advertising · athletes · body image

A picture is worth a thousand words?

Tracy and I have written before about the need to change the range of images we associate with “fitness.” See her post Inclusive Fitness and my post No more headless fatties, why not use images of active fat people complete with heads instead?.

Stock photography images of women are pretty revealing whether it’s women laughing alone with salad, women trying to drink water badly, or women using laptops awkwardly. The stock photo images of feminists aren’t great either. Of course.

Now things might be getting better as  Getty And ‘Lean In’ Reimagine Stock Photos Of Women.

See also and Getty Aim to Change Women’s Portrayal in Stock Photos

To try to remedy the problem, Ms. Sandberg’s nonprofit organization,, is to announce on Monday a partnership with Getty Images, one of the biggest providers of stock photography, to offer a special collection of images that it says represent women and families in more empowering ways.

“When we see images of women and girls and men, they often fall into the stereotypes that we’re trying to overcome, and you can’t be what you can’t see,” Ms. Sandberg said in an interview.

Here’s some from their collection that portray physically active women:

womanjumping photo woman running photo woma standing photo woman hiking across snowy rocks with poles

The Lean In images are still pretty limited terms of body size and shape. It’s still the case that none of them look anything like me. But there have been other developments on the stock photo front this week. The Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity recently took positive steps to improve the images of obese people in the press.

In an effort to reduce stigmatizing portrayals of overweight and obese persons in the news, we have created a Media Gallery that provides a collection of brief, professional video clips and images that depict obese individuals in a variety of settings. These images and video clips provide a non-biased representation of adults who are overweight and obese, and are intended for use as background and b-roll video footage for the news media. Our Media Gallery can help promote accurate coverage of obesity-related topics in news reporting and challenge harmful weight-based stereotypes.


photo of obese people doing varius activities

See New stock photos of obese people offer a respectful portrayal of being fat [20 pictures]





Spring riding in my sights!

I’ve got a countdown to the first day of spring running on my desktop.

Current status:

Spring is on  Thursday, 20 March 2014

33 days, 6 hours remain till Spring

First Day Of Spring


Okay, the counter doesn’t say “whee!” I added that bit.

While I am a big fan of winter running, I miss my bike. And this year I haven’t been doing much bike-wise on the off season. My plan is to start early and ride lots! Get the pesky base kilos out of the way while it’s still miserable out. I don’t need warm sunny days for riding but the temperatures we’ve had this winter plus the amounts of ice and snow have made it all but impossible for all but the hardened commuters/fat tire cyclists.

But next week. there are days where the temperatures are above freezing, for the first time in awhile. The university is on spring break and while my travel plans have changed (no riding in the American South for me) I plan to get my bike out.


Calvin and Hobbes
Image: Sam in spiffy red cycling jacket (thanks Dave), black helmet, and sunnies
martial arts

Edith Garrud: The suffaragette who knew jiu-jitsu

Edith Garraud

News to me until a friend re-tweeted this photo but there was a suffragette who trained in jiu-jitsu.  Wikipedia tells me that “Edith Margaret Garrud (1872–1971) was among the first female professional martial arts instructors in the Western world. She is remembered for having trained the Bodyguard unit of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in jujutsu self-defence techniques.300px-Suffragette-that-knew-jiujitsu

What’s the plaque all about? Read the Guardian story Edith Garrud: a public vote for the suffragette who taught martial arts to find out about the woman who introduced jujutsu to the suffragette cause and how she came to be honoured with a plaque on her London house.

Thanks David Fiander for the introduction to Edith. edith-margaret-garrud-c1935

fat · training · Uncategorized

Is It True that Endurance Training Won’t Make You Thin and Lean Anymore Than Playing Basketball Will Make You Tall and Lanky?

Women athletes running the marathon at the Olympics in London UK 2012.
Women marathoners at the Olympic games in London 2012.

We’ve all seen those endurance athletes–the marathoners and triathletes. Thin and wiry, as lean as they come, with hardly any fat on their lithe bodies.  And even those of us who don’t think we’ll ever look like that (or don’t aspire to be have that sinewy thin physique) have long thought that with enough training, we too might “lean out” to some degree.

But apparently, as I’ve learned over the past year or so, that’s actually not guaranteed to be the case. There is in fact all sorts of evidence that endurance training will not produce that distance runner’s body in anyone who is not already genetically predisposed to have it.

But even more frustrating, lots of people are saying that it won’t even help you lose weight.  That seems contrary to what we’ve always thought.  But there it is. The culprit is ‘steady state cardio.’  I’m not promising a comprehensive post about it today. But I am going to tell you what I’ve learned so far.

