Exercise Update

Athena ScalziBack in November, my dad and I started working out together at Planet Fitness. My goal at the time was to lose twenty pounds by March. It seemed realistic and achievable to me, given the time frame.

Alas, that didn’t end up happening. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve even gained weight since then.

After about a month of going to the gym, I got COVID for the third time. Obviously, I didn’t go to the gym while sick. Even after testing negative and not having symptoms, I still needed to rest and recover more. Then, less than a week later, I got regular sick, and it kicked my ass worse than COVID did. Then it was my birthday and Christmas and New Years and obviously I wasn’t going to go to the gym then.

Now it’s a week away from being March, and I haven’t been in the gym since basically the beginning of December.

Why was March my goal? Well, honestly, I wanted to be under 200 pounds for the JoCo Cruise. And at this point I’m not really sure why, considering the JoCo Cruise-goers are some of the nicest, understanding, non-judgmental people ever, especially when it comes to how someone looks. I seriously doubt anyone on the boat will care if I’m 195 or 215, so why do I care so much? I guess there’s some deep rooted ideas in my head about “beach bodies”, intentionally losing weight for a trip, and eating less before a vacation so that you’re technically “allowed” to pig out on vacay.

Appearance reasons aside, there’s also the reason of I don’t fit in my clothes from last year, and I need new dresses, shorts, t-shirts, etcetera, to wear on the boat. While I used to love shopping and honestly had a bit of an addiction for it, that has kind of disappeared as I’ve gained weight because I’m so upset with how my body looks and feels in everything I wear. So, now I have to go shopping not because I actually want to, but because I need bigger clothes, and that feels not great.

Generally, I try not to talk about my weight or my body often, because I feel like if I let myself talk about it, it’ll be the only thing I ever talk about. My brain is so filled to the brim with constant thoughts about food, weight, my body, my eating habits, I know that if I opened the flood gates, it wouldn’t stop pouring out. And honestly, I don’t want it to seem like I’m constantly throwing myself a pity party, so I don’t talk about it much. Even this post feels like me giving you excuses as to why I look the way I look, it’s just a thinly veiled plea for you not to judge my appearance, or maybe it’s actually just me fishing for reassurance.

Isn’t that why everyone talks about their weight? To explain away all the reasons they gained twenty pounds, or to have people say “you’re not even fat!”. Or maybe that’s just why I do it.

I feel like if I talk about my eating habits, it’s just a window into my home of mental illnesses. Do I not exercise because I’m depressed? Do I have an addiction to sugar? Do I binge eat because eating is the only thing I enjoy doing?

As you can see, I kind of end up spiraling if I start talking about it. So I try not to. But knowing that so much of my body will be visible on the boat fills me with a certain kind of dread, and I guess I just wanted to talk about it, because keeping it bottled up in my brain is starting to get to me.

Part of wishes I could wear jeans and hoodies the entire cruise, the way I used to at summer camp even though it was eighty degrees out. But I’m not going to do that to myself. I’m going to wear shorts and dresses and swimsuits and I’m going to enjoy the sun and the water and all the food I want. And I hope you all do the same.


56 Comments on “Exercise Update”

  1. As an approved postscript, I’ll note Athena and I have vowed to return to the gym once we get back from the cruise. My personal take on this, which is reflected in my own attempt to come down from a top weight a few years ago, is that hitting the gym and exercising and taking care of one’s body is a long-term maintenance process rather than a short-term “fix.” Sometimes it goes the way we expect, sometimes not. But it’s never to late to keep working on it.

  2. I agree with Mr Scalzi. It’s not about the short-term but the long term. Putting on muscle and raising your base metabolism will result in long-term successful weight loss. There are also other quality-of-life benefits as a result of any regular exercise. I find that when I “fall off the wagon” I have more aches and pains, and more stomach issues.

  3. Good on you, Athena. Weight is a number, sometimes an important one but just a number. Go on the cruise, wear the clothes you want to wear and worry about the gym later. Denying yourself on the cruise can only feed insecurity issues that you do not need.

  4. I admire you for sharing this. I, too, have been trying to lose a few pounds, but things keep happening and I snack when stressed. I’m 63, abd I don’t worry as much about how I look. But I do get tired of having my hips hurt and having doctors tell me, “Well, you know…”
    Yes, yes I do know. Going on about it helps not at all.

  5. This is very relatable Athena and it’s a struggle I still go through as well, even with my mumblemumble birthday coming up in a few weeks. I still remember crying in a dressing room, trying to find a replacement for an old pair of jeans and not being happy with anything I saw.

    One of the big game changers for me was finding a company that made plus size clothes that were still fun and were made to flatter my size and shape, not just sized up but actually designed for plus size. Having those clothes in my closet really helped my mental state.

    And also realizing that my size was sold out a lot at stores, which – while frustrating – meant I wasn’t alone, that most of us are a size or two up from what fashion companies think.

    Anyway, I hope your brain stops giving you a hard time about all this and you can enjoy the cruise and the good times.

