fitness, Health, Personal

Furey Vs. The Giant Ledge

Before I begin, here’s some music to set the tone of my unexpected cathartic journey this weekend:

Since my last post about the joys of run/walking, I kept up for a few weeks before dealing with a series of events, which, had they happened one at a time, I could’ve handled. But since they happened in the span of two weeks, I was done. It all started with yet another crush gone wrong, leaving me feeling broken hearted. Worst thing to ever happen to me? Absolutely not. But when you add the pressure of company visits at your retail job and other major shakeups, getting cursed out by one customer and then being treated like scum over a minor issue by another, finding out your last surviving grandparent is ill and not going to make the week, causing a great deal of stress fights in your family and sure enough, he dies a day shy of a full week, you’re shot. You are defeated. July was bad enough with Matty’s birthday, but now all this shit? Done.

So, with time to spare before the funeral, I kept my plans to visit my best friend in the Catskills. Marcia*, my true blue, ride or die best friend who survived a two week barrage of text messages of one new thing after another with me. We stopped in Kingston on the way up for Asian food (Sushi for her, Thai for me) and I was just tired, sad and worn out. Lucky for me, Marcia isn’t the “aww boo, let’s eat copious amounts of ice cream while watching Magic Mike in our sweats! We can do tequila shots and paint our nails! It’ll be soooooo fun!” type. She decided I needed to do something bigger. Her first suggestion was white water river tubing down the Esopus. I shot it down as the previous summer, the creek royally kicked my ass. “All right,” she said. “we’ll go on a hike then. A BIG hike.” Along with her boyfriend, Derek, we headed east to conquer Giant Ledge, a three mile hike with an 1,100 foot elevation. For experienced hikers, that may seem piddly, but to a frustrated, much closer to sea level girl? Game on.

I was not at all prepared for what was ahead late Saturday afternoon. Rocks and rocks and rocks and an incline greeted me after we left the parking area. 5’7″ Marcia and 5’10” Derek practically flew up the trail from the get-go. 5’3″ me stupidly tried to keep up with them. When that didn’t work, I knew it was ultimately up to me to take care of myself. Yes, Marcia and Derek were kind enough to wait at certain points, but overall, it was mostly bestie and I doing call and response type yells to assure ourselves. I was embarrassed at first–fuck, I’m in worse shape than I thought, we should’ve gone tubing, I’m making a great impression on her boyfriend whom I just met last night. But after I passed the point of feeling like I was going to vomit, I realized–I had to do this. After the two weeks of heartbreak, stress, anger and death, I needed the break. I needed to do something out of the ordinary, which is why Marcia went for climbing over cupcakes.

Wouldn't you pick this over cupcakes?

Wouldn’t you pick this over cupcakes?

I felt like an awkward Spider-man, climbing like a baby beast while singing “Roar” and “Hearts on Fire” in my head. I was sore, my arms and legs on fire. Then, just when I thought I was getting to the top, I got lost. Just what I needed. I was scared for about thirty seconds, but then logic kicked in. I got lost making a left, therefore, going right would probably get me where I needed. Sure enough, I was right–Marcia’s voice got louder and louder and I was amped. I met her, and asked, “where the fuck is this point?” “Here!” she chirped, pointing to clearing where you could see the hills for miles. I stepped on to the ledge, and almost cried. If I could do this, I can do anything. Forget the idiot boys and angry customers. They don’t define me. While it is unfortunate my grandfather passed away, that’s life. Life isn’t going to stop because I’m having a bad time. 

Don’t worry, it didn’t end like a total teen TV episode–I tensed up on the way back down due to a fear of slipping, so I had a wicked headache the rest of the night. Yesterday and today, the area above my left knee is really feeling it. But it was worth it. So, so worth it. Thank you, Marcia.

*names changed to protect teachers from nosy children

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Health, Personal

“I No Longer Walk or Run. I Lumber.” (or: Furey’s First PPA Run in a Long Time)

Picture it: Lake Carmel, spring 2013. I was a run/walking maniac. I’d be outside every day, going 4-6 miles on foot while listening to Queen on blast, stopping to stretch. I also did free weights every other day, so I was in fantastic shape. I wasn’t eating junk, only needed one cup of coffee to get through the day, and slept very well.

