health & fitness

How to Be More Active When You Don't Have Time

For an entire year after Forrest was born, I really struggled to get back into being active. When you feel like you don't have time, when you're always moving from one thing to the next, it can be hard to add "go for a walk" or "do an exercise video" to that. In the last three months, I've tried harder to be active: to take Forrest on walks, to not just sit on the couch. 

If you're busy in the same way I'm busy, and you're not willing to wake up at 4am ahead of your toddler (someday, Forrest will sleep in, right?), here are a few tips for trying to be more active. Here's the caveat of these tips: I'm not claiming you'll be able to work in a 2 hour work out. It won't be easy. But here's what I do. 

1. Get a Fitbit 

This is a daunting one for some people. But I love my Fitbit. I have a cheap, $50 Fitbit (it's the most simple version) and a hand-me-down Fitbit One. Both work just fine. You don't have to get the fanciest version for it to work, I promise. I mostly just need my steps. Here's the thing: I work a sedentary job, I have a toddler. I know it's going to take a while of practice for me to hit 10,000 steps a day. (For some people, who live in cities where walking everywhere is possible, this is nothing.) So my goal everyday is 5,000 and if I hit that, I feel pretty good. If I can hit 7,000, I feel like a champ. Set realistic goals for you and your Fitbit. 

2. Fit in what you can 

Ok, this is a big one for me. I used to love going to the gym every single day after work. I would spend an hour doing cardio and lifting weights. It kept me healthy, made me feel good, and improve my mood. But the truth is, I just don't have time to do that anymore. I've thought of ways to fit it in: going before work, leaving work earlier, going in the evening once Forrest is in bed. But I'm so exhausted by the end of the day. Instead, I try to go walking when the weather permits. Forrest and I will walk around the park, then play on the play structure. It's a nice little exercise and we get outside the house. On days where I'm home with Forrest, we go in the morning, and then usually play outside for a little while in the afternoon. 

3. Download workout apps. 

I have tons of work out apps. FitStar and Pump Up are two of my favorites. In the evening, I have about enough energy to clean the house and then for a 10-15 minute work out using one of these apps. It's not a huge time commitment, but it's enough to make me feel like I'm active. I like FitStar because it automatically syncs to my FitBit. However, I like Pump Up because you can generate work outs depending on what areas you want to target and whether to include cardio or not. So if nothing else, a quick work out using an app is doable, especially in the evening or early morning. 

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When Did Everyone Start Caring about Thigh Gaps?

I wrote this post in June 2013. While the thigh gap craze has definitely died down, it's still really relevant: there's always a new desirable trait (big butt and tiny waist, thigh gap, "hip bridge") and all of them are just as problematic as thigh gaps. There are hundreds of ways to feel bad about your body. It amazes me that we still find new and interesting ways to make women feel bad. 

A few weeks ago, I read a really interesting article that posed a really fascinating question: When did we all start caring about thigh gaps so much? And where did the obsession come from? 

If you use Tumblr, or Instagram, or Twitter, or any social media site actually, you've probably noticed an obsession with thigh gaps. The impressive Casey of PopPilates has several "get a thigh gap" videos. Pinterest is flooded with simple work out routines promising thigh gaps and thin thighs, as well as a reduction of love handles, an increase in the size of your butt, and to flatten your stomach so much it's like you've traded your internal organs for pure nothing. Tumblr is overrun with pictures of girls and their thigh gaps.

It's become an internet obsession. Let's be real, it's totally kind of creepy. I mean, do women really need another thing to nitpick our bodies about!? I'm already obsessed with the size and shape of my nose, my stomach, my chest, my arms, and my ankles. Please don't make me paranoid about the fact that my thighs touch, world. 

The article I read actually mentioned that it's confusing as to where the thigh gap obsession originated: obviously, there are roots in the pro-ana Tumblr community. Somehow, it spread to mainstream, to every day not-that-eating-disordered women thinking that having thighs that don't touch is the ultimate measure of a perfect body and perfect health. And then, of course, it spread into pornographic images, which makes its origins in pro-ana communities super weird. 

I've always followed a ton of fitness accounts on Instagram, another community that I would use the word "weird" for. The other day, though, I noticed most of these accounts frequently tagged photos with #thighgap. Um, excuse me? Aren't you supposed to be "healthy living bloggers"--and don't most humans know that a thigh gap is ultimately a measure of your body type (aka how wide your hips are, how your femurs are positions) and not your health? 

As a reminder, there are a few things we all should know. They are: 

  1. Having a thigh gap is not a measure of health. You can have a thigh gap and be overweight (yep!) -- it just depends on your body composition. You can have a thigh gap and be healthy. You can have a thigh gap and be very unhealthy. You can be very thin and not have a thigh gap. You can be not very thin at all and have a thigh gap. A thigh gap is primarily a measure in the width of your hips and your muscular structure. Seriously. 
  2. Losing weight to get a thigh gap is terrifying and if you're trying to lose weight to get a thigh gap, you need to look and the mirror and ask yourself what you're really doing. Time to confront some truths.  
  3. No amount of exercise is going to widen your hips. Coming from a wide-hipped lady, trust me, you don't want that to happen. 

