Friday, August 27, 2010

Losing weight and keeping self-worth

Here I am, fat and useful. Note the irony of the term "piggyback" and note also that I don't find that threatening, merely funny.
I've been thinking a lot about weight lately. Family reunions will do that to you. Especially when my mom, who used to be my Fat Ally, has lost a lot of weight recently.

I keep running across blog posts addressing the issue, which either means everyone else is facing the same problem at the same time — or, there are always blog posts about weight, but I gravitate toward them only when I am also thinking about it.

Several months ago, I weighed myself and was rather appalled to see the number that appeared. A number very close to my husband's. I gave myself something of an ultimatum, a "This will not do," and resolved to do something about it.

So I've been trying. And failing. The number's not budging.

And the thing is, I don't know how much I care.

Because it's hard to hate myself when I'm so pretty. Even though I'm not. Do you know what I mean? Do you, really?
I used to lose weight as a matter of course. When I say "lose weight," I mean, naturally, try to lose weight. Because most of the time I wouldn't, but the times I would spurred me on to try, try, try again the next time. And there was always a next time, clearly.

But back then, I really hated my fat self. I looked in the mirror and saw the rolls, the puckering, the unsightliness. Now I look in the mirror and see my shining eyes, my flushed cheeks, my height, my curves, my confidence.

It's hard to get back into that mindset of self-loathing that allowed me to diet before. Now … I just don't have as much willpower to hate myself. And without self-hatred — why lose the weight, then?

Since starting trying, once again, to lose weight, though, I've noticed myself slipping back into old thought patterns here and there, and it's disturbing. On the one hand, thoughts like, "I look like a cow in that photo!" or "Look at all those chins!" are familiar and safe and easy to fall back into. On the other hand, I feel like I'm observing that part of me from the outside, like an older, mature me who sees the immature part still chattering away uselessly.

When I read "No, I'm Not Pregnant" on Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, the immature part of me was chirping in my ear, "She still weighs a lot less than you do! And she's taller!" But most of me was just cheering along with Melodie's acceptance of her larger size.

It makes me wonder several things:

  • Is it possible to try losing weight and not lose my self-esteem? Is it possible to love myself now and yet also seek for it to be other? I suppose if I lost weight for those mythical "health reasons," maybe. But I'm the first to admit I don't lose weight for health reasons. I'd like to, if it made any difference — but, you know, everyone in my family is fat, everyone lives pretty darn long, and no one dies young of heart disease. So, yeah. Fat's not The Thing That Will Kill Me, so it's hard to muster up the energy to starve myself for some nebulous health benefit that I don't think even exists. (If you're going to tell me there's an Obesity! Epidemic! and all the fatties are killing themselves, you should read some of the research and good, good blogs I do, many of which are linked in this post.)

  • Is it better to be fat and happy and lose the dream of Thin and Even Happier? Since it is just a dream. Underbellie, in a spectacular article titled "food: it's what's for dinner," directed me to Kate Harding's matchless piece about "The Fantasy of Being Thin." We fat people like to think we will miraculously change in all the ways we want to if we become thin. But we will still be ourselves, just thinner. And probably not even that, since we will probably never become thin. You know? It's just a fantasy. A mirage. If we are shy as fat people, we would be shy thin people. If we are awkward fat, we would be awkward thin. If we are unathletic fat, we would be the same thin. You don't change yourself by changing your weight. You don't suddenly become a supermodel with a Nobel Prize and admirers hanging off you because you lost 25 pounds. So, is it better to embrace the fat acceptance? To say, Here I am, for always and ever, a Fat Person?

