Weekend Riding Plans: How about 150 km on Canada’s Day 150th Birthday?

Wish us luck. Also clear skies and tail winds. It was Cate’s idea. We’re riding 150 km on Canada’s 150th birthday tomorrow. The group of riders is Cate, Sarah, David, and me. We’re riding from London to Port Stanley and back for 100 km and then a bonus trip to Belmont and home for 50 km.

After there’s a BBQ and Tracy and Nat will be there too, along with my kids and my mum too. Maybe even Jeff it looks like. Yay! (He’s off on a boating adventure. You can read his blog about that here.)

I’m glad we’re doing this. I think many of us have complicated emotions about Canada Day this year. Cate wrote an incredibly thoughtful piece about Canada’s 150th birthday, our colonial past, and the ongoing injustices towards indigenous people. See her  Colonialism 150: my tiny disruption

Cate writes:

“I’m trying to listen and read and pay attention, and I’m doing one tiny gesture that feels meaningful.  I’ve been asking for recommendations about small Indigenous organizations that are doing work with little resources.  I am picking 10 and sending each of them $150 leading up to July 1.  And then I’m going to try to learn more about the work that each of them is doing, and how I can be a true ally.  And then on Canada Day, I’m going to ride my bike 150 km and think about what I am grateful for.”

I’m excited and I’m ready to ride!

If you’re Canadian, do you have any plans to mark the country’s birthday?

body image · fitness · link round up

Fit is a Feminist Issue, Link Round Up #88

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?

What the female gaze looks like?

When I walked into the gallery, I immediately came upon a life-size papier-mâché sculpture of a woman playing with her pubic hair. She was gazing into the middle-distance (or, were she real, at an iPad showing erotic GIF art), her belly rolling together under her “I ♥ NY” T-shirt. All around her were photographs, illustrations, and films dedicated to deciphering the female gaze, the topic of the new exhibit at the Museum of Sex.

anny lutwak explores the artifice in taking ‘natural’ photos of young women

Anny Lutwak began taking photographs when she was a 13-year-old living in Manhattan, experimenting with her first rolls of color film. Now a sophomore at Bard College, the artist is using photography to explore female sexuality and the ever-complicated issues of how it can be expressed, and also muffled. Her new series, “Female Trouble,” looks at the physical struggles that women face and the way that gendered issues such as domestic violence, sexual oppression, and body image can be covered up, aestheticized, and trivialized. Lutwak paints a black eye on one subject, and adorns a penis with sparkles on another. Some of her images show the gory and graphic realities of abuse, while in others, the effects are much less discernible. Here, the artist discusses the ways that the female experience is portrayed visually, and how women are regaining control over their own photographic representation.

Curvy Women Take Over Social Media For Body Positive Movement

Right around this time of year, you start hearing a lot about bikini bodies. You know what we mean. “Thinking about eating that? Think about how it’ll look on the beach.”

Or some such crap.

But in direct contrast, women in the U.K. (and around the world) have taken to social media with the hashtag #MyBodyMyBFF, showing off exactly what they want to show at the beach or the pool this year, reports the Daily Mail.

Nearly 1 in 4 female millennials no longer shave their armpit hair
Female armpit hair is back — and it might be here to stay. According to recent figures from research group Mintel, the percentage of women aged 16 to 24 who shaved their armpit hair has declined from 95 percent in 2013 to just 77 percent in 2016. Leg shaving is on the decline as well — 92 percent of women shaved their legs in 2013, but by 2016 those numbers had decreased to 85 percent. The Mintel figures are supported by numbers from the shaving and hair removal industry, which saw sales drop by five percent between 2015 and 2016.

The body positive way women are responding to fat shamers

On Monday, Twitter user @ElliottEdie35 took to his keyboard to share his musings on the size of women’s bodies. “Girls over 110 should never post pics in a bikini just sayin,” he tweeted to his 557 followers. The backlash was swift and strong — and women of all sizes began posting bikini pictures .




Bad Lighting? Bad Mirror? Body Image and Department Store Fitting Rooms

Image description: Tracy, a woman of colour with blond hair, stands in front of the Centennial Ferris Wheel at Chicago's Navy Pier. She is wearing a black and white skirt, black tank, black shoes with white soles, and a back pack.
Tracy in Chicago at Navy Pier in front of the Centennial Ferris Wheel.