The thing is, some human bodies just aren't meant to look a certain way. I'm never going to look like Giselle Bundchen in a bikini: I'm not that tall, that tan, or that slim-hipped. It's just a fact. Some bodies aren't every going to have thighs that don't touch. And that's totally okay

Is ‘fat’ really the worst thing a human being can be? Is ‘fat’ worse than ‘vindictive’, ‘jealous’, ‘shallow’, ‘vain’, ‘boring’ or ‘cruel’? Not to me.
— J.K. Rowling

There are more important things in life than having a thigh gap. It's okay to want a body that is healthy and strong. It's not okay to try to manipulate your body into behaving a way that it just might not be able to. It's like a lactose intolerant person eating milk and cheese every day, even when it makes them sick, because they feel like "to be healthy" they need to eat milk and cheese!

Being healthy is about how you feel, throughout your day and about yourself. I've struggled for a long time with body image issues and I've spent my fair share of time in front of a mirror wondering why my belly isn't perfectly flat and why my butt is so dimpled. The fact is: that's just how my organs are arranged inside my body; that's just how my (female) body decides to store fat. There are things I can change and things that I can't. 

I've come to accept though that my body is a certain shape and I just have to work with it, not against it. It's easier to say that, of course; in reality, there are many days where I just want to hide away because I don't have a thigh gap, I haven't lost the weight I want. But when we start letting things like this--like thigh gaps and work outs and weighing our food--we start ignoring the things that really make us who we are. 

We're all more than bodies. We are bodies that create, and write, and love, and work. We can make pumpkin spice lattes and we can write novels. These bodies can hug a friend. 

What's more impressive? Dedicating yourself to passion, whether it's fitness, hiking, writing, scrapbooking, or whatever, or having a thigh gap? 

That's what I thought. 

Is it Possible to Lose Weight & Still Be Body Positive?

I've written before about how I had a (very elaborate) fantasy about how easy losing weight would be postpartum. I truly imagined that I would shrink down to nothing, due to my breastfeeding and activity and going walking 2 weeks postpartum! None of those things happened, hilariously enough. I did manage to give birth to a 6-pound baby and an impressive 6-pound placenta, and then managed to pee out about 10 additional pounds of water. 

Yes, water. For two weeks after Forrest was born, I would wake up just soaked in sweat. The horrible part was that, of course, I was barely sleeping, but I knew if I fell asleep for even an hour, I would wake up completely and totally soaked. That's what postpartum life is like: everything hurts and you start sweating out all the extra liquid you saved up over 9 months for your joints and body. And in my case, I had been VERY swollen. 

After that, things stopped. I didn't lose any more weight, mainly because I couldn't think about it. Alongside taking care of Forrest, pumping, and eating whatever I could to keep my milk supply up (cheesecake? Tried it), I didn't really care. Then, around 12 weeks postpartum, I cared. I suddenly, crushingly cared. 

I also still care. I told Danny the other day that I know I have pretty severe body dysmorphia issues and I'm never 100% confident that what I see in the mirror or in photos is what I actually look like. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and I'm like, oh I'm not that big! It's not so bad! But then I'll see, say, a family photo and I'll think, I've transformed into a small whale. I am baby Beluga. Under the sea, where I should be. 

I have absolutely no idea which one is accurate. Am I huge? Am I chubby but otherwise normal looking? Am I slowly engulfing the planet? No idea

My body image issues aren't helped by the fact that I align myself, wholeheartedly, with body positivity. It's so easy for me to look at my mom friends and say, "You're gorgeous. Never change. You are the most beautiful woman on the planet." And of course, it's easy for them to say it in return. It's harder to say it to ourselves, to look in the mirror and say, "You look great, even if you're not [insert desired size here.]" 

I feel very torn with the idea of trying to be body positive, but also being aware that I desperately want to be a different size. It's all well and good to preach body positivity until I'm tearing myself down, privately and painfully, for being a size that, generally speaking, some people would kill to be. 

I've been losing weight recently (I have no idea how much and for the sake of my mental health, I don't actually weigh myself--but the people around me assure me that I do, indeed, look smaller) and wondering if losing weight negates all the body positivity work I've done in the past few years. 

It's difficult to think what changing my body says to other people. But, living as an overweight person the last two years, especially while pregnant, did a number on my self-esteem... not that my self-esteem was that great to begin with. The way people treat me, ignore me, act like I am taking up space that I'm not allowed is incredibly difficult to live with--and, of course, I want to change it.

I don't want to change my body just to please other people; but I do want to lose weight to be taken more seriously in my job. Plus, I just want to feel better about myself: I hate getting dressed, I hate taking pictures. I don't take pictures with Forrest simply because I know what I look like. That's hard to wrestle with. 

With all that being said, I hate that I've allowed myself to feel that I should change just because of how other people treat me (and how I perceive they see me.) I don't think anyone should lose weight or change their appearance to make other people happy. If it makes them happy, sure, go for it--but not other people. 

And even though I tell Danny that I just want to be able to wear the clothes I want, to be able to shop anywhere and feel confident and not like the sales associates can't wait to get me out of there, I also want to lose weight so people are nicer to me. I don't want to be called a fat ass while crossing the street anymore (a real thing that happened, yes.)

I also don't want to have a teenager point at me, during the middle of my next pregnancy, and say, "You think that's pregnant? That's just fat." (Yes, another real thing that happened.) I'm tired of being made to feel inconsequential because of others. I just want to be taken seriously.

I just want to be seen as the hard worker I am--and, by and large, most people see overweight people as stupid and lazy, a fact that could not be further from the truth for a vast majority of the population. 

I try my hardest, every day, to be body positive. I have lost friends over calling them out for negative comments, calling others "fat" (as a clear insult), or trying to make others feel bad about their bodies. I try to treat myself with love and kindness. It's hard to lose weight, but I don't want to lose my ability to treat all bodies positively in the process. 

That just means I have to work at it a little bit harder than everyone else.