Monday, January 30, 2012


This Wednesday is National Girls and Women in Sports day. As part of the Women Talk Sports Network, bloggers were asked to do a post about why sports are important to either us or girls or women. I could write many posts on this topic, but I'll limit it to one, for now.

Leading the race in cross country in high school

So often when I do any kind of interview or read any books or articles about women athletes, a common theme emerges that relates to self-esteem and self-acceptance. There's no doubt a sport can help a young girl feel empowered. Many times in my blog posts because my blog in general focuses more on eating disorders and addiction, I focus on the negative aspects of taking things into the dark and slightly absurd world of over training and under eating, but even for me there was a time before all that when running gave me freedom, strength and a better sense of self.

Before I started running, I rode horses. Before that, I was kind of lazy. I've mentioned plenty of times that I was teased relentlessly when I was a kid for being fat and the youngest in my group of peers. Oddly enough, back then fat always was accompanied by ugly, so I grew up thinking I was both. It's hard looking back and accepting that I was neither. I was maybe a little chubby, but far from what is considered fat and nowhere even close to obese, though the way I was teased made it seem so. For years I felt awful about myself. I was not athletic, always came in the back of the pack in races or athletic events, and had no real self-esteem. 

When I was in grade school, out of the blue I got it in my head that I wanted to start riding horses, and from that moment on, my life would be different. It was one of those profound moments that set in motion a chain of events that led me to be who I am today. There's a great book called the Tao of Equus that explores the relationship between horses and women. At times it can feel like a magical connection, and for me, it provided a boost in my confidence. It wasn't just the relationship to the horses that gave me this new experience of  feeling more grounded, it was exercising and moving in the world that did. Horseback riding can be like any other sport in which there are moments of zen or getting into the zone. With show jumping, a plan must be formed mentally before being executed, so visualization applies in the same way it would to any other sport, only there must be communication with the horse through subtle body cues to achieve the desired outcome. In short, it's a great way to be in the moment while connecting to the universe. 

Despite all the benefits I experienced with riding, it wasn't until I started running that I really felt a surge of power. For many young girls, engaging in sports at a young age is what allows freedom of expression and a way to get in touch with oneself. The challenge of athletics can provide a sense of accomplishment and teach dedication through hard work. Those of us who have struggled at a younger age either emotionally, physically or both understand how important it is to feel strong in one's body. In her book, On the Wings of Mercury, Lorraine Moller describes her struggles as a child dealing with chronic illness who eventually found running. Her story is one of inspiration as she recounts her rise in a sport in which she is often now seen as a legend. For me, running answered the question, "Why am I here?" It gave me purpose and direction, until I took it too far, of course. Still, those moments of running when I felt it was what I was supposed to do permitted me to experiment with how far I could push myself mentally, and that gave me the boldness and potential to open doors in a sport that had long been dominated by men. 

I had many idols ahead of me, but back then, women were not always met with open arms at the start line. In fact, there were times I was cut off or blocked in races, simply because of my gender. Often when we participate in a sport, it becomes about more than the sport itself. When I ran, it wasn't always about winning a race or setting a course or personal record, it was about something larger than myself. In my mind, it was about women having the right to run. All things considered, women's distance running is a relatively new sport, but women have been going the distance unofficially for a long, long time. In the end, when asked why sports are important to women or young girls, I have to answer in a way that points out the movement forward in women's rights. That has always been a part of the reason why I run and partly why my dedication to the sport is so strong. Long before I became a successful athlete, running gave me a voice against the people in my life who had taken advantage, put me down or abused me in some way. Running was my way out of feeling helpless. It gave me the backbone to stand up for myself, and I believe that any sport has the potential to do this.

