Losing 20 lbs: A complicated gift (Guest post)

(Trigger warning: sexual assault)

I’ve been re-assessing my eating habits in light of my recent high blood pressure diagnosis and getting at the heart of over eating with the help of a psychologist. Fortunately eating intuitively has helped a great deal as well as using Canada’s Food Guide. Not exactly a miraculous breakthrough but it has meant, since that early April appointment I’ve lost 20 lbs. I don’t think weight loss is always the answer to high blood pressure but in my case it certainly is. That’s hard for me to say because for many people their blood pressure and weight don’t impact each other.

So it’s complicated when people start to notice I’ve lost weight. On my frame right around the 20 lb mark acquaintances who haven’t seen me in a bit start asking if there’s less of me. Nope, just a good bra shirt combo I say. Thankfully I’ve trained my friends to say “hey you look great” instead of “have you lost weight?”. I hate that question. I hate the assumptions about how losing weight must be my greatest achievement since, you know, getting my carcass out of bed. I get pretty angry about the patrolling of women’s bodies and that is partly why I cultivate a punk/queer aesthetic. I want you to know when you see me I don’t give a damn about what you think women should look like and keep that opinion to yourself. I’m not here to be attractive to you, I’m here for me and what I like…oh and leave me alone.


But acquaintances are hard to wrangle, I don’t want to get into it with them. I don’t want to tell them that I started overeating after that boy stuck his hand down my pants when I was 13 when I didn’t want him to. About the time a man I worked with showed me a picture of his penis in front of our entire crew. About the time a co-worker bit my neck at a party. and on and on and on and on and the food felt good. It felt safe and after gaining 100 lbs or so they did stop bothering me, until today. Today I was in the parking lot at work and a man walked up to me and said I looked nice. He made a whimpering sound when he said it, like he could barely contain himself. I walked away.

It’s not lost on me that women’s health is impacted by sexism. That women safety plan all the time just to go for a run or a hike or a bike ride. Sometimes I forget to do these things. I forget I have to plan on other’s behaviour threatening my well-being. I resent it but not so much that I will eat myself into an early grave.

So losing the first 20 lbs has been a complicated gift and something I’m not always up for talking about. I’m glad my blood pressure is back in the normal range without medication. I am enjoying eating lots of great foods while getting the therapy I need to be healthy. It’s not easy, confronting everyday sexism without numbing it out or getting so angry my head explodes. I think I forget that because I choose to confront sexism I have to work very hard to be fit. It’s hard to manage the stress and impact of calling people out on their crap or the guilt I feel those times I  just walk away.

So I keep on this path to being healthier/fitter/happier than I’ve been in a long time. It’s about so much more than how much I weigh or how much I’ve lost.

Jogging with dog versus running with son

So I’m back to running, slowly but surely increasing the amount I’m running versus time spent walking. It’s the usual drill. You can read about that here.

Often I’m dog jogging though the dog too got a bit out of shape during my running hiatus. It’s nice though because a) dogs are motivating, she’s got to be walked so we may as well run, and b) she keeps me in line. I’m tempted too run faster, further and right now she can’t and that’s okay.


This week though I was away camping, car camping really, with my teenagers and twenty something, at a nearby provincial park. It’s a bit of a family tradition getting away the week before school starts. I love it.

My teen athlete is recovering from concussion and he’s just getting back to physical activity after a few weeks of not much. It’s better now he can read and watch movies and use the computer. The days of “watching paint dry” as the doctor put it were painful.

He’s getting excellent care at the university’s sport injury clinic. They have a dedicated team working on concussions. He’s even seeing a physiotherapist who specializes in concussion.

All good.

But when he asked me to go running with him while we were camping, I realized I was playing a role for him that the dog plays for me. I was his excuse for taking it easy.

It was tough for me. We ran about five km, walked another couple, at noon on the hottest day of the summer. It was faster than my usual pace, accompanied by lots of “come on mom, you can do it” and good natured ribbing about my pace.

It was also hot.

Heat advisory? I know! Let’s run. His reasoning was probably right though. He was asleep earlier and if we put it off till later we wouldn’t go.

Luckily since we’re at the park we ran on shady trails. I love trail running.

And I love that, athlete though he is, he’s not embarrassed to be out with his nearly fifty year old mother huffing and puffing along! I’ve written about this before. See my post on life as a sports parent here.

