blog · blogging

Top Ten Posts in May, #ICYMI

  1. COVID-19 and the Gym: Building Engineers Weigh In (Guest Post)

“As mechanical engineers who consult on heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, we’ve been closely following the evolving body of knowledge about how the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus (the virus which causes COVID-19) spreads through the air. We thought some folks might be interested to know some of what we’ve learned, and how that’s affecting our thoughts on returning to the gym.”

Cara and Sarah are guest bloggers, fit feminists, and mechanical engineers thinking about when it’s safe to go back to the gym. This was the most read post of the month by a long shot.

2. What really is okay for exercising outside?

Cate interviews Dr. Michael Gardam, an infectious disease specialist and Chief of Staff at Humber River Hospital in Toronto, and a frequent voice on CBC and Global TV to make sense of some of the tangled messaging about COVID-19 and outdoor exercise.

3. I’m 53 and a half and I’m still menstruating: is this a good thing?

Cate is also still menstruating and this post about that continues to be in the top 10 every month!

4. When will you feel okay about going back to the gym?

Cate puts on her social scientist hat and listens to the bloggers talk about going back to the gym.

“In most of Canada, gyms aren’t open yet, but clearly, they have their feet in the blocks waiting for the starter pistol. It’s understandable — fitness studios depend on class and member revenue to survive, and most have hefty investments in space and equipment. We had an animated conversation about this among the bloggers about our own comfort, and realized that most gym managers/ owners are not likely to err on the side of caution — they want to open, and as soon as they are permitted, they will be looking to their members to tell them what will work for them. So what DO we feel safe doing? I captured the key themes from a few of our bloggers.”

5. It’s Okay, You Weren’t Built for This

Susan reminds us that it’s okay not to be okay with all of this.

“You weren’t built for this and you don’t have to say it’s okay, or good enough, or the same, or tolerable. Day after day, your nervous system seeks and searches and wonders when it can dare to be soothed, when it is allowed to declare a need to just be with, without being accused of. . .something. . .bad. It doesn’t understand and that’s okay, you weren’t built for this.”

6. Women can wear dresses and bike to work. Lots of us do. Get over it!

Ottawa Centre MP Catherine McKenna biked to work in a dress, posted a pic on Twitter for Bike to Work Day, lots of people hated it, but feminists and cyclists of Twitter came to the rescue. Sam chimed in and also blogged about it.

7. #justiceforahmaud

Cate is on a roll this month. Sadly it’s still so very timely.

“I’m a white woman, and I’m a feminist. This story breaks my heart, and it makes me so angry. I’m an ally, and #justiceforahmaud has to be my fight too.

Ahmaud was murdered on 2 – 23 – 30. He was supposed to turn 26 today. Run 2.23 miles today with thousands of others, in solidarity.”

8. Still menstruating at 55 1/4 — and still learning new things!

Cate updated her still menstruating at 53 1/2 post to let us know it’s still going on at 55 1/4.

9. Wrong! Sam says that there aren’t just two types of people in quarantine

Memes are sometimes funny but they can also flatten our experiences. Sam says that she’s both the person baking and eating desserts in quarantine and the person exercising lots.

10. Another older post was read lots this month. Here’s Catherine on sleep as a feminist issue.

In case you missed it
fitness · weight stigma

It’s dessert week in nutrition science!

CW: discussion of research related to body weight, BMI, and weight gain.

While the rest of us have been busy baking bread at home, nutrition researchers have been hard at work keeping dessert science going strong. They’ve been thinking and plotting and measuring and parceling out various amounts of dessert items to various sizes of people, then watching them closely to see what happens.

A group of busy-bee food science professionals released their results this week in an article investigating associations between body weight and milkshake liking. No, that’s not me rephrasing it– it’s the actual title of the article (using the word “ob*sity”, which I strongly dislike for scientific and ethical reasons).

First, they the formed their hypothesis:

Milkshake hypothesis: Make milkshakes, they said. Boys will come to your yard, they said.
Milkshake hypothesis: Make milkshakes, they said. Boys will come to your yard, they said.

(side note: if you’re not familiar with the references in this meme, you’re in for a sweet treat! Start here, then go here. Important: this is not to be confused with the “mikshake duck” meme, which I just learned about one minute ago.)

Back to the meme at hand: that’s not their research question (better to leave it to the “directions for future studies” section). Here’s what they wanted to know:

Prevailing models of obesity posit that hedonic signals override homeostatic mechanisms to promote overeating in today’s food environment.,,Here we define hedonic as orosensory pleasure experienced during eating and set out to test whether there is a relationship between adiposity and the perceived pleasure of a palatable and energy-dense milkshake.

non-science-journal version: they want to know if people’s body weights have an effect on how yummy milkshake consumption seems to them. What they are actually looking for is whether larger people report yummier milkshake drinking experiences (which they think might partly explain their larger sizes). That’s what these scientists are really up to.