I’ve been in Chicago for a few days celebrating my friend Diane’s fiftieth birthday. We’ve been close friends since the day we met on the first day of grad school nearly 30 years ago. Since she lives in Iowa City and I live in London, Ontario, Chicago is an excellent place for us to meet. An awesome city that we can both drive to in a few hours.

We do all sorts of different things here and one of them is shopping on the Magnificent Mile. Now I’m pretty solid with my body image these days but I had an experience at Nordstrom the other day, trying on sleep wear of all things, where I was like: no way.

I don’t know if it was the lighting in the fitting room or the actual mirror, but whatever it was I took one look at myself in these things and that very old reflex of “ew” kicked in. And there’s where I became aware of an amazing shift. Instead of sticking with that old narrative I immediately went to “it must be the mirror or the lighting.” In fact, when I left the fitting room and met back up with Diane I said to her “with fitting rooms like that I don’t know how they can expect anyone to buy anything. For a department store of this calibre they should be able to do better than that.”

That this interpretation of what went wrong came so quickly and naturally after the initial voice in my head is a function of many, many years of letting go of negative self judgment about the way I look. And since Monday I have made successful purchases that I felt good in when I looked in the mirror. Better lighting? Better mirrors? I’m not sure but I think this has something to do with it.

That’s not to say that every single thing I tried on in those better fitting rooms was a winner. But generally I felt good when I looked in the mirror, unlike that first fitting room in the lingerie and sleep wear section that first day. I don’t think I’m making it up that some fitting rooms are better than others for helping us feel good about what we see. I don’t mean they have trick mirrors. I just mean they have the right lighting, maybe the right paint on the walls, and good mirrors.

What do you think? Are some fitting rooms more friendly than others? Does that sort of thing affect your body image?


Things thin people might not think about, or why Sam rides her bike to the hospital

The story I tell myself and everyone else most of the time is that hospital parking prices are obscene. Unless I’m actually sick or transporting a sick family member, I ride my bike. When I’m too ill or injured to do that, and it’s the nearby hospital, I walk. I walked to the hospital for my follow up appointment the week after I had my thyroid out. They were a little surprised at the clinic  but really, it’s 2.5 km from my house. I was feeling fine.

I worry a lot about hospital parking prices and poor patients coming from outside the city. When my dad had cancer I was happy to see that for cancer patients at least there was some assistance available.

But truth be told that’s just part of the story.

The thing is when I’m coming to the hospital I’m often seeing health care professionals who don’t know me. They make judgments pretty quickly on the state of your health and well being. Often I think they do that on the basis of weight. And there’s not much I can do about that.

I want people to get things right and to not make silly mistakes. So I try to help. It’s like when I go to new workout or a new gym when traveling and wear my CrossFit hoodie. The fitness instructors worry less about me. (See Traveling, new gyms, and thin privilege.)

Riding my bike in, arriving at the appointment in bike shoes, sandals, helmet in hand, sends a signal. I’m signalling that I’m an active person.

What’s signalling? Economists talk about signalling as a way of sharing information. Often we use clothes and props to communicate messages about our self and our identity. Expensive watches send signals. But so too do deliberately thrifty choices. My reusable coffee mug both serves an environmental purpose and signals something about my values to the world. I may choose to carry a beautiful expensive briefcase (thanks Sarah!) as a sign that I’m committed to my career. We all signal, whether we are aware of it or not.

I get asked questions about the helmet and my cycling clothes that try to sort out just what kind of cyclist I am.

If it’s sunny they say, “Nice day for a ride.” They often ask if I bike in the winter. They ask, what’s the furthest you’ve ridden? Then they start to pay attention and see me as an active person.

They seem to switch gears mentally. I’m not just, Sam the fat middle aged patient. To some, I’m now also Sam the cyclist.

That matters to me, to my sense of identity but I also hope I’m helping them.

I’m here today for a bone density scan. It’s an issue for cyclists. I’ve written about it before here. I’ll report back!

Image result for bones


Fit is a Feminist Issue Bloggers Running with Pride 2017

Sam: I love the Toronto Pride Run. (See my past post Walking and Running with Pride!)

