Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #10

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. Why? Because those are the posts that usually have bare body bits in the image attached to them. This first one is a perfect example.

New York Women Draw Their Own Boobs

Nora Ephron didn’t just feel bad about her neck. She called breasts, or her lack of them, “the hang-up of my life.” In a 1972 Esquire essay, she wrote, “If I had had them, I would have been a completely different person. I honestly believe that.”

To find out how women see their own breasts, the Cut polled 57 New York women, ages 17 to 72 (plus one 4-year-old who grabbed the marker from her mom) and asked them to draw their boobs and write one sentence explaining how they feel about them. In cafés and bars, on playground benches and on the way to work, women laughed when they heard the question, disparaged their drawing abilities, and gave it a shot.

Toplessness, the Victorian taboo that won’t go away

French perception of what was acceptable for women was always different from British. In this our near neighbour provides a useful contrasting view and always has done. While Oliver Cromwell buttoned up every aspect of British society from the celebration of Christmas to the celebration of female flesh, there was a sigh of relief in England when Charles II returned to the throne in 1661 and brought with him a liberal attitude to female behaviour from the French court.Necklines across the country quickly plummeted so far that lady’s dressing table sets of the day might include pots of carnelian nipple make-up. Nell Gwyn, the king’s mistress, was painted nude and even Frances Teresa Stuart (the court’s It Girl) was painted with a top so low that her nipples are clearly visible. This fashion trickled down to common women (also portrayed in portraits of the day – often in landscapes) though the royal court with its taste for high fashion was the most extreme version of it. It’s interesting to note that in contrast to today, the sight of an ankle was considered vastly more shocking than the sight of a female breast.
So when did our culture change – when did the Puritan breast-haters have their way? Like many 20th and 21st Century taboos, we need to look to the Victorian era when the Queen’s innate prudishness tightened restrictions on women as surely as bone corsets stopped them taking in a deep breath.

Shimmy your way to body love

Belly dancers are more satisfied with their bodies and have better body image than young women who don’t belly dance, new Flinders University research shows.
In a survey of more than 200 Adelaide women, the belly dancers scored higher marks for positive body image and lower on measures of body dissatisfaction and self-objectification than a group of university students who had never belly danced.

Move over, Barbie. Realistic doll Lammily is on her way ..

And you can see the differences when you watch Lammily get morphed into a typical fashion doll.

Also, Guess What? Kids Really Like Lammily, the Realistically Proportioned Doll

Giving Up Giving Up: On Becoming an “Athletic Learner” (Guest Post)

  • I can’t.
  • I’m going to be no good.
  • I don’t know how.
  • I give up.

Never in my life have I thought of myself as an Athlete. In high school gym class, and later in social activities and sports as an adult, I have always had just enough coordination to pick up the basics, but never enough inherent athletic talent to excel or become an expert.

But the biggest impediment to my non-starter athletic career has been my deep, long-standing fear of failure. Fear of living up to my potential. Fear of letting the team down. Fear of getting hurt and being in pain. Fear of giving 100% that still results in a poor performance.

These fears have been cultivated not within a culture of sports but within academics. High achieving students and faculty have strong intrinsic motivation to achieve excellence, but they work in a demanding culture that can be extremely competitive and heartbreakingly critical. Even if one’s work never makes it to the general public, academic writing and teaching are very much public performances that serve up for scrutiny one’s intellectual talents to colleagues, peers, and students.

The most ambitious and confident folks do well in such a culture—particularly in the face of academic journals with low acceptance rates, single job postings with hundreds of applicants, and students who apparently evaluate teaching effectiveness based on their instructor’s appearance. Self-assurance, along with determination and perseverance—are traits of successful scholars and athletes alike.

And, unfortunately for me, as a recent PhD graduate all that negative self-talk (I can’t, I’m no good, I don’t know how, I give up) had been causing psychological “injuries” from which I was failing to recover. The fear that held me back from pursuing an academic career was not dissimilar from the fear that kept me from joining rec leagues. There were other reasons that I eventually took a university staff position, some perfectly reasonable. Looking back, though, I can admit that, I can’t had started to become I shouldn’t—and my self-talk about improving for the next academic success had become talk about giving up.

