Bodies are Weird and Stress is Dumb

Okay. I’m just going to say it.

In the past four months, I’ve gained 10 pounds.

Those 10 pounds that I worked to lose a year ago.

I’ve gained 10 pounds and my body doesn’t feel like my own anymore.

Do I think that I am worth less as a human because my body has changed? No. Do I feel that others are better than me because their bodies look different? Not really. Am I frustrated that stress has taken over my life and my cortisol levels have spiked and inflammation is normal? Yes. Very much so.

My last post (like, two months ago?) touched a little bit on my headspace in our new home. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but honestly, not much has improved in that capacity. In fact, things got really seriously REAL before they started to slowly improve. I’m gonna vaguebook hard here, because most of the details aren’t truly mine to share, but the redacted version is that we’ve been on a rollercoaster and dealing with some things we totally weren’t expecting or prepared for. Things are getting better, but as with most things, it’s a slow process with slow progress.

Consequently, my routine has been anything but routine. My workout schedule has been all over the place and lower in intensity, I’ve been traveling, and my diet has been… meh. Not bad, but not consistent. The slow march up the scale has been frustrating, disheartening, and really demotivating.

I spent most of last year dialing in my nutrition and training and my body felt amazing. I felt fit and strong and confident – but mostly I felt comfortable in my own skin. Since the cascade of stress started, it’s felt like my body is foreign, which is super uncomfortable and unsettling. My fitness has suffered, my confidence is low, and it’s harder than ever to find motivation to fix any of these problems.

Psychology Today explains the relationship between stress and weight gain pretty well, primarily discussing hormonal changes the body experiences when in a stressful situation:

When your brain detects the presence of a threat, it triggers the release of a cascade of chemicals, including adrenaline, CRH, and cortisol. Your brain and body prepare to handle the threat by making you feel alert, ready for action and able to withstand an injury. In the short-term, adrenaline helps you feel less hungry as your blood flows away from the internal organs and to your large muscles to prepare for “fight or flight.” However, once the effects of adrenaline wear off, cortisol, known as the “stress hormone,” hangs around and starts signaling the body to replenish your food supply. Fighting off wild animals, like our ancestors did, used up a lot of energy, so their bodies needed more stores of fat and glucose. Today’s human, who sits on the couch worrying about how to pay the bill or works long hours at the computer to make the deadline, does not work off much energy at all dealing with the stressor! Unfortunately, we are stuck with a neuroendocrine system that didn’t get the update, so your brain is still going to tell you to reach for that plate of cookies anyway.

I’m not necessarily reaching for cookies all the time, but I do let the cortisol rule my rational instincts.

My relationship with my body is complicated (what woman’s isn’t?). Thankfully, my relationship with food is still okay. Even if I’m frustrated with my nutrition, I know that a big part of why my body doesn’t feel great is because I haven’t been consistent with the plan I was following for success. I don’t binge on junk food, but I do skip meals and traveling has definitely funked up my routine a whole lot. I just haven’t felt motivated enough to buckle down and plan for it appropriately. Apathy, man, it’s kind of a bitch.

When most of your energy and focus is spent on someone else, self-care is easy to talk about and hard to do. It’s complicated, too, because there’s an insane amount of latent guilt that goes along with it. I feel guilty about taking time and focus away from my partner when engage in anything related to self-care, and I know my partner feels guilty, too, as he doesn’t want to take me away from things that I love or want to do.

Guilt abounds – and while neither of us should be feeling it, it’s just one of those things for which we have to continue working on and giving each other (and ourselves) grace.

As my 30th birthday is right around the corner, and things on the homefront seem to be (finally) looking up, I’m ready to shake off this funk and get back to being myself. I’m sleeping better, I know what my nutrition should look like (balanced, not restrictive, fuel for my body and my fitness), and I have a gym community that I feel good about. No pity parties for me – I’m ready to address my stress in healthy ways and work on feeling comfortable in my body again.

My body is good and strong and capable. I am not my stress.