  6. You’ve described a struggle that’s so familiar to so many people, when the truth is that we’re so much more than our bodies. We’ve unfortunately been conditioned to judge ourselves rather mercilessly on metrics which mostly don’t even matter. I try to remember that what someone else thinks about me is none of my business, and that I’d prefer to spend my time on things that bring true meaning and joy to my life and to others.

  7. One day, the cruise will NOT be during my Spring Break and I will join for some sunshine shenanigans.

    In the mean time, I feel you on the frustration with the clothes and how they fit. My weight fluctuates a lot because of my stomach issues and while I’ve gotten more comfortable with higher numbers, the way clothing fits is something I’m still really sensitive to! Especially after several years of no hard pants.

    One of the things I’ve found most helpful for working gym time into my schedule is realizing how important physical activity is for my creative work. I really need some time when I can’t follow stray thoughts for them to build up in the background. It’s very similar to shower thinking time, but at the end of it, I’m stronger and remarkably less frustrated with the rest of the world despite little changing. If I just keep grinding on the work, and don’t take breaks to work on other literal muscles, I can’t grind as well.

  8. Athena, your last paragraph is especially right on the money. Hope you have a wonderful time!

    I started a diet toward the end of January, but fell off the wagon when my husband became ill and needed emergency surgery. I haven’t gone back since. But! I also started working with a personal trainer around the same time for resistance training, and that’s stuck. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, physically, and even though I’m not particularly watching what I eat, my body is reshaping itself, slowly but surely, and I’ve even lost a few pounds.

    My goal is to be able to live independently for the rest of my life (I’m presently 66).

    I’ve been worried about my weight since I was 12, and I’ve yoyoed so very much over the decades. I don’t wish that for you. But I hope you find your way to happiness.

  9. Since I retired a few years ago, my own weight has slowly been creeping up. Not happy about seeing the number on the scale begin with a “2” instead of a “1”.

    But I’ll try to use your piece here as inspiration to dust off the treadmill I’ve neglected the past several months and start using it regularly (or at least semi-regularly) again. So, thanks for the reminder! And good luck with your own efforts.

    (Covid three times? Yikes! You didn’t go to the gym while sick, but can’t help wondering if someone else did and that’s how you got re-infected….)

  10. Hi Athena,
    Good on you for sharing! I’m in my 60’s now and have spent years working on my “body fitness”. I have found that it’s better for my brain to look at losing weight/getting fit as a long term project that will improve my health for later years…..not a diet. I like to look at losing weight for my whole body health rather than how I look…..maintaining my healthy weight helps prevent lots of bad stuff down the road. Keep on moving forward and have some fun!😊

  11. Athena, I really love your commitment to dress comfortably on the JoCo cruise and not give in to shame. That is a mentally healthy choice and it shows good strength of character. You are so wise to recognize that weight numbers are arbitrary, it shows that underneath all that’s agonizing, you understand that being physically and mentally healthy is your goal, not a number on a scale. I love that you keep getting up and trying again to live a healthy life. I bet your family are really really proud of you (sure sounds like your Dad is, and he’s a good judge of character).

    And… I’m so with you on the shopping. I have a sort of healthy-ish weight right now, but I keep bouncing around in body shape over the past few years of the Pandemic as I take better or worse care of myself. I work hard to focus on living a healthy life as my goal, but changing weight does mean my clothes sometimes don’t fit and who has TIME to go shopping all the time! And I’d SO much rather spend my money elsewhere. I love the commenters giving good advice about places to find plus sized clothes, I hope you find a way to shop that’s fun! I soooooo get not wanting to have to!

  12. I agree with the others who have said that weight is just a number and overall physical and mental health is really the important thing. Do what is best for yourself. And enjoy the cruise!

  13. Been there, done that. In my old age I realized that the really important thing is to exercise so as to preserve your bones, to strengthen your joints, and to keep you able to move. To me, that would be the goal, I think the rest follows.

  14. It really bothers me how much this society does to convince almost everyone that their bodies are in some way wrong. No one deserves to think that about themselves. I think worrying this much is a pretty natural response to being bombarded with horrible messaging about body-image from the surroundings (even when parents are careful about it). You, I, and everyone deserve better. I think there are going to have to be some major changes.

  15. I’ve gained weight since starting exercising too– muscle weighs more than fat (but takes up less space). Weight isn’t a very good measure of health. I am so much more fit than I was when I started this summer. I’m stronger and have better endurance.

    Also: re: working out, what has got me to keep doing it is having a personal trainer. Someone I am paying to keep tabs on me and who knows what they’re doing and can adjust things when I invariably injure myself. I use the online program that Wheezywaiter advertises (Co-Pilot) and it is fantastic, but if you’re going into an actual gym it would probably be better to have an in-person trainer. YMMV though!

  16. Athena- obviously I don’t know you but feel as if I’d just like to give you a hug. You’re smart and beautiful. And I definitely enjoy most of your posts on the blog. (your dad was the gateway drug). As a woman, most of us are weight-obsessed. It’s programming that doesn’t go away. And there are definitely health reasons to not be too overweight. But one day, one step at a time could help. Be good to yourself and do what you can when you can. It takes a long time but if you can find something that works for you, it’ll happen. In the meantime, enjoy the cruise! Lots of us will be there in spirit.

