Bikinis and Body Peace

It is that time of year when articles start popping up left and right on fitness sites about getting that “bikini body” or “beach body”. There are countless exercise regimens, nutrition plans and diet products that market behind this concept. But those articles, diets and exercise plans really aren’t about fitness. They highlight a culture of body shaming that is being perpetuated in our culture often through a disguise of health and fitness. Not only is it superficial and a really shitty thing to do, but it also distorts the perceptions of health and fitness in our culture. It changes the way people approach fitness & nutrition by making it more about being skinny than about overall health and wellbeing. Part of this emphasis on weight is because of the chronic conditions associated with being overweight/obese, but part of the emphasis is likely because of prejudiced beauty standards in our culture. If the discussion of weight in health and fitness was strictly scientific in nature,  fitness magazines would not say “look your best” or “earn that bikini body” when talking about weight loss.

The Bikini Body

There has been a myth that has been created that you need to look a certain way to wear a bikini.

There is no such thing as an “appropriate” body for wearing a bikini. Some people have the nerve to attempt to rationalize their prejudice by saying being fat is unhealthy and that is why fat people shouldn’t wear a bikini. Last I checked, whether you wear a bikini or not has nothing to do with fitness. The only difference wearing a bikini has in the realm of health is that it increases the surface area of your skin that may or may not get a sunburn (but there is sunscreen for that).

There are also people who attempt to rationalize the idea of an appropriate size for wearing a bikini by saying seeing certain people in bikinis makes some people uncomfortable. Their discomfort is because of their prejudice, not because there is anything harmful or wrong with anyone of any size wearing a bikini.

What someone decides to wear for swimsuit season is a matter of what they feel best in. There is no justification for body shaming. Body shaming is horrible and it certainly has no place in health and fitness.

Body Peace

Being able to love and accept yourself is key to living a healthy lifestyle. Everyone deserves to love their body. Everyone deserves to feel beautiful. I believe that part of loving your body is making healthy choices, but part of it means accepting yourself as you are. It means making the choices based on what you consider the best version of yourself. That means something different to each individual.

I think loving yourself is especially important when making changes in your own lifestyle. When you change your behaviors out of love rather than shame, it is much easier to continue making healthy changes and feel good about yourself in the process. I believe that the first step towards becoming what you consider a better version of yourself in the future is being at peace with yourself in the present.

I recognize that the views expressed may seem contradictory and hypocritical given the story behind the name of my blog. That had to do with my own body and my aspiration towards a version of myself that the red bikini was symbolic of. I believe it is a personal choice that is about wearing what you feel best in.

Read More:

Recommended Website: Body Image Movement

Can you be fat and fit?

Body Fat Percentage (BF%)

 

Advertisements

Tips for Making Yourself Exercise for When You Just Don’t Feel Like It

Despite exercising regularly and being in good shape, I am still incredibly lazy. You know how a lot of fit people talk about missing exercise when they don’t do it? I’m not one of them. It is very unusual for me to be in the mood to exercise. I usually end up leaving for the gym after thinking about it for around 2 hrs. Once I get going I have no problem, my issue is getting off the damn couch. If taking rest days is not a problem for you, it is important to go to the gym even if you don’t feel like it. So for those of you that don’t understand the concept of “just do it”, here are a few tips.

*Keep in mind it is important to take rest days for your body to repair itself. Your body needs rest to repair muscles after strength training or to heal while sick/injured. These tips are for when you are just being lazy.

1. Listen to energizing music. This will help you get pumped up… so you will actually get off the couch.

2. Turn off your TV and computer… and that bad but addictive game on your iPhone. These devices can suck you in and make everything else in the universe cease to exist.

3. Tell yourself you can do your slacker workout. You may not need to do this once you actually get there, but it may help trick yourself into going. You can also use similar tricks by promising yourself Starbucks or other small rewards. Your brain thinks differently while on the couch than after going to the gym.