Fast forward to June 2015, and I am a mess. I’m doughy, I’ve gained more weight than I thought, and I feel awful. I was still stuck in my terrible winter habit of waking up late, making the first of two cups of coffee, and eating brunch while staying cozy in my living room chair and catching up with my friend Hulu til it was time for me to go to work. In my head, I knew I had to get back in shape–I bought brand new hand weights, stocked up on fitness magazines, bought healthier food, just deterrrrmined to start exercising again. I mean, I had the basic motivation–smaller clothes, a better appearance, feeling good, having energy. I mean, I felt like a prince of the universe two summers ago:

But it didn’t fully click until today. I was sitting inside, on my laptop and streaming Hulu through my Xbox. I look outside, and see that it is gorgeous. It’s not ridiculously hot, nor is it cold and raining. So why the hell am I sitting inside? I got dressed, put on sunblock, and did some stretches before hitting the pavement. I felt good, I felt determined, I was ready to sprint. And I did–not very far, as I got winded rather quick. But that didn’t make me turn around and go home. I did my original 4 miles. Although I did have to stop from time to time, swore a lot (I think I said “fuck I’m fat/old” more than once) and couldn’t sprint for as long as I used to, I still did it.

So why today of all days? Was it simply the nice weather? No. It boiled down to two larger reasons:

–I Do NOT wish to repeat the health issues of 2009-11.

I can’t explain how or why, but around spring 2009, I started gaining weight which to me was alarming as after I had gained a shit ton of weight in the previous school year due to my over consumption of cheese, fattening coffee and champagne, I made a very conscious effort to drop the excess weight and then some. I kept it up, walking everywhere and taking a tae kwon do class which helped me get to a more manageable weight. But for whatever reason, no matter what I did in spring 2009, I just kept gaining weight. By early 2010, I was almost 300 lbs. 300 pounds, and I’m only 5’2″ and change.

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I look like the female version of Cleveland Brown, Jr. What a sad time that was.

Then, my period, after being dormant for almost two years, came back in the form of blood clots. I admit stress didn’t help–lucky me graduated in 2009, when it was considered a miracle to be hired. But was it really just stress? Nope–turns out, my metabolism fully shit out on me, which contributed to the period mess, which contributed to the gall bladder issues, so on and so forth. I was able to get it under control and I was determined to keep it that way, making sure I was doing at least some form of exercise once a week, no being dormant. I don’t want to relieve that, my foot has started to act wonky from the lack of activity and I’m like, no way, I’m nipping this in the bud. No more health issues.

–I Do NOT Want to Let Depression* Win

Oddly enough, when I started my crazy running schedule, it had only been about six months since Matty’s passing. But after this killer winter, combined with seemingly everyone I know getting engaged/married/pregnant/promoted/new apartments in a short span of time, I was just shot. I’m angry about that. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely happy for my friends and their milestones, I’m angry because it’s been almost three years and I’m only now “waking up” from the grief fuzz and feel like Leo The Late Bloomer of life.  I mean, it’s a tough thing–some people seem to be fully up and running in a short amount of time, other people I know experienced loss over a decade ago and they’re still frozen in that time. I don’t want to be the latter–I made a promise to myself the night before Matty died that I would not completely fall apart, and want to stick to it. I want to make the most of things, not get trapped in the emotional heft of loss.

*I haven’t been formally diagnosed with depression, but I really didn’t know how else to put it

So, there you have it. My physical health and my mental health are what finally got me out the door, along with the nice weather. And I’m glad I did–I forgot how much fun it was to put on earbuds and just go. Be outside, see different people (yet not have to talk to them if you don’t want to,) not worry about appearances. It’s good to release those endorphins!

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Health, Sex

BREAKING: Men have body image issues!

Nice try, Cosmopolitan.com. Perhaps author Anna Breslaw was trying to be funny, but the list of “10 Reasons Sleeping With a Husky Guy Is The Best” really isn’t. I stumbled upon it on Facebook last night, and clicked, thinking it would be nice. Instead, it was rife with awful jokes and tired stereotypes (guhuhuh, you can eat in front of him and he won’t care!) The line that stands out to me the most is “his largeness makes you feel like a gossamer porcelain ballerina!”

Where do I begin with the wrongness of this? Firstly, if Men’s Health or Maxim made a list of “10 Reasons Sleeping With a Plus Size Gal Is The Best” and included lines like, “you get three extra pillows with a pussy!” or “you’ll feel like Joe Manganiello next to her largeness!” there would be an angry response on Cosmo about ten minutes after it came out.  Second, as I mentioned earlier, it’s tired jokes and stereotypes. If Breslaw had wanted it to be funny, she could’ve come up with better reasons that didn’t involve food or comparing figures.