  17. The story of my life, Athena. I’m facing a conference full of people who probably don’t care how I look but you never know. And I didn’t lose a single pound either.

  18. What worked for me when I lost over 100 pounds was building exercise into my daily life (using my bike to commute for instance) combined with calorie counting. Unfortunately life happened (retired, moved twice, mom’s death, covid) and i have not been able to maintain that weight. I lost both my good calorie counting habits and my exercise built into my life habit. It’s so much easier to not do that stuff even when you know you should. The struggle is real and it is ongoing. Take joy in as much as you can, give yourself some slack, and have a fantastic time on the cruise.

  19. I don’t have a huge amount of advice, other than empathy for the huge amount of head and heart space body image/ weight loss/diet culture takes up in many people, especially women. I appreciate the ways you are doing your best to deconstruct parts of that programming, while also acknowledging an interest in changing habits. I have no idea if this will be useful for you, but I just listened to an episode of Kendra Adachi’s Lazy Genius podcast called “How to Kindly Navigate a Changing Body” and found it so full of care and love and acknowledgement of how tricky this issue is and also how important it is to continue to care for one’s body even when one also wants to be a different size. I highly recommend it. But mostly sending you lots of love as you work through these difficult issues.

  20. Athena:

    Vulnerable and honest post. Thank you.

    I am a formally obese guy, who is now a fitness fanatic. I lost 90 pounds, and run marathons, ultras, lift weights, and feel good about myself, and feel that I am healthy and doing my future self a favor by maintaining the machine.

    I had many false starts on my journey, but here’s what works for me.

    Don’t shame yourself. Don’t make excuses. Don’t entertain reasons or even think about why you are not where you want to be physically. It’s immaterial and unhelpful. You are where you are and the only thing that’s important are the decisions you make going forward. Accept what is.
    If you want to make changes, set a date when it’s practical. You want to have a solid month without vacations or parties or events that are going to tempt you into breaking your resolutions. You want that time to build your habits. Once it’s a habit, it’s less of a discipline cost to maintain.
    Don’t become. Be. What really worked for me is I created a fantasy character in my head. His name was Ragnar and he was basically a cross between Conan the Barbarian and Tarzan. In my fantasy, I was Ragnar, and I had been magically transplanted into my (very non-Ragnar) body by unknown magic. Of course, since I was Ragnar mentally, this meant that I would still act and think like Ragnar. I would do the things that Ragnar does and my body would inevitably become more Ragnarish as a result.

    “Cookies? Ragnar does not eat cookies! What is this biscuit of weaknesses? bah!”

    Ragnar can’t get to the gym? Not a problem Ragnar works out at home. He Carrie’s rocks around the yard. Does squats, push-ups, takes ice baths to be show toughness.

    The more I channeled my Ragnar persona, the better I did.

    I really can’t stress the importance of this to me. I spent a lot of time thinking about Ragnar, creating a backstory. Deciding what he was like. What he would and wouldn’t do and eat. What his attitudes were. Ragnar was not very sympathetic to my whining. He saw things in black and white. He was a bit of an asshole in some ways. But I became Ragnar when I was working out or eating, or doing other things that Ragnar was responsible for. I was also pretty careful to put Ragnar away when he was not appropriate. Ragnar might teach his children to swim by hurtling them into icy streams unexpectedly, But that didn’t mean that I could or should. Ragnar was strictly confined to his responsibilities.

    But he made it easier to be disciplined. I could look at a bag of potato chips and instantly I would feels Ragnar’s disdain.

    Create your version of a Ragnar, make him/her practical and then use that persona to help you.

    You need a really simple plan, and you almost want to start from scratch.

    I allowed myself eggs, baked chicken, lean steak, baked fish, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, onions, garlic, romaine lettuce in unlimited quantities. I would sauté my vegetables in a teaspoon of olive oil. I’d season lightly with basic seasonings and hot sauce and I would make a lot and keep it in the refrigerator so there was always something there if I was hungry. I also allowed myself either an apple, a pear, an orange or other single piece of fruit once a day.

    I had no bread or sugar and it was really hard for a little less than a week. After that, it was easy. I did not miss them.

    Months into the process bad things would still happen. Somebody would bring donuts in and I would lose it and eat like 5 of them. When that happens it doesn’t change anything. That was hard to learn. I still need to go home and eat my chicken and broccoli. I still need to exercise. What I don’t need to do is feel shame or worry about it. I just need to get past knowing that I am going to occasionally have failures of discipline. Ragnar screws up too, but those are the exceptions. They are not who Ragnar is.

    Sign up for a race 6-12 months in the future. Something scary and seemingly out of reach. A marathon or a half-marathon. Now you have a concrete task you need to
    Perform. To get ready you need to go for a run today. Can’t run? You can walk. You can ride an exercise bike. You can do jumping jacks. Try to do something everyday that is moving you towards being able to do that race. If the date comes and you are not ready, don’t do it. Sign up another one down the road and keep training, and improving until you are ready. Than do it. Or not. Doesn’t matter, the race isn’t the point. The point is to get yourself to where you could.

    Fine tune and change all this as experience and circumstance dictates.