4. Eat a small amount of dark chocolate or have a coffee. Both stimulate reward chemicals which will help give you energy to get moving.

5. Sign up and pay for classes that occur on a regular basis. If you have already paid for a class ahead of time, then you will have a sense of obligation to go. The same works with using a trainer. This can also help in developing better technique or trying out different exercises.

6. Go for a walk. If you aren’t going to do a more vigorous workout, at least do some light activity like going for a walk in the park. This will at least get you moving and get your blood flowing.

What defines success in health and fitness?

The scale has become a deeply ingrained symbol of health & fitness in our culture . We check it regularly. It is one of the first things we do at doctor’s appointments. It is in every gym locker room and even in rest stops on road trips. We see magazines, TV shows and health articles consistently reminding us that our weight is important. Many of us use BMI as a rough estimation of our overall fitness. But how often should we step on that ever pervasive piece of equipment? When does a useful tool become an unhealthy obsession? What does it really mean to be healthy?

Weight is an easy way to get a rough estimation of your overall fitness. However, it is also important to not be obsessed with it. I usually weigh myself about once a week. I put more emphasis on body fat %, how well my pants fit and by paying attention to my energy levels. The issue with weighing yourself daily is that our weight constantly fluctuates and there are a number of factors that can impact this. I think the scale can give people a tunnel vision almost. They are so obsessed with it that they have a hard time taking a step back and seeing the big picture. Luckily I didn’t even have a scale my entire first year of losing weight, so I would only weigh myself maybe once a week at the gym. I think this helped me keep a healthy perspective while changing my fitness habits since it didn’t become all about losing weight.

Our culture overvalues weight and undervalues wellness. I think as a culture we have an unhealthy obsession with weight loss. I’m not considered a “success” and didn’t get featured on Calorie Count and The Huffington Post because I improved my overall wellness… it was because I lost a third of my body weight. The internal changes for me came much earlier than the external manifestations of it, but it was the external change that made others perceive it as a success. While I am grateful for being able to share my story, sometimes it bothers me that “success stories” always feature people with a very significant external difference. To be honest, I think it is superficial. There are plenty of people who didn’t lose much weight but still made huge improvements in their overall wellness. There are also people who lose a ton of weight and while they may look much better on the surface, they are just as unhealthy if not even unhealthier internally. Would I still be considered a success if i didn’t lose much weight at all, but became much fitter and was eating healthier foods? What if I lost a lot of weight but didn’t get there in a healthy way, still had layers of insecurity and had my self-worth reliant upon being thin?

I think the obsession with the scale can lead to people using weight loss methods that don’t improve overall wellness. It leads to people eating so few calories that they convince their body that despite being in an environment of nutritional abundance, that they are experiencing a famine. It leads to people reducing calories at the expense of nutrition. It leads to people starving themselves for a few days and even taking laxatives so they look slightly skinnier in a dress or a bikini. It leads to things being considered health products not because it is actually healthy for you, but because it is “low calorie/fat/sugar”  and might help you temporally lower the number on the scale. Overemphasizing weight when it comes to health also leads to fat shaming, which does nothing to improve the wellbeing of others.

I’m not saying weight doesn’t matter. I’m just saying we need to look at the big picture when it comes to health. We need to look at overall body composition. We need to look at the long term effects of our habits. We need to make sure that we aren’t sacrificing fitness and nutrition to hit a number on the scale. We also need to make sure that the mindset behind our habits is healthy. I think we become so hyper-focused on dramatic before & after photos and number changes on the scale, that we often miss what it really means to be healthy.

Being healthy isn’t about being skinny. It is about eating natural foods, getting the nutrients we need and not going to far beyond that. It is about not eating toxins. It is about being able to move and interact with the environment and being able to enjoy yourself while doing so. It is about loving yourself regardless of circumstance. It is about being balanced and full of energy. It is about living in a way that will keep you energetic and balanced long term.

Read More:

How to Know When it is Time to Begin Your Skinny Ever After.