Setting a record in the mile in junior high

I want to share this video, because I feel it's related. There's a powerful message emerging lately that is a wonderful counter to the very unhealthy "you can never be too thin" mentality still floating in the air. Rather than focus on a size or number on the scale, it's time to focus on health. For years when I was trying to make a comeback in running after a long and severe battle with anorexia, my mom kept telling me that I had two goals that could not both be achieved at once- one was to be thin, and the other was to run well. My desire to be thin cost me the opportunity to run well. Of course, it was more than a desire to be thin, it was an intense fear of getting fat, which goes much deeper than that even, but the basic concept is there. Diane Israel had this same realization, and other people noticed it as her career came to an early end. She was too depleted to keep running well. Had we been able to shift the focus and do whatever it took to run and train in a healthy way, who knows where our careers would have taken us. I'm glad to see a shift in thinking these days with less emphasis on being thin and more on being healthy and fit. 

I know size is relative and somewhat arbitrary. In general, I wear between a size zero to size six, depending on the designer, and I can tell you I am not what most would consider plus-sized. It's true that when I was anorexic (but before I really went off the deep end with the illness) a fashion photographer told me that if I wanted to be a model, I needed to gain weight. You can imagine how thin I was. I thought I looked normal, just a bit on the lean side. That's scary. Initially, it was running that helped me gain a sense of being OK in the world. I've had to find that outside of running these days, but running did propel me to a different way of thinking. I hope the trend of ignoring what the media tries so hard to shove down our throats continues and that young athletes can continue to focus more on their ability and less on their looks. Would you want your daughter to be concerned with making the hot list or making the Olympic team? Really, it's time to celebrate women in sports for their achievements, not how pretty and thin they are.

Monday, January 23, 2012


I'm trying to figure out how people have the time to create a blog post every day. I have trouble doing one a week! Of course, there have been times I have done as many as three in one week, but generally I struggle to get one out each week. As a result, there are a few posts that are either dull or not well thought out, like this one here.

I think I mentioned some time ago the story about some vegan chick getting all high on her horse and citing a study that PROVED that milk protein CAUSES cancer. I had to cringe, not because I think all vegans are this stupid, but because this one in particular has no clue. Actually, I totally respect and admire people who choose to eat vegan. Considering how fucked my body is, I don't think I will ever be able to do it. I have absorption troubles and can't really do soy. I've read both the pros and cons of a vegan diet in terms of health, environment and morality, and I can't say I'm 100 percent convinced it's right for me, except on the morality issue. The other two areas leave me conflicted, because there are definite pros and cons with each. Unfortunately, I can't justify getting sick again in order to fully embrace it, though I do make an effort to eat less meat and try to support locally owned, organic farms etc. Besides, with a vegan diet it means taking supplements, which are generally highly processed no matter how natural they are, in order to get the proper amounts of things like iron and B12. I have to take supplements even with meat in my diet though. My blood iron tends to run abnormally low, so without an extra supplement, I'd be screwed. In fact, I take a supplement with iron and an extra iron tablet, and I'm still low! I also cook in a cast iron skillet. I really am starting to see that each body is unique. There are people who can handle a vegan diet and those who can't. Right now, I can't. Every time I move toward one, I start feeling weak and tired. Again, I do admire those who have figured out a way to make it work.

So back to the pious vegan lady... (I think I mentioned this before, but I'm on a roll, so I'm going for round II)

She decided that she would cite this study in an effort to show everyone how great veganism is. I'm not saying it's not great for some people. I believe it is. From the way she presented things though, it was clear that she had not read the study. Either that or she read it and didn't understand it. I suspect that she read one of those pro-vegan websites that stated these untrue findings, because she tends to do a lot of cut and paste rather than put things in her own words. I found several websites claiming the same thing.

