body image · fitness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #85

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?

Target’s Swimwear Ads Are Photoshop-Free
It’s nearly beach season and, with that impending dream of warmer weather, Target debuted its latest swim campaign. The ad is filled with models who represent a wide range of ethnicities and body types. What’s more? The images are also fully unretouched, showing off each girl’s gorgeous curves and stretch marks in all their glory. In other words: It’s Target’s most empowering ad campaign yet.

Naked Mannequin Photographer Banned from Facebook

A Canadian photographer has been banned from Facebook after criticism over her photos of naked women posing behind a mannequin. Julia Busato insists she won’t let the ban stop her, even though she says it’s putting her livelihood at risk. The photos have been shared more than 200,000 times and Julia says women are still asking to join the series.But the images haven’t been welcomed by everyone and Julia says she was banned after some Facebook users reported her.

We Decided To Re-Create Iconic Playboy Covers And Here’s What Happened

You miiiight have heard of Playboy. It's a magazine that's been around for a gobsmacking 63 years!

TORRID GETS IT RIGHT ON THE DIVERSITY FRONT WITH ITS LATEST SWIM CAMPAIGN

 

fitness

Running in heels, yes, but why?

I finally saw Hidden Figures last night and loved it. What a great movie.

There’s lots worth noting. I was struck by how much bathroom discrimination and having a place to pee matters, and how long explicit racial discrimination in the workplace and in schools lasted in the United States.

I also hadn’t realized that computing machines weren’t around in the first days of the space race. I hadn’t imagined that it would even be possible to do those kinds of mathematical calculations, so many of them, with just human head and human hand, no machines. I feel silly for not having thought about the technology timeline in that way before.

I hadn’t known that “computer” once referred to a job description for a person. And I hadn’t known that African Americans did this job in something like a segregated computing pool.

So I learned a lot and loved the movie.

But putting all of this aside, I was also struck by all the footage of women running in heels. The African American women  had to run miles across the NASA campus to get to the bathrooms for “coloured people” and NASA’s dress code mandated that they do it in heels. Why did they have to run? Limited time for breaks, distance, job security, and the space race.

 

However, unlike other Hollywood movies Hidden Figures didn’t make running in heels look easy.

The one time I decided to run home from a party while wearing shoes with heels, in a “sprightly fashion” according to friends (why is another story, for another time) I ditched the shoes and carried them. Luckily there wasn’t any glass on my route.

So it’s not that I never wear heels but I am opposed to anyone having to wear them. The shocking thing about this recent news item, Canadian province considers banning high heel requirement for women in workplaces, for many people was the idea that employers could dictate heel height as the law currently stands.

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Big boots, little boots

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I like to be able to run in the shoes that I wear. I can run in my McKinlay boots from Dunedin (above) and I can run in my “aggressively unfashionable” Dansko clogs. I can’t run in my witchypoo Fluevog shoes but I can dance in them and that’s good enough.

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New Year's Eve shoe decision

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Why do I care about running when I am not wearing running shoes? There are a lot of reasons. Safety, sure. I want to be able to run away from people. But that’s not even the reason that comes first. I also like to run if I’m late: for coffee, for meetings, for buses, whatever..

Running keeps me warm in the winter. I often run to my office from remote parking just to keep my fingers from freezing off.

Some people, of course, can run in heels. They even make an event of it. But not me.

https://youtu.be/68oMU0WNK9s

And men do it too.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvTH70Lmih4

fitness

Why I hired a running coach

Image description: Stopwatch in a white woman's hand with her thumb on the top button. The silver watch has a white face with black and red numbers and a smaller dial indicating minutes within the larger face indicating seconds. It is in the foreground against a background of blue sky and white wispy clouds.
Image description: Stopwatch in a white woman’s hand with her thumb on the top button. The silver watch has a white face with black and red numbers and a smaller dial indicating minutes within the larger face indicating seconds. It is in the foreground against a background of blue sky and white wispy clouds.
If you’re a regular reader of the blog you know I’m often switching things up. I also like to work with coaches and trainers. It keeps me motivated and accountable and helps me get stronger, faster. My latest switch-up is that I have taken a break from triathlon after deciding to quite the bike.

