Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #42

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on Facebook page for fear of being kicked out! Read why here. Usually the posts are about body image, sometimes there’s nudity but we’re all adults here. Right? Why does a fitness blog even care about body image? You can read about that here.

And to be clear, we’re not only posting stuff we agree with or that makes us smile. Instead, we’re posting material of interest to people who, like us, care about feminism and fitness.

How to Reassure Your Partner That They’re Hot When They Hate Their Body

Frequently, I get messages from people — usually cis men who are dating cis women, but not always — asking me what the hell they’re supposed to do when their partner talks negatively about their own body.

“She’s unhappily gained weight since we’ve been together, and I know saying ‘I still think you’re beautiful’ confirms the idea that fat is bad,” they say.

“My boyfriend is shy about not being bigger muscularly, but how can I reassure him that that’s exactly my type without confirming his insecurities?” they say.

“I don’t know how to respond when they talk about needing to go on a diet,” they say.

And I get it.

As a woman in eating disorder recovery who still harbors body issues, I can imagine how difficult it is for partners to know what the right thing to say is.

So while I certainly can’t speak for your partner and their needs, what I can do is give you some ideas that you can mix and match depending on your situation. So let’s start there.

The list of ideas is here.

Watching Women Say “Fuck You” to Photoshop Is Pretty Damn Satisfying

Plenty of industry experts, psychologists and body-positive activists have criticized the big, bad magazine industry for its undying love of Photoshop.

But hearing it from “real women,” aka not fashion models, on camera is powerful stuff on its own.

A new video by advocacy T-shirt company FCKH8 showcases women of various ages, races and body types giving Photoshop the middle finger, after unashamedly stripping off the brand’s “This Is What a #Feminist Looks Like” shirts and showcasing what real female bodies, untouched by airbrushing, can look like.

How to Feel Better About Your Body, Backed by Research


I know what you’re thinking: I knew that answer.

Here’s the interesting part: exercise improved people’s feelings about their body even if they didn’t lose weight or achieve noticeable improvements. They just felt better about it.

Read more here.

Reclaiming the Right to Love Our Bodies, Just as They Are

We are taught very early on in life to base how we see and value ourselves on the opinions of others. How we feel about our body is largely shaped by the way society views it. Though slim as a teenager, as I got older I gained weight. I was criticised for this, with the constant implication that I was being lazy and lacked the necessary self-respect. I was told to treat it as something I should be ashamed of. I then envied the slim women I knew because of the lack of perceived pressure to fit an acceptable societal mould.

Last year, I decided to stop letting my fear of judgment and low self-esteem keep me from having new experiences. I took it upon myself to do a challenge every week that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Two months in, I found myself climbing the stairs to Brass Vixens Pole Dancing and Fitness Studio. There, on Queen Street West, I discovered a wonderful body-positive community. Slowly, my confidence grew as I found myself in a dance and fitness studio that thrived because of the non-competitive, non-judgmental environment they had fostered. More importantly, instructors encouraged everyone to find the dancer within and celebrate their bodies without reservations.

19 Shirtless Men Share Their Body Image Struggles

The desire for a so-called “perfect” body isn’t something only women struggle with. Men also face body insecurities, but they’re less likely to seek help and open up about it, according to the National Eating Disorder Awareness website. To get the conversation started about male insecurities, Huffington Post photographer Damon Dahlen spoke to and photographed 19 shirtless men.

Dahlen ​ told “I along with my editors felt compelled to shine a light on this secret prison of ‘shame’ some of us men live in.” The secret prison Dahlen is talking about was mentioned by one of the men in the essay who said, “I feel like I’m exposing a secret when my shirt comes off.”

 This photo essay hopefully opens the conversation on body image struggles for both sexes, but Dahlen fears that the discussion only happened because he pushed for it. The reason he doesn’t think men are talking is because “societal rules that say you are a man … you must not feel.”

25 Kickass Ways to Be Body Positive

1. Being critical of yourself is good but only to an extent, don’t overdo the self criticism bit. Try not to be too mean to yourself especially for the way your body is.

2. Don’t compare your body with someone else’s. Each body has its own pros and cons to deal with.

3. Look in the mirror and point out the good things about the image you see instead of the bad. It’s a good way to begin being body positive.