Before I continue, let me just get into the actual study. Because I have read it, I will summarize in words people like her can understand. (Wow I'm being an ass today)  :P

In the study, one group of rats was given a certain amount of milk protein and another group was given a higher percentage of milk protein. Then, both groups of rats were exposed to some hardcore carcinogens. (OH NO! Where are the vegans who claim their cause is all about animal welfare? What about the poor little rats?? I guess the rats aren't cute and fuzzy enough.) After the exposure to the hardcore carcinogens, it was discovered that the group of rats eating the higher percentage of milk protein developed PRE-cancerous cells at a faster rate than the rats who ate less milk protein. Of course, one could consider that maybe the rats who ate a diet of 30 percent milk protein instead of something less were missing out on other foods that would affect how quickly they develop pre-cencerous cells. However, people love to twist these kinds of studies around in order to support whatever belief they have, so this was all incorrectly translated as milk protein causes cancer. I'm rolling my eyes. She also stated something about how eating dairy causes anemia, as if anemia is some illness triggered by milk. I think what she meant to say is that calcium, which is found in both dairy and non-dairy foods, can inhibit iron absorption. You get my point with all of this. It's more twisting of facts to support a certain belief.

There's a part of me that wishes I could be a vegan. I'd love to be the kind of person who, in addition to volunteering at the humane society and doing the whole recycle thing, could take my concern for the environment and animals one step further. Someone recently told me that humans merely being on the planet disrupts the habitat of other animals. I believe it. Obviously when we plow fields, we disrupt the habitat of other living creatures. There's no way around it. We could also take a stance that a carrot is a living thing, and why is it OK to kill plants? Poor carrots. Poor expensive carrots!

In Boulder, of course, those Audi driving, Whole Foods going crowds can afford to be vegan and don't flinch at the 40% increase in fruits and vegetables in the last year. People in other areas, however, are focused more on the 40% decrease in refined foods, because they can't afford fruits and vegetables from the start. That's why people in this country are fat. Well that and the emotional aspect that's often not addressed. I'm sure people who write those Healthy Living bogs will continue to suggest that it's all about eating healthy, whole foods, but what about those who can't afford them?

I'm rambling with no real point other than to ramble. Sometimes it's fun. Train of thought, let's see where this goes...

In other news, I'm walking a little bit, but not enough for it to be considered exercise. My longest walk has been 15 minutes. I'm still on the bike though. I'm as pale as a vampire now, a vampire with a limp. Actually it's more of a white girl gangster walk than a full limp, so that's an improvement. That would make me a pale white gangster vampire, I guess.

Being emotional sucks. This weekend I could have been in some kind of Saturday Night Live skit about the girl who cries at everything. That's the problem with holding shit in. It eventually comes out, and when it does, it feels like a never ending flood. It got to the point where it actually was funny. But I'm in a better place now. It was one of those everything on top of everything situations that broke me. Shit happens, I guess.

Tomorrow I will be interviewing Suzy Hamilton, and later in the week I will be submitting my reworked short story. I just realized how badly I need a shower.

My next blog post should be more entertaining, complete with pictures and maybe a video!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Top 10 list

Things that annoy me:

1. People who try to sound educated by saying, "between you and I."
2. Runners who downplay their training when you know they are doing anything but slacking.
3. Mean people. They really do suck.
4. People who have the time, energy and DESIRE to stick their noses into other people's shit and root around for a good long while. Mmmm Niiice. How 'bout taking a look at some bigger aspect of the world?
5. The band Phish.
6. Radio stations that play the same 5 songs over and over and over and over and over and over and over and ...
7. The foot brace I have to wear with all its Velcro, straps and laces.
8. Anyone who makes huge assumptions based solely on the false ideas that are stuck up his own ass. Hey, eat a prune. Maybe you'll feel better.
9. Not being able to sleep when I'm exhausted.
10. "Healthy Living" blogs that suggest running over 115MPW on average is the perfect example of moderation.

I am also annoyed that my right foot still goes numb every day, but that would make 11 annoyances. 10 is such a nice number for these kinds of exercises, so I won't add that one to my official list for the night.

On the bright side, I got the OK to walk from the doctor. I went outside for 10 minutes today. My foot was sore, but it is coming along. Wow, what a long recovery though.