However, three years later—as a result of my fantastic “alt-ac” job whose one down side is that I sit sedentary at a computer most days—I’ve decided to become not an Athlete but an Athletic Learner. In the past four months I’ve started cardio-kick boxing, running, and soccer. Recently I’ve been to a yoga class, a step class, and (next week) a Zumba class. I even look like a lunatic walking up and down the stairs of my building when I take breaks.

For every new sport or activity, I try do my research. I focus not on my lack of inherent talent but rather on learning the rules, the strategy, the steps, and the mechanics. I also attempt to understand the implications of these activities for my short and long term health.

Have I failed in Athletic Learning? Well, in the very first game of soccer in my adult life I managed to score not one but two goals in a row on my own team, the ball ricocheting directly off my elbows into our net. (Not surprisingly, after the game I was the one asked to set up a team practice).

Meanwhile, in kick-boxing I still can’t roundhouse kick as hard or as long as others. In the intermediate step class, I could barely keep from getting my feet tangled up. In yoga, corpse pose was pretty much the only position I was 100% sure I had mastered.

But although I’m very, very far from expert status, through these activities I’ve met some new people and re-connected with old friends. I’ve been drilled in soccer by a bunch of sweet, precocious 10-year olds girls (whose mothers are on my soccer team), and I’ve learned a ton about how my body works. These day my lower back is often upset with me, but I’ve also learned that even pain acquired by Athletic Learning is more pleasurable than feeling nothing as a result of doing nothing (which was pretty much all that I was doing previously).

So, this year my self-talk around my lack of mastery of athletics sounds more like:

  • I can’t refuse a new and fun activity.
  • I’m going to be no good at being so hard on myself.
  • I don’t know how I’m going to do this [insert sport], but gosh-darn it I’m doing it anyway.
  • I give up giving up.

I am not, and probably never will be, an expert Athlete. Instead, my plan is to continue striving to be an Athletic Learner. And fortunately, this mental and attitudnal shift has made it impossible for me to fail…because success means that, no matter how poor my performance, I’ve at least learned something new.

cat yoga

Photo by Lisa Campeau, 2011. Reproduced with permission (CC BY 2.0).

Why I’m Not Getting “After” Pics

I’m coming to the end of the nutrition program I started back in January.  A few months ago, I stopped naming the program in my posts because I felt they didn’t deserve any free advertising from me. It’s not that it’s not a worthy program, but I don’t need to give them shout outs all the time either.

For the purposes of this post, I’m going to come right out and say it: Precision Nutrition.  Come January, when the program ends, I’ll write a full review like Sam did last year in her post Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program: A Year in Review.

Today I want to blog about the “after” pics.  The program is based on the idea that we do our best to internalize “lean eating” habits when we work on one habit at a time. It’s a great approach that can work well. We focus on one habit at a time for two weeks at a time. Things like eating slowly, eating to 80% full, eating lean protein with every meal, you get the picture.

But for the past two week’s the habit hasn’t been like that. It’s been: prepare for your final photo shoot. And every time I think of that habit, my back goes up.

I’ve spent the entire year and longer doing everything I can to get away from the idea that appearance is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing. And you know what? I’m seeing some results in that department – internal results. I blogged about them just the other day. So if I’m seeking an internal change, why would I want to do a final photo shoot?

Well, there could be some reasons. A lot of women in my group find the idea of a final photo shoot to be kind of empowering. It’s a way of celebrating their awesomeness.  Most everyone has seen some physical changes over the past year.  And I’d say most aren’t where they wish they were. So the photo shoot of where I am today could be a way of practicing acceptance. I can see that. But it’s not going to be my way.

The other thing that irks me is the role the “before” and “after” pics play in PN’s marketing strategy.  They’re a huge part of it.  Every month, they ask for updated pictures of the standard “front, side, back” variety.  They don’t share them unless you give them permission to share them.  But if you want to have a shot at the prize money for the best transformation, then you need to agree to share them (obviously).

How does the contest work? Well, people get to vote on the finalists’ transformations as captured in the “before” and the “after” pictures.  I’ll get to the voting part in a minute.

So way back in the summer, they encouraged everyone to book an appointment for November 22nd with a professional photographer to take their final “front, side, back” series and whatever else they wanted to make them feel good about themselves. That last part is fine. But why oh why would I want to pay a professional to take my front-side-back pics?