It used to be that we were recommended to train in the “aerobic zone” if we wanted to “burn fat.” The thinking when I first encountered this in the late-80s/early-90s was that if you worked out in that zone, you’d burn mostly fat. Here’s a version of that view from an article I found on Livestrong:

If you are just beginning a fitness program, or if you are warming up, your heart rate should be 50 to 60 percent of your MHR. Once you achieve a measure of physical fitness, you should increase your pace until your heart rate is in the 60 to 70 percent of MHR range. At these levels of aerobic exercise intensity, about 85 percent of the calories you burn come from fat and you gain significant cardiovascular benefits.

The same article goes on to say that if you are training for a marathon or some other endurance sport, you’ll need to pick up the pace a bit:

you’ll need to move your aerobic exercise up to the 70 to 80 percent of MHR range. In this “training zone” you burn more calories, although only 50 percent come from fat. You build your endurance and level of cardiovascular fitness.

See how the fat burning changes when you do that?  So that’s hint number one that burning more calories doesn’t necessarily make you thinner and leaner.

Exhibit two:  an email conversation with my Precision Nutrition coach. She said that my triathlon training may involve goals that are, in her words, “opposite” to the goals of changing my body composition through getting leaner.  That’s the first time I’ve heard it put in such strong terms. To me, “opposite” means something that goes in the exact other direction.  The opposite of getting leaner would be gaining fat.

While I am not obsessed with body composition, it is not my goal to change my body composition in the direction of a higher fat percentage and lower lean mass percentage.  I wouldn’t have signed up for the Lean Eating program if I wanted to do that. Between menopause and a sweet tooth, that was happening all on its own!

But don’t shoot the messenger, I told myself. The coach is simply saying that if I’m replacing weight training with endurance training, I’m not going to see the same gains in lean mass that the weight training workouts are designed to achieve AND my endurance training is going to in fact use my lean mass as fuel at least some of the time (50% if the Livestrong article is right).

That was enough to convince me not to replace weight training sessions with endurance training too many times. I’m trying to fit them all in and have added intervals to the steady state training.

I’m not sure why it should surprise me that there is no tight link between training and fat loss.  It’s just the flipside of what Sam blogged about in her post about the not-as-simple-as-we-like-to-think link between inactivity and obesity.

In a holier-than-thou article targeted at women (title: Why Women Shouldn’t Run), we’re told why steady-state cardio runs counter to fat loss goals, based on the body’s adaptablity:

Nothing exemplifies this increasing efficiency better than the way the body starts burning fuel. Training consistently at 65 percent or more of your max heart rate adapts your body to save as much body fat as possible. After regular training, fat cells stop releasing fat the way they once did during moderate-intensity activities[32-33]. Energy from body fat stores also decreases by 30 percent[34-35]. To this end, your body sets into motion a series of reactions that make it difficult for muscle to burn fat at all[36-41]. Instead of burning body fat, your body takes extraordinary measures to retain it.

But is running actually bad for you?  A guest poster on Go Kaleo responded to “Why Women Shouldn’t Run” by noting that, last she checked, running was actually good for you. She does a very careful analysis of the article and the citations contained in it. She says that in one of the articles cited, there is important information that challenges the above conclusion:

Paper 42 is a case study on a woman who ran 4500 miles across Canada over the course of 112 days (equivalent to 1.5 marathons a day). She did indeed lose lean body mass (LBM – which includes more than just muscle mass), nearly 7 lbs worth. She also lost just less than 30 lbs of fat. Averaging 8 hours of running a day, for almost three months, on a 1000 calorie/day deficit, this woman is doing everything the author is ranting against. Yet, amazingly she managed to lose a considerable amount of fat even though she must surely be below the T3 threshold established earlier. It’s unfortunate her thyroid levels were not also monitored.

I’ve blogged before about the “famine response” and metabolic health. It sounds a lot like the survival mode the critic of running talks about. In another article, entitled “Does Running Make You Fat–Debunked,” the author points out that you could run into trouble if you don’t eat enough to sustain your training.

Another frequently cited reason for endurance training getting int he way of fat loss is that it apparently makes us eat more.  An article about endurance training and “fat-loss myths” says:

Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.

But surely that can’t be the whole story either. We need to eat properly if we’re endurance training, and that means eating more than we would if we weren’t endurance training. Again, that will protect our metabolic health.