What’s next? The researchers set up their test group: 110 people with BMI 19.3–51.2. They asked them to arrive neither hungry nor full, and to have not eaten for at least one hour. The participants came, and waited.

Please note that this study took place before pandemic social distancing protocols were instituted. Otherwise, group size would be strictly limited.

Safety first: milkshakes are allowed to bring at most 9 boys to the yard. A meme with Kelis.
Safety first: milkshakes are allowed to bring at most 9 boys to the yard.

Back to the study: I can’t tell you about the exact methods because even with my awesome library access I can’t get the full article yet. But: the researchers measured hunger before milkshake consumption and also recorded how much the participants said they liked and wanted the milkshake (during consumption).

Finally, we get the results! Here’s what the article says:

We identified a significant association between ratings of hunger and milkshake liking and wanting. By contrast, we found no evidence for a relationship between any measure of adiposity and ratings of milkshake liking, wanting, or intensity.

We conclude that adiposity is not associated with the pleasure experienced during consumption of our energy-dense and palatable milkshakes. Our results provide further evidence against the hypothesis that heightened hedonic signals drive weight gain.

Uh oh! The nutrition scientists got a negative result! They found that body weight had no effect at all on how pleasurable people said their milkshakes were. Keanu pretty much sums it up:

What if the boys were already on their way to the yard, and my milkshake had nothing to do with it-- meme with Keanu.
Keanu reports test’s failure to find association between two variables. It happens.

Yes, the study did find a correlation between hunger levels pre-consumption and reported pleasure during consumption. But no one doubted that. And yes, it’s a good thing when scientists get and publish a report on failure to find correlations.

This study gives us a glimpse of something very interesting and a bit worrisome to me, as a fat woman and a health ethics researcher: medical research spends a lot of time and effort searching for causal factors involved in body weight and weight gain that are located in individual persons’ actions, psychological makeups and personal habits. Are fatter people fatter because of something they are doing or feeling or attracted to?

These scientific questions make me uneasy about what may be underlying speculations (or assumptions) by researchers, clinicians and even the general public about what fatter people are doing differently or feeling and acting differently that accounts for their increased fatness. These views are likely yet another source for deep-seated fat-biased beliefs and weight-stigmatizing judgments.

Should we stop doing this kind of research? Even as a public health ethics professional, this is not in my lane, so I can’t say. I think we should remain careful about uptake and reliance on nutrition research, lest it leave a bad taste in our mouths.

fitness

Take It Outside

My 15 year old son has been taking a ‘Healthy Living’ course this past semester and I’ve been keeping him company as he worked on projects ranging from cyberbullying to dangerous drugs*. 

When we received notice that this week’s project would be his final one for the course, we were happy to discover that his teacher was keeping the increasingly nice weather in mind.

J’s project for this week is to take photos of himself doing outdoor activities and I have decided maximize my fun by joining in.

I won’t be sending my photos to his teacher, obviously, so I will be posting here instead.

The author,  a white middle-aged woman is standing on the grass in front of a wooden structure. She is wearing a flowered dress and her arms are outstretched.
For your amusement: This is an author activity that won’t be included this week. In this 2017 photo, I am at an outdoor Storytelling event. It looks like I might be exercising but that’s just my full-body story style. It’s actually more mental effort than physical effort.

Keep an eye out for my post of seven outdoor photos at the end of next week.

Maybe you would like to join me for this final project for the school year?

*There is also a physical activity component of the course but he didn’t really need my company on the elliptical machine or while doing his steps in the living room.

yoga

Join Sam for June? June is for COURAGE with Adriene

I enjoy yoga when I do it. I rarely regret it. But these days, like Cate, I’m finding it harder than usual to unroll my mat. I started out this strange time of staying at home with Yoga for Adriene. I think for June I’ll try it again.

Cheddar likes it too.

Join me.

June 2020 Yoga Calendar – COURAGE. Yoga With Adriene Free monthly Yoga calendar! If this is your first time joining us for a community theme, welcome! Each month, we come together as a community around a theme that inspires questions and guides intention for a regular and sustainable at home yoga practice.”

June 2020 Yoga Calendar – COURAGE | Yoga With Adriene

charity · cycling

Sam is riding virtually, please sponsor her generously!