I wouldn’t.

So I didn’t sign up. But they really try to tell you it would be better.

I agree — it would be better for them if everyone had the pictures. The transformations look that much more dramatic when you’ve got a “before” picture taken at home with your iPhone beside an “after” picture taken by a professional in a properly lit studio with the right equipment.  And then we sign the pictures over to PN and presto: free marketing.

And I object to the idea of a contest at all. Makes me think of beauty pageants and bikini contests and judging people based on their appearance.

It’s not just me who wants to discount appearance. All year they’ve been sending us lessons that focused on the internal changes — the habits, the energy, the new way of thinking about yourself and who you are. All good stuff. I’ve enjoyed so many of the assignments and the workouts and the habits. I love my team, my coach, the changes I’ve made.

But now we’re being asked to throw our pictures — of us in workout gear or bikinis — into a contest so that people can vote on how good our transformation has been in comparison to the transformation of others.  I feel icky just thinking about it. The very idea seems to run counter to all of the messaging all year.  For more on the contest, see Sam’s post Precision Nutrition: Why the Photo Contest?

And of course, don’t we all know that “before” and “after” pics are a scam. Lately I’ve seen more than one example of someone whose before and after shots were taken just a few minutes or hours apart. Like this one.

For me, it hasn’t been the most dramatic physical change of the century anyway. But that’s not why I don’t plan to participate in the photo shoot and the contest. And for those who are choosing to take part, that’s their choice and I hope they get something positive out of it even if I’m skeptical of having “Prepare for your final photo shoot” as a PN “habit” worthy of two weeks!

Here’s what I’m doing:

I’m going to get a photo book made that depicts my race history over the past two years, from that first 5K to the Olympic distance triathlons and the half marathon.  Those are the photos that make me smile when I look at them.

First 5K:

First 5K, with Sam, October 2012.

First 5K, with Sam, October 2012.


Half marathon:

At the finish line of my first half marathon with Anita, October 2014.

At the finish line of my first half marathon, with Anita, October 2014.

Those moments when I finished something I never thought I could do–I just can’t replicate those in a photographer’s studio no matter how talented the photographer is and how good the lighting may be.  The finish line photos are the only “after” shots I’m interested in!

Cold snowy nights, hot yoga, sweaty trainer sessions, and the hot tub


That’s my backyard (above). It’s official.

Winter is here….there’s no more denying it. Yes, I know that calendar winter doesn’t start till the third week of December, still winter the season has arrived. Looks like there are negative high temperatures every day in the week ahead. – 4 C as the high for the day? -11 as the overnight low? Feels like -16? Really? Really? In November? Snow flurries too.

(Photo credit: Friend, student and fellow cyclist Steph B.)

Photo credit: Friend, student and fellow cyclist Steph B.

Mostly for me, it’s a period of giving up the activity I love the most, road cycling, but there are some things I like about winter and I’ve been reminded of them this week.

  • Hot Yoga: I’m not generally a big yoga fan but I love getting hot, sweaty, and stretchy in hot yoga. There’s a small studio just a few blocks from my house and they opened a larger location downtown. Great instructors. I often think, once it gets really cold, that I could just move into the hot yoga room. Love you Yoga Shack!


  • Getting Sweaty: Lots of women say that getting sweaty puts them off exercise. Not me. But there is something especially lovely about getting sweaty when the alternative is shivering. I bought a trainer this year. I already have rollers. Coach Chris Helwig has designed a training program for me to do on the trainer and we’re getting together once a week with five other people for a trainer class he’s co- leading with Cheryl of Happy is the New Healthy.image
  • Cross Country Skiing: I love being outside in the woods. For most of the year that means hiking but come winter, I strap on my cross country skis and zoom through the snow. It’s lovely to be outside in the cold and not be cold. Love cross country skiing and want to do more of it in the coming year, especially with my partner, Jeff.image
  • My Hot Tub: This was a big surprise. For years Jeff had been trying to talk me into a backyard hot tub. Last year as part of a major kitchen and deck reno, I agreed. I’m totally in love. It extends the use of our backyard right through the winter. There’s something very wonderful about sitting in the bubbly hot water and cold snowy nights, wstching the stars.

