Tuesday, July 02, 2013

It's not about the doughnut, except when it is: Lessons learned fromFitbloggin'

I attended quite a few of the small-group discussions at Fitbloggin' -- not only the one I led, but several others. They are all live-blogged at the site, but I don't think that you can get the full effect without being there in these. The technical sessions are easier to liveblog without endangering someone's confidentiality.  What I got from attending these sessions is that weight gain (and loss) is about so much more than food and exercise.  Most veterans of the weight battle could tell you everything you need to know about calories and exercise methods, but we still can't always put it into practice.

In these sessions, people shared their personal struggles and physical issues that predated, and in many cases contributed to, the weight issues. Gwyn, for example, had keloids -- thick, painful scars that continue to grow over time. People can be cruel in these times when we think everything can be easily fixed with plastic surgery, so she had to tolerate stares and rude questions -- it would be easy to see how feeling damaged or broken in one way might lead to other problems. I know that before my weight was the "reason" that I felt weird and wrong, I had other "reasons" for that feeling -- a small scar on my lip that I obsessed about, terrible teenage acne. Gaining weight in this situation can be one more explanation for what is wrong with us, because many of us feel wrong. It may be that everyone feels this way, and we all express it in different ways, weight issues being one of them. If we ever lose the weight (as I have, and most people in my session had) we can be left with that same broken feeling, and no easy answer for it. Losing weight is hard and takes a lot of effort. It has to feel worth it, and if you are left with smaller pants and the same big problems, it doesn't always feel that way.

Many people are also dealing with serious emotional pain: debilitating social anxiety, feelings of abandonment, grief, mental illness, partners or children with addictions.  Food can be a comfort, but also, dealing with these problems takes a lot of emotional energy, and may not leave time for the kind of social engineering it seems to take not to be fat in this environment.  Sometimes fat is just the path of least resistance.

I have to admit, I think I'm a fairly socially adept person in normal situations, but I get nervous and anxious at parties.  The chaos of Fitbloggin' sometimes overwhelmed me, and I found myself hitting the bar or the snack table at those times -- I joked that "If I get any fitter, I'm going to need bigger pants." I did fine during the conference sessions and in smaller groups, but didn't quite know what to do with myself during the final party, when everyone was dancing. I feel awkward at times like that and don't know what to do -- should I try to dance and look stupid? Should I sit on the sidelines and look antisocial?  It can make a piece of cheese or a glass of wine sound like a great idea.The actual conference food was healthy enough, so that helped. One of the best Ignite presentations was DubyaWife's, which commanded us to introduce ourselves to new people, giving us all permission and even an imperative to mingle. (I would link to the presentation, but I can't find it.)

And sometimes it is about the doughnut -- Portland was a great food city, with food trucks everywhere and the famous Voodoo Doughnuts. The meals I had from healthy places, like the Veggie Grill, were kind of disappointing. I had one food truck meal -- a so-so falafel sandwich, since none of the really cool carts were open when I went -- and one of the famous doughnuts.  I hit up Voodoo as part of a two-hour walking tour with Bonnie, Marlene, and Heather, plus Craig, an Amana rep who went with us as far as Voodoo and bought the big box of doughnuts photographed above to take back to his fellow appliance evangelists.  I spent a lot of time looking at the menu while I was in line, because I wanted to pick one doughnut and make it good. I chose the Old Dirty Bastard doughnut and it ended up being my lunch for that day. I tracked everything and, by the way, ran a 5K the next day.  The doughnut itself is not a problem, unless you tell yourself that eating the doughnut means you are bad, wrong and destined to fail. Personally, I'm not going to give a doughnut that much power. I don't believe in voodoo.


  1. I also felt very overwhelmed during the large group activities. I spent most of the time outside the conference by myself walking around the city! I also left shortly after the dancing started. I always forget how much of an introvert I am until I get around overly-energetic groups!

  2. The thing for me, is I am naturaly an introvert. I tend to be the one to hide in the corner and see what is going on out there before I actually get involved. Hense why teaching and speaking I knew was going to be a rough expereince for me.

    When I went to FitBloggin last year, I was scared to death and ended up spending a lot of time on my own in Baltimore which was great because I had never been on the east coast. But I think it ruined the conference for me. My big challenge was for me to get the most of this, was to not to walk away from the big events (except for I had to handle client and family stuff and there was no way around this) seeing some of the videos and some of the photos at this point is making me regret some of it.

  3. The perfect place to meet people that understand that struggle. I also had a doughnut. I didn't give it that much power. While yes, I probably consumed about 800 calories, it was something small and didn't have it again. I actually felt it was too sweet and overwhelming, but had it anyway.

  4. I have spent previous Fitbloggin events feeling similarly...not wanting to do certain things that "everyone" seemed to be doing, or feeling like I was missing out if I didn't do them. This time it was a bit different and I felt more comfy in my own skin...as I like to say, it definitely takes practice to feel okay being who we are!

    By the way, I think I hit the food cart jackpot when I selected the ABC Waffle (arugula, bacon, Camembert cheese with fig jam on a Liege waffle from The Gaufre Gourmet....

    1. Karen - I had the same ABC Waffle! :)

  5. You know what is amazing? Reading your post and thinking, hey she is describing me! I guess you and I have a lot in common. I hit the doughnuts twice, and my inner voice all the way to the counter said don't do it. I did get a second doughnut and that's all good. It was great getting to know you! Thanks for being you!

  6. I love so much that you write here, especially the part about being so fit that you might need bigger pants... geez, I felt the same! :) Thanks for sharing your story. I'm absolutely loving all the recaps!

  7. I definitely relate to this too. I had to down 2 drinks before my Ignite talk! I have, however, taken huge steps in accepting and even reveling in my introversion. I thank Susan Cain's book, "Quiet"

  8. Thank you all for the wonderful comments! I think that feeling of, "So I'm not the only one?" Is the big takeaway for me from Fitbloggin'.

    Next year, maybe we could organize a "sit-and-chat" room far enough from the music that talking would be possible? The music was fun but it made conversation too difficult.

    Here are the Ignite presentations: http://fitbloggin.com/2013/07/ignite-fitness-at-fitbloggin13/?utm_content=buffer1d98e&utm_source=buffer&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Buffer

  9. Jen I can completely identify with your post and Fitbloggin. I had a great time and yet there were times that the big crowds felt overwhelming. It was the first time in years where I listen to body as opposed to my head and tried to be present. Overall was a great experience yet challenging.

    I am glad that we connected! BTW I love your content- currently devouring it like a great delicious binge of goodness! xoxo LY


"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07