Third, men do have body image issues. Think about it–the praise that Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill got after losing great amounts of weight–they went from “schlubby” to “sexy and funny!” And not gonna lie, I don’t think someone like Billy Gardell is going to be on the cover of People‘s Sexiest Bachelors issue. And I’m pretty sure most guys weren’t feeling too hot after Magic Mike came out in 2012. I think the reason a lot of people don’t see that this kind of shit has a negative effect on men too. I think the reason that there aren’t a lot of “Love your body!” type campaigns for men is because they don’t really talk about it. You have larger men in movies and in positions of power, so why complain? That doesn’t mean that men don’t have the same insecurities as women. Who enjoys being referred to as “a third pillow with a dick” simply because you don’t have six pack?

What people don’t realize is that, while it’s easy to laugh things off out loud, it’s still wrong as it gets internalized. I mean, look at Richard Simmons on Wendy a few years back detailing his struggle, he’s near tears:

There will probably be some guys who’ll read the Cosmo piece and feel like a punchline. A younger bud of mine once lamented that because he didn’t look like the “teen idols” of his department at work, he couldn’t find a girlfriend. It made me sad that he was down on himself due to the lack of a six pack. He has plenty to offer, and to be honest, just because someone is physically fit doesn’t mean that they’re perfect overall–once you get past the just hooking up stage, if you really want to date, it’s going to take more than a gorgeous smile and great arms to sustain a relationship. You need to bring intelligence, humor and patience as well. 

So, Breslaw, Cosmo, think before you write. I know you could’ve come up with a better, more positive list of reasons to sleep with a larger guy that didn’t reduce them to a punchline. You get mad when it happens to women, so why should men be treated any differently in that regard? It just sucks all around.

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Health, News

Environmental Group Finds Carcinogen in Pepsi

On Wednesday, the Center for Environmental Health revealed that Pepsi’s caramel coloring still poses a risk to consumers due to a high levels of a carcinogenic known as 4-methylimidazole, or 4-Mel.

4-Mel can be formed after certain foods are cooked, so many foods may contain the carcinogen, even in trace amounts. So why is this shocking? The news of the finding comes not long after Coca-Cola and Pepsi agreed to reformulate their drinks in compliance with a new California law stipulating that certain drinks with high carcinogen levels come with a warning label.

Coke has removed the caramel coloring that contains 4-Mel from all their beverages, not just ones sold in California. However, while Pepsi is compliant with the law in California, drinks sold outside of California were found to contain levels of 4-Mel some four to eight times higher.

This is bull–okay, so Pepsi is being responsible and complying with a law in California, but the rest of the country can drink beverages containing a carcinogen that’s been linked to cancer? I’m not saying that Coca-Cola is a pure and wonderful company (I was involved with the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke in college; Coke’s corporate practices are unbelievably messed up) but you have to admit that they’re being smart and realizing that there is a reason California put that law into effect–to give consumers choices and allow them to protect their health. Why it hasn’t spread to the rest of the country, I don’t know.

Then again, are we to be surprised that a company that added an artificial sweetener that’s 200x sweeter than sugar to it’s diet formula would do the bare minimum when it comes to corporate responsibility, caring more about profits than the well being of their consumers?

What’s your take, LivLunatics? Do you think Coke is smearing their competition, or should the California law spread to the rest of the country?

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Health, News

Diet Pepsi Adding Second Artificial Sweetener to Formula

According to The Huffington Post, Diet Pepsi has been quietly testing out new sweeteners to help add to the shelf life of the popular soft drink.  Previously, the diet cola has been sweetened with Aspartame. Aspartame is sensitive to heat and breaks down more easily. By adding “a very small amount” of acesulfame potassium (which is often found in chewing gum, gelatin desserts and baked goods,) the aspartame will break down less quickly and will “ensure consistency with every sip.” But rest assured–“A change in sweetener does not change the flavor.” Executives at Pepsi are hoping that the addition of acesulfame potassium will help boost sales of the soft drink, which the number three soft drink in the country. Main competitor Coca-Cola is the number one drink.

Now, I’m all for corporate competition. However, I’m not digging the addition of even more artificial sweeteners to the mix. What exactly is acesulfame potassium? It’s a calorie free sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than table sugar. It is often used in sweetener blends to produce a more sugar-like taste in a food or beverage. The ingredient also helps the blend retain its sweetness during baking or heat processing, which is important for preparing foods, such as cookies and candies. Acesulfame potassium helps blends sustain their sweetness over time, thereby increasing the sweetness shelf life of products. In addition, foods containing blends of acesulfame potassium contain up to 40 percent less total sweetener.

While the FDA claims that the sweetener is safe, why not add natural sugar to the beverage? It’s easy to say “well, we should all stop drinking soda and stick to water, tea and milk,” but everyone has personal taste preferences. What’s your take on the soda debate?

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