It’s one of my favorite athletic events. There are runners of every stripe and speed, kids, runners in costumes, walkers, and so many people cheering the runners on. Such a great atmosphere. This year I registered early but once again ended up with knee issues that meant I couldn’t really train for the event. Other than my holiday running streak there hasn’t been much running for me this year. Instead I was going to regular knee physio. Thankfully Sarah ran with me and helped keep me running at a reasonable pace. We set out to run 5 and walk 1 but a couple of times we ran extra minutes to make it uphills or to the water station. I was so slow–my slowest, happiest 5 km ever– but I was running. I was smiling. And in the end nothing hurt. What a happy day!

View Photo:

Sarah: Like Sam, I haven’t run much this year. I kept putting off registering for the Pride and Remembrance Run, telling myself I would once I’d been out for a jog or two. Of course, life happened in its usual way, and I hardly ran at all. I wasn’t until last week that I made a snap decision to register. What convinced me? After all, it’s a wide open course held on city streets so it’s not like I couldn’t have snuck in and run with Sam without having a bib number. I was happy, though, to hand over the la$t-minute registration fee knowing it would be going to support several great causes. Over the past 21 years, the Pride and Remembrance Association has raised over $1.3 million for local charities that support the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBTQ+) community. This year’s beneficiaries include the Transitional Housing Program at Fife House, the Day Health and Wellness Program at Casey House; both are outstanding resources for people living with HIV/AIDS. Funds also went to support the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity’s Gay-Straight Alliance Forums.I also got to enjoy the fabulous costumes of the other participants, a beautiful slow run under perfect conditions, and a free brownie at the end. What’s not to love?

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Off to run! Trying for personal best. #priderun

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Susan: I had intended this to be my fastest recorded 5k ever. It was not. Not at all, not even a little bit.

My first mistake was going too fast in the first kilometer. A good clip for me is 6:30 per km. I was going at about 5:40. My next mistake was getting in behind the Premier of Ontario, Kathleen Wynne. Say what you want about hydro rates, that woman can run. She is closer to my mom’s age than mine so I thought, “I’ll just try to keep up with her and that will be a good pace”. Wrong. I realized that my heart rate was dangerously high and I was feeling very bad around the 3km mark. I slowed down but it was too late, I was toast. I walked for about a km then picked up running near the end. My average pace was 7:10 when all was said and done. Usually that would indicate a leisurely run. In this case it indicated feeling like death was imminent followed by emergency walking and being grumpy.

But hey! It was Pride and it was fun so that’s something.

(See Running with Pride  for Susan’s 2014 post about this event.)


The Toronto Pride and Remembrance Run is one that I do every year, regardless of what my other training goals are. It’s a bit of a tradition with several of my former classmates from the Astronomy Department at U of T – we’ve been running in the race for six years now. I haven’t been training hard since the 50k in May, but I have been running 2-3 times a week. I definitely haven’t been running “fast” for the better part of a year. So my goal was to run hard, but still have fun, and see what I could do. I set off and my pace of about 5:15 per km felt pretty sustainable. I was happy with that. I used to be able to race a 5k in or a bit under 25 minutes, but that was when I was specifically training for speed. There were times when I wanted to stop (mostly the slight uphill parts in the sun), but each time, I thought “this isn’t nearly as far as you ran in May.” Knowing the discomfort wouldn’t last long worked to keep me going and I finished in 26:37. As an added bonus, the super supportive and very fun Run to Beer crew was handing out cans from Great Lakes Brewery to teammates just before crossing the finish line. In all it was a good run with great friends in a happy and positive environment. Love it!

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On beating your best when your best is tough to beat #virginpulsegobalchallenge

Image description: Selfie of Tracy (left, in blue triathlon cap, sunglasses, and purple and pink running tank) and Anita (right, short brown hair and red t-shirt), with grass, a small puddle with the reflection of a tree, and pavement in the background. Taken at Tracy's 19,000 mark post-long run, pre-breakfast.
Image description: Selfie of Tracy (left, in blue triathlon cap, sunglasses, and purple and pink running tank) and Anita (right, short brown hair and red t-shirt), with grass, a small puddle with the reflection of a tree, and pavement in the background. Taken at Tracy’s 19,000 mark post-long run, pre-breakfast.
As I said last month, I’m going into the global step challenge with a different attitude this year (since last year I said I wouldn’t do it again…silly me). A thing I’m into this year that I wasn’t so into last year is the “mini-challenge.”

