Five Things Friday – Can We Be Honest Here?

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Have I ever done a ‘stuff that bugs me’ post? Apparently not … and as I tried to do one I realized WHY – not all that much really bugs me enough to make a worthy post. But as always, I have thoughts … some good and some not so good – so let’s just jump right in!

OK, first the picture – yeah, another selfie … but I always seem to take them in my house or driveway, so today I was different! This one I took at the end of the development across the street where they are trying to squeeze just one more house into an area with poor drainage and water table issues. It is a cool street and doing the loop is nearly a perfect mile, which of course I always think about. Then I thought rather than a shoe/short pic I would try an action shot! It is crap, but I laughed at myself and had fun, so you’re stuck with it! Now back to the post!

1. Pro Tip: Cardio ISN’T a Food Group!

OK – I have many thoughts about eating, health and so on, but here is one thing: runners are a pretty screwed up bunch when it comes to eating. We claim ‘clean eating’ then fill ourselves up with pills and powders out of chem labs; we claim we’re listening to our bodies, yet ignore them when it is inconvenient and end up injured; and we talk about fueling but then restrict ourselves to feel super-lean!

And let me be even more clear … before I stepped back a bit and did serious ‘spring cleaning’ on my RSS feeds, Bloglovin’, WordPress and email subscriptions, I would estimate I was subscribed to 3-4 blogs where the bloggers had ‘active’ eating disorders.

OK, that is fine – I have talked about my disordered eating as have many others, and I pointed out the whole series T-Rex Runner did on her struggles. Should we be surprised that people are actively struggling?

Of course not – nor should we be surprised that some of those struggling either don’t realize it or aren’t admitting it to themselves.

As fellow bloggers there is only so much we can do – make comments, send emails, mention it to others who might hold more sway … well, that is pretty much it.

My concern is when I see people on other blogs I follow, commenting on these ‘bigger’ blogs and emulating them … and falling into some fairly obviously disordered patterns (what was that book with the meals of baby carrots and plain mustard?).

Do I have a point? I actually do – I have been saying that I don’t like that there is very little frank discussion on blogs, and that all of the comments are super-nice and super-positive – and those that are critical are seldom acknowledged in any real way.

Well, WE control that! It is up to US to be more frank, more honest, more direct. And it is up to us as bloggers to at least LISTEN when someone calls us on out on our own crap.

So that is my pledge – if I think you are disordered, I will say something (gently of course); if you are being a phony, I will call you out. And if you are awesome, I will tell you that as well.

What about YOU – can you join me and try to do this?

2. And … the REST of the Story

Here is something that will shock exactly no one – not a single blogger tells us EVERYTHING about themselves; nor does any running blogger tells us everything about their running life. Sure many of us reveal personal details – and some tell things on their blogs they have never actually said to anyone else before (I know I have done this!). But it is still controlled – by us.

So what does it say when we learn something fairly significant about someone whose blog we follow through a comment they make on a different blog? Something that contradicts what they say on their own blog? Do you call them out on another blog? (personally if someone did that to me I wouldn’t be pleased), email privately? say something on their blog randomly? forget about it?

This is a tough one – because I think it is up to the blogger to control their own story – but at the same time if the thing we learn is potentially harmful (addiction, child-neglect, self-harm) then we owe it as good citizens to do SOMETHING.

What do you think? (and yes, I have specifics, but none of them were at the level mentioned above).

3. The Continuing ‘Shape Magazine’ Saga

The other day I wrote about Brooke, who refused to change the image she submitted to Shape Magazine for the ‘after’ image of a Success Stories feature. She had lost 170lbs and had loads of loose skin.

Her story has blown up on social media and was picked up by Buzzfeed, and there are now thousands of comments in a variety of places about it.

And this week it has been the comments that have intrigued me. And in particular those from other women. Now we don’t have a fair comparison, because I would estimate that the female:male ratio on comments is ~99:1 … but all of the comments from guys I’ve seen have seen have been either ‘throw-aways’ (‘wouldn’t hit it before, still wouldn’t hit it now’ was one that made me sigh and roll my eyes) or supportive.

But comments from other women have been more interesting, and I think speak broadly to how women see other women and themselves.