That means I’ve also taken a hiatus from swimming. I would keep swimming but lately I can’t seem to do the 6 a.m. thing and the triathlon swim is so popular that I felt bad taking up a spot that I hardly used.

So that leaves running, weight training, and yoga. I’m working with a personal trainer already for my resistance training and I’m all good with the hot yoga. Since the Key West Half Marathon, I’ve been training for the Around the Bay two-person relay. Two years ago I did the ATB 30K, and that was just a bit much for me. So I gave it a miss last year. But the two-person relay sounds do-able, at only 15K per person. Julie is running anchor and I’m starting out. Anita is running it too with Violetta as her anchor person.

My friend Linda is an amazing runner, personal besting still at age 68. She is a coach and trainer (you can find her at Master the Moments), so I met with her about my ATB plans and shared my goal of wanting to get faster. I’ve been wanting to get faster for some time now. But I confess that I am guilty of what Linda calls being a “one pace wonder.” I don’t have a enough varied paces in my training.

Linda’s training schedules for me have dealt with the OPW phenomenon, with a mix of interval drills for speed work, tempo runs at a steady pace, and easy distance runs. She based my recommended pace times (which vary depending on the type of run) on my race times at various distances.  No matter what type of training run I’m doing on a given day, the pace is always a bit uncomfortable. For the intervals and tempos it’s a bit of a harder push than I’m used to. For the longer, easier runs, Linda is sometimes recommending a slower pace than I’m used to. That can also be a challenge.

I’ve enjoyed working with a coach who outlines a new plan for me every two weeks with my goal race in mind. Linda has a positive and encouraging attitude and it’s good to have someone rooting for me and checking with me regularly. It also keeps me accountable and motivated.

It’s hard to know if I’m actually getting faster. I’ve so far not done the recommended runs perfectly as recommended, so it’s not clear that they’re having the desired impact on my speed.  But I plan to keep working with the plans Linda has given me after Around the Bay until I start seeing actual results.

I think it was last summer that I was going to concentrate on my 10K time. But it didn’t really come to much. This summer I’ll give it another go. I would love to be able to get my 10K to an hour. When ATB is over (It’s on Sunday), I’ll meet with Linda to discuss new goals and get new plans to help me meet them.

In short, I like working with a running coach because it motivates me, gives me training plans that are designed to achieve specific purposes, and keeps me more accountable. It’s also nice to be encouraged and pushed to do more or work harder than I would on my own (which is always the way with me — I never work as hard on my own as I do when I have a trainer or a coach).

How about you? Do you work with a coach for any of your sports? Why?

accessibility · cycling

The future is foxy!

We’ve written before about our friend Rachel’s new cycling team. See Another win for inclusive sport: Introducing Foxy Moxy Racing.

Now things are really getting under way. Rachel’s been sharing the following pitch on Facebook and Instagram and I thought I’d share it here too.

Good luck Rachel! We’re cheering for you.

 

Hi there! I’m Rachel. I race bikes. This year, I co-founded a team, Foxy Moxy Racing, with the vision of promoting radically inclusive sport for trans and gender non-conforming people (gnc). That means showing people that trans/gnc people exist, and helping build a community for current and potential trans/gnc athletes. Sport is a human right. That’s in the Olympic Charter as the very first of the Principles of Olympism. But trans and gender non-conforming people have struggled to find a home in sport. I want to change that.

I’ve chosen to race this year as an openly trans woman, at some of the highest levels of women’s cycling in the US and Canada. I’m hoping you can help, though: racing bikes across the country (and across the continent) is really expensive. So I’m reaching out for help funding my summer of racing for trans and gender non-conforming inclusive sport.