The first mini-challenge was “the power of seven.” Each team has seven people on it. For the Power of Seven mini-challenge you have to pick a day (among some prescribed options) where your team hits 100,000 steps together as a team. This year my team is much more into it than last year. And we did it! It was a nice exercise in working together as a team and even though it’s a small thing, it felt good to reach our goal. They give you little virtual trophies. And it’s nice to have team efforts on my trophy wall (yes, it’s the small things!).

This week we had another challenge: “beat your best.” This one was kind of daunting for me since my best was the day I ran the half marathon and hit just over 35,000 steps. If I was going to make over that in a day, I really had to plan for it. My average, which I can easily exceed if I walk to and from work (good for 14,000 steps round trip), add in an on-foot errand, and get up and move around from time to time, is about 16,500.

They give you a Thursday-Sunday range to choose from. You choose a day within that range. Since Sunday is my long run anyway, I figured it would be a good start. I messaged Julie and Anita to give them a heads up that I needed to get lots of steps that day and would they mind changing our 90 minute run to at least two hours. The first thing I got back, from Julie, was “lol.” At least it wasn’t a “no.” Anita said, “let’s see how we feel after 45 minutes.” We had just had a conversation last Sunday about how we didn’t feel motivated to do 2 hour runs this summer.

Since my challenge wasn’t theirs, I decided to take the pressure off of my running buddies and leave the house half an hour before I was meeting them. That way, we could stick with 90 minutes together and I could do 30 on my own. It was a good call because it put the responsibility for my steps fully on me.

Okay, so two hours of morning running, with a portion of that in the pouring rain with Anita (Julie had to wind it back because of some foot troubles she’s having), prepared me for a good breakfast at Billy’s Deli and got me to about 19,000 steps. I was also exhausted and a bit cold (from the rain), so went home after breakfast for a hot bath and a nap. Ready for round two!

The walk to campus and back is not only beautiful, but good for 14,000 steps. I also had an errand to run near the International Food Festival in Victoria Park. Adding that to my route would increase the steps. Did I mention that the weather was perfect for walking by then? The humidity had dissipated after the morning’s rain and the temperatures had moderated.  So I put on my comfy shoes, grabbed my iPhone so I could listen to some talks I’ve been enjoying, and set out for another two hours on foot.

By the time I got home, I was feeling extremely relaxed (walking really puts me in a calm mindset) and already had over 36,000 steps.

I closed out the night with 38,514 steps, unable to take the additional 1486 that would take me to a nice round 40,000.

Image description: Tracy's pulse step counter, a small black gadget showing a digital readout of 38514, on a wooden surface.
Image description: Tracy’s pulse step counter, a small black gadget showing a digital readout of 38514, on a wooden surface.
So you might think, “Big deal.” The whole step counting phenomenon is kind of odd anyway. I’ve blogged before about how counting steps leaves out so much — strength training and yoga, for example, aren’t accounted for at all. Unlike swimming and cycling, the global challenge offers no conversions for these activities.

Still and all, I enjoyed the challenge of “beat your best” on Sunday. It felt good. I got a little boost and it didn’t totally wear me out. My feet were a bit sore and I confess I didn’t do much in between the run and the walk other than bathing, napping, and eating.

Besides feeling good, I liked checking in with the team. Even more daunting than my previous personal best, team-member Christine had a PB of 45,000 to contend with. And she did it too, ending up with over 48,000 steps on her beat your best day. And Joanne beat her best too.

The whole thing is strangely motivating, which I suppose is not news and is, in fact, the entire point. Beating your best is a well-tested strategy for upping our game in all sorts of things: race results, step counts, distance, weight you can lift, yoga poses, swim times…

Does the idea of “beating your best” motivate you in some areas of your fitness life?



addiction · fitness · Guest Post

Have I Just Replaced One Addiction With Another? (Guest Post)

On my daily walk to the gym, in the darkness of 5 am in London, Ontario, I began reflecting on the changes that occurred when I got into fitness.  Thinking about the hours spent researching fitness and nutrition, the stacks of supplements (proteins, amino acids, greens) on top of my fridge, how I weigh out and track my food intake, I found myself wondering, “Have I just replaced one addiction with another?”

Let me back up a bit…

About a month ago, I had the pleasure of attending a Rotman Institute of Philosophy talk at Western University by Dr. Hanna Pickard, entitled Why Do Addicts Use? Getting Real about Drugs, Identity and Adversity.  In her talk, Dr. Pickard explored the power of the neurobiological myth (i.e., that addicts are neurobiologically compelled to use and cannot help it) and its social and moral repercussions.  While not wholly dismissive of neuroscience, Dr. Pickard emphasized the multifaceted and complex nature of addition.