Some are very supportive – and much more specific than anything from any of the guys (as I would expect). They talked about the struggle and the pride and about really owning yourself – and also about standing up for something you believe in and so on.

But some are absolutely brutal. There are three basic lines they follow:
– You lost weight and that is a source of pride, but your body is disgusting and you should be ashamed of it and keep that stuff covered up.
– The body you have is a symbol of the abuse you have put your body through, nobody wants to see that – it is NOT beautiful.
– I am losing weight, and if THAT is what I have to look forward to … why even bother. I applaud Shape for not showing that disgusting and non-inspirational body.

Wow … just wow. Not only that, but there were a few commenters who took on anyone who challenged their position that Brooke is disgusting and totally wrong. One in particular basically says ‘she should be proud of her accomplishment, but put on a shirt – no one things that looks good’.

And that is the uniting element in the criticisms: ‘no one’ thinks that looks good.

Those commenters claim to speak for everyone, and while thinking on the one hand that we need to see more ‘real’ bodies, that doesn’t include what extreme weight loss looks like.

And I found THOSE people – the well-spoken ones in particular (I can easily dismiss frothing trolls) – disgusting and disturbing. Because these people tell me that the media has won. That while we SAY we want more ‘real bodies’, more ‘real life’ more ‘body acceptanece’ … what we REALLY want is air-brushed bikini bodies of people who have never been more than 10-15 pounds overweight.

And look – being severely overweight is not something that people WANT to do, and it is definitely something self-inflicted in many cases. But the reality is that the ‘obesity epidemic’ is real and a growing problem, and when you set out to celebrate the stories of people who have achieved huge weight loss, why would you NOT want to show the reality of what that looks like? I mean, think about it psychologically – if you have been picking up Shape or Self or More and seeing ‘weight loss success’ stories that are inspirational and make you think you will look like Tom Brady or Giselle at the end of your journey, and you end up looking like Brooke – you will feel like a failure.

And THAT is what I have a problem with. We should celebrate our bodies, celebrate the success of our weight loss, of our friends and family who struggle, and NEVER let ‘body shaming’ of ANY TYPE (including ‘too skinny’ shaming) occur. Speak up, and let us begin to accept people for who they are.

4. What is this HEALTHY thing, anyway?

One of my favorite bloggers, Laura, had three amazing posts to follow-up ANOTHER amazing post. This week it was Healthy Part 1, Healthy Part 2 and The Ugly Parts – and they tell a story of two important things:
– Dealing with weight, eating and food.
– Addressing the judgment that comes along with all of that.

If you have not read these, definitely check them out. It is funny, after reading ‘Unhealthy’ I was dusting off an old draft I had about what healthy eating actually means to me … but I wasn’t getting anywhere that made any sense, then Laura did her posts and I just nodded my head throughout.

Here is a question: which is healthier – Lisa having 2tbsp of fat-free half & half in her coffee, or me having a small bowl of my homemade ‘peanut butter fudge’ (peanut butter, butter to thin, chocolate flakes to mix, and confectionary sugar to sweeten and thicken)?

If you look at fat, calories, and so on the answer would be obvious. But is it so simple? What if one of the ‘healthy’ criteria was how quickly someone ended up in the bathroom? Then things change! As part of the pseudo-Paleo thing we’ve been doing with Lisa, we’ve found that heavy dairy – and particularly stuff sweetened with HFCS like fat free stuff tends to be – has a rapid response in terms of ‘taking the direct top-to-bottom’ route. (TMI, sorry Lisa!)

Also, I tend to go for a peanut butter ‘dessert’ like that when I feel I haven’t been getting enough food in me – I always get plenty of fruits, veggies, and so on – so I go for the fat and protein in those cases.

So again, it isn’t so simple to just label things ‘healthy’ or ‘unhealthy’.

Let me twist it up – would the answer be the same if instead of my dessert I had the same amount of calories, but in the form of a small bag of Peanut Butter M&Ms? Aaah … this is where it gets interesting! Because when I was at my heaviest in 2012 I had taken to having peanut butter M&Ms as a ‘desk snack’ which I didn’t share, and by the end I was eating a ‘large’ (as labeled) bag within two days … and it is a source of shame for me, as it is about 2 days of fat and calories – and I wasn’t active. And also I have found that the processed taste no longer appeals to me.

