link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up # 49

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.

24 Women Bare Their Scars To Reveal The Beauty In Imperfections

I was only 6 years old when doctors sliced me open and removed my left kidney.

At the time, I didn’t really understand what the fuss was all about. The gravity of the situation didn’t hit me until my dad had to say goodbye in the surgery room. He picked me up and placed me on the cold operating table. That’s when I realized he wasn’t staying. The look on his face told me to be brave as he held my little hand.

Eighteen years later I still remember that look. And every time I look down at my scar, I remember to be brave.

That’s what scars do. They tell a story. They remind us to keep going or to take a deep breath and rest. Scars remind us of a funny moment or a battle survived.

Women can have complex relationships with these scars and their origin stories, whether it’s from falling in heels to getting a C-section and even undergoing a mastectomy.

To highlight these stories and the women who have lived them, The Huffington Post photographed 24 women and their scars. Some of the scars were nothing more than a clumsy moment, while others are life-changing experiences that turned women into warriors.

Below are 24 women, their scars and the stories behind them. Each woman proves that imperfections can truly be beautiful, but even more than being beautiful — these scars remind us just how resilient, adaptable and strong women are.


I am enough

The statement “I am enough” means different things to everyone. For me, it means that I have grown to know who I am and I am able to accept myself. It also means that I choose to surround myself with individuals who have a positive impact on me and my journey. The road to acceptance hasn’t been easy. This may be my most personal post, but I think the details of how I got to where I am today are important.

Why An Emmy Award For Body Positivity Should Go To ‘Orange Is The New Black’

Unsurprisingly, Orange Is the New Black has nabbed a few Emmy nominations this year, including one for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for the unstoppable Uzo Aduba. Additionally, the show scored a nomination for Best Drama Series. If you ask me, though, OITNB should also be taking home the Emmy for the most body positive TV show on air today.

I know, I know: “Most Body Positive Series” isn’t an Emmy category. But it really should be. After all, body positivity is all anyone is talking about these days. OITNB has not only cast vocally body positive stars in the show, but the fundamental ideas behind body positivity are actually written into the scripts. With every sex-positive scene, unabashed portrayal of unconventional bodies, and moment when otherwise marginalized voices are given a story, the show creates the kind of visibility that few others programs (if any) have managed successfully.

Serena & Venus: Creating Mirrors

You guys know about vampires?” Dominican American writer Junot Diaz asked. “You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought it isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.”

That process of ongoing dehumanization through an absence of representation or tokenizing ones at best has been plaguing the career of Serena Williams. Coming from humble beginnings out of Compton, she has had a career unmatched in length, skill and success. Despite this, over the years Williams has been described by online commenters and journalists alike as a “gorilla,” as “manly”, “savage” “aggressively off-putting” even in articles praising her accomplishments. These comments are indicative of the racialized sexism that Serena has encountered throughout her career and an industry that is ill prepared to challenge it.


feminism is specifically about empowering women in a culture that systematically disempowers femininity, with gender equality as a goal.

It is about adjusting the way our culture values masculine and feminine traits that can be expressed by people of all genders, keeping in mind that our heteronormative society associates femininity with women, and by extension, women with frailty or weakness.

The recent ‘adjustment’ to the definition that aggressively advocates for “empowering men and women equally because equality!!!1” comes from trying to appease men who think that feminism is inherently sexist and aims to take opportunities away from them. (and also serves to perpetuate the idea that gender is a binary)

Watching girls proudly claim that feminism means women and men should be empowered equally and actively challenge ideas that feminism is specifically about empowering women is disheartening, and largely inaccurate.

I can’t say this enough:


diets · eating · family

You do you, as the kids say


What does “you do you” mean anyway?

Urban Dictionary says it’s “the act of doing the things that you normally do. Nothing more, nothing less. Just being yourself and showing everyone who’s boss around here.
Person 1: Hey, I went to the mall and bought a YOU GO BAK today.

Person 2: You Do You, Pal!”

The New York Times opines that the expression perfectly captures our narcissistic culture:

“We don’t all partake of the same slang menu — you say “pop,” I say “soda,” and we’ll all get properly sorted on Judgment Day. Wherever you hail from, you’ll recognize “You do you” and “Do you” as contemporary versions of that life-­affirming chestnut “Just be yourself.” It’s the gift of encouragement from one person to another, what we tell children on the first day of kindergarten, how we reassure buddies as they primp for a blind date or rehearse asking for a raise. You do you, as if we could be anyone else. Depending on your essential qualities, this song of oneself is cause for joy or tragedy.”

And there is something conservative about the phrase. There’s an acceptance of the status quo and a refusal to engage in critical reflection. William Safire, also writing in the New York Times, called phrases like this, “tautophrases.”

“According to Safire, “It is what it is” has many tautophrasal relatives and ancestors. “What’s done is done,” “What will be will be.” The striking thing about his examples is how many of them preserve and burnish the established order”

But in our house, a busy house packed full of strong willed people with big, big, big personalities (where did that come from?) “you do you” is the liberal slogan used to end all arguments that are really matters of taste and opinion. I hear it used well among the kids in discussions of sexual orientation and relationship style preference but my favourite use of the expression concerns food and exercise.

We’ve got one formerly vegetarian child experimenting with chicken and another pretty much vegan. But that’s okay, because at the kitchen counter they’re all “you do you.”

It’s also stopped some sports nutrition arguments dead in their tracks. “Is that cereal you’re eating? Carbs at breakfast are a super bad idea.” “Hey, you do you pal.”

CrossFit versus heavy weights? You do you!

Running versus running makes you fat? You do you!

Paleo versus carbs are necessary fuel? You do you!

So while I’m sure there are areas of life where the slogan doesn’t apply, in my house, in matters of food and fitness, I’m a big fan of “You do you.”

Just don’t get me started on “It is what it is.”


Guest Post

Fighting like a girl! (Guest post)

by Jessica Ireland

24 hours over three days with six men over one weekend. I voluntarily signed up for this scenario to complete, on my own terms, the Urban Krav Maga Instructor’s course – first time it’s been done in Canada. And I would do it again in a minute.

About 4 years ago, I signed up for a 3 hour summer session of krav maga. Having always wanted to learn to fight (I got a heavy bag for Christmas when I was about 13), I finally had the time to seriously look into it. One Google search later, I had emailed the instructor and was ready to go. I showed up that day hungover and having crushed a Subway breakfast sandwich on the way, naively believing that I was in really good shape so I’ll be just fine. Two hours into the class of three other men and just me, I was pale, blue-lipped and trying not to puke. And I still haven’t stopped. I was the only girl for a long time in the class. Girls have come and gone, and some I have become excellent friends with. But I’ve forged the longest-term relationships with some of the men. Have I come up against complete, disrespectful assholes? Yes, but in the sense that they were guys who felt threatened by an angry girl, but I have never felt violated. What I have learned from the class is that I can call people out, and I’m okay doing that. In krav, I am a crazy bitch, because if I wasn’t, I’d be still on the floor from getting knocked down the first time.

Which brings me to why I chose to do this course, to spend the money, and a whole weekend in a concrete gym with no windows and garage-like lighting. Besides doing it for the physical and mental challenge, I was inspired by the women in my life who are afraid – of making changes, of branching out, the ones who literally afraid for their lives…the ones who I want to encourage to be brave and also fiercely protect. By doing this, I wanted to encourage them in a small way, for the love of themselves, to always stand back up.

And what I loved was that the guys respected that.

They will never fully understand what it’s like to be a woman in a course like that, or her reasons behind wanting to learn this type of fighting (to get over the fear of attacks, to learn how to think instead of freak out, to feel strong, etc.) – but they respect the reasons, and that’s all I ask for. It allowed me to open up a conversation, and a conversation can help shift perceptions, and that’s a start I can get behind.

So the nitty gritty: Every day we started promptly at 8am, and would work through a series of techniques throughout the day – testing periodically and having teachable moments where we would be given a specific technique and would have to break it down for the group. Our final test on the Sunday was about 10-15 minutes of a teachable moment, and then sparring and responding to attacks.

How I prepared: In the weeks leading up to the weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect in terms of intensity so I upped my cardio (adding steep hills to my runs), did at least one or two HIIT workouts a week and strength workouts in between. Epsom salt baths and daily stretching were also key. Nutrition-wise, I stuck to what I usually eat – I’m plant-powered and for the weekend I ate minimally through the day (listened to my body), then at night I’d have a big fueling veggie burrito or burger. And SLEEP. All of these helped me feel pretty tuned and awake for the weekend…sore muscles happened but because of my overall self-maintenance, I was able to bounce back from the weekend and into normal life relatively easily.


Outside of the fighting cage, Jess has been dancing for the past 20+ years of her life, the last few years as part of the Breath in Mvmt. dance company in London, Ontario (involving some of the most amazing humans in the city). The company recently performed as part of the Flux Dance Festival this past summer. She also loves running, hates lunges, is a practicing (but not perfect) vegan, and generally an open book. She’s a bit of a crystal-astrology-peace loving hippie sometimes, she laughs too loud, swears quite a lot, and generally feels pretty damn lucky to be spinning around on this big blue ball with everyone else

athletes · objectification

My inner conversation about naked derby girls


“Body confidence is not thinking you’re perfect. It’s knowing that it’s ok that you’re not.” ‪#‎RollerDerby‬ ‪#‎RollerBeauty‬


I confess I’ve got mixed feelings about women’s sports raising money by selling calendars featuring naked athletes.

When I teach philosophy and get my students to write argumentative essays, I ask them to choose a thesis and argue for it. But I don’t have time for that today. There’s no thesis here. Just complicated thoughts which I thought I’d share. I haven’t worked my way to a conclusion. Have you? Feel free to share in the comments below.

On the one hand, first thought, they’re beautiful. Wow. It’s Christmas soon. Who could I give this to?

Second thought, and look at all the body positive messaging.

“For me, the shoot was about sending a message to women to embrace their curves. We are all naturally self-conscious about some aspect of our bodies, and people can be so judgmental. But at the end of the day, your own opinion is the only one that matters.” – Nana Bruise You

Third, but how diverse are the bodies of the women in the calendar? They all look pretty thin, young, and mainstream beautiful to me.

Fourth thought, I’ve worried about the options women have when it comes to funding the sports we love.  See my thoughts on naked rugby calendars here.

Fifth thought, maybe there’s an important difference between derby and rugby though. Roller derby has always played with women’s appearance and made a thing out of being tough and sexy and wild at a wide range of sizes. That’s not just true for the calendars. It’s true for the sport itself. You can’t enjoy derby without making your feminist peace with miniskirts and fishnets.

Sixth, and it is for a good cause. “Proceeds go toward supporting junior skaters in the northwest, providing skates and gear to children in need. ”

Okay, your turn? What do you think?

And if you want to buy one, you can do that here.

Me, I’m still mulling.


Happy Belated Birthday to Me

Birthday-Candles-Cake-WallpaperI’m never the best at remembering other people’s birthdays beyond the Facebook acknowledgement. For example, last week I sent my nephew a very belated card for his birthday back on September 5th. But it’s not so often that I forget to acknowledge my own birthday!

It’s not that I failed completely — I did meet my parents for lunch in Toronto to celebrate my birthday on Thursday. But I usually do a blog post on my birthday, and it didn’t even occur to me until way later in the day when I was about to wind down for a good rest before a three-day stint representing Arts and Humanities at Western at the Ontario Universities Fair.

My blog posts are usually a stock-taking of sorts and some forward-looking planning. Here’s from my 49th birthday. And here’s from my 50th.

This past year, particularly the last few months, have been trying for me. My fitness routine has faltered quite a bit as I come to terms with some big life changes. I’m not talking about menopause, though that’s been an issue too. Instead, I planned my spring badly, with a 30K and then a marathon too close together. It knocked me down completely. See here and here for the sad details.

And then there was Renald’s retirement and his move onto the boat. I like to think of us as worldly and progressive, and in some ways we are. His retirement dream, to live on the boat and winter in the Bahamas and summer on the east coast of the US, requires good health.  I’m not ready yet. He’s older than me and has worked hard. Waiting didn’t make a lot of sense. Yadda, yadda, yadda. So the intellectual reasons support this arrangement but the long-distance relationship has been difficult for me.

And then there was the flood on Labor Day weekend. It destroyed my condo and the repair is so extensive that I need to relocate for at least six months (along with over 20 other unit owners in the building). with the students just back and classes about to begin, it was not the start I’d hoped for in my new role as Associate Dean in Arts and Humanities.

So what fell to the side? Race plans. Workouts. Early mornings. What did I prioritize? Sleep.

Now, feeling rested and re-settled, albeit temporarily and with just a limited amount of stuff, into a comfortable condo on the other side of downtown, I’m ready to get back to a routine that prioritizes health, fitness, and self-care.

For me to stick with anything, I need some goals. My short term goal is to run a sub-60 10K by Halloween. But to be quite honest, I don’t see that happening. Instead, if I can hit sub-65 this time and then train for a sub-60 in the spring, that will do. In the longer term, I want to plan for the Kincardine Women’s Triathlon in July and the Olympic distance triathlon again next August in Bracebridge. I have a bit of trepidation about an August race because it can be so unbearably hot, but I like Bracebridge and think that August will give me time to train.

I’d also like to get back to the weight room.  This is a challenge when you’re doing triathlon training. For one thing, weight training pulls in the opposite direction or so they say. It’s also difficult to fit everything in. Say I wanted to do two swims, bike sessions, and two to three runs a week.  The Beautiful Badass Muscle Sculpting program that I’m interested in trying is a 4x a week split routine. Nia Shanks (from Lift Like a Girl and author of the Beautiful Badass workouts) says that if you’re doing it right, then you probably won’t want to do a lot else. But the triathlon training is an additional 6-7 workouts a week.

All of this leaves yoga right out of the picture because there’s just no time.

So I’m torn. I’ve already signed up for swimming, my 10K is a month away, and winter indoor bike training starts up in November. The workout program is 16 weeks.  This is my problem: I want to do everything and it’s not realistic. What to dispense with? This is something I need to think about over the next little while so I can know what to focus on.

Oh, and I just bought a new triathlon bike, which is an odd thing for me to have done. I will blog about that another day.  Further goal: to become comfortable on my triathlon bike.

Happy belated birthday to me. I’m okay with 51.


Is your bicycle making you gay?


I’ve written before about the worry that bikes would corrupt women’s natural virtue. See Bicycles: Making Good Women Go Bad. There I write,

Most people writing about this era, when bicycles ruled the road,  quote Susan B. Anthony:  “I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can’t get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” Sounds harmless enough.

Who on earth could oppose “free, untrammeled womanhood”? Why was there such vehement opposition to women riding bikes?

Not as many people quote Sarah Bernhardt: “The bicycle is on the way to transforming our way of life more deeply than you might think. All these young women and girls who are devouring space are refusing domestic family life.”

Aha! This gives us a better sense of the roots of the anti-women-on-bikes backlash. Bikes posed a threat to women staying at home. With bicycles to ride, women had choices.

Women’s cycling was an activity opposed on many grounds. I’ll be writing another post on the medical issues that were thought to be connected to women riding bikes. (Short story: think sexual depravity, exhaustion, and infertility.) But along with doctors, clergy were another group that often spoke out, in print and in sermons, against women riding bikes.

Cycling was obviously unladylike (just look at the bloomers!) and there are many published speeches by clergy against the spectacle posed by women on bikes. Other clergy worried that access to transportation would make it easier for women to give into our baser natures and undertake morally loathsome activities, including prostitution and infidelity. I just love the idea that the only impediment to women’s wild sexual misbehavior is the lack of reliable independent transport.

Turns out, see quote above, that doctors worried too that bicycling would send women into the arms of other women, presumably other bicycle depraved women. Over excited by the motion of the bicycle seat, they’d have no choice but to turn to one another for sexual satisfaction.

The comment thread on our Facebook page when I shared the image above is one of the funniest ever. One woman wonders if she’s a bisexual because she only owns one bike but wonders if buying a second will tip her all the way along the Kinsey scale.

And it’s curious why being sexually insatiable is associated with sex with other women. Presumably a sexually insatiable woman could, if she were so inclined, find a multitude of men?

Nevermind. That’s expecting commonsense out of a view, at the base of which, is a fear of women’s sexuality.


eating · fitness

The upside and downside to not feeling hungry

Since my thyroid surgery I just haven’t been that hungry. You can read a bit about that here Forgetting to eat? Who are these people? and here The weak link in intuitive eating.

And if you think that losing weight would be a good thing, you might also think that not being hungry would be wonderful. Wouldn’t it be easy to diet if you didn’t have to deal with hunger? I confess, it’s easier than life when I was hungry all the time. I’m even sleeping in because I no longer wake with hunger.

But even though I’m often not hungry I still have to eat. Why? Well, for one thing I want to ride my bike. That takes fuel.

I’m also discovering that not being hungry doesn’t lead to the best food choices. I’ve had a few lunch hours where I’ve wandered through the university cafeteria, finding nothing I want to eat. Veggie burger? Nah. Bean burrito? Nope. How about soba noodle and tofu? No thanks.

This is a real change. Normally when I’m hungry, everything smells and tastes good. It’s easy to make healthy food choices when you’re hungry. Now I’m having to tempt myself into eating.

When I was arriving home hungry the downside was that I’d eat whatever was easy, but that could be vegetables. It just took preparation. Now easy isn’t enough.

A friend of mine uses the apple test for hunger. If he isn’t hungry enough to eat an apple, he decides he’s not really hungry. But by the apple test I’d almost never eat. I actually had dark chocolate with sea salt and raspberries for breakfast the other day. Now that tasted great. It was a special occasion. But it’s not my usual yogurt and fruit.

I’ve been tempted by food that hasn’t tempted me in years. I find myself thinking, “I’m not hungry but I could eat pizza, or even a drive thru fish burger.”  It reminds me a bit of pregnancy and the chicken eating this vegetarian gave in to. Nothing else seemed like a good idea when I was pregnant and a little bit pukey.

So not being hungry seems like it would be a blessing for diet and weight loss. The truth, at least for this active person, is considerably more complicated. I’m sure it will settle into the new normal after awhile. For now, I’m trying to make good food choices without using hunger or temptation as a guide. Wish me luck.

Weekends with Womack

Fit to be tied: clothes shopping and sizing madnes

Finding clothes that fit is not the most unpleasant task women face, but it is constant, often frustrating and sometimes downright demoralizing. Sam has blogged here and here about clothing troubles athletic women have, and both Sam and Tracy have blogged (here and here, among other places) on the elusive search-for-the-right-sports-bra.

As a size 14/16 woman, I’m used to (if not happy about) the fact that many clothing manufacturers don’t seem to care about my demographic, even though 14 is the most common size for women in the US.  But this treatment extends to other sizes as well, as I found out in person this weekend.

My 30-year-old cousin Xina and I met in New York City this weekend to hang out with some friends and their kids, go to museums and engage in a bit of shopping and other girly activities. Xina is tall (5’ 11”) and slender. She wears a clothing size 10—12. On Saturday (after getting pedicures, which are a relative bargain in New York) we headed to Urban Outfitters. She saw this really cute jumpsuit that she wanted to try on.

jumpsuitBut we couldn’t find a size 10 or 12. So we went to ask a salesperson if they had one, or if they could find it at another store. The salesperson returned shortly and told us, in discreetly hushed tones, “That item doesn’t come in a 12. 10 is the biggest size we carry, but we don’t have one in the store.” There seemed to be at most only one size 10 left in the entire tri-state area. Huh.

I was astounded. So used to being size and body-shamed in retail outlets myself, I was nonetheless surprised to see it in action with my lovely young svelte cousin as the target. Seriously, people?

Xina used to work in retail clothing stores, and wasn’t surprised at all by this treatment. She informed me that lots of clothing retailers relegate their size 12 and up customers to online sales, not stocking those sizes in stores. There seems to be a fear on the part of these brands that if non-tiny people a) populate their dressing rooms and stores, and b) actually appear in public wearing their clothing, the brand will lose its cachet, its mystique, its je ne sais quoi. Witness Abecrombie and Fitch’s refusal to stock women’s size XL and Lululemon CEO’s claim that “some women’s bodies just don’t work” for their yoga pants. By the way, he resigned a month after making said comments.

One (super-lame-o) claim that clothing manufacturers make about their failure to make decent clothing in sizes 14 and above is that there is a lot of variation in body shape in those sizes, so it’s not possible to systematize tailored garment patterns enough for production.


What holds for sizes 14 and above also holds for sizes 12 and under, namely that body shapes vary in systematic and predictable ways. Of course the variation isn’t unlimited—for instance, people aren’t usually shaped like this:

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 6.22.32 PMBut I digress.

Here’s a diagram of a UK size 12 on different height women (for a clothing tailoring website):

size 12

We also see this in action when we put the same dress on different shaped women:


And just in case you didn’t see this already, the “one size fits most” myth got definitively busted here with women of different sizes, heights and body shapes.

And hey, this clothing maker managed to produce cute tops and pants for these different-shaped women without violating the laws of physics:


So.  What do we want?

Reasonably well-fitting attractive clothing in a variety of sizes.

When do we want it?


Okay, I gotta work on the phrasing, but you get the idea.


body image · fitness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #48

This is where we share stuff we can’t share on our 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.


Sat with Nat

social support


My Mom has an uncanny ability to strike up a conversation with almost anyone. She can deftly determine, what, if any, connection she has with her new acquaintance and how they can help each other out. It’s a gift, to see the connection between people and naturally network everyone you meet into your social support.

As I get a bit older I appreciate how Samantha pairs activity with socializing and I’ve tried to do a bit more of that this past year. It’s been a lot of fun.

But then there are times when one must get together with friends simply because you want to have some fun, maybe even some shenanigans, and you don’t even need to exercise as a reason. Sure social support is a big part in me making healthier choices AND I need to remember to just relax and have some fun too.

So I’m having some sportsing friends over tonight to laugh and eat and dance and celebrate all the fun things we did this season and plot for more merriment this winter. Are you doing anything to mark the changing season? How does your social support network impact your fitness?