  • If I "gave up" on the thin dream and dieting, for all time, what do I replace it with? Do I allow myself, really truly, to enjoy food? I'm three-quarters there already. More like seven-eighths. I no longer feel much guilt at all over what I eat, or class items as Good and Bad. Unfortunately, that includes items I maybe should feel some guilt about or should classify as Bad. Or not. I can't decide. I have no internal control over my eating, no switch that flips that tells me I'm full and should stop and then the willpower to heed it. I think naturally thin people are thin because they truly don't want to eat as much as I do, not because they're depriving themselves. I remember reading a dieting mantra once that went, "I don't eat food just because it's there." And golly! I do eat food just because it's there! That's my sole reason for eating food! I think, biologically, it has a valid basis. Abundant food signals, "Hey, we just killed a mastodon! Come eat, quick, before it goes bad and we have to go back to foraging for roots again." I don't know how thin people override this, but they do. There can be a plate of cookies, and another person will take one cookie, eat half, and leave the rest. I see a plate of cookies and immediately start angling for how many I can possible stuff into my maw without drawing undue attention to myself. Leaving half a cookie on my napkin ain't happening. So if I do change my eating habits to all good food (let's say that's "real food," as a general definition), I will still be fat. Is that all right?

I wonder if part of my new acceptance of myself is due to age (30s) or being a mother or all my reading about body acceptance or what. I know now what bodies are capable of, having carried and nourished a baby for nine months, having labored and pushed through the birth, having fed this being from my own breasts — my body has a purpose now that once was not as clear to me.

But I also feel a motherliness toward people I'm not a mother to. At my ballet classes, I look at the other teens and women in the room and accept them all, with their varied shapes and sizes — the ponch in the leotard there, the willowy legs there — and realize two, somewhat contradictory things: First, there is variety, great variety, and no one shape that is "right." Second, there is little difference between us, in the grand scheme of things. We humans are all, mostly, the same size. I look at us arrayed in a line in the mirror, and I can count the differences in width in inches. Inches! Who's getting so upset about some few inches' difference? Maybe it's just maturity. Maybe, the negative flip side of that would say, it's a giving up, a settling, in more than one sense of the word.

Even parts that used to bother me, I take in stride. This summer, I was hot. I bought and wore shorts and sleeveless shirts. I have inescapably ugly knees, by any objective measure — bright pink and riddled

This is a sleeveless shirt I'm supposed to think I'm too fat to wear.
with mysterious bumps. I know my legs are huge and white. I know my arms are bigger than almost anyone's I know. And you know? Screw it. I was hot, and I wanted to wear those clothes, and I did. And I felt fine. I wasn't constantly adjusting and trying to cover up those parts. I felt good, because they were nice clothes and I (thought I) looked nice in them. And I didn't care about anyone who felt differently — including my old self who would have been horrified at the thought of my wearing sleeveless shirts at this size. I even bought — gasp! — skinny jeans. Because I liked the look of them, and I liked the look of me in them, even though part of me wonders if the purchase was a travesty.

I wear swimsuits now without cover-ups. People can drink it in. Flab and blinding white and all. I just can't be bothered to care so much. I'm too busy swimming with my little guy and enjoying myself.

Which brings me back to losing weight. Is it pointless? Is it worse than pointless — is it harmful? Will it bring me cycling back around to hating myself, hating this body I'm in, punching my midsection in a futile attempt to pound it smaller? Because I think I rather enjoy visiting this strange land where I accept myself, even as a fat person. But I'm not sure I'm ready to buy a house here yet.

How have your perceptions of your body changed?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Photo strip

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Calling for submissions for the September Carnival of Natural Parenting!

After a brief summer break for August, the Carnival of Natural Parenting is back. We hope you'll join us for the next carnival in September! (Check out January, February, March, April, and May, June, and July if you missed them.)

Your co-hosts are Lauren at Hobo Mama and Dionna at Code Name: Mama.

Here are the submission details for September 2010:

Turning wood into crayonsTheme: We're all home schoolers: Children, of whatever age, are learning all the time. Describe some of the ways your children learn at home as a natural part of their day. No matter if your children attend (or plan to attend) traditional schools or not, please talk to us about how you incorporate home-schooling or unschooling ideals and practices into your children's education.

Deadline: Tuesday, September 7. Fill out the webform (at the link or at the bottom) and email your submission to us by 11:59 p.m. Pacific time: mail {at} and CodeNameMama {at}

Carnival date: Tuesday, September 14. Before you post, we will send you an email with a little blurb in html to paste into your submission that will introduce the carnival. You will publish your post on September 14 and email us the link if you haven't done so already. Once everyone's posts are published on September 14 by noon Eastern time, we will send out a finalized list of all the participants' links, to generate lots of link love for your site! We'll include full instructions in the email we send before the posting date.