I have a full race calendar planned. It started with the Pro/1/2 stage race, the Tour of the Southern Highlands. I was thrilled to win the Stage 2 circuit race. Here’s where I’ll be:

March: Sunshine Grand Prix (FL)

April: USA Crits Speed Week (SC, NC, GA)

May: Winston-Salem Classic (NC)

June: North Star Grand Prix stage race (MN)

June: Canadian Elite Road Nationals (ON, Canada)

July: Intelligentsia Cup (IL)

August: Crossroads Classic (NC)

September: Gateway Cup (MO)

I’m seeking funding to help with travel and race fees. This schedule will cost over $1500 in race fees alone. I live in Charleston, SC, and I drive everywhere to keep costs down. Every little bit you can contribute helps! Thank you!! #thefutureisfoxy

You can find me on Instagram: @mckinnonrachel

You can find Foxy Moxy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoxyMoxyRacing/

Donate here.

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Hi everyone! Today is launched a personal fundraising campaign to help with my season of racing for trans and gender non-conforming inclusive sport. Please consider helping me with this project: https://www.generosity.com/sports-fundraising/rachel-racing-for-trans-inclusive-sport This year, I co-founded a team, Foxy Moxy Racing, with the vision of promoting radically inclusive sport for trans and gender non-conforming people (gnc). That means showing people that trans/gnc people exist, and helping build a community for current and potential trans/gnc athletes. Sport is a human right. That's in the Olympic Charter as the very first of the Principles of Olympism. But trans and gender non-conforming people have struggled to find a home in sport. I want to change that. I've chosen to race this year as an openly trans woman, at some of the highest levels of women's cycling in the US and Canada. I'm hoping you can help, though: racing bikes across the country (and across the continent) is really expensive. So I'm reaching out for help funding my summer of racing for trans and gender non-conforming inclusive sport. I have a full race calendar planned. It started with the Pro/1/2 stage race, the Tour of the Southern Highlands. I was thrilled to win the Stage 2 circuit race. Here's where I'll be: March: Sunshine Grand Prix (FL) April: USA Crits Speed Week (SC, NC, GA) May: Winston-Salem Classic (NC) June: North Star Grand Prix stage race (MN) June: Canadian Elite Road Nationals (ON, Canada) July: Intelligentsia Cup (IL) August: Crossroads Classic (NC) September: Gateway Cup (MO) I'm seeking funding to help with travel and race fees. This schedule will cost over $1500 in race fees alone. I live in Charleston, SC, and I drive everywhere to keep costs down. Every little bit you can contribute helps! Thank you!! #thefutureisfoxy You can find Foxy Moxy on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FoxyMoxyRacing/ #girlslikeus #transinclusivesport #inclusivesport #lgbtq #transvisibility #socialchange #transrightsnow #allbodies #allgenders #strongertogether #cycling #strava #outsport @podiumwear @lazersportusa @everymanespresso @performancesci @madalchemy

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aging · menopause

Menopause can be boring or dramatically awful or something in between

Note: I was busy drafting this post thinking I could talk about my experiences of menopause since I haven’t had a period since the fall. Finally! I’m no longer the woman menopause forgot!  (And yes, I know it’s not officially menopause until it’s been a year. Yep.) However, between first draft and hitting “publish” I started to bleed. Of course.

Surely I can talk about peri-menopause though. And I have this to say, yawn! So far it’s pretty boring. Nothing to report here.

(Okay. There is one thing to report. I had kind of imagined the way menopause worked is that one’s periods gradually end. From 6 days a month to 4 to 2, then every second month. You know, an orderly gradually cessation of all things bloody and crampy. That’s the way it ought to be. If I ran the zoo, as Dr Seuss might say. Instead my periods went from the usual boring kind of thing to wild, extra bloody, extra crampy, and completely unpredictable. It was hard to teach and exercise was challenging and so at my doctor’s advice I got an IUD. Problem solved. Back to extra boring. And I haven’t looked back.)