I. Am. Not. My. Stress.

I’m That Girl You Love to Hate

I want you all to know that this post is the hardest thing I’ve ever tried to write. Trust me, that’s saying a lot. As an aspiring fiction writer, I’ve written some things that are definitely NSFW or children. Stuff that makes seasoned writers squirm uncomfortably in their desk chairs. I want you to know that this post was way, way harder than any horror scene I’ve ever written.

Today, I’m writing about skinny shaming, and about the fact that skinny shaming is real,  and it’s hurtful. I first wanted to write about skinny shaming when I joined Scoot a Doot in November of 2014. I wussed out, and wrote “The Lies They Tell Us” instead.  Then I went to FitBloggin 2015 in June, and they had a discussion titled Finding the Medium Between XS & XL, Exploring the Controversy Between Fat & Skinny Shaming. In a room filled with people who had struggled with varying degrees of obesity, I stood up and said something that was received with mixed reactions. I asked them to please stop shaming the skinny people for being skinny. There was one other woman there that could identify with what I was saying, and after the lecture, several people came up to me to thank me for sharing because they hadn’t seen the body shaming issue from the other point of view. That fanned my courage to write this post, and I hope it helps folks understand what skinny shaming means and how hurtful it can be.


As a “skinny” girl, you may feel as though I’m speaking from a place of privilege. I understand how it might be perceived that way. All this time I’ve been writing for Scoot, I’ve tried to play down my body image struggles because honestly, I don’t have any. I feel like a jerk for putting that out into the universe because I don’t want it to seem like I’m lording it over anyone, or worse, complaining about the genes I’m fortunate to have. But here is the thing that sucks; I’m that girl everyone one loves to hate.  I’m guilty of a cardinal genetic sin; I’m naturally thin, and it’s taboo for me to talk about it.

You might be thinking “rub it in our face, Jenn, thanks a lot.” I get that. I really, really do. Hence why I generally follow the taboo and try not to talk about my body on the blog. I try to be sensitive to the feelings and situations of folks who have the opposite experience that I do. My best friend of twenty years has struggled with obesity her whole life and I’ve seen the other side of the coin through her eyes. The thing is though, it’s about genes. And we encourage a double standard when we talk about weight.


A double standard, you say? I know it’s hard to believe or understand immediately. The reason us thin folk don’t talk about it is because we’re terrified that we’ll be perceived as complaining about being skinny, or speaking from that place of privilege, and will therefore be labeled as conceited and shallow. Complaining about being skinny would be incredibly insensitive. I want to be very clear, I’m not complaining about my body, only the double standard that accompanies it. Allow me to elaborate on what I mean by double standard.


We all acknowledge and understand that it’s not cool to shame people for being overweight. Of course that is the absolutely right way to behave, I’m definitely not suggesting anything to the contrary. But, and this is a BIG but, we shame skinny people all the time without a thought. How is that possible? I’ve listed a few examples taken from my own experiences.

I would never say to someone “Do you really think you should eat that? You have a lot of weight to lose.” Yet, people think it’s okay to tell me: “Don’t you think you should eat more? You’re soooo thin.”

It is in no way acceptable to say to someone, “You’re so fat! Do you have a gland/genetic/health problem?” Yet people have commented to me “You’re so thin! Are you anorexic/bulimic?”

I would never say to a stranger, “Oh my gosh, you’re so fat. You must eat all the time!” Yet I can’t count how many times a complete stranger has told me, “Wow! You’re so tiny! You must never eat!”

The last time someone said that to me, I was so hurt and tired of the same old snarky commentary disguised as a backhanded compliment that I did something  I still feel a tiny bit bad about. I was at a greasy spoon truck stop and I ordered the chicken fried steak, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes. And I. ATE. IT. ALL. Right in front of her, the snarkey commentator. And I mmmm-mmm’ed and yummm-yummed all over that shiz. I didn’t feel one bit sorry as she watched me stuff my face with gravy covered goodness, proving that I can eat like a lumberjack when I want to.