Please submit your details into our web form: This will help us as we compile the links list. Please enter your information on the form embedded at the end of this post, or click here to enter it on a separate page: September Carnival of Natural Parenting participant form

Please do: Write well. Write on topic. Write a brand new post for the carnival. As always, our carnival themes aren't meant to be exclusionary. If your experience doesn't perfectly mesh with the carnival theme, please lend your own perspective. Please also feel free to be creative within the gentle confines of the carnival structure. If you're feeling so inspired, you could write a poem, a photo essay, a scholarly article, or a book review instead of a regular blog post (though those are welcomed, too!), as long as what you write is respectful of the carnival's intent. If you want help determining that ahead of time, please talk with us.

Please don't: Please don't use profanity of the sort that might be offensive to more sensitive readers or their children. Please don't submit irrelevant or argumentative pieces contrary to the principles of natural parenting. You don't have to agree with all our ideals — and certainly you don't have to live up to them all perfectly! — but your submission does have to fit the theme and values of the carnival.

Editors' rights: We reserve the right to edit your piece or suggest edits to you. We reserve the right to courteously reject any submissions that are inappropriate for the carnival. Please also note that since there are two co-hosts on different schedules and conferring over email, our personal response to your submission might seem delayed. Don't be alarmed. We also reserve the right to impose consequences if the responsibilities of the carnival are not fulfilled by the participants.

If you don't have a blog: Contact us (mail {at} and CodeNameMama {at} about potentially finding you a host blog to guest post. Please write your piece well in advance of the deadline in that case, so we can match you up with someone suitable. But if you really have something amazing to write — why not start your own blog? If you want advice, we find Scribbit's free Blogging in Pink ebook to be a very helpful and down-to-earth guide, for beginners on up.

If you have questions: Please leave a comment or contact us: mail {at} and CodeNameMama {at}

Links to tutorials: Lauren and Dionna have written several tutorials for our participants about how to schedule posts in advance, how to determine post URLs in advance, how to edit HTML — all for both Wordpress and Blogger users. For these tutorials and more, please see this handy summary post at

Stay in touch:

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaShow off: If you are a (former or current) participant or supporter and want our delightful button to put in your sidebar, grab this code and proclaim to the blogosphere that you are a natural parent!

Photo courtesy vicki watkins on flickr (cc)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Work, identity and staying at home

This is another in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Zoey from Good Goog.

Guest post by Zoey from Good Goog

In a little more than two months I will be stopping work entirely. No more working from home, no more going into the office once a week. Finished. I've worked my whole life. And although I'd planned to take 6 months off when Riley was born, I ended up taking just 3 months off because the idea of working from home was just too tempting.

And as excited as I am about not constantly having my attention pulled in a million different directions, I know it's a big change. There are all sorts of words to describe mothers who choose not to work.

Full-time mother. I don't like it. All mothers are full-time mothers. It also makes it sound as though I'm completely defined by motherhood which I'm also not keen on.

Stay-at-home-mother. Also, not a big fan. It makes it sounds like I have some impediment which stops me from leaving the house.

Home-maker. Not used that often in Australia, but I couldn't even say this one out loud without laughing and/or vomiting.

There are a whole range of reasons why I'm making the choice. The primary motivation is that I am personally against using institutional child care until Riley is at least three. It's also a lifestyle choice for us. A division of labour thing. So that we're not running around before and after work organising pick ups or having to do all of our shopping and errands on the precious weekend. But also, it's really an emotional decision. I don't want to miss anything. And being away for one day at the moment when I go to work is about as much as I am willing to do. We've only had two nights apart since she was born and I can't say that I really cared for either of them.

I'm in the position of knowing what I'm getting myself in for, at least. Although I've been working, the vast majority of it is done from home. The biggest misconception about being a stay at home parent is that it is unfulfilling, boring and not stimulating enough intellectually. And I'm sure there are plenty of loving parents who feel that way. But I just didn't. Which was as much a surprise to me as anyone. It was quite a shock to find out that I found looking after a baby (or now a toddler) far more interesting, stimulating and just plain fun than doing my paid work. That I found just as much reward from baking bread in the morning and cleaning the house during patches of quiet play or napping as I did from my career. And the joyful discovery of everyday with a little one far surpassed anything I had experienced in my former life.