In doing so, she noted that to understand addition, we also need to have conversations about the value of drugs, the relevance of psycho-socio-economic context, and the role of narrative self-identity.  You can listen/watch the full talk here.

I was particularly struck – in that full-bodied, dizzying kind of way – when Dr. Pickard read a personal narrative from a former addict (name omitted for anonymity).  In this narrative, the person recounted the loss of identity they experienced while recovering from a drug-addicted lifestyle.  That is, when your self-identity is so strong that it permeates almost every aspect of your life, there is a tremendous void when this identity is given up during recovery – how do you fill up that heavy, daunting space?  What do you do with all your time now?

As you may have read when Tracy interviewed me here, I got into fitness after what was a couple years of problematically drinking and partying.  My drinking made up my self-identity, fueling my behavior and filling most my thoughts.  For instance, I would plan my week around when, where, and with whom I would drink, and when I would recover (because it was excessive enough that recoveries were required).  It was the way my peers, friends, and family knew me; it was how I knew me, as if I truly did not know how else to be.

When I got my gym membership last January, I had no idea what I was in for.  I had no idea that I’d fall in love with fitness like I did.  As that love developed and grew, the old habits that came with my drinking lifestyle slowly faded away as new habits that came with my fitness lifestyle filled those would-have-been voids.  Instead of starting off my day with a pounding headache, wondering who I could get to drink with me that day, I’d wake up at the crack of dawn, full of energy and excitement as I’d weigh out my pre-workout meal (to make sure I was getting adequate amounts of macro-nutrients to fuel my workout) and pack my gym bag.  Late nights out were replaced with early nights in (to ensure I had a proper amount of sleep for my muscles to recover and grow).

I’ve often been told by my peers and others in my life that my lifestyle is problematic, excessive, and unhealthy, being told things like “well you need to be able to enjoy other things in life too”, or “weighing your food is excessive and wrong”, and “your lifestyle is too extreme, you sound like an addict, that can’t be right”, and on it goes.

So, on that early morning walk to the gym, these reflections had me wondering whether I had just replaced one addiction with another.  While it may seem as if I did to some, for me, something much deeper and more complex than mere replacement had occurred.  My drinking lifestyle and self-identity was life-restricting, but my fitness lifestyle and self-identity is life-enhancing.  My drinking self-identity made me feel like a spectator in my own life, watching it unfold without ever really participating in it – as if I were sleepwalking through my life without ever truly feeling.  And while I never felt like I was truly myself, I genuinely did not know who else to be or what else to do; in a sense, I became a prisoner to my own self-identity.  It was just who I was, it was just what I did, and what people expected from me.

My fitness lifestyle and identity, however, didn’t just act as a replacement for my old lifestyle/identity; it did, perhaps, initially, but as time went on it became more than that.  When we replace one thing with something similar, we usually get the same output, behavior, or end-result.  I like to think of it in terms of RAM on a computer.  If the RAM (random access memory) on my computer dies, I can replace that part and (hopefully) my computer runs just as it did prior to the crash.  With respect to the question above, however, the result – my quality of life – was not the same (or even similar) with my new lifestyle/self-identity.  It was enhanced and enriched; it woke me up.  No longer was a spectator to my own life, but was a genuine part of it.  Finally, I felt like I was authentically myself.

Through Dr. Pickard’s incredible talk, my reflections on what fitness means to me, and what it taught (and continues to teach) me, I’ve come to deeply appreciate the new narrative self-identity that I’ve created and fostered through fitness.  So, when people offer their unsolicited, “Oh, that’s unhealthy, excessive, wrong, etc.” I smile on the inside, because I know that they cannot contextualize my current lifestyle within my deeper, complex, and often quite painful personal history.

A selfie in a parking garage. Jaclyn, after a grueling leg workout.
Jaclyn, after a grueling leg workout
Jaclyn is an aspiring fitness blogger, living in London, Ontario, completing her PhD in philosophy of neuroscience at the University of Western Ontario.


Sam walks Cheddar to work: Multi-tasking that’s worthwhile

It was one of those days. I’m back in London after sabbatical, after Pride, after some holidays in Spain. And you know what it’s like coming back to the office after time away. Hundreds of emails and so much to do. And some of it even needed doing in my actual, physical office. Working at home wouldn’t cut it.