Boring is not unusual for me. I remember during each pregnancy doctors rhyming off the bad symptoms associated with pregnancy: Swollen ankles? Nope. Heartburn? Nope. Backache? Nope? Basically pregnancy agreed with me and other the warm, happy, fuzzy glow there wasn’t much different about being pregnant. Other than a brief stint of morning sickness of the super convenient variety (I couldn’t cook food or do dishes. I had enough non-pukey time just to sit down and eat quickly.) I walked, biked, and exercised through pregnancy with not much to report other than obvious increase in size. Childbirth was likewise not very dramatic.

So there’s this silence around pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause–these things that some female bodies do. And sure some of it is because its “not supposed to be talked about” but some of it is also because for some of us, it’s dull. How much is there to say really?

In all of these things, it seems obvious, YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY.

So when friends started sharing this piece last week–The Truth is Out There about Menopause— I was surprised. THE truth? Just one?

I didn’t comment. I just ignored it hoping it would go away.

I’m pretty good at avoiding ‘someone is wrong on the internet’ syndrome. I pick my battles.

The part of the piece I liked was about shame.

Jennifer Nadel writes, “There’s also this weird shame. There’s almost a conspiracy of silence around it because obviously being menopausal isn’t quite the same as being hot and young and nubile and sexy. To say out loud “I’m menopausal” feels like saying “I have lost my femaleness,” which obviously isn’t true, but as a result so few of us are really openly talking about it. We’re both in the same book group, and the moment we discovered that everyone else in the group was also going through it, it was just heaven. Whenever women of a certain age gather together, it’s not men or careers they want to talk about, it’s menopause.”

But I was less thrilled with the general tone of the piece which was about all the bad things associated with menopause. Again, the uniformity bugged me. Again, the misery.

Rebecca got it just right I think when she commented,

A post about menopause on a friend’s page this morning got me thinking. All my life I feel like people – very much centrally including other women – have been basically threatening me that my body is going to betray me because of its femaleness. I’ve been told how I will see, just wait for it, my body will get gross and unsexy and low-libido and shapeless and leaky and weak and painful and moody once I am pregnant, no, once I have a kid … no, once I hit 35, no 40, no really it’s once I hit perimenopause, no it’s menopause that will do me in.

I have just realized that I am angry about this. It’s like a constant onslaught of microaggressions designed to undermine my self-trust and my sense of at-homeness in my body. I think it is distinctively gendered … women are supposed to hate and fear our bodies and not trust them, so if we trust and like then well enough now, someone is always ready to tell us how temporary that is.

Now of course plenty of bodies leak and have pain and change shapes at these times and any other time, but there is nothing magical or universal about these changes. Personally, I am basically the same shape and size I was at 19, and my menstrual cycles are the same, and my functionality is the same or better; none of these scary threats has manifested so far. Lucky me, and obviously there is lots of variation, and eventually I will die like everyone else. But I am pissed at being told repeatedly to fear my body and its future, and I am pissed at being asked to orient myself towards inevitable decline, inevitable failure to count as a possible object of sexual desire, etc.

Every body is different. Childbirth and menopause and so on are not magical and they do not come along with any kind of universal shared experience. Let women enjoy their bodies, wherever they are at, in all their strengths and all their frailties and frustrations. Don’t create counterfactual or impending body shame and fear when you can’t manage to generate the actual kind. We are all gonna die eventually. In the meantime, YMMV and YOLO and all that.

Yes, yes, yes.

Also there is this in the news this week: How menopause affects athletic women.

(tl/dr version: The symptoms of menopause are less severe but your race times may be affected.)

Also, menopause seems to be something that only happens to white women with grey hair and scrunched up angry faces according to Google image search. Though I do like the “gun show” photo.

Image description: Google image search results for a search for "menopause." Lots of white white with grey hair, frowning.
Screenshot of Google image search for “menopause” Image result? Lots of white white with grey hair, frowning.