Of course, not every day is like that. Sometimes the whining never ends. And the house is a mess. And there are no naps. And I'm exhausted. And I dread going to the supermarket because I'm not sure I can cope with another tantrum. But that's all part of why it is so rewarding.

But I'm not going to kid myself — it's still a big life change for me. I'll have to work out what to say when people ask me 'what do you do?' I can see what it's like to live without deadlines for awhile. And I can do everything I want to do without feeling like my contribution to home and to work are equally substandard. I've felt for some time that something had to give with my writing as well — either I was going to need to scale it back or I would need to stop working and see if it turned into anything. I'll have run out of excuses, too. At the moment my response to demands are often 'when I stop working…' We'll see how true that is. Because we all know the whole line about stay at home mothers' not working is a little ridiculous.

Zoey is a reformed perfectionist, writer, parent adventurer, toddler wrangler, social media addict, photo enthusiast and book devourer. She blogs in words and pictures at Good Goog.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday Surf: Vacation edition

Welcome to the Sunday Surf! Here are some of the best links I've read this past week.

I am currently taking a fabulous vacation, so I haven't had much opportunity to read and link. But I'm sure you're all getting along fine without me…

  • "Dear White Lactivists" from Raising My Boychick:
    "Racism is not our prop. It is not ours to hold up to compare breastfeeding discrimination against."
  • There will be a guest post tomorrow from the lovely and talented Zoey of Good Goog on how to identify when making the transition from working mother to stay-at-home, which I'm so looking forward to hosting. If I don't have the internet access to shill for comments, please take that as read and give her a hearty welcome. (I was going to say a "hobo welcome" but wasn't sure how welcoming that actually would be.)
  • "Danger in a Spray Bottle: Why It’s Time to Change Our Childproofing Strategy" from In 2006, nearly 12,000 U.S. children made trips to the emergency room for an accidental contact with a household cleaner — primarily poisoning. I love vinegar plus water in a spray bottle for cleaning, but over time, other poisonous cleaners (even natural ones) have made their way back into our house. I like this perspective on keeping all cleaners (or as many as possible) in the nontoxic range, to prevent unintentional child poisoning. I'm going to do another run through our cabinets and try to find non-poisonous and streamlined alternatives to everything we need.
    "None of the children’s injuries … was necessary. Effective, safer ingredients are now available for every common household cleaning job. …

    For parents of children age 6 or under, doctors’ advice to lock-up toxic cleaners is no longer adequate. Instead, childproof by replacing products whose labels must say Danger, Warning, Harmful if Swallowed, or Use in a Well-Ventilated Space. If the label gives instructions for calling poison control or for emergency treatment, the product is dangerous."
  • I am very pleased that Paige's FeedBurner guest post helped me make this Favorites feed on my long-neglected top posts page. Now the list will update automatically as I add posts to the "favorites" category. If you are a new Hobo Mama reader, you might browse through the list for posts and topics other readers found interesting, and if you're a dedicated fan, feel free to suggest posts you want to nominate for inclusion. Like this fine, fine example of journalism. Hey, don't knock it — there's a funny video at the end!
  • I have two giveaways going on right now, and one's awash in secret awesomeness:
    • A WondaWedge Inflatable Back Support Pillow for nursing, pregnancy, reading in bed, & relaxing on the beach. It's a $24 value and is open to my fine U.S. friends.
    • The Surprise Hobo Mama Giveaway, wherein you will definitely win Hobo Mama calling cards and will be entered into a drawing for other fabulous prizes, as yet unannounced. It's almost spooky, it's so tantalizingly vague! Open worldwide.
  • Enjoy "The Oregon Trail — Official Trailer" below from Half Day Today: Did you use to play the original Oregon Trail game? That was my favorite part of computer class, on our Apple IIes, and now it's been brought to the (mock) big screen. I can't decide if my favorite line is "No one wants to be the carpenter," "But, son, we can only carry back ten pounds," or "Just the bullets." I think I'm going to have to go with "Just the bullets."