For many years, I’ve scratched my head, trying to figure out what the impetus is for these feelings and comments.  I can’t help the way I look any more than any of us can. Sure, we could all be firmer here and there, but we’re born with our body type. It may sound ridiculous, but I’m convinced my body type has kept me for forming friendships because I’m judged before I even open my mouth. I base this conclusion on comments from newly formed acquaintances that never evolved into anything more. Here’s a sampling:

“You are SO SKINNY. OMG I hate you.”

“You can fit in to that? I hate you.”

“You wear a bikini? I hate you.”

“You don’t wear Spanx?! I hate you.”

“Your wrists are SO TINY. I hate you. ”

“Your wedding gown is a size zero?! I hate you,” said the woman who altered my gown. She must have been in her sixties, and she still found room in her heart to be jealous of my then 26 year-old figure. Really.

And my favorite; “OMG, you’re so skinny. I have to hate you and we can’t be friends.” I wish I were kidding. I am not. A woman actually said that to me when we were introduced.

“I hate you” is always tacked on with a fake smile and self-depreciating hand gesture, but I know what’s really being said. In that moment, they really do hate me for my genetics; something I have NO control over, and trust me, it does color their perception of me. They prove it by ignoring me and choosing not to interact with me or talk to me. So if we can’t be friends because of something I can’t control, then does that mean I’m supposed to end my friendship with my BFF because she struggles with something she can’t control, being over weight?

Methinks not.

The “I hate you” comment is especially mean because it basically translates to “you disgust me”. You disgust me because you have something I don’t. You disgust me because you have something I want. You disgust me because I feel shitty about myself. You disgust me because being seen with you makes me feel shittier about myself.

Do you see the huge, glaring double standard here? And speaking of double standards, bear in mind that if you magically attain a perfect figure a la Sofia Vergara, it still won’t be good enough. When it comes to weight, you’re damned either way. Sorry to dash your hopes of body acceptance. There will always be someone who will say something to tear you down.

Make this your mantra during these encounters.

This is my mantra during these encounters.

Case in point, I have another friend who is gorgeous and in-shape and she hears it too. Other women telling her they hate her, telling her to eat more, or that she is “so perfect.” The problem is she has to work her ASS OFF to stay thin and fit. She can’t eat whatever she wants. She hasn’t always fit into a size 4. The most infuriating thing she hears is “why do you work out, you’re so thin!” It never seems to dawn on anyone that she’s thin because she works out. Not to mention, can’t she just work out to be healthyWhy does it always have to be about vanity?


The “real women have curves”, “no one wants to cuddle with a stick”, and “I’d rather be curvy than look like a little boy” memes floating around out there aren’t doing anything for anyone’s self esteem.  It’s another example of bashing one side to make the other feel better.  I feel horrible for young girls and women who are struggling to accept themselves and their own bodies. What kind of mixed messages are we CONSTANTLY sending? Don’t be fat, but don’t be thin!  We all know the answer is to love yourself, for yourself. That’s the message we need to see more of, but try telling that to an eleven year old young lady and convincing her to truly believe it.


In a perfect world, we would all accept ourselves first, others second, and then focus on building each other up instead of tearing each other down. Being that this is a fitness blog and you are here because you have an interest in being fit and healthy, I’m willing to bet the farm you’ve been on the receiving end of similar body shaming comments and prejudices from every sector of the spectrum. I’d love to hear from you. I’d love to hear from you if you think what I’m saying is nonsense. Let’s have some dialogue to understand this behavior better. And then let’s be the change that’s needed!


Share your body shaming story with me in the comments. I really would love to hear your thoughts and experiences on all aspects of this issue!

Finding Balance on the Scale

The scale and I have been having a disagreement lately. I get on it in the morning and it gives me a number I don’t like. I give it a look, eat my way through the day, and then get back on it at night. It still gives me a number I don’t like. Rinse and repeat for the past two months. That number really isn’t budging. It’s frustrating. It’s irritating. It’s disappointing, even.

I’ve been slender for my entire life. Before I had Bug, my metabolism was epic. If I gained a couple pounds and was unhappy about it, all I had to do was cut back on my calories for a few days and I’d settle back into my happy zone. I ate what I wanted for the most part. Didn’t have to exercise all that much to maintain a slim, not-too-squishy build. I had a flat stomach! And guess what? I still complained about my weight. I still looked in the mirror and thought “hmm. Not good enough.”