What do you think? Do you think we don’t talk enough about menopause? Do you find such conversations falsely universalizing?

fitness

Ride with the Fit is a Feminist Issue bloggers! Consider the 1 day version of the bike rally….

Earlier today I asked you to sponsor me in the bike rally. I’m halfway to my fundraising goal and reaching out to the the blog community.

But there’s another way you can help. You can also ride with me! 

I just got an email from the bike rally that said We Need 50 Riders by April 30!

It read,”Our current registration is lower than it was this time last year and 1st year ridership is down. The 20th year is going to be one of the best and we want to set the stage to sustain the Ride for next year and beyond.”

You don’t need to start out with the 6 day ride. You can start by riding for one day, on the weekend, and do the first day of the rally with us.

Here’s some reasons to ride:

  1. The bike rally is a terrific fundraiser. It’s the main fundraiser for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA) which is the largest direct support service agency of its kind for men, transmen, women, transwomen, non-binary people, and children living with HIV/AIDS in Canada. Every year PWA provide over 30,000 unique services to more than 2,500 individuals. Visit www.pwatoronto.org to find out more.
  2. The 1 day ride is a great training goal. It’s 110 km Toronto to Port Hope and lots of the ride is on paths along the waterfront. There’s lunch in a park along the way and dinner and a swim in the lake when we get there. If you live in Toronto the weekly training rides and social events are great ways to get in shape, build your cycling confidence, and get in touch with the community around this cause.
  3. Also, if you list me as your referring person when you register, I get a gift certificate for dinner. We’re hoping to arrange a group night out funded by the certificates. You can meet up with a bunch of the Fit is a Feminist Issue bikers and bloggers and get to know our community too. Come ride with us!

fitness · health

(Weight stigma) science is hard: some thoughts on the newest study on fat shaming

There’s new study that purports to tell us what we think we already know about weight stigma and physical activity:  when you perceive more weight stigma in your life, you are less likely to engage in physical activity.  The study, in BMJ Open, is here.

Here’s the abstract from the study:

Objective To examine the association between perceived weight discrimination and physical activity in a large population-based sample.

Design Data were from 2423 men and 3057 women aged ≥50 years participating in Wave 5 (2010/11) of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Participants reported experiences of weight discrimination in everyday life and frequency of light, moderate and vigorous physical activities. We used logistic regression to test associations between perceived weight discrimination and physical activity, controlling for age, sex, socioeconomic status and body mass index (BMI).

Results Perceived weight discrimination was associated with almost 60% higher odds of being inactive (OR 1.59, 95% CI 1.05 to 2.40, p=.028) and 30% lower odds of engaging in moderate or vigorous activity at least once a week (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.53 to 0.94, p=.017).

Conclusions Independent of BMI, individuals who perceive unfair treatment on the basis of their weight are less physically active than those who do not perceive discrimination. This has important implications for the health and well-being of individuals who experience weight-based discrimination, and may also contribute to a cycle of weight gain and further mistreatment.

Okay, this is probably no news to blog readers.  First of all, we hear about fat shaming around physical activity all the time.  One of the most recent episodes was the Twitter kerfuffle around Nike’s recent release of a larger-sized exercise clothing line (well, up to 3X).  There were lots of tweets arguing (no, not arguing, rather declaiming) that manufacturing larger exercise clothing would… I can hardly bring myself to type this…  encourage people to become fatter…. uh, because they now can?

As a philosophy professor who teaches introductory logic, I’m having trouble following the inferential thread here.  Suffice to say, people weighed in against the Nike decision, engaging in all manner of fat-shaming, healthist trolling, and name-calling.  I won’t even link to the discussion; rather, here’s my response to those folks:

Correction guy meme saying "Hold that thought-- forever."
Correction guy meme saying “Hold that thought– forever.”

But let’s get back to the study and my promised thoughts on it.