It’s one of the ways that we all benefit from having a serious athlete the house. When I come home from a soccer game he always asks how it went. I once asked him if he was embarrassed by having his mother in her road cycling clothing, sweaty after a ride, watching the end of practise. He said he was happy I got to ride my bike while they practised and it was the parents sitting in chairs the whole time who were really embarrassing. (Some parents have to embarrass some teenagers some of the time. It’s a rule.)





Happy Birthday to Me!

Here’s my favourite cycling inspired cake:


And here’s a birthday selfie for good measure!


It’s a good thing we changed the name of the blog–thanks Tracy–now she’s almost 50 still but I’m already there.

Had an easy 50 km ride Saturday, will do 100 on Monday, but today I’ll be eating cake, dancing, and splashing about in the hot tub.

Happy Birthday, Sam!

happy birthday

Today is Sam’s birthday. Happy 50th Sam!  Have a fabulous day and an even better year. You are truly inspiring. I can only dream of cycling as fast as you do by the time I’m 50!



Sam makes it to the Quebec border from Toronto on her Friends for Life bike Rally this summer.  My cycling hero!

Sam makes it to the Quebec border from Toronto on her Friends for Life bike Rally this summer. My cycling hero!

Freedom is a Kevlar Canoe


Last year at the end of the season, I purchased a Swift Algonquin 16 Kevlar Fusion canoe with carbon Kevlar trim. It comes in at a whopping 35lbs and I love it. I have christened her “The Catnoe” for #reasons and this year I took her on her maiden trip with Sam for three days and two nights in back country Algonquin Park.

First, a pop quiz. . .how many other canoes do you think we encountered with two women identified people in them? Don’t just jump to the first conclusion, think for a minute. . .naw, I’m just kidding. Your first conclusion is likely totally correct. The answer is none. It was just us. We saw two male gendered people, we saw male and female (male in the stern of course) but there were no other women tripping partners to be seen. This is consistent with my 6 years of annual trips to the park. I am almost always in the only two woman canoe, with the exception of a group of 5 women (2 canoes and one kayak) we saw two years ago.

I’ve been thinking about why this is for all 6 years I’ve been doing it so I’d like to share some of those musings here, in light of the spectacularly successful Catnoe excursion.

I first tripped when I was at overnight camp about 32 years ago. It was awful. My shoes got wet. I didn’t have a sleeping pad for the ground. The mosquitoes were in the tent and I didn’t like doing my business in the woods. Yet somehow, I went back to it as a staff about 5 years later. I think it was because it seemed to me that the cool kids were volunteering for trips. It may also have had to do with that Israeli, gymnast, ex-paratrooper person who was on the trip but we won’t pay any mind to that now. My most vivid memory of the trip was of my unit head grasping the yolk of the canoe, yanking it up to sit on her thighs and then magically hoisting it over her head. I had never seen a woman do that before. This was not made of Kevlar either. It was aluminum. It was on this trip that I learned about multiple pairs of socks and the necessity of drying your footwear as much as possible between soakings. I had hiking boots instead of sneakers. I think I may have had a pad to sleep on in the tent too. I played with camp cooking and I sterned my own boat. I came back to camp dirty and stinky and proud of myself. Over all, a total success.

It was not until 20 years later that I finally went out again on a portaging canoe trip. There are some things you have to accept when agreeing to go on a back country trip. You will get dirty and stay kinda dirty. You will use every part of your body to its maximum at various points in the trip. You will struggle. You will occasionally feel some pain. You will get bug bites and at some point, you will be alone at night in the forest sitting on a wooden box with a hole in it doing your business.

Let’s face facts, none of these things are the kind of things most girls are brought up to expect to enjoy. I was certainly not brought up with the idea that this was a fun thing to do. I got the idea because of who I hang out with (and I’m so grateful for that). However, I have learned to love them. Surprisingly, sitting on the aforementioned box (a privy) is one of the more pleasant things about camping in Algonquin. It’s far better than sitting in an enclosed space doing the equivalent activity. Even in a light mist, it’s quite refreshing.

I love the challenge of getting from one place to another. I love figuring out how to cook yummy things with my camp burner. I love the little comforts, a good sleeping bag, mat and tent, a book, a cup of coffee, dry socks. I love swimming in wicked cold water I would normally not bother to swim in. I love not looking in the mirror for 3 days. Of course there is the actual place, so beautiful and further in, so serene you can feel like you are the only human for kilometers, even if you are not really.