Normally I get to work by riding my bike or by driving. But I don’t pay for summer parking on campus so that ruled out driving. (I’m thrifty that way.) I could bike but I needed to walk Cheddar. He didn’t get out yesterday. It was either thunderstorming or I was riding my bike. There was no ignoring the need for a long dog walk. (For a great piece of the exercise benefits of dog ownership, see here.)

The very good news is that I can have a dog at work with me (thanks Western!). The bad news is that it’s too far really to walk the whole way. Instead we parked at a school halfway there.  

In addition to the paved multi-use pathway, there’s a trail along the river which I really like. I never understand why more people who are walking don’t use it.

It’s well marked with signs and blazes on the trees. It’s shady and cool even in the heat of summer. We saw exactly one trail runner while the main paved pathway was busy with the usual collection of cyclists, stroller walkers, runners, and so on.

So Cheddar got his walk, I got lots and lots of steps in, and I got to work in my office for a bit. I know people are always talking these days about how multi-tasking doesn’t work but this was a very good day. This is the kind of multitasking that works. Thanks Western for allowing dogs at work. And thanks Cheddar for being such a very good office dog.

Curly haired forest selfie.
Curly haired forest selfie.
Cheddar on the trail.
Cheddar sits while I answer my phone.
Bridge over the river, with geese and ducks.
Cheddar on the bridge.
It’s a no bikes trail so easier to walk with Cheddar.
After a couple of hours at work, Cheddar says “Can we go home now?”

From bike dresses to swim dresses? Sam mulls them over but decides against

Four years ago I blogged about running skirts (I’m not a fan)  and this year I blogged about bike dresses (I recently bought one). I guess as a result of all the related googling other kinds of active wear skirts and dresses have made their way into my social media newsfeed.

The latest is the swimming dress.

Here’s my favourite of the lot.

On the plus side, it’s cute. And while it doesn’t look like a great choice for actually swimming in, that doesn’t matter so much at the beach. Lots of the time at the beach you’re not actually swimming. You’re sitting around making sandcastles, playing frisbee, finding snacks, collecting shells, reading books, and so on. Also, the nice thing about dresses, as opposed to bikinis, is that with less skin exposed there’s less of you to sunscreen. And swim dresses might get some women out to the beach who wouldn’t otherwise go. All good.

There’s a big wide world of beach dresses out there. Some, like the one I like, are targeted at women hanging at the beach with kids, dogs, and friends. The motivation seems to be cute and comfortable. Also, less worry about holding your tummy in all day.

Others are definitely targeted to women who’ve had skin cancer and they feature high necks and full leg and arm coverage 

Still others are targeted at those women who observe modesty norms for religious reasons.

There are lots of different reasons to show less skin.

And yet….

For me, I’ve worked hard to be comfortable at the beach in a bikini. Many years ago, younger thin aspring me held out the bikini as an example of the sort of thing I couldn’t wear yet but that I could wear once I’d lost enough weight. Once I realized that wasn’t going to happen and that life is really very short, I started wearing them, also cute dresses and short skirts.

Sometimes I fling on shorts and a t-shirt over the bikini if I’m running around lots at the beach but mostly I hang out in my two piece bathing suit.

And the thing is I think if I started wearing swim dresses, pretty soon that’s all I’d wear at the beach. I’d be part of the crowd of fifty something women who stop wearing bikinis because they’re too old. Bye bye bikinis, bye bye cute dresses next, and definitely bye bye mini skirts.

I also keep thinking of the fight by early feminists for women to have the choice not to wear dresses to the beach.

So I think I won’t buy a swimming dress, as cute as they are.

I’m going to be that fifty something woman in her bikini.

This is just about me, my life history as a beach going person, and about my tendencies and approach to life. You do you, of course. No judgements here 

(Oh, and there’s also beach leggings if dresses aren’t your thing.)

How about you? Do swimming dresses hold any appeal? Why/why not?


Can we have too much body information? Yes.

This week I’m in the Netherlands, in Utrecht at a great conference on health policy and nudging.  What’s nudging?  It’s the name for a bunch of policies aimed at helping people making the choices they want to make about money, food, exercise, etc. by shaping the environment to make those choices easier.  I attended sessions, for example, testing out the idea that if you move healthier foods (like fruit, nuts) to be more accessible in convenience stores and cafeterias, people will buy more of them.  Turns out, this works.