First of all, a science wonky comment:  there’s a big big big difference between statistically significant differences among groups and clinically significant differences among groups.  Let’s look at the results in bar graphs below:

bar graph of levels of physical activity in perceived weight stigma and no-perceived weight stigma groups
bar graph of levels of physical activity in perceived weight stigma and no-perceived weight stigma groups

Yeah, the print is tiny, but all you need to see here is that the differences in amount of physical activity (divided into inactive, light, moderate and vigorous) are pretty small.  One might expect this in their sample, which was people aged 50 and above.  Why?

First, it’s a big sample that seems pretty heterogeneous, which means the differences will be dampened by other potential factors the researchers aren’t controlling for.  Second, digging into the demographics of the sample, the weight stigma group is predominantly lower-income (no surprise there).  The weight stigma group is also on average heavier than the non-weight-stigma group (duh).

This suggests to me two confounding factors:  1) lower-income people generally have less access to physical activity because of less money and less time; 2) overall physical activity tends to decline with both age and increased weight (especially among women, who are 55% of the sample).

Here’s a study showing relationships between both workplace conditions (for workers in hospitals in Boston) and age with BMI.   What it suggests is that as age increases, so does BMI, regardless of type of job; and, as control over one’s job conditions increases (and this happens with higher-income earners), physical activity increases.

Duh!

One final nitpick (for now):  relative to the sample in the weight stigma study (about 5500 people), the group reporting weight stigma was very small (268).  The researchers thought this group was big enough to get a scientifically acceptable set of results, but this raises questions for me:  1) is there actually much more weight stigma in the group, but people aren’t either willing to report it or experiencing it in a more subtle way?  2) are the incidence or effects (two very different things) of weight stigma lower in people over 50?  In short, this study raises some interesting (to me) questions about weight stigma and physical activity, but it doesn’t answer any.

Which brings me back to the title of this post:  science is hard, and figuring out how to understand relationships between weight stigma and, well, anything else is also hard.

What’s not hard to figure out is this:  fat shaming is rude and wrong and unhelpful for anyone.  And my non-scientific solution for combating fat shaming is this:

The timeout corner: now sit here and think about what you've done and don't come downstairs until you are ready to apologize)
The timeout corner: now sit here and think about what you’ve done and don’t come downstairs until you are ready to apologize)

 

 

cycling

Riding with the Friends for Life Bike Rally Year #4! (Sponsor me please…)

“The Bike Rally originated as a 6-day, 600 km bike ride from Toronto to Montréal. In 2016, the Bike Rally introduced a 1-day, 110 km bike ride from Toronto to Port Hope. Now in its 19th year, the Bike Rally has engaged over 3400 participant as cyclists and crew and has raised over $15 million dollars for the Toronto People With AIDS Foundation (PWA). The Bike Rally is the sustaining fundraiser for PWA supporting its ability to provide critical services and support to individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Toronto.”

I did for the first time in 2014 with my friend David.

I did it again in 2015 with Susan.

And in 2016, Susan and I were team leads.

Now I’m back for round 4. David and I are riding again.

We are hoping to get friends to join us at least for the one day version. You can find out more about the 6 day ride here. And the one day version here.

You can sponsor me here!

Please….

fitness

Lessons in confidence from the gym

By MarthaFitat55

Last week the Internet was agog at the sight of a little girl walking into her father’s live TV interview. Her insouciance was astonishing; her swagger delightful.

Her stance was all ”hey dad, what’s happening?” and she was totally chill even when her brother rolled in followed by her mother scrambling to get the little ones out of sight.

I got to thinking about the little girl’s supreme confidence, and just how wonderful it was to see. This new gif has been making the rounds on Facebook, and for good reason.

Little girl with yellow sweater and eye glasses walks proudly while baby rolls in walker

It also got me thinking about what we do in our cultures to crush the spirits of little girls in different ways and through the different ‘isms.

A place where this happens big time is in the gym. There’s a lot of emphasis on how female bodies should look and what must happen if yours doesn’t measure up.

Of course, there are also prescriptions re: the ways women can get fit and the ways some people think we shouldn’t. For example, I see lots online, of what people call concern-trolling, if you start working with weights. Watch out, you will get too bulky or big, and other comments of that ilk, are frequent.