4. Celebrate your flaws. Stretch marks, pigmentation and tan are proof of all your memorable experiences like childbirth and camping on the hill top. Celebrate those!

5. Don’t take your weight too seriously; it’s simply a number.

The rest are here.

9 Body Positive Photographers Making Waves For Marginalized Bodies

Growing up, I never saw any imagery of fat women who looked like me in the media I was consuming, so today it makes me happy to see so much increased visibility for ladies of all shapes and sizes. I can’t help but thank the myriad of body positive photographers out there who work towards this visibility every day. Not to mention the plus size models who heat up Instagram with body positive photo shoots minute to minute, whose work also inarguably helps normalize the sight of fat bodies.

The notion that fat bodies exist shouldn’t be a revolutionary one, but there are still people out there who think that those who do not fit into rigid societal beauty standards do not deserve to be publicly visible. Visual imagery that challenges what society would deem so-called “imperfections” is, thus, undoubtedly necessary.

Oftentimes, however, I see a lot of praise for the people in front of the camera. While models are certainly crucial to the body positive movement, we shouldn’t forget to give some shine to the individuals behind the lens who dare to capture moments that make people uncomfortable. The work holds the purpose of trumping the way so many of us have been taught to interpret and judge beauty…..

Serena Williams’ amazing quote on body image

FOR Serena Williams, it’s simple. She doesn’t have time to be bullied.

The tennis icon, currently aiming for a fourth straight US Open crown, shut down the body shamers with a beautiful quote this week.

“It’s me, and I love me. I’ve learned to love me,” Williams told Good Morning America.

“I’ve been like this my whole life and I embrace me. I love how I look. I am a full woman and I’m strong, and I’m powerful, and I’m beautiful at the same time.”

Williams continued: “I don’t have time to be brought down, I’ve got too many things to do. I have grand slams to win, I have people to inspire, and that’s what I’m here for.”


Crossing into the fall on my new bike

We buy a lot of new bikes around this blog. I think I’ve documented most of the purchases here. And I might be a particularly good/bad person for accumulating bikes of many kinds. Just this past Christimas I got a new Cannondale road bike, a 2013 Cannondale Super Six Evo Ultegra Di2.

It’s certainly true that I write quite a bit about bikes and new bike lust. See New bike lust and How many bikes is too many? and My dream fleet.

I seem to attract bikes. This year I even won a bike thanks to the university’s green raffle that gave you one entry form each time you used your own coffee mug. Unbeknownst to me I had a friend (thanks Rob!) putting my name on his ballots every day. But I really didn’t need a another commuting bike so I gave that one to a neighbourhood friend whose bike had been stolen.

But now I have a new cyclocross bike! It’s also a Cannondale, a 2014 SuperX black Inc, with Stans Iron Cross wheels. How did that happen? Well, I’ve owned a cx bike for commuting for a few years and I really like it. I’ve also been watching friends do some fun looking gravel rides and thinking it would be fun to ride through the fall and into the early winter.

As blog readers mostly know, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer this year and had surgery to remove my thyroid. Everything went well and I’m fine (no further treatment required) but it turned out I was eligible for an insurance payment for getting ill. You know the policies that sound like “death, dismemberment, and disability.” I didn’t need the money–thanks Canadian health care– and I didn’t want to claim it. I was nervous that it felt like calling in sick when you’re actually fine. (I always worry that if I do that I’ll actually get sick.) My partner is more practical. He works for a bank. And he’s good at talking me into things. “Would you claim it if you got a new cx bike with the money?” Um, yes, I might. And we did. And I have a new bike. Thanks thyroid cancer? I guess.


I’ve registered for my first event, Hallocross, a Halloween cyclocross race, of course. So I guess I better learn to ride it. I’ve got some friends who are taking me out Thursday to give it a go. I’ll report back for sure.

These days I’m reading things like this: Cyclocross 101 for Newbies and How to Bunny Hop Like a Boss.

What’s the difference between a cyclocross bike and a road bike? You can read a bit about that here.

Do you ride a cyclocross bike? Do you do any cx racing? Got any advice for a beginner with lots of road and some track riding experience?

The women of cyclocross

Gravel racing

On Ditching the Scale AGAIN!

scaleWay, way back in January 2013 I set aside my scale. It was an exhilarating blog moment! The freedom! The subversiveness of it all! 