Enjoy these two random videos, yo.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The objectification of women

Sex sells but does rape? 

I'm working on two similar blog posts at once. The content overlaps some, even though one post is about objectification and the other is about shock art.

Yeah, I'm going to go there...again. And yes, I will encourage people to watch Killing Us Softly once more. I should probably change the title to The Objectification of People, but because women are traditionally put on display more, I'll leave it as is. I know I have addressed this issue in the past, but it's one that keeps popping up and staring me in the face.

First let me say that I have a very open mind when it comes to the expression of sexuality. Also, I have no problem with women showing skin if they like. I believe it's possible to present sensual, even sexy images without completely objectifying the model. Oddly, in a strange twist of what inherently seems wrong, some women will even objectify themselves in order to have a sense of empowerment. While I get that on some level, it also makes me cringe. Really, there is a line, and while we may not always be able to define or or describe it, we know when that line has been crossed. To objectify means that the person is discounted and the focus is on removing the human aspect. She becomes a sexual object (nothing more than something to provide sexual arousal or pleasure), not a beautiful or capable woman. It can be a very subtle difference between that and merely presenting an arousing image of a beautiful woman. There are extremists who believe that any attraction based on physical attributes is a problem. I don't see it that way. We are visual creatures and take pleasure in visual stimulation. The problem is where to draw that line, and it will be different for each of us.

Part of the problem in advertising is that we are so bombarded with these kinds of images that we are less aware of what objectification even is. I always bring up the Killing Us Softly series mentioned above when these kinds of discussions arise, simply because it raises awareness around how much we become accustomed to and accept in the advertising world, even when something doesn't sit quite right with us. Enter American Apparel...

Keep in mind that many American Apparel customers are in the 13 to 18-year-old age range.  This ad is currently on their website as of January 2012.

        What, exactly, is being sold here?

Kiddie porn or print campaign genius?

Where do I even begin?

The severity of objectification is so incredibly blatant in these ads that it's impossible to ignore. It's true that several ads from both Calvin Klein and Abercrombie and Fitch did stir up controversy when they came out years ago, and now the bar has been raised (or lowered) yet again. Congratulations American Apparel! It's incredibly upsetting that in addition to models looking far too young to be posing in these kinds of provocative positions, the ads also contain suggestions to check out porn star sites. Keep in mind that the target audience is young girls, not adults.

Calvin Klein ad

I realize that men are objectified too. It just happens more with women. Take the recent picture on the cover of Outside magazine of Lolo Jones. How would a male hurdler be portrayed? It's not that I feel her posing in a weird 5th Element-esque swimsuit is necessairly wrong; it's more that I see her as being a product of our culture.

Lolo Jones- no doubt the lady is incredibly beautiful! 

It's odd to say, but there are degrees of objectification. On a scale of 1 being a Sears model and 10 being, well, an American Apparel model, these sports stars in swimwear types of images fall somewhere in between. In this case, Lolo's image could be easily considered one that celebrates the strength and beauty of a female athlete, yet something about it tends to rub people the wrong way. The image below seems to convey that sentiment without the objectification.

Lolo Jones on the track

I see nothing wrong with showcasing a beautiful woman. I do see something dreadfully wrong when ads like the ones below are presented to the public:

Is the one on the right supposed to be better? 