So maybe the problem isn’t my weight. Maybe my real problem is that I am never satisfied with my body. This body, which has carried me through 31 years of life and given me a crazy-amazing kid and kept me healthy, is still a disappointment to me. And I think it’s okay to feel uncomfortable when your weight creeps up to a higher number than you’re used to, or want. But the fact that I weigh myself, on average, 2 to 3 times a day sets off alarm bells in my head. It puts me in the danger zone. It means that I hear words like “thigh gap” and “ideal build” and think that my body, for everything it’s done for me, isn’t good enough. That my body, when it’s not perfect, makes me somehow less than. It’s not true, but it feels true.

I think about how I, a fairly reasonable adult who has the maturity to understand on some intellectual level that my weight and how I look doesn’t define who I am as a human being,  struggle with this problem on a daily basis and I’m a little befuddled. I have thighs that jiggle. I’ve got a booty on me (look out, JLo, I’m coming for you). My stomach is soft and I have to hike up my jeans when I sit down so my little pooch doesn’t flap over my waistband. I’m carrying around 10 extra pounds that I’d love to take a hike. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not a rad person. I totally get that, and yet I don’t. I look in the mirror and think “ugh.”

Then and now (this was not fun to post).

Then and now (this is not fun to post).

This is not just my struggle. I love and hate that I’m not alone thinking these things. And I’m using Scoot as my diary today because I think that speaking these fearful thoughts out loud gives them less power. Also, I’m not going to turn down a pep talk or a “me, too” from you wonderful, kind readers.

I am working on living a healthier life. I hope that by default that sort of squashes the argument between me and my scale; I hate when we fight. But I know at the end of the day, the argument is really one-sided. It’s just giving me the facts. I’m the one who’s skewing them. I’m the one who’s making them uglier than they need to be.

Anyone else out there who feels the way I do? Or do you have some advice for me? Let’s talk it out in the comments. 

The Most Important Thing About Me

My 8 year old daughter recently had to write a paragraph on the most important things about herself. I was excited to read this because my daughter is quite precocious.  She comes up with some pretty unique ideas and I couldn’t wait to read about her view on herself.  She included a lot of the typical 8 year old priorities: her pets, her toys, she wants to be a comedian when she grows up…but the MOST important thing about her was quite alarming.

She wrote that the MOST important thing about her was that she’s skinny.

Gasp! Choke!  Surely, this must be a mistake! My child can’t possibly be that shallow!

How could this have happened? I spent my young life with eating disorders and poor self-esteem and I spent my young adult life recovering from it.  It wasn’t until I read the book “Intuitive Eating” by Evelyn Tribole that I really made peace with food.  I’ve gone out of my way to promote healthy eating habits in my children.  I don’t make them eat when they don’t want to.  I limit their food choices.  I make sure they pay attention to their bodies when they’re choosing snacks.  It’s always been the one thing I want to protect my children from – food and body issues.  And yet, somehow, my daughter came to the conclusion that being skinny was the most important thing about her.

She's got spirit!

She’s got spirit!

My gut reaction was to start looking for the culprit.  Who did this to my child?  Was it the Disney Channel and their preteen sitcoms?  Or because we let her do cheerleading?  Was it the kids at school or the commercials on television or the magazines or the books…

Was it me?  Was it my five gym memberships and my protein shakes and my race medals?  These are good things, right?  Exercise is a good habit, right?

It could very well be all of the above.  It could be none of these.  But somehow, in her 8 year old brain, healthy and active translated to skinny.

I made her change it.  That’s the benefit of having my kids attend the school I teach at.  I can obnoxiously intervene any time I want!  And intervene I did.  We had quite the discussion about how body shape doesn’t make anyone any better than anyone else.  We talked about how people come in all shapes and sizes and that what matters is how people treat others.  We came up with better adjectives.  Active, strong, athletic…and we finally agreed upon healthy.