    Anyway, that’s what worked for me. Maybe there is something there worthwhile for you.

  21. Accept where you are. Try not to punish yourself. If you love yourself for who your are, that is the first stepping stone.

    Gotta go, I’ve got an urgent call from Kettle.

  22. Losing 20 pounds is a nice, healthy goal. Time limitations–any time limitations–are not, in my opinion. It’s way too easy to fall into bad habits, to obsess . . . in short, to be mentally unhealthy if you’ve got any kind of a time requirement. Be comfortable, enjoy yourself, and put the weight on the back burner. You are a lovely young woman and you have a life time to decide what weight is comfortable and healthy for you. I applaud your decision in the final paragraph: life is too short to put off enjoying. Period. Bon voyage!

  23. Athena,

    Many of the comments above about how you bring your emotions and such to the gym are very, very relevant. Gym buddies help in the sense they drag you there when you are feeling down or lethargic.

    But the better suggestion I have is consider something in terms of a physical activity that does motivate you. Running never worked for me – trust me I tried. Riding my bike on warm sunny days did, but I live in Vancouver Canada where it rains a lot. I found martial arts, and it became a passion. I loved working out, and even on the days I dragged myself to class what I found was it really picked me up.

    So you have to find something that appeals and keeps drawing you back. Try some, experiment. You may find a women’s recreational volleyball league where people play to have fun, and at the end someone asks does anyone know what the score was, and no one knows, but you laughed, sweated, cursed [when you botched something you could do] and had a great time anyways.

    It’s not so much the weight as the health benefits of being active.

    There are so many choices, go have some fun.


  24. You might want to read Penn Jillette’s book Presto!, describing how he lost over 100 pounds. His motivations weren’t his looks, but his health.

  25. When I was recovering from an eating disorder, one thing that was incredibly valuable for me was a hunger chart. I had lost track of what it felt like to actually be hungry or full, and I needed to reset. There are some charts online that you can find, or you can make your own. You track each time you eat. They usually list things like how hungry you felt on a 1-10 scale, what physical sensations you had, what emotions you felt (before and after eating for all of those). Some ask for what food you ate and how much. That part is iffy to me – could be triggering or help make a restrictive eating disorder worse, but it could be helpful if, say, it were to help one realize that every time they eat X food they just had a stressful experience or something like that – so they could start thinking, “gee, when I am craving this thing, maybe I need to think about how else to soothe myself” or something. I found it helpful. It’s not about losing or gaining weight, just about understanding your hunger.

  26. Absolutely agree with MichaelH above. If you don’t like going to the gym, you won’t go to the gym. Find a form of exercise that you LIKE. That is fun. That motivates you. Walk a 5k and see if that finish line and that medal bring you enough joy to want to do it faster. If not, try something else. Try kickboxing. Try a dragonboat rowing group. Try something like November Project if there’s one anywhere near you. Try Orange Theory. Recruit a friend of two on this journey with you, because it’s so much easier when you’re all guilting each other. Keep exploring until you find something that’s fun, not work. If it’s fun, it becomes a hobby, and a hobby that also keeps you fit is a completely obtainable goal. Just gotta find it.

  27. I empathize with you (as do many here) and I also admire you for writing such an open an honest post.

    I’m another one who has fallen off the gym wagon these last few months; my husband and I usually do an early morning online boot camp, but between moving house last year and the winter weather, we have not been as good about maintaining that as usual. However, spring started this week, and with the warmer weather comes the opportunity for working out more comfortably, which we are taking advantage of! I look forward to feeling the benefits of this; I feel sluggish at the moment which is no good.
    You’re also not alone in wanting to lose a few pounds, or in eating too much sugar. I’m not religious, but maybe the idea of giving up sugar (or at least cutting back on it) for Lent this year might not be a bad one.
    Maybe I also will do as another poster here suggested; sign up for a race and get training…

    Enjoy the cruise :-)

  28. I have watched my mother diet or restrict her eating in one way or another (no gluten, no dairy, no carbs, etc etc) my whole life. It’s not always about weight loss but always a search for self improvement, for worthiness, that this time this method will somehow “fix” her, make her ok.

    In response, I have strong negative responses to all the messages sent by popular/diet culture about how thinness/smallness is better, more valued, more admired.

    It’s a constant struggle to keep it all at bay as the images and messages are EVERYWHERE. The thing I find most helpful is Eve Ensler talking about “loving your tree”


    We are all trees, and a tiny sapling is no more or less beautiful or worthy than a giant oak, or a baobab. My tree is short and curvy and starting to get thicker, rougher bark, but it is strong, and I enjoy the sun on my leaves and the wind in my branches. I am beautiful as I am.

  29. Re: all the people saying just find an exercise you love and there’s no problem

    For some of us there is no loved exercise. None. I’ve lived more than 2x as long as Athena has and haven’t found an exercise I even like, at least not one that I can do where I live. (Hiking in beautiful cool weather in places with elevation is fun… but I have to take a plane to do that– not realistic.)