More disturbing images from American Apparel

Monday, January 2, 2012

On authors, books and other things

Yes, even these two have a book on the shelves

All of a sudden, everyone is an author. I've already mentioned Snooki, but add to that list every Housewife of whatever city, every 16-year-old pregnant kid and every celebrity (or wannabe) blogger. Easily published "books" are the byproduct of reality T.V. I'd post an excerpt of Paris Hilton's book, but the word totally is so totally over-used that I totally couldn't stand it. I assume that there are actually a few good writers in that bunch of spotlight cravers, or a few with some good ghostwriters anyway. I don't plan to sort through either books or excerpts to find them though. Oddly enough, books written by athletes are a different story. Guess what? Some athletes can write! My brother told me about Andre Agassi's autobiography, Open. Apparently, it's well written and very interesting. It's also on my "to read" list. Of course, Lorraine Moller's On the Wings of Mercury stands out as one of my favorite books written by a runner. I admit that I haven't read a ton of running books, but I put that in my great books in general recommendations. Yes, I have a list of books that I generally recommend anytime someone is in need of a good book. I don't include all of my favorites, because I assume most people have read some of the classics I would include. I've been struggling through a few so-so books, so I am bummed that I missed the Boulder Bookstore's 25% off everything sale.

In case anyone would like part of my latest list, here it is:

Cosmic Banditos (really cute and funny)

Where men win glory (I love anything by Krakauer)    

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole (It's for young adults but sarcastic enough for adults)  

Ludmilla's Broken English  (weird, but the writing is great)

I also like Seabiscuit, all the Peter Mayle books about Provence, The Tao of Equus, the Bridge Across Forever and many others as well. 

Another common theme among reality stars is eating disorders, especially when it comes to the housewives crew. It seems everyone is in a competition to be the thinnest. Of course at least half of them are also struggling with other addictions. Just like with Kate Moss, Nicole Richie and Angelina Jolie, it's hard to tell which came first- the drug and/or alcohol addiction or the eating disorder. By the way, did you know that Gelsey kirkland was both anorexic AND addicted to coke? Her autobiography has been on my "to read" list forever. What is so incredibly tragic to me is that these reality shows seem to be promoting anorexia in a way, simply by presenting these people in a glamorous light. Sure, the reality is that they have problems, but the message is clear: being center stage is AWESOME! (And if you're thin, it's even better.)

Well, what isn't so well documented is how many celebrities and athletes have died (there are plenty who have come close) due to complications related to an eating disorder. Just a few include: karen Carpenter; Anna Caroline Reston, who still got jobs as a model despite looking like a cadaver; Margaux Hemmingway; Isabelle caro, whose heroic attempt to bring anorexia to the public eye may have influenced at least a few fashion designers to think twice about hiring models who are clearly struggling with anorexia; Leila Pahlavi, the daughter of the Shah of Iran; and Christie Henrich, whose tragic death led to a new, healthier trend in gymnastics. What's upsetting to me is how taboo the topic of eating disorders still is. Nicole Richie had no problem admitting that she has a little drug habit, but no way would she spill the beans about an eating disorder! For years, Calista Flockhart denied ever having an eating disorder, even though everyone and their personal assistants knew it. Now all of sudden, she comes clean, making sure everyone knows it was in the past, just a little trip through the land of anorexia, nothing major. One that I didn't know about until recently is Elton John, who struggled with bulimia as well as substance abuse.

Before this gets any more depressing, let me switch gears. The great thing about blog posts, is that they don't have to be well thought out, well written or even make a ton of sense. I just finished a short story, so I'm not in the mood to be disciplined with my writing. I'm going to go ahead and veer left REAL FAST right now.

hang topic ahead

I took a bath today! I'm still in the cast, which, sadly, has a leak. Not knowing how to handle the situation, I put my old foot brace on under the deflated cast. Taking a bath using only one foot takes some Madd Skillz. Actually, it's more getting OUT of the tub that takes some effort. Wow though; it felt really good to soak in warm water. Ahhh.

To end this post, I'd like to state all my grand plans and goals for the new year. Sadly, I can't really do it. Instead, my goal is to take one day at a time. That's the best I can do. Of course I have all kinds of dreams and fantasies about running well or even pain-free, and getting published. However, I can't get ahead of myself here. The one resolution I did state and will stick to with at least some kind of dedication is that I will NOT give up chocolate again for any great length of time. Holy cocoa bean! Can I tell you all how fucking amazing that first bite of chocolate was after 3 long MONTHS of going without? Why did I insist on taking that dare??