Can you be fat and fit?

The Types of People You See at the Gym

The Hot Chick: Hot chicks can typically be spotted on the elliptical or getting toned with 3-5 lb. weights (they don’t want to get bulky). You occasionally also find them in yoga or the trendy workout class of the moment. Most of their fitness advice came from Cosmopolitan magazine or whatever the latest celebrity craze is. They usually wear expensive gym outfits from places like Lulu Lemon and usually have bright shoes from Nike that they have in multiple tones so they always match their outfit. They always have their makeup and hair done. They usually workout in pairs. They also are the type of person that is texting while exercising. While most other women like to give them a hard time, it is really just our reproductive competitiveness that is driving this (Darwin would be proud).

The Yo-Yo Dieter: The yo-yo dieter is most frequently spotted the first 3 weeks of January. They often reappear shortly before summer or before any special occasions. Their presence also spikes at the first Monday of each month. Yo-yo dieters are typically 10-20 lbs. overweight, but that varies. They usually prefer jog/walking on the treadmill or going on the elliptical. They are also seen on-and-off at the less hardcore fitness classes. They are usually really determined when they start, but they struggle with maintenance. Yo-yo dieters are also commonly seen stopping at Starbucks to reward themselves for their hard work.

The Lost and Confused New Kid: The new kid is usually either obese or scrawny. They often quickly move from machine to machine not really knowing what to do with themselves. They may try to mimic more experiences members, but that may end in embarrassment when they can’t quite lift the same as more fit members. They have a habit of checking their phone often or going to the water fountain between every set. Most new kids either quit and never speak of it again or get a trainer.

The Know-it-All: The know-it-all is the obnoxious combination of an intellectual and health freak. For most people reading a few articles here and there is enough, but the know-it-all reads scientific studies and university/ graduate level textbooks in their free time. Their interest in fitness is probably more theoretical than it is practical. The know-it-all may be seen closely examining the muscles used for each machine or how to properly do the exercise. They often come equipped with geeky fitness technology, which of course they thoroughly researched. They may be spotted occasionally spacing out like a not-s0-absent-minded professor, because they spend most of their time in their head. They are probably a great person to ask questions to, but there’s a good chance you can squat more than they can.

The Micromanager: The micromanager does not overlook any detail. They log every calorie, count every rep and never miss a workout. They always look put together. They always follow their rules and plans. Micromanagers form a habit and stick to it. The often can be spotted at the gym at the earlier hours, because they actually got up when they said they would. They often use the same exact machine each time and fix the disorganized weight rack that the rest of us screw up.

The Powerlifting Feminist: The powerlifting feminist actively defies almost all gender roles. She often seems a bit resentful and can intimidate other members. Although, the friendlier ones tend to hang out with guys and other women who aren’t stereotypically girly. She is usually bulkier than other women and has a more athletic figure. She is one of the few women who can actually do unassisted pull-ups and often lifts heavier than the guys.She may also be seen on cardio machines, but she is typically more focused on strength training. Powerlifting feminists are the type of women with the grit to survive Cross fit. They completely change the way we think about what it means to lift like a lady.

The Overcompensating Meathead: Overcompensating meatheads are typically on the shorter end, usually under 5’7. They spend a lot of time lifting weights and eating protein. They typically can be spotted wearing t-shirts with the sleeves cut off and drinking protein shakes while working out. Some of them may try questionable practices by experimenting with supplements. The overcompensating meathead may be spotted trying to talk to the hot chicks. They also tend to workout a bit inefficiently due to spending time flexing in the mirror for all to see. They usually work extra hard on glory muscles such as biceps so they can make their guns more epic.

The Athletic Guy: The athletic guy is often seen making all exercises look easy. He usually is great eye candy and can be distracting to the opposite gender. The athletic guy is usually accomplishing impressive feats such as looking attractive while running. He often doesn’t need to try as hard as other guys and doesn’t bother much with proper technique because it comes so naturally to him. Athletic guys tend to go later at night, but they aren’t as dedicated as other gym rats.

