Category Archives: Fitness

I walked 5k!

I had a wonderful weekend! I went to the beach, got a pedicure, ate delicious food, and walked 5k!

Of course, I chose to walk 5k downtown on a busy Sunday evening, in a see-through white T-Shirt, in sticky, sweaty, humid weather. It was like waving a sign, “Come harass Theresa!” Lucky for me, I’m an asshole, and totally over my need to make men feel better about rejection. Sorry, I’m not sorry.

Since I’ve started exercising several times a week, my walking speed has increased by 33%! The better to out walk the creeps, I suppose. I’m hoping that by the time I’m done c25k, I’ll actually be running 5k in 30 minutes, instead of 3k. Now that I’m walking at 4mph, instead of 3, I think I have a shot at it, if I can drag my lazy ass to the gym in the morning.

I brought sneakers to work today so that I can walk home afterwards. I’m not going to walk 5k because it takes too long, and I’ve got hella work to do tonight for the business.

A love letter

Dear work gym,

I love your treadmills (why would anyone call you a “dreadmill”? You’re wonderful!). I love your clean showers. I love your convenience. I love your DSTV subscription that allows me to watch MTV while I run … in BENIN! I love your comfortable mats for stretching.

I do not love the windows facing the compound entrance, so that everyone can see me jiggle and shake as I gasp for breath on my last run in c25k.



On walking and AWESOME

I love walking. I can’t believe I waited so long to start exercising! HImynameisTheresa and I am a moron.

The gym at work is intimidating. After months of diddling around, I finally got my paperwork in so that I can use it whenever I want. Two months and I’ve yet to darken its doorstep.

It may have something to do with the fact that I am utterly uninterested in packing any more activities into an already busy morning. Because every goddamn morning is secretly a “OMG THERESA WILL BE AT JOB #2 UNTIL 2PM WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM RIGHT NOW” catastrophe, by the time I get to work at 7:30, I’ve already done more than most people do all morning.

It may also be because I’m embarrassed about how desperately out of shape I am. The positive side of eating well and refusing to apologize for my shape and size is that I’m no long really embarrassed about being fat. The negative side is that I’ve become very conscious of how bad the situation has become in regards to fitness and my health.

But I’m going to stick to the “I don’t have time” story. ;)

Walking, compared to the gym, is a piece of cake. While physically exhausting, it doesn’t require any knowledge of equipment, is easily disguisable as “walking to go some place” as opposed to “fat lady exercising in public,” and fits into my daily schedule like it should have been there all along.

I walk before work. I walk at work. I walk after work. And I might just start taking a walk in the evenings. I haven’t spent any time walking for exercise this weekend, and I’m glad I took a few days off. My legs and bottom were SORE SORE SORE. I’m aiming for 10k steps a day, thanks to the handy-dandy pedometer my mom sent me from the States. It’s harder than it looks, but not as hard as I expected.

Why did I wait so long to start exercising again?

On health blogging, disordered eating, and @marieclaire

For those of you who know me offline, you definitely know that I’m smart, ambitious, organized, driven and riotously funny. You might know that I’m neurotic, grouchy, and a militant feminist. You probably don’t know that when I say I’m fat, I’m not using it as a derogatory word. You definitely don’t know that I’m in no way shape or form ashamed of the way I look, nor that I am desperately trying to work through the hang-ups that the patriarchy has given me in regards to fat women talking about being fat. And I’ve only told two people in the world that I’m freaked out about how easy it is to slide into disordered eating while trying to lose weight and live healthier.

I haven’t been blogging lately. Not because I haven’t been off plan, but because I can’t find my voice. For every post that goes up here, three or four are written, but languish indefinitely before I send them to “DO NOT POST” EverNote hell.

I’m conflicted.

And it’s not just the writing I’m conflicted about. I’m conflicted about how to lose weight without disordered eating.

  • How can I always forgive myself for overeating, but put mechanisms into place that make overeating unpleasant, without obsessing over food?
  • How can I rigorously limit calories and track everything that goes into my mouth, without obsessing over food?
  • How can I force myself to stick to my meal plan, without obsessing over food?
  • How can I reward myself for a job well done, without rewarding myself for disordered eating?
  • How can I severely cut calories after a binge to balance my intake, without sliding into disordered eating?
  • How can I balance integration into Beninese and Expat society here in Cotonou with this lifestyle change, without making a big public stinkin’ deal of my choices? Oh wait, I’m a blogger.

Here’s the thing: I know that I can’t write about losing weight without occasionally sounding like my eating is disordered. Here’s another thing: I don’t give a fuck. There are three ways to get thin and stay thin once you’ve become obese: fanatically pay attention to what you’re eating (whether you’re counting calories, carbs, going paleo, or something else), become a fitness nut, or both.

Guess which method’s the most successful?

Guess which method the “Big 6″ used?

Guess which method I’m using?