Unsplash | Heart iphone wallpaper, Neon wallpaper, Neon light ...
Neon red heart from Unsplash

“This year, I am fundraising for the Manulife Heart & Stroke Virtual Ride for Heart, in support of heart disease and stroke research. That research is more critical than ever right now, as emerging data confirms that people with heart disease and stroke are at a great risk for developing serious conditions if infected with COVID‑19. Heart & Stroke estimates that people with heart conditions are four times more likely to die from COVID‑19 than patients with no underlying conditions.

I’m pleased to learn that Manulife is TRIPLING donations during the month of May*. It’s a tremendous opportunity to TRIPLE your impact and make a difference when it’s needed most. Every donation counts and will be TRIPLED to help those who are especially vulnerable right now.”

You can sponsor me here. I had registered for the 75 km bike ride, Sunday, June 7th. My new goal is to ride 75 km that weekend, either indoors on my trainer or outdoors on the road, weather and life depending.


fitness

Inside Voices

Ring, ring, ring. Hello? Body? Whatcha doin’?

Just been flopping around, dragging from one prone position to another mostly? Ya, I know, it’s been a time.

What’s that? Yes, things are stiffening and there’s that weird thing where you don’t eat anything for 10 hours, unless you count coffee as a food.

Ya, well you don’t ALWAYS have to finish that project before you are allowed a sandwich. Yes, I remember those chicken mushroom crepes too. We could check to see if they are still in business. Yes, that would be nice.

Hey body, do you think maybe you’d consider moving a little more? No no, I don’t mean running. You hate running, especially when you are totally stressed out. I mean, maybe something that’s good for you, a strength/balance sort of thing.

Well, yes I know you’ve kind of had it with pre-recorded videos. No no, I’m not suggesting some kind of weird app. I was thinking maybe of a person, like a trainer?

Is it on Zoom? Well, yes, everything is on Zoom. Yes, I did read the last post we wrote, I was there, writing it. Yes video is not real life but body, that SI joint isn’t going to lubricate itself. I think you need some help.

Well, I heard that Cate’s trainer is online. She’s smart and funny and loves a puzzle. You know us, we are a bit of a puzzle. What do you say?

Hey body, you okay? You sound like you are about to cry (and I would know, seeing as I’m right here). Well of course I’ve been paying attention to what we’ve been doing to ourselves. It’s not been great, all this sitting still and slouching and general malaise. No, I was not intending to march us into age and immobility without so much as a glance back. I was just very very very bummed out. Yes, I know, it hurts and not just the stiff SI joint. I’m sorry, I really am, this has been hard on both of us.

Okay I will email her right now. Twice a week? Done, for a few months. Let’s see what’s happening and then we can make some more choices.

I’m glad I checked in too. I’m sorry I was ignoring you so much. This all just sucks so terribly.

Yes I can feel you are hungry. We should go eat something. Of course there will be cookies. I know, I love you too. Really I do.

A picture of a Fisher Price telephone toy with an old time circular dial and a cute face on the front.
Who remembers this phone? I pulled this thing around for most of my childhood and so did my children. It’s still in my mom’s basement.
fitness

Comfort eating– it’s not gonna kill you, and may even be beneficial (says science)

Sam’s post on Wednesday on the not-funny joke about the two types of people in quarantine really struck me. I’ve been doing a lot of comfort eating, comfort reading, comfort tv viewing, and comfort napping.

Yes, I’m doing zoom yoga and walking outside. I’m out riding my bike (sometimes with a mask and sometimes without– stay tuned for more on Sunday’s post).

But like Sam and Cate and probably all of us, I’m not capable of functioning the ways I’d like all the time. That’s too much to expect of us no matter how rosy things are in the world. And they’re decidedly not rosy right now.

I wrote this piece around holiday time a while back. What it has in common with eating under pandemic conditions is: 1) the panic that comfort eating provokes in public discussions anytime; and 2) the absurd lengths to which the health/fitness industry will go to keep us from cookies or cake or pasta. To them I say put a sock in it. To you I say comfort eating is eating, which is one of many things we do. It’s really not going to kill us, which is even more meaningful now.

FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

The holiday season is in full swing now, replete with holiday foods.  At my sister’s house, this means a big ham, loads of cookies, pimento cheese for crackers, and other really rich foods that we don’t eat much of other times of year.

The holiday season is also hectic.  For me this means parties and fun holiday events, the frenetic pace of turbo-grading, getting ready to fly to see family with a large checked bag of gifts (trying not to forget my toothbrush), and then hanging out with them, not in my home eating and activity environment.

Enter comfort eating.  I kind of hate this term, because it’s super judgy.  I mean, we eat.  Food comforts us sometimes.  We enjoy that feeling of satisfaction from eating the food.  What’s the problem?

Health and medicine folks often talk about comfort eating as eating in response to loneliness, anxiety, and sadness.  The…

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