Archive for the 'exercise' Category

everyone is supposed to be exercising all the time

I grew up really healthy. It was weird, at the time. My mom grew her own vegetables and I was forever picking basil for pesto. We got meat from a friend’s family, who raised and butchered cows, and everything else (blocks of mozzarella, knobby carob treats, the occasional bagel chip, palak paneer) came by truck from an organic co-op. We didn’t eat sugar, we didn’t eat processed foods. Store- bought milk seemed pretty special at the time. Once, when I spilled it, I cried over spilled milk.

I mean, we were just a weird family. My mom is a La Leche League leader and there was always a circle of nursing women sitting around, with cloth slings, in my living room, or at the park, or wherever we were, eating chunks of watermelon in the summer, eating carrot sticks always, but not from the bag.

(like, this was going on EVERYWHERE. source)

We were super weird—homeschooling/unschooling, liberal Jews who didn’t watch TV. Not at all. No TV.

“Do you even have a microwave?” the kids at Hebrew School asked me.

I burst out laughing. Of COURSE. Who doesn’t have a microwave? Are you kidding me? What am I, Amish?

In retrospect, it was a fair question.

Now that I’m all grown up and living in Brooklyn, it turns out that everyone wants to be like my mom. Well, not totally. I mean, they’re not gonna go so far as to give birth in an inflatable tub in the living room and not send their kids to school, of course. But they want to eat like her. It is totally, epically uncool to not care about what you are putting in your body. They want to exercise all the time.

I rebelled by eating a lot of junk food in college and never, ever exercising (I’m a badass). My whole family exercises. My dad and brothers lift weights for hours every day, my mom used to, and now she does tons of yoga and pilates. I am the only one who doesn’t do anything. I have been known to flaunt doughnuts.

(i mean, look at it, it’s gorgeous! source)

But I find myself drifting backward into the future, trying to remember to always make vegetables, joining a CSA to force myself to make vegetables, spending extra money on grassfed meat even though it’s so much more expensive that it pisses me off. The one thing I’m not doing is exercising. I’m not. I’m not exercising at all. And I should be. Because that is what conscientious people who respect their bodies do. That is what healthy people do. They do yoga. They go running. They go running and then do yoga. They get off their goddamn asses and do SOMETHING about their heart rate. Sex doesn’t count. Does it count? Should I do it more aerobically? How? I pace when I’m on the phone. That should count for something. Once every three or four days, I do a deep bend, all the way over, to almost touch my toes. It’s like yoga, except it only takes about five seconds and I’m not actually touching my toes, because I actually can’t touch my toes.

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Kate on November 2nd 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, food, life, new york

you big softy

Bear snuggled against me, wrapping his arms around me. “I love how soft you are,” he said.

This is one of two compliments I get from him on a daily basis. The other is, “I love how warm you are.”

I know they are serious compliments because of the tone.

I used to make fun of him. “So, basically, you love the fact that I’m not dead?” I’d say, when he talked about my warmth. “That makes me feel so special. I’m so unique!”

When he said, “You’re so soft…” I’d feel uncomfortable for a hint of a second. “Softer now than I used to be,” I’d say, wondering if maybe he was thinking that too. I’d make a poorly structured joke about my thighs.

It has not been easy for me to be soft. To get soft, and to admit how soft I already was.


I remember, in college, this guy I was dating kept saying, “You definitely work out,” in this admiring way, looking my body up and down.

“Nope!” I said, proud.

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Kate on May 24th 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, life, weight, work

black women and fat and a photo of a girl wearing someone else’s face

It is not totally rare that I am moved to tears, but this time it was for a good reason.

I was standing in a sleek little gallery on the Lower East Side, music beating in the background, as I looked at an enormous photograph of a little black girl holding the image of a white model’s face over her own. The colors were vivid, almost intense, but simple. The girls skinny legs and arms jutted. She was sitting, clutching the other face against her own. It had been torn from a magazine. It was a makeup ad. The girl was a Ugandan orphan. I wanted to peek under her mask and see her real face, but she wouldn’t let me.

The photographer was Gloria Baker Feinstein. She was in the city for her exhibit. She’s spent a lot of time in Uganda, and she established a non-profit for some of the amazing orphaned children she met and grew close to there (their art was also on display at the gallery). She also took a bunch of pictures of women eating cake, after reading this blog. And they are amazing.*

But anyway—I met Gloria in person for the first time, and she was wearing a leather jacket and being unassuming and quietly awesome and badass, and her photos made me cry.

And then that one, the one of the girl holding the pale face up to cover her own, dark one, made me suddenly think of this Op-Ed I read in the New York Times the other day. One that keeps bothering me. One that I don’t know how to talk about because it is by a black woman, talking about black women, and I am a pale, Jewish woman who is probably not fit to comment.

But I can’t help it. I’m commenting.

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Kate on May 10th 2012 in beauty, being different, body, exercise, food, weight

You only think the bullies are helpful

A therapist once said a really helpful thing to me.

She said, “Even if you stop thinking negatively, you’ll still succeed.”

She was talking about my grades, in college.

I think it was the end of my junior year, and my dad had just been diagnosed with gastroparesis. So his stomach was paralyzed, and he couldn’t eat without being in incredible pain. It did not look like he would be able to eat again, at that point. I called the counseling center and got myself an appointment, and then I found myself sitting across from a pleasant-looking, nondescript woman who has mostly been lost to memory, with a standard soothing voice, who listened to me talk about how scared I was that my dad would die. How scared I’d always been about my dad dying, really, since he’d always been sick. And what would happen to my life if my dad died? I couldn’t imagine. It seemed like there was nothing, after that.