If you’re intrigued by this idea, there’s a lot written about it.  You could start with the book called Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, but I might recommend a more entertaining but similarly informative book called Predictably Irrational by economist Dan Ariely, one of the keynote speakers at the conference.

I also gave a talk at the conference on the use of apps and internet-enabled devices to help us improve our health behaviors (like taking medicines, exercising, eating in ways that are healthy according to standard nutritional guidelines).  Many of you bloggers and blog readers already use FitBit, Strava, and other apps and devices to record, log and publicize your physical activity.  So do lots and lots of others.  And people seem to like them for a lot of reasons.

I am not a fan of these apps and devices, for a few reasons.  One of them is this:  Their technology allows us to record and display information about all sorts of metrics– heart rate, number of steps completed, weight to the tenth of an ounce, etc.  They also keep records of all of these metrics, which (as we know) vary A LOT.  In particular, body weight has high variance– it shifts over the course of say, a week, up and down by up to 4–5 pounds.  This is just what bodies do, independent of our food intake and exercise on any particular day.

Oddly enough, on the way to the airport in Boston, my neighbor (who kindly drove me there– thanks, Melih!) told me about an app called Naked 3D Fitness Tracker that created a 3D model of you so you can visualize and note body changes over time.  They’re not kidding.  Here’s an example:

Screen Shot 2017-06-21 at 11.22.17 PM.png


This app displays the results of scanning your body– you stand on a rotating disc in front of a mirror with a scanner.  It rotates you around, scanning you.  Then the information is stored on this app.  So what do we see here?

This person can look at metrics of virtually any surface of her body, comparing one side to the other, comparing today’s metrics to yesterday’s, etc.  In this picture, we see that, for one part of her upper thighs, the right side is .2″ larger than the left side.

I can’t see the difference.  Can you?  Of course not.  This seems to be to be an app designed to increase obsession with irrelevant shifts, fluctuations and undetectable-by-the-naked-eye features of our perfectly fine bodies.  On the website, someone talks about training uses for the app, in particular for body builders.  Fair enough.  But to think that this level of body surveillance is useful for the general population is quite another thing.  Here are some of the problems I noted in my talk about this sort of super-micro-attention to body metrics:

  • Many metrics will turn out to be irrelevant to health and health goals; they track nothing in particular.
  • Many metrics fluctuate over time in ways that are indicative of normal body functioning, but may and can be and are alarming to people already super-attuned to using created metrics as proxies for progress toward health goals.
  • For those at early stages of pursuing health goals, broader or qualitative categories may be more useful, e.g. took walk or bike ride or did yoga (ignoring time or distance or level of physical intensity).

For the last item, I was inspired by reading Cate’s post about what counts as a workout for their 217 in 2017 workouts challenge.  See more about it here.  What I loved about the post was that Cate pointed out that there is a lot of variation in what might count as a workout– for Cate and Sam, bike commuting didn’t count unless they did something else, or it was in terrible weather conditions (making them also badass for doing it!).  But for others, bike commuting might legitimately be considered a workout.  You do you, you decide what is exercise for you.  The key thing here is to do the workouts, and count them.

I love this idea.  It’s a bit late for me to sign on for this year, but I will definitely do it in 2018.  I like the idea of seeing and recording what I’m doing at a level of description that works for me.  On a day that I’m sick with a cold, maybe it’s enough that I walk/take the bus to the dentist rather than drive.  On other days, doing a 40–60k ride would be my workout.  What counts (in more than one way) is that I do my workout-according-to-me.  It may not be important how many calories I burned, how long I worked out, how long or how far I walked/ran/rode/skied/paddled.  It’s up to me, at whatever stage, on whatever day, to determine this.  All of this other information may be unnecessary or distracting or discouraging or feel shaming to me, in which case I just don’t need it.

Of course, there are plenty of folks who like metrics, in which case, enjoy.  You do you.  But I’m arguing here that there are reasons and contexts in which the metrics don’t help and can even hurt.  If you’re one of those people (and I am sometimes), then I’m saying this:  ignore the metrics.  They’re not giving you information that’s useful for you.

And now, I’m going for a bike ride with my friend Marcel in Utrecht.  For how far and long– who knows?  We’ll see how it goes.