It isn’t anything I have heard within the walls of the gym where I train, but I know it does happen. Regardless, I’m already a woman who takes up space, so that isn’t a concern of mine.

One thing I don’t see the concern trolls recognizing is how weight training, and finding your fit in whatever way you choose to move overall, provides you with new ways of managing new challenges. Not just in the gym with the various pieces of equipment and weights, but in life too.

Recently, I heard a writing friend speak about how she has come to see where the principles underpinning her particular martial art appear in her daily life. Her commentary made me think about what weight training and developing strength has given me.

And I have to say, it’s confidence. None of my friends and colleagues would describe me as a shrinking violet because I do my best to be prepared and be ready to take on whatever comes my way. But I have to admit, I haven’t always liked dealing with some of the challenges I’ve faced, partly because a little piece of me wasn’t always 100% sure I could do it, even though I have prepared for everything.

However, the confidence I get from my progress with training has given me the edge I need when I absolutely have to persuade a client or a colleague to get on board with what I am recommending.

I have started to carry the “I got this” feeling I get when I see the plates my trainer is loading on the bar, or when she shows me a new exercise or technique, into other places. It’s not that I am overconfident, but I know I have everything I need mentally to get the job done.

While I may not be four years old anymore like Marion Kelly, thanks to the gym, I feel like I am well able to meet any new challenge and own it with the confidence four-year-old girls have the world over.

— Martha is a writer who delights in the new discoveries training offers her. She is a regular contributor to Fit is a Feminist Issue.

fitness

Scales in the locker room? Rebecca and Tracy say “yes”

Picture of a white upright white gym scale with a black platform to stand on and slider weights on the top part to move across to determine weight.I love it when Sam and I have amicable disagreements about some of the issues we blog about. It doesn’t happen a lot. We are boringly like-minded in so many ways. But when it does, we have fun with it. As we said to each other just yesterday, we’re each the other’s favourite person to disagree with. It’s always congenial and, because we each have a lot of respect for the other, we can live and learn from where we part ways.

The latest issue where this happened is the scales-in-the-university -locker-room-issue that Sam wrote about yesterday. She’s in favour of ditching them. 

Her two main reasons:

  1. They perpetuate the idea of a connection between exercise and weight loss. There isn’t.
  2. Some people with a history of eating disorders may find it hard to resist the allure of the scale.  It’s why those of us who don’t weight ourselves talk about putting the scale away. It’s hard to walk by.

Things heated up in the comments pretty quickly as Rebecca and I and a couple of other people jumped in to disagree.

Rebecca and I have both come out as having histories that include eating disorders. So it may seem odd that we actually support the idea of scales in the locker room. Here are some of our reasons, quoted from the comments.

Scales are for more than monitoring weight loss. 

Rebecca: Hmm. I seriously rely on my gym scale as an important tool when I am getting ready for competition. As a former anorexic with a propensity towards eating disorders, it is dangerous for me to have one in my own house – weighing myself has to be something I go somewhere to do. But I definitely need to monitor my weight near competition. I am betting tons of university students don’t have the space or money for a scale in their rooms or like me don’t want one, but tons of them are also engaged serious athletic pursuits and may need to know their weight. I think of the scale as a piece of equipment any well-equipped gym would have in order to support various kinds of training. We don’t want to get rid of all scales altogether because they serve various purposes, and gyms seem like just the right place to keep them for those purposes. So, I am in favor of them. And they have to be in locker rooms as precise monitoring often needs to be clothing-free monitoring.

Your post makes it sound like the only reason to weigh yourself is to see how skinny you are or aren’t, but this is really unfair. Weight is integral to lots of sports, and gyms are exactly the right places to manage that.

If the home scale is the main alternative, scales in the locker room are a better option.    