    And that’s ok. Sometimes we need some other kind of trick to get us to move. There’s nothing wrong with that. I really enjoyed John Green’s 100 days series on youtube where he gets a personal trainer and starts running marathons and hates every single second of it. But he does it anyway and it has positive effects on his health including his mental health (it seems to help with his ocd IIRC?) Like, I get that, and personally found it more motivating than the runners who are always trying to get people to love running. I’m never going to love running. Some people do, but that’s not me.

  30. My opinion that you didn’t ask for: throw away that idea of dieting or your body needing to be a certain size or shape. The only “work” you need to do is to feel as good as possible.

  31. I think gymnasiums are the best. Some areas (rural) are too boring for me (or you) to try walking, but where I am now when I walk I get weight results.

    I guess if I was an artist, then everywhere I could walk would be an interesting chance to look and see.

    Also, when I walk on vacation enough to have tired legs, other people notice my weight loss when I return.
    Actually, I’m on vacation right now, but I’ve been having potato chips (crisps) in my hotel, so I hope that didn’t screw things up.

  32. Athena, there’s a searing honesty in your posts. Never lose that. It will serve you well in your journey through life.

    I’m sure you’ll get an outpouring of support, which you deserve. Here’s mine. Given as a life-long fat person, with occasional incursions into the Land of the Thin.

    Love yourself, not a number. Chasing a number will not make you happy, neither will achieving that number. No matter what the scale says, you will still be you, and that will determine whether you are happy with yourself or not. No matter the number, your body can still do amazing things. It can be strong, it can be flexible, it can be beautiful, it can carry you on amazing adventures. It deserves to be loved, no matter your mass. I include your mind with the body…love that too.

    Learn to love you as you are, and it will make it easier to achieve the goals that really matter: health at any size, strength, and emotional equilibrium, by removing the obstacles that prevent you from succeeding. Get off the damn scale and go by how your clothing fits, and how you feel.

    One note. You live on a planet that is unforgiving in its gravity. Being heavier than you want to be will increase this burden, as will advancing years. Your knees and your heart will thank you for moving to a lower-gravity environment, or decreasing your mass. If you never do, though, you can still live an excellent life.

    That’s my main message…love YOU, for the unique and precious being you are. The rest will follow, or at least be easier to work for. Truly.

  33. The sad fact is that exercise doesn’t do much for weight control because it simply doesn’t use that many calories. You do it for other reasons like cardiovascular health. In fact, nothing much really works over the long haul. The body appears to have its idea of the perfect weight and adjusts your metabolism accordingly. 99% of all diets fail, and for the ones that do succeed, you have to basically make it your career. There isn’t much in the way of actual research on what might work (well, except for some very expensive drugs) because we tend to view it as a personal failing, not a natural phenomenon.

  34. Over the past several months my weight has dropped from nearly 270 to 236. Today I got the the dreaded Big C diagnosis, and after meeting with the surgeon, who discussed that diagnosis with me, I stopped into my family doctor’s office downstairs in the CAMC Staff building…

    He told me it was a good thing that I had some extra fat, I was going to lose it all over the next year of treatment. Was very supportive, although I’m still mostly overwhelmed. After the Chemo they will remove a lot of parts I love very much. I’m so glad to have puppies to cuddle with going forward.

    Enjoy the cruise, always seems like a great time is had by all!!

  35. Even this post feels like […] or maybe it’s actually just me fishing for reassurance.

    Thank you for sharing with us. I know body weight and appearance and fitness are touchy subjects.

    I hope you don’t feel bad or like a failure with your gym experience here. Losing 20 pounds in 4 months was a very ambitious goal, Covid don’t help, and losing zero pounds in that time is what most people who try this will end up doing. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

    Are you interested in specific comments/feedback about training & weight loss? I have some experience here – I’ve been working on this for like 15 years myself, mostly for similar reasons of appearance and fitting-in-to-my-old-clothes. To the point where I as well have at times largely lost my taste for clothes shopping. Might be helpful; might be obnoxious.

    I think you’re gonna be just fine on the JoCo Cruise as you are, and wearing what you want. And I hope you have a great time!


  36. Scalzi said:

    | My personal take on this […] is that hitting the gym and exercising and taking care of one’s body is a long-term maintenance process rather than a short-term “fix.”

    100% this. Fitness and exercise and weight management is a lifestyle, not a project, and takes place over years. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to sell you something.

  37. Oh, my, dear, yes. All of this. Every bit of it.

    If you’ll take some insight from someone who is on the same road but, if I may say so, much farther down it. Or at least likely to be, given our relative ages. I have thought every single thing you listed (except for liking clothes shopping). It’s no fun and hard to get over/around/learn to ignore.

    With time and pratice, I learned to ignore that evil voice in the back of my head that criticized my looks, my efforts, my everything. It did take time and it was worth the effort. Now I care if my body is healthy and that I’m giving it what it needs so I won’t be decrepit when I’m elderly. Size per se is no longer the issue although I will admit to getting annoyed if I have to go shopping.

    It’s a long term effort, both the mental and the physical. Whatever you do or don’t do, the results will likely last as long as the doing (or not doing).

    Finally, keep in mind the parable of planting the apple tree. The best time to plant an apple tree is 50 years ago; the next best time is today.