And what about cortisol, that hormone associated with stress? It comes up a lot in these discussions because, apparently, it triggers the survival response and it’s been found that athletes have higher levels of it in their bodies than other people. According to this article, we can’t conclude from that that endurance training is bad for our health. The researchers say that:

Enough is known about the many positive health effects of endurance training to say without qualification that, on balance, it is extremely beneficial to overall health. And since endurance training has been shown to specifically reduce abdominal fat storage, improve, brain function and (except in cases of overtraining) enhance immune function, we can also say that high cortisol levels in endurance athletes do not have the same health implications that they have in non-athletes.

And not too long ago the Australian Runner’s World website, in a somewhat misleadingly-titled article, “Your Runner’s Body in Just 6 Weeks,” had this to say:

You don’t see many overweight runners, and there’s a good reason for this. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is the best way to shift excess kilos. An average 70-kilogram [154 pounds] person running at steady 5:37-per-kilometre pace burns a pizza-absolving 3238 kilojoules [773 calories] in an hour, compared with, say, 2062 kilojoules [493 calories] when cycling.

And, according to a study at Yale University School of Medicine, US, running’s metabolic boost means that if you run for four hours a week, you’ll melt more kilojoules than non-runners, even when you’re not running.


All this is to say that it’s not conclusive that running or other endurance training literally makes us gain fat.  But it’s also not the case that running marathons will give anyone the body of a marathoner.  That would be like playing basketball to get tall and lanky. It just doesn’t work that way. And that’s why the Australian article is misleading.

Of course, your runner’s body could just be the one you run with, much like your beach body is the one you take to the beach.  But the article is suggesting otherwise. The plan it recommends, encouraging high intensity interval training, is very good, but it’s not going to get anyone the “runner’s body” that we associate with elite endurance athletes.

For me, the take-away point is simply that whatever I do, I want to enjoy doing it.  We’ve talked a lot about performance goals and why they’re good motivators. Over the past year, I’ve certainly found this to be true.  I’m loving what I’m doing, which is why it’s frustrating when I hear things like “women shouldn’t run.”I do want to do endurance sports, especially triathlon.

And I’m glad that I have goals beyond fat loss.  And if I’ve learned anything over the past year and a bit since we started the blog, it’s that there is no set training routine that will achieve the same results for everyone who does it.  That’s why it’s more important than ever to choose activities that we enjoy and that make us feel good, whatever body type we happen to have.

Guest Post · health

Emma Donoghue guest posts about ‘the miracle’ that’s her treadmill desk

Photo of Emma Donoghue

by Emma Donoghue

This post isn’t addressed to the already-fit.  It’s a message of hope for total couch potatoes who have perhaps despaired of ever talking themselves into an exercise routine.

Towards the end of 2012, when I turned 43, I read a couple of articles about the dangers of sitting for long periods of the day, especially for women.  Totting up how many hours a day I’ve been sitting, ever since… well, all my life, really, as schoolgirl, student, and writer…  I came up with the horrifying figure of fifteen hours sitting, eight hours lying down, at best an hour on my feet (if you include cooking).  I realized that despite being seven years younger than my partner, I might well die first.  I always tell my kids that I’ll do my best to live to be a hundred, but that was a big lie: I wasn’t doing anything of the sort.

Around the same time, a writer friend mentioned other writers she knew who had taken to walking on a treadmill while writing. I hooted with laughter.

Then a couple of weeks later, I purchased a Lifespan DT7 treadmill desk, sight unseen.  I could have tried it out in a local showroom but decided not to, in case I wouldn’t like it at first; I was hoping the enormous price would compel me to commit myself to treadmilling.

Two days of slight dizziness; a week or two of aching thighs.  One friend predicted that I would fall off, because I’m famously clumsy, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I could tell from the start that this was going to work for me as nothing else has, because – engrossed in writing – I just don’t notice the hours going by. At long last, I’ve managed to trick myself into movement.

I started at two miles per hour (American machine, so imperial units) and now I’m up to 2.7.  I don’t have a rule for how many hours a day I stay on, but I’d say it’s rarely below two, often about four, and one glorious day hit six.  It really helps that I attach my laptop to a big monitor, so I’m typing at hip level but reading at face level.

The one mistake I made was not to realize that I would need to stretch sometimes.  I thought of walking as such a basic human activity that it couldn’t hurt me… and then strained my back, four months in, after an afternoon of collating a manuscript.  (The physio said it was a classic injury of someone who takes up exercise for the first time.)  But once I was healed I got back on the treadmill and now, a year in, I can’t imagine working without it. Tiny static shocks when I touch my laptop are all I can complain of.

I’ve read that treadmilling diminishes concentration slightly, and I’d agree; sometimes if I’m about to draft a brand-new scene, I decide to save it for when I’m sitting down with my coffee.  But on the other hand, the walking wards off afternoon sleepiness.  I can write, do online research and email, talk on the phone if it’s with someone who doesn’t mind my sounding slightly breathless… When I’m doing something hands-free like watching video, I lift some light weights while walking.  Handwriting or video editing would be difficult, but luckily I rarely need to do either.  Reading books (rather than onscreen) I save for sitting-down time.

I weigh the same as a year ago (perhaps because all that exercise makes me want lunch at eleven), but I feel much livelier.  I don’t think my writing’s got better but it’s no worse either.  Basically, it’s a miracle.

Emma Donoghue is a writer of drama, literary history and fiction (Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, the international bestseller Room and – coming in April – Frog Music) who lives in London Ontario. 

diets · eating · weight loss

The Mesh Tongue Patch for Weight Loss. No Thanks.

small mesh rectangle held between thumb and index finger wearing rubber gloves.Not too long ago I wrote about men who body shame women. One of the people at the centre of the latest controversy when I wrote that was an influential Venezuelan beauty pageant host named Osmel Sousa.  His name has come up again in an interview with a Venezuelan “beauty queen” who has, at Sousa’s advice, had a boob job and surgery to get rid of a slight “hook” in the shape or her nose.

But breast augmentation and nose jobs don’t really shock me much anymore.  I still wish women weren’t so fixated on their looks that they would go under the knife to look different, and I do think that it would be bad for women if the culture of cosmetic surgery (for purely aesthetic reasons) really took hold so that it was expected.  At the same time, I have known women who did indeed feel better about themselves after surgeries.

And body transformation is so rampant in our world, through means that range from extreme dieting to heavy weight training with all sorts of stops in between. But the interview made me aware of a new method for losing weight that seems like some sort of medieval torture.  It’s a mesh patch that is literally stitched to the tongue.

How does it aid weight loss?  By making it too painful to eat solid food!  If we have to draw the line somewhere on the continuum between taking good care of ourselves and abusing our bodies and ourselves so we can lose a few pounds, I’m going to say we should draw it on THIS side of mesh tongue patches that make it too painful to eat solid food.

One thing is for sure. The mesh tongue patch is a short term solution.  The patch is temporary, and so is the weight loss.  Why? Because it doesn’t work on habits. Just like any weight loss diet, the real test is not whether the weight comes off, but whether it stays off.

If you put a patch on your tongue so you can’t eat solid food for a few weeks, how likely is it that you’re going to start eating regular food as soon as the patch comes off? If it were me, I’d be grabbing for whatever solid food was in my grasp–from fruit to chocolate cake, from hummus to veggie burgers, I wouldn’t care–as soon as my tongue healed enough for me to tolerate eating solids.

A doctor who spent 14 seasons on the Biggest Loser thinks it’s “barbaric.” According to this article:

Studies show most extreme dieters who lose weight rapidly eventually gain it all back — and more, he said.

“There’s not one scintilla of hope or evidence that putting a patch on your tongue and not being able to eat for a month is going to have any effect on you at one year, or two years or three years,” he said.

That sounds about right.

Here’s more about the tongue patch fad in Venezuela:


competition · racing

XRated Run: One race I won’t be running

the letter XOn this blog I jokingly asked if the days of the vanilla 5 km run were over. These days it’s all about funny colours, rave lighting and music, mud, obstacles, and zombies.

You name it, the duo of  Fit,  Feminist, and (Almost) Fifty bloggers plus our extended community of fit, feminist guests of all ages have done it and blogged about it.

On the whole, I love the participatory spirit of these events. For the most part, they’re fun, aiming to get everybody out there moving, and have a real party atmosphere. I don’t see a need to be a snob about race culture. There were thousands of young people, mostly in their 20s and 30s I’d guess, out for the Warrior Dash. Music and costumes and a great supportive spirit.

I might be approaching 50 but I’m not a grump like the guy who wrote this:  The Slowest Generation: Younger Athletes Are Racing With Less Concern About Time. The fifty something author of that piece thinks youngsters are ruining competitive racing with their lack of concern for finishing times. Me, I still see lots of very serious racing out there and if these fun runs capture people who would never race competitively, then I’m all in favour. The more the merrier, to each her own, etc…

Tracy agrees in her blog post on why she likes races in which everyone gets a medal.

Here’s someone’s Warrior Dash video that seems to capture the mood.

But there’s one themed race I won’t be doing: The X Rated Run.

It even involves mud, which I like. And also lots of nudity, sex, toys, and porn.

I’m not staying away from the X Rated Run because I’m a prude or the sort of feminist who thinks these things are a bad idea for women. I don’t.  I’m a sex positive feminist.

However, you might know from my past post on sexercise that there are things I don’t like to mix.

What’s the attraction? Obviously some people think it’s sexy and fun. Some people think if you like two things, say like food and sex, the combo is even better. Not me. Not food and sex. Not exercise and sex either. If it’s fun for you, great. But me, I’ll stick to running, biking, rowing, weight lifting, soccer etc.

What’s the X Rated Run? Here’s a brief description from their website.

Forget 50 Shades of Grey – X-rated is 50 Shades of Mud.

We’re bringing to you the sexiest, wildest and most outrageous obstacles on the mud run circuit, where fitness is not a factor, but fun definitely is!

Whether you’re a seasoned mud-runner or a mud-run virgin, get out of your comfort zone, bring your sense of humor, leave your conservatism at home and join us for a day of adult-themed fun.

We guarantee you’ll get hot, sweaty, sticky, and covered in more than 50 Shades of mud! Come on your own, as a pair or enter a team, just make sure you’re over 18!
sexy mud runner

Here’s a description from the Sports Illustrated blog Extra Mustard:

If you’re a mud-running enthusiast who has ever wanted porn stars, pole dancers, and generous sexual innuendo with your endurance racing, you best start searching Kayak for flights to Bunnell, Florida on March 22. That’s when thousands of runners with questionable motives will flock to the Sunshine State for the inaugural X-Rated Run, described on its site as “THE ORIGINAL, FIRST OF ITS KIND, 5K adult-themed obstacle course race for all people over 18 of all fitness abilities!”

The event—which will feature such obstacles as the Dominatrix Dungeon, the G-String Crawl, and the Boob Wall—is the brainchild of Kelly Perez, an obstacle-course buff and the owner of adult novelty store She got into the hobby after other attempts at weight-loss regimens didn’t stick, and the idea came to her during a workout session with her Marine cousin.

“One day while training, I felt drained and wanted to give up,” Perez recalls. “I said, ‘This is B.S. Forget it. I’m not an elite athlete—I sell sex toys for a damn living.’ My cousin replied, ‘Stop f—ing complaining, and envision crawling through a penis tunnel.’ After I laughed, it hit me like a bolt of lightning: I literally envisioned an entire obstacle course made out of boobs and penises. Exercise and sex are so closely related: They both cause you to get all hot, sweat, and release feel good pheromones. So why is there not an event that can bring the two together?”

On the bright side, it’s associated with a charity, A portion of the proceeds from this event will be donated to the, promoting campaigns against female genital mutilation (FGM) and helping restore a sense of dignity and pleasure. Visit to learn more.
How much of the proceeds go to charity? If that’s a factor in signing up for a race, it’s wise to find out more. See Nat’s guest post, Philanthropy and Fitness.

Do I have any actual feminist concerns? Mostly I just think it’s not to my taste. (That’s the phrase my kids used growing up when they didn’t like a meal.)  There’s the usual objectification of women and mainstream standards of beauty and stereotyping of everyone’s tastes and pleasures, no doubt with a healthy dose of heterosexism and heteronormativity thrown in for good measure. But hey, that’s just any mainstream women’s magazine or a typical Saturday afternoon at the mall. That is to say, it’s no more offensive from a feminist angle than most of life in general, except it’s sexually explicit.

I do have one really worry about consent, power dynamics, and really demanding physical activity. At the Warrior Dash, no one made you do the obstacles. There was no penalty for not doing them and no one yelled at you. Instead, some of the obstacle staff gave tips on how to complete a given obstacle quickly and safely. If you decided not to do it, then you ran around it. And for the most part, the Warrior Dash didn’t feel so much like a race. Some obstacles were so much fun that people did them twice. Even I was tempted by the “slip and slide.” But I gather that at the Tough Mudder people yell at you.

If you add “people yelling at you to complete obstacles” to a “50 shades of Grey” dynamic and add in some untrained athletes there more for the sexiness and less for the athletic competition, my thought is things might go badly wrong. And if the people attending got their understanding of consent from that particular book, then yikes.(For a feminist, kink positive review of 50 Shades etc, see crazy and criminal: on those damn books, and why they matter.)