The Old Person: The old person is somehow at least 3 times your age yet still is in better shape than you. They give you hope for the future but they also embarrass you because you should probably be in better shape than them. Old people tend to workout in the morning or in the late afternoon. They may occasionally make comments about all the ridiculous technology like the TVs that you can’t get away from. They also like to talk to other old people about how bad our music is these days.

The Overachiever: Are they even human? The overachiever usually goes to the gym when it first opens or right before closing. They can often be seen simultaneously working while on cardio equipment. They make their workouts as efficient as possible because they are borderline addicted to being busy. You may also catch them drinking their morning coffee or breakfast smoothie while working out. They need to cram in as much as possible. The overachiever has a habit of either having a heart attack or a midlife crisis at some point because they don’t know how to relax.

The Yogi: The yogi is always calm and usually radiant. The yogi is often a bit airy looking and is usually very sensitive. They are almost always vegetarian and often vegan. They like to drink green things and they probably grow their own organic kale. The yogi probably has namaste advertised somewhere like on their yoga mat or car (usually a Prius). They can often be seen trying to help the overachiever because they can sense their intense energy.

 

 

Body Fat Percentage (BF%)

While Body Mass Index (BMI) is the traditional method for assessing health through weight, it can be unreliable because it doesn’t take into account body type or composition. A less used but more reliable method is Body Fat Percentage (BF%). It measures what percent of your body is composed of fat. It does not take into account other factors such as muscle mass, bone density and lifestyle choices. As we age our BF% increases as muscle mass decreases.

Essential Fat: This is the minimum percentage required for basic functioning and survival. We need a certain amount of fat for our bodies to function. We need it for insulation as well as protection of internal organs. For women this is thought to be around 10-13% and men it is around 2-5%.  This is often what bodybuilders will aim for on competition day. This range is very risky, unsustainable and not recommended for a healthy lifestyle.

Athletes: Women between 14-20% and men between 6-13% will fall into this category. This level is really only healthy if you have a higher amount of muscle mass (such as competitive athletes). This range is especially questionable for women, since some women will stop menstruating at these levels.

Fitness: This is considered the ideal range for fitness. Women fall into this category from 21-24% and men from 14-17%. This does not mean everyone in this category is actually fit or that people above this are not. This is generally the optimal range, but other factors need to be taken into account.

Acceptable: A BF of 25-31% for women and 18-24% for men is considered acceptable. This is what most people in the United States would consider a normal healthy weight. Many people who eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly will fall into this category.

Obese: A BF of 32%+ in women and 25%+ in men is considered obese. People in this range are at increased risk for chronic diseases.  Most American adults would fall into this category.

*Keep in mind this is different than obese according to BMI. The obesity rate according to these standards would be higher than BMI standards.

 

How to Determine Your Body Fat Percentage

  • Skin Fold Caliper: These cost around $5 and are a reliable way for measurement if done properly. You pinch your skin and pull the fat away from the muscle. Learning how to do this properly may take some practice, but is very useful if you learn how to do it right. You can calculate your skin fold measurements here.
  • Tape Measure: You can take measurements of yourself then input them into an online calculator. This isn’t the most reliable method, but it is quick and easy. One of the major factors that could come into play is your body shape (also measuring inaccurately/ not quite in the right place).
  • Bioelectric Impedance Analysis (BIA): This measures the electrical current in your body combined with your height and weight. It makes an estimation of your BF% based on this. This is not the most accurate method because hydration can impact the result, but you can do it at home and it may feel less awkward than using a skin fold caliper. If you use this method, make sure you measure at a consistent time to keep the hydration levels similar (first thing in the morning is a good bet).
  • Hydrostatic Weighing: This has a high degree of accuracy for measuring BF%. It also requires going out of your way to pay $100+ to get dunked in a tank of water. For most people, this isn’t a very practical option.
  • DEXA Scan: This is considered the best measurement. It includes other factors in addition to BF%. However, it costs about $250 so it is only worth it if getting a precise reading is important to you.
  • The Mirror Method:  If you are able to look at yourself objectively, you will probably be able to make a decent estimation of your BF% in the mirror. If you only care about being in a healthy range and liking the way you look, then this is probably a good option for you. This is especially the case if like me, you have a tendency to obsess when numbers get involved. You can do this by comparing yourself to various visual guides and the characteristics described of each range (links below). That said, looking at ourselves objectively isn’t always easy. I recommend combining this with at least one of the other methods.