  38. Why did you pick the JoLo Cruise as a target date? Because it was between a coupla months and several months away. That’s all.
    Is there something in the late summer, early fall for you to target?
    But then, for next winter, how about thinking of going to Boskone? Early February. You can get a rainbow-colored “My First Boskone” ribbon. You could persuade your parents to come, and your father could have a “Past GoH” ribbon.
    If the weather isn’t dreadful, we can do “Walking with the SMOFs” or, if your dad comes, “Walking with the Stars.” Hmmm?

  39. You deserve joy.

    JoJo sounds like the only cruise I would even consider. I hope it is wonderful for all of you.

  40. Athena, listening to you talk, I’m assuming that picture of you next to the post is of somebody else?

    Seriously, you’re gorgeous!

    And as for exercise: do it. Not to lose weight. Not to look good, for whatever value of $GOOD. But because you feel 500% better. Moving through the day is easier, getting things done is easier, your mood doesn’t drag you down. It’s worth every minute of doing it.

    And if it’s all just too big a chore? Make it a small one: a research article I saw a couple of months ago showed that people (older people, not spring chickens in their 20s!) show measurable increase in muscle strength from a mere three minutes (3) of an exercise each day. If you want to really push yourself? Do three minutes several times a day :lol:

    Have fun on the trip!

  41. Athena, you mentioned depression. I know it’s incredibly hard to dredge up the energy for it when you’re depressed, but motion – any kind, not just at the gym – really does help a lot. Yes, exercise is good for your body and for helping with weight issues but it can also work wonders for your state of mind, even something as simple and low-key as walking. As to losing weight, don’t stress yourself too much. When you’re ready, try to set little goals for yourself. Losing twenty pounds – sure, that would be great, but what if you set out to lose five pounds instead? Or even just two? Give yourself little goals, easier to reach, quicker to accomplish and more reasons to celebrate along the way. Just a thought!

  42. Hang in there!
    I’ve been struggling with my weight for years, and my personal experience is that “keeping at it” is a lot easier than “restarting”. Starting to go again will be pretty hard (but you can do it!) but it gets easier after a bit

  43. So about 15 years ago I got a new ID badge for work. The camera flash failed so the white balance was off, and I was coming down with the flu and felt terrible. I was also 90 pounds over what I weighed in the Army. (Me in the Army: https://flic.kr/p/6igUhq ) So I looked like a fat, stoned, oompah loompa.

    And then the picture of me in the wetsuit. Wetsuits are skintight and, well: https://flic.kr/p/6q49Kv

    So I started walking a lot, cooking for myself from scratch more so I know what I’m eating, and eating smaller portions. After losing about 25 pounds over a few years I bought a bicycle and started riding. A lot. 6000 miles last year. Over several more years I lost another 30 pounds or so. Now my weight runs from 25 to 30 pounds over my army weight. I could lose more, but I like ice cream a couple times a week, and homemade cookies at the AA meetings.

  44. If I had any advice that actually worked I’d be 40 pounds lighter. I will say that if I buy bigger clothes I just expand to fill them. Ugh.

  45. I am glad(?) to see that I can still relate to the younger generations, who aren’t my actual children. Though for different reasons but with so many linked threads.

    I too am carrying around about 20 lbs. that just weren’t there 18 months ago, have fallen off any semblance of wheel conveyance when it comes to my fitness routine, and still love me the donuts and pastries and chocolates that are completely unavoidable between October and now (dang Girl Scouts hounding me every time I turn around). I really don’t even want to get into how none of my pants, except for my running tights, fit right anymore which of course wasn’t so much of a problem when I didn’t have to head into the office and deal with other people in-person.

    But, and I know as a balding middle-aged married white male this will sound a lot like it is coming from your dad and totally acknowledge the heavy dad- energy behind this, none of this defines us as a person. As long as you are not lashing out and causing harm to yourself or others then there is still hope that you will find peace, if not joy, in being the fabulous young woman that you are. Our meatbags are just vessels for our sparks of essence and occasional resting spaces for our animal companions.

    If a cat, or dog, or horse, or iguana, or emu, or whatever finds you worthy of their companionship then YOU ARE WORTHY.

    Have fun on the cruise doing dorky things with dorky people making dorky memories that should last a lifetime. My dorky cohort are trail runners and their enablers who congregate in CO each August for the TransRockies Run. I learned that anime/comic conventions left me feeling frustrated at my lack of cosplay capabilities and enabled my hoarding of physical media so have tuned out from that area that was so engaging to me at your age. Live and learn I suppose.

    Thanks for sharing

  46. Exercise matters, but you have to change how you eat, too. I dropped 70lbs and kept it off with nothing other than dietary changes and a bicycle, and I could have done it without the bike.

    If you want to drop fat, cut out sugar in all it’s forms. That means breads (most grains, in fact) and starchy foods like rice, potatoes, and other root vegetables. As my doctor put it, “Don’t eat white things.” Eat lots and lots and lots of leafy greens and lean proteins like fish and chicken. Look for high fiber foods with a low net carb count. Cut out alcohol. Don’t eat at night, or before you go to sleep. Snack lightly throughout the day rather than binging at lunch and dinner.