So while the calories are the same, the mental impact is VERY different. I have fruit (apple or pear) and pistachios as my ‘desk snack’ at this point, and if I ate a bag of peanut butter M&Ms I would be consumed by negative feelings.

That is just a very small example of why we have to be so careful about labeling foods ‘good or bad’, ‘healthy or unhealthy’ – and by extension labeling PEOPLE with those words – bad eating habits, being unhealthy, and so on. It can be emotionally devastating.

And it gets back to something Laura mentioned and Abby has as part of her ‘about’ page – that ‘healthy’ isn’t a number or a weight or pant size … it is a confluence of physical, mental, physiological, and emotional elements that all work together – and we need to understand their particular symbiosis in OUR life to know what ‘healthy’ looks like for us.

5. We Really DO Have a Great Community

Throughout lent and even this past week I have seen loads of people ‘taking an online/blogging break’ or ‘doing spring cleaning’. I myself did a massive clean-up of things I tracked in all areas of interest and took nearly two weeks away and have slowed my blogging pace considerably.

And I am so glad I did – because it allowed me to regain perspective on just WHY I love this community and really want to stay attached to it. The reality I had to acknowledge was that there would always be more cool people than I could possibly follow and still maintain my job/wife/kids/home/pets and so on … so like I do in general I tried to focus on a few great friends rather than a million acquaintances. It is what works for me.

The result is I can focus more on these blogs – ‘good old friends’ like Laura and Megan, Harold, Ann, Danielle, and many more … and of course making new friends like Cori, Lauren, Running Bear, Sara, Carina, and many more!

All of these wonderful people light up my day with their posts, pictures, insights, comments and perspectives. There is no rule – at first when I started out it was one site through a suggestion of a friend (ironically I no longer follow that initial site), then I found a few through comments, and so on and so on.

And even looking at the list (and more new friends like Suze, Abby, Michele, Rachel, Beth and more) there is no common thread in terms of age, marital status, kids, pets, geographic region, or whatever … but there is one VERY important one: they are all REAL, genuine, individual voices. It is great when you read a post and see a subject and know what someone basically thinks, but still relish hearing HOW they will say it.

So yeah, basically I love you guys. You rock.

Bonus: Some honest stuff from me!

1. I will not follow your blog if you cannot buy a drink – yeah, this one sounds weird, but several months ago I had a 17-year old girl follow me and then email me to follow back. I felt like a creepy old dude because that is how old my son is. So, yeah, no. I have seen great blogs by guys and girls in high school and early college years, but in general if it makes me feel uncomfortable in that way … not gonna happen. I DO find it flattering that a few of my kids friends follow me on Instagram and like my running selfies … it is fun because they are kids we actually know and can all joke about it.

2. Lunch is my hardest meal. – ok, from light to heavy … as I have said, for years I would restrict breakfast and lunch and eat plenty at dinner. Since being a ‘real’ runner for the last couple of years I have been more conscious about my eating and eat great at breakfast and dinner and generally also at lunch. But because of how my work stuff is structured I generally eat in meetings, which means a wrap, apple and soda/water. Similar to when I was in Kentucky for work travel so much last year, the structure keeps me ‘in line’.

But if the meetings are canceled, then I will try to eat something, but am not always good about getting enough. I always have fruit and pistachios at my desk, and will head to the small plant cafeteria to see what is available, but often it is not something I am willing to eat, so I end up with yogurt, fruit and pistachios.

And the thing for me is that “something I am willing to eat”. I keep that thought in the forefront of my mind – because it is dangerous.

3. My ‘No Tech in Bed’ Challenge – OK so it was supposed to be for Lent, but I am extending it … and I would rate myself as ‘mediocre’. I have brought the laptop once, but the iPad remains the problem. It is one thing if I am finishing a game for review, but another thing when I then hit up email and web and Feedly RSS and … ugh. So … a work in progress!