I came back for a second session, but this time I talked about how enormously important it felt for me to get perfect grades. To justify the cost of college. To make something of myself. To be good at what I was doing. To prove myself.  I had chosen a state school for its affordability and proximity to my job, but I still felt like I couldn’t rest for a second, because I needed to make sure I was succeeding.

(I think I’m bad at figuring out what this should unlock)

So I felt bad in general, and also, my dad couldn’t eat.

And that’s when this nameless therapist who I could no longer pick out of a small coffee shop told me that I would still succeed, even if I stopped being so mean to myself. She said hard work isn’t about guilt. It’s not really motivated by that desperate feeling of “what if I fail?” We just believe it is. She said that kind of thinking gets in the way of working hard. The results have nothing to do with it. They have to do with something else entirely.

And that idea caught on, for some reason, and I remembered it.

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Kate on April 30th 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, fear, food

nightmare in yoga class

I was late to yoga, and when I walked in, carrying too many things, everyone was already on their mats.

Yoga is still really new for me. It still feels awkward and difficult, and I’m still at the point where I feel really proud of myself for going. Look at you, being all healthy! I think, of myself, as I enter the building. I nod a modest “your welcome” to my dysfunctional spine. I am here for you, I think. Because I love you. 

So even after arriving late, I was feeling pretty good about everything.

Ten minutes in, though, I noticed, while in some twisted, intimate pose, that there were holes in my pants. Exactly where you don’t want holes. Especially when you’re doing yoga, and the person behind you will see parts of your body that not even your kinkiest boyfriend wanted you to display like that.  Oh no. This is bad.

The pants were black. My underwear was white. My only white pair, I think.

I craned my neck. There were three holes…no, five. In a row along the inner seam. Perfect. There’s my vagina.

But actually, there wasn’t anyone behind me, just a wall. So maybe I’d get through the class without having to scandalize any of the other innocent yoga goers.


Definitely not.

“Pick a partner,” the teacher said, halfway through the class. “I’m seeing some really creative versions of the sun salutation around here, and I think it’s time to work things out. Remember, there’s no such thing as doing it wrong in yoga, but we can always learn from one another.”


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Kate on April 12th 2012 in exercise, life

nice to meet you, rebel body

There are parts of my body that I never encounter. The backs of my knees, for example. We have a civil, but distant relationship.

Yesterday, for the first time in maybe a month, I went to yoga again. I had just read this piece, by Autumn Whitefield-Madrano of The Beheld, for Body Image Warrior Week, and I thought that I would definitely draw myself as a connected entity, with a neck that meets with shoulders (you’ll get that if you read the piece).

But at yoga, twisted into a strange position in my unfortunate spot by the radiator, it occurred to me that I actually don’t know my body all that well.

My body feels unpredictable and slightly dangerous to me. It does things I don’t understand. For example, and this is gonna be about menstrual blood, so all boys stop reading here: at the end of my period, it always stops for a day and then comes rushing back for a day, like it missed me and changed its mind.

My body has been known to play mean tricks on me, which might be why I am wary. One day, suddenly, my hair started falling out. Years ago, in college. Before that, I had such thick hair, it would occasionally flex and snap one of those flimsy ponytail holders, showing off. After that, my hair was wispy and apologetic. It never fully grew back, and when I got to New York City, I went to the doctor, and sat on the table, humiliated and determined, and asked him what my options were.

He looked confused. “Options? There aren’t any, really.” But he gave me a prescription for a Rogain knockoff and he ran blood tests. In the convenience store on the other side of Broadway from me, I had to ask the woman behind the counter for the hair loss treatment. She pulled it off the shelf and gave me a long look. “This is for men,” she said firmly.

“I know!” I said. I paid for it, wishing I could just lie and say it was for my boyfriend or my dad or something. But I am never able to lie and will probably die because of it one day, when the pirate lord who has taken me prisoner stands me up on the plank and asks me for the last time if I was trying to start a mutiny and steer the ship over to that island, with the pretty beach and the palm trees. I was!!! I love pretty beaches! I can’t help it! I WILL DIE FOR YOU, PALM TREES!


(I don’t know where that came from. Sorry.)

The doctor called me. I was severely anemic.

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Kate on March 1st 2012 in beauty, body, exercise, uplifting, weight

a funny thing happened at yoga

We go around the room, introducing ourselves and sharing how long we have “practiced.”

“Nine years.”

“Five years.”


“Four days.”

That’s me.

And that is one of the reasons I am not good at yoga. Also, I am not flexible (does this make me less sexy? I’m pretty sure it does). Also, I have scoliosis. Not in a serious way. Just in a “Your spine is a little too curved” way. It makes my lower back look especially cute, the doctor said I looked like a dancer (a dancer! I must be pretty!). It makes my upper back and shoulders look not cute at all– more like a turtle (a dancing turtle!). It’s hard for me to put my shoulders back. Which means it’s hard for me to look like a queen. Which is a major disappointment.

So the hardest pose for me is the one where you sit with your legs straight in front of you and then bend over them, from the waist. My back won’t let me bend. I’m sitting straight up, and everyone is touching their toes. Even the pregnant woman in the back. How is that even possible? Even the seventy-year-old dude in the very tight pants.

I am also bad at downward facing dog, which feels shameful. Downward facing dog is clearly the most important pose. They keep coming back to it. Everything ends in it. No matter what you do, you end up in downward facing dog, contemplating the fickle, meandering course of your life.

(have you noticed that the mats are always in soothing colors? source)

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Kate on January 26th 2012 in exercise, fear, uplifting