There is a good chance that the gym you belong to offers body fat measurements. This may be a cost effective way to be assessed by an expert (or at least someone who knows what they are doing). Some gyms may offer this with an overall fitness assessment.

Setting Goals

Body fat percentage is especially useful in tracking progress when you are at or around a healthy weight. You can track this along with progress in performance. Body fat percentage may be more difficult to accurately measure without a professional if you are significantly overweight, since there are less noticeable changes in definition.

When it comes down to it, the ideal BF% (once you are in a healthy range) is more a matter of personal preference. While you can be relatively healthy while overweight, the BMI and BF% guidelines were set as they are for a reason. Most women will probably want to aim between 20-25% and men between 15-20%.

Strength training plays an important role in finding a good balance. This is especially the case if you are losing weight, since you want to make sure what is lost is actually fat. Muscle is also denser and burns more calories than fat, so increasing muscle mass will give your metabolism a nice boost. Not to mention, it makes you look toned and being physically strong feels kind of bad ass.

Learn More:

Body Fat Pictures and Percentages (highly recommend)

Ideal Body Fat Percentage Chart: How Lean Should You Be

5 Ways to Measure Body Fat Percentage

Body Fat Pictures of Men & Women (highly recommend)

Body Fat Images for Comparison

Everything You Need to Know About Body Fat Percentage

National Body Fat Percentage Average

Your Guide to Calories

CALORIES:  We talk about them constantly and for many of us it is the first thing we look at on a nutrition label. But how much do we actually know about calories? What are they?

Calorie: 1. Either of two units of heat energy. 2. The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C (now usually defined as 4.1868 joules).

Technically 1 “food calorie” is actually 1 KCal as in 1,000 calories.

How many (kilo)calories do I burn?

The Harris-Benedict Equation for Basal Energy Expenditure (BEE) is commonly used to calculate energy requirements based on sex, height, weight and age.

W = weight in kilograms H = height in centimeters A = age in years

Men: BEE = 66.5 + 13.8(W) + 5.0(H) – 6.8(A)

Women: BEE = 655.1 + 9.6(W) + 1.9(H) – 4.7(A)

Your BEE is basically the amount of calories you would need if you were a couch potato and sat on your ass all day.  If you are a normal person, your BEE will need to be multiplied by a factor of 1.2-1.5 to account for extra calories burned during physical activity. A factor of 1.2 represents an average amount of activity, whereas 1.5 would be a very high amount of activity.

If doing math is too much effort, I recommend using this calculator:

How many should I eat?

To maintain weight you eat the same number of calories as you burn.

To gain weight you eat more than your body burns.

If you are trying to lose weight you eat less.

1 lb. of fat contains 3,500 calories. To lose 1 lb. per week you should have a daily deficit of around 500 calories. While body weight lost is not pure fat, this can still be used as a benchmark to approximate the caloric deficit needed to lose a certain amount of weight. This does not factor in fluctuations such as water weight. Keep in mind, your body becomes more resistant to caloric restrictions the leaner you become and you will need to be less restrictive than you would at a higher weight.

Calories from Energy Nutrients

Protein: 4 cal./ gram

Carbohydrates: 4 cal./ gram

Fat: 9 cal./ gram

Alcohol: 7 cal./gram.