In this month’s Marie Claire, there’s an article that trashes the “Big 6” of healthy living blogging for promoting and encouraging eating disorders. Even worse, Marie Claire tears these women apart without a trace of irony. Readers can read about the horrors of food blogging eating disorders before flipping three pages to models that represent the extreme of the patriarchy’s idea of what the ideal woman looks like. Ouch.

The interesting conversation here isn’t about responsibility. It isn’t about being a role model. It isn’t even about what people choose to share in public spaces. It’s about a socieity that expects women to be thin and fit and beautiful, but doesn’t want to hear abut the ugly details of getting there. There’s a lot of blame, defensiveness, and anger going around, and rightfully so. Mairie Claire just told those strong and beautiful woman that all the sweat, blood, and tears that they’ve put into meeting an impossible ideal still isn’t good enough, because they didn’t do it the way Marie Claire wants them to.

Checking items off the TODO list is AWESOME

Finally took care of embassy gym membership – CHECK!
Went out for Thai and STILL didn’t go over plan – CHECK!
Drank 2L of water – CHECK!
Cooked and froze too many goddamned vegetables – CHECK!
Ate soup for dinner in order to not go over plan after Thai – CHECK!

Could have been worse! Happy September, everyone! Only 5 days until my husband’s and my birthday and I CANNOT WAIT. :-D

No grocery shopping workout for Theresa, this week

Normally, I spend Saturday mornings grocery shopping. Grocery shopping in Benin isn’t like grocery shopping in the States. It’s a lot of walking, a lot of carrying heavy bags, and for an out-of-shape woman like me, it’s quite a workout.

First, I hit up Soditex for cheese and Lebanese flat bread. They’re the cheapest in town, and I can’t make delicious flat bread pizzas without the basic ingredients. Then, I walk 4 or 5 blocks to the next supermarket,* BSS. That’s where I stock up on basics: milk, flour, olive oil, mayo, etc. Nothing weird, nothing low fat, just the basics.

If I need something complicated, I have to CROSS THE BRIDGE. My bag’s starting to get heavy at this point, so first I stare longingly at the taxi-motos that are zipping up and down block, and then I start walking. Supermarché du Pont is filled with hard to turn down goodies, but also stuff like sour cream and other harder-to-find dairy products.

Before heading to the real market, I assess my bag situation. How heavy is it really? Do I absolutely need vegetables or can I wait until my CSA shows up on Tuesday. Usually, I’m out of lettuce and parsley. No, I can’t wait. I trudge back accross the bridge and past BSS, then keep on walking.

When I finally get to the market, I’m sweating buckets and clearly need a break. All the market ladies ask me if I’m OK, and I say something to the effect of, “Fine goddammit gimme some lettuce.” They oblige. My vegetable lady is at the market entrance, so I rarely have to go in. Thank goodness!

All this to say, I didn’t get my weekly market workout yesterday because we hired some neighborhood kids to scrub our house from top to bottom (supporting entrepreneurship! yeah! and laziness! don’t forget that!), and I needed to supervise and get some work done. Today, I didn’t get the workout because we took a car and drove a newly arrived friend around to show him where HE can get cheap cheese and good sour cream.

I never thought I’d get to the point where I actually missed the ridiculously painful two-hour sweat session, nor the sore muscles that follow.


*Supermarket is a euphanism. Medium sized corner store with a deli section and no fruits or vegetables.

On putting food obsessions to good use: BENTO!

Mushrooms bento

I am obessive about everything I take seriously. Like losing weight getting healthy. I spend hours thinking about food and exercise and calories each day. That’s probably why I’m successful thus far, but it’s also kind of neurotic annoying. I know that nobody knows what normal is, but I’d rather channel my obsessiveness into something productive.

Like Bento.

Oh yes. Continue reading

Oh, malaria, I am so over you!

Tomorrow marks my post-malaria return to calorie counting. I’ve continued to lose since the dreaded deadly disease, but it’s more due to a missing appetite than any dedication to weight loss healthy eating. Turns out, when you abruptly cut out soda, coffee, and cigarettes because even the thought of putting poison into your body makes you puke, your body isn’t so quick to accept them later, when you’re healed.

We’ll see how the counting goes. My sisters-in-law are also coming over tomorrow to learn how to cook “American” food, which means that we’ll also be tasting lots of American food. They’re actually just coming to observe my weekly Sunday freezer stockage and lunch prep, but it’s still kind of unnerving.

I’ll be making:

  • generic tomato sauce (to be frozen for future) pastas and flat bread pizzas)
  • pasta salad
  • egg salad (maybe, if my organic chicken farmer brings the eggs early enough
  • flat bread pizzas (also to be frozen)
  • oatmeal cookies (I know, not healthy BUT DELICIOUS)
  • possibly burritos, but we’ll see whether I feel like making tortillas or not

I’m trying to think of other very simple very inexpensive Western foods that can be made with Beninese staples. No meat, no chicken. Fish is a possibility. Stir-fry would be great, but it doesn’t freeze well. Bruchetta? Lasagna? Lemon garlic carp?