You can find more shared items during the week at my public Google Reader recommendations feed.

Check out Authentic Parenting, Baby Dust Diaries, Maman A Droit, Navelgazing, and pocket.buddha for more Sunday Surfing!

Feel free to add your recommendations in the comments. Happy reading!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hobo Kitchen: Sam's pico de gallo — using up tomatoes!

pico de gallo in glass container

I hope that some of you lucky gardeners have an overabundance of homegrown tomatoes round about now. We have had about 3 red tomatoes between us and a whole heaping bunch of green ones still hanging out on the plants, taunting us. Here's for sunlight tempting them to ripen before frost!

patio tomato harvested
Our lone patio tomato.
Good thing it was tasty.
But let's assume other people need some recipes for fresh tomatoes. Here's one of our favorites — the fabulous Sam's version of pico de gallo, a mild and chunky, non-saucy, sweetish and tangy salsa. It uses other things you might have in your garden as well, such as cilantro, cabbage, and sweet onions. (We're growing Walla Wallas! Yum!)

If you didn't take Spanish in high school as I did (yes, of course, I'm fluent!) (not really), the last word is pronounced like the word "guy" with an O on the end. But, no, it's not the word for "dude" in Spanish. The phrase means "beak of the rooster," but don't ask me why.

I'm republishing this recipe from last year, because I'm on vacation and am allowed to do things like that.

Gather your ingredients:
     • tomatoes
     • onions — the sweeter the better
     • cilantro
     • cabbage (the secret ingredient!)
     • lime juice
     • sea salt to taste (optional)

Everything that can be chopped, go ahead and dice into chunky pieces. Mix together in a large bowl and spritz with lime juice. Sprinkle coarse sea salt if you want a little more...well, saltiness.

There are no particular rules for how much of a certain item you need to put in. That's why it's perfect if you have a bunch of tomatoes but not as much of the other things. If the combination you make feels too heavy on one item or another, remember that for next time, or balance it out if you have extra ingredients still on hand. There's no wrong way to make pico de gallo, as long as it tastes good to you!

For best taste, let it sit in the fridge for awhile to let the flavors blend together. But if you can't resist eating it right away, I understand. I couldn't tell you how well this keeps, because ours never stays around that long. If I had to guess, I would imagine canning is possible, but freezing will change the texture of the tomatoes.

If you want more heat, add jalapeƱos or chiles at will.

But, as is, it makes a very nice treat for young mouths. It's mild enough for even very early eaters to give it a go, and since it's chunky, little fingers or adult helpers can preselect portions that will be appreciated. Adding heat's always an option for more adventurous mouths, but even without a lot of spice, it's refreshing to have this mild, fresh, juicy and crunchy treat.

The standard use for pico de gallo is to wolf it down with tortilla chips, but it also makes a lovely garnish for meals. Layer it over Mexican food (of course!), or use as a salsa topping for chicken, fish or eggs. It can even make for a unique relish on hot dogs or hamburgers!

pico de gallo salsa and tortilla chips

¡Buen provecho!

Much prettier and eerily accurate bottom photo courtesy Alice Carrier on stock.xchng
— we even used to have those dishes!

Linked up at Vegetarian Foodie Fridays at Breastfeeding Moms Unite!, Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum, Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade, Friday Food at Momtrends, Food on Friday at Ann Kroeker, Wholesome Whole Foods at Health Food Lover, Friday Favorites at Simply Sweet Home. My apologies in advance if I don't do much commenting, because our internet access is sketchy.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Garden harvest

strawflowers bouquet from garden

patio tomato harvested

zucchini from garden in meal on plate with onion and bacon

Reminder: One day more to enter the $50 Amy Adele giveaway for invites, birth announcements, labels, notecards, or onesies, and to get an extra entry by commenting on the Hobo Mama Surprise Calling Card Giveaway post!

Find sites to link up your Wordless Wednesday post
at my super-cool collection of Wordless Wednesday linkies,
and let me know if you have one to add.
You can also link up a thumbnail from your post below!

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