) gain holiday pounds.  What I haven't seen is much of any information about the need for sleep.  This despite the fact that there is ample evidence that going without sleep is really bad for your health.  A recent study showed that shift workers are more likely to suffer from diabetes, and the thinking is that the sleep disturbances have a lot to do with it.  (Poor Santa.  Maybe he should deliver presents during the day.)

But diabetes is just one of many potential health effects of not getting enough sleep.  Aside from increased accidents on the road and at work, sleep deprivation is linked to a host of other ailments including:
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Mental impairment
  • Disruption of bed partner's sleep quality
  • Poor quality of life
Yikes!  And let's not discount "disruption of bed partner's sleep quality".  This is probably not a formula for a happy marriage.  I wonder if Mrs. Claus has to sleep with the pillow over her head when jolly ol' St. Nick finally crawls in to the sack at the North Pole.

But seriously, going without sleep over the holidays is NOT a good thing.  Aside from the potential health risks, it makes you cranky as heck, and all the more likely to bite Aunt Ethel's head clean off when she asks you (again) when you're getting married.  Not. Good.

So how do you fit sleep in during the holidays?  First off, you need to prioritize it.  Here's an exercise I sometimes do.  I set my alarm to go off when it's bedtime.  This reminds me that it's time to wrap up WHATEVER I'm doing and go to sleep.  Sometimes that means some things don't get done.  After all, this blog post was supposed to go up LAST week.  But is the world still turning?  Let me check...

Getting sleep is also about managing your holiday obligations and your holiday expectations.  We'll be talking about both of those things in the weeks ahead.  But not right now, because it's time for me to get some shut eye.

So my little chicklettes, my plea for you is to find some time to lay down your fluffy little heads and head off to dreamland.

The Fat Chick

Freakin' laser beams on their freakin' heads.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I was trolling through photos, looking for inspiration for my post-Thanksgiving blog post when I came across this beauty.  "Yup, that's the one," I said.  You may ask why.  You may wonder why I'm looking at a photo with no turkeys or pilgrims or Norman Rockwell paintings as the perfect choice.  If you're wondering that, well you DO have a lot to be thankful for.  But I'm guessing that most of you are giggling right now because you know EXACTLY what I'm getting at.

Although Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of rest, and family and gratefulness.  It seems to have become a lot more like a shark tank lately.  From Target shoppers, stepping over the prone body of a man who had collapsed with a fatal heart condition, to a Walmart shopper using pepper spray to ensure she got the last copy of a video game on black friday to Aunt Thelma asking if you really needed that piece of pumpkin pie, the shark tank seems a pretty apt metaphor for what the holidays have become for many of us.

We're supposed to be thinking about love and happiness and goodwill to our fellow man, but how many of us are wishing we could be a super villain with our very own tank with sharks with freakin' laser beams on their heads?  (See the video clip HERE.)  And so on top of the shopping stress and the family stress, we have the depression that comes with guilt and unmet holiday expectations.

So, what's a girl to do?  How do we navigate these treacherous waters?  While I could probably write a book on this subject, you probably don't have time to read it.  So I'm going to start a series of brief blog posts, each outlining a specific tip for helping you to survive the holidays, okay?

And here's the first tip:
For most of us, the holidays are no kiddie pool.  You don't want go go wading in without some serious protective gear.  I'm not talking about some inflatable water wings.  Nope, I mean a harpoon, and a shark cage, and possibly nuclear incendiary devices.  While it's good to be optimistic and think positive (maybe you could leave the nukes at home) it is a good idea to understand that the holidays are a difficult and stressful at times for almost everybody.  So along with the holiday gift lists and grocery lists and packed holiday calendar, be sure to take a little time to plan to care for yourself.  And to gird your loins my dear, for the days ahead.

The Fat Chick

P.S. Want to learn more about the shark tank in this picture?  Check it out on my other blog: Stuff That Weighs More Than Me.

Tubby Bunnies, Moral Panic and A Partridge in a Pear Tree

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let's truss up Santa!  (Photo provided by Coley Chen under Creative Commons License.)

Over the past few months, few things have driven home the overblown panic surrounding fat people than this recent article on the Hopper Home Bunny Blog declaring an "obesity emergency" among pet rabbits.  That’s right.  Although rabbits consume the lowest amount of “junk food” among household pets at 26%, they are BLOWING UP at an alarming rate.  26% of British Bunnies apparently equates to over 430,000 rotund rabbits!  These thousands of rabbits are "at risk of developing obesity related and certainly life-threatening disease if their diets don’t improve."  Lock up your children!  Stay indoors!  Somebody better develop Lapin Band surgery for these corpulent cottontails.