Tracy: I’m not opposed to scales in the locker room. For many, the only alternative is a home scale. But home scales have even more of a trigger factor for some of us with a history of disordered eating. For many years I could not even own one. I’m not a big fan of scales and weigh-ins. But to me the scale is similar to any other piece of gym equipment — it can be used or abused. It would be great if we weren’t weight obsessed. But overall, having scales in gym locker rooms is a better alternative than having them only available in homes or at the doctor’s office.

Rebecca:  [About the idea] that people should just buy home scales if they want to monitor their weight. I think that’s insensitive to the money and space restrictions of many students. But more interestingly, I’d rather see home scales become much rarer than gym scales, because I bet big money the home scales are much more frequently used perniciously and in disordered ways.                                                                                                                                                    

Having scales available only in doctors’ offices (as an alternative to home scales) is an unnecessary and unwelcome medicalization of weight and weight monitoring as a part of health monitoring.

Rebecca: [in response to a comment about doctor’s opinions about weight] My doctor is about the last person I want in charge of my weight…Weight should generally not be viewed as a medical issue at all, though as I comment below it can perfectly well be an athletic issue for totally normal reasons. Trainers and coaches need to know weights, not just doctors, and often more than doctors.

Tracy: [Y]ou won’t be going to the doctor every time you want to weigh yourself and weight isn’t necessarily something you want to have as a medically supervised part of your life, I assume.

Rebecca: The idea … that it would be better if we framed weight as a medical issue and as up to doctors to monitor is pretty disturbing.

Removing scales from the gym equates scales with weight loss in a way that is not helpful, accurate, or healthy. [variation on the first point]

Rebecca: People are making the exact assumption they claim not to like by assuming that the only reason to monitor weight is to lose it, and the only reason to go to a gym is to blandly ‘get exercise’ in order to get skinnier.

Rebecca: having a gym scale does not necessarily equate exercise and weight loss, unless you are assuming that the only reason to go to a gym is to get exercise in some broad sense, and the only reason to track your weight is to try to lose it. That last assumption in particular strikes me as pernicious in exactly the way you are pushing back against. People also use gyms to train for specific activities. Monitoring weight, not necessarily in order to lose it, can be a very important part of that.

Lots of things in the gym are possible tools for weight loss. Why single out scales?

Tracy: Getting rid of [scales] from gyms strikes me as the wrong way to go… It would be like not selling carrot sticks or green smoothies at the gym because people use them for weight loss, or not having cardio classes at the gym because people use them for weight loss, or not having gyms at all because people use them for weight loss.

In the end, we sort of landed, along with Sam, on the idea that having gym scales in separate cubicles, like toilets, would be a good compromise. That way it wouldn’t be like a siren call to unsuspecting people walking by because it would be hidden away a bit. We could also avoid the comments and assumptions people feel entitled to make when they see someone getting on the scale.

Rebecca (re. the cubicle idea): I would prefer that for all sorts of reasons including selfish ones. I am very self-conscious about having other people watch me weigh myself, because (1) I am naked, (2) I know that just as we have seen in this thread, people will assume I am weighing myself because I am trying to get skinny, and it pisses me off, and (3) following on (2), I know lots of women are watching me and thinking “she doesn’t have a weight problem,” and feeling either resentful or patronizing towards me or both.

Tracy: I’m the same. I would rather be alone when I weigh myself for all those reasons. People tend to make comments that are loaded with assumptions that make me uncomfortable.

Rebecca: Word. Comments or even just loaded looks. But the comments are the worst as they generally require some response.

Sam: I get “cheering me on” style comments which I hate. You can do it. Keep at it! Etc etc.

Rebecca: Oh ffs. Just f*ck off.

Sam (so polite): Yep. I don’t say that but I think it.

The other thing that came up is that often (though not always) gym scales are more accurate than home scales. Like much of the equipment we use, gym quality stuff is better. And like anything in the gym, we can use it for good or ill. It can trigger us, or not. Getting rid of the equipment won’t solve the problem.

So I ask again, what do you think of scales in the gym locker room?