Any other ideas?

On having an incredibly supportive partner while on this journey

I am a lucky woman. When I made my decision to lose weight get healthy, my husband was nothing but supportive. Now, a few months into the process, he continues to be nothing but supportive.

He thought I was beautiful and sexy and perfect when I was 225. He thinks I’m beautiful and sexy and perfect now that I’ve lost 20 lbs. And he’ll think I’m beautiful and sexy and perfect after I’ve lost another 55. He’s happy that I’m eating healthily and exercising not because I’m losing weight and getting H-O-T-T, but because it makes me happy.

And bless his heart, he’d move mountains if I said it would make me happy. I’m starting to tear up, just writing this. Gawd. He’s the greatest.

Not everyone is as lucky as I am. Today, Tony wrote:

My wife loved me just as much at 420 pounds as she does now. She finds me just as attractive when I wore size 60 pants as now in a tank top.

She never forced me to lose weight, she never gave me an ultimatum, she never cared about the scale, but more for me to be healthy.

He then goes on to describe women who withhold sex because their husbands aren’t losing weight. Women who want to force their husbands into getting healthier. Women who just don’t get that it’s a decision that a person can only make for him or herself, and that the best thing they can do is to be supportive. Women who want their husbands to be as good looking as they were when they got married. The opposite exists as well. I’m going to leave my feminist hat off for this post, but rest assured, the pressure on wives to stay skinny is as high as it is on husbands. Tony just doesn’t get those kinds of emails because he’s a guy.

Dawn, another healthy living blogger who’s been incredibly successful on her journey responded:

We started going to therapy, but it was clear he needed individual help, medication, etc. It was also clear to me that I needed to move on. That I needed someone that would really love me for the person I was. I couldn’t just continue to stay with him so he wouldn’t be alone. I did stay 2 more years though. But eventually I got the get up and go and I went, me and my cat, into our own place.

At first I cried a lot, I hated being alone but soon I realized so many things about myself. The main thing being I was worth something. Maybe I couldn’t fix my weight and I wouldn’t for the next 14 yrs but I definitely could have a relationship with someone that really loved me for me fat and all.

Emphasis mine.

My husband drives me crazy sometimes, but he’s the most supportive person in the world when it comes to this lifestyle change. Sure, sometimes he doesn’t quite get it, but he really doesn’t need to. This is my change. I own it and it’s about me, not him. He can support me during this journey, but he sure as hell can’t do it for me. Not even with me.

Everyone deserves someone who loves them exactly the way they are. Sure, you can wish your partner were healthier, but you gotta understand, changing your entire lifestyle isn’t the same as learning to put your clothes in the laundry basket. It’s a long and difficult journey that will never finish. Ever. And if you can’t love a person for who they are right in this moment inspite of and because of all of the quirks and faults that make them unique and wonderful, why the hell are you with them anyway?

I hope that everyone ends up as lucky as I am.

On eating disorders and the patriarchy

Last night, a feminist friend and I* were out drinking with a man. We’re all mid-to-upper class whites, well educated, socially mobile, and currently living in Benin. The man, several years out of undergrad, was astounded at the high numbers of women who had eating disorders while he was in school. My friend and I were not. Actually, we responded with derision. “What? The rates for your school weren’t high. They’re typical.”

He was appalled.

We explained the intense social pressure on women raised by second-wave feminists. We have been told that we can do anything and be anything. It’s an empowering message, and it’s one that we should continue communicating to all of our children; however, society tells these girls that not only can they do anything and everything, but they must. Straight-A students. Captains of the soccer team. Presidents of the debate club. Dancers. Musicians. Actors. We can do anything we want, even be the president.

Outward prettiness (i.e. being thin) is one more thing that well educated girls need on our way to the top. We’re not stupid. We know that our fortunes are tied to our looks, and we’ve been raised believing that there’s nothing in this world that we can’t do if we work hard enough (because there isn’t … wait! what?!).

Needing to control your appearance + being told that you can achieve anything = We WILL be thin, even if it kills us. Because we can do anything. And not doing it just means that we’re not working hard enugh.

My friend and I were talking about how we’d both done some stupid shit to lose weight, as early as high school. I remember summers where I swam 5 days a week at the Y with my mom, then came home and ate 600 calories (2 sandwiches) for the rest of the day. Or summers at my grandmothers where I would bike for 4 hours a day, not because I loved it, but because she had given cookies to my brother and refused them to me–I was chubby even as a child. Who needs lunch in high school? Cigarettes and Diet Coke should be enough for any growing girl.

I learned how to suck in my stomach in the 4th grade. WTF?!?!?!

We’ve grown up to be relatively well-adjusted women, feminists who believe in women’s right to choose their path, who understand how a patriarchial system affects these choices, and who really just want to do some good in our lives. We know how the system works, and we understand how our self-esteem has been systematically undermined since childhood, and we’re still not over it. We never will be.

* I also self-identify as a feminist