4. Where I sit at work right now sucks – every project needs to find some space for seating, and it is best when you can be grouped in close proximity (I have been on projects where everyone is in a different building, and efficiency plummets), but the one I am on now … is technically a great project and important. But we are in the absolutely crappiest location in the facility, too many people in too small space … well, it is just awful. Oh well, that happens – there is no such thing as a perfect project!

5. Diet Cultsthe book is out as of yesterday, and I have it on my Kindle. I planned to have more to say about it … but my brain’s desire to read was outmatched by my eyes’ desire to close!

So what do you think about ANY of this mess? Or … how about your weekend plans?

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27 thoughts on “Five Things Friday – Can We Be Honest Here?

  1. Great post! Thank you for keeping it real while always being so thoughtful and nice too. I put a library hold on Diet Cults, I’m curious how it will be and I hope it doesn’t give me any strange ideas – I’m just like you when it comes to disordered eating and disordered THINKING about food…

    • Thanks so much – I hope I get a lot from the book. One of my wife’s friends is on a funky new diet that restricts entire food groups … ugh!

      And disordered eating versus thinking is interesting: if you look at what I eat, how I eat and how much I eat it would all seem fine … but inside my head is a mess! 🙂

  2. This is a great, honest, well-written post. I often try to organize my thoughts on a lot of this stuff, but can never bring it together in a coherent way. I really needed this post today–thank you!

  3. Haha I LOVE your action shot! 🙂
    And I love this post. I could not agree with you more on all points. I am very straightforward. I think pretty much all of blogland knows about my yo-yo weight and issues with food I’ve had over the years. I started talking about it because I figured if I did, maybe in some way I could help someone that is going through a similar thing in silence. It’s one reason why I like your blog and Laura’s blog so much.

    Also Brooke’s story. I found out about her story from Girls Gone Sporty and read her post directed at Shape before I saw any of the comments. All I could think about was how inspirational she is. In my opinion, when a person belittles how someone else looks, especially someone who has worked as hard as Brooke has to achieve her goals, it speaks volumes for their own self esteem. I feel badly for the people who can’t see the true beauty in what she has accomplished for herself. It’s like they are completely missing the point.

    And I just have to tell you that I totally teared up over here reading your thoughts on our community. We really are such a great, REAL bunch! You are an incredible person and I’m so glad we’re friends. 🙂

    • OK, now – let’s not get started with the feels! 🙂

      Thanks – and that is what I think about with your comment on your arms today, and people making comments … it is really a hard thing when you already are dealing with weight and food and so on. I think the one thing you can count on is that no matter what you do someone will figure out a way to make you feel bad about it!

  4. Great points. I did not know about the Brooks story, so got a chance to read that. Shame she has to deal with the negatives to her success, although I guess I am not all that surprised? I like your points about commenting on other blog, I totally appreciate it when someone has a different point of view than me and shares that, whether we agree, disagree, or agree to disagree, I think discussion is how we learn and grow and widen our horizons!

    • Thanks Sarah, and I agree – I have gotten into comment-discussions before, and it helps widen my horizons or at least makes me look at another possible point of view. There is always more to learn, more to know, about pretty much everything.

  5. You make so many great points in your post. You’re right that many runners are not as “healthy” as it may seem…however, that brings us back to some of the points made in Laura’s posts that healthy could mean something different for different people. I’ve sort of been thinking of “health” as a continuum, because its so hard to say that one person is healthy and another is disordered, while many could be a little bit of both, if that makes sense?
    I think I shy away from sharing strong opinions on topics related to eating because I believe there are a lot of grey areas. I really like reading other peoples posts about the topics which gives me a chance to form some sort of opinion and contribute to the discussion- but I think the key is being able to “discuss” without judging. However- you also bring up a good point about bloggers who may be demonstrating self-destructive behaviors but are not open to suggestions or help. As I learn more about health I try to promote a healthy lifestyle but it can be really challenging to change people’s views when they are already set in their ways. Someone I know in real life is struggling with an issue and despite how much her family and friends have tried to make her see the problem she is still in denial. I can only imagine how much harder it is to encourage change over social media.
    Thanks for sharing the article about Brooke- I somehow have no come across it yet but I find it unbelievable! It just as upsetting how so many people responded negatively.
    This was a really thought-provoking post, and I think you should do posts like this more!