I fended off worried comments from others about where it might lead. I drove out the thoughts that said not weighing myself meant I would gain weight. I resisted the temptation to step on the scale after 3, 6, 9 months, even a full year, just to ‘see’ if I should be worried. 

And then I started Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating program. And besides the monthly photos they had weekly measurements that included, you guessed it, a weight measurement. 

At first I thought I could handle it. That weekly weighing wouldn’t make me feel like crap. Or even that it wouldn’t make me feel better. My hope at the time was that my year of not weighing myself might have helped me feel neutral about weight as a measure of anything. And for awhile it did. Maybe even for the duration of the program. 

But now? Now! Ugh! As the number on the scale began to creep up again this summer, so did the usual obsessions. I won’t go into detail because petite women who hate their bodies and think they’re fat are tiresome. I know. But oh how awful it’s all become again. 

So three weeks ago I packed it up and swore off it yet again. It’s not just that I feel horrible about gaining a bit of weight. I’ve done that many times before and survived it.  It’s that I feel horrible about caring. It’s against everything I believe in to think that the scale tells me anything about who I am and what I’m about. And yet I have allowed the old bullshit to creep back into my head. 

It’s become so loud that when I went shopping with a friend in Chicago a few weeks ago I consistently tried on clothes that were 2 sizes too big for me and when they didn’t fit properly I thought the clothing manufacturers were purposely putting smaller numbers on larger clothes (there is actually some evidence that this has happened over time). I felt convinced that the sizing was off and I didn’t actually take the smaller sizes I ended up having to try on if I liked something. 

So the scale must go. What useful info did I ever think I’d get from it anyway? What’s wrong with going by how I feel, what I’m doing, whether I’m getting faster and stronger? Or sleeping enough? Or eating in a way that nourishes me and feels good? 

And in any case the last time I ditched the scale I lived happier and didn’t gain any weight. Didn’t lose either but I spared myself the daily r weekly judgment about how ‘things’ were going. 

No thanks. It’s time to say good-bye to my scale again. And hello to taking care of myself in ways that make me feel good. Feel free to join me. Chances are that for at least some of you out there the scale is doing you no good either. 

Happy birthday to me! Approaching the end of 50

I’m settling into my fifties. The big 5-0 birthday is behind me and today I turn 51.

Frankly I was feeling a bit low key about it. There’s no big parties for birthdays that end in “1.” My father is seriously ill and it’s hard to muster up the party spirit. But I did have a very lovely birthday bike ride with the usual suspects, Nat, Susan, and David, Jeff, and Eaton yesterday.

Rob still isn’t up for longer rides, post knee injury. Instead, Rob and the kids met us up at the Pinery where some of us camped overnight.

Tonight there’ll be cake and ice cream in my backyard with my parents.

Here’s some of the early arrival gifts. Thanks Susan, Susan, Sarah, Sarah, and Stephanie. And Gavin too, who commented that my friends need names that don’t begin with “S.”

Thanks everyone! I’m sensing a theme.











Crossing a threshold in sports—one woman’s watery accomplishment

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 11.12.13 AM

This summer I’ve been regaling blog readers with tales of my re-acquaintance with kayaking. One of the things that I love about kayaking is that it’s an activity you can do without much instruction, for whatever length of time you want, at whatever pace you want. It also gets you outside, on the water, moving along under your own power. Kayaking in any body of water at all makes me feel a little bit like I used to when I was 10 years old, riding my bike around my neighborhood; I felt liberated, autonomous, the open road (or water) wide open for my exploration.

All this is true.  BUT: when you start to do some sport, you quickly find out that in order to progress to the next level of activity, you have to pass some thresholds. Passing them may require special training, mastery of techniques, strength, speed, stamina, etc. And of course gear.

I talked a little about this in my blog post last week comparing cycling and kayaking. Both sports have a fairly low threshold for beginners—that is, you can do it without a lot of technical know-how. Basketball and tennis, on the other hand (at least in my experience), require some specific skills in order to play a game. I never learned how to do a lay-up so my basketball career never got off the ground…

We all know this—different sports have different-shaped learning curves, and the effort it takes to get to the next point on the curve (the next level of play or participation) varies a lot. As an athlete, being aware of 1) what the learning curve for your activity is, and 2) how much effort it’s going to take to meet your goals for that sport are both pretty important. I’ve learned, for example, that bike racing (road races and crits) for ME would require a level of training that’s just not feasible or desirable for me. However, fun road rides are both feasible and desirable. Competitive squash is also within my reach, given my available time and fitness and skill levels.