    Do that hard core for three weeks and you will drop at least 5lbs easy. You won’t be hungry as your body will be using stored fat for energy instead of the glucose from food you eat. You will feel great and your workouts will be much more productive.

    When you’ve reached a place you like, add in some of the stuff you’ve denied yourself. Add in as much as you can until you are maintaining a weight you’re happy with. That will be how you eat from now on. And that is the hard part.

    It might seem hard at first, but teach yourself to love food. The list of food I don’t like literally has two items on it, so my “good eating” selection is really wide. People hooked on sugar (and it is addicting) sometimes struggle a bit, though.

    Good luck in any case.

  47. A beach body is any body that is on a beach.

    I hope your depression gets better and you are able to enjoy more things.

    I especially hope you have a great time on the cruise.

  48. Hi, there. I loved the Ragnar example of naming some inner quality and making that a part of your life. I’ve done that in the past, and think maybe the inner saboteur that keeps saying let’s eat a whole lot needs a name, so you can call them on that. For me it’s one day at a time, as AA says. Just for today I will do my exercises. Just for today I will follow the diet I know works for me. Today I will tell the saboteur, maybe we’ll bake tomorrow. Just now it’s Lent; even if you’re not religious, there’s nothing to keep you from making a vow for Lent, doing something or not doing something. I find it’s an everyday thing, though. Just one day at a time. And it’s time for my stretches.

  49. Have a great time on the cruise – get lots of sun, dance every night, splash in the pool. Food is one of life’s pleasures, like sex or literature. I’m glad you enjoy it. And you are very beautiful!

    I truly believe that no food is BAD. Heroin is bad. A cookie is just a cookie. Convenience foods are often convenient, pasta is delicious and comforting, and lunch with friends is good for the soul. I do like the idea of eating mindfully, but it isn’t always possible. The only eating plan I was ever able to follow was Weight Watchers, but they push so many of their own products that I am leery of them now. And I am not sure the answer to worrying about your weight is thinking about food even MORE – counting calories, tracking bites etc. Maybe for a month.

    Anyhoo, good luck, and in the words of Warren Zevon, enjoy every sandwich.

  50. Athena, I am like so many here in that (1) I have advice–and, I hope, useful information–for you, and (2) I’m in my 60s.

    You mentioned “constantly thinking about food.”

    My information: Binge Eating Disorder. The DSM (Diagnostic Manual) officially recognizes it as an eating disorder. This recent change answers my old anger that the diagnosis of bulimia was just like me, except I didn’t purge after overeating. (I didn’t binge until ill, but I often ate all of a food until my stomach hurt.)

    My advice: it was worth it to me to get diagnosed with BED. Why? (1) It helps me treat myself more gently. (2) I got a therapist who actually specializes in the disorder. (3) It convinces enlightened MDs that I need more than willpower or “overeaters anonymous.”

    At first, I fretted that the diagnosis might just be pandering to rich patients. Then I got put on a drug to help with my diabetes. (It’s Ozempic AKA semaglutide, but this was 20 months ago when it was not yet in headlines as an off-label weight loss phenom.)

    The drug’s main effect was to “turn off” my constant thoughts about food. (I also got lower blood sugar and lost some weight.) Now I know what it’s like to have “normal” feelings about food, and I know that my 60+ years of struggles were NOT normal. Sadly, this big effect has worn off a bit.

    In case this sounds too starry-eyed, I’ll admit I haven’t solved my activity-fitness issues. But I can tackle it with a somewhat smaller body.

  51. YMMV

    we all mean well, and some of us have live experience or insights or tips — or rather tips-tricks-traps-techniques — of potential interest

    but… YMMV

    one piece of unsolicited advice: keep perspective

    and there’s something I ran across today… cross-posted to Charlie Stross since there’s a bunch of others also wannabe authors… for you… a possible Netflix pitch to assemble background research and approximate an outline to pitch to your father to then polish prior to walking in…

    for anyone looking to add as subplot to a novel set in UK circa 1945, here’s an interesting but overlooked part of the ‘yankee invasion’

    “People of Birmingham, England, treated us as heroes”

    “…In Europe, the Black women [of the 6888th] were liberated from the Jim Crow laws that limited which establishments they could visit in parts of the US. They went out freely to restaurants and nightclubs…”

    given the hunger for content it’s a good bet Netflix will at least give you two minutes at their next cold pitch cattle call if you can figure out how to tell this story in eight episodes for less than USD$5M



    SIDENOTE: nepotism is only bad if someone lacks talent — such as demonstrated by the T(he)rump vile offspring — whereas your writing on this site is still rough but over this past year the edges are smoothing and there’s been better flow with fewer potholes tripping up your narratives… your father will only work on something of sufficient quality to warrant his time… you might still be a year short of that minimum… but you ought to always reach a big higher rather than stoop lower…

    big plus being you can try this in 2023 then archive it to dust off in 2025 for another draft…and yet again in 2027… after all WW2 is never going to go out of style and feminist content revealing achievement in face of all-the-world-against-them is always in style…

    go forth and prod buttock

  52. Since you mentioned that you are buying clothes anyway, you may want to think about whether a different personal style suits your body, tastes, and lifestyle better now that you are an adult. Most women change their style at different stages of their lives, partly because their bodies change with age, partly because they want to project a different image as professionals or parents or whatever, and partly because fashions change.

