December 23, 2005
The New Year is just around the corner, which inevitably leads to thoughts of resolutions and fresh starts. I never used to make New Year's resolutions, but have started to over the past few years. I know that most New Year's resolutions fall by the wayside towards the end of January, so instead of setting an unrealistic goal, I think of a resolution as an opportunity to state my intention for what I want in my life.
Since I work from home, it's easy to indulge my tendency to be somewhat of a hermit. I know I need to make the effort to connect with other people, but I find that days and weeks go by without seeing or talking to friends and acquaintances. I've been thinking about the coming year, and decided to make a resolution to take a more proactive approach in connecting with other people. My intention is to get together with a friend at least once a month, and to reach out to a friend or acquaintance - either by phone or email - twice a month. I know that doesn't sound terribly ambitious, but I believe that doing so will bring more joy to my life.
Speaking of opportunities to start over, I've been hooked on the daytime reality series, "Starting Over," for a couple of seasons now. If you're not familiar with "Starting Over," it's a syndicated show (where I live, it's on NBC) where six women from all walks of life come together to live in a house and work with life coaches and a psychologist to heal past wounds, to deal with difficult circumstances, and to...start over in their lives. Each woman has her own goal, and works with her life coach to decide upon the steps she needs to take in order to achieve that goal. The life coaches, Rhonda Britten and Iyanla Vanzant, design individual exercises to illustrate obstacles or issues that a woman has to overcome in order to reach her goal and her potential.
For example, a current housemate, Lisa, has a goal of becoming an adult. She's 41 years old, but has depended upon her parents to meet all of her financial needs. In her quest for independence, Lisa needs a backbone so she can stand up for herself. She was recently assigned an exercise to make a backbone out of spools strung together, and to label each spool with a quality needed in order to have a backbone. She used spools of one color for qualities she already possessed, and spools of another color for qualities she still needs to acquire.
It takes some women a few weeks to reach their goals, while it takes others a couple of months or more. Once a woman reaches her goal, she "graduates" from the Starting Over house, and a new housemate arrives.
At any given time, there's a woman in the house that has a weight-related goal. In the first season, there was a woman named PJ who wanted to lose weight. Last season, there was Sommer, who was dealing with the aftermath of weight loss surgery. This season there's Jill, whose goal it is to lose weight and remove chaos from her life.
It's always struck me that Rhonda and Iyanla, the life coaches, have an interesting attitude toward weight. In the first season of the show, Rhonda never questioned a weight loss goal. When Iyanla joined the show in the second season, there was somewhat of a shift. Iyanla is a plus-size woman, and at first she seemed to understand that a woman's weight doesn't define who she is, and that losing weight isn't the magic bullet that will make a woman lead a fulfilled life.
As time progressed, however, Iyanla seemed to move toward a belief that weight loss was a worthy goal. She's adamant about referring to it as "releasing weight" rather than "losing weight," but if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.... She's Jill's life coach, and Iyanla dutifully sent Jill to Jenny Craig and 24-Hour Fitness. It turns out Jill has fibroid tumors, one of which may weigh 40 pounds. One doctor told Jill that she must schedule surgery within a month or it could be life threatening. Jill got a second opinion, and the doctor said that she should wait to have surgery until she lost 50 pounds and stopped smoking. So Jill still trots off to Jenny Craig every week, and since she can't perform the level of cardio training dictated by her 24-Hour Fitness program, a personal trainer from the franchise comes to the house to demonstrate exercises she can do to increase her flexibility.
My point? Starting Over is completely schizophrenic when it comes to weight. Jill has a potentially life-threatening tumor or tumors, yet she chooses to listen to the doctor who tells her to come back when she loses weight. And her life coach seems to think that's okay. I adore Iyanla, and I suspect that she believes women naturally come in all shapes and sizes, but can't come out and say it because it has the potential to alienate viewers. I believe that the intent of the show is to help women, and I find it both enlightening and entertaining. At the same time, I believe that they could help so many more women by taking a strong stand in favor of self-acceptance - regardless of body size.
December 16, 2005
I'm a supersize woman, so some vacations hold an element of unpredictability. For a big girl, my mobility is pretty darned good, but when my nine-year-old son and I headed to Disneyland a couple of weeks ago, I felt a bit of trepidation. It had been four years since we'd been to Disneyland, and I had two stark recollections from that trip. The first was our near-disastrous ride on Thunder Mountain. The cars used a pull down restraint, and when the restraint came down, it hit me right under my bust. Unfortunately, that meant that my son wasn't restrained at all. I spent the next two or three excruciating minutes hanging on to him for dear life while praying that neither of us would fly out of the car. I'm not a physicist, but some kind of G-forces were at work that were trying to pry me out of the ride on every sharp turn.
My second recollection was how much pain I was in after walking the park for two days. My feet throbbed so much that it was difficult to sleep at night. I felt bad because I tend to get cranky when my feet hurt that badly, and who wants to feel cranky when they're at the happiest place on earth?
So this time I gave serious thought to renting what Disney terms an "Electric Convenience Vehicle" (ECV). I had a lot of resistance to the idea, conjuring up all sorts of negative psychological implications and telling myself that, once I "gave in" there was no turning back. I discussed my feelings with a friend, who suggested that I look at an ECV as a golf cart. There's no stigma, he said, when golfers drive a golf cart around the course. There shouldn't be any stigma to drive a cart around Disneyland.
We had a three-day park pass, and I walked Disneyland the first day. After eight hours or so, I was ready to pack it in. My feet were throbbing and I was definitely getting cranky. Keeping in mind what my friend had said, I went ahead and rented an ECV on the second and third days of our visit. What a difference it made! I could thoroughly enjoy Disneyland and Disney's California Adventure, pain-free.
I'd also like to tip my hat to the staff members at Disneyland (or, as Disney refers to them, "cast members"). Their commitment to providing guests with an enjoyable experience - free of judgment - never ceases to amaze me. In Fantasyland, when we encountered a ride with a turnstile I couldn't negotiate, a cast member came over and told me to enter via a nearby gate. After the ride, he handed me a pamphlet on Disneyland accessibility and told me that, if I ever had a challenge with another ride, to simply ask for assistance.
Disney has a downloadable PDF of the Disneyland Resort Guidebook for Guests with Disabilities. The booklet doesn't specifically address size issues, but it does offer some guidance about mobility requirements for the various attractions.
Similarly, over at Disney's California Adventure, I found that the California Zephyr seat belt was too short for me to use. When I looked up to find the attendant, I found her standing next to the rocket with a seat belt extender in hand.
As a supersize woman, it's incredibly refreshing to find a place that can anticipate my needs and, more importantly, do so without judgment.
My experience with Disney is in stark contrast to my experience with Southwest Airlines, which we took to go to Anaheim. In keeping with their annoying and, I believe, discriminatory policy, I was forced to buy two seats for myself and one for my son, despite the fact that he and I can fit comfortably in two seats. As has happened before, I found the gate agent at the Sacramento airport, as well as one of the flight attendants, to be judgmental, suspicious, and full of distain - despite the fact that I had played by their (unfair) rules and purchased three seats for the two of us. The folks at Southwest really need to get over themselves.
December 08, 2005
Welcome to the Power of Plus!
I'm very excited to, once again, be a part of BBW Magazine. I look forward to working on the site and to creating a community that resonates with the spirit of BBWs.