Over time, we all readjust our sports and activity goals, often because of time limitations and changing physical constraints, but also because we want to have new or different experiences. One thing I’ve noticed is an increasing desire to experience nature—in the woods or on the water—whenever possible.   Hence the renewed interest in sea kayaking.

This summer, after a long hiatus from it, I’ve been out on rivers and lakes and even saltwater estuaries in recreational and sea kayaks, and it’s been sublime. But one big goal has remained: kayaking in the ocean. That’s where the sports threshold issue reemerges.

In order to kayak safely in the ocean, with waves, currents, tides and changing weather, you need a bunch of skills. Some of them are technical—you need to be able to read, understand, interpret and plan trips based on tide charts, information about currents and the coastal geography of the area and weather forecasts. You also need some paddling skills for maneuvering the boat, like bracing and edging.

And of course you need to be able to get back in the boat if you happen to turn over in deep waters.

rescueThere are two kinds of rescues you learn in sea kayaking—the assisted rescue and the self rescue. The assisted one is where you get back in your boat (from deep water) with some help from a person in another boat. Turns out this isn’t very hard—with good instruction, everyone can do this using one or other of the many techniques available. But the self rescue seems more daunting—you have to get yourself back in the cockpit of your boat while treading water in the ocean, maybe in high seas.

Again, there are a couple of different techniques for self rescue, and I’d done one of them a long time ago. But I had been avoiding trying it again, out of sheer fear of failure. After all, the last time I did this was 15 years ago, and I’m older and feel less confident of my strength and abilities.

But if I want to kayak in the ocean (and do cool kayak trips with my friend Janet), I HAVE TO DO THIS.

So last Wednesday, Janet and I headed to Rockport, Massachusetts, to kayak in the ocean. This place looks exactly the way you might imagine new England coastal towns might look. That is, like this:

rockportThe outfitters wouldn’t let us take out ocean kayaks without demonstrating experience in rescues, but since Janet can do a self rescue in no time flat, and I can do an assisted one, they let us head out to sea. So off we went, picnic lunches stowed in dry bags and bilge pump and paddle float strapped to the decks.

There was some hazy fog along the rocky coast, so we stayed reasonably close to shore, avoiding the many outcroppings of rocks. The lobster fishermen were also trolling in the shallower waters, checking and resetting their lines, so we had to be vigilant. Actually, I’m pretty sure they’re used to kayakers and are adept at not colliding into them, but better to give them wide berth. After all, they’re working.

It was exhilarating and also a bit scary paddling in waves and deep water along a hazy, foggy, rocky coastline. I knew the chances of turning over were slim, and I knew I could get back in the boat with Janet’s assistance. Still, that vague uneasiness lurked in the background. Sigh.

We pulled into a beach for lunch, and some women obliged us with a photo.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 11.04.07 AMAt that point I decided to face my fear and do what I had been avoiding for weeks: time to practice the self rescue.

I told Janet I wanted to try the scramble self rescue (also called the cowboy rescue, but Janet prefers the former name). It looks like this.

Yeah, right.

Having no other excuses for delays (all the lunch had been eaten and beach pictures taken), we took the boats out into the bay, where the water was deep enough but the waters were calmer. Janet did her self rescue first—nothin’ to it. Here she is, smiling astride her kayak.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 11.06.13 AMNow it was my turn. The moment of truth. ACK. Well, the only way through it is to do it. Here I go—over into the water.

solo1We cheated a little—Janet actually emptied the water from my boat and turned it over. This prepped me for hauling myself back in. I tried getting on from the back, which didn’t work at all. But then I approached the boat from the side, and then centered my chest over the back of the boat. Like so.

solo2Then I had to inch (and I do mean inch) myself onto the back deck, pulling myself, kicking my legs, all the time keeping low and making sure my legs stayed in the water. Janet was coaching me from her boat the whole time, which was a huge help. She also documented it for posterity. Here I am, posing for a photo and pondering how to get myself back in the cockpit, which at the moment, seems very very far away.

solo3Then comes another hard part—sitting up without tipping the boat over. Again, you have to keep your legs in the water to act as stabilizers. Here I am, so close to the cockpit, but with a final challenge before me—move butt over seat back and into cockpit.