    Be aware that you have summer outfit options other than either bathing suits and shorts or jeans and hoodies.

    Obviously jeans and hoodies are terrible in hot weather. Jeans make you hot because they are tight with no airflow and made of a really thick material. Also, they take forever to dry once they get wet, so that doesn’t sound ideal for a cruise. And of course hoodies are a layer to put on when it gets a little chilly outside so you probably don’t want to wear them in the blazing sun.

    Bathing suits are an obvious practical choice for swimming. You are allowed to show as much skin as you want at any size, and also, the body positivity police will not knock on your door if you prefer a one piece to a bikini or you choose to wear a cover up over your bathing suit while you are not swimming. Personally I really do not like just hanging out in public in a bathing suit as a woman in my 50s, but it is not as bad now that I can pretty easily find bathing suit bottoms with attached shorts or skirts.

    A loose fitting shirt made of a lightweight cotton fabric keeps you cooler than bare skin. It promotes airflow and protects you from sunburn. Light colors keep you cooler, but you can choose between white, warm or cool off white shades, pastels, pale neutrals, or prints. If I were going on the cruise I would take several loose button-down shirts made of a very thin cotton. I would have a white shirt, at least two of my favorite bright pastels, and at least one loud pattern. I have found this to be an extremely versatile hot weather layer, and I wear a shirt like this nearly every day that I will spend much time outdoors in the heat. I sometimes wear the cotton shirt unbuttoned with a T shirt underneath. This creates a flattering line and frames my favorite T shirts.

    The loose lightweight cotton theme can be extended to other summer garments like flowy dresses, tie on skirts to wear over a bathing suit, and wide leg pants. Some of the pants options have a drawstring waist which means they work for a range of sizes. Shorts come in different lengths and styles. As with pretty much everything you wear in summer, looser garments keep you cooler than tight garments and often cooler than bare skin.

  53. As someone who was your weight at your age and am now obese, my experience is that it’s really important to love yourself for who you are at any weight and to do things you love at any weight. I’ve been successful at that at times and not at other times. When I was younger, my weight didn’t stop me but I had to battle my negative thoughts. In recent years, I’ve become more accepting of myself but my weight has caused or exacerbated health issues that make it difficult or impossible for me to do some of the things I could when I was younger.

    For what it’s worth (not sure if you’re looking for advice or not), here are some of my experiences/thoughts.

    Force yourself to do things that you would enjoy “if you were thinner”. Don’t let your insecurities stop you. You will still enjoy them.
    Exercise (move your body) because it’s good for your health in a variety of ways but realize that it will NOT directly help you lose weight (unless you exercise excessively, which is not healthy). Try to find exercise you enjoy doing but if you don’t find anything you like, do something anyway.
    Do NOT diet. It will screw up your body and mind. Instead, be honest with yourself and make some sustainable changes in the way that you eat that fit your lifestyle and personality. For instance, sugar is not good for the body and is addictive. Cutting out sugar, including high carb foods, is a healthy choice. But cutting out sugar completely is really difficult. Maybe you can do that, or maybe you just cut back on how often you have sugar and food that turns to sugar in your body. The fewer times the better.
    Cut back on snacking. The more often you eat, the more often your insulin goes up. Over a lifetime, this causes various problems. If you don’t snack most days and save it for special occasions, it will help with weight control. Find alternative things you like to do when you want to snack. Eat however much you want at meals.

    So, buy yourself some new clothes that you like, go on the cruise, ignore your inner critic, eat the food you enjoy, and do the activities you find fun! I’m sure you’ll have a fabulous time!

    After the cruise, work on whatever changes you think will help you feel better physically and emotionally over a lifetime. For me, that’s been intermittent fasting (Dr. Jason Fung and the Fasting Method) and keto (Dr. Ken Berry and the 2krazyketos) as well as swimming and walking. Focus on whatever works for you and remember, you don’t need to do it all at once. One last piece of unsolicited advice is to give yourself a decent amount of time, say 3 months, to try out each change and then decide if you want to continue it or change/drop it.

    I hope that you find peace and joy in being yourself at every weight and throughout your life. Thank you for having the courage to share your thoughts and feelings with us.

  54. Oh Athena, your paragraph about the shopping really struck a chord with me… I mean, the only time I even know what I look like is when I look in a mirror, or when the feel of my clothes reminds me. The first only happens for, what, 30 seconds a day? But clothes are a constant reminder. So I wear exclusively t-shirts and scrubs (because, pockets!).

    But there are times when you need to wear something specific… and then, oh god, the shopping. Standing in front of the mirror trying on pair after pair after pair of pants that, on the hanger, seemed like there was a reasonable chance they’d fit only to not even be able to zip them up… It’s soul-crushing.

    So. Scrubs for me. And the next time I need something specific, or nice? I might try tailoring. For the other 99.99999999999999% of my time, I’m not thinking about my appearance.

    Sending you “hope it goes quickly” shopping vibes so you can get on with better things to think about – like your super fun trip!