Sunday, December 20, 2009

Barriers to Exercise for the Overweight

I've been having an interesting conversation on Twitter with Bill Yates, MD (@wry999). He made an excellent blog post about exercise attitudes in the overweight at:

I posted a reply complimenting him on the post. I added that most obese women will not swim, even though it is one of the safest and most effective exercises for large people, because they don't want to be seen in a swimsuit.

He replied, saying that I had a good point. Did I have any suggestions for breaking through these attitudinal barriers?

I've found that classes where all the participants are large seems to help, especially if they’re in an area with little foot traffic. Exercise videos that people can do behind closed (and locked) doors also help. Our culture's shaming of the obese is not helping the problem. We often use shame as a motivator. These people often have a motivation to exercise, but their fear of public exposure and criticism is a stronger motivation to avoid it.

I didn't realize how little I care about the opinions of others until I began interacting with other people on . I was willing to do the swimming, the public walking, the struggling with weights in front of college-aged men. I even did a few sessions of hip-hop and Zumba classes with slender young things wearing official exercise clothes (I was wearing baggy shorts and old T-shirts). Most hardbodies aren't cruel, and the young men at the YMCA even cheered when I managed to get the overhead press over my head. My flat feet and weak back stopped my progress on several occasions, but never embarrassment.

I realized, as I mentioned this, that there is another barrier to exercise for large people that was not mentioned in the study Dr. Yates reviewed: most exercise videos and classes are geared to the already fit, not the beginner and/or the obese. It takes longer to learn the moves, we don’t move as quickly due to our size, and we are slamming a lot more weight on our joints than most people. Some people drop out, discouraged, while others (like me) wind up in physical therapy (I'm a three-time 'winner' in PT). I have videos on my shelf that I tried once and put away because I knew they could injure me (including one Tai Chi video that did injure me).

I've lost about 70 pounds. Most of that was done through eating less, but it was also done through walking, public swimming, strength training at home without weight machines, and Leslie Sansone/SparkPeople videos. The shaming needs to stop, and more exercise programs need to be tailored to the special risks of the obese.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I've mostly been dealing with Xmas preparations instead of writing stuff recently, but someone asked me how long I’d been writing fiction and I realized that I started shortly after reading.

I started writing when I was very young, although my first stories centered around horses (intelligent talking horses at that!). I wrote and drew the stories; an early love of mine was comic books. When I started doing comics starring humans, I began with Betty and Veronica and worked myself up to the X-men. My dream during my teenage years was to work for Marvel Comics. Instead, I got a degree in journalism.

My first forays into written print were fanfic and in conjunction with another person. My best friend from high school and I handwrote a 10,000 page saga that should have been titled, “Meet Your Favorite Prince of Amber and Boff Him”. We did another saga based on the Darkover series, but we weren’t nearly as prolific with it. Eventually I started writing on my own, and creating stories with my own characters set in my own worlds.

I started writing an occult mystery/horror novel in the early 1990s, but wasn't sure where to go after I killed off the old tycoon. I was in grad school at the time, which didn't help (although the Greek and Latin I was studying provided lots of fodder). I also met a wonderful woman who chased me until I caught her. She wrote, too, but we weren’t interested in writing when we got together.

I limited my imagination to FRP gaming for some years. Finally, with the encouragement of my wife, I ventured into short stories and got a couple published. I completed my first book (vampires!) a couple of years ago and began shopping around with agents. Didn't have much luck. I'm thinking about revising that book and attempting to sell it now, since Twilight has made the genre popular.

The book I've been working on this year is more of a suspense/thriller novel (psychologist vs. serial killer) with a dash of the supernatural. The writing has been slower than molasses and not nearly as sweet. I know the ideas are strong and the story could be a great one, but I think it hasn't gelled yet in my head.

The path from talking horse stories to serial killer novels has been a strange and twisted one, but it has been fun and it’s been my own.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The War on Christmas: Politics or Personal Problem?

I’m still finding the identity of this blog. Yes, I write, and I post my writing updates here, but you guys probably don’t need to be barraged with repeated samples of literary solipsism. This is especially true because my writing life moves slowly.

Today, I’m going to write about something that cheeses me off: the so-called "War on Christmas" by liberals like me.

Just so you know: Yes, I’m a liberal. Screw that ‘progressive’ business; that’s for chicken liberals who came along after Nixon made the word a pejorative term. I’m a liberal raised by liberals. I’m also a Pagan. For the uninitiated, that means that I hold nature sacred and, in my case, worship pre-Xian gods. Xian=Christian, but is shorter to write. I use Xian because I'm lazy.

I've bitched at length about the pretend War on Christmas a few times on my Pagan blog, but I will give the Reader's Digest version of my views here:
Ask yourself: since when did acknowledging that other people have winter holidays equate attacking Christians? If one of your children claimed that you were attacking him every time you mentioned his brother, or used the phrase 'my children', you'd think he had a serious ego problem. Is this really that different?
December hosts several different holidays. Our government is supposed to respect the entire collage of faiths represented within its borders. It only has a limited number of options: it can celebrate every holiday, a costly proposition, celebrate no holidays, which means no special time off for anyone, OR it can use blanket recognitions like 'Happy Holidays'.

Merchants have the additional option of honoring specific holidays for specific faiths. Some do specifically recognize Xmas. Other merchants, however, don't want to miss out on Jewish money, Yule dollars, Kwanzaa cash, solstice spending, etc. Considering how our economy has slid into the crapper, though, many also opt for the 'Happy Holidays' banners. It's cheaper. And it's not meant as an insult.

Chill out. And Merry Christmas, if it applies to you.