Well, who knows how this happened, but it did. Here I am, marveling at my inexplicable but undeniable return to the cockpit of my boat, celebrating with a swig of water.

solo5And then a funny thing happened. When we set back out into deeper ocean to explore the nearby south coast, I felt… great. More confident, more at ease, more able to enjoy the waves, the open water. Oh boy. I had crossed a threshold.

It’s important to note that kayakers have to practice these rescue and other techniques in a variety of conditions (say, in rougher seas and in open water) to be really confident and adept. But with this accomplishment I was on my way.

So readers, what sorts of sports and activity thresholds have you crossed? What thresholds are you looking at now? I’d love to hear more about your experiences.

Greetings from inside the pain cave


Three things got me thinking about sports training and pain again.

The first was a series of ads for indoor training videos, Sufferfest. There’s something about indoor training whether it’s on your bike on a trainer or on an erg, or rowing machine, that’s particularly brutal.

And finally some female faces.

The second was a lively discussion with a friend on the age old question of whether being a masochist helps with sports performance. My answer, yes.

The third was this story,  It’s true! Triathletes are tougher than the rest of us.

Triathletes can tolerate more pain than the rest of us, a new study confirms, which helps explain why they would swim, then bike, then run, all because they want to and not because they are, perhaps, being chased by a bear.

That’s interesting on its own, but there’s more: Researchers say that understanding how athletes can withstand the pain of a grueling endurance event may eventually lead to potential treatments and therapies for people with chronic pain.

“It’s a very masochistic sport,” said Jenna Parker, who was the top female finisher in the New York City Triathlon in July. She was joking, but only kind of. “I guess to some extent, I always wondered what it is that makes people able to compete at a high level in athletics. Obviously there’s something that’s different that makes us able to push our physical boundaries in a way that other people can’t.”

Here’s my past posts on the topic:

Food Matters

IT takes a human to turn ingredients into food.

It takes a human to turn ingredients into food.

It takes a lot of time to make sure a family is well fed. I try to eat fresh ingredients and unprocessed food. It’s cheaper and it tastes good. The challenge is it takes a lot more energy and time to make that pound of carrots into Lightly Curried Carrot Soup (doesn’t it look yummy in those mason jars?) than it does to buy a tetra pack of pre-made soup. I live with two teenage boys and a high energy life partner who eat about 3,500 calories a day. We basically cook for 8 at any given meal and there are rarely leftovers. Thing is, on weekends where I’m out for a long ride or evening I’m trying to hit the pool all that prep time is a a big pain in the kiester.

This past week I was madly typing up assignments for a distance ed course I’m trying to finish. I had a few hours of overtime at work and some social commitments with friends. No workouts, no time.

My oldest son is now sixteen and asked if he could help me out during my crunch time. My partner has entered a busy time at his paid work, spare time is sparse on the ground. I gladly accepted the offer and he made amazing dinners all week as well as baked goods. It was a wonder to come home to meals and a clean kitchen.
It’s not lost on me that the times when my partner was a grad student he cooked the majority of the meals, now my work schedule is the more contained and flexible so the balance has shifted. Many of my woman identified friends have never had a reprieve from the majority of meal making, I’m fortunate and yet it still irks me to be on the hook for all the groceries and meal planning. It’s very Simone de Beauvoir baking and bringing tea to Jean Paul Satre and his friends. It chaffs my neck that even in a family that thinks about these things the external forces at play re-inforce this gendered division of household labour.

The benefit for my son is a sense of pride in contributing to the family’s well-being while honing important life skills like making meals. For my partner and I, it is a little less running madly about. You can’t workout without nutritional support but that time to make the food eats away at the time available for other kinds of wellness.

I’m very lucky my son has begun to realize he has more available time than the grown -ups do (Thanks to playing Simms3 but that is another story) to help the family function. The food matters a great deal to all of us. The more we can make it the less we spend on it and the more money we have for doing fun things like walking, biking, swimming…and occasionally running.