Enjoy an album of snowy hot tub photos here. The one pictured below isn’t mine but you get the idea.

For more ideas see Seven Winter Cycling Options.


Mine All Mine: How Getting Active Gave Me a New Way of Being in My Body

tracy triathlon embodimentHow do you feel in your body?  At home, absent, at war, at peace, comfortable, uncomfortable? I ask this because, since my fiftieth birthday back in September, I’ve discovered that apart from doing a whole bunch of stuff that I used to think impossible (see my post about that here), the most remarkable change over the past two years is internal.

It’s not just internal in a psychological way. It’s more than that.  Feminists talk a lot about our embodied experience. And lately, I feel that my triathlon training — all that running, swimming, and even the detestable biking (sorry — still not loving it) — have altered the way I feel in my body.  For the very first time in my life, I have a sense of my physicality as belonging totally and 100% to me.

I own these activities–every endurance run, every early morning workout in the pool, every struggle on the bike. They’re mine. I do them for me. Not for you or for my parents or my partner or because someone else/society/my employer/Oprah thinks I should. Nope. None of that. No one would blink an eye if I never did any of this stuff again. And yet I do it anyway because they’re things I want to do.

How is that different from what I felt like before? If you’ve been a regular reader of the blog from the early days, you’ll know that despite my repeated attempts to let go of the need to look a certain way, I’ve experienced my share of challenges in the body image department.

I know it’s kind of  big yawn for lots of people when small women with average sized bodies who can easily buy clothing off the rack at any store say they don’t like their bodies. But it happens and it’s painful and — anyway, I stopped blogging about it awhile back because I too find it tiresome.

A couple of weeks ago Canada had a shock when a well-respected and popular radio host from CBC radio was let go by the broadcaster because, in their words, they had learned something that made it impossible for them to continue their relationship with him.

As the story unfolded in the days following the announcement, numerous women came forward with allegations that the host had sexual assaulted and/or harassed them. For a few days, news about the firing and subsequent allegations was only thing that showed up on my newsfeed.

And for the first time perhaps ever, Canadian news was dominated by discussions of sexual coercion and the importance of consent.  We also had a national conversation about why sexual assault goes unreported so much (like this and this one, “I didn’t report because fuck you”). In every paper. On every television broadcast. On all the radio stations.  On Facebook and twitter and in the hallways of workplaces, conversations over lunch, telephone calls with people who lived in different parts of the country.

So what does this have to do with a new way of being in my body?  Well, you know, it just made me realize the extent to which it’s a rare thing indeed when a women feels confident ownership of her body — like she doesn’t owe anyone anything and she gets to say “no” and let it mean “no” (not “maybe” and not “let me talk you into it” and not “are you sure?” and not “maybe later” but “NO”).

And when we don’t feel that confident sense of ownership, it’s hard not to feel insecure about choices that may upset people or make them angry or, heaven forbid, disappoint someone or not meet their expectations. And hence the level of coercion and coaxing that lots of women endure (by the way, said radio host’s alleged actions were a lot more serious than coercion and coaxing).

And so to discover a domain where that shit doesn’t happen is like a small miracle, like finding an oasis in the desert or something like that.

And that’s what diving in with both feet into some athletic activity that I love has done for me. It’s like hello. Who’s been keeping this big secret from me?

Has discovering a physical activity you love changed the way you live in your body?





Saying goodbye to some of my favorite foods


And no, not for diet reasons. Don’t be silly.

And it’s not because I think some foods are evil. We’re not like that around here. See Why Food Is Beyond “Good” and “Evil”

Instead, it’s our planet I’m worried about and the way our farming practices and our changing climate is affecting our food supply. Some of my friends have been pointing fingers and shaking heads in disbelief that it’s only now some of our favourite foods are in danger that people are waking up to the reality of our changing planet and our role in bringing this mess about.

You can see my Desert island grocery list. And here’s some of the foods in danger:





Also chocolate and cherries. More on the upcoming chocolate crisis here. (Tracy will be okay. She’s already broken up with chocolate.)

But me? Chocolate and coffee in danger? Yikes!

Coffee Before Talkie #coffee #morning #funny #talk #java #caffeine