One week later, this statement came out demonstrating the moralistic food police in a total tizzy over trick or treating.  UPI hosted a statement that pointed out that kids gather between 3,500 and 7,000 calories during trick or treating.  Oh the horrors!  They even noted that (gasp) the U.S. President and First Lady handed out CANDY to trick or treaters at the White House.  Donna Arnett, head of the department of epidemiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health suggests that people give kids money instead of candy (because kids love money), and that parents hand out pedometers to their kids and give a prize (non-food of course) to the kids with the most steps.  Okaaaaay.

Well we’re smack dab in the middle of this holiday season, and I wonder, who else is going to be implicated in this obesity epidemic?  Will we truss up St. Nick next to the holiday turkey and serve him up as a bad role model?  I mean, that guy could stand to lose a few, right?  Are we going to put Baby New Year on a diet?  Maybe that kid could live longer than a year if he ate a little broccoli, right?  And the prescription for the Easter Bunny goes without saying (see above).

I’d like to suggest that we all take a holiday from weight obsession.  Can we take a few weeks to work on managing our stress and getting a little bit of good sleep?  Can we choose to enjoy holiday treats openly and while we’re hungry for them, rather than denying ourselves, and then closet eating all the Christmas cookies?  Can we engage in regular, rational and pleasurable physical activity, rather than doing nothing until New Years and then weekend warrioring ourselves right into an injury?  Can we all just take a deep breath and calm down?  That’s my plan and my holiday gift to you.  Sleep in heavenly peace my friends.

The Fat Chick.

The illusion of being safe.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

“Safe!”  Shouted as a runner gets to a base, shouted as you reach the goal in kick the can, this word is a happy one.  It means you made it to a place no one can harm you.  It reminds us of our childhoods with wide laps and warm beds and somebody always there to brush away the tears.  But how many of us really feel safe in our own skins?

Ever since the cries of “fatty, fatty, 2x4” and the comments about “letting yourself go,” and the fact that you have, “such a pretty face”, have you ever really felt safe?  Do you feel safe, knowing that a perfect stranger feels justified in yelling things at you from across the street?  Do you feel safe knowing that any time you go to a doctor or dentist or even optometry shop (not kidding here) some professional who is supposed to be helping you may launch into some body disparaging nonsense rather than giving you the help you’ve been asking for?  If you don’t, it’s no surprise.  It can be especially hard feeling safe in a fat body.

It’s enough to make you never want to go out of the house.  It’s enough to make one want to snuggle down, with your cats and doggies and put a blanket over your head.  It’s enough to make you not want to dare anything.

I know that I’ve done a lot of work about moving ahead in my life.  I no longer want to wait until I’m thin to do the things I want to in my life.  I imagined what I would do if I were thin, and started doing them anyways.  I started teaching exercise.  I became a writer and a producer.  I made a DVD and I wrote a book.  I’m proud to say I’ve done a lot.  But I still find myself in a stuck place.  I still find myself shyly dipping a toe in the water instead of holding my nose and doing a cannonball into the pool.  I still find myself wanting assurance that I’ll be safe.

But here’s the thing.  Safety is relative.  There is not one person anywhere who is completely safe.  Safety is mostly an illusion that we build for ourselves.  So I’ll keep trying.  I’ll keep building the strength I need to slay the dragons I meet along the glory road.  I’ll go out the door with my head held high and my wits about me.  I’ll not be a simpering princess sighing in a high tower waiting for somebody to rescue me.  I’LL rescue me.  Wish me luck!  Love, The Fat Chick


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Yup, I'm pretty sure I both want and need a reboot.  I've been running around like headless poultry for several weeks now and I'm looking forward to a night off.  Not that I don't absolutely LOVE all the time I've spent over the last two months meeting new people, conducting exercise demonstrations, promoting the book, running trade show booths and traveling my butt off.  I DO love it.

But I'm looking forward to throwing the tent in the car with my sleeping bag and taking off for just one night.  My awesome husband (the awesomest husband in the world) even promised to do the packing.  So I'm taking a deep breath, giving my inner Virgo/Producer woman a holiday and releasing control over the camping prep.  (Deep, breaths.  Take DEEP breaths Jeanette.)  I'll see y'all when I get back.  And I'll  let y'all know how it goes.

The Fat Chick

Yee Haw!

Friday, July 22, 2011

That foreground shadow--that's me on Fremont Street in Las Vegas during the BBW Bash last week.  For those of you who don't know, the BBW Vegas Bash is one amazing party!  I had a great time in Sin City over the weekend.   And I thought I'd include a picture of the neon Glitter Gulch Gal from Fremont St. because THAT girl obviously knows how rock a western outfit AND have a good time.  And at over 20ft. tall, she doesn't seem to be letting her size get in the way of living her life to the very fullest!  So my little chicklettes, I think it's time to take yourself out and paint the town red (or whatever color you like).  Have fun.  Score some slightly racy and exciting pictures to post on facebook!  And don't forget to send me an email and tell me all about it.

The Fat Chick

Coming out of the Desert

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sometimes writing a book can seem like crossing a long, barren desert.  It's a solitary pursuit.  Often you stagger around and encounter no one.  You just step over the bleached bones of the authors who fell before you.  Sometimes you think you will never see green or water again.  And then, you see the other side.  There's trees, and grass and cool, cool water.  That's what this book signing was for me.  An oasis.  A moment of rest and nourishment after a long, long haul.  I gotta tell you, it feels pretty good.

I hosted the book signing today at my favorite coffee shop--Joe's Place.  I sat right in MY chair.  The very chair where I spend many hours, days and weeks with my trusty Mac laptop and an extra large, black, decaf coffee.  Many of my students and dear friends came by to get an autographed copy.  They were thrilled for me.  And their excitement allowed it to soak in.  I'm no longer considering the concept of thinking about maybe someday writing a book.  I WROTE the blessed thing. I have a copy in my hand.  I've crossed over to the long dreamed of moment where, sharpie in hand I've signed my name on the inside front cover and become an author.  And the balmy moist breezes blew over the watering hole and I said, Ahhhhhh.

So hang in there my little chickadees.  You're nearer the oasis then you think.  See you at the watering hole.

The Fat Chick

Viva La Revolution!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Well it's the second full week of January and by now I'll bet some of the shine has fallen off those New Year's resolutions.  You know, the ones you fervently spout while sipping (or slurping) champagne on New Year's Eve.  And also the ones you whisper as you nurse your hangover on the first morning of the year.  Yeah those are the ones I'm talking about.  And while you're still enjoying the shiny, new, I can be a size 4 by February resolution fantasy it can be a little hard to talk to you.  Believe me, I know exactly what that's all about.  But now that you've had a few weeks to think about it, and to allow reality to filter in allow me to offer you an alternative.

This year, a lot of folks in the fat acceptance and health at every size communities (including me) decided to create a "New Year's Revolution" instead of resolutions.  This year, for every day in the month of January, we're focusing on a way to love, nurture and care for the bodies we already have rather than trying to change them into something else.  It's super fun and super cool.  You can find out more about it HERE.

I hope you check it out.  The idea of loving and caring for yourself may be revolutionary, but at another level, it's just common sense.  Viva la revolution!

The Fat Chick

Too Darn Hot! (Happy New Year)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Well it's the beginning of a new year and I'm starting us off with a picture of a fire extinguisher.  There's really two reasons for this.  One, is that my husband and I spent practically all of the New Year's Holiday putting out fires.  Not fun.  (Warning--whining ahead.  You may want to skip down to the bottom of the post.)  First, my Mac blew up.  This is the second Mac that blew up on me this year.  Now I love Macs, and both of these were quite long in the tooth, but what a PAIN.  I spent 3 days just getting back to some semblance of being able to work.  And we spent a good deal of New Year's Day cleaning all the drains in the house with a plumbers snake.  (Don't even ask...)  There were various and sundry other dramas as well.  In fact, at one point it became really comic.  My husband and I had to giggle.  Perhaps this was some sort of post traumatic stress disorder, but I tend to think it had more to do with gratitude.  After all, we were still healthy.  And we were strong enough to work together to solve the problems.  There's something deeply reassuring about having a husband who knows how to fix a computer and snake a drain.  And there's something deeply satisfying about learning how to do these things for myself.  Not that I wouldn't love to have a staff to take care of these pesky troubles.  Not that I'm going to start picking up these activities for a Saturday night, but I like to know that if I have to do stuff, I know how.

When sharing my plight with my awesome friend Barbara, she offered this tasty tidbit of insight.  "Well we all know that a great performance is usually preceded by a really crummy dress rehearsal.  Naturally this means you will have an awesome year in 2011."  And you know what, I think she's right.  I don't need a fire extinguisher to put out all the fires.  I need it because 2011 is going to be too darn hot!  So circle up my little chickadees.  I want to reassure you that 2011 will be less than perfect.  We will need a fire extinguisher nearby to put out fires along the way.  Stuff happens.  But we will take it in stride.  We will giggle at the absurdity of our tribulations.  And we will win.  And naturally, we'll also need a fire extinguisher nearby just to protect those near and dear from our overwhelming hotness!  Happy New Year.

The Fat Chick