Healthy.  We rarely see health being advertised on television.  No celebrity is revered for their excellent organs or spectacular blood pressure.  At one point in our evolution, healthy meant viable meant offspring meant survival of the species.  And now healthy has become a synonym for skinny.

I do not accept.  My kids deserve more.  They’re always watching, listening, learning the rules, learning how to cope, taking this world apart and putting it all back together so they can see how it works.  And how it’s working lately is not so hot.

Hopefully, I cleared this up with my girl.  Because the most important thing about ME is this job called parenting.  It’s the most important thing I’ll ever do and being skinny isn’t going to make it any easier.  But being physically and mentally healthy just might.

We are the champions!

We are the champions!

A Tale of Two (Piece) Bathing Suits

There are only two weeks left of summer (Boo Hoo. Woo Hoo!), and last week, my family finally made it to the beach for a few days. We lounged by the pool, and watched the girls show off their newly-acquired swimming skills. Little dude took his first step into the ocean. We grilled burgers and roasted marshmallows. J and I even went for a run on the beach. And I wore a bikini for the first time since the dude was born.

Before this spring, I couldn’t tell you the last time I wore a one piece bathing suit. I’m pear-shaped, with short legs and a long torso, and a one-piece just isn’t flattering. From the time my parents allowed a bikini, that’s what I wore.

Even during my pregnancies, I rocked a two-piece.

Then this guy arrived in December. I was up forty pounds by delivery, and had lost twenty by January. Then I stopped dropping weight. I was eating healthy. (Mostly.) I had begun to exercise. I was nursing all hours. And nada. Zero pounds lost. Zilch.

Nothing in my closet fit. I was too small for maternity clothes- not that I wanted to wear those any more in the first place- and too big for anything else I owned. I was happy enough to shop for new clothes. I love shopping. I love fashion. And honestly, I had just had a baby, so I wasn’t expecting anything to fit. YET.

When April arrived and the kids began to gaze longingly at the pool, I started to panic. I wasn’t ready for a bathing suit. Hell, I wasn’t even ready to wear shorts.

I did some window shopping online (Modcloth and Anthro, natch), and let the idea of a vintage-style one-piece marinate. I settled on a navy blue suit that had many glowing reviews- “sexy”, “sleek”, “chic”, “hides my lady-who-just-had-a-baby body”.

Really though, why all the freaking fuss? Why was I so afraid to just grin and, literally, bare it? I have three children- five, four, and almost eight months- and honestly, I look pretty darn good. I’ve outgrown a lot of my body hang-ups as I’ve gotten older (Turning thirty is good for something, amirite?) and especially once I became a mother.

My breasts aren’t as perky as they used to be, but they’ve nourished three children for a combined 42 months, and counting. It’s amazing to go to the pediatrician when your baby is only nursing, and see how they’re growing, all because of you.

My belly isn’t as flat as it was in my early twenties, but I’ve carried three babies. I have a nice layer of squish for little dude to jump on, because babies like to do that.

My butt and thighs…well, those are my “problem” areas. No amount of working out or dieting is going to change that. I inherited my mother’s pear shape. She’s built just like my grandmother. And while I hope that my girls are long and lean like my mother-in-law, I know that the pear shape isn’t a bad one to have. With all the junk in my trunk, my waist looks pretty tiny.

I’ve also realized that most of the women I know have complaints or anxiety about their bodies. One of my close friends is petite and has a cute, lean and sporty figure. She’s also self-conscious of her thighs. Another is tall and thin; probably a size two. She hates her stomach. Our babysitter, and good friend of mine, is capital H-O-T and very athletic (the first time I dragged her to yoga with me, she popped right into crow. Crow!), and yet, she always seems to want to drop a few inches here or there.

Come on, ladies! You are fabulous. Yes, you. Every single inch. Hindsight is 20/20, and I can tell you, ten years from now, you’ll wish you’d appreciated how gorgeous you looked in the summer of 2013.

Still, it took me most of the summer to get back in the saddle, so to speak. Eh. I’m only human. Maybe when I’m forty, I just won’t give a damn.

Let’s talk about our problem areas! No, just kidding. Tell me about your best bits. I think you’re cute.