But back to the canoe. The one limiting factor for me has always been that extraordinary act of flipping that sucker on my head. My customary tripping partner (Sarah) is a life-long athlete whose physical strength and attitude have always leaned toward “of course I can do that”. And so, she does. In all years past, she has been chief canoe-flipper-upper. I have carried it occasionally (either the 45 lb version or, one time her 60 lb canoe) but always with her help to get it up and only for the shorter distances (200m). It meant I always had to have a person with me who could carry the canoe. That meant her or someone else, maybe a man. I know there are other women in my larger friend circle who can do it but they aren’t close enough to be going on trips with me. Like I said, not a lot of two women canoe partners in the park or available generally, even when most of my women friends are queer identified.

Enter the Catnoe. She is so eminently flip-up-able. She allowed me to master the technique without being afraid I’d accidentally take my head off. She allowed me to say, when Sarah couldn’t go, “Hey, Sam! Will you let me take you into the back woods for a trip?” and know that no matter what, even if Sam couldn’t carry the canoe, I could! If something bad happened and I had to go get help, I could. I had the capacity to fill any role on the excursion and let me tell you, that is power. A whole world opened up to me.

(Just to be clear. . .Sam could carry the canoe, I just didn’t let her.)

I could have done more overhead presses and heavier squats. Then I could have a hope of working with the 45 lb canoe. But, my Catnoe has let me have access to this entire experience now, without my usual fears. It has also likely given me the muscle memory to flip that 45 pounder up there if I had to and so launched me on a path to even more freedom.

Isn’t this the reason why we struggle to acquire fitness and if it isn’t, shouldn’t it be? I’m 46 years old and next summer, as long as my 71 year old mom can get up and get down from a sitting position on the ground, I’m taking her in to the park with me. I will set her up on a chair at the end of the portage and I will bring the pack and the canoe. I will feel powerful and happy and free. What else can you ask for?

American parents suing over soccer and concussion risk: Is it relevant that girls get hurt more often?

Two pieces of news with interesting connections.

First, there’s a class account lawsuit by American parents against Fifa over concussion risk to young soccer players. See http://m.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-28961233

A group of young American footballers and their parents have sued Fifa and US football groups over the risks from concussions.

The California class-action lawsuit accuses the sport’s governing bodies of acting “carelessly and negligently” and failing to protect young players.

The filing also calls for new safety rules, including limiting the number of headers for young players

Second, there have also been reports about the higher concussion risk for girls playing soccer. See the Wall Street Journal.

Researchers aren’t sure why girls are more likely to suffer concussions, but theorize it’s because girls’ neck muscles are not as strong or because they are more likely to report their injuries. Most concussions result from collisions with another player, not from heading the ball, says Matthew Grady, a pediatric sports medicine specialist at the Children Hospital of Philadelphia.

Most leagues require players who show symptoms of concussions (such as loss of consciousness, headache, dizziness, confusion or balance problems) to be cleared by a medical professional before returning to the field. The practice became an official rule of the NFHS this past school year.

And also the Washington Post.

Since 2008, high school girls’ soccer players have reported an average of 14 concussions per 10,000 games played (a game is equal to one game played by one player). The figure is nearly twice the average for boys’ soccer (7.30), and only football (27) and boys’ hockey (18) have reported more concussions than girls’ soccer.

I’m not sure why I find this shocking. But I do. I think I’m making the same mistake I’ve accused others of making. See Dangerous Sports and Assumptions and Gender and Risk.


The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Doing Good, Even if for the Wrong Reason | Impact Ethics

I guest blogged over at Impact Ethics about the ice bucket challenge:

“I haven’t done the ice bucket challenge, though my son, my sister-in-law, and lots of my friends have done it. I come pretty close to being the perfect subject for the challenge: I like charity challenges (I recently took part in the Friends for Life Bike Rally); and, in this case, the cause is close to home for my family. We lost my children’s grandmother, my husband’s mother, to ALS this winter. More recently, a good friend of mine has been diagnosed with ALS. I’ve learned a lot about ALS and death doesn’t seem to be the worst thing about it. Rather, it’s living with ALS that’s tough. ALS is an awful disease.”

Read the rest here: