I’m not sure if you make resolutions but if you do I’m here to tell you that really the New Year begins January 2nd. You can relax, ease into if you want, but no big changes will happen on the 1st and no one expects it. Why? It’s a Sunday.
“You can’t start a diet/quit drinking/give up sweets January 1st. There are still parties to attend and left over Christmas goodies to eat. All those New Year’s Day social commitments. And for some of us, though not me and Tracy, hangovers. Who can run with a hangover? Really? So it’s not January 1st that the New Me begins, really it’s January 2nd. Except this year that was a Saturday. And who starts something new on the weekend? Nothing good happens on the weekend. So lots of my social media friends have declared January 4th the new January 1st, the true start to the new year. After all, for many of you it’s the first day back to school and work and the regular routine.”
I’m not usually a New year’s resolution person. Why? See New year, new goals? “I don’t make New Year’s resolutions generally. I’m an academic and so January 1st feels like midyear to me. Now, September, that’s the start of a new year.”
But this year is a bit different. It’s the start of a six month sabbatical and setting routines that aren’t about classes will make all the difference to me in terms of both writing and fitness, the two things I tend to track and measure and set goals about. It’s a new year’s resolution about fitness, most certainly not about weight loss, but it is a new semester and a new place. I need to make plans and start as I mean to continue. (See On back to school and starting as you mean to continue.)
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?
Let’s face it: 2016 was a shitshow. While we all try to be positive for 2017, the looming inauguration is scary as hell. That’s why it is especially important that we all band together to be strong for ourselves and each another.
In a time of global warming, war, humanitarian crises and other disasters, one thing is certain: body-shaming is one of the pettiest things in existence, yet it is incredibly prevalent today. It’s time to stop shaming ourselves and others. It’s time to band together.
With a new year comes the all-too-familiar pressure to lose weight.
As the ball drops at midnight, the diet industry gears up to welcome women who mark Jan. 1 as the day they will begin restricting and training their bodies into the slim ideal. It’s all a part of the “New Year, New You” mantra we have been taught to value as gospel.
While the pressure to shrink your body is a constant for women year-round, the value of thinness is especially emphasized when New Year’s resolutions are thrown into the mix. It’s a time of year when hating yourself is made easy, packaged and sold by the diet industry as flaws in need of fixing. Many of us buy into it — but we don’t have to.
High school girls who have issues with body image and weight are more likely to be drinkers than ) their peers, a recent U.S. study suggests.
Researchers focused on body image behavioral misperceptions (BIBM) – when girls try to gain or lose weight to change how they look even though there’s no medical need for them to alter their weight.
In the study of more than 6,500 teen girls, 38 percent had these misperceptions and roughly two-thirds had tried alcohol at least once.
When teen girls had body image issues that drove them to try to change their weight, they were 29 percent more likely to have tried alcohol and 22 percent more likely to be heavy drinkers than young women without these body image problems, the study found.
Sometimes, to be a woman over 50 is to feel invisible. It’s walking into a bar or restaurant and no longer being on the receiving end of an admiring glance. It’s feeling like people on the street are looking past you, as if you aren’t even there. Ask a middle-aged woman, and she might say these slights have whittled away at her self-confidence, tricking her into believing the best years are behind her.
We live in a culture that often equates beauty and energy with youth. But we’d like to turn that way of thinking on its head. We believe women can be smart and sassy, beautiful and confident ― and that they can continue to shake things up in the world around them ― whether they’re 50 or 75 or 100.
With that idea in mind, Huff/Post50 photographed 11 very sexy women between the ages of 48 and 67. A few are cancer survivors. A few are grandmothers. A few are single and a few are married. But what they all have in common is that not one is a shrinking violet. They feel better about themselves today than they ever have. We asked each woman to wear whatever makes them feel sexy, and to talk about what being sexy means to them now compared to when they were, say, 21. The resulting photos are stunning ― and entirely un-retouched.
So plus size models. I don’t appreciate them as much as I really could and should. Please keep in mind that I’m not trying to hate on them. I love representation and it matters. And plus size models are, by all means, a great endeavour in an originally unbreakable line of work which is the modelling industry. But I don’t think plus size models are really representing women too well.
Eating disorders are typically associated in people’s minds with women, and more specifically with emaciated young girls. Eating disorders are not things we think of ‘serious’ people as having. Those of us who suffer from them or have recovered from them often are quite secretive about it, and feel a fair amount of shame about the whole issue. Often, for busy and powerful feminist academics, having an eating disorder, especially with the attendant stereotypes and stigmas, does not fit our self-image. But there are a surprising number of full-grown academics of various genders and body shapes and ages who struggle with eating disorders. Often these struggles are life threatening. They are also very often invisible.
Facebook posts and unexpected blog entries about dieting, food restriction, and weight loss and gain are extremely and dangerously triggering for many of us who struggle with these issues, and may be alienating and painful for your fat colleagues. Posts that seek and/or receive wide social approval or sympathy around issues of weight and food restriction are especially triggering. These triggers are serious mental and physical health risks for many of us.
Of course we support everyone’s right to post whatever they want on their own walls, and to blog about whatever they like. It is impossible to avoid triggers altogether, and not our place to demand that the internet be safe for us in particular. But we ask you to think seriously before posting on these topics, and to take into account that these posts are difficult for more of your colleagues and friends than you know. We also ask you not to assume that someone who ‘looks normal’ will be comfortable with these issues. If you want to discuss and especially to celebrate dieting and weight loss, you might think about creating a restricted list for friends you know to be comfortable with the topic.
Much love to all of you and strength in all your complicated struggles –
Anna Bergqvist, Tiffany Cvrkel, Megan Delehanty, Fiona Maeve Geist, Tracy Isaacs, Rebecca Kukla, Whitney Mutch, Audrey Yap
I love Neil Gaiman’s New Year’s greetings. I love this one especially from 2008:
“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.
Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.
So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.
Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.
Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”
I hope this blog contributes in some small way to your confidence in trying new things, making mistakes, and risking failure. I’d like a world in which women get to try new things and fail and not worry that it’s evidence that women aren’t good at that thing, or not meant really to do that thing.
I read somewhere once that sometimes our most spectacular failures yield more good than our small timid successes. I think that’s true.
This popped up a few times in my social media newsfeed this week. And yes, it made me smile. And yes, I shared it with our Facebook page.
But I shared it with the following text above it: “I like this message…but it’s not always true that our bodies love us. Some of us deal with damaged and diseased bodies, bodies that are broken in various ways. Sometimes we love them anyway, but other times we don’t. And that’s okay too.”
I think a lot these days about the ways our bodies betray us. I’ve lost friends and family members in the past two years to brain cancer, esophageal cancer, ALS, and to stroke. I wouldn’t say that these peoples’ bodies loved them so very much. In my post What does 74 look like? And how much choice do we have really I express my concern that contemporary fitness culture acts as if health and healthy aging were all in our control when it’s not.
So yes, love your body if you want, if you can. But sometimes anger is just fine too. Right now I’m not that impressed with my knees and I’ve already said goodbye to a slew of minor misbehaving organs: gall bladder, thyroid, tonsils, adenoids…
Can’t say I felt much love for my gall bladder through all that pain.
Oh, the holidays. I was hanging out with a thin friend who talked about wearing “fat pants.” I looked at her and thought that in no possible world are pants that fit you “fat pants.” But it’s all relative, I guess. The point is whatever your size, fretting about holiday weight gain is a thing.
Side note: I think it’s true actually that when it comes to weight gain anxiety, thin people suffer more. They’ve got more to lose. In my post about the unexpected advantages of growing up chubby I wrote that, “I used to think that body acceptance would be easier if you were closer to society’s ideals for women. Now I see that isn’t so. Doing the Lean Eating program I got to know some very small women with some serious body image issues. I found some of the self-loathing pretty difficult to be around and in the end I chose a smaller subset of that community as allies and friends.”
Those of us who’ve always been outside society’s norms have had to make their peace with our size one way or another. For me, gaining or losing 5 lbs isn’t that anxiety making. I’m also writing this wearing a nightgown and a hoodie. Not exactly the most form fitting of clothing. Later I might move up to yoga pants. I’m aiming for actual pants with zippers and buttons by the new year.
But it got me thinking about how gaining 5 lbs over the holidays–that’s the average amount of weight people put on–is so noticeable in part because of the kind of clothes we wear. My dresses are much more forgiving, size flexible. That’s part of why I hate pants. In the blog post which made the case against pants, I wrote, “I gain or lose three pounds and I need to change sizes of pants. I’ve got dresses I’ve worn through weight gain and loss of twenty pounds, no problem, but pants? They can be too small in the morning and too big at night. I own pants in at least three different sizes. That’s pretty much required.”
I also hate the binge eating/dieting thing that goes on over the holidays. Mostly I manage to steer clear but I still have some anxiety about putting my jeans and work clothes back on. Deep breaths! Hey, I even tried listening to the song that’s supposed to reduce anxiety 65%. “The group that created “Weightless”, Marconi Union, did so in collaboration with sound therapists. Its carefully arranged harmonies, rhythms, and bass lines help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.”
But it put me to sleep. Overkill. Guess maybe I’m not that anxious after all.
Yesterday I announced to no one in particular in my kitchen that I’m moving to eating only the really good desserts, leftover trifle and the best of the Christmas chocolate. Also, I declared there’ll be no more breakfast and lunch dessert. Tonight I’m heading back to the gym. Baby steps…
But mostly for me its about taking deep breaths and getting outside. Dogs walks, not in aid of weight loss, help everything!
With mere days left in 2016, it’s easy to get caught up in the new year’s resolution game. For many of us, 2016 has been horrible in countless ways. And the prospect of 2017 as a blank page of hope…well let’s just say it’s got an undeniable allure even if it’s based in fanciful thinking.
We’ve blogged lots about new year’s resolutions. I for one recognize the temptation and, at the same time, acknowledge the probability of the slow disintegration of that January 1st optimism. Resolutions to do everything differently, that this will be the year, and so forth, are (for me) a glorified version of the Monday morning weight loss plan, exercise plan, running program…Usually doomed to fail and make feel badly about myself.
Look, I’m not trying to be negative (well, maybe just a little). I’m a realist. In fact, I think that every day is a good day to start something afresh. And every day holds promise for solidifying the commitment from the day before.
You’ve heard it. I’ve heard it. We’ve all heard it: it takes 21 days to form a habit. But the science says that’s a myth. If 21-30 days were enough, we’d all be home free if we could stick it out until January 31st. But the average is more like 66. This Huffington Post article says:
On average, it takes more than two months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. 
In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life — not 21 days.
What’s more, messing up now and again isn’t a deal-breaker. I like that the study reports this:
the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.
“All or nothing” is a major obstacle to getting on the right track. My own experience has shown that my commitment comes in fits and starts. And minor changes in routine — work deadlines, travel, a night or two of poor sleep, even the weather — can throw me off. But I can get right back on track again if I practice some self-forgiveness.
Right now I’m training for the Key West Half Marathon on January 15th. So I’ve got a head start on anything that could look remotely like a “resolution.” I’m in the thick of it. If I abandon the careful training plan Anita and I put together it’ll be at my own peril. So I’m not making any big resolutions. I just plan to keep doing what I’m doing (though I might ramp down the consumption of holiday chocolate back to every day chocolate levels–not a resolution but just recognition that for me, too much of a good thing makes me appreciate it less, not more, and I do not want to appreciate chocolate less).
Here’s a collection of our resolution posts over the past few years. Mostly, I’m in the “against” camp, thinking that resolutions usually set me up to feel bad about myself. But there’s a range of views here, and I hope you find something that resonates:
2016 hasn’t been a great year. Aside from the deaths of the famous celebrities who’ve been with me almost all of my life (RIP Prince, David Bowie, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman and others) there was also the death of my academic mentor, Sandra Bartky. See Saying goodbye to Sandra Bartky (1935-2016).
Along the way, I also said goodbye to two old friends from my student newspaper days. Goodbye Gerry Porter. Goodbye Peter Kavanagh. The year before it was two old friends from high school. It’s part of what’s hard about getting older, all the goodbyes. Life is so very short. I’m feeling particularly fragile these days.
And there was the US election. (See Tracy’s post about that here.)
So I don’t know about you, and I know we can’t blame the year itself, 2016 isn’t actually killing people, but I am ready to say goodbye to 2016. I’m working on my plans for 2017 which will involve thinking about the things I can do to make this world a better place, to make good use of the too few years we all have. I also want to kick that fragile feeling in the pants and work on feeling a bit more super hero, a little less scared, a little more prepared for the apocalypse.
Tracy and I agree about some things and disagree about others. We find common ground in doing what we love even if we love different things. We agree about ethical eating. We disagree about tracking and FitBits.
And mostly I’d say it’s not that we disagree about what’s right for the other person. More, it’s that we are very different people. Aside from sharing academic lives, our circumstances are pretty different too. So we share lots of principles, but our choices can be at odds.
Nowhere is that more evident than in planning. I tend to take on too much, shoot for the moon, and feel good if I get some of the way there. That stresses Tracy out and she does better with doing less. She’s blogged lots about the virtues of doing less. I’ve written about our different approaches to planning, here.
I described my approach to both exercise and writing this way: “In both cases I typically take on more than I can handle. If I have a slogan it’s not “do less” it’s more like “plan 10, do 8, and don’t feel too bad about the balls that get dropped.”
Okay. So I’ve fessed up as being a big planner. You know the sort of person who over promises and under delivers. Still the over promising me likes having big goals and lots of plans. And I rarely feel bad if I don’t do it all. That said, if I owe you a piece of writing, I’m sorry. Sabbatical starts January 1st and then I’m all writing (and exercising) all of the time.
In that spirit then what are my goals and plans for physical fitness in 2017?
A big challenge is my Toronto sabbatical. I suspect I’ll hang out some at Newsgirls, the boxing club. I’ll do some spinning with the bike rally people. And maybe poke my head in the door of a nearby to my sabbatical home Aikido dojo. Still to be worked out: the where and the when of weight lifting.
I promise to go axe throwing at least one more time.
I also plan to spend more time playing in the snow: cross country skiing, snow shoeing, fat biking, ice skating. All the snowy things.
I am also taking on a super big stretch challenge, something I’ve resisted my entire life, downhill skiing lessons. I was inspired by Stephanie Pearl McPhee, fellow cyclist, bike rally participant, and blogger. See Conquering imaginative fear: From cyclist to skier.
I also pledge to keep up riding on the trainer and then get an early start to the outdoor bike training for the 2017 bike rally.
There are also the usual events. May might be the 5 boro ride in New York if I succeed in registering, June is the Pride Run, early July is the Kincardine duathlon, and late July is the bike rally. August is the Three Port Tour.
But I’m thinking of adding the TriAdventure to the mix though I’m worried about the running bit. If I do both it will also be a bit of stretch fundraising since both the bike rally and the TriAdventure require significant fundraising.
What’s the TriAdventure? It’s Cate‘s baby. “The TriAdventure is not a typical triathlon. Our activities are not timed, and there are no prizes for finishing first. Our participants challenge themselves with the physical activities involved in the event, but are also challenged to raise over $1,200 for 51 vulnerable children in Kasese, Uganda who have been left without family support through poverty, HIV/AIDS or violence. The reward is knowing that your effort helps fund a program that begins with food, shelter and education and aims to help these children become self-sustaining citizens who contribute to a vibrant, diverse global community.”
Here’s another description: “Pump your body and soul this summer by training and fundraising for the annual TriAdventure; a 3 day event involving a 3km swim (or 15km run), 15km canoe, and 140km cycle. The money raised will support the Nikibasika Development Program, which provides a home and long-term education for orphaned and vulnerable youth in Kasese, Uganda. Our focus is to help these young adults become self-sustaining leaders in their communities. Each participant is supported with formal education beyond secondary school, and more important, with leadership development, career guidance, global and human rights awareness. Each young person also participates in a team where they create and lead a community-development project that helps people in need in their local area.”
I felt as if my 2016 was a bit “meh,” if you really want to know (and you probably don’t, really, but you know, it’s a blog and I’m going to tell you anyway!). I kept my events to a minimum this year, so it’s not all about events. But for what it’s worth, here’s my fitness top ten from 2016.
(1) My running crew. Anita, Julie, Morgan, and Helia, you are all amazing. So many time in 2016 I would not have made it out the door for my run if I hadn’t had a commitment to meet one or the other or all of you! Anita gets bonus points for the many breakfasts we’ve had at Campus Wifi following our Sunday long runs.
(2) The Run for Retina 10K in April. I do not know how Julie convinced me to sign up for this cold 10K in April, but I did, and we did it together (and then we went for breakfast — maybe this is the secret of getting me out the door). No personal best or anything like that, but I did it.
(4) The Kincardine Women’s Triathlon in July. This is always my favourite summer event. It’s a low key, super well run race with lots of first-timers and a great buzz in the air. It was my first triathlon ever. This year, like my first year, it got changed to a duathlon because of the water temperatures. The cancelled swim was a disappointment but unlike my first year, I now like running. So the change to the duathlon didn’t throw me completely.
(5) 100 days of fitness tracking for the Global Corporate Challenge (GCC). Yes, I went from excited, to not so much, to “will this ever end?” And yes, I flushed my tracker down the toilet at my doctor’s office just a few days before the end of the challenge (by mistake, I swear). But I did it, and along the way developed a new appreciation for walking, especially to and from work.
(6) Back to yoga! In the thick of our fittest by fifty challenge (2012-14), I gave up regular yoga practice to make space for triathlon training. This year, I managed to get back on the yoga track and I’m loving every minute of it.
(7) Tough decisions–actually, not so tough. After several years of trying my best to like cycling, I decided it’s just not for me. That made it easy for me to sell my road bike to a friend in need–it’s getting the appreciation it deserves. I still have my triathlon bike and am trying (though not especially aggressively) to sell it. But I have definitely given up on indoor bike training and sold my trainer to close the deal on that decision. If any spinning happens over the winter, it will be in a class at the Y, not Coach Chris’s basement.
(8) Personal training. Just over a year ago I started personal training twice a week with Paul from Definitions Fitness. It was my treat to myself after Renald retired and moved onto the boat. It’s definitely a financial indulgence, but Paul is amazing and I am stronger than ever after one year of working with him.
(9) Training for my first “destination race”: the Key West Half Marathon. This January 2017 has kept me running since the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon back in June. It’s been the perfect motivator and I’m excited that Anita and Rebecca will be doing it too. I’ve never gone so far to run a half marathon before, but a blast of sunshine with friends in mid-winter will definitely help with the blahs. And I’m a big believer in attainable goals.
(10) A year of injury-free training. Maybe I should be knocking on wood here, since it’s i fact not quite the end of 2016. But I am so happy to report that I’m 52 years old and over this whole past year I haven’t been taken out of training by injury even once. I attribute that to a few things. First, I know my body and listen to it closely. I have a forgiving attitude towards missed workouts, so I can take a time out without getting sidelined indefinitely. Second, yoga. Getting back to yoga has made a big difference in stretching out my muscles and helping me recover from and prepare for longer runs. And third, resistance training. I have never before in my life had this much high quality muscle mass. I’m not a hulk by any means, but there’s some hard muscle supported my lightly padded frame, and that helps me stay strong and without injury. I consider an injury-free year to be a big deal at my age, especially for a runner.
Those are my top-ten feel-goods for 2016. I hope you too had a year that makes you smile as you reflect back on it!