    • Wow Lisa, thanks so much for that great comment!

      And you’re absolutely right – health isn’t an absolute thing, but rather a very individual thing. That is why it was important for me to bring in Laura’s awesome ‘Healthy’ posts …

      Because when I started writing this and the eating disorder thing was in my head, I ‘wrote’ the post as I ran and I thought to myself “you judgmental f&*ktard, who are YOU to pass any type of critique about this stuff?!?” So I think the whole thing for me is about trying to be honest with each other as much as we can.

      It is really hard stuff – and I don’t want to trivialize it … I mean, I am not a young guy, and I know it is still an issue – and really has been for 25 years!

      I do like writing these things, but they are *exhausting* 😀

  6. The biggest change I have seen in your blog over the past couple of weeks is that you are being you and having more fun with it – isn’t that what blogging is supposed to be about, having fun an being able to look back at what you wrote a year or two down the road and smile or figure out what you are doing differently than you were then – especially if what you were doing then worked :-).

    As a society we avoid stepping on other people’s toes and avoiding the difficult or distasteful conversations that point out what others are saying and what we are seeing – honestly. As the saying goes, we all do have the responsibility to do the “right” thing even though it is not the easy thing. Our conscience has to be the guide we use.

    My blog vacation is almost over and I am glad that I did it and like you I have gone through and updated/pruned my RSS feeds to focus more on the blogs that I can have a conversation with instead of just following all the blogs out there related to my interests. I think that I will have more fun with my blogging this way too :-).

    • Thanks Harold – that is very, very true! By freeing myself of artificial constraints and any concern about size or growth or stats I could just focus on writing, whether for an audience or not.

      As for being ‘PC’, it is as we tell our kids – we should always be polite, but being honest and being nice are not always the same thing!

  7. Thanks for listing me in the “new friends” section, I’m honored.

    When I read the first topic in your post, about people who talk about food as fuel then restrict to feel super lean, I thought “oh no, he’s talking about me”. I’m still working on the post exploring hitting the wall in the marathon, but spoiler alert…to avoid a bloated feeling in my abdomen, I restricted my intake too much in the 1.5 days before the race, completely under fueled and bonked as a result. I’m chalking it up as a learning experience and plan on doing it better next time.

    In the spirit of your post, I’ll be sure to comment the frank/honest truth (or opinion) on one of your articles if I think a contrarian position is needed. But not today, its my birthday, so I’m gonna grab a cold one and chill out.

    • Woohoo – happy birthday (belated)! And I hope you had a great Mother’s Day and spoiled your wife and had good family time!

      And I know you’ve been working on how to fit doing weight watchers with training and heavy mileage and I know from experience that is no trivial task! So no, not talking about you 🙂

  8. I can’t wait to check out many of the blogs you list. Yours is an opinion I respect and I expect many of those you list will be ones I enjoy as well. I’m also honored to be included as a new friend! I’ve always been more of a blog reader than a writer, and even when time is short, yours always makes the cut!

    • So reading the first that I picked at random now (T-Rex Runner) and realizing she also did the Bataan Death March Memorial Marathon the same year that I did (though we were in different divisions, since I ran with a pack). I knew it! I knew I’d like the blogs you recommended! Thanks for making my Saturday!

      • Awesome – I love Danielle, she is such a great person and has been through a lot between her eating disorder and injuries, and health effects from her ED.

  9. Being a new blogger I came into this completely naive, but in the past month I have been quickly educated on some of the issues you mentioned. And thank you for writing this post, because I kind of though maybe I was the only one going crazy! Coming from a recent time of overtraining, it has been disturbing to see a lot of clearly disordered eating and exercise patterns on blogs that are supposedly promoting health.

    In reference to “cardio isn’t a food group” you could have read my mind over the past month! I have also had to reflect on some of my own hypocrises, particularly the “listen to your body” and then not do it. My post on “seizing the free moment” tackled that a little but it’s an ongoing issue for me. I can already see that there are certain blogs I should never read, since they just trigger unnecessary self doubt in me!

    Thanks for your honesty, I love your blog and your mindset 🙂

    • Thanks Michele – really glad I found your blog as well! Glad that was helpful – I know the healthy/unhealthy thing bugged me but as I was learning as a new blogger I stayed (mostly) quiet for the first few months. And when all the comments were ‘so true, good point, totally agree, etc’ it is even harder to come in with a WTF comment! 🙂

      One thing that is definitely true – we are all much better at handing out advice than we are at listening ourselves! haha – I certainly know it is true for me.

  10. I agree with all of this. So much to say about each of these things, but I will be brief, because I think that you have hit the nail on the head again and again. I agree with number 1, obviously, and I agree just as much with number 2–it is our job as public writers to control our own story and also to use that story to give us our own wake up calls, sometimes. Sometimes we have to lead ourselves by our own example–if we find ourselves rejigging our stories in order to be more publicly acceptable, that should be a huge wake up call. Unfortunately, and I am saying this with brutal honesty, you and I and our friends are honestly more intuitive and perhaps smarter than many of the people that are blogging as well as reading right now. On the other hand, sometimes people don’t realize how they come across. It is a difficult line. My goal is to always be authentic to myself and to retain my integrity as a blogger and a person. It is the same way I live my life, and a great way to keep myself responsible for my actions.
    I imagine that Brooke’s story was especially poignant for you, after your own weight loss. I think the message of Brooke’s story–the fact that “underneath all that skin” there is a body and, more importantly, a mind and soul that has become healthy through self love–is completely obscured by the skin that obscures the muscles beneath, and the focus on the superficial. I, like Lauren, heard about Brooke’s story before it broke in the media through Girls Gone Sporty, and it made me both happy (to see real weightloss illustrated) but also sad because I knew what the reaction to her body would be–disgust. Especially because you are dealing with Self magazine, which is a publication that focuses on the exterior–a magazine like Elle might have been a better choice because it has a more cerebral audience and stories, even dealing with weight loss. Another tough and thin (no pun intended) line to toe.
    Great discussion, as usual!

    • Wow – thanks so much for the thoughts … great, great stuff. I think it is important to have people who give us a reality check from time to time. I remember someone – I think it was Lisa @ runningoutofwine who commented on some of my training saying if I mixed in more cross-training and speedwork I could likely get more performance … and I had to basically say that I was willing to accept the limits of my mediocre training (i.e. just running) on my overall progress.

      And yeah, I really think you nailed the ‘Brooke’ issues well – the body shaming and disgust and more. And I think that the people who were going nto give up losing weight if loose skin is the outcome are totally missing the point of the improved health.

  11. THIS is the reason that while I just “marked all as read” for the second time in my life on my overwhelming Feedly list (this is a big step for me!), I kept your posts to read. You always make me think, and I almost always agree with your points (and when I don’t, I love the discussion). Thank you for keeping it real on here, it’s something so rare and under appreciated in the I-just-blog-to-be-popular blogworld we sometimes live in. I think I need a little blog clean out, too, because I’m a “Health Blog Junkie” as Lindsay (one of my favorites!) posted about today: http://www.cottercrunch.com/2014/05/health-blog-junkie/

    • Thanks Megan, you definitely keep me thinking as well with your unique perspective and way of looking at things! I always feel that if I am not wrong about something every day then I might be dead 😉 I would rather learn something than just be right – and many of these things are either scientifically ambiguous or matters of opinion, so healthy debate is always good.

      And keeping reading under control is always tough!

  12. As you know (I think?), I totally agree with what you are saying here (and thanks for linking to my posts. I’m working really hard on being authentic in my blog and my life – I don’t ever want to portray someone that could be discouraging to someone else. I really liked Brooke’s story – and personally, it helped me to feel better about my body right now (not two years ago, when I was 12, etc). It makes me sad when women are hard on women, especially because I know we’ve all been socialized to think we should look a certain way. It’s sad. And really hard for me to read, especially since I still feel so negative about how I look and feel.

    And I so totally agree with you in the underage blog followers thing. They’re great, and I’m glad that they are expressing themselves through blogging, but sometimes I feel like my content isn’t censored for the youth, and if it was, I’d probably try to write different things (I.e. More positive, self-esteem enhancing)

  13. Pingback: Monday Rant – Crap That Annoyed